America's Pedal?

In the 1970s, the largest U.S.-based effects pedal manufacturers included Electro-Harmonix, Mu-Tron, MXR, and DOD. DOD Electronics Corporation was founded in 1974 by John Johnson and David O. DiFrancesco in Salt Lake City, Utah. Although some of DOD's earliest designs appeared to be derived from MXR (the DOD Overdrive Preamp/250 is very close to the MXR Distortion+, and the DOD 201/401 Phasor is similar to the MXR Phase 45/90), DOD gained a niche in the market with excellent-sounding pedals such as the 250 and the 440 Envelope Filter.

In 1977, Roland Corp. began offering effects pedals under the marque "Boss" with silent FET switching in a compact and more rugged design, and Ibanez were soon to follow suit. By the early 1980s, with Boss and Ibanez raising the bar with their innovative products, the market for guitar effects pedals was much more competitive. Unfortunately, U.S. marques Electro-Harmonix, Mu-Tron, and MXR failed to adapt and were out of business by the mid 1980s. (For further reading, we recommend Analog Man's Guide to Vintage Effects.)

DOD seemed to anticipate the changing market, introducing their Performer 500 series of pedals in 1981, which featured silent FET switching (but also used two 9V batteries), and expanding their R-series of rackmounted effects as racks became more popular. DOD's FX-series was introduced in 1982, at about the same time that its first series of MXR-inspired pedals was discontinued, as a more affordable product line compared to their pro-level Performer series. DOD subsequently began its DigiTech division to focus on higher end "twin pedals" (the PDS series), multi-effects processors, and rack effects, many of which were digital designs. With few domestic competitors left standing, but facing stiff competition from overseas (mainly Boss and Ibanez), DOD's marketing department began billing its products as "America's Pedal" in the mid-1980s:

America's Pedal

By the late 1980s, the popularity of stomp boxes in general had taken a backseat to rack-mounted effects processors, despite the emergence of artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, who helped popularize the Ibanez Tube Screamer. DOD/DigiTech were sold and became part of the Harman Music Group in 1990, but shortly thereafter pedals again became de rigueur with the emergence of "grunge" music. In 1993, DOD seized the moment by naming its new fuzz pedal as the FX69 "Grunge" (later even trademarking the name!), although Kurt Cobain of Nirvana remained a Boss DS-1/DS-2 user. Along with the FX86 Death Metal, DOD had seemingly cornered the market on high-gain distortion pedals, and sales were brisk.

At about the same time, DOD began to experiment with new paint finishes (sparkle, crackle, and splatter finishes) and non-intuitive names for its controls (such as the infamous "Butt"/"Face" low/high e.q. controls on its FX69 Grunge pedal). In 1994, DOD unveiled the commercially dubious FX32 Meat Box (whose packaging included stickers of flies) and the even less successful FX33 Buzz Box (inspired by Buzz Osbourne's guitar sound with the Melvins, basically a Grunge pedal driving a vintage MXR Blue Box). While the odd control names became something of a running joke, with pedals such as the Buzz Box (and later, the FX13 Gonkulator ring modulator), no one could accuse DOD of resting on their laurels and playing it safe. (That said, by Summer 1995 DOD had reissued four pedals from the first series, including the 201 Phasor, 250 Overdrive/Preamp, 280 Compressor, and 440 Envelope Filter.)

By 1996, DOD had completely re-designed the housing for its final FX-series pedals, addressing problems such as the easily-lost battery cover, the poorly-protected footswitch, and the by then-unusual 3.2mm center positive AC adapter. Older designs were not immediately updated, however, and for a few years 2nd-series-style DOD pedals were sold alongside the new (final) style. The first few pedals with the new design were introduced at Winter NAMM 1996 and included the FX13 Gonkulator, FX22 Vibro-Thang, FX51 Juice Box, FX64 Ice Box, and the FX84 Milk Box. The FX12, FX63, FX747, FX100, and FX101 were introduced at Summer NAMM 1996. With most of the new pedals, the control names became less descriptive and less intuitive, leading to some models having two sets of labels for each knob, the real name and the "creative" name.

In 1998, DOD revamped their line with all pedals using a more bland color scheme with a two-tone model designation. New pedals included the FX20C, FX25B, FX66, FX69B, FX75C, FX86B, FX91, and FX102; and the words "Made in U.S.A." became conspicuously absent from the bottom label/sticker. By the end of the century, production had officially shifted to China (with "Made in China" stamped just beneath the DOD logo on the bottom rubber anti-skid plate), and "America's Pedal" was no more.

By 2007, the FX69B Grunge and FX86B Death Metal pedals were revised to become part of DigiTech's pedal lineup, and the remaining FX-series DOD pedals were effectively discontinued. Meanwhile, both Electro-Harmonix and MXR (now owned by Dunlop) had been resurrected, manufacturing reissues of vintage pedals and designing several future classics in the USA (with some exceptions, such as the made in Russia EHX Big Muff Pi). Although DOD had relinquished the title of "America's Pedal" and disappeared from the new marketplace (the Chinese-made YJM-308 was the lone exception for several years, but it was discontinued by Summer 2009), its legacy continues. As of 2009, it was rare to find a U.S. company that likewise manufactures their products in the U.S.A., and then sells them at prices that the average musician can afford. (The initial run of DigiTech's new HardWire series of pedals was labeled "made in USA", continuing the legacy of America's Pedal. However, we subsequently read but have not confirmed that production shifted to China by the end of 2009.) As very average musicians ourselves, we started this website as a token of appreciation to DOD Electronics and America's Pedal.

In 2011, DigiTech (by Harman) introduced the iPB-10 Programmable Pedalboard, a (virtual) multi-effects pedalboard designed around the Apple iPad. While it was heartening to note that several old DOD pedals were emulated (including the DOD 250, FX52 Classic Fuzz, FX13 Gonkulator(!), and FX25B Envelope Filter; plus the Grunge, Death Metal, and Stereo Chorus pedals with DigiTech "skins"), they emulated far more pedals from other companies. We have no experience with the iPB-10, but hope that DigiTech offers emulations of other DOD pedals in the future (the FX22, FX33, and FX96 seem like obvious choices). In 2012, DigiTech introduced the iStomp, a traditional stompbox that can loaded with any pedal available from their "stomp shop" app, but this pedal was apparently discontinued by the end of 2013 due to conflicts with the newest version of iOS.

Finally, in September 2013 DOD returned with limited-edition re-issues of the Overdrive Preamp 250 and Phasor 201. With a list price of $150, it will be interesting to hear how well these new versions compare to the original pedals. Check the newly re-designed official DOD website for more information.

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