Archive for the ‘5 / Soundtank-Series’ Category

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 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 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 PH5 Phaser

Friday, February 14th, 2014

PH5

What is it?
Ibanez PH5 Phaser from the Soundtank series. Made in taiwan around 1996.

I’ll admit it. I love phasers. Don’t use them much (or at all) on my standard pedal board, but i always have a couple of differently voiced ones with me when i’m in studio. Some phasers are bad, while some can really improve your tone. This one sinks easily into the latter category. Opening this puppy up shows oldschool acidy corners on the traces, which always make me feel warm and fuzzy.

PH5-guts2

As i couldn’t find a reasonable schematic floating around, i’m going to assume couple of things by just looking at the component side of the board. To me this looks like a four stage design with JRC1458s acting as LFOs and single TL022 taking care of the mixing. Some folks on forums were talking about this being quite close to the PT9, which may very well be true. If you get a chance to read the schematic for this, the phasing JFET biasing should not be overlooked. Forum folks say that it’s unconventional.

PH5-guts1

With just three controls, this is quite versatile phaser. Speed and Depth act as they should and the Feedback control can take this thing in to space. Bad swithing, as is natural for the series, but simply swapping it makes this run happily again. I do have couple of other phasers in my collection, but it seems that i take this one with me a lot.

How does it sound?
Soft and powerful. From slow and mild to fast, vibe-like and swirly wild. Despite the near-standard Phase90-style circuitry, this is versatile phaser that sounds quite natural. Biasing sounds on point and accurate as there are no “broken” parts on the phasing sweep. Really nice sounding design which makes this one of the best sounding phaser tools i know.

Ibanez BN5 Black Noise

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

BN5

What is it?
Ibanez BN5 Black Noise distortion from later Soundtank series in plastic enclosure. Made in taiwan in mid to late 90’s

The marketing section of Ibanez pedals made this out to be a “industrial” distortion. It’s how the marketing can turn a design to something that it is not – and then people will hate and slander the design for years to come because the marketed sound doesn’t have too much to do with the reality. I could sink this one deep into that category. In the day, the name and marketing suggested that the unit is “Lethal, rough-edged industrial distortion at its most extreme-the sound of a small amp overdriven way past the limits. Our heaviest, most intense, and just plain loudest distortion pedal.” it does sound like marketing jargon that promises to deliver, now doesn’t it? Does the reality support that description? Don’t get me wrong. It has some of that AC15 driven over the limits feel to it. So it’s not all wrong, but still.

I’ve ran into similar issues with other pedals too. The marketing has us believing one thing that the unit does not offer. That can lead to severe disappointments and hurt the brand as much as the individual design in eyes of the users.

BN5-guts

Let’s leave the marketing section behind and focus on the pedal itself. The silk screened label clearly has BN5 on it. Lots of unused holes? And doesn’t the layout look familiar? How about we take a look at the schematic (from Dirk’s archives). Next, take a second to compare it with the SP5 schematic. Topology is the same. The board layout is the same, minus the silk screen labelling. I guess i need to check other pedals from this series to see which ones have the same board layout.

Deep inside this is just another Rat/TS adaptation with standard distortion box analogy. Buffer -> main gain stage -> hard clipping -> tone control and static gyrator filters -> output level control -> output buffer. Souped with electronic switching and bypass. There are at least four similar designs in the series, all with slightly different frequency responses that result in different overall feel.

How does it sound?
High gainer that’s not bad at all. Feeling slightly harsher and louder than Slam Punk, but basically hailing from the same neighbourhood. My first impression isn’t placing this to industrial music genre, but to the same lot with TM5, CM5, PL5 and SP5. All are very nice sounding distortion pedals with slight or slightly bigger differences. All of them do sound good. As the Soundtank distortions come, this is one of the really good ones.

Ibanez AW5 Autowah

Monday, January 20th, 2014

AW5

What is it?
Ibanez AW5 Autowah in plastic enclosure from later soundtank series. Made in taiwan around late 80’s.

This model has couple things that are unique. First of all, it is the only Soundtank with analog opto-isolator on board. The box and the component layout itself is quite neat. It’s pretty well made and placing high on build quality in the series.There is a schematic up at Dirk’s page.

AW5-guts1

The schematic shows the basic signal path to be a buffer splitting the signal to bypass, modulation filter and the trigger part. The trigger part is close to something we’ve seen as a trigger in many other designs, like couple of EHX autowahs. It Includes half of an dual opamp and two diodes rectifying the triggered signal to two transistors which in part control the vactrol (or opto-isolator). The filter part is not too far off from WH10 and others. Then there is, of course, a output buffer and all the standard Ibanez electronic JFET switching components. All in all. Elegant design.

By the basic design, this should be very nice autowah. But is it?

How does it sound?
Sad. For obvious reasons one could have AF9 or AFL in mind once seeing this unit. It does not sound anything like the early 80s Ibanez perfection from 9- or Master series. It gets the job done, but overall it is sounding like a hollow, cheap thing. I may not be the greatest expert on autowahs, but i apparently have quite a few effect boxes from that genre. This one? Definitely not one of the greatest. Actually. One of the worst. You’re after a usable autowah in low price range? You should be looking at Dano French Fries instead. This one is much more of an nice novelty effect or a collector’s item than usable effect pedal.

Ibanez CD5 Cyberdrive

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

CD5

What is it?
Ibanez CD5 Cyberdrive, fixed wah distortion from later Soundtank series. Made in taiwan late 90’s.

Ok. I’ve said this before. There’s one sub-genre of distortions that just isn’t for me. This being the fixed wah distortion. And here’s the Ibanez’ take on one with modern, dull traces and nothing earth shattering. Well. Not completely like that. There are couple of interesting things in there. That won’t mean that the unit is anything more than piece of unusable junk, but those couple of pointers are good to know before throwing your 15 year old birthday gift away. You won’t be in for a bucketful of cash, but just don’t throw it away yet.

