Archive for the ‘Ibanez’ Category

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 TK999HT Tube King Distortion

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

TK999HT

What is it?
Ibanez TK999HT Tube King Distortion. Made in china, late 00’s.

Not sure if the TK999HT is currently in production anymore. Ibanez site doesn’t list it and many european internet shops don’t have it on their listings. At least not any more. This high gain distortion is somewhat impressive by its appearance. The box is huge and heavy. The rubber pads on the bottom plate are something like 40mm in diameter, while the box itself measures 15x15x5 cm. Enclosure isn’t aluminium.

As the features go, we have the usual drive/level controls, a three band EQ with low/mid/high controls and a presence switch. Since the amount of gain is very high, there’s also a “Void” control. This is your noise gate. Other Ibanez boxes have had the same feature, name some high gain distortions from 7-series. The box feeds itself on a 12V AC power supply and has its own transformer and rectifier diodfe bridge inside.

TK999HT-guts

In a sense, this configuration reminds me of those hybrid guitar amps that exploded in popularity in the 90s. In fact, this comes pretty close, minus the output amplifier. Dirk Hendrik has drawn a schematic of this one too – here. Even without the noise gate and power supply section, the design is taken one step further from the basic boxes we see more often. In essence, we have input buffering, followed by driver amp and gain control. After those there’s two tube driver stages, a buffer to decouple the tube. After that, there’s presence switch and tone controls. All three tone controls have their own cutting/boosting gyrators. Followed by output buffering. Void circuit in on mode, is attached in parallel with the effect circuit. Dirk’s schematic doesn’t disclose what’s the voltage being fed to the tube, but it sure isn’t the same 12V DC being fed to to rest of the circuit. Complex and somewhat impressive.

If i was to come up with one, biggest negative side to the design, it would definitely be the location of the tube. The ventilation is sufficient, but the previous Tube King boxes had the tube in plain sight, making it simple to swap for another type of tube if desired. This time the tube is placed so that it’ll require disassembling most of the insides to get to the tube. Somehow reminds me of older cars versus newer cars. One should be able to change the burned out headlamp by oneself. At least in my opinion.

How does it sound?
Modern High-Gain. Maybe slightly too modern and too high-gain for my personal taste. Due to amount of gain, the noise gate (or Void) is a good thing to have. While this may be a bit too much in distortion department, the output level is high enough to use the unit as a soaring lead monster. Due to it’s nature, i don’t see myself using this for base sounds on any set of settings. But as a solo distortion? Yup. In that scenario the pedals shines. And bright.

Ibanez DS7 Distortion

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

DS7

What is it?
Ibanez DS7 Distortion from 7/Tonelok series. Made in taiwan, 1999.

One of the Tonelok series early birds. Somehow i have a feeling the DS7 was discontinued earlier than the rest of the bunch. I think i see a point in this. Anyway. This one doesn’t have any other controls but drive, tone and level. First thing that comes to mind is, could this be just a revamp of Boss DS-1? But then again. It’s Maxon/Ibanez were are talking about. Even though the designers may have borrowed certain snippets from MXR and EHX in the 70’s, i haven’t seen much borrowing happening since. Or at least after the 80’s. And once the bottom plate is removed, the board sure looks like it doesn’t have much to do with anything simple.

DS7-guts1

At this point i was like WTF. Ibanez DS7, the dullest unit of the series, and the main board looks like that? Once we take and flip the board, the sight is something completely different. Apparently some other units in the series use the same drill layout as a base and due to this the board’s bottom looks like there is hundred things going on. While in reality there are just ten.

DS7-guts2

There is a factory schematic around the webs as a floater. It can be found at least in here. These factory schematics are horrible to read and interpret (i may need to redraw it for myself as this one hurts my eyes. And brains.). But if we focus, we can read it. We have input, bypass and switching buffers, obviously. For the main circuit, there’s a driver amp followed by a hard clipping diodes shunt to ground. Then there’s most interesting part. Quad gyrator based tone control. Nope. This isn’t borrowed from DS-1. In fact, it has very little to do with any basic distortion design i’ve seen.

DS7-guts3

Rest of the box is per Tonelok series standards. Control board, jack boards and bypass board with indicator LED. Build and design quality are also on par with every other Tonelok box.

