Some overdrive pedals are almost standard issue. The DOD 250 is definitely on that list. Well before boutique builds were even a thing, DOD released this electric yellow stompbox that quickly became a modern classic. Part overdrive, part preamp, the DOD 250 is a simple circuit that has been at home in garage bands and world stages for more than forty years.
To understand the impact and innovation of the DOD 250, you’ve got to think about where and when it arrived on the gear scene. Following the advent of the compact pedal by Boss, the 1970s saw two American companies enter the race for stompbox stardom. MXR was quick to market a lineup of pedals that was as brightly colored as they were bold in sound. (For more on that story, check out our Sunday Papers back issue). Alongside these entries, two dudes started building pedals in 1973 out of Salt Lake City, Utah.
David Oreste Di Francesco was an engineer and John Johnson a musician. Between the two of them, they had the right mix of talent and know-how to recognize that the guitar community was gobbling up the new concept of pedals. The challenge was figuring out how to make an entry alongside other offerings that were already gaining success.
The DOD 250 was their first build and the first among many successes. One of the reasons it caught on was because it capitalized on aspects what made the MXR Distortion+ such a hit. For all their similarities, however, the DOD 250 is not a clone of its nemesis. The most noticeable difference between the two is that, as the name suggests, the Distortion+ is a dirt box. The DOD 250, on the other hand, is technically a preamp pedal offering a sound that adds a more organic element to your signal rather than distort it.
The DOD 250 was also visually understated unlike their vibrant MXR contenders. In their first runs, the pedal was released in a subtle grey exterior. It was only after their success with the design that DI Francesco and Johnson made sure this transparent preamp box wasn’t missed underfoot by giving the pedal a blazing yellow makeover.
As DOD’s American pedal empire grew well into the 1990s, their name became synonymous with genius and bizarre pedals. Don’t believe me? Have a look at their iconic DOD FX series. Due to shifts in demand and company ownership, however, the DOD 250 was retired and the brand drifted away. Eventually, the brand was resurrected under the Hartman series of companies. One of the first pedals to kickstart DOD’s next life was the one that started it all. The re-issue DOD 250 looked and sounded like the relic from the past. Only now, the pedal came with some much-needed modern appointments (e.g., true bypass, LED indicator, and a 9v power jack).
While the next chapter of the DOD story remains unwritten, there’s no better way to enter into this story than by plugging in a DOD 250 and hearing the sound that started it all.