SoloDallas Storm Schaffer Replica Pedal Review

 

The  Boost of all Boosts…with a built in Compressor/Limiter ?  Oh SNAP!  

Talk about a unique effect: it’s an update to a pedal that was already considered an exact replica of a particular circuit.  It represents an (additional) attempt to duplicate the vintage compression and expansion system used in a wireless system dating back to the 70’s (in a pedal format) that was favoured by many, including AC/DC’s Angus Young as a dedicated user.

The original “reissue” was apparently not close enough…so they came up with this: a version that is even closer to the original with the same basic controls as the previous pedal; this version, though, comes with the inclusion of adjustable compression.  There are also some more subtle updates that the manufacture claims makes it “more market standard”.  This update also makes it more than just a boost: it is a subtle enhancer to your tone, much like using a quality conditioner on your hair instead of the usual shampoo and quick rinse.

An upgrade to the original attempt, The Schaffer Replica Pedal by Solodallas, it is built by a known manufacture of products like this.  The original version was compact and considered an exact replica of the the SVDS, with a few quirks…but it did it’s job admirably.  Tone hounds bought these up in abundance, and it wasn’t just to get an AC/D tone.  With just two knobs it really took the tone world by…ummm…Storm.  This version, however, is sure to whet the appetite of just about any tone hound, as it can be used as a boost, compressor or just as a simple EQ effect.

 

The company’s founder, Fil ‘SoloDallas’ Olivieri, is someone who you could call obsessed with AC/DC’s tone: he has attempted to emulate Angus’s tone by purchasing every piece of equipment that has been purported to be in his signal chain…almost.  Throughout his years of procuring original pickups, amps and more,   he still thought something was missing from his replication, and he was right:  Angus used a rare and somewhat unique wireless system known as the SVDS.  Within the receiver lurked a unique compander circuit to aid in maintaining its tonal integrity when used in tandem with the wireless signal transmission.  While you might disregard this as a subtle addition,  it was good enough for Angus to keep it plugged in when recording in the studio.  It must add something!

Based on this system, the Storm delivers the goods: it provides a solid boot for a classic rock tone without much fuss.  It is pretty unique in that it has a balance between easy of use but being flexible enough to offer a variety of tones.  Because of its Input (“Power”) and Output (“Storm”) controls you can cover wide range of uses, from simple volume boosts with tons of character to gain boosts that not only add sustain but a midrange weight that cuts through the mix…just what you need when you flick to your Bridge pickup for a cutting solo during the drum solo.   Between the two controls you can get tones that aren’t just the usual “shadings” of dirt and boost.  It also seems to “clarify” your pick attack with the “HiFi” Sheen it adds without becoming brittle; even bright amps can appreciate the subtle “Air” it can add. What really stands out is just how responsive it is:  you will literally try to change the way you approach the strings just to see what your amp will bark out.  The subtle tone shaping the Storm can achieve is outstanding and maintains it through each and every variation of the controls you can throw at it.

 

Snap, Crackle and…Oh Wait…Just SNAP.

That experience alone would likely have sold just about anyone looking to make a subtle HiFi upgrade to their tone, but there is more.  A whole lot more…in the way of a warm and organic compression that is adjustable with the”Snap” control.  It can add “Pop” and give your tone a good shot of spank without turning muddy like a “vintage-styled” compressor.  It comes across as a very clean Dyna Comp. Back off the Snap and you have a warm and highly adjustable booster.  Add the some Snap and you have a thick, elasticy compressor to be used anywhere in your signal chain.

This proves to be a vast improvement to the original pedal which is already considered a gem to many. The previous version (“TSR”) did have it’s quirks though…TWO LEDs (Power and Effect Status?) reversed Input and Output Jacks (compared to the usual standard), and it required a 12V power supply.  Thankfully these issues have been remedied with the Storm.  The main improvement, though, is in the Tone.

How should we end this?

The SoloDallas Storm operates just like any high end effect in that it can  make you take notice of how important it is to your tone when you turn the effect off:  you will wonder just how you made out without it.  Footswitch notwithstanding, this pedal will likely have it’s ‘On’ LED constantly lit.  Yes, it’s that good. The “Snap” confirms that the update to the TSR was not only worth it, but indispensable.  With all of its uses, from clean to extreme this pedal becomes less of a booster and more of a tone conditioner…and we all know what happens when you forget to use your conditioner.

 

 

Fil ‘SoloDallas’ Olivieri

“SoloDallas” is kind of a single man operation of sorts: besides a solid online presence on YouTube he set out to have a pedal that could accurately replicate what the Schaffer Wireless System added to the classic tones we know from the AC/DC Brothers.  In his quest to mimic Angus’ tone he found that though he had just about everything SoloDallas seems to have made a pretty big wave in the world of effects: through the world of social media he seems to have cultivated a following of fellow tone hounds.

 

The SVDS

The Storm (and TSR) are based on the Schaffer-Vega Diversity System, or SVDS, which was in use by Angus for approximately 1977 to 1984.  It was originally designed by Ken Schaffer of New York and built by the Vega Corporation in El Monte California.  It has the distinction of not only being the original true diversity wireless system but the only product during that era intended solely for transmitting the guitar signal wirelessly.

 

Ken’s design took care of a number of anomalies associated with previous attempts at a stage-ready wireless system:  True diversity really took care of the issues of dropped or fading signals during a performance, (which could get a bit troublesome with a stadium size crowd!) and it could transmit a signal by line of sight up to 100 meters (which was almost unfathomable in the 70’s!)  All while adding an enormous safety bonus on not being shocked by questionable electrical systems when touring worldwide…

Notable users of the SVDS include…

Live:

  • Pink Floyd (David Gilmour’s “Come on, Big Bum” solo on top of The Wall)
  • Kiss
  • E.L.O.
  • The Rolling Stones
  • Obviously, AC/DC

In the Studio:

  • Eddie Van Halen
  • Rick Derringer
  • Again, obviously AC/DC

 

 

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