CMAT Mods Deeelay
Boutique gear makers usually fall into one of the two categories: ones that re-cycle famous circuits with or without mods, but with higher quality components and attention to details and ones that actually try to move the ball forward and come up with something new. CMAT Mods, as the name suggests, mostly deals with tweaked clones of well known circuits. What’s common for all boutique makers is hype around them. I usually take raving user reviews with a grain of salt. It’s very simple, if I payed twice or even more the regular price for something I want it to perform superbly and my mind can trick me into thinking that’s really the case, although it sometimes isn’t. It’s just how human psyche works, I don’t want to think of myself as a fool for paying that much money so I’ll believe that it’s very good.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against boutique builders. Most of them are fellow DIY-ers that turned their passion for building stuff into business, and I respect that. Stuff like distortion/overdrive/booster/compressor pedals, tube amps, guitars or HI-FI benefit more from quality components and attention to detail and boutique makers have an advantage there.
However, effects like digital delays are not very boutique-friendly because small pedal makers don’t have enough money/market share to invest in building a proprietary platform for digital effects. Also, complex circuits such as fancy digital delays are often hard to manufacture using boutique (hand-made) techniques. What they’re left is with a simple PT2399 chip which is intended to be used for shorter delay times and adds noticeable distortion with delays longer than 300mS. At around 600mS it becomes really pronounced so most pedals stop there. It’s inability to be transparent is used as a selling point because pedals based on this chip are marketed as “vintage sounding” or “analog sounding” because of the distortion added by PT2399.
Deelay is a digital delay with up to 600mS delay time, time, blend and repeats controls, which leads us to think it’s based around PT2399 and very similar to Tonepad Rebote DIY project. I opened it up and sure enough, it looked very very similar to Rebote 2.5 I built few years ago. There’s a PT2399 and one TL072 op-amp as buffer/mixer. Metal film resistors are used throughout the pdal, Xicon electrolytic and mix of several different kinds of poly film caps. From “boutique” label I’d expect some fancier caps, but these are not bad at all. Wiring is very clean as promised.
Compared to my Rebote 2.5 it is very similar as expected. The only bigger difference I noticed is that Deeelay has darker sounding echoes and not as distorted as Rebote 2.5 at higher delay settings. These two may be correlated because you loose some of the spiky crunch when treble is rolled of so distortion is more suble.
What I like about it?
- Build quality. Wiring is clean, components are good quality, both ICs have sockets and board seems to have plated holes.
- Not very noisy when put after the distortion pedal or in the FX loop.
- With all knobs set lower it has some interesting reverb-ish kinda effect.
What I don’t like about it?
- It’s not very transparent, there’s noticeable volume jump when pedal is on. It’s probably easy to mod to get it even, but I’d expect it to be better from the start.
- Delays are dark sounding.
- Silk screened lettering is not done very well.
- Couldn’t make it work well for doubling, delay time can’t get short enough.
- Price is a bit high for what it is.
- MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay, costs a bit less, is an actual analog delay and has switchable modulation effect.
- Digitech Hardwire DL8 costs about the same and offers many more features. Analog mode is just one of them.
- Used Boss DD-20 or VOX Time Machine can be bought for less than 150$.
- If you’re after vintage/analog qualities of PT2399 chip, you can build a Rebote 2.5 yourself for less than half the price. Alternatively, BYOC offers a kit that has everything that Deeelay has plus ping-pong (stereo mod) for 100$. General Guitar Gadgets stocks PT-80 kit which is a high quality version of Rebote 2.5 and costs only 80$. You’re left with 70$ to spend on beer and hookers! 🙂