Archive for the ‘Ibanez’ Category

Ibanez GEL Graphic EQ

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Ibanez-GEL-GraphicEQ

What is it?
Ibanez GEL Graphic EQ. Made in Japan, 1985.

Graphical equalizer from Ibanez Master series. Mine’s missing two of the slide pot knobs, but otherwise in decent condition. What comes to similar EQs, there is basically two ways to get the job done. First is the oldschool method of using inductors to create tight band-pass filters side by side. And the second, obviously cheaper, method is to use active gyrators to achieve the same results. Soundwise the difference between the two is quite small. Inductors aren’t as stable in changing the peak frequency as gyrators, but that’s about it. One can read about creating graphical EQs from GEOfex’ site. This article pretty much covers every single graphical and parametric EQ ever made.

At first, it seems that the GEL is just rehash of GE9 and predecessor of GE10. This is mostly true. The board design is completely revised in comparison to its 9-series sister and what’s more interesting is the fact that the board design, from layout to traces, is more modern than the most other pedals in the L-series.

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All the way neat, but much more clinical than the last batch of acid trip boards we find from most L-series units. Not that this would change anything for the better or worse. It’s just different.

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So. Due to linking the GEOfex article, there is not much more i can say about the electronic design. The board decisions are great. There is notable amount of symmetry in place and the work looks very professional. Just what you’d expect from a pedal from the series.

In all. It is pretty standard 7-band graphical equalizer with approx. 15db of cut/boost per frequency range. And what’s the best part…

How does it sound?
Neutral. Adds very little of it’s personal scent or feel to your tone. Exactly like modern equalizers should. Powerful tool in cool package. Although this might suffer from having slightly less personality that your usual Ibanez pedals, there is still nothing wrong with its sound. Good and versatile tool.

To be completely honest, i can’t put my finger on anything that would make this better or worse than any other graphical EQ ever introduced to the public. So, in other words. It’s not special, but it is very good at what it does. From subtle frequency correction to Lo-Fi cuts and all the way to big, massive, clean boost for the desired frequency areas. Not bad.

Ibanez FLL Flanger

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

Ibanez-FLL-Flanger

What is it?
Ibanez FLL Flanger from L-, or Master series. Made in Japan, 1985.

Now, there is a reason why i’m posting this one right now. I just wrote a post about the SF10, Swell Flanger. Due to that article, there is very little to say about FLL. It’s is the same effect with minor cosmetic differences, which i already disclosed on the SF10 article. I know i’m repeating myself, but these differences are the visual appearance, the stomp lid and the pots.

Ibanez-FLL-Flanger-guts1

Trying to write something truly meaningful about this after the SF10 would be like writing two completely different articles about TS7 and TS7C. Sure. In that case there wouldn’t be any other difference but the colour. Here there are a few minor things, but again. I just wrote about them. Twice.

So why don’t we just enjoy the photos this time?

Ibanez-FLL-Flanger-guts2

..and don’t even try to come up with profound differences. There is very little time between the two units manufacture dates and there is practically zero difference in the electronic design. Even though this design lasted for nearly a decade in production in couple of different forms, the main reason to even try to say something about these is…

How does it sound?
The sound. These all sound great. Versatile and more than just usable. A solid standard in analog flangers.

I’ll try to take some time between these post and the forthcoming FL9 post. Just to get a bit more out of the third Maxon designed flanger that shares the design with this and the SF10.

Ibanez SF10 Swell Flanger

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

Ibanez-SF10-SwellFlanger

What is it?
Ibanez SF10 Swell Flanger from Ibanez 10-, or Power series. Made in Japan, 1987.

Swell. I have no idea where the name comes from. But does it matter? Probably not. Solid 10-series pedal with nothing off from the rest of the bunch. The series is rather large with “only” 36 titles in it. And when we take in to account that this series wasn’t manufactured for too long (from around ’86 to ’89 – less than four years), there are bound to be some recycling on the designs from earlier series. The number of different units and the vast number units being traded at auction sites makes me think that the Maxon factory had to be running on full between 1986 and 1989.

