Archive for the ‘10 / Power-Series’ Category

Ibanez SS10 Session Man

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

SS10

What is it?
Ibanez SS10 Session-Man Distortion/Chorus from Power series. Made in japan between 1986-89.

Mid 80’s was a perfect time to try out stupid things like to combine distortion with other type of effects in small pedal enclosures. DOD did it, Boss did it and of course, Ibanez did it. The idea of mixing distortion with chorus seemed like something that i wanted to try out. The great thing with the Session Man is that there’s a switch that places the chorus in parallel or in series with the distortion to create different soundscapes. The bottom knobs control the distortion with standard parameters (level, tone, gain) and the upper knob determines the level of chorus mixed with the distortion. The chorus doesn’t have any controls, other than the mixer level. Sure, there are trimmers for those parameters inside, but it is basically fixed to one depth and one speed.

SS10-guts1

For all analog distortion and chorus delay circuitry, the board looks like it’s well used space. Turning the board around reveals crowded and crammed circuit with a lot of components. The yellow trimmers are for tweaking the chorus. I couldn’t find a schematic to see everything there’s going on.

SS10-guts2

From these crappy photos and being inside my unit, i can tell that there’s a BBD pair handling the choruses timed delay, one opamp acting as LFO ans SIP opamp driving the distortion. The SIP may be a good choice, since  there’s a lot of stuff going on on the board.

These seem to be somewhat collectible units. As a niche novelty items, i think the value is correct. But as a usable, unique sounding guitar effects? Not so sure.

How does it sound?
First of all, the distortion isn’t too bad. Quite open and dynamic, without the flattening compression that most distortions offer. Now, when we engage the chorus in parallel, i’m like “why?” The chorus is so mild that it hardly does anything, even when maxed. Anything good that is. The chorus is a lot more overwhelming in series mode, but still. Why? The parallel setting is a thing of its own, but if i wanted to chain a chorus and a distortion after each other in a studio environment, my choice would not be SS10. For a live setup maybe. But even then i’d rather use a utility box to engage both with a single stomp.

These combination pedals are nice curiosities. As these come, the SS10 isn’t the worst of them by far. It could even serve a purpose on some situation.

Ibanez OT10 Octave

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

OT10

What is it?
Ibanez OT10 Octave from Power series. Made in taiwan around late 80’s.

The most interesting Ibanez boxes are the couple of designs that only occur once. There are more examples where the designs have lived on in different series with slightly different names or very slight differences. For example, all the different Tube Screamers and metal distortions. Where as TL5 Tremolo from the Sounstank series is the only tremolo effect Ibanez ever produced, the OT10 Octave is the only octave effect offered by Ibanez. These are bound to gather some noticeable collectors value. Box offers up and down octaves that can be mixed with the clean signal. The clean is the same as bypassed signal. Trace design isn’t looking too beautiful, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Just your standard modern style traces.

OT10-guts1

Like all 10-series boxes, there are two circuit boards. One with the controls and one as the main board. Boards are connected with 10 stranded ribbon cable. All three pots are 100K Ohm linear taper PCB mounted carbon ptos. The ouput buffering  and part of the electronic switching network is also placed on the control board. The schematic is up online. Once again, it’s Dirk’s beautiful trace, which is simply amazing work.

OT10-guts2

The buffering aside, the signal is splitted into three and fed to down octave divider, up octave circuit and a clean channel. Down octave is created by standard method of driving the s*it out of 4013 CMOS chip by one quad opamp. Upper octave is done by two diodes and wonderful looking inverting/non-inverting amplifier pile. Clean comes through with single unity amplifier.

OT10-guts3

All this is is mixed with three pots and passed on to last filtering buffering stage. I think the design is quite elegant and still far off from the circuits considered standard, like Boss OC-2. The design clearly has potential, so it makes me wonder why Ibanez (or Maxon) didn’t pursuit the idea further..

