Archive for the ‘L / Master-Series’ 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.

Ibanez-GEL-GraphicEQ-guts1

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.

Ibanez-GEL-GraphicEQ-guts2

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 MSL Metal Screamer

Monday, November 10th, 2014

MSL

What is it?
Ibanez MSL Metal Screamer from Master series. Made in japan around 1986.

These seem to be rather rare these days. And with rarity, or scarcity, come a price tag that’s not for everyone. I happened to score this unit with some nicks and dents from Mr. Lindén in a batch deal for a good price. Needless to say i’m not parting my way with this one anytime soon. Somehow i wish Ibanez should have manufactured these commercial flops in greater numbers. Mainly because people are simply stupid. Number of SML Super Metals available today is high, since people bought them a lot. It’s not a great pedal, but still it apparently sold better than the Metal Screamer. One wise man on the internet once said, this is the one design in all Tubescreamer family that’s usually just forgotten from the TS canon. The truth is that MSL is more of of a TS than TS10. Before going deeper in to the circuit, let’s open it up.

MSL-guts1

Opening the bottom plate shows your standard Ibanez board with similar traces as most pedals of the series. The boards (controls have their own board, as  all the other boxes in the series) are thick and overall feel of the electronics is just solid. Not a beauty, but all solid. Black silk screening also looks very pleasing with thick lines.

MSL-guts2

Chip here is JRC4558D and it is socketed. So i’m fairly certain that’s not original part. Schematic up at Tonegeek page shows the chip as 4558, but knowing Ibanez, there may have been another chip in there when this left the factory. And Maxon/Ibanez boxes never used sockets, so this part replacement assumption is based on well educated guess. Now. If we take a look at the schematic, we see standard Ibanez electronic switching and input/output buffers are also per many other Ibanez boxes. Reference voltage for input buffer has its own network, separate from all the rest reference voltage points.

MSL-guts3

Tone control and rest of the topology is is per TS9. So yeah. It is more of a TS9 than anything else. Since we’ve now established that the circuit is pretty much TS9, let’s focus on the differences. There is only one.

MSL-guts4

And this one difference makes a world of difference. Notice the C6 capacitor coming from non-inverting input to R9, 4K7 resistor. This cap is 47nF in every other TS. This capacitor determines the roll-off frequency for the high pass filter created in the clipping amp. Value of 82nF lets a noticeable amount more bass through than the stock TS9 configuration. This means that one could easily just swap that capacitor for 47nF and voilá, instant TS9. Doing this wouldn’t make any sense though. This is the cap that gets its value up in every possible mod know to TS***/SD-1 world. 82nF is a lot better choice instead of TS9 stock value.

How does it sound?
Like a Tubescreamer with slightly added bass content. As Tubescreamers come, this is simply better sounding than any other version. Ok, maybe not better than Super Tubescreamer from 9-series or TS7 with its hot mode. But as a vintage styled TS.. This takes the cake. Added bass takes a bit of the worst honking away, while the overall tone still feels like a TS. This is good. Highly recommended pedal. Especially if you don’t have to pay massive amounts of money for one.

Ibanez DDL Delay

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

DDL

What is it?
Ibanez DDL Digital Delay from Master series, made in japan in mid 80’s.

One of these units that usually are way too pricey for me. But if someone is really selling his/hers and is willing to give it away for good price, i’m once again there to snatch it. I even got a very nice present in the same parcel with this, but more about that later. Anyway. Thanks to Ari!.

I believe this unit was Ibanez/Maxon’s attempt to kill Boss DD2/DD3. The functionality matches, and the competition for king of digital delays was heating up in 1985. DDL has two different delay time ranges on a switch, plus “hold” mode. Which is similar to one found in Boss DD3 (which was in fact a rebranded DD2, but that is a subject for another pedal post).

The board is full. And when i say full, i really mean it. Neat and tiny solder joints right next to each other. And plenty of them. The MC4101F is mounted on the bottom and is responsible for all the action.

DDL-guts1

Couldn’t help myself but take another shot of the chip itself. That’ll also let you cloesr to the real scale that those solder spots have. If i was amazed what the Maxon engineers did with DFL, the digital flanger from this same series, i’m even more impressed now.

DDL-guts2

The board shares some qualities with the DFL. The three trimmers are in the same spot as is the DA/AD converter chip, the MC4101F. Couldn’t find a schematic for this right of the bat, so i can’t be 100 percent sure. It does seem like the two share some parts of the design.

DDL-guts3

The controls on this design are very impressive. There’s user’s manual scans available at Ibanez pedal information heaven, the Tone Home. Quite interesting read. They have listed the maximum delay time wrong though. It is in fact 1800ms and not 900ms.

