Modulation effects tend to swing one of two ways on a pedal board, they’re either understated, and really just there to provide a bit of texture, or, they’re front and center, creating swirling, swooshing tones that really can really grab an audience’s attention – the intro to Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun being a perfect example of the latter.
Like pretty much every type of effects unit, modulation pedals can cost a small fortune or not much at all. The real trick is finding one that offers the kind of modulation you want in your sound at a price you’re willing to pay, and we think the pedal we’re reviewing today might really be worth considering.
Donner sent us a Mod Square II for the purposes of this review, but as always, all opinions are our own, and Donner asked for no input or influence in the content of our write up.
If you’re in the market for an affordable modulation pedal, we think you’ll want to keep on reading!
Who is This For?
The Donner Mod Square II is a great choice for pretty much any guitarist looking for a well made, compact modulation pedal. Those in the know have understood for a long time that many of these inexpensive FX units available on Amazon and the like can deliver pro level results at rock bottom prices, and ever since news broke that Billy Gibbons buys cheap pedals from Amazon, more players have started to look to the likes of Donner for their pedalboards.
This particular pedal is built well, and is really packed with features for both newer and more experienced players alike.
Appearance / Features / Controls
Being a micro pedal, the Mod Square II was really tiny and took up very little room on the fretboard. It measured in at 5.04 x 2.52 x 2.44 inches and weighed less than 1lb, so it barely added to the weight of our rig, either.
It had an all metal shell, and a metal chassis, too, so despite its small size, it was really built to withstand some real punishment.
In terms of controls, everything was simply laid out, and all very user friendly. There were knobs for effect level, depth, and rate – all as expected on a modulation pedal, and in fact, identical to the original version.
Where the Mod Square II differs, however, is with the primary control. Instead of the original seven modulation types, the MK II pedal featured a massive 16 modulation types, including two phasers, rotary (Leslie style), T Wah, Auto Wah, Lo-Fi, VIbrato, 2 Chorus modes, Detune, 2 Tremolo settings, DLY Tremolo, and three different Flanger modes.
This is one of the more expensive pedals in the Donner Lineup, but when you consider just how many FX you’re getting, you’ll realize what good value it really is.
Adding to all this, the Mod Square II even came with a tap tempo feature – something we don’t often see in budget pedals, let alone mini pedals.
In terms of power, it did need an AC adapter – something that you’ll either need to have already or buy separately. As Donner really appeals most to the newer player, we still think this is something they should look to include in future.
Performance / Sound
As we’ve found with almost all of the Donner pedals we’ve reviewed, the sound quality was genuinely good and left us with nothing to complain about. It didn’t introduce any noise, and we didn’t lose any articulation when playing with clean tones, either.
In Phaser 1 we got a classic, vintage phasing effect. It gave us a real ’70s rock sound, with a deep swirl sound that added real depth to our tone. Phaser 2 had a more contemporary sound and delivered a tighter and more pronounced sweep.
We also really liked the Rotary setting. It nicely replicated the iconic sound of a Leslie cabinet, although we found it was best with lower depth settings.
On the topic of lower depth settings, we also found that both Wah functions sounded best as subtle background texture. The T Wah came with a dynamic envelope filter effect, which was quite responsive to touch but could be overpowering with heavy strumming. The Auto Wah gave us a pretty rhythmic wah effect that synced up with our playing. These weren’t settings we gravitated towards – it’s pretty hard to beat a real Wah pedal!
The Lo-Fi setting gave us a gritty, retro vibe that, as expected, worked well for Lo-Fi but also for creating big, ambient soundscapes.
In the Vibrato mode we got yet more vintage tones, with a thick, warbling tone that once again just made us want to play the Twin Peaks theme.
We found that Chorus 1 served up a lush, classic chorus tone, adding real thickness and some fantastic top-end shimmer. Chorus 2 had a more pronounced modulation, resulting in a more contemporary tone.
The three tremolo settings were some of our favorites, particularly the DLY Trem, which added an element of delay to the sound, giving some real ethereal vibes.
We finished up with the three flanger modes. Setting 1 delivered an almost jet-like whoosh, adding tons of movement and texture. Flanger 2 was a little more subtle, with a more liquid-like modulation. The third and final Flanger mode was the most extreme of them all, with a huge, billowing movement that added a real touch of psychedelia.
Final Thoughts on the Donner Mod Square II Modulation Pedal
We think that the Donner Mod Square II is a sizable step up from the first version. Donner has more than doubled the number of modulation effects in this tiny pedal, making it even more versatile, and we think they’ve done an even better job of distinguishing between the different versions of the same effect types.
In terms of build quality, it really delivered. We think it’s definitely up to the task of gigging, and thanks to its low noise performance, it would work well for recording, too.
It did take a little finessing with the depth, rate, and level knobs to dial in the tones just as we liked, but once we hit the sweet spot, we really enjoyed playing with this pedal.