Ibanez-SF10-SwellFlanger-guts1

Board and build quality is on par with the others in the series and also on par with the L/Master series. After all, both series were made in japan. Actually, the difference between the series are minor. The rubber mat on top of the stomp lid vs. the hard plastic lid and the slightly cheaper pots. Of course the naming of the units and slight visual differences too. But for the main boards, these two series are a very close to each other. Now that i remember, i’ve actually seen more Master series units with broken pots than Power series units with the same fault. Funny. Most folks will simply repeat the mantra found on numerous forums – “the power series pots are worse than the good pots on master series”. Due to my limited empirical experience, no. That is not correct. Sure the Master series pots feel sturdier. But right now, i’m not that convinced about them being simply “better”.

Ibanez-SF10-SwellFlanger-guts2

To get on with it, this design is the newest of the bunch. Meaning that the four knob flanger design we all love to play around was first introduced as 9-series unit, FL9 in the early 80’s (this FL9 design is a derivative of FL-301 and the other older Maxon/Ibanez flangers). This circuit was then redrawn for the Master series and sold as FLL Flanger. And then we have the SF10, which uses the same exact PCB as the FLL. So it is the same effect in yellow enclosure instead of greyish black. And since this is the same effect…

How does it sound?
It sounds exactly like FL9 and FLL. Deep, powerful flanger with great set of controls. This unit goes from that glassy, brittle, static and thin tone all the way to the airplane territory. In addition to those two ends, there is everything in the middle. A chorusey flange, a vibrato-like wobble and so on. Exactly like a great flanger unit should. What more can i say? Versatile flanger that will suit most situations where flanger is needed. A classic. And a standard in great flanger units.

If you are in denial about greatness and proper use of flangers, this (or any of its sister models) is the unit to try out.

Ibanez FL-301 Flanger

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

Ibanez-FL-301

What is it?
Ibanez FL-301 Flanger from “0-Series”. Made in japan in 1980.

I used to own the DX version back in the day. Difference between this, the first 0-series flanger and the second DX version is the operational voltage. This puppy demands 18 Volts, while the De Luxe version promises the same tones with half of that. Got this unit in a trade and i must say i’m rather happy with it.

Opened it up and everything looks almost as it should. I’m not convinced about the battery snap joint for the second red lead, but otherwise the unit looks pretty much untouched. Since this operates with 18V, there’s a chance the most use has been with a batteries. Which would in part mean that those snaps would have been broken at one point. After all, the age of the unit is 35 years at the time i’m writing this. What comes to the aesthetics, this has been in use. A lot.

Ibanez-FL-301-guts1

The most pleasing part is the circuit. Old school Maxon board design that will always get my smile out. Acidy trace corners and mojo soldering. Nothing new, but always pleasing. To flip the board over, we have a full house. TL-chips for buffering, mixing and LFO and the delay line is made with MN3007 BBD and MN3101 clock. There is a factory schematic in the wild, so one can check it. I should probably check the caps someday soon. Couple of the joints on solder side look a bit darkened..

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Aside from being a beautiful relic, the pedal has decent controls too. I didn’t touch any of the three trimmers as i didn’t any reason to do so. There are speed and width controls for the LFO and one more control for feedback of the delay line, called regeneration. Solid and beautiful. I sure do hope i get more chances to acquire 0-series and other old Ibanez boxes. These just feel so right.

How does it sound?
Since the purchase of Rolls Vibraflange ages ago, i started to look for different things in flanger tones. Previously i was just after the choruses with longer delay times, the velcro airplanes and vibrato substitutes. The Rolls unit taught my that some flangers can and will do more. With mild enough settings, the modulated delay will just affect the high frequencies in audible manner. Which isn’t the everyday flanger tone, but it sure brightens the clean guitar sound up. Not all flangers are able to achieve that. That may be the biggest reason that Rolls Vibraflange turned me around. You may now think why i keep bringing that unit up in a FL-301 article. Because FL-301 can do the same things as Vibraflange.