How does it sound?
True delay monster with massive, yet clean delay times. Where the Boss’ counterpart is unnatural and cold, this massive design happens to capture some of the beauty found from analog delays. Not as clinical as you’d expect from a 80’s digital delay. Some circuits may have been scorched by time, but this sound stays unaffected. It still sounds good and fresh, even if it has about 30 years of life behind it. Very usable with its two delay time ranges and the hold mode. No wonder you won’t find any of these for cheap.

Ibanez DFL Digital Flanger

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

DFL

What is it?
Ibanez DFL Digital Flanger from Master Series. Made in japan in mid 80’s. Missing the type plate sticker, but otherwise in very good condition.

Now, for real, get ready for running in the guts of the iron worm. The basis for all the metal worm psychedelic action is MC4101F. There’s also a schematic available for download at Schematics Unlimited. Must be one of the most complex pedal designs i’ve seen so far. Just look at the solder joints. The board is so full that it’s simply amazing.

DFL-guts1

The amount of usable controls are  also notable. There’s your standard Speed and Width. And Delay Time and Regeneration. Plus a three position switch for delay time range from 0.5-4ms to 1-8ms and finally to 2-16ms. Those ranges offer pretty much every usable delay times that are needed for flange effect. There are scans of user’s manual up on Tone Home.

DFL-guts3

With wide range of  controls, it is very usable and well made flanger. Even i don’t consider myself as a huge flanger fan or big time user, this unit still impresses me. And for the complexity.. There’s really not much for me to go on about with my puny understanding that is all based on simple analog circuits.

There are rumours around the internet that these units are ultimately rare and the number produced is very low. I don’t believe either of those claims are true as at the time of writing there are five different units for sale on ebay.

How does it sound?
In the guts of a iron worm. Metallic and cold. Simply beautiful sound. And over the pot at the same time. If you’re after a soft sounding airplane sweeper, you should pass this one completely. It offers harsh, deep flange that’ll melt your brains. Just beautiful.

Ibanez SML Super Metal

Monday, February 24th, 2014

SML

What is it?
Ibanez SML Super Metal from Master Series. Made in japan mid 80’s.

I wasn’t planning to go after the Master series due to the rocket prices. Of course i have been interested in these too, but the status and rarity ridden cost of collecting these made the series not too pleasing. For that same reason i won’t be collecting any of the older Ibanezes with the same enthusiasm as the later ones. To pay over 200 euros for used and beaten unit just doesn’t suit me. Of course i’ll keep my eye out for any of the pre-7 series Ibanez pedal that surfaces. But. If the price and condition are right, i might go for it.

This unit came to me in a deal with pink DE7 and the total price was good, so i really had no choice. The unit was basically broken with burnt and removed polarity protection diode, out and DC jacks were disconnected and solder joints broken. And the level pot had some dead areas on the sweep. The outside condition is good as the image shows. Just couple of paint chips and mild worn. The jacks were easy to reattach by just reflowing the solder. Cleaning the level pot didn’t help enough, but i thought i’d leave it as it is and not start to hunt down a new pot.

SML-guts1

Standard and neat looking board. basically the biggest differences between the L and 10 series are the pots. in fact, this design is believed to be exactly the same circuit as older SM9 Super Metal. Lots of gain stages and clippers. And lots of control over the characteristics. Level shouldn’t need much explaining (other than it needs to be maxed to get even near to unity levels), Drive and Attack control the amount and character of the distortion. Punch and Edge take care of the EQ. These controls are very usable and have a drastic effect on the sound.

SML-guts2

The unit is sharing the board with later SM10 Metal Charger, which makes the two identical. Even though the unity level problem is apparent on all three designs (SM9, SML and MS10), the popularity can be explained without an issue.

Update! I recently got another one of these. At fist glance, both seemed and sounded quite identical. Until i noticed the silk screened labels on top of the boxes. The unit pictured above has a lot higher serial number (about 10x higher) and the labels are grey. On the other unit, the labels are printed in green and the label sticker has clearly different tint of neon green on it. All this suggests that there are at least two separate production runs of SML in existence.

How does it sound?
This being the reason for the popularity. The sound. In vast ocean of distortion pedals, this unit still has some personality and edge that most other simply don’t have. I’m liking the sound even though it has a serious flaw with the output level. And it’s a good thing i got this. I modded my SM10 for more level and i was left with mixed feelings. It is definitely more usable with mods (as this would be too), but there’s still something in the original sound that i want to keep. This probably ain’t the best metal distortion there is, but it’s very good either way.