How does it sound?
Sadly. It sounds rather dull, faceles sand hollow. But due to boards being with through hole components and the gyrators are in plain sight, one should be able to tweak this to their liking. For gain and level controls, the ranges are sufficient, but nothing out of the ordinary. After seeing how the tone control is made,  i just had to give the unit another test run. Yes. Knowing gives a very different view to the tone control’s behaviour. It is powerful, but may it be how powerful ever, the fact remain. Dull, faceless and hollow. With being rather noisy. Not a bad modern distortion, but not anything great either. Falls in somewhere between metal distortions and those ugly sounding 80’s plastic things, while not being either. Strange bird. This seems like one of those units people throw away with trash. When you see one for 15€, grab it. It may not be good, but it’s definitely worth that 15€.

Ibanez DE7 Delay/Echo

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

DE7

What is it?
Ibanez DE7 Delay/Echo from 7/Tonelok series.  Made in china around 1999-2002.

Couple of Ibanez delays hold a few remarkable places in my personal favourites. The DE7 ranks very high on that list. I set up photos with two separate units, side by side, since while the electronics remain the same on both units (DE7 and DE7C), the pink one is limited edition and the standard grey is the basic version. I have no idea what the manufactured numbers are, but pink ones tend to be seen rather rarely. In case of comparing how often different DE7 models come up for sale, that is. Both cosmetic versions are relatively easy to find through auction sites and the prices being asked have not (at the time of writing) gone through the roof. Not sure if they ever will, but if you are interested in having one.. You should probably grab one now.

DE7-guts1

The boards on both versions are exactly the same. Two-sided, modern traces and soldering quality on par with every other Tonelok-series pedal. I’m not aware of the manufacturing factory of this series, but i would not be surprised if it was the same factory behind the Marshall small metal cased series.

DE7-guts2

Construction with mostly through hole components and a few surface mount chips on the bottom looks like a killer. On the other hand, the number of links on the board.. Seems like the design is based on dedicated digital delay circuitry, rather than on DSP.

DE7-guts3

What comes to features, there are your standard Delay Time, Repeats (aka feedback) and effect level knobs. In addition to those we have two slide switches, first one setting the delay time range. There are three ranges that vary from 30 milliseconds to 2600 milliseconds. 2,6 seconds is rather long time and this may even scare the DD-7 folk. On the other features, like tap tempo and whatnot, DD-7 takes the cake, but the price range is completely different. The second slide switches between Delay and Echo modes. Delay being closer to modern standard digital delays and Echo is modelling the vintage echo sounds. Simple features ensure ease of use.

How does it sound?
Next to perfection. Even the digital delay sounds are not harsh, but remind one of smooth analog sounds. Without the noise and with long delay times. On echo mode the sounds are even more mellow. The attack for both modes make you forget that you are using a digital pedal. Natural sounding delay with massive delay times. What’s not to like?

Ibanez BB9 Bottom Booster

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

BB9-BottomBooster

What is it?
Ibanez BB9 Bottom Booster, from modern 9-series. Made in china around 2010 or so.

There are only a few Ibanez designs that are more like meh. This is definitely not one of those. I had interest for this for some time, before i spotted one for reasonable price tag on one auction site. This particular unit was apparently a demo unit for some store. Very little wear and nice near mint condition with original  box and papers. Played with this for quite some time once i received it. There is a beautiful traced schematic up at Dirk’s page, so there were no rush in seeing how it is made. Reason for opening it wasn’t as usual as for most pedals.

That reason being a small mishap on the studio floor. I had just recorded all base guitars for 11 tracks of 12 for the album we were doing. I thought i needed to add a bit of reverb for the other effect line. I took my previously repaired Boss RV-2 out of the bag and chained it with all the other pedal in that chain. This resulted in nothing more but a hiss. Something went terribly wrong and my BB9 was dead. I figured it had to be some sort of power surge, but since i (obviously) didn’t have suitable tools or spare parts with me, i had to make due with other solutions for the second effect line on the last track.

BB9-BottomBooster-guts1

Once the unit was back at my desk, the fault was easy to track down. No power. This is where Dirk’s schematic came in really handy. Don’t know how that surge occurred, but it burned the DC-DC converter (a.k.a. charge pump) chip. As you can see in the (crappy) photo below, the chip on top left is socketed. I almost never use sockets for anything, but since the charge pump on this one *can* die, i figured it’s best to have it socketed. After swapping the chip and polarity protection diode as a precaution, the box rocks again.