And it can do those velcro airplanes, choruses and vibrato substitutions. With such a low number of controls, the versatility is amazing. From mild bright bringer to a vibe to a chorus to a velcro airplane. It’s all in there with a hint of yesterday and another hint of beauty. In a nutshell, this is a great sounding unit with certain special something going for it. I do think the 18V may have something to do with it.

Ibanez SD9M Sonic Distortion Mod

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

Ibanez-SD9M

What is it?
Ibanez SD9M Sonic Distortion Mod from the modern 9-serie “reissue” line. Made in china, early 10’s

I still haven’t been able to score the original, classic Sonic Distortion for a reasonable price, but i did manage to find this one a while back. And as usual, i needed to see what it’s made of. The box  is a modern version of the familiar classic with a battery door and four screw fixed bottom plate. Followed by a insulating plastic between the circuit board and the plate. The circuit is fastened to the box with another screw. What  comes to the board itself, this looks like all the modern 9-serie boards. More modern than vintage units, but still quite neat.

Ibanez-SD9M-guts1

Similarities with the other new niners continue once the main board is lifted. Everything is board mounted, but still keep the feel high. Offboard wires are connected with plastic terminals to keep the manual labour in reasonable scale. As with 7-series, all the different parts have their own circuit boards. One for main board, one for control pots and one for each in/out jack. In this case, even the two toggle switches have their own PCBs.

Ibanez-SD9M-guts2

What comes to the design, there is a traced schematic (sans switching circuitry) up at Aion’s page. When compared against the original, non-mod version, there are a number of differences, while a few key parts are in tact. Both versions have a transistor based input buffers, followed by a gain amplifier opamp channel. Next up, tis version has a gain switch which sets the gain from normal no amplification in one position to the second which has 10 times the level. After those it’s the hard clipping diodes shunt to ground and the tone control. The not completely different to big muff tone stack section has also a switch for swapping a cap value for the one that handles the low pass filter.

Ibanez-SD9M-guts3

After those, the mod version has a half of an opamp for output buffer, which is not present in the original. In other words, the modifications to the original circuit are more than just added two switches which are the most visible changes to the pedal. These are gain and mids modes that alter the signal level before the hard clipping stage and the low pass filter on the tone stack. In a sense the design is clean boosting opamp driver stage, followed by a Rat styled hard clipping, followed by a Big Muff style tone control. Rest of it isn’t affecting the tone as much as those building blocks. What’s more interesting is that…

How does it sound?
While i do not have the original SD9 at the time writing this, i’ve played around with the circuit on a breadboard and cloned it. If my aural memory serves me even remotely right, there is still the same powerful and neat distortion present for both models. Soaring and definitely usable. But for the added gain and versatility for this mod version, we have a very nice distortion tones that are very much relevant today. High gain mode can still boost the modern high output pickups while still sounding great. And the non-boosted mode will give the sound and feel of the original SD9. Although it’s all relatively simple and there isn’t any super high wow-factor in the design, i was blown away when i first tried the circuit. It may be due to its simplicity, but man it sounds great. Recommended pedal to try out.

Ibanez PPE-1 DCP Parametric EQ

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

Ibanez-PPE1-ParaEQWhat is it?
Ibanez PPE1 Parametric EQ from DCP series. Made in japan around1989.

There may be a reason for this series being scarce for those who want them. These may not be as relevant for today’s guitarists as they were back in the 1987, when the line was released. At that time, the digital gadgets were still all the rage and since it was the coolest thing ever, the consumer was bound to pay premium for the new and exciting technology. At the time of the initial launch, this EQ cost the same as two and a half 10-serie graphical EQs. And to be completely honest, the 10-series graphical EQ is way more relevant today than this. Plastic housing being the biggest factor. The DCP serie had six designs in it. The delay and modulation delay may still be the most sought after units in Ibanez back catalog. It’s a rare occasion that these will cheap today. As always, once i had a chance to get one, i did.

