DOD 680 Analog Delay
If you asked the millions of tourists that (typically) visit the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, Italy what their favorite piece was, it would undoubtedly be Michaelangelo’s David. However, if you asked the curator of the same museum the very same question, their answer may surprise you. Yeah, we have a few mechanized delay machines lying around. There’s the usual suspects; Maestro, Binson, Roland, Klemt. I love all of them. For my money however, when I think of my favorite tape-esque delay circuit, I reach right for the DOD 680, eyes forward.
I first heard one of these back when I got my first job repairing instruments, where I was to work on a pile of pedals when not busy with customer repairs. These were all “ruined” pedals that were being stored in a milk crate under a roof that had begun leaking. They were all old but none were of great value. The 680s was one. And when it was cleaned up and working properly, it emitted a sound I will never forget.
The DOD 680 is not known in today’s parlance as a tape machine, or even an emulator; just “Analog Delay.” Back then, “delay” doesn’t really mean the same thing as it does now. These days, “analog delay” means, by definition, a delay whose signal path is devoid of digital componentry where the repeats get progressively murkier. Back then, nearly all delays did that. In that era, the plain analog delay was a direct descendant of the tape echo.
In the ‘70s, the humble beginnings of DOD, MXR and others, the invention of BBD chips signaled the start of a time-based free-for-all. Suddenly, anything that had a control called “rate” or “time” could be brought to life as components were being produced at reasonable rates. But like the first examples of many different technologies, these early BBD chips made by Reticon provided their characteristic effects by a lack of refinement. Reticon’s SAD chips contained a tendency to degrade as the signal passed through the BBD’s capacitor network, as well as a pretty intense filter to stifle onboard clock noise at 3KHz, and so they imparted that filter’s sound into subsequent repeats, making it perfect for guitar effects.
DOD made two versions of the 680, with the much more common using a Reticon SAD4096. This chip is possibly the rarest of all Reticon chips (except for the R5101, used in the rarer early model and the MXR Flanger/Doubler), and was the precursor to the Matsushita MN3005 that component geeks know and love. With 4096 stages, it was capable of providing 300 milliseconds of delay. The Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man has two of them, while DOD’s 680 has just one. But 300 milliseconds is all this beast needs to get its point across.
Back when companies were still feeling it out, they each had some nonstandardized quirks, from fake stereo outputs to clean boost slider switches. DOD’s 680 is no different, containing some rather unique features. One of them is two output jacks, which DOD calls Remote and Local. Both of these outputs contained the exact same signal at the exact same level, but DOD’s idea is that professionals might run one into the amp (Local) and something like a mixing console or reel-to-reel machine (Remote). Why “output A” and “output B” were not used is anyone’s guess.
The earliest models included the rarer Reticon chip but a very unique PA toggle switch that altered the impedance of the output so that you could comfortably plug it into a console. Later versions saw this replaced with an LED.
With all that said, that sound. The 680 is among the darkest analog delays I’ve ever played, and as such, the repeats simply melt into one another, creating a lush pad around your leads. There’s no modulation or anything fancy other than the funky stereo outs; this thing is just dialed. It certainly calls to mind the kind of thing we think of when we think of real tape delay.
While the DOD isn’t the most well-known machine from the “golden age” of solid-state delays, I’ve found nothing that has the “it” factor of the 680, and I’ve played literally all of them. If one or two famous players had used one upon its release, the prices would have increased dramatically by now, but as it stands, you can get this princely delay for a pauperly sum on the usual used channels.