I’m a huge fan of the Danelectro Billionaire series of pedals. I’ve now got all of them except the tremolo pedal, and I’ve been delighted with the sound quality of each and every one of them.
This isn’t the last pedal to arrive before the pandemic lockdown, it’s just the last one for me to put onto the board and spend time with. How did I get on with it? Read on to find out.
What Is It?
The Danelectro Big Spender is a rotary speaker simulator. For better or for worse, that’s the sound of the music from my childhood. Think Deep Purple’s Burn, with that magnificent, genre-defining organ solo from Jon Lord.
Now, I’m no Jon Lord, and I’m using a guitar into a 40 quid pedal, not one of the most famous Hammond organs ever made into the real thing. Even so, I’m going to be the limitation here, not the Big Spender itself.
A Slow Start
There’s a good reason why I don’t collect modulation pedals. I have no idea what I’m doing, when playing through this pedal. I’m very much a fish out of water, and it shows in how I’m initially fumbling to figure out what to do with it.
I start off with my American Performer Strat. I love these Strats because, to my ears, they sound just like a Strat should. It doesn’t have a lot of low-end, even on the neck pickup. That’ll become important later on.
My first problem is that I just don’t know what to play. I’ve no idea what works with this kind of effect. I set the pedal on its slow speed, and try playing through some chords. It’s not quite what I expected.
Not Subtle, And Not Dominating Either
I’m surprised at how much of the actual guitar’s tone comes out of this setup. The Big Spender pedal isn’t subtle, don’t get me wrong. It sounds like a medium chorus effect, only with more clarity than I’m used to.
I don’t have a chorus pedal atm (other than the Neunaber Slate, which can be reprogrammed to do all sorts of modulated effects). The Big Spender is a keeper just for that role alone.
The Big Spender definitely loses some of the guitar’s natural low-end. In that respect, it doesn’t quite live up to the “rich” claim on the side of the box, in my opinion. But hey – it’s a modulation effect, and there’s always a loss of low-end when you mess with signal phase.
I’m going to give it some help.
Warmer Works Better
I switch it up from the Strat to Morag, my amazing custom-built Junior-style guitar from Ragh Guitars. Even though it’s only got a single P90 at the bridge, Morag has the warmest, fattest, and clearest tone of any guitar I’ve ever had. And it works so well with this pedal.
With the extra low-end from Morag, now the Big Spender is sounding fuller. Still not “rich”, but that might be a physical impossibility.
Fingerstyle Works Better Still
For lack of a better description, I’m finding the Big Spender to be a little grabby. The transients – the initial attack of a note – is sharper, more pronounced when I play through the Big Spender. Going back and forth, I can’t hear any other compression effects happening, so it could just be in my head?
Switching from playing with a pick to finger picking, the grabby nature of the Big Spender works really well for me. I’m finding that the notes have a really nice clarity to them because of how the initial attack seems to have more emphasis.
That, and slower playing style helps the pedal effect stand out a bit more.
Ramping It Up
Clicking the ‘Ramp’ footswitch changes up this pedal so much. Now it sounds prominent; a lot more rotary speaker, a lot less like an unusual chorus effect.
I still don’t know what I’m doing, but now I’m having serious fun. I run through some of the cover songs we play in our acoustic set, along with some of my own original fingerstyle compositions. The rotary effect changes which notes I choose to put the emphasis on.
Somehow, an hour has gone by without me noticing.
Does The Attack Trigger The Effect?
I might be imagining things? The effect sounds remarkably consistent for every note that I play. It’s so consistent, I can’t help but wonder if the rotary effect is being triggered by each note. When I’m not playing, I’m not hearing the effect at all, not even on the audible noise coming from the mains.
If it is a triggered effect, that would be a huge boon for recording. Imagine quad-tracking a rhythm piece, where each track is a different string from the chord sequence. Stitch it together in the DAW, and then pan the tracks to spread out across the stereo signal.
That is something I could make a lot of use of … if my testing confirms what I think I’m hearing.
It’s important to split my impressions up into the pedal on the one hand, and the effect on the other.
The pedal itself is as solid and as well made as all the other Billionaire Series pedals that I’ve had. Every one of them has been as good as any boutique pedal that I’ve played. At 40 quid (second hand price), I think it’s a bargain.
The effect is something completely alien to me. On the low-ramp setting, it’s got a chorus-like quality to it that appeals a lot to me. On the high-ramp setting, it does indeed deliver that 70’s classic (cliched?) sound, and it’s a lot of fun to boot.
The End … For Now
This is the last of the current run of the Billionaire Series of pedals. (I’m pretending that the tremolo pedal doesn’t exist, because that’s an effect that isn’t for me.)
All that’s left for me to do is to put together a round-up post, and then I’m probably done writing about them for the time being.