Arion SAD-1 and the Untold Magic of Delay Pedals

There is a youtube clip that features Kevin from the KROQ Kevin and Bean Show doing something stupid (ya know). And in the middle of that clip, as he is walking down a hallway, he says simply, “I love fire, Ralph.” 

Well, I love delay. (Hmmm….that lead-in didn’t quite work, huh. Oh well. I’m keeping it.) I love delay so much. I think, if I had to, I would sell my amps and guitars before my delay pedals. Then I would just sit my lone pedalboard of delay pedals on stage, close my eyes, and listen to the sweet, lush tone that would be coming out of them if only I had a guitar and an amp. Mmmm……delay.

So, needless to say, I have a few delay pedals. And I’ve bought and sold quite a few more (from what I can remember, I’ve owned 23 delays over the years…..which isn’t much compared to some people, amazingly enough). It pains me to sell them, but I have to let my rig pay for my rig, if you know what I mean. If a certain pedal isn’t doing it for me, I can’t afford to keep it in my closet (or with delays, an airtight display case with loud alarms); I have to sell them to buy new ones. I hate that I have to do that. It’s like selling off your children in order to buy………more children, I guess. Better children!

But amongst all the children (just a warning: from here on out I might refer to all my delay pedals as children) that I have bought and sold, one has been on my board for three years and I just can never seem to sell it. It’s my trusty Arion SAD-1.


(Note: it is almost impossible to find one in this good of condition. My current one is way more beat up than this one. I sold this one because, well, if you own an Arion pedal, it kind of has to be beat up to keep its mojo, you know? This one was way too clean for me.)

Every time I try to sell my current SAD-1, it puts up a protest by making some sound that none of my huge, expensive boutique delays can make. It’s a simple, 3 knob, 300 millisecond analog delay from the ’80’s. The upsides:

–Incredibly clear original dry signal.
–Incredibly clear delays…most delays of this nature sound warm by dirtying the repeats. But with this pedal, it seems to actually maintain their clarity and smear the delays depending on the dynamics of your playing.
–In this way, I can actually use it as a washy, watery chorus sound at the end of other effects. 
–With the mix down and repeats up, it can also give a wonderful reverb in the back of your playing.
–Doesn’t color your tone.
–Great slapback delay.
–Great reverb delay.
–Great solo delay.
–Great ambient delay.
–Great ‘little something extra’ delay.

The downsides:

–Arion built these with leftover playskool plastic. One time a strong wind blew during an outside gig, and the pedal almost disintegrated. I keep mine in a bypass loop so I never have to step on it.
–If you don’t use a true bypass loop, it will suck tone when disengaged.

So, overall, if you’re careful with it, an incredible pedal. Obviously, it’s limited with its short delay time and no tap tempo, but that is the nature of this type of delay. It’s an ambient effect on purpose. And they are relatively cheap if you look in the right places. I have owned three over the years:

The first: found it in the back of the used case at Guitar Center in Ontario. 40 bucks. Killer deal. The sales kid said he wasn’t sure the overdrive sounds worked in it. I plugged it in, and he was like, ‘Oh, it’s like a phaser or something!’ Good times. I bought it for 40.

The second: the one currently on my board. No battery cover, the battery wires are taped up instead of soldered, unmatching replacement knobs, and the 9 volt adapter jack does not work. Looks bad. But it sounds fantastic. I got this one in Hollywood’s Guitar Ghetto, in the now defunct Future Music (RIP). Awesome store for rare vintage stuff. I miss them. Got it for 60.

The third: a grey box version in (incredibly) great condition. It’s the one pictured above. Bought it on e-bay for $100, and sold it for $110 on said e-bay. Put the $10 towards renting Tombstone, I think, and towards replacing that delay with a T-Rex Replica delay (or, child). Ya, the $10 didn’t go too far.
So, if you’re looking for an inexpensive analog delay for ambient sounds, slapback, reverb, solos, or even chorusy stuff, keep your eyes open for one of these. If you look hard, you can get them for fairly cheap. Add it to your children collection.


0 thoughts on “Arion SAD-1 and the Untold Magic of Delay Pedals

  1. hehe That might be an excellent blog topic. I’ll see if I can type that up tomorrow. And if I may say so, I perused your pictures on your blog of gear that you have bought and sold, and whoa! It’s good to know that I am not alone. 🙂 You’ve sold some nice stuff…although I can’t say I disagree with your current rig. Killer stuff, man. If I could find a way to use a Freakshow Digilog more often in my playing, I’d so have one. Those things sound great. In what ways are you using it?

  2. For the Digilog…anytime I’m just out there alone, picking chords or right at a band drop out going back into the verse or over the bridge I’ll hold down the feedback switch. The SMMH is cool that way too, if I have the reverse on or the 1sec+rev I’ll hold down the tap switch and have the last few notes repeat backwards. At Sunridge it works great transitioning out of the offering time to the closing message, just let it hang out there and fade, reverse, whatever 🙂

  3. I was using an old Ibanez AD-9 but now have a Boss DD7, which I barely know how to use. Have you heard “The Power of Your Name” by Lincoln Brewster. Now that has some sweet delay that I’m sure this DD7 will do, but in which mode?

  4. When my SAD-1 was lost (misplaced in storage) I bought an SAD-3 later.

    What a diff!

    I’m sure happy the first one turned up!

    The input jack is getting weak (after 23 years) and I may cannibalize another Arion effect to repair the SAD-1. (I don’t want to strip the SAD-3 though. It’s a different sound and it’s not totally worthless, and it’s a good emergency backup for the delay or reverb pedal.)

    I’ll do what I must to keep it kickin!

    Maybe I’ll contact the company first. Hey, I received new input jacks for a Behringer GX212 amp free of charge after putting in the time! And the jacks have a tiny PC board and plug to connect to the mutha board so, there was no substitute for them! Maybe Arion will stand behind this effect and keep me happy!

  5. I keep going out to the music store thinking this time I am going to get that a,b,y switch I need or some piece of gear I really need cords or connectors perhaps a new mike so I dont have to use the sm 57, again, or my countless thrifted mikes.I really mean to buy a nice case for my acoustic . However I get in the store a madness sweeps over me and I buy another delay, I wonder if it is because I tend to procrastinate? the last time I bought the roland re 20 digital space echo. Ahh delay I really enjoy delay in all its flavors . and often will use way too much. They are like little time machines, they can teleport your sound around the room, or make spaceship sounds. I am enamored . The last time I purchased a (sensible) pedal ,it did really pay off. I was feeling adult so I purchased a clean boost pedal, the catlin bread chili picasso
    it is a clean boost or a buffer depending which jack you use. I thought at the time, boring . I was oh so wrong, it made my other fx better and it upped my enthusiasm .
    The delay thing can get out of hand when critiquing my friends recent recording I had to tell him too much delay, yet I am guilty of the same thing. So now half hour straight into amp every other day or so for me to stay in control.

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