Note: Includes a 15VDC power supply which is center positive. Most adapters and power supplies are center negative, so check first before hooking up to other power supplies.
We've been along for the Solodallas journey since we met them at NAMM in 2015. Back then it was just the TSR Replica pedal. Now they have filled out the line to include the Storm 9V pedal and lastly The Tower. Credit the indefatigable energy of Filippo (Fil) Olivieri, guitarist, collector, blogger, and lover of all things Marshall, AC/DC, and Angus. And also a shout-out to Greg at Solodallas, who has been working his butt off to get us product for the past two years.
In brief - or relatively brief - the Solodallas Tower is a replica of the signal processing section of the Ken Schaffer wireless guitar transmitter. The Schaffer wireless system was developed in the 70's, when wireless was in it's infancy and purely in the analog domain. Ken Schaffer used signal compression in order to transmit the signal, and then used expansion techniques at the other end to unpack it. The happy accident was that it boosted the dynamic range of the transmitted signal to well over 100 dB. This "companding" circuit plus line buffering created impressive dynamics and clarity. With the addition of both input and output level controls, guitarists discovered that the Schaffer transmitter could also act like a signal boost. Bingo! It may have been a wireless transmitter, but guitarists loved what it did to their tone...and as the story goes, Angus Young was smitten.
As we said when we first reviewed the TSR pedal, it's not a distortion pedal, and it's more than a signal booster. I would describe it as a signal booster and signal conditioner. The signal conditioning part being the compression/expansion circuitry along with a line buffer, which helps reduce signal degradation due to cables and other series effects. The unit has an input control which controls input sensitivity and compression level, and an output control that sets the amount of boost.
Call it what you will -- presence, harmonic richness, high definition -- but the Solodallas makes any amplifier "pop," enhancing the spaciousness and "bigness" of the signal. Think of it as a very effective presence control that makes the sound fill the room -- rather than just come from the speaker -- without it actually being louder or brighter. If the amp is on the edge of breakup, the SoloDallas can be set to push the signal a little more to make the crunch more harmonic and complex. Or you can push it a lot and use it to effectively overdrive the front end of your amp.
Our preference for the Solodallas is to run both controls at around 11:00 where on our stage setup it is just adding a teeny bit of boost. And we never turn it off, so we can get the sonic enhancement with all tones. We also put it at the end of our pedal chain where the line buffering would do the most good, and also so it's boosting capabilities would not inadvertently overdrive other effects. We found it works great with our gain pedals too. Placing our trusty Lovepedal and Sparkle Drive in front of the Solodallas just opened them up more, improving their detail, touch sensitivity and sense of depth. Without the Solodallas, you feel as though your amp ran off to another room.
So how does the Tower differ from the other Solodallas products? Firstly, it differs from the TSR in the following ways:
XLR out for studio use or direct input into a mixer, plus standard unbalanced 1/4" out
Optical limiter, similar to the Storm, which can be hard bypassed
A mode switch which which affects the overall gain range of the Tower
Lighted VU meter to entertain your friends
A 15VDC center positive power supply which is faithful to the original design
A footswitch to turn the Solodallas on and off (why would you ever?)
We ran the Tower in the same circuit with a TSR pedal to get a feel for how they might differ. Their overall character and timbre are fairly similar, although to our ears the Tower has a little more spaciousness, and feeling of the tone being expanded and filling the room. In effect, "more" of the Solodallas effect: Three dimensional, crisp without being bright, and highly tactile such that you feel you could reach out and grab a note in mid-flight. Should you choose, the Tower is capable boosting the signal to a fairly high level, probably more than any sane person would need. The Tower's controls also feel a little more sensitive than the TSR, with more subtle variations of input and output. It's also dead quiet, something we could not say about early TSR pedals.
The Tower has the added feature of the optical limiter similar to the "snap" control on the Storm. Run it at low levels and there is more natural attack, more bite, and little crisper edge. At higher (clockwise) levels the sound is smoother and a little more compressed. It's a rather subtle effect, and our own preference is to run it at lower levels to retain maximum sensitivity to pick attack and playing style.
The Solodallas Tower is considerably more expensive than the TSR or Storm, but in our opinion does offer the highest level of fidelity. It's also a functional conversation piece, looking somewhat like a cross between a Geiger Counter and something from Doctor Who. You're also not going to velcro it to your pedalboard, so for some it may be a studio tool, while the Storm or TSR is for the road. Scarcity is also part of the allure, and part of its rarity is that units were getting snapped up so fast by rock stars, few have been available to the general public.
But now in limited numbers the Tower is available, and finally Mr. or Ms. General Public can get their hands on one of the more elusive and fabled guitar accessories of the classic rock era.
UpFront Guitars is an authorized Solodallas dealer, and all units are brand new and of the latest production series.