Archive for the ‘Ibanez’ Category

Ibanez FC10 Fat Cat Distortion

Friday, April 18th, 2014

FC10

What is it?
Ibanez FC10 Fat Cat Distortion from Power series. Made in japan between 86-89.

The first Ibanez take to replicate the ProCo Rat was a success of its own. A buffered Rat with standard Ibanez electronic JFET switching. Sure there are numerous other Ibanez takes on the Rat later on, most with more drastic changes on the designs, but this one – It’s pretty much one to one with the original Filter control reversed to act as a more commonly used tone configuration. Solid dull traces and everything is as everything is with most of the Power series boxes.

FC10-guts1

There are various schematics available, but from the experience, the one at Dirk’s page is the correct one. The board has a lot of room on it. The switching section is located at the lower left corner, so the size of the effect itself is just small. Due to asymmetry of the component layout, this one gets a harsh judgement from me. There’s enough room to paint pictures with the layout, but no.

The chip in the Fat Cat is JRC5534 single opamp, which has the needed compensation and balance features. Those are, however, in between other pins than in the original choice in Rats, the LM308. So one can’t turn his/her FC10 into 1:1 Rat by just swapping the opamp to ProCo specs.

FC10-guts2

For the units i’ve seen on sale, they all went immediately. I don’t think the unit is that rare, it just seems like it is very desired distortion. And by considering the sound, i do get it.

How does it sound?
Like a Rat with a way higher input impedance. Meaning that your pups won’t load as much as they do on the original Rat/Rat2. Aside from Tone control working in more conventional manner, there just isn’t too much of a difference to the sound. The changes are for the better, so this might be a nice option. If you can, get one. For cheaper than a reissue ProCo Rat/Rat2 that is.

Ibanez MT10 Mostortion

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

MT10

What is it?
Ibanez MT10 Mostortion MOS-FET Distortion from Power series. Made in Japan, late 80’s.

As the Ibanez Power series pedals come, there aren’t that many original designs that have risen into cult status and are priced as such on the used pedal market. The MT10 Mostortion is one of those, filling this void with OT10 Octaver. Both of these are sort of one offs in the Ibanez back catalog. Where the OT10 is the only Octave effect from Ibanez, the MT10 is the only MOSFET (metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistor) based overdrive/distortion and it has three band EQ as well. I try to think of other Ibanez driver pedals with Bass/Mids/Treble controls.. Nothing comes to mind (ok, the Tubeking distortion etc. but let’s just say that three band EQs are not a standard Ibanez way of doing things). Saw this unit for sale with a reasonable price and i just couldn’t let it go.

MT10-guts1

There’s some visual magic going on with the traces. Normally i would dismiss traces like this with a snarky “meh” comment, but not this time. Maybe it’s just how all the components are distributed nice and even all across the board, instead of super-engineering the left upper corner  and leave everything else blank. The schematic is up at ToneHome, and it shows how the EQ is made. Pretty cool to see something of a standard three band EQ drawn like that. Base topology is a buffer -> clipping amp -> three band EQ -> EQ recovery amp and an output buffer. Quite standard, but still something we won’t run into everyday.

MT10-guts2

It’s the opamp that makes this a MOSFET desing. Harris CA3260 to be exact. This obsolete amplifier may be the biggest reason why this design doesn’t have reissues and the number of available clones is low too. This, at least in part, would also explain the prices these currently sell for.

How does it sound?
The sound is definitely one of the factors affecting the prices. From slight, cool boosting overdrive to harsh and cold metallic distortion. Way more versatile than the first modern box i would compare this to – the ZVex Distortron. Overall tone also reminds me of a Marshall MOSFET 100 Lead head’s distortion channel. There’s this MOS signature sound going on that some people just love. It does have a face and sound of its own. Which is only a very good thing. I don’t think we really need that many more TS sounding boxes in the world. Besides. This simply rocks.

Ibanez EM5 Echo Machine

Friday, April 4th, 2014

What’s a better way to continue after DL5 than the other delay/echo from the same series…

EM5

What is it?
Ibanez EM5 Echomachine in plastic enclosure from later soundtank series. Made in taiwan around 1997-99.

