DOD PDS2000 Sampling Delay
Sampling the sampler - IN TUNE scoops the world's first review of DOD's brand new delay/sampler pedal
Samplers are 1985's hot properties for sure, but thus far they've mostly been confined to either rack-mount units for studios or units best suited to keyboard use - which leaves out all us poor guitarists and bass players. O.K., O.K., you can stop crying 'unfair', put down the protest banners and start smiling again, because samplers have at last reached down into the pedal market and IN TUNE has got the very latest on the market, the Dod Digitech PDS2000 digital delay/sampler, for the following exclusive review.
Housed in a tough die cast metal box measuring 5"x6"x1.9" and weighing a substantial 2.3lbs, the ribbed rubber based Dod has two electronically triggered footswitches, both requiring just the smallest tap to activate. The right hand side of the Dod carries a standard 1/4" jack socket for input, plus a mini-jack for stepped down mains power, which has to be supplied from a properly regulated mains converter. It also has a third 1/4" jack socket, which is for use if you want to trigger the sampled sounds from any external source (usually a rhythm machine) pumping out the more or less standard 5 volt pulse.
Controls on the Dod are very straightforward, all being contained in one line which runs across the top of the neatly laid out unit. The first is a three position, click stopped slider, governing one of the three maximum delay times (selectable on the PDS200 from 2sec, 500msec and 125ms.). Following that come good quality rotary pots which handle delay time, regeneration, and mix, input and output levels respectively. Finally there's a second three-position slider which offers you normal/trigger and sampler modes. Two LEDs are also provided, the left one showing sampler recording begin/stop, the other indicating effect status.
Battery power is becoming a problem on more advanced effects pedals these days. Any halfway decent PP3 in a good old 1960s fuzz box would last you for months, but modern effects need more muscle power and even an alkaline (Mallory-type) cell will only drive the Dod for around 5 hours. Having said that, this is quite a notable achievement, because the current draw of around 40ma is far better than you get with a lot of advanced effects units. All the same, take a tip - why keep Mallory in ackers? Buy yourself a mains supply unit! If you insist on using batteries, though, a single PP3 fits neatly into a housing on the top, accessed through a clip-in plastic flap.
Now to the the two footswitches. To explain them properly will take a bit of in-depth coverage on how the sampling and delay functions are set, and as we're going into this next, we'll just say that the left one handles the infinite repeat/sampler record functions and the right hand one looks after the basic effect on/off job.
Essentially, the Dod is a good quality digital delay pedal with a lot of good delay effects in its repertoire, and a maximum 2 sec. sampler added on for the fun of it - not that this is meant to be a put down, because the sampling facility is fun to use.
There is, unfortunately, no easy way of working out how to use this pedal. Our sample (the first export model to leave Dod's Salt Lake City plant) came accompanied by a handbook which - to say the least - made an already quite difficult to comprehend unit even harder to understand. We have to clarify this, however, by explaining that we mentioned this to importers Rhino and they told us Dod would be making changes immediately. We hope so, because the booklet we had was very misleading in several respects. Moreover, it was hard to follow at times. Anyway, back to the test. With the selector switch set to normal you can blend both your 'dry' and delayed signals at will and get yourself some very useful delay effects, ranging from basic echo slapback, doubling, long and short delays - a good gamut of effects and, we found, all produced to a very high sound quality indeed.
Moving onto the sampling process itself, we have to say that, although it works very well indeed, it does take a fair amount of playing around with to both understand and use, and thus really belongs in a home studio. That's not a minus point, of course, as it makes it far easier to justify the purchase cost. Look at the PDS2000 as a unit which you can take on stage and use as a really fine delay pedal, and as a sampler/delay which is at home in a studio, and you've got the measure of it. Anyway, here's how the sampling feature works. First of all you have to understand that you only have a maximum sample time of 2 seconds. This is just about long enough to crash a chord, play one or two notes, scream a short scream, break a bottle or whatever other creative wheeze you can come up with. To 'record' this, you first set the mode switch (logically enough) to the Sample position. To activate the sampler, you then hit the left hand footswitch (a slight tap is all that's required) and the matching (left hand positioned) red LED lights to show you when your record time has elapsed. Incidentally, setting the Sample position automatically selects the delay max. to the 2 sec position, so you don't have to remember to do that as well.
Having recorded the sound that you want sampled, you can then trigger it to replay in several ways. The obvious one is by resetting to the Trigger mode, in which case either a single tap of the left footswitch or a pulse from a drum machine will give you an exact, single replay - one for every tap or pulse. Using the regeneration control set low with the balance of dry/delayed as you desire (via the mix pot) you can also vary the pitch of the sampled sound quite astoundingly. A high note on a guitar, for example, can become the lowest bass imaginable, a cough can come out like a lion's roar, basso profunda like Minnie Mouse, and so on!
Switch the Regeneration control clockwise and one of the nicest possibilities of the lot comes into play - using the Dod for layered sound-on-sound effects. Here you can lay down, say, a riff, record over it (maybe with a complementary lick) and keep going till you have the sort of layered 'sound-on-sound' effect to play with that used to be the sole province of Echoplexes, Roland Space Echoes and so on. There's only one problem with using the Dod this way (but it applies equally to nearly all such sound-on-sound devices) and that's the problem with the first signals you lay down becoming degraded ('attenuated' as Dod politely call it in their handbook!) by the later ones. Nonetheless it's great fun to play around with, one of the few really creative effects we've heard from a pedal in a fair while.
Getting the hang of using the sampling function in its basic 'one hit' phase is pretty simple, as is treating the pitch of the signal; the latter effect coming from just one knob, in fact. However, some fair amount of playing around is required to get your record timing right. This, again, isn't a criticism of the pedal, more a question of learning a technique and developing reasonably fast reactions. As you hit the activate (left hand) pedal the 'recording' process begins, so you have to judge the start point exactly. Unlike 'real' samplers (Greengate's DS3, the Akai and so on) there are no editing facilities, so you have to develop a good sense of timing, which may call for a few trial and error sessions, especially with complicated samples. Having learned the way to get the best from the Dod, the uses only stop when your imagination runs out. Sample almost any sound you like and trigger it from a drum machine (in perfect synch, of course!), vary the pitch up or down, record a vocal and do a Paul Hardcastle (vvvvvery efffffective!), and so on. The only proviso is that you don't try it on stage - it's really far too complex a process for that.
Overall quality of sound from the Dod is remarkable. Noise levels are extremely low and (even subjected to our patent IT 'killer interference' test!) it showed excellent resistance to outside noise sources. The frequency response quoted is 40Hz-7kHz, not fabulous at the top end, in theory, but actually very impressive in practice. There is some loss of highs when tested on good tape machines through studio class monitors, but more home orientated machines are unlikely to show any serious flaws in this respect.
The best way to look at the Dod is as a dual purpose machine. Both the sampling and delay effects are more than good enough for all but the most serious home recording uses, and it will double as a really fine on-stage delay pedal.
Providing you've the imagination to make the most of the sampling facilities, this latest Dod really is a fine device. It impressed our testers on every front and looks like extremely good value for money. The obvious competitor is the new-ish Boss DSD-2 which, although it costs virtually £60 less, only offers a maximum delay of 1 sec. and is a significantly less flexible machine.
For the right user, this latest from the Dod team is a winner all the way!
More details of all Dod pedals from Rhino Music Spares, (Contact Details).
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