Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2 Review

Review of the Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2 guitar pedal.

More than just an ordinary guitar overdrive pedal

Version 1 of the Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive was a clone of one of the most highly regarded and sought after overdrive/booster pedals out there, the Paul Cochrane Timmy clone. After the legalities were settled (apparently very amicably) , Danelectro went onto release version 2, which adds a number of new features, making it the most versatile and transparent overdrive/booster/treble booster guitar pedal I’ve ever used.

Build Quality

The Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2 features solid aluminum casing, and feels reassuringly bulky and weighty in the hand. The plastic controls let the side down however, and feel cheap in comparison. Worse still, I’ve found that the innards of the jack socket have worked loose, so that eventually the jack doesn’t ‘click’ into the socket anymore. The only option is to remove the back cover, attach the jack by pushing the housing onto it until it clicks, then leave the jack plugged in. Not ideal.

The footswich doesn’t inspire confidence either. It’s got quite a flat profile which takes some getting used to and doesn’t have a re-assuring clunk when engaged. Although I’d prefer the more standardised raised switches that appear on TC Electronic guitar pedals for example, I can’t help but thinking it would look out of place on the Cool Cat.

Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2 - DIP switches.

Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2 – DIP switches

Features

At first glance, The Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2 has a guitar input, amplifier output, 9v power input and controls for Volume, Gain, Bass and Middle. Hidden away in the battery compartment though are 4 DIP switches offering following

  • Red diode clipping compression.
  • blue diode clipping compression.
  • FET clipping compression.
  • 6Db of Gain Boost.

Lastly, True bypass switching is included

Overdrive, Boost and Treble Boost Sounds

As a standalone overdrive unit, for me at least, the Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2 simply doesn’t possess enough gain and compression, even with the first three DIP switches engaged. Into a clean Fender Blues Junior III amp, the overdrive character is just too polite for a lot of my personal applications. When pushed it doesn’t really break up in a natural kind of way, even sounding rather splatty, harsh and brittle. On closer inspection though, the transparent overdrive is simply pushing the Blues Junior into it’s own overdrive, which isn’t renowned for being the best, so maybe something like a Vox AC15 would fair better. Regardless, there are much better alternatives out there if you want a ‘fuller’ more distinct overdrive tone to complement your clean sound, not least Danelectro’s own Cool Cat Drive V2. In fairness though, standalone overdrive is not the Transparent Overdrive’s forte……

When used as a booster for solo’s, the Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2 really comes alive. I’ve experimented with other pedals chained after my main OD, namely the TC Electronic Spark Booster and the Electro Harmonix East River Drive, but both of these units compress the signal far too much, killing your core tone. What the Transparent Overdrive gives you is, essentially MORE, without compressing at all (unless you want add compression with the DIP switches). You have volume boost to spare thanks to the last DIP switch (+6DB boost to give you 12DB of volume boost in total),which equates to a lot more than a standard Ibanez Tubescreamer style unit, control over gain, and also very response EQ section which allows you to take away any boominess or excessive high end. Another trick up the EQ’s sleeve is to cut both bass and treble to give you a cutting mid boost, tubescreamer style!

The low/mid levels of gain is just about the right amount in this context, which pushes an already overdriving signal over the edge into sustaining musical feedback if desired. Having a gain control top-trumps a lot of clean boost pedals (and in particular the boost section of my old TC Electronic Nova system) in that you can dial in as much extra sustain as you like without necessarily increasing volume.

Lastly, a pleasant suprise. Placed before your overdrive pedal (or overdriven amp) the Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2 becomes an excellent, clean, quiet treble booster. Just set the gain to zero, set the bass and volume to taste, and boost the treble. Almost magically, this will add some cutting Brian May style fairy dust to your tone, making everything clearer and cleaner with sacrificing sustain, Incredibly, It’ll also allow you to clean up even further with you guitar volume knob with mushing out.

Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2 - Controls

Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2 – Controls

Control Layout

Much has been said about the fiddly, concentric controls of the Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2, and most of it’s true. Personally, once I’d found a place for the pedal (after overdrive as a solo boost). It’s pretty much set and forget, so once you have your tone/gain/volume dialled in, the hampered access to the control becomes less of an issue, or even no issue at all.

Paul Cochrane Timmy vs Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V1

The Competition

The booster/overdrive pedal market is a minefield with something for players of all styles and wallet sizes.

Ibanez Tubescreamer. The industry standard overdrive pedal. Very mid heavy with not a lot of flexibilty. Nowhere near the volume and transparency of the Cool Cat as a booster after overdrive, but is the clear winner as a stand alone overdrive.

Mooer Flex Boost. Similar spec to the Danelectro. Mini pedal format meaning no battery access.

Xotic Ac Booster: Boutique option if money is no object.

Paul Cochrane Timmy. The template which inspired the Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V1.

TC Electronic Spark Booster. Loses out to the Transparent overdrive in an A/B test by compressing the signal too much and possessing a rather sterile overdrive tone. Although the Spark booster features a whopping 26DB of boost to the 12DB (max) of the Cool Cat, in the real world the Transparent Overdrive V2 can hold it’s own, along with possess bags more characters and retailing at less than half the price.

Other noteable mentions: Electro Harmonix East River Drive (Ibanez Tubescreamer Clone), Electro Harmonix Soul Food (Clon Centaur clone), Mooer Pure Boost.

3 applications of the Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2

  • As stand alone Drive pedal. Place before you clean amp.
  • As a gain/volume booster for solos. My current use for the Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2 is a ‘Transparent’ boost for solos. Placed after your OD/Distortion pedal of choice.
  • As Treble booster. Placed before your overdrive/distortion pedal (or before your amp), with the gain at minimum, the bass cut to taste and the treble boosted.

Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V1 vs V2

Why would you buy a Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2?

The Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2 will always have it’s detractors. It’s very much seen as the ‘Budget’ option. Still regarded as a ‘Clone’ with a nonsensical control layout. All of this is true, but these can easily be had new for around the £30 mark and less than £20 on the used market.

With regard to sounds, I’ve tested it against a £77 TC Electronic Spark Booster, a £45 Electro Harmonix East River Drive (an Ibanez Tubescreamer clone) and the analogue boost/overdrive/distortion section of the £275 TC Electronic Nova system. Guess what pedal stayed on my board?

The cool retro 60’s styling, solid aluminium casing, true-bypass switching, versatility and truly transparent, tweakable sounds of the Danelecto Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V2 make it an absolute bargain.

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