First Impressions: Danelectro Cash Cow Drive Pedal

Earlier this week, I picked up a second hand Cash Cow drive pedal from Danelectro’s Billionaire range. How have I gotten on with it? Here are my first impressions.

tl;dr

The Cash Cow is a good low-gain option in some circumstances. It offers plenty of snap, clarity, articulation and warmth. It’s also got plenty of volume boost available if you’re looking to goose your amp.

The higher-gain tones weren’t for me. It sounds quite different on its own vs in a mix. It didn’t sit that well in a mix without help or careful planning. A little bit of post EQ goes a long way with this pedal.

I can’t think of another pedal that delivers the same sound as the Cash Cow. That alone makes it an interesting option to grab and try out.

Why Did I Buy One?

I’ve already had a couple of these pedals:

I liked both of them a lot, and decided to try and get all of the pedals in the range. If it’s as good as the first two, I’m going to be very happy.

Mind The (Volume) Gap!

Don’t do what I did, and start with the volume at 12 o’clock. This pedal has lot of spare output on tap.

Unity volume is somewhere around 9 o’clock, depending on where the gain knob is set. I haven’t tried using it to boost an amp, but I imagine it can do that pretty well.

I wish unity gain was a little higher. There isn’t a lot of room to work the volume when boosting the Cash Cow with another pedal.

What Is It Like At Low Gain?

I don’t want to say it’s thin. I’m definitely not getting thick, fat tones from this pedal, even with the Les Paul. It’s not thin, though. It’s clear and articulate, with a surprising amount of string separation. There’s plenty of attack in each note, with more crunch than growl.

With the Strat, I thought it suited the neck pickup really well. The added snap from the attack really brought out the piano-like way the open low-E string sounds. I did have to dial back the pedal’s Treble a bit, as it was a bit spiky with the Strat.

I thought it would sit really well in a mix. Just noodling, it sounded bright and snappy, with plenty of room underneath for a bass player and kick drum. But when I tried it, I was surprised at how much it clashed with a clean rhythm guitar. I guess it doesn’t have as much of a mid-push as I first thought?

In the end, I thought it worked well in these kind of setups:

  • single Strat over bass & drums, or
  • Les Paul for low-gain bluesy solos over a clean Strat

A Different Beast With The Gain Cranked

I didn’t get on with it at all with the gain cranked. It’s still clear and articulate, but through my rig, I thought it sounded metallic and not very musical.

Switching maps to my Marshall Origin 20H helped a bit, as did switching to some different impulse responses. There was just too much fizz for me though, and it didn’t sound saturated.

Admittedly, high gain isn’t really my thing, and this definitely isn’t a high gain rig. Maybe you’ll have happier results, I don’t know.

What’s It Like To Boost?

I thought it would be a good idea to slam the front of the Cash Cow with the other two pedals from the Billionaire range, starting with the Billion Dollar Boost.

The good news is that the overall signal doesn’t get fizzy. That’s a plus. It’s still a little too metallic for me in a sparse mix. Maybe it’ll work well in a dense mix, where you need a guitar to cut through? I don’t know. The Cash Cow does saturate though.

Switching over to the Pride of Texas as a boost into the Cash Cow, I liked that a lot more. The extra mid-push from the Pride of Texas got rid of the metallic quality nicely. The overall sound isn’t as saturated, and I couldn’t dial in any warmth by boosting the bass, but yeah … that’s a sound with a nice quality to it.

I flipped the pedals around, and ran the Cash Cow into the Pride of Texas. That didn’t do much for me. I preferred the Cash Cow on its own.

And I think that’s where I am with this pedal right now. I prefer it on its own.

What Signal Chain Did You Use?

Here’s the signal chain I used today.

It’s basically a couple of USA-factory guitars (nothing custom shop!), into the Cash Cow, into a cheap blackface-sounding valve amp, and then out to my audio interface via a couple of useful bits of gear.

  • For guitars, I was using both my Gibson Les Paul Standard and my Fender American Performer Strat.
  • For pedals, I used my Korg Pitchblack Advance Tuner, into the Billion Dollar Boost or the Pride of Texas, into the Cash Cow.
  • The pedals went into my Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 for most of the review. I used my Marshall Origin 20H to explore the higher gain range of the pedal, and to explore what the Cash Cow sounds like when boosted.
  • The amp went into a Two Notes Torpedo CAB M and Captor, and then out to my audio interface. The CAB M was running two impulse responses from Celestion: the Celestion Blue and A-Type speakers captured in 1×12 open-back cabs (most of the time).
  • On the audio interface, I ran a UA-610B preamp plugin & Distressor compressor plugin. They’re set with a very light touch just to get a little closer to the sound of my actual 1×12 cabs here in the room.

Final Thoughts

The Cash Cow worked best for me on its own, as a low gain vintage-style lead tone for my Les Paul, into my Marshall Origin with a Celestion V30 impulse response.

I can’t think of anything else in its price range that gives a similar kind of sound, especially at second hand prices.

The two budget distortion pedals I’ve got – the Boss DS-1 and TC Electronic Dark Matter – don’t get that close to the Cash Cow’s sound. All three are clearly distortion pedals, rather than overdrives, but that’s where the similarities end.

The Cash Cow is surprisingly warmer than either pedal – but only when played over a mix. On its own, the Cash Cow sounds like it has less bass.

To help me understand what I’m hearing, I grabbed my Boss GE-7 Graphic Equalizer, and added it to the signal chain after the Cash Cow. Cutting at 400 Hz and boosting at 1.5 KHz really helped to lift the Cash Cow out of the mix without making it sound like a completely different pedal.

So yeah … the Cash Cow seems to be its own thing. It gives me an option that I don’t think I’ve got from any other pedal. I’m warming to it.

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