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.

Marshall Origin: Great With Boss Pedals

Marshall’s new Origin amp is an affordable, vintage-voiced valve amp. Boss have been making a range of affordable drive pedals since the 70s.

And together, they sound pretty damn fine.

Reference: The Marshall Origin With No Pedals

As a reference point, here’s what the Origin can do without any pedals.

Thing is, if you’re playing at home, you’ll probably never hear your Origin sound like that. This amp needs to be cranked to deliver the dirt. That clip was recorded with both Master and Gain on 8. My 20W Origin head is just too loud to do that at home.

So, if you like what you’ve just heard, and you want that for yourself at home, you’re going to have to budget for some pedals to go along with your nice new Origin amp.

And that’s where Boss comes in. Their pedals are cheap (the most expensive one in this demo is the BD-2 at £85) and widely available (support your local guitar shop!). And they work really well through the Origin.

Overdrives: BD-2 Blues Driver and the SD-1 Super Overdrive

First up is the venerable Boss BD-2 Blues Driver.

It has the lowest gain out of all three pedals in this roundup, but don’t let that put you off. As you can hear in the demo below, if you’re playing the kind of rock that sounds best through this amp, you don’t need all the filth for rhythm work.

Next up, another classic Boss pedal: the SD-1 Super Overdrive.

This pedal will get you right up there, delivering the same amount of filth that the Origin can do on its own – only without having to crank the amp to do so. To my ears, the SD-1 sounds a little thicker than the Origin does, and maybe slightly softer clipping too.

Have a listen:

Distortion: Boss DS-1

The DS-1 is a legendary pedal.

Compared to the SD-1, it offers harder clipping and reduced mids for a more aggressive tone. As a result, the guitar will sound quieter compared to the other two pedals. Thankfully, the Origin has an immense amount of input headroom, so just turn up the pedal and rock out!

Setting Up Your Boss Pedal For The Marshall Origin

The common advice with these Boss pedals is to turn down the gain, and use them as a boost into the amp’s input to get the amp to naturally overdrive.

That doesn’t work with the Marshall Origin.

The Marshall Origin has a huge amount of input headroom. You have to crank a pedal well past its sweet spot to have any chance of getting the Origin to naturally overdrive at home volumes.

The good news is that you don’t need to. Turn up the gain on your pedal to taste, and then adjust the pedal’s volume until you’ve got the same volume when you turn the pedal on and off again.

As the Origin is a bright amp, you’ll probably want to start with the pedal’s tone control at around 10 o’clock. From there, adjust the tone control with your ears.

Final Thoughts

The Origin is one of those amps that has a big say in what a pedal sounds like. It’s very suited to pedals – like these three from Boss – that are designed to work with an amp’s existing colour.

I’d happily record with the Origin and these pedals. I think the results are very usable – especially for the money! And they felt nice to play through too, which is also important.

What do you think? Comments below!

Does The Boss Katana Take Drive Pedals?

Adam and Tom for AStrings have responded to a YouTube comment: does the Boss Katana take drive pedals well?

The Boss Katana is an amp that’ll be on the list of possible amps for home tone fans. It’s very affordable, sounds very good, and is full of digital effects to give you lots of options.

And, when you’re ready to explore different tones, using drive pedals is one way to do so.

So how does the Boss Katana do? Watch the video to find out, and then please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment.

Blindfold Challenge – Affordable High Gain Amps

Chappers and the Captain have posted the 2nd part of their high-gain amp blindfold challenge. This time, they’re looking at 7 amps at £1,000 or below.

These kind of videos are a great opportunity to hear a bunch of amps side by side. Exact same guitar, exact same guitarist, and it looks like they’re running each amp into the exact same cab (so they’re all mic’d up the same). The only difference is the amp itself.

And these aren’t aspirational boutique sell-a-kidney amps. These are the kind of amps that you’d be looking at if you want a real valve amp for home and gigging.

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment if you enjoyed this video.q

JHS Modded Boss DS-1 Synth Drive

Yes, you read that right. JHS has taken the ubiquitous Boss DS-1 and made some crazy mods to it. And then they asked Mike Hermans – one of the top  demo guys – to show what this thing can do.

It starts out with an upgraded drive circuit, complete with a three-way toggle switch for different clipping types. That alone would be a great mod in its own right.

Then, they added 3 different synth circuits that you can switch in and out independently … just in case you’re bored with overdrive sounds. Or you just want something that’s batshit 🙂

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a supportive comment if you enjoyed Mike’s video.

Boss Katana Artist Amp Demo

Over on In The Blues, Shane has posted his demo and review of the new Boss Katana Artist amp.

The Katana Artist is the new top-of-the-line amp in the Katana series from Boss. If I’ve got this right, it’s the same models as the original Katana amps, in a 100W combo platform with a reworked power section – including attenuation – and a better speaker.

I’ve heard the original Katana 50 at gig volumes, and thought it sounded great in person. Katana isn’t trying to be a digital model of other amps. It’s basically it’s own thing, backed with models from Boss’s 40+ years of pedal heritage.

There is a trick to getting the most out of the Katana. Boss modelled the power section to work the same as a tube amp. Run it with the master volume up full, and adjust the channel volume to suit. The Artist’s reworked power section, with the built-in attenuator, should make it even easier to setup even at home tone levels.

Please head over to YouTube to leave a like and a comment if you enjoyed Shane’s video.