My beloved Arion SAD-1 delay pedal. From the looks of it, this pedal really shouldn’t work; it’s like the Keith Richards of my pedals……it sounds great, but how in the world is the body still held together? But somehow, it still works. This is the black box version from the ’80’s. The black box tends to be a bit darker and less pronounced than the grey box version. I’ve owned 3 or 4 of these over the years, but only one of the grey box versions; so I’m guessing, from my limited experience, that those are the more rare versions.
This particular has been on my board longer than any other pedal. It was with me back in the days when I was just discovering that strange and wondrous idea of actually sounding good while playing guitar. I got it at Future Music during one of my many excursions to Hollywood; right off Sunset in guitar ghetto. So this pedal embodies a lot of memories for me. And even the sound of it brings me back to those rainy days with friends up in Hollywood, drooling over vintage gear, discussing Edge’s tone, and basically feeling like rockstars because we’re eating at a two-story McDonald’s. Not much has changed. But this is a pedal. A piece of plastic (ya, Arion’s weren’t constructed very well). And I’m talking about it as if it were a former lover. And here’s the sad thing……I’m okay with it.
This pedal just can never seem to get kicked off of my board. Nothing sounds like it. I’ve got delays that sound better, but nothing that can imitate the sound of this one. It’s so warm and decays so harmonically, that it almost has its own modulation to it. Very tape-ish. And you’ll notice in the videos that it has no battery cover, the knobs are harvested from other pedals, and it has to get power from a battery clip adapter because the jack in the back works only sporadically. And yet it has stayed on my board through hundreds of other pedals coming and going. (And that’s a literal statement. ‘Hundreds’ is not an exaggeration. That’s bad. I’ve gotta stop those long, romantic, rain-filled walks on Sunset Boulevard with these pedals. Little bit of creepiness. And a little bit of joy.)
So here’s the two demo videos. The first one is of the pedal acting as it was meant to, as a delay. The second is how it does as more of a finishing effect on swells and other pedals.
Finishing Effect Demo:
So, obviously this can only be your main delay if you’re just looking for some ambiance, or backdrops for leads, or a little something extra once in a while. The maximum of 300 milliseconds of delay time (some people clock it at 250 milliseconds, even), and the absence of tap tempo, take away a lot of the rhythmic options. But as a simple delay, this one is one of the best I’ve heard. And that cool, tape-like quality and the low time count actually help it to be a great washy, chorusy finishing effect on other delay pedals.
An interesting thing: in all 3 or 4 of the SAD-1’s I’ve owned, both the stereo output jacks give off both a dry and wet signal. And if you switch the little switch to direct, you just lose delayed sounds. Kind of weird, but worth mentioning in case you want a ping pong effect in two different amps. This one won’t do it. But, it can be really cool if you happen to want the same thing out of both amps.
It’s also a major tone sucker. Hopefully you can hear that in the video. You’ll want a bypass loop for this. Plus, it’s built in the weakest plastic box ever, so you don’t want to step on it too often. Looks like it might disintegrate. At least mine does. And my apologies for the use of George L cables in the video. I know I’ve railed on those, and this pedal is really hidden on my board; so I guess I just forgot about those George L’s and haven’t changed them for Lava or EA’s yet. Nothing wrong with George L’s……except for the sound. hehe Kidding, kidding! I’m not a huge fan of the sound, but some people really dig it. My main thing is that the ground connections always get fizzy-sounding for me.
So, definitely some cons to the SAD-1. But I’ve yet to hear another delay do what it does……even my expensive ones. Props to Arion. Well, in the ’80’s.
And yes, there is a very large amount of people that I love less than this pedal. And probably a larger amount than you’re picturing right now. 🙂