The Internet Archive’s wayback machine has a snapshot of Ibanez site from june 1997 and on that page there is a mention the EM5 being the new and exciting pedal in the series of 18 different pedals Yes, 18. So it’s safe to assume that all the existing EM5s were manufactured in between 1996-1999, since all Soundtank production was taken over in 1999 by the next series – the Tone-Loks. In addition to those 18, the rest of the Soundtanks are in fact from the original, metal housed Soundtank series of six different dirt pedals. Namely PL5, TM5, CM5, SF5, CR5 and MF5. Only four of those made it to the plastic series as a continuation, the four being TM5, CM5, PL5 and SF5 (which had it’s model name revised to FZ5). So the latter Soundtank series produced 14 new designs to the bowl and it left out the super good Crunchy Rhythm and super bad Modern Fusion. Sort of like a ski jumping scores. You leave the best and the worst out.. All this should total at 20 different designs. Maybe i should write a Colorless Writings episode about soundtanks at one point. Or maybe even start a new writing series on history of some brands…

Ok. Let’s get back to business. The EM5 Echo Machine is a digital tape echo simulation delay/echo. I got this unit from the bass player of Versus All (huge thanks to Jason!) in perfect, nearly unused condition. Opening the bottom plate up shows your standard modern Soundtank traces. This time somewhat neater work on the joints than most other taiwanese Soundtanks. And the board is pretty crowded.

EM5-guts1

The digital chip responsible for the sounds is Mitsubishi M65831AP. Like many other Mitsubishi chips utilized by Ibanez, this one is too one of those you may find in many karaoke devices. The dual opamps used for buffering and mixing are C4570C, which are not your average choice, but they do perform quite well in this circuit. The schematic for the effect is up at Free Info Society.

EM5-guts2

As stated above, the EM5 Echomachine was apparently manufactured only for about two years, which means that the number of unit produced is somewhat low. Lots of maybe’s on that last sentence, but that’s all based on the little information that is available. If this is the case (and it probably is), these units should be quite valuable. At least when comparing to PL5 Power Lead or TS5 Tubescreamer which were the two most selling designs on the series. But then again. The TL5 Tremolo isn’t as valuable as it should be, so why this one should stand out?

How does it sound?
Like an angry tape echo unit gone slightly mad with the tightness. The sound is without a doubt one of the best digital tape echo emulators of its day and it has not been killed by time, not even now. It has tightness that sounds personal. Nice collectible, and most of all, usable unit.

Ibanez DL5 Digital Delay

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

DL5

What is it?
Ibanez DL5 Digital Delay from later Soundtank series. Made in taiwan in mid 90’s.

More from the better side of the palsticky soundtank series. These units are well used by almost everyone. It’s rare to see of these in mint condition and mine isn’t exception. Some wear and nicks, but otherwise clean look. Taking the bottom plate off shows a board layout with one big chip in there. Could it be…

DL5-guts1

Yes. The Ibanez’ weapon of choice for digital delay circuitry. Mitsubishi M50195 with 4164 DRAM chip as an companion. It may be more complex by the design than most current PT2399 based delays, but to my ears, it’s not any worse. On the contrary. Check the schematic and see for yourself. One is online and can be found via google. There are couple 5218A opamps that take care of the mixing and buffering.

DL5-guts2

Board features standard Ibanez JFET swicthing with 74HCU04 logic chip and a trimmer to handle delay time range. The board is in good use with not much free space. Neat. Indeed.

How does it sound?
Warmer than most competitors with a hit status. Nice analog feel to it, but with a lot less noise and sharper sounding control to repeats than  BBD-clocked analog counterparts. It does wide range of delay timing and can be mixed all the way up to being almost 100% wet. No wonder it’s still a popular and widely used pedal. Good delay with simple controls. Max the repeats and you’re off to noise land with neverending feedback.

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 DL10 Delay

Friday, March 14th, 2014

DL10

What is it?
Ibanez DL10 Digital Delay from Power series. Made in japan between 1986-1989.

The Ibanez delays are usually highly praised and for a reason. Solid construction and nice design. When i think of it, many other types have design flaws. This of course isn’t limited to just Ibanez. Still. usable delays are more common than, for example, usable distortions. The design here seems to be pretty much the same as found on DL5, or, we could once again argue that DL5 is just a remake of this unit. Opening the standard 10-serie box shows a couple of components mounted on the solder side of the board. This always makes me a little suspicious. This time, i think the components are there by the manufacturing process. I reached this conclusion by having obtained a second DL10 in defunct state. Or it would be highly unlikely that two separate units (one bought from canada and the other from a local guitarist) have the exactly same mod performed on them.

