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Electro-Harmonix Small Clone

It came to my attention recently that Electro-Harmonix founder Mike Matthews recently celebrated his 80th birthday. And around these parts, we have big love for big Mike; it goes without saying—the man is a legend. He started Electro-Harmonix in 1968 and has steered it through multiple ventures and has come out the other side as one of the biggest effects manufacturers in the world. Mike’s genius has permeated throughout EHX’s numerous releases, and he’s not only responsible for creating entire genres of effects, but he’s likely responsible for some of your favorite companies.

All of EHX’s back catalog is extremely collectible, and it feels like more and more items or variants thereof crop up as the years go on. Perhaps the most famous EHX product line had the most revisions and eras, each with their own uncanonized nickname until the reissues came out. That product is the Big Muff, with at least six different distinct graphical eras with several tweaks scattered throughout. However, today we’re not talking about that, we’re talking about another vintage piece, Mike’s Small Clone.

It may come as some surprise, but the Small Clone’s lineage is just about as complicated as any other EHX pedal. While the varietals of the Big Muff have been tracked to the ends of the Earth, the Small Clone’s history is still shrouded in secrecy. And what good would a vintage effect nameplate be without several agonizingly small details?

No doubt you’ve heard of Boss pedals with silver screws and elongated hyphens, or with two different names under the same model number. The Small Clone’s finer details are extremely similar to that; though the differences aren’t as widely popularized as those of Boss. As far as the Small Clone is concerned, there is no rhyme or reason to the different versions. Across three different categories—subtitle, LED indicator and chipset—there are two, three and two respectively. When you add in the reissues that look extremely similar, it’s pure entropy.

The subtitle of the pedal is the first dead giveaway; two such names exist in “Full Chorus” and “Mini-Chorus”. Reissues have a hyphen between Full and Chorus, vintage models never did. LEDs existed in diffused 5mm, diffused 3mm and water-clear 3mm varieties, and the BBD chipset was either MN3007 and MN3101, or SAD1024. The only sure thing among each parameter was that they were guaranteed to exist, otherwise it was a total crapshoot.

My particular unit actually dates to my exact birth week, and I’m not going to lie, I got rather sentimental discovering it. As you can see, it’s a Mini-Chorus model, with clear LED and MN3007 chip. Until somewhat recently, I had heard a rumor that the earliest Small Clone units bore the Mini-Chorus name, but Mike Matthews personally pulled the plug on the name because he didn’t appreciate the diminutive. The rumor hasn’t been debunked but I’ve heard it multiple times.

The Small Clone has been used by a diverse array of artists but most notably by one Kurt Cobain. Of course his use predates the reissues so those looking for the perfect “Come As You Are” sound should check the used sections. It’s been speculated that Kurt’s personal Small Clone was of the SAD1024 chipset (of course, the hardest part to locate) but nothing is proven—like much old EHX stuff, the answers are in the ether with no condensation in sight.

One thing I can say about the Small Clone is that it’s a true original no matter what chips are in it. As you may or may not know, a chorus pedal is meant to emulate a process called “automatic double tracking,” an old studio trick invented and perfected to thicken a track without having to play it multiple times. And while multiple chorus pedals filled the market from the CE-1 well on through the chorus-drenched ‘80s, none quite sounded as fluid as the Small Clone. Many vintage units display an excellent thickening, some sound quite lush and full, but nothing really matches the liquid qualities of the EHX unit. And truth be told, the reissues sound strikingly close to the original, so get yourself one and be part of the club.