BB9-BottomBooster-guts2

To get going on this post, the design of the BB9 is solid Maxon quality with modern board design and manufacturing method. If you checked the schematic linked above, you’ll see a power supply section that creates a bipolar +9/-9 volt swing with LT1044 DC-DC converter. This means that the pedal runs actually on 18 volts, using ground’s zero volts as a reference voltage.  For me and my fix, i only had ICL7660S chips at hand, but these are pin-to-pin equivalent and they can be used as a drop-in replacement for each other.

On the topology, is one half of JRC4558 acting as input buffer. Then we have dual gang potentiometer setting the level of signal passed to gain recovery and the actual gain of the clipping amp that is paired with a static gyrator that sets the boosted frequencies. After these we have active tone control to have nice control over the treble content. This leads to level control and output. Not too conventional way to create overdriven boost.

BB9-BottomBooster-guts3

What comes to box design, it surely ain’t as aesthetic as the 30 year older 9-serie units. It isn’t ugly though. Sort of reminds me a bit of build methods we can find in Marshall small metal series pedals. Pedal follows the original series on the enclosure and carbon film resistors, but not much else. Here we have four separate boards to ease the manual labor. Neat and beautiful on the outside, but pretty dull on the inside – except for the circuit design.

How does it sound?
So good that no words are enough to match it. BB9 offers mild overdrive tones with really, really good sounding frequency response. It is not a distortion nor a classic overdrive in sense of tubescreamers or others, but something that brings your tube amp alive in a manner that can only be matched by few others. Also, it’s not a clean booster. It is a pedal that will give out better, no matter how subjective that term is, overall tone. Little bit of grit and boost combined. Even the voltage swing has a strong emotion-like feeling of great amount of available headroom. This is definitely one of the greatest sounding Ibanez branded boxes. Ever.

Ibanez BP5 Bass Compressor

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

BP5

What is it?
Ibanez BP5 Bass Comp compressor from the Soundtank series. Made in taiwan around mid 90’s.

Who would have thought that BP5 was the hardest unit to find in all the plastic Soundtanks? Well it was. The complete series did come by more easily than i expected, but there were still a couple of the units that were a lot harder to find than others. My guess is that the number of manufactured units were correlating hard with the sales. Which also means that there are tons and tons of Thrashmetals, Power Leads, 60’s Fuzzes and Tubescreamers just waiting for you to grab them. While the less succesful units are getting scarce, one should still be able to source the Bass Comp or Autowah for relatively low prices. If one keeps him/her eyes open. I did finally get one. Don’t exactly remember what i paid for this, but it wasn’t too cheap.

BP5-guts1

Once the bottom plate is out, the board looks exactly like the CP5, the guitar compressor from the same series. Once we take the board out to see it better, it is exactly the same board. Including the silk screened CP5 label. And if we look at these two closer, we see that there isn’t too much of a difference on the pedals. To be exact, the only change between CP5 and BP5 is one capacitor value. Sure. I knew about the differences before acquiring the unit, which may have been the reason i didn’t go for the ones that were out there with ridiculous price tags.

BP5-guts2

So this is pretty much the same pedal as the CP5, CP10 and CPL. Well designed and well working BA6110 VCA-based compressor.

I must wave a flag here. This is the last post about the plastic soundtanks for this blog. Yup. I’ve finally covered all of them. At the time of writing, there are still two metal cased units i’m on a hunt for. And those two are the original Thrashmetal (i’ve got three plastic ones) and the original Power Lead (i’ve got two plastic ones).

How does it sound?
If there is a difference between this unit and the CP5, i’m having real hard time hearing it. Not too noisy or mushy. I feel that the attack knob is rather useless, but that doesn’t make the rest of the features or sounds any less desirable. To sum it up, this is a poor man’s CP10. Defined and very usable unit. Superb thing with single coils. Haven’t played a lot with this on bass though.

Ibanez DDL20 Delay III

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

DDL20

What is it?
Ibanez DDL20 Delay III from Power series. Made in japan around mid 80’s.