How does it sound?
This might be the main contributing factor why OT10 remains the only octave effect in Maxon/Ibanez back catalog. Up and Down octaves are both relatively clean, with the low one being just as unstable in frequency tracking as it usually is with octave dividing designs. The box does get way better if driven by some angry fuzz or distortion. While both octaves have their own personalities and the box sounds generally good, i see why this wasn’t as big of a hit OC-2 for example. Good thing is that those who have the box usually know why they have it – it has more than just collectors value. It’s quite usable. It has more going for it than just plain two different octaves. Character. Wouldn’t use this on my board as everyday octave box, but it’ll be with me in the studio. Every time.

Ibanez TS10 Tube Screamer Classic

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Ah. Back to the old tricks with yet another Tube Screamer.

TS10

What is it?
Ibanez TS10 Tube Screamer Classic. Later version, made in Taiwan late 80s or early 90s.

So it is TS9 with one resistor added before the inverting input of the opamp. These taiwanese units tend to sell for less than current TS9 reissues, so modding one might not be such a bad idea. Personally i’m happy that this post leaves me only with TS7 to cover from the standard tubescreamers – as it gets quite boring to try to find something to write about a box that one has written about twice already. TS7 has something more to offer than just one added 220R resistor.

TS10-guts1

Dull as expected. In more ways than one. The enclosure may not be as sturdy as 9-series boxes, but for some reason i find this type of box soothing. Featurewise, placing of the jacks is the biggest difference between this and the nine series TS.

TS10-guts2mods

The photo above is taken after i modded other one of my taiwanese units. One with a keen eye should be able to catch all the components that have been swapped. Hint: original unit has 5% carbon film resistors and transparent mylar caps. Okay. I’ll let you know everything there is to know. The one resistor in the middle of the board is swapped from 220R to 0R. The inverting input components have been replaced – minimum drive setting up, more bass and more overall gain. Also the 51p ceramic cap is swapped for multilayer type. The two resistors on the bottom left are the two resistors that make this a TS9. Swapping all the mentioned values will result the circuit being transformed from TS10 to TS808 on steroids.

How does it sound?
As all the rest of the Tubescreamers. Without the mods it sounds pretty much 1:1 with TS9 and TS5. It can (and probably should) be modded into something that simply sounds way better. But still. In its heart it will always be just a tubescreamer. The sound i personally won’t ever be using for anything.

Ibanez BC10 Stereo Bass Chorus

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

BC10What is it?
Ibanez BC10 Stereo Bass Chorus from 10/Power series. Made in japan around late 80’s.

As with CS5/BC5 covered earlier, the circuit is more or less verbatim with CS10. Funny. Four pedals equal one design, or the other way around. And the colour is… Slightly darker-or-more-violet-than-SC10-blue. As with its guitary brother, SC10, the BC10 has also three controls. With, Speed and Delay Time. If i haven’t written it already, the controls stand for: Width – the intensity of the LFO sweep affecting the delay circuitry, Speed – this one is changing the LFO speed and Delay Time – affecting the length of delay getting swept by LFO and BBD clock timer.

BC10-guts1

Modern board with modern traces. Very neat and professional soldering. The board size is not larger than what we find on Soundtank series, so it’s funny how the board here looks this crowded – even with LFO moved on the control board. Stereo output inverts the phase, so once again i’d recommend to try it as a stereo device.

BC10-guts2

The component side says it all. 1:1 board to SC10 Super Stereo Chorus. Some of the cap values are different, but otherwise the design is verbatim.

BC10-guts3

Upper board shows the LFO and controls. The controls are not complete workalike of SC10, with mild differences on the max speed and width. This may be diue to component tolerances and if so, the individual boxes of the same product will yield slightly different results. Damn i’m loving the analog circuits.

How does it sound?
With the minor differences on the circuits, this one sounds and feels pretty much the same as SC10. Just slightly fatter. If i place all four of these in series (CS5, BC5, CS10 and BC10), the differences are very minimal. Which is interesting and fun. Maxon engineers could have just created one circuit, preferably the one found on this one (BC10) and use that board and design for all the rest.

It sounds very good. Mellow, soft and fat(ish). Again, as with soundtank equilevant, the bass version lets more lower frequencies through, resulting in slightly softer sweep. Very good chorus to have.

