Since the company’s resurrection in the 90’s, Danelectro has definitely built a niche audience for its products balancing kitschy designs and usage of non traditional construction materials with a goal of ultimate affordability. With a street price of ~$15 USD each, the company has shattered the price barrier of stomp boxes with the FAB series of stompboxes.
This review focuses on the FAB Overdrive, FAB Distortion, and FAB Metal pedals. Each pedal in the series shares a retro-modern look like they jumped off the pages of a 50’s Sear catalog and has the same control configuration: Volume, Tone, and Gain. The input/output jacks and power supply jacks are located on the top edge of the pedals minimizing real estate on crowded pedal boards.
All of the pedals were auditioned with an SX SST57, AXL Badwater Jacknife, and Paul Reed Simth Singlecut SE into a Tech 21 Trademark 60 set to the clean channel with the eq set neutrally.
Tonally, the FAB Overdrive delivers a crunch similar to an Ibanez Tubescreamer but with a fuller low end and a slightly spittier top end with a little less gain than a Boss OD2. No matter which guitar I played, I was greeted with a sweet overdrive tone which retained the individual qualities of each guitar. The pedal cleaned up decently as I rolled back the volume pot but isn’t quite as dynamic as a cranked tube amp.
The gain knob is effective across its entire sweep adding a minimal amount of hair at low settings to full on grit when cranked. While the tone knob is effective at smoothing the tone out when it’s dialed down I actually preferred the tones with the tone knob set neutrally at 12 o’clock where the pedal retained clarity even at high gain settings and yet far from piercing. The pedal can also be used as a boost as there is a significant amount of volume on tap.
While the Danelectro FAB Overdrive won’t get you into metal territory on it’s own, it can cover pretty much any other style thrown at it and is versatile enough to be used alone, as a semi-clean boost, or as an additional gain stage to punish the input of an overdriven amp for maximum drive.
Results were mixed with the FAB Distortion with humbuckers fairing slightly better than single coils.
The gain knob has a fairly strong effect on the tone of the pedal with settings much below 12 o’clock begin sounding a bit dull while settings above teetered between bright and piercing. Fortunately, with all the controls set to 12 o’clock I was greeted with a sweet singing tone with a tight low end and the perfect amount of slice which really loved the darker P90s in the AXL Jacknife.
Coupled with a neck humbucker, look out! The tone was Santana smooth yet pick attack remained articulate. Very nice! Overall, the Danelectro FAB Distortion is fairly limited tonally but its sweet spot is sings with the best of them.
The Fab Metal picks up with the FAB Distortion leaves off. If you love thumping lows and slicing highs, this pedal is for you. Even at the lowest gain setting this is a fairly high gain pedal. I found the tone control’s sweet spot was to set it just below 12 o’clock which smoothed out the pedals bite perfectly.
With the gain cranked, the pedal’s tonal response becomes pretty muddy and it became extremely noisy even with humbuckers. However with the gain set from 40% to 60% the FAB Metal unleashes a girthy, snarl perfect for aggressive chordal riffing. A slight low end boost on the Trademark 60 gave the pedal an even more menacing grind, think early 90’s Soundgarden.
I didn’t like the tones for soloing quite as much as the FAB Distortion as single note lines were just a touch thin sounding. But for rhythm guitar playing, this pedal will certainly chunk with the best of them.
Danelectro really has a winner with this trio of pedals. Each offers up solid tones in a tiny package. Based on your tastes, you might prefer one over the other two. However at their prices, you could easily pick up all three for less than a single pedal from pretty much any other company.
Price: ~$15 USD Each
Pros: Solid tones in a tiny package
Cons: At this price, none.