I’ve had a long-standing belief about historical pedal brands—keep going and you’ll get a hit. That is to say, if a company produces gear for long enough, at least one item will be revered for decades. It’s happened with pretty much every brand I can think of, even the short-lived ones. Some, like Pefftronics, produced one pedal, and that’s the hit. Insofar, this theory is ironclad.
There are some pedal brands out there in the wild that most gearheads write off as not worth it. Maestro, for example, has its name affixed to pedals manufactured by Daphon, a company known for very inexpensive effects. Newer players might associate the glorious Maestro offerings as an extension of the Daphon line, and that’s a crying shame. And this type of rebranding and repackaging generates confusion throughout the marketplace.
One such brand that met this fate is DeltaLab. If you’ve stepped foot into your local Guitar Center in the last few years, you’ve seen these pedals. And while they’re completely adequate, they are not representative of the DeltaLab of yore. Hell, they’re not even representative of DeltaLab’s original bread and butter.
As the legend goes, Guitar Center acquired DeltaLab’s trademark after its founder, Richard DeFreitas, failed to renew it upon its expiration. This was in the early 2000s, and the “pedal categories” DeltaLab chose to tackle reflect that era—there’s a green overdrive, a phase, a flanger, a digital delay, and a metal distortion. All of them are very much OK devices, but they pale in comparison to some of the completely insane gear of years past, namely the Effectron series, which is the subject of today’s Cabinet adventure.
I should begin by saying that DeFreitas is a certified genius. After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering from the school that would become UMass, DeFreitas founded DeltaLab in 1977 and thrust himself into the gear spotlight by releasing some truly legendary gear in the fledgling DSP realm. Aside from a multitude of awe-inspiring delay, reverb and pitch shifting rack units, the Effectron series is probably my favorite, for many reasons.
One such feature that DeFreitas basically invented was ADM, or Adaptive Delta Modulation. This was a special patented digital encoding tech that touted its “cleanness” as well as its low noise floor. Basically, the ADM-equipped units were made for players and gearheads alike. DeFreitas’s biggest contribution to the craft was his exceptional design of analog-to-digital converters, which landed him a post-DeltaLab job at Raytheon.
The Effectron’s bread and butter was simple: digital delay. But this unit goes far above and beyond, with radio buttons that select a digital delay range up to 1024 milliseconds on some models, and down to just one-quarter second. The idea was simple: effects such as flanging, chorus and delay all adhere to just one factor: time. The category is a function of the delay time; flanging needs just a few milliseconds of delay to do its thing, and chorus (also known as “doubling”) needs just a little more. Beyond that, you get into more traditional delay time, and the Effectron has it in spades. There’s even a sound-on-sound-esque “Infinite Repeat” mode for the more intrepid time travelers out there.
Let’s be real here: one fourth of a millisecond—or 250 microseconds— is an insanely low delay time, and is also much more difficult to find on a delay than you might expect. Boss’s DD series, for example, bottoms out at 50. The lowest pedal delay time I can think of is on the Vestax (Vesta Fire) MDX, which can actually get down to two milliseconds, and is a passable sub for the Effectron in a pinch. Then there’s the modulation section, that crosses into borderline unusable territory much earlier than expected. But then, something magical happens; it becomes so unusable that it actually dips back into usable territory, generating some truly otherworldly tones.
Perhaps one of my favorite functions is the limiter, and it’s also the most elusive. The delay time selector consists of an array of radio buttons—that is, an array of tactile switches such that when one is pushed, whichever button was depressed pops out, letting players pick just one program at a time. And while there’s no way to cheat this, a little precision pressing lets players select no modes. When this happens, you’re now running an exceptional, if not subtle studio limiter. In this easter egg mode, only the Input and Feedback controls are active, giving you gobs of studio-style compression and limiting, courtesy of DeFreitas’s approach of over-engineering every last detail.
Best of all, you can find Effectron units for next to nothing, although prices have been creeping up in recent years. But if this piece has piqued your interest, there’s one thing you should know: These things always sell. If you see one on eBay for auction, be prepared to throw the gauntlet at or above the asking price; there will be no finishing with zero bids and relisting at a lower price point. If you see one on eBay for a great deal as a “buy it now” sale—oops, while you were thinking about it, I already bought it.