DL10-guts1

Hand drawn acid trip traces always make me smile. This time there’s another vow-factor due to crowded digital board and the hand drawn traces. Heart of the delay circuitry is Mitsubishi M50195P, which is one of the standard echo family chips Ibanez has used on most of their delay circuits. Including Master series Flanger and a lot of others.

DL10-guts2

Good delay pedal needs to be  simple to use and still offer more controls than just one tone. The Power series delays are all pretty good items. This one is more of a simple standard, while the others offer more and more special features. Let’s face it. Maxon designers have had their spoons flying pretty high in the 80’s. After all, there are seven different delay designs in a series which was manufactured from 1986 to 1989.

How does it sound?
Like a very nice delay with reasonably good control range. This stretches from tight slap back to neverending feedback with nice long delay time. This unit is common and lots of people are still using it for a good reason. Usable. Not much more to add.

Ibanez MS10 Metal Charger

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

MS10

What is it?
Ibanez MS10 Metal Charger from Power series. Made in japan between 1986-89.

Apparently, these units were a big seller. Which is once again something that i find intriguing. How does a very average distortion design with obvious fault in it become a big seller? I really do not know the answer to that question. Do you?

The fault i’m talking about is the low output level, which doesn’t rise above unity even with both, Level and Gain controls maxed. Gladly, this fault can be addressed with relative ease, as i’ve done with my unit. I do feel quite sad about that, as most people tend to think this is a collectible unit and so it’s ok to keep asking near astronomical prices for very common Power series box – with a built-in fault. No question about it. If i come across another unit in decent condition, and more importantly, for a reasonable price, i’ll grab it.

MS10-guts

One of the dullest board designs in the series. The circuit design is quite complex with couple of separate clipping stages. As you can see from the photo above, i’ve removed one of the hard clipping stages to get the overall level up. Also swapping/upping one of the caps from the tone section is a thing i recommend. That way you can get more bass in addition to standard Ibanez mid-hump.

For some reason i’m missing the component side photo of this unit. I wouldn’t be bothered. The SML from Master series uses the same board.

How does it sound?
To me. Not much like anything. The more bass and omitted one clipping section do make it a lot better, but still it is nothing more than mild distortion driver. With the mods the overall tone is a lot more overdrivish than anything that i’d associate with a “metal” distortion. Stock unit works the best with a high gainer tube head – when pushed into the drive channel. Modded one works well as a standalone overdrive too. Not the worst distortion pedal there is, but definitely not among the best either.

Despite everything. I’d recommend the mods.

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 PL5 Power Lead

Friday, February 28th, 2014

PL5

What is it?
Ibanez PL5 Powerlead from Soundtank series in a plastic enclosure. Made in taiwan around 1993.

I also have another one of these, build around 1996, in mint condition and in its original cardboard box. The whole series doesn’t disappoint much in terms of dirtbox quality. Most of them sound just right, but there are couple exceptions. This being one of them. Apparently the Powerlead was the second most sold design of all Soundtanks – only falling behind TS5 sales. Amounts originally sold make this very common design, so anyone should be able to score one for cheap. Is it worth it? I can’t be certain about that. But it is definitely not the worst dirt box in the series. Schematic is available online.

PL5-guts2

Looking at the schematic, there’s your standard Ibanez buffering and electronic switching, which passes the signal to single transistor gain stage. After this, the main gain stage is basically a YAR with it’s hard clipping diodes and couple of the component values reworked. The tone control after the YAR is not you standard passive treble cutter, but tri-gyrator to tweak the frequencies that get passed forward. Lastly there is quite standard volume control that mixes the signal passage between Vref voltage (virtual ground) and the output buffering.

PL5-guts1

It is equipped with JRC4558D, and there are some things that can improve the performance. Swapping couple of components is on my to-do list and i’m committed to mod this particular unit once i get to it. Tweaking the first, discrete gain stage to push the main gain stage more is where i’ll begin. Then swapping the 220R resistor for 22K to bring out more gain of the main stage. The two paths to ground from non-inverting input should be tweaked too. Lastly the clipper diodes could be swapped for LEDs or even two pairs to push it slightly further. It may need some other swaps too, but we’ll see about those once i open it up on my bench again.

How does it sound?
Not great. At first the tone control feels to be working wrong. It basically adds low frequencies when turned clockwise. Overall tone is big and distorted, but still it doesn’t thrill me. Name says it all. It offers powerful lead tone that’s not completely unlike the classic hair metal guitar solos of the early nineties. Not great, but not too bad either. Definitely next from worst of the original six pack, right after Modern Fusion.

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.