Funny how this and my Dano Grilled Cheese are the two units in perfect condition. Both are quite old units, but it seems like neither of them has seen any real use since they were bought from music stores years ago.

CD5-guts1

Once i opened the bottom plate, the feeling of “meh” was overwhelming. To my eyes, this is the ugliest board in the whole series. But now that we got most of the trash talking out of the way, we can dig in and see what we’ll find. Dirk Hendrik has drawn a schematic, so take a look at it next. Now. You can see the red LEDs for clippers and that the main gain stage is sort of like a Rat/TS hybrid. Those LEDs are in feedback loop of an non-inverting amplifier and the gain setting components at the inverting input are creating two frequency/gain networks alá Rat. The distortion side is quite simple but still appealing, even there’s nothing special about that.

CD5-guts2

Some of you may have noticed that the input buffer splits the signal and passes it to tone “tone” control driven by another dual opamp. That topology reminds me of something. Now where have i seen that before.. Here. So you have a decent distortion and a tone control that is in fact 1:1 with Ibanez WH10 (and WH10v2) Wah pedal.

Now you know what it’s made of. It is a curiosity. Quite unusable one, but still a curiosity. One could take a wah enclosure and mount the board inside and probably even make it switchable with standalone WH10 circuit. Would make pretty cool high gain distortion wah.

How does it sound?
Engineers have been after something new and this is the result. It sounds like a high gain distortion and a inductorless wah in fixed position. That’s what it is and that’s what it sound like. Sad that we can’t separate the two. The distortion by itself wouldn’t be bad and the wah by itself isn’t bad – we know this from playing around with the reissued WH10v2. But these two combined.. No. I could see myself using this pedal in a studio, if i was to record some thrash- or mathmetal solos. But there’s not much chance of that happening, so the unit will probably stay in the cabinet with all my other Soundtanks.

Suitable for hair metal of the late 80’s and early 90’s. For anything else? There are other pedals.

Ibanez TL5 Tremolo

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

TL5

What is it?
Ibanez TL5  Tremolo from soundtank series in plastic enclosure. Made in taiwan around 1995.

There are just a few highly peculiar effects in whole Ibanez catalog fom the seventies to today. This is one of them. Only tremolo Ibanez ever produced. And to be honest, the design isn’t bad at all. In all the simplicity, there’s TL022 opamp that acts as a LFO – which then controls the amplitude of BA6110 SIP voltage controlled amplifier. Dirk has drawn a beautiful schematic and posted it on his site.

TL5-guts1

The idea of using a VCA for amplitube modulation isn’t as popular method as i thought. The optical Vactrol and FET methods are present in more common designs. So this isn’t only special for Ibanez, but for the whole subgenre of tremolos. I’ve seen a few designs even utilizing a OTA for a tremolo effect, but for me, this was the first design with a VCA. Also the one transistor that’s controlled by LFO and pulsing the status LED is very nicely designed.

Traces look sort of like modern japanese drawing of a tree and the solder joints are neat. Components are also placed in very neatly. It’s getting harder to find anything really wrong with this unit.

TL5-guts2

Component side is one of the roomier ones in whole soundtank series. The way all the 1/8W resistors are laid in straight sets is also very eye pleasing. The biggest culprit once again is the switch. Replacing it isn’t that big of a task and is recommended as most of the original switches in this series will die eventually. All in all, this one is a must have. Ibanez (or basically Maxon) design that is at the same time quite original and versatile.

Springs up a question. Why Ibanez didn’t ever made another tremolo for any other series? In my opinion this doesn’t matter as now we have here a piece of Ibanez effect pedal history that will be a highly valued collectors item for its sound and design. Some people might argue that the value has already climbed to where it should be. I’d have to agree on that. If you are lucky, you can still find one for cheap.

How does it sound?
Like a world class tremolo. Soft with reasonably wide range of speeds and depths. The level control lets you boost the signal slightly to avoid all psychoaural volume drop issues. Really nice tremolo. One of the great beasts in a plastic box. Highly recommended pedal.

Ibanez SP5 Slam Punk

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

SP5

What is it?
Ibanez SP5 Slam Punk distortion from later Soundtank series. Made in taiwan, mid to late 90’s.

One of the soundtanks that i had a pleasure of being in contact with before acquiring one. I did a rehousing job with true bypass for a friend and played with the circuit before letting it go. I knew then already that i may need to clone this circuit for myself, and maybe mod it slightly to lose some of the low cut that the original pedal had. Not much, but still the original had slightly clinical bottom end. After building couple of clones, to no surprise, i found another healthy original for reasonable price. This puppy is that one and i’m not letting it go.

SP5-guts1

The board has standard taiwan modern traces. Take a note of the empty, unmarked holes. The board has SP5 printed on it, so the exactly same board hasn’t been used for another desing in this series. But i do believe the layout without the silk screening has been.

However. The schematic is up at 8bitsindgenug. It shows some similarities to ProCo Rat and other Ibanez designs based on it. The board has a lot of room on it.

SP5-guts2

Even though the Soundtanks aren’t getting the appreciation they should in general, this one is one of the most underrated pedals in the series with Black Noise and a few others. Nevermind the plastic housing. The sound is there, regardless of the box.

How does it sound?
High gain accuracy and definition, but still usable as a very nice overdrive. Think of Social Distortion’s “When the angels sing”. This pedal pretty much nails that overdriven/distorted base sound. No doubt this pedal wasn’t used on the recording, but the sound is close. Anyone mocking this one as a plastic cheap crap should play with one and say that again.