Archive for January, 2014

Ibanez TL5 Tremolo

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

TL5

What is it?
Ibanez TL5  Tremolo from soundtank series in plastic enclosure. Made in taiwan around 1995.

There are just a few highly peculiar effects in whole Ibanez catalog fom the seventies to today. This is one of them. Only tremolo Ibanez ever produced. And to be honest, the design isn’t bad at all. In all the simplicity, there’s TL022 opamp that acts as a LFO – which then controls the amplitude of BA6110 SIP voltage controlled amplifier. Dirk has drawn a beautiful schematic and posted it on his site.

TL5-guts1

The idea of using a VCA for amplitube modulation isn’t as popular method as i thought. The optical Vactrol and FET methods are present in more common designs. So this isn’t only special for Ibanez, but for the whole subgenre of tremolos. I’ve seen a few designs even utilizing a OTA for a tremolo effect, but for me, this was the first design with a VCA. Also the one transistor that’s controlled by LFO and pulsing the status LED is very nicely designed.

Traces look sort of like modern japanese drawing of a tree and the solder joints are neat. Components are also placed in very neatly. It’s getting harder to find anything really wrong with this unit.

TL5-guts2

Component side is one of the roomier ones in whole soundtank series. The way all the 1/8W resistors are laid in straight sets is also very eye pleasing. The biggest culprit once again is the switch. Replacing it isn’t that big of a task and is recommended as most of the original switches in this series will die eventually. All in all, this one is a must have. Ibanez (or basically Maxon) design that is at the same time quite original and versatile.

Springs up a question. Why Ibanez didn’t ever made another tremolo for any other series? In my opinion this doesn’t matter as now we have here a piece of Ibanez effect pedal history that will be a highly valued collectors item for its sound and design. Some people might argue that the value has already climbed to where it should be. I’d have to agree on that. If you are lucky, you can still find one for cheap.

How does it sound?
Like a world class tremolo. Soft with reasonably wide range of speeds and depths. The level control lets you boost the signal slightly to avoid all psychoaural volume drop issues. Really nice tremolo. One of the great beasts in a plastic box. Highly recommended pedal.

Pearl SU-19 Noise Suppressor

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

Pearl-SU19

What is it?
Pearl SU-19 Noise Suppressor. Stereo noise gate, made in japan, early 80’s.

I’m not that sure if get the whole noise gate suppressor thing. I mean, what’s the idea? To use too many noisy and bad sounding designs in a chain, so that you’ll need a device to kill signal? Well. For me personally, the need is not there. I just happened to get a nice deal on this unit, so i though “why not”. Thanks to J. Lindén of Linden Guitars. Only bad thing is that the bottom rubber has gone missing something like 20 years ago. Su-19 has two channels that can be tuned one by one. This brought up another question, “why?”. After thinking about it for a second, the other channel can be used to kill the excess noise coming from the guitar and the second one to do the same for the signal that leaves the pedal board. Or other option would be to use one channel to tame the pedalboard noise from before the amplifier input and the other to tame the other units from amp’s effect loop. Either way, quite a cool idea. I do get the gates when used on drums when recording, but for the guitar? And two of them? Maybe i just haven’t been in need for high enough gains to understand that completely.

Pearl-SU19-guts1

To take the box open, one needs to unscrew the battery door and six screws that hold the thick metal plate in place. The box then shows the board that is beautiful on more levels than one. Notice the symmetry for each channel on the board trace layout.

Pearl-SU19-guts2

Japanese style crowded and thick board. Very crowded. Didn’t feel like ripping it all off, so you’ll just have live with this image of it.

Pearl-SU19-guts3

There’s even some point-to-point mojo near the pots. I would say that the unit is very well made. Just like all the other units in the Pearl series.

How does it sound?
Very silent on most settings. The controls let you dial the threshold and decay speed to exactly where you want them. The fade-out is smooth and when dialed to one’s liking, it’s barely noticeable. As noise gates come, this is very nice item with both, user and collector value.

Don’t you just love it when guitar gear never gets too old or obsolete?

Morley JDB Just Distortion

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Welcoming the new year 2014. And I’m starting this year with a real oddity.

Morley-JustDistortionWhat is it?
Morley JBD Just Distortion. Real oddity. Made in china in the 90’s.

Ok. So the Morley engineer thought that it is a perfectly sound idea to create a pedal with no controls at all. The trust and belief for the design had to be strong. This must be one of the only distortion designs with no controls at all. There are some fuzzes around with only level control, but this unit here takes the grand prize. Here’s a quote from the “manual” (which is one tiny piece of cardboard):
The Just Distortion is exactly what the name implies; Just Distortion. No bells, no whistles,
just great distortion at a great price. What, no knobs?! We designed the pedal with a preset distortion setting. Great for all types of music and playing styles.

Morley-JustDistortion-guts1

Box is all plastic and i think this one is far from unbreakable. Would not dare to stomp on this with my heavily overweight slob of a body. The traces are a lot wider than what you’d expect though. So the circuit inside isn’t that bad. The design itself is something you would expect from Morley. A quad TL074 opamp with 1N4148 diodes for clippers. Although named correctly, the schematic found online can’t be for this unit as there are no trimmers for gain/tone/volume on the board – like drawn on that schematic.. That’s why i’m not including the link as usual.

Morley-JustDistortion-guts2

We’ve seen missing controls like the “gain” from Digitech DDM Death Metal, but that was simply right thing to do to take off from the design. Here.. I’m not completely convinced if no controls was the right decision. On the other hand, the enclosure is among the worst plastic ones ever made. I’ve seen some other pedals in this same style of box, but just can’t remember what the brands were. So i’m guessing that this was a commercial test to see if it will sell. No wonder it didn’t. Other than the well made board, i really have nothing positive to say. Bad design, ugly and brittle plastic box and the sound…

How does it sound?
Apparently the mid honk is the coolest thing in the world. Sounds like a bastard child of  Boss DS-1 and Ibanez TS9 with no controls. Soundwise, the pedal does not convince me much. Honking mid-gained unit. It has some personality to it and part of that comes from you not being able to tweak it. Think of Rocktek DIR-01 with all the controls maxed. That box should not have any controls even though it does. This one? Could it sound any better with controls? Not sure. Only good thing i can think of is the fact that these are pretty rare and becoming more rare everyday.