Review: Danelectro Breakdown and Eisenhower Fuzz

GP takes a closer look at two nifty, visually striking new pedals from Danelectro.
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Danelectro released two new pedals at the NAMM show last January, both of which are based on unspecified stompboxes from the late ’60s. The pedals stand out visually, with aged finishes on metal enclosures (is nothing safe from a relic job these days?), and each comes with a nifty leather bag. These pedals don’t run on battery juice, and they don’t come with a nine-volt adapter either. Dano recommends its Vintage Battery 9 Volt Supply or the Snark SA-1.

Common to both pedals is a little procedure (outlined in the manuals) to eliminate pop from the bypass switches: Connect DC power to the pedal, connect the in and out cables and then cycle the bypass switch six times. Note that this has to be done every time the in/out cables or power supply are disconnected. I tried it, and it does reduce the switch noise a bit, although it’s not that noticeable in the first place.

THE BREAKDOWN

This disarmingly simple pedal is basically a six-stage gain booster with a volume control that works interactively to let you push the front end of an amp with any combination of gain and volume boost. The Break-Up rotary switch starts at the first position (negligible boost) and works its way progressively with each click to a stout distortion at the sixth position. The idea is to get the Break-Up setting and volume level combination that produces the overdriven tone you want, and then either roll down the guitar volume for less grind or hit the bypass switch to revert to the straight amp sound.

I used the Breakdown with a Fender Deluxe Reverb reissue and a new Fender ’62 Princeton Chris Stapleton Edition, and it worked great with both amps turned up to four or five and driven by a Gibson 1959 Anniversary Les Paul and a Reverend Gristlemaster Tele-style guitar. It was easy to find settings that I could use to punch into a fat, edgy solo tone (Break-Up on five or six, volume about halfway) and then easily drop back to a dirty rhythm sound by working the guitar volume. For smoother OD tones, keep the Break-Up switch at three or four and turn up the volume as needed to drive the amp into distortion. A case could be made for having two Breakdowns to switch between or combine, so perhaps Danelectro would consider a two-stage version at some point in the future.

THE EISENHOWER FUZZ

With a name like this, I wasn’t exactly expecting a tear-your-head-off kind of pedal. As it happens, this thing is a powerhouse that can produce searing octave-fuzz effects and many other shades of clipped-transistor coolness, courtesy of its extreme gain, quartet of controls, and a hugely effective Flat-Sculpt mode switch that inflicts a deep midrange scoop in the latter position and boosts the bass and treble for an instant ride to the doom-metal side.

The Eisenhower circuit’s DNA may have some linkage to the famous Foxx pedals of the 1970s, since Danelectro owner Steve Ridinger was also the founder of Foxx when it started out in Chatsworth, California. Whatever the case may be, the Eisenhower certainly packs a lot of sounds, ranging from the insect buzz of early ’60s fuzz to wooly mammoth metal tones to synth-like ring-modulator atonal bizarrity. However, the Eisenhower’s flexibility made it easy to conjure tones that worked for alt-country and blues-rock gigs simply by adjusting the fuzz, bass and treble controls to veer things in a thicker, more distortion-y direction.

A noteworthy element of the Eisenhower is that the octave effect is quite pronounced on all settings, particularly so when the guitar volume is turned down. While Sculpt mode tends to submerge the octave harmonic a bit, due to the huge low-end boost, you can still hear it coming through, even in a furious mass of overdriven rage. That’s kinda cool, though, because the octave adds a certain definition that standard fuzzes sometimes lack. The Eisenhower is a most worthy pedal for heavy styles, but it has a lot of tricks up its sleeve and would be good for anyone seeking a do-it-all kind of fuzz machine. Well done!

SPECIFICATIONS

The Breakdown
CONTACT
danelectro.com
PRICE $149 street
CONTROLS Break-Up, volume
BUILT China
KUDOS A flexible six-stage booster
CONCERNS None

The Eisenhower Fuzz
CONTACT
danelectro.com
PRICE $149 street
CONTROLS Volume, treble, fuzz, bass, Flat-Sculpt mode switch
BUILT China
KUDOS Wealth of fuzz textures. Gobs of gain, flexible EQ and a prominent octave effect
CONCERNS None

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