DOD Distortion Pedals in the Age of American Metal

Bob Leggitt | Sunday, 13 July 2014 |

DOD pedals were a massively important facet of the FX market back in the heyday of the stomp box. Particularly with their diverse range of distortion units, DOD dictated a lot of the play in the era when pedal manufacturers were at their most competitive and innovative. The striking ad depicted below comes from 1991 and shows the DOD FX50 Overdrive Plus, the DOD FX55B Supra Distortion, and the DOD FX56 American Metal.

DOD FX50 Overdrive, DOD FX55B Distortion and DOD FX56 American Metal

DOD traded extremely competitively in the 1980s, citing their American manufacture and their sturdy build, whilst pricing their units very aggressively and advertising both heavily and effectively. They didn’t necessarily undercut rivals (though they often did), but they did aim to offer better value, and there was usually a sense that they achieved that. DOD also kept a finger right on the pulse of the music scene, and that enabled them to connect with the most lucrative subcultures and genres in a way rivals struggled to do. At one of the most competitive and critical times ever for the stomp box – spring 1988 – the DOD American Metal was the UK’s best selling distortion pedal, beating the Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal into second place (source Making Music Dealer Survey chart 05/88). DOD was definitely not an also-ran.

WHAT WAS THE DEAL WITH DOD DISTORTION PEDALS?

DOD as a brand leaned towards quite a ‘hi-fi’ character of distortion. In the mid to late ‘80s when a huge battle to command the heavy rock market continually raged, there was a feeling among some manufacturers that distortion should be sculpted into some kind of middly graunch with a filtered top end. It was like makers were trying to provide a degree of amp sim as well as distort the waveform. But DOD’s drive pedals typically output the full frequency range with a very strong definition across the board, and in particular, really attractive lows. The guitarist’s amp and speaker were left to interpret the output and stylise the frequency range in their own way. That was always how things were with real valve amp distortion, so to me it made sense for pedals to operate in the same way.

Obviously, the range of DOD overdrive and distortion pedals differed from model to model, and each had a specific purpose in mind. Some were warmer, some had more bite or ‘sizzle’, and of course the controls on each unit allowed further adjustment. But DOD drive pedals did have a personality of their own. If you tried all their distortions, it was extremely unlikely that you wouldn’t love at least one of them.

DOD FX57 Hard Rock Distortion - 1987

The above ad comes from 1987 and shows DOD defining the heavy rock market with their FX57 Hard Rock Distortion. This of-its-time pedal combined a micro-delay with saturated clipping to produce a big, stadium rock type effect. The drive-plus-short-delay concept was a trick that professional hard rock and metal guitarists had been using to bolster their sound for some time. It could arguably even be traced way back to old rockabilly guitar production, which also used short delays, but with ‘80s rock the delay was a lot shorter (to the point where it was no longer really perceived by the listener as a delay), and the sound was of course additionally saturated with distortion.

Some argued in early 1988 that Boss had trumped DOD’s FX57 with their MZ-2 Digital Metalizer, which also added chorusing and stereo outs to the dist-plus-delay theme. But few guitarists in the market for this type of product were going to use two amps (making Boss’s stereo largely superfluous), and the chorus idea dated very quickly. The more expensive Boss MZ-2 sold amazingly well just after release (appearing to dampen sales of not only DOD’s FX57 but also their FX56 American Metal, but the MZ-2 quickly lost its traction, and was easily outlasted by both DOD pedals in the end. Note in the above ad that the UK distributor for DOD in 1987 was Rhino. This changed in the first half of 1988, when JHS took over the UK distribution.



Above, I’ve added a 1991 dealer price list, not only showing how the DOD range was being expanded at that time with new distortion pedals, but also giving an idea of how the range panned out cost wise. These are real UK prices, in the shops – not MRSPs. At this time, the Boss Heavy Metal was selling at £59 – £7 more than the DOD American Metal, which in my opinion was a considerably better pedal. Likewise, the Boss Digital Metalizer was selling at £99 – £27 more than the DOD Hard Rock Distortion, which was more simple, but again, preferable in my opinion. The DOD Supra Distortion undercut the Boss DS-1 Distortion by £5, although in that case I felt the DOD needed to be the cheaper option.

With the arrival of multi-FX processors in 1988, stomp boxes increasingly became more of a 'trinket' purchase, and by the end of the 20th century the picture was very different from the one which defined the period from 1987 to 1991. Guitarists no longer really needed individual stomp boxes by the end of the ‘90s, and the brand loyalty which had once seen musicians using a long line of pedals from one manufacturer had become a rare thing indeed. The wheel had kind of come full circle, with old 1960s curios and the ‘boutique’ one-offs of the 1970s winning buyers’ affections on nostalgic or retro chic grounds. But today, the wheel is still turning, and the 1980s has itself become a historic era of great fascination. DOD’s distortion pedals of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, whilst not perhaps currently as enticing as a revived older design like the 250 Overdrive/Preamp, were good, well made devices that hit huge at a time when it mattered most.

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