In a roundabout way, this review is a long overdue tribute to the tireless work of one Mr. Tom Cram, the former Marketing Director of DigiTech and the figure behind DigiTech’s and DOD’s most recent works. All you need to know to get a functioning perspective on the weight of his work is that:
1. Starting from his kitchen table, he single-handedly revived DOD in 2010 (a time when DigiTech’s higher ups would have rather focused on digital effects) saving the “original boutique brand” and a cadre of critical DOD designs from the abyss of obscure collector’s pieces.
2. He and his team have produced about one pedal every month from 2015 to 2017 under the DOD/Digitech umbrella. We’re talking the Obscura delay, the Looking Glass Drive, the updated Whammy, and the Boneshaker overdrive, to name a few.
I don’t have to go too deep into the controversy surrounding Harman’s sudden dismissal of Tom and his team (there’s plenty to find online about the subject, and Tom has made it perfectly clear he simply wants to move on to bigger and brighter things.) For all intents and purposes, Tom has had his hand in or has been directly responsible for the sum of DOD/Digitech’s releases for the last decade, producing a godly assortium of innovative effects. DOD has been a reputable brand name since the seventies, but Tom and his team brought that name into the light of modernity. Indeed, each design carries a signature brilliance that Harman was lucky to have, and if we’re an eighth as lucky, Tom will pick up the good work again.
Today, we’ll be looking at the very last pedal Tom & Crew unleashed upon the world under the DOD brand: the Rubberneck delay, a feature-dense analog delay pedal that blows most digital delays clean off the road.
- Up to 1.5 Seconds of Analog Delay
- Tap Tempo with 3 Tap Ratio selections
- Rubbernecking allows ‘rubber band’ stretched delay performance
- Modulation Speed and Depth controls
- Delay Gain and Tone controls
- Regen footswitch provides performance control of repeats
- Loop Send/Return inserts effects into delay feedback path
- Delay Tails and Dry Signal defeat options
- Remote footswitch input for added performance control
- True Bypass
At its core, the Rubberneck is a lava-warm DOD 680-inspired analog delay with 1.5 seconds of delay time at its disposal, and DOD has packed a myriad of neat features in to make the most of that ample time. At its most tonally basic, it’s a warm salt-water bath, but if we’re going to talk about the Rubberneck, we should probably start with the feature that shares its namesake: “rubbernecking.” DOD’s colloquial term for that classic timebending pitchshift you get when you modulate the time on an analog delay invokes the doppler effect of craning your neck while in a moving vehicle. By holding down the Bypass switch, the Rubberneck will stretch or halve the delay time, jumping up or down an octave to match the change. Which direction it goes, and how fast it reaches its destination is up to you, controlled via the green LED-lit Rubberneck Rate knob directly next to the footswitch. Fully torqued in either direction will yield a quick rubberneck, while closer to the center will wind the pitch up or down slowly. Personally I find that turning the rate just short of full either way is the coolest and most musical application, but a slow, chaotic melt is always welcome as well.
On the opposite side, we have a tap-tempo footswitch, the rhythm of which is determined by the division selector toggle north of the bypass switch. As you might expect, the pitch of the repeats reacts to the input on the tap-tempo, so if you’ve got a mean sense of rhythm you can tap in some interesting pitch shifts. I’d be happy with that, but the footswitch also doubles as a Regen trigger for the repeats. The LED knob next to the footswitch, while indicating the set tempo, also sets the decay of the repeats when the Regen switch is engaged, allowing for subtle changes from some repeats to slightly more repeats, or wild splits from single-repeat slapback to infinite-repeat oscillation, and vice-versa.
The top three knobs on the Rubberneck are your basic Time, Repeat (decay) and Level knobs. Much like the Digitech Obscura, another of Tom Cram’s echo masterpieces, the Rubberneck features two sets of dual-concentric pots that operate four parameters collectively. The lefthand concentric pots control the vibrato-styled modulation rate and depth, the impact of which is indicated in the intensity of a yellow flash in the green LED/Rubberneck Rate pot. With the Modulation Rate turned counterclockwise, you’re privy to a world of yawning modulation designed to elicit disintegrating tape tones; clockwise, a chirping helicopter whirl.