Ibanez SC10 Super Stereo Chorus

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

SC10What is it?
Ibanez SC10 Super Stereo Chorus. 10/Power series box, made in taiwan  late 80’s.

You guessed it. Blue as it should be and without the stereo output circuitry, this looks like close match to Cs5 Super Chorus. According to schematic found online, the design is almost verbatim to CS5 – or one could argue (and be correct) that the CS5 is almost verbatim to SC10. The main (and only) difference is the output section.

SC10-guts1

SC10 has splitted output unity drivers for stereo output where the CS5 has only one output driver. The boards are nothing alike in layouts, but the electronic design is nearly the same. Except the added output driver here inverts the phase of output signal for its channel, giving out the perfect bi-phased chorus output. (Sorry for super crappy photo below)

SC10-guts2

The delay and timer circuitry is created with 3102/3207 pair, and LFO is driven by TL022. Maxon engineers have apparently solved most of the possible clock bleed issues by taking the LFO on the control board instead of main board. The main board only having the mixers, buffers  and delay circuitry on it.

Quite standard design with no surprises. Solid.

How does it sound?
If i only had this and CS5 in reversed order, i would probably love this one more. Basically because the sound is pretty much the same. But i happened to get CS5 first, so that one made a bigger impression on me. Usable chorus. The addition of delay time control opens a lot of new worlds. One can easily use this as mild and focused chorus, or tweak the delay time to make it sound monstrous. Versatile and good basic chorus.

Ibanez DSC10 Digital Chorus

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

DSC10What is it?
Ibanez DSC10 Digital Chorus from 10/Power series. Made in japan, late 80’s.

Refined chorus in 10 series with more controls than usual. And it’s digital. So prepare yourself for some iron worm action. Well. Not exactly. At first glance, this seems like very desirable unit with lots of options. In the end it sort of lets you down. The controls are “Color” and “Delay time” switch in addition to standard width and speed. “Color” is a passive low pass filter control, which i think got included because the design team wanted it to sound and feel like analog devices. The idea in this control isn’t too far away from the Rat’s “filter” control. Otherwise, from functional point of view, there are two outputs that are out of phase with each other. So stereo use is more than recommended. Letdown comes from the fact that it just tries to be one of those omni-choruses, where everything from mild ear pleaser to noise monster is possible. It isn’t.

DSC10-guts1

You’ll find the schematic from Dirk’s archive of the most beautiful traces known to man. Removing the bottom plate shown the well and tightly designed layout. Packed with noticeable accuracy (again, sorry for bad photos). Modern traces can’t turn me down this time. Just look at the joints and parts placement. There isn’t much symmetry, but the amount of stuff fit in there is respectable. Now we should talk a bit about the schematic…

DSC10-guts2

Motorola M50198 chip is the key here, basically just replacing the need for BBD pair in clock and delay purposes. That is one cool huge chip (i currently have no idea whatsoever how those work). The input buffering and phase inverting output drivers are your common parts. Rest of it. Not so much. In addition to the main delay circuit being a digital one, the LFO is created with JRC2904D. The 74HC04 Hex Inverter that we commonly find in electronic switching flip-flops has parts of it used as sort-of buffers between the LFO and the digital delay chip. Yeah. I know. I lost myself in there too.

DSC10-guts3
As shown on the last picture, the LFO is placed at the control board, between the pots and the switch. Due to my current knowledge, i simply cannot shed any more light on the subject. But it is beautiful pedal on the inside. More than just beautiful.

How does it sound?
Meh. Sad thing really. A rare Ibanez moment of stunning beauty and nearly unusable sound. The controls and the effort on the design let me believe much more until i played with it. On maximum time/width/delay time and minimum color setting, it does get somewhat close to a flanger style chorus. The sound behind the color control really bothers me. You can achieve the same “warmth” with dialing your guitar’s tone know down. Both methods can give you something that’s close to vibe-style effect but not quite.

It does have some potential and it’s not completely in vein. But it doesn’t make it even close of the top ten choruses i’ve played. If you’re planning on getting a Power series chorus, then i’d suggest to look for SC10 or BC10 instead of this one.