I should count the Ibanez delays. Yup. At least 18 different delay units are listed at the Effectsdatabase. Sure, this includes all the units from different series since 70’s, but that’s still a lot of delays. The features on this particular one are great. From slight 8ms tracking effects, all the way to 1024 milliseconds of delay. And every possible delay time in between. The six time ranges are selected on a switch, otherwise the controls are your standard Mix = Delay Level, Time = Delay Time and Feedback = Repeat. Once the bottom plate is removed, there are a ton of neat little solder joints for through hole components and a Maxon branded digital chip.

DDL20-guts1

Bottom of the board looks like green leather jacket on a punk. May the joints represent studs. And once we flip the board around, there are 6 SIP opamps, three more Mitsubishi bipolar dual opamps in DIP packages and a regulator. That’s a lot of stuff squeezed into such a little board. Stamp on the board shows that this unit shares the board with DML Digital Modulation Delay. As you can see from the first shot taken from the bottom, there are a few empty pads.

DDL20-guts2

The board design pleases the eye. But i do apologize for not going deeper in to the design itself. Reason being that i don’t understand it well enough myself to say anything insightful about it. Well built and designed. These unit will endure use.

How does it sound?
Not special, but very, very good. Like most Ibanez delay units, this one offers solid sounds. Which is also a weakness for a few Ibanez delays. Where almost every single Ibanez unit has its own character and a face, so to speak, the delays from Power and Master series are sort of Ibanez’ line on Bosses. There’s nothing wrong with them, but some of them do tend to sound rather generic. This is one of those. Makes me wonder why did Ibanez release three different, un-modulated digital delays for Power series? I have no idea. The feature differences are slight and the overall sounds from all three are close to each other. All of them are action packed and sound good. With similar setting on each, i doubt many would survive a “Pepsi Challenge” if i played with all three to you with your eyes blindfolded.

None of that makes this a bad sounding unit. If you see one for cheap, grab it. These do not move around too much these days.

Ibanez SS20 Session Man II

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

SS20

What is it?
Ibanez SS20 Session Man II Distortion/Delay multi-effect from Power series. Made in japan in mid 80’s.

Ok. Apparently the first session man wasn’t a flop enough. Sharing parts of the design with the first Session Man “multi-effect”, this unit pairs a nasty, short delay to what appears to be the same distortion section as in SS10. Board designs are completely different, as delay and chorus do not necessarily walk with the same footprint with each other. It must have taken a lot of work to create this. As features go, this one has your standard distortion controls, Level, Tone and Distortion. In addition, there is delay time control and series/parallel switch for the delay. Sticker on the left hand side of the battery lid tells us there’s more. Under the battery lid, there are holes, so that two trimmers can be accessed with a screwdriver. Those controls are a nice addition. Left trimmer controls feedback, or amount of repeats and the right one controls the overall mix of the delay.

SS20-guts1

Board design is on par with all the other Power series boxes. Same semi-dull traces as with most of them. But as always with effects that are feature packed, this one has quite a few components in there. The design has a lot of tweakability to offer. And all the features do look very interesting on paper. Distortion and delay in the same enclosure with reasonable amount of control over the features? I think at least firm is making notable amounts of money with similar features today..

SS20-guts2

I have no idea about the number of units manufactured, but i suspect the number is rather low. These don’t seem to move much on auction sites and the prices are, well. Low. It is a full analog device and while the features seem promising…

How does it sound?
Good? Not so much. The distortion part is pretty much 1:1 with the open, uncompressed distortion that the SS10 Session Man offers. So turn the delay level down to nothing and you have a reasonable distortion. Do whatever you want to the delay section and you’ll probably still want to turn it all the way down. Delay is simply set for way too short delay times, making this a reasonable contender for DOD Hard Rock Distortion. But not much more. Nice novelty effect, but i think it sounds a bit more useless when compared to SS10. If you want one, make sure you don’t pay too much for it. As that would possibly make you feel bad.

Ibanez DDL10 Delay II

Monday, May 26th, 2014

DDL10

What is it?
Ibanez DDL10 Delay II from Power series. Made in japan around mid 80’s.