The righthand dual-concentric pots are your tone and gain controls, which (and this cannot be overstated) absolutely make this pedal. The reason I say this, despite all of the bells and whistles Tom has Cram’d into the Rubberneck, is because these two knobs expand the tonal range of the Rubberneck beyond that of its contemporaries by allowing us to fatten, brighten, darken, and dirty its repeats at will. Okay, the tone knob does what a Tone knob does, but what do we need a Gain knob on a delay for? Only good things, my friends. The further you turn the gain knob past noon, the harder the Rubberneck’s repeats will push the preamp, culminating in a reverb-like pseudo-oscillation. The relationship between the gain and repeats is important, as the further clockwise the Gain knob is, the lower the threshold for oscillation becomes when the Repeat knob is pushed; the repeats verge on infinite at 9 o’clock when the gain is maxed.
On the right side of the Rubberneck there’s a switch that will, in the bottom two positions, determine whether the delay trails will continue when in bypass, and in the top position, kill the dry input. The great thing about having the trails active is that the Regen switch will still affect the repeats after the Rubberneck has been disengaged. The kill-dry configuration shouldn’t be overlooked, especially if you want to run the Rubberneck in a parallel signal chain for a wet/dry rig, or if you’re re-amping a dry take in the studio.
Perhaps my favorite hardware feature in the Rubberneck is the inline TRS effect loop, which will allow you to run the Rubberneck’s repeats through another, separate pedal or chain of pedals, adding your own special flavor to the trail. Everything is fair game, and I tried everything. I loved the way fuzz pedals both pushed the preamp and smeared out the repeats to create a filthy, almost-reverb wash. Pitch shifters are especially magical, as the repeats feed back into the shifter after it’s played, practically shifting infinitely into the cosmos. Think Rainbow Machine. It’s also important to note that the effect loop is routed before the preamp, so anything with a gain factor will also impact the oscillation threshold. I learned this the hard way running the repeats through the resonant filter from Alexander Pedal’s Colour Theory; as the sequence ramped, my repeats ran away from me, melting my sum signal into indiscernible mush in a matter of seconds.
Finally, the Rubberneck also includes an input for a three-switch footswitch, and while I didn’t get a chance to play with the Digitech FSX3, I was able to get it to function in a limited way with a two-switch footswitch controller. Of course, when I say “limited,” I mean that a standard two-switch controller won’t do what you want it to do at all; plugging in your standard TRS footswitch will engage the regen indefinitely and only allow you to disable it and enable the Rubberneck. There’s no question that this is a matter of proprietary hardware, which is kind of lame, but when utilized as intended, the FSX3 (or any other allows for instant, remote control of the rubbernecking and regen features, as well as an added capability to disable and enable the modulation.
Gross, gritty hiss and tone suck is inherent in analog delay, but compared to analog delays past this thing is downright HiFi. There is a nigh-unnoticeable noise that becomes more apparent as you increase the delay time; this is a common flaw in analog, BBD based delays, a function of the repeats decaying at a rapid rate before they reach the output. I do wish that there was an easier way change the direction of the Rubberneck feature, because bending down to turn the pot in a show context is… not easy at all. Impossible even. This might have been solved with a simple two-way switch that affords either an up or down option, freeing up more of the potentiometer for a finer range of rubbernecking speeds. The same problem applies to the Regen knob, so maybe asking for a preset footswitch isn’t entirely out of the question? Additionally, I should also note the lack of stereo outputs is lame to a tiny degree (in the spirit of fairness, the reissued DOD Meatbox included a TRS stereo out,) but that’s easily ignored if you’re not using it in a stereo context, which most guitarists don’t. Finally, a tap-tempo input might have been nice for easier integration or replacing a tap-enabled pedal. Otherwise, I struggle to find something proverbially “wrong” with the Rubberneck.
Packed with features that rival full-featured digital delays without the gross digital artifacts, I would argue that the DOD Rubberneck stands out as not just one of the best analog delays on the market today, but one of the best delays all around. Tonally, it offers an expansive array of sounds ranging from bright slapback to ambient wash to clean dub delay to everything you can possibly imagine in between. In a veritable sea of delay, the plucky Rubberneck stands out amongst its contemporaries in sheer bang-for-buck. At this price point, you probably won’t do better than the DOD Rubberneck, and with everything it has to offer, why would you want to?
That concludes our DOD Rubberneck review. Thanks for reading!