| # nov/07|
Danelectro Rocky Road
This one is quite an oddball... What ever possessed Danelectro to include a leslie/rotating speaker simulator in their line of mini pedals is a mystery - considering how small that market must be - but there it is. I had been wanting to try it ever since I first heard about its existence, but wasn't able to locate one. The Swedish importers - probably realizing its limited market appeal - choose not to import it. In Germany it costs around 70-80 EUR - almost cheap enough to take the plunge and buy it unheard, but not quite... There was no way for me to know how well it did its job, and the reports from users were very varied. To be more precise, some of them were utterly useless, since it was rather obvious that the person writing actually doesn't seem to know what a leslie is supposed to sound like. Here's just one example from the user reviews section at Harmony Central:
Sound Quality: 1
Why is there a chorus on this thing? Why can't you turn it off? Kind of made the whole thing worthless. I already own a Milkshake Chorus that sounds tons better.
Doh - that's what a leslie sounds like on the slow speed... On leslie cabs, the slow mode is actually called "Chorale", and it was no doubt that sound the inventor of the first chorus pedal tried to replicate... Anyway, the slow sound is only half the story - actually it's even less than half. Lots of people seem to think you can get a good leslie sound from a standard chorus pedal, just by setting both knobs near max. Well, you could call that "leslie", but only if you ignore one of the most important features of a leslie - the speed changes.
Anyway, enough ranting. I finally got my grubby hands on one, when a friend went to the US on holiday and was kind enough to bring one home for me. Musician's Friend had them on sale, so it ended up costing a mere $20... Now, that's a bargain, if I ever saw one! So what's it like? Well, I'm utterly amazed at how well this little thing does the single-rotor Leslie 16 / Fender Vibratone sound. As opposed to other - more expensive - simulators, this one doesn't allow for the "horn" and "woofer" to spin at different speeds. Instead, when the Rocky Road spins up to speed, the whole frequency range accelerates uniformly - just like a Vibratone does. This is probably more due to design limitations than any specific goal set by the design team, but it still places the Rocky Road in a class of its own. The other simulators I've tried - H&K Rotosphere, Korg G4, Voce Spin etc - are all very good at sounding like a woofer/horn type leslie (122/147), but this is the only one that even gets close to sounding like a Leslie 16 / Fender Vibratone.
Now, to the bad points. First off, the pedal has a nasty volume boost, even with the "drive" knob at zero. Including a small amount of overdrive can help you get closer to the real sound, but this is way too much. Especially since there's no provision for setting the output volume compared to the bypass level. Unless you plan on keeping the pedal active at all times, the pedal needs to be modified. Luckily, there is a relatively easy mod here, which you can do yourself if you feel confident enough. If not, you can take it to someone to have it done - it shouldn't be too expensive. It is definitely worth it - after the modification, the output level is at unity gain when the "drive" knob is at zero. If you need a little more push to your leslie, just give it a little drive. Why Danelectro chose to ship the pedals the way they are - and continue to ship them this way - is beyond me.
Another drawback is the miniature plastic casing - it is so small, that hitting the switches with any sort of accuracy requires one to take off their shoes, using the big toe to prod the switch. I'm not joking - that's the only way I've been able to work it... And even with the shoes off, the switches need a good prodding to actuate, which means that you can't be 100% sure the thing is actually going to change speed (since there's no LED to indicate speed status). I'm already looking at ways to rehouse the circuit into a bigger, sturdier box.
But all in all - if you are looking for a decent single-rotor leslie sim, it does a fine job indeed. Thumbs up for Danelectro! Now, can we have it in a bigger box, please?