DOD FX65 Featuring Andy Martin
Who among us doesn’t remember going to any guitar shop in literally any town in the world and gazing upon what seemed like endless Boss pedals? There were myriad designs available brand new, and handfuls in the used case that were already discontinued. Boss had a lot going for it; standardization introduced an urge to start collecting pedals, and for a very long while, they were often one of the only brands to be front and center in every music store on the planet. Any band, no matter how small and no matter how minuscule the tour, could pop into any store and replace any broken Boss pedal. While that sounds like a swell selling point, Boss pedals are well-regarded as bulletproof and so the ubiquity is more of a contingency plan, but an attractive one nevertheless.
After building tank-like cast zinc enclosures for its earliest devices (save that strange sheet-metal Overdrive Preamp), DOD got bitten by the standardization bug and started releasing pedals in 1982 that resembled Boss and Ibanez pedals. These were made in America, unlike Boss and Ibanez, and were thusly dubbed “America’s Pedal.” The first year saw some modest entries but in just a handful of years, this series, known as the “FX” series, was a full-on juggernaut. Many devices in this FX Series fetch modest prices on the used market, and there are a few stinkers in the line. But most of them sound great, and one such is the FX65 Stereo Chorus.
Back when pedals weren’t quite the commodity they were now, I must have played every DOD pedal I could get my hands on. Even as I got older and got jobs in music stores, more and more that I hadn’t heard of began popping up. I don’t remember when exactly I played the FX65, but I remember it being a great pedal. It had to be—the chorus pedal was the true sink-or-swim effects unit of the ‘80s. Even the most obscure brands coming out of Japan and Europe had an over-engineered chorus box. This was the ‘80s after all; every song in the known universe had chorus all over it. It was one of the only chorus boxes I ever saw with a “delay time” control.
When I went to work at ProGuitarShop I had the pleasure of working with Andy Martin of AndyDemos fame. As you might imagine, we talked a lot about pedals. And us, surrounded by literal walls of pedals sat one day and discussed chorus pedals one day. Among all the options past and present, Andy was (and is) the most bullish on the FX65. When I dug around in the cabinet recently, I pulled the FX65 out, played it and was taken back to both the time I first heard it and when I heard it again after Andy brought it into the shop. I reached out to him for this piece to get his thoughts on the enduring semi-legacy of this exceptional device. Would you believe that the FX65 kicked a Boss CE-1 off his board?
“John Frusciante used [the FX65] instead of or in addition to the famed CE-1 on my favorite RHCP record, Blood Sugar Sex Magik,” he said. “I always loved the Hendrix-esque doubling, flanging and rotary sounds on that album. The chorus tones on songs like “Mellowship,” “Give it Away,” and “Soul to Squeeze” sounded like a shallow flanger to me.”
Andy’s love of this “shallow flange” sound kept in lock-step with one of his favorite guitar tones of all time, that of Andy Summers of the Police and his “chorus pedal” that ended up being an Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress. But that’s not the only trick up the FX65’s proverbial sleeve; you can also dial in another elusive tone with a couple knob twists, one of the man’s favorites.
“[T]he best thing about the FX65 is the faux through zero flanger that occurs randomly when the frequencies are clashing right,” Andy said. “It's mainly with a shallow depth and that short delay [time] around 1 o' clock. I found it occurs more when using the alternate output on the top.” Years ago, Andy asked me to mod his chorus to juice the rate control a bit, and as a result, Andy found a relatively convincing Leslie tone. I love it when a plan comes together.
When Andy debuted his personal pedalboard on That Pedal Show, the FX65 was front and center, much to the disbelief of Dan, Mick, and most of the viewers. Of all the chorus pedals that Andy played going back decades, and after demoing chorus pedals nearing three figures, the FX65 remained on an island. Comments and DMs came pouring in.
“I definitely get asked about it and how I set it up. Sometimes it's just a pic saying, I bought this because of you or I saw it in your Reverb demo,” Andy said. “I later learned that Josh Scott is a big fan of the FX65 so that's pretty cool that we both came to that conclusion without any hype around the pedal.”
Though Andy swears he didn’t contribute to the rising price of the FX65 and cites a universal price increase across the board on DOD pedals, the cost of these old DOD pedals have climbed upward, but not in an outrageously prohibitive way. What once was $40 just a few short years ago has risen to $80 or so. Not bad for a universally acclaimed effect of any type!