Borne amidst a windfall of chorus units, it offers Something a bit different
In the mid to late ’70s, chorusing for guitarists was a relatively new effect on the market and nearly
all pedal manufacturers were introducing chorus units. One of the more obscure was the DOD 690.
DOD Electronics was founded in 1974 and the company began making no-frills, meat-and-potato effects in an effort to offer musicians reasonably priced effects boxes. Twenty years later, the first series of DODs offer great bang for the buck. The 690 Chorus was one of the company’s higher-end products produced in the late ’70s.
While one of the most highly regarded chorus units to this day is Roland’s Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, the 690 ranks right up there in terms of sound quality, and also offers the user a few more options to control the sweep of the signal. The 690 can also be purchased at a fraction of the cost of a vintage CE-1. Although the CE-1 is a great piece, the 690 is smaller and built just as ruggedly.
Enclosed in an aluminum box approximately the size of an MXR Stereo Chorus, the 690 offers the usual controls of width and depth of effect signal, plus it offers footswitchable dual speed controls. One thing that is nice about the 690 is that you can have speed one set at a slow, subtle effect, and speed two at a faster speed to achieve Leslie-type vibratos. The unit has a speed select footswitch to go between the settings. The fast speed setting sounds very much like the CE-1’s vibrato setting.
The 690 also offers an effect on/off switch to turn the effect on, or bypass, and a lighted power switch. It’s an AC-powered unit with a heavy duty three-pronged plug. The unit also offers an A output and B output for running in stereo with two amps.
The 690 offers nice, widespread chorusing sounds and shimmering vibrato tones. It can really produce warm, rich tones, especially with two amps.
With a speed setting on very slow, depth control at 3 o’clock, and width at a 12 o’clock, the 690 can produce a warm, thickening sound that is very subtle and great for solos – especially with an overdrive.
Another nice setting is the depth at 12 o’clock, width at 3 o’clock, and speed at 1 o’clock. This makes a moderate chorus with a bit of a faster sweep. The 690 sounds great in combination with other effects – especially an analog delay, compressor, or overdrive. When switching between a fast speed setting to slower speed setting, the 690 does it gradually – the switch is not abrupt.
As with all good things, you have to take some bad. The 690 is no exception to the rule. While the unit produces shimmering chorus tones and great vibrato, it can be a bit noisy. One potential fix is to take out the RC-4558P op-amp chips (there are two) and replace them with a modern equivalent. You’ll want to save them, though, because they sound wonderful in newer Ibanez Tube Screamers. The old footswitches can also be taken out and replaced with true-bypass switches. If you don’t mind spending a little extra for these mods, the 690 can be a really fine unit.
Another cool thing is the LED effect light turns on and off with the speed of the oscillation of the effect – letting you know which speed even if your guitar’s volume is turned all the way down.
While the old Roland CE-1 is a legendary chorus unit, the 690 can be a great alternative for those who don’t have the bucks to plop down on a vintage piece. Although the 690 can usually be purchased at a significantly lower price than the CE-1, it’s usually harder to find. It may take some searching, but for a great, reasonably priced chorus unit that offers some unique features, the DOD 690 Chorus is tough to beat.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Feb. ’01 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.