Several boutique pedal shops offer a so-called ‘grey mod’, swapping out factory components of the DOD YJM 308 or DOD 250 reissue overdrive pedals for hand-picked parts that better match the properties of the original, grey 1970s DOD 250. The vintage pedal is identified as having a smoother, thicker tone than its reissue grandchildren, and no matter how accurately the marketing material tells you these newer models recreate their ancestor, they use different components that have a clear impact on their sound.
Meanwhile, used prices have soared. As I write, there are two original grey 250s on eBay. One seller is asking $319.99, while another would like $425. This second fellow will provide free shipping! Yes, well. You can see why a modern pedal, modified to grey spec (~$100) is attractive. And these grey mods often come with mod cons such as standard BOSS power jacks (rather than DOD’s weird size), LED indicators (handy for live work, so you know when it’s on), and the SUV child seat of the pedal world, true bypass.
The problem is that there was significant variation in the bits and bobs that went into making a pedal in the 70s; changes in components based on what was available, what was cheap. Changes that were never recorded on the static schematic. The result? There’s not one vintage DOD 250 circuit to recreate, but many, with their own tones. If you buy a ‘grey mod’, what iteration are you getting? Usually one based on that misleading schematic, or on a random sample 250 that could house any one of DOD’s evolving configurations.
John Evosevic, a modder working in Nashville, offers a different grey mod — one that takes this variation into account in order to recapture a specific circuit: Malmsteen’s “magic” grey 250.
“My mod is perhaps a bit different in that I am not necessarily blueprinting to the original schematic as per the other modders. Instead, I am basically seeking to duplicate a ’70s variant of the 250, which I have determined that Yngwie has used to get his sounds.”
It was not a short process. John and a friend halfway around the world studied old 250s, on and off, for about three years.
“My friend in New Zealand and I have cataloged several different 250 circuits. What’s more, the official schematic does not reflect changes made to the circuit. It would seem that there were some happy accidents that occurred with the ongoing circuit tweaking that made for some exceptional 250s. That’s what I sought to duplicate, and I believe that Yngwie has one of these ‘happy accident’ 250s.”
The Yngwie Strat certainly needs something. Its anemic pickups barely muster a whisper until they are assisted by a pedal. I often say Fender should include a 250 or 308 in the case with the signature Strat, so essential is their pairing.
The stock YJM 308, which I’ve owned for years, will certainly get you into the ballpark of Yngwie tone, which is pretty fair for $30-40, but it has some unpleasant characteristics. It’s a bit too hard, a bit too thin, somewhat harsh. The Evosevic grey mod (sometimes called the “Outlier” mod — John’s forum name) reverses all that, for a round, warm, tubey, musical overdrive. With a Marshall type amp and some Greenback speakers, you get everything from pre-Rising Force up through the early 90s — my personal favorite tone-period for Malmsteen, with records like Eclipse and Fire & Ice — depending how much gain you bring in. The smooth, undulating mids, lyrical and creamy; the bubbly top; the warm, attenuated bass.
When I got my Evosevic, I rolled a backing track I’d made for something else and recorded 90 seconds of meandering, faltering solo over the top, in one take, using the pedal, an ’01 Malmsteen Strat, a Splawn Competition, and English Greenbacks, to see how it recorded.
Here is the mp3: Evosevic YJM pedal – Early Test
My Splawn has a distinct juicy mid focus and a tight articulation that it is always going to impose upon anything coming through its input jack — that’s its thing, it’s not as neutral as an old Marshall — but even so I think the results with the pedal were very good. In retrospect I’d use a little less gain on the amp side, as I do now, to get the sound to open up even more, but hey it was a quick, dirty test and it sounds great.
More recently I recorded some videos demonstrating the tone with some tweaks:
As is my luck, my modded pedal, this wondrous tone secret I’d stumbled upon, had a fault: its battery would drain within a few days or a week, even when off with no jacks connected. In comparison, my stock 308 would hold a usable charge for as much as a year, depending on how much I used it. John did everything in his power to make this right. He took the pedal back and embarked on a forensic style hunt for the problem, reporting back at length during the troubleshooting process about what had been found, what stage things were at, and often about hotsauce, though that is another article. All without any nagging or chasing on my part. And, when it was fixed, he reimbursed me for shipping as well as for the batteries that had been guzzled by the formerly gluttonous pedal. It’s tough to find this kind of customer care for a $2,500 amp, never mind a $90 pedal.
The pedal sounds so good that I sometimes feel I am shooting myself in the foot just telling people about it. I’ve often joked with John that it’d really help me out if he’d retire now that I have mine — I could be one of these tone gods with an infuriating secret. But that’s not going to happen. John brushes off my jolly jokes and sinister threats while little islands of people in online communities catch on and snap up the wonder-box that could have made me famous. At least internet famous. And plans are afoot to have some circuit boards etched for a stand-alone clone of this holy grail 250 circuit, resulting in a ready-made, ready-to-buy pedal that will make it even simpler for other players to erase my advantage. Dagnabbit.
Heartily/grudgingly recommended for the Yngwie tone freak.
The MetroAmp Forum thread where initial interest in the Evosevic/Outlier pedal blew up.
Spring Hill Guitar, the only web address I have for John, currently redirecting to his MySpace page.