Power series has way too many delays. What makes this fact even more sad is that these are all interesting designs. And most of them differ from others, so it’s a painful series to collect. To begin with, Delay II has delay time ranges from 19-113, 38-225, 75-450 and 150-900 milliseconds. This is in addition to standard mix/time/feedback controls (they are called D-Level, D-Time and Repeat here). Nice range indeed. As the first gut shot below shows, the processor is MC4101F, which we can find on other Ibanez delays of the era as well. This unit also features a clean parallel output, so the delay can be mixed in later in the path…

DDL10-guts1

Ibanez isn’t the best known brand for their full on recycling of board designs as many other manufacturers. Of course there are exceptions here and there where same board design has been rotated throughout different series and re-branded designs along the way. I have not counted the total of Ibanez/Maxon designs in existence, but the number should be somewhere around well over 200. For the six delay pedals in  Power series, which was produced for a brief time in mid 80’s, we are bound to find some recycling. I still am assuming that the recycling of board designs for Ibanez is a low percentage. At least if we compare that assumed number to DOD board designs, for example. This model shares the board with one of the DML (digital modulation delay) designs. Somehow i think the “DDL” sticker to indicate on which design this board was meant to be used, is sympathetic.

DDL10-guts2

Once again i’m forced to leave this article somewhat a stub due to my limited knowledge of these massive digital designs. Nevertheless, i can’t find a lot of negative things from this pedal. Not from the inside, nor the outside. As the units are reaching vintage age, the price of a unit in good condition is something interesting to follow. All of these are well made units and will withstand years and years of more use. Even the design is complex, i still see a long life for these boxes. Definitely a prime example why Ibanez (ok, Maxon) pedals are appealing to me.

How does it sound?
Great. There’s no super cold metallic feel to the repeats in the same manner as most digital delays of the era have. Instead there is a certain analog feel to the sound. Ibanez has succeeded in this behavior in more than one or two pedals in their vast catalog of delay designs over the years. This unit is no exception. Well working controls with wide range of setting in addition to as natural digital delay sound as possible. There’s not much to add, but Great delay. The capital G is there for a reason.

Ibanez TC999 Tube King Compressor

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Ibanez-TC999

What is it?
Ibanez TC999 Tube King Compressor made in Japan in the 90’s.

It’s been quite long since i got this unit and took the photos (so sorry about the quality). Got this as semi-functioning unit in a trade. Problem was with the enormous amounts of hiss and interfecence when pedal was engaded. Dirk has posted a schematic up on his site, and i follewed that to see if power supply filtering had gone bad. Nope. Since the hiss was still there after i swapped the filter caps for new ones with same value, but higher voltage rating. Surely, the design isn’t meant to be used with a battery, but it did occur to me to try out the simplest possible diagnostic for power supply issues. Run it with a battery and see if the noise goes away. Yup. It does. Problem solved. Do not use a crappy power supply with this one. Some noisy squish is still present on high sustain settings, but i suspect that to be a feature. Other issues with pedal were your standard non-pedal enthusiast home made fixes. Like fastening the jack with superglue after someone had taken the threads off from the jack. Never. I mean Never fix anything with superglue nor hot glue. Please. Two of the knobs are not original, but that doesn’t slow us down too much.

Ibanez-TC999-Guts1

Mini analysis of the design shows that the tube is there to offer the BA6110 VCA SIP chip the pre-compressed tube sound input that a good compressor wants. Dynamics of the voltage controlled amplifier is better (at least in theory) than with the standard silicon amplifier. No, the tube isn’t creating the compression. The tube is there to provide enhanced dynamics for the otherwise near standard modern Maxon/Ibanez compressors with VCAs. For the controls, the Sensitivity is basically a gain control before the tube grid. This sets the amount of signal passed to the tube. Attack and Sustain are controls for the VCA parameters, more or less the same as we’ll find in Soundtank compressors. Master is your overall volume control. The stomp switch for Boost sets the input gain of the tube for two different settings. Pretty straight forward.

Ibanez-TC999-Guts2

Two stacked boards look like most Maxon designs from the 80s and 90s. Neat, but somewhat dull. Overall, it is a compressor that has some good thinking and engineering involved in its design.

How does it sound?
Loud and mellow compression, with some noisy squish when sustain is maxed. The boost isn’t as clean as i hoped, but it’ll be enough for many purposes. Design part left me a bit puzzled or hoping to get more out of it. Guess it’s safe to assume that new ideas do not necessarily go hand in hand with “better”. It’s not bad sounding compression, but you’ll be better of with Ibanez CP5/CP10/CPL, Digitech Main squeeze or Marshall Ed. But yes. It has a tube in it. You’ll need to weight if its Mojo or brutal usability you’re after. You’ll get a better sounding booster out of almost any cheap boost pedal.