I have been playing the guitar for a couple of years but don’t have that many pedals. I have the necessities: a premium Overdrive, Delay and Reverb but that’s pretty much it. So I have been curious about trying some other effects. I just didn’t want to pay the price most pedals cost.
That’s when I came across Donner. I’ve seen their pedals mentioned from time to time on forums and youtube videos. Many people really like them. A few of their pedals are known to be basically clones of more expensive mass market pedals.
I was wondering what I could use to improve my playing so I thought I’d try one of their pedals. I felt that my playing, though getting better could do with a little help; something to pull it together and make it sound a little tighter. It just so happens that a compressor pedal is designed to do just that. So my first Donner pedal is the Donner Ultimate Comp.
The pedal arrived in a padded amazon envelope. Oddly, the pedal was outside the elegant black box which looks like it should hold jewelery or a watch. The box has a flip end that seems to be magnetized and a foam insert to hold the pedal. I’m not quite sure why the pedal was outside the box but it seemed to be in perfect shape when it arrived.
In addition to the pedal, you get a small instruction sheet. It’s very basic but thankfully the text is large enough to read unassisted which was most welcome compared to what I’m used to.
The pedal is a bright cobalt blue, mini size full metal enclosure which is significantly smaller than my other pedals. The base has a rubber pad framing a sticker that tells you the series, voltage and polarity of the plug you should use: 9v center negative.
On the front it says true bypass with a single input and output jack on opposite sides. The pedal has a standard footswitch that, thanks to the sturdy enclosure, is not too loud. It has a medium volume, slightly dampened click with a solid action that suggests decent quality. On the back end there is a standard 9v socket (the pedal itself is too small to take a standard 9v battery). The pedal is supposed to be low consumption at about 7mah.
A single LED sits in the center of the pedal above which is a big compression knob. There is a tiny level (volume knob) top left and a tiny tone knob top right. In between these there is a tiny knob’s toggle switch which is labeled Normal and Treble.
The compressor works by squeezing the frequencies of the notes you play in real time. That means the gentle, quiet notes’ volume get a boost while the hard-picked, loud notes have their volume reduced. How much so is determined by the big compression knob which is variable. The low compression setting can be very subtle thus keeping some of the guitar’s dynamics. The more compression you add the more uniform the notes get until you start getting some squash. That’s where the notes get slightly boosted like squeezing a piece of rubber and the middle starts to expand.
So basically the compressor balances out the volume of your picking, averaging it out to create a more uniform sound. It’s a staple effect for clean guitar playing to keep the picking dynamics more consistent. It’s a favorite with country musicians and rockers alike since it can add a little punch to your overdriven tones and extend or compress the tone of a single coil to make it sound a little more humbucker like. The compression also has the benefit of giving individual notes a little more definition. I found it really useful for playing chords. I am a little messy and my strumming is a bit inconsistent. Some compression makes the strings sound at roughly the same intensity so the chord sounds cleaner and more defined. It’s good for arpeggios too. I tend to rush a little with those and with double stops. The compressor helps here too.
The level knob is very handy because, as I mentioned previously, compression adds noise. It boosts the quiet notes and lowers the loud ones. This means that it has to raise the level of the noise floor (ambient noise/hiss) higher. So the more compression you have the louder the output from your guitar. In effect it works like a booster pedal. So once you have the level of compression you like you can dial back the level to a more comfortable volume, e.g the volume before you added the compression.
The tone knob is a single EQ knob that is pretty flat at the mid-point and lets you dial in more bass to the left or treble to the right so you can tweak the overall tone like an extra tone knob on your guitar or amp.
The toggle switch has normal and treble settings. Normal doesn’t change the tone while treble cuts the treble a little.
This was a great pedal for me to get at a very affordable price. It’s cheap but doesn’t sound cheap and is true bypass, which means that when turned off, it doesn’t color/change the tone of your guitar. It isn’t quite as feature-rich as the pedals that start at about three time the price since it doesn’t have a separate sustain knob. So it might not be the best pedal for boosting sustain for metal. You can get a little extra, but it’s not something you can control as easily from the single compressor knob. I play a variety of music genres: traditional, classical, neo-classical, rock, pop, blues, and some metal. In moderation, this pedal helps even out my playing and makes it sound more professional. It also makes muting a lot easier because it tightens up the notes giving them more definition, so they sound more articulate.
This pedal works very well when used subtly. I’m not sure about durability, but it looks and feels solid and, compared to most pedals, it is inexpensive enough that it can easily be replaced if it breaks. Definitely a keeper.