The Bixonic Expandora is a distortion box par excellence. The name just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?
I think Rocky Jones and his Space Rangers had one. I’m sure of it! Anyway, getting back to business, the Expandora is a delightful device. Round in nature, finished in an elegant brushed aluminum, and sporting the traditional “in” and “out” holes (don’cha just hate tradition?), as well as gain, tone, and level controls on the face.
Now, the neat insides of the box have preset dip-switches that allow you to basically go for as much (or as little) distortion as you want, making this way more flexible than the average pedal, which may yield “death metal” but be incapable of “woman tone” and so forth. True, the dipswitches are tiny, and only accessible after 30 seconds of puttering, but the case is well-designed (the screw on the back is self-retaining, thank God, and a detent is built into the back, allowing quick access and no lost parts). A minor quibble would be the lack of a true battery compartment. The nine-volt rests smack in the middle of a cutout in the circuit board. Still, it did the job, and the Expandora worked without a glitch.
The tone, when fired up with our test guitar (the Green Strat from Hell equipped with Pearloid Rio Grandes) through a variety of Fender amps, is raunchy, with definite tube tone and a nice presence when the volume is rolled down a tad. Further experimentation with a stock reissue Les Paul yields a fatter tone and gobs of distortion, making the neighbors weep. They tend to do that at 1 a.m., I don’t know why!
Finally, playing with the dip-switches did indeed give a broader palette of distortion, and though I’m not a big fan of fuzz (a stage I went through many years ago), it was authentic and fun to play with.
This is definitely a Good Box to Have, well designed (nary a tube in sight), and sounded quite good onstage as well as on tape (in contrast to the Sansamp, the other solid state distortion device on the market, which has always seemed lifeless and unrealistic in a live situation). Contact the good folk at Sound Barrier.
This review originally appeared in VG‘s May ’96 issue.