Ibanez-PPE1-ParaEQ-guts1

As with the most of the designs, the effect itself is all analog. As the bottom board shows, it’s more or less the same style, high quality Maxon board with your average JRC4558s on board. Board mounted jack etc. But. Once we open the whole thing up and check the upper board, that’s where things get quite interesting.

Ibanez-PPE1-ParaEQ-guts2

All the controls are handled digitally, while the signal path is taken care by the analog board. Let’s not forget that the unit has memory bank for saving the settings and even more importantly, the is a LCD display. Push buttons may still not be as easy to use as traditional potentiometers, but come on. This is the s*it. The highest technology in all the pedal world in 1989.

Ibanez-PPE1-ParaEQ-guts3

Mids are controlled as full parametric and there are separate controls for highs and lows. Making the pedal capable of boosting and cutting desired frequencies in very effective manner. While those digital controls may not be as easy to use, they do offer way higher accuracy. Oh how do i wish this wasn’t plastic…

How does it sound?
Awesome. In a good way, harsh and accurate. The level of boosting when maxed is somewhere in vicinity of the ye oldee Renometer. Blood curling accuracy with very little distortion and none of the mushiness. Where the pedal itself may not be relevant today, the tone sure is. Great, precise controls and extremely good sound that doesn’t feel like it’s coming from a small form plastic thing. Great sounding piece of Maxon design history. If you get a chance, try one out. It will sound different than the package suggests.

Ibanez PT999 Phase Tone

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Ibanez-PT999-PhaseTone

What is it?
Ibanez PT999 Phase Tone. Made in japan by Maxon around 1976.

These units apparently are not as rare as i thought. I suspect that the number manufactured was very high as there seems to be several units available in shops and auction sites even right now. Apparently the units sold very well back in the day. I had a hunch i was not going to buy one of these, since the prices around were looking quite ridiculous. Ranging from around 200 to nearly 500 euros. But, as it turned out, someone had one in a very condition and was willing to pass it over to me with reasonable price tag. The unit was and is in very good, slightly used condition with only small chip on the side panel.  Apparently someone has made it to squeeze the battery snap adapter for the power supply.. This is shown in the photo.

Ibanez-PT999-PhaseTone-guts

The board is fixed inside a plastic container. Since there is nothing wrong with my unit, i didn’t feel like forcing it open. What comes to electronic design, we have quite standard four stage JFET-based phaser. Dirk Hendrik has a schematic up on his site. The schematic shows a modern Maxon reissue, but i’m pretty sure the main circuit is the same. I’m sure that these originals from mid-70’s did not have dc jacks or indicator LEDs in them coming out of the factory at all. No other surprises, but overall feel is still stronger and prettier than what we find in similar designs. And then for the most important part.

How does it sound?
Amazing. Great soft analog feel that doesn’t spoil the tone of your guitar. While there are similarities with MXR Phase 90, the sound here is just better. Well balanced depth and sufficient speed control are basically everything that you would need. Additional dc jack and more modern switching could be in order, but those do not affect the tone. Which is just sweet as honey. Praised classic and for a good reason. Recommended phaser.

Ibanez PM7 Phase Modulator

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

PM7

What is it?
Ibanez PM7 Phase Modulator from 7/Tonelok series. Made in china, 2005

As the truly modern guitar effects go, there are usually those that designers have spent hours to design an effect that sounds great on guitar. Better than the previous takes on this same subject. Then there are these designs that try to create something completely new and something that’s never heard before. These two imaginative design methods rarely combine well. That said, the Maxon engineers behind the PM7 Phase Modulator have reached a line that’s not often crossed. The controls are loaned from flanger designs and the versatility of Speed, Depth, Manual, Feedback and three LFO waveform modes, in addition to four/six stage switch and two in/out of phase modes for the 6-staged phase, is just more than convincing. Manual can be seen at Midimanuals.

