Which pedal should I get? Deluxe Memory Man: Big Box or XO version?

A reader’s question:

I need the help of a specialist regarding the Deluxe Memory Man:
To me, the sound of Ben McLeod (All Them Witches) is brilliant and I would love to recreate it.
Luckily, the guy offers several rig rundowns online, so it ought to be an easy project…. That’s what I thought first.
Probably, the Holy Grail reverb and the Deluxe Memory Man (both Electro Harmonix) are what I need.
But I did not know that the Deluxe Memory Man is such a rarity and therefore, I would like to find out if the sonic difference justifies the high price even for non-collectors?
I saw an ebay auction about 550€ and I think, this is the virtuous Deluxe Memory Man and not the XO version.
Several audio samples of the first model have been totally convincing to me but on the other hand, the recent version might be sufficient for my needs. What do you think?
550€ for an old Deluxe Memory Man – go for it? Or should I buy the XO version?

DelayDude:

Thanks for your request.
Regarding the sound of Ben McLeod, I totally agree. Live on stage, he uses a Boss DD-5 and in his studio, you will find the sound of the Deluxe Memory Man. Both delays have a clear and direct sound.
Besides the rig rundowns, I can also recommend the website of “Equipboard”, which presents the respective rigs of numerous musicians.

The Deluxe Memory Man you have found on ebay actually is an old “big box” version.
Optically, it is pretty easy to distinguish the “big box” version from the XO version. The enclosure of the old DMM is made of a folded metal sheed and has bigger pots, while all pedals of the XO series use a modern enclosure made of extruded aluminum with small pots.
Sonically, there is definitively a difference that is not only interesting for collectors. The reasons are actually disputed. Some say it is because of the SMD parts (maybe unintended, for these parts have a small deviance), others think, that the different layout of the circuit board (even an altered routing of the ground can affect the sound) or the variant kind of power supply.
And even the smaller pots (which actually are electronic parts in the form of variable resistors) have a different sound than the bigger version.
Probably, it’s the sum of the parts that make the “big box” version sound different.

The extraordinary preamp is decisive for the perfect sound of the Deluxe Memory Man. It boosts the signal and gives the sound a special character. In combination with the clear analog signal this is what makes the sound so legendary.
By the way, the Deluxe Memory Man internally runs on 15V and therefore has a bigger headroom than delay pedals that run on 9V and internally mostly use 4.5 to 9V.
The only disadvantage of the “big box” version is, that it will need more space on your pedalboard.

All about the chips?

The “big box” version you have found on ebay has 4 MN3008 chips to create the delay. There are also versions that have 2 MN3005 chips. Although the MN3005 version is more sought after (because the MN3005 is supposed to provide a special sound), the MN3008 version is also extraordinary. It has additional bases that allow to modify the circuit board with 4 MN3005 chips to double the delay time. The sonic difference of these two versions traces back to the unlike calibration of the chips. The MN3008 might cause a little more besides noise.

To cut a long story short: I would definitively recommend the pedal you have found on ebay.
Sonically, the Deluxe Memory Man is absolutely unique and it was one of my first pedals.
At the moment, I own two of them and I would never ever sell even one of these brilliant stomp boxes.

Although the recent prices are about 500€, you will not regret the purchase because if you want to sell it later, you won’t make a loss.
I would go for it!