Price paid: £ 149
Purchased from: Guitar FX Direct
Ease of Use — 8
I'll keep this bit brief. It's an analog delay with a modulation option. Time knob lengthens delay time (650ms), Mix nob changes the volume of the affected signal (goes up to just-louder than unity), and the Regen knob affects the amount repeats from few to many, to many many (seriously, like, forever). The mod feature has a switch and two knobs mounted on the top on the pedal, above the main knobs. There's an on/off switch and LED (the LED flashes at the speed of the modulation sweep), a speed knob that increases the speed of the mod, and a depth knob that makes the pedal sound like it's underwater. There is also a true bypass/buffered bypass switch that switches between those two options - true bypass for the uninformed, and buffered for those who need to power their signal through a long effects chain, or through a long cable into an amp. One final feature of the pedal is the internal trim pot that changes the volume of the dry signal of the pedal when it is ON only - meaning you can match the volume of the effect with the existing volume of your rig. As compact effects pedals go, this is pretty feature packed - and it's all rather easy to wrap your head around.
Sound — 9
This is, of course, a rather objective category, but I'll be as objective as I can - with my own set-up and tastes taken into consideration. I play the pedal last in a small chain, following only a tuner, a Maxon Compressor, and an old 1997 RAT, straight into the bright/vibrato channel of a Deluxe Reverb. I play through this chain mostly with my Classic Player '60s Strat, or my Classic Player Baja Tele. My style is varied, but it mostly lays in the math-rock/post-rock genre. Recently I've been thrown back into a spate of playing oceansize songs, and have been known to bash out The Fall Of Troy and This Town Needs Guns (TTNG, as they are now) and Tera Melos tunes on occasion, as well as a couple of Pink Floyd, Smiths and Police tunes for old-times sake. With all this taken into account, I can say that the pedal suits me down to the ground - but the chaps at Malekko are no lying when they say this pedal is dark... darrrrrkkk. I actually bumped the reputable MXR Carbon Copy for this particular pedal - the MXR already being an analog delay known for it's dark tone. The Malekko is not leaps and bounds from the MXR, but it does have it's own quirks. The more flexible/accessible features contribute much - the Modulation feature of the pedal can quickly be altered from lush, swooping chorusing over short repeats, a la the police, to fast-moving Leslie effects over long repeats, a la "Darkside" Floyd. It can also be taken to extremes, bending the repeats so far from the original pitch that the dark, brooding repeats begin to lose all their fidelity and drive you into a Poe-esque madness... which is always a riot. With the modulated sounds aside, the pedal also has some rather competitive delay tones to compete with the market. As I've mentioned the pedal is rather dark, almost muted - but still defined and Hi-Fi, breaking up into a dark, distorted memory of your original signal over longer delay times and repeats. The pedals repeats almost go off into infinity, but the dark nature of the repeats means that they almost become only ambiance laying underneath any melody you may be playing - a quality that I personally favour due to Oceansize's influence over my sound. It's almost as though the pedal is a pedal of extremes - extremely dark, extremely long (650ms analog is quite rare for the price-bracket) and extremely modulate... Able? Despite these extremes the pedal is quite hard to coax into oscillation, it is necessary to provide an input signal that you then manipulate using the controls to send the pedal into wirry madness. Before concluding this rather long winded section of the review, I with to debunk a myth that has surrounded all models of the 616 since it's inception - that the buffer brightens up the repeats. It doesn't, because it can't. The buffer, if switched on, is only active when the pedal is in bypass, and simply can't effect the tone of the repeats. I've seen this mentioned a lot around the internet, and it's just plain wrong. OK, so... Finally, of course, the pedal can also be used as a mere delay unit - and it does this rather darn well. Although the pedal is darker sounding than most others on all settings, the fact that an analog delay is brighter on shorter delay settings still stands true - and a setting of a few, short, loud and tailing repeats can still provide a near-authentic FCPREMIX-intro tone. As I said 100 times before, the pedal IS dark - but with my predominantly single-coil into bright fender amp set-up, the darkness provides a rather nice offset to my direct signal - smearing a spacey darkness behind by playing that fattens out my tone when I need to sound huge. What I'm trying to say is that this delay pedal does it's job - it's worth the money, and for that it rates highly. The 616 Dark does has a very specific tonality, and it can't be all things to all men, but as I said I can only be so objective - and with that taken into account the pedal still impresses me every single time I whack it with my big flappy foot - and it DESERVES a high mark, with all factors taken into account. Malekko have built a good reputation for their delays over the last couple of years, and it's clear to see why.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Much like many other companies nowadays, the pedal comes in a (rather cool gloss-on-matte black) hardy powder coated chassis. The switch is the now industry standard, super hardy TPDT found in almost everything, and the knobs are basically the same as every other pedal that exists. The little switches regarding the mod and bypass may not be as hardy as the rest of the pedal, but they are well placed, and well protected. Nothing is indestructible - and because stomp-boxes are specifically meant to be stomped on, you'd expect the humble effect pedal to give up sooner than many other things in life, and yet they mostly don't... mostly. So I'm pretty sure it will last.
Overall Impression — 10
The pedal suits my style down to the ground, and fits in rather well as a contrast to my, at times, bright sounding rig. As mentioned, the pedal uprooted another reputable pedal from my board. In my 10 years of playing and obsessive gear-buying, delay has always remained an absolute staple of my rig, and this pedal holds it's own compared to the many others that I've tried over the years - and being 1 of a limited run (one or two hundred worldwide, I think) it gives me something of an edge. If it was stolen I'd cry for a bit, eat some chocolate, and generally behave like a girl until it was replaced or something else took it's place... you all know how it is.