PM7-guts1

Everything is still through hole construction on five board system that is familiar from all the other effects in this series. No surprises in build quality or component selection. The phase utilizes three dual 13600 OTA chips. SO every phasing stage has it’s own half of the chip.

The factory schematic is up at Ibanez.com. Yes, since it’s 7-series factory schematic, it is a pain to read.

PM7-guts2

Buffering and mixing is done with obvious Ibanez/Maxon weapon of choice, the 4558. LFO is created with NJM2904D. I’m guessing that the choice for this chip as LFO has been made due it’s stability in case of taking more wobble out of the LFO than what we usually see in any, or at least most, LFO controlled circuits.

PM7-guts3

Solid construction and designed to withstand a hit. Thick metal housing for everything electronic that is fastened with screws. Nothing floating or other wonky in there. These will be able to take years and years of abuse on the road.

How does it sound?
From mild sweeps that remind us a little of the original MXR Phase90 to absolute noise madness that can be described better with a word monster pseudo-ring-modulator. Well, this is to be expected. If one takes out a 6-stage OTA-based phaser and equips it with more feature packed LFO than most design have, this is what you’ll get. The palette is very versatile and the sounds range from mild to extreme, while still hanging on to term usable. Overall, this is a very good pedal.

Ibanez DPL10 Digital Pan Delay

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

DPL10

What is it?
Ibanez PDL10 Digital Pan Delay from 10/Power series. Made in japan in late 80’s.

Got this as a defunct unit from one finnish guy i did some deals and trades with. As it was not passing signal, the previous owner had borrowed the stomp lid to another pedal. Gladly, i happened to have one to spare from a defunct (completely dead) DL10 i sourced long ago in a deal of a few pedals that were not in working order. So. To the debugging. The signal died at the input buffer that was a half of 4558 SIP chip. I initially assumed that the chip was dead and it took a while to me to order a few of those in. As those, obviously, are not that common parts to be had lying around (now i do have a few if i ever need them again). As the voltages on that chip pins didn’t look healthy, my assumption was the chip being dead. The rest of the circuit seemed to be in working order, as when i injected the guitar signal to either one of the M50195P digital delay chips, the output was correct. Swapped the 4558 for a new one and nothing. Still the voltages were off by any standards.

DPL10-guts1

And of course there’s no factory schematic around for this unit. So i had to do some detective work to find out what was wrong.  I noticed there was a separate reference voltage network for the input buffer and the measured voltages on that network were off too. In other words, the reference voltage wans’t there. The chip was getting the supply voltage, but the reference. I widened my search for the cause and everything seemed to be in order. But the input buffer still didn’t get its reference voltage.

DPL10-guts2

Went on to check more and more and tested the continuity of a few key spots for this netork. Finally i found it. It’s not that common for the 10-series to have two sided circuit boards. Most of the designs are utilizing a single sided board with other side for solder and other for components. This is not the case with PDL10. And when i think it more, this is not the case for any of the more complex boards, mainly delays, in this series. So i finally found the reason for the defect and what was causing it.

DPL10-guts3

At one point, this unit has gotten a jolt from reverse polarity power supply. Due to burnt out parallel polarity protection, the diode has been replaced after the incident. The person who serviced the pedal soldered a new 1N4007 diode in place and since that didn’t fix the pedal, he must have deemed it totally broken. But no, it wans’t totally broken. The issue was that the cathode side of this polarity protection diode acts also as an via, which connects the supply voltage to the other side of the board too.

DPL10-guts4

And this via is the spot that takes the supply voltage for the voltage divider of the input buffer’s reference voltage network. And since the diode wasn’t soldered properly on the component side, but only on the solder side, the network wasn’t getting its supply voltage. I then reflowed the solder around the diode and boom. Working PDL10.

DPL10-guts6

Repairing this unit was a great challenge and i’m more than happy that i could do it. This Pan Delay is already enjoying a “rare” status and the prices are what you would expect from a rare mid-80’s Ibanez pedal. The design is pretty cool, but since it is what it is, a hit it was not. Sure. One can use this in a similar manner than the DL10, which has the same digital delay line inside, but in that case, 50% of the effect is unused. Pan delay in this case means that there are two delay lines constantly out of sync with each other. The input signal is splitted to both lines’ input and the outputs are separate. Meaning that the outputs are meant to be used for stereo. This way the other delay line pumps its repeats in one phase to to the left output and the other pumps its repeats, out of sync, to the right output. And this creates our ping-pong style panning delay.

Not that many panning, or ping-pong delays out there. And at least to me, the reason is pretty simple. Most of us use out pedals with guitars. Guitars tend to have one output and amps tend to have one input. So the stereo use is best to leave with studio experiments.

Either way. It is a beautiful unit with crowded board and neat board design. Definitely a one trick pony, but a rare specimen of this particular trick. Amazing unit to have.

How does it sound?
Good. It can be used as a single delay line, and in that scenario it doesn’t differ much from the sleek and smooth hi-fi digital delay tones of the DL10. Actually is sounds exactly the same. I think one could achieve the same sounding effect by splitting a signal for two DL10s and somehow creating a separate sync for those. It is clean and nice sounding delay with nothing too special in its tone. The ping-pong output is the speciality on this one. Great unit for studio work.

Ibanez AW7 Autowah

Monday, December 1st, 2014

AW7

What is it?
Ibanez AW7 Autowah from 7/Tonelok series. Made in china, 2005.

Where Ibanez AW5 from soundtank series left me a little on the cold side by its sound and overall feel, the follower for the Tonelok series does things differently. To begin with, all  the control slots on the enclosure are in use. Two slide switches and four pots. Before checking the features, let’s take a quick look under the hood.

AW7-guts1

Board looks like all the rest of designs in this series, so no surprises there. There’s a factory schematic up at Ibanez.com. Which shows us that the design is a hybrid with a 13600 OTA envelope filter and a distortion. Slightly over engineered feel to it, but the board isn’t too packed and still looking pretty pleasing with all through hole construction.

AW7-guts2

Envelope driver and distortion are powered by those three JRC4558Ds.As usual, the pedal is made with five different circuit boards and those boards are connected by wires on clip terminals. The control board and the main board connect with terminal pins directly.

AW7-guts3

Neat, but nothing too exciting. But then, what comes to features.. Board may not be that packed, but the design is. Feature-wise. The envelope has two modes, wah and LPF (low pass filter). Wah mode takes the envelope to wider frequency range than the LPF, which takes some of the brightest highs away from the sweeps. Sensitivity and manual control the envelope. After those we have our drive control and a switch associated with that. On distortion off, the pedal acts as a basic envelope filter/autowah and disables the drive control. Two other modes of the switch activate the distortion. These modes let you choose the distortion to be in front of the wah or after it. This, in addition to wah/LPF switch gives out a lot of options for the tone.

A noticeable amount of features. In many ways the design and features squeezed in are impressive.

How does it sound?
Light years a part from its predecessor, the AW5. The optical envelope used in AW5 has its advantages, but so does the dual OTA based design on this one. The envelope part is decent sounding, but nowhere near the greatness of nine series classic, the AF9. AW7 doesn’t roll out nearly as much lows from the signal as AW5, but still more than AF9. This tri-comparison may feel a bit much, but bear with me. AF9 is a real milestone that is very hard to beat. On this one, i’m thinking the designer has added more features on modernization of AF9, trying to genuinely make it better. As an envelope filter (or autowah) the AW7 still stays light years away from AF9, but it has the firepower to take the AW5 out at any given minute.

Biggest culprit is the the distortion an the tone it has. Which is ok, but not great or not even particularly good. Slightly on the thin side and slightly boring. One can get decent late 80’s and early 90’s lead tones out of this, but it’s all still a special effect that i’d describe as novelty pedal. To sum it up, this sounds way better than AW5, but still not as good AF9.