Archive for the ‘5 / Soundtank-Series’ Category

Ibanez BC5 Bass Chorus

Monday, November 4th, 2013

BC5

What is it?
Ibanez BC5 Bass Chorus from Soundtank series, made in japan in mid-to-late nineties. Serial number is in millions, so it’s safe to assume this is late 90’s unit.

To me it seems like the bass effects are mainly distortions, autowahs and lots of choruses. Bassists are left out on many things as most of the pedals are intended to be used with a guitar. For some reason almost every brand that sells guitar choruses also sell bass choruses. The difference between the two? Mostly just a cap job to let more of the lower frequencies through. There are couple of pedals in Soundtank series that are like broters and sisters. Reverse the colours on the top label and swap couple of caps. That’s it.

BC5-guts1

Take a look at the board. It clearly has CS5 marked on the solder side. Although the board doesn’t look like the board on CS5 (that i covered very recently), it is the same board. The picture below shows that Maxon used the same boards for both units and replaced the label with a sticker – as seen on Soundtank SF5/FZ5 (that i covered a lot earlier). The components used are different. Where my specimen of CS5 has 1/8W resistors mounted axially, the newer board labelled BC5 has 1/4W resistors. The traces do not look alike. Those look much more modern on this unit, which makes me think that this is just newer unit than my CS5.

BC5-guts2

Topologically BC5 and CS5 are the same circuit. Some of the values may be altered, but i couldn’t find a schematic to confirm. And yes. I’m just too lazy to check this units component values against CS5. May it be whatever. These are well built units with lots of user value left in them. Swap the switch and you’re good to go.

How does it sound?
If there is any difference between BC5 and CS5, you’ll need to focus if you want to hear it. In fact i placed both pedals on my desk, tuned the delay time, width and speed to match each other and played away. Pressed both switches at the same time with indicator lights not visible to me. One out of every three times i guessed wrong which unit was active. The bass version sounds probably a hint thicker and fatter, but that’s it. The units are basically identical. So this might even be better for guitarists who want the fat with their cold , haunting gothic chorused guitar leads.

Ibanez CS5 Super Chorus

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Let’s have a full month of posting only choruses as pedal pots. Why? Because i can.

CS5

What is it?
Ibanez CS5 Super Chorus. Soundtank series unit in plastic enclosure, made in taiwan in mid 90s.

I may not be the biggest chorus user there is. I’m really not even sure how and where i would use one. Of course, i’ve used a lot of choruses while recording, but mainly for opening up some synth tracks, rather than using them with guitar. Choruses lie somewhere in the middle ground from vibes, phasers and flangers. There’s always an LFO that creates the modulation pulse. Which then usually controls the delay timer, which then controls the delay itself, creating sweeping chorus effect for the pre and post effect mixing amplifier.

CS5-guts1

Ibanez CS5 Super Chorus is no exception. TL022 as LFO and NM3102/NM3207 pair for analog delay. 1458 takes of the mixer duties. Circuit is quite standard for a chorus, expect for the delay time control, which adds a lot of versatility and definitely is not as standard control as width/depth and LFO speed controls. Guess that’s what makes this Super. For those interested, the schematic is up at SchematicsUnlimited.com

CS5-guts2

To me, it looks like the design is very close to Ibanez CS9 Stereo Chorus, but with added delay time control. So in a way, this is better than its great predecessor.

Board, design, traces and components are well in line with the better standard boxes of this series. Only culprit is – you guessed it – the switch. After swapping it, this one runs like a very nice charm again.

How does it sound?
Good. With these controls, it is very versatile sounding chorus that can do both, hard and soft chorus from fast to slow, from natural to harsh. Basically the sound that makes this one very nice effect, even if it is housed in a plastic box. One of the greatest designs in the series.

Ibanez MF5 Modern Fusion

Monday, October 28th, 2013

MF5

What is it?
Ibanez MF5 Modern Fusion distortion from Soundtank series. Housed in metal enclosure and made in Taiwan in 1989.

Already had the plastic one, but saw this for sale with a reasonable price tag. The switch is in perfect working condition and i believe this hasn’t been opened up before, not even once. Only bad thing about this unit is that it sounds really bad with no real value for me. That may also explain the near mint condition and working switch though. But a collector can’t help himself… Apparently these units were a failure, as the manufacturing seems to be suspended before the series got their own typefaced labels.

Get your mullet out and put your silk shirt on. As the name suggests, the year is 1989. White suit pants and PRS guitars on a sunny jazz festival stage comes to mind. And to me, that’s not too pretty sight. This thing nails the yuppie adult jazz distortion just as it is. Shoulder pads.

MF5-guts1

Board traces are modern and quite dull. The schematic is available online and it shows the design having slightly tweaked TS-like first gain stage after the Ibanez standard input buffer. That is follewed by two gyrators and semi-active tone control. Then to a JFET buffer  before volume control and a standard output buffer after that. For those who are capable of coming up with your own mods, i’d recommend to tweak the hell out of those gyrators. Maybe even snip the gyrator transistor drains, so that the full frequncy contect from the clipping amp gets through. I konw. Pretty drastic. But i think you’ll have a hard time if you’re thinking this may be usable without any mods.

MF5-guts2

All in all, the frequencies tamed by the gyrators offer stability that’s not very common. From electronic point of view, the filtering is too much. Thus that’s what’s making it the Modern Fusion, the only and the most boring adult jazz distortion there is.

How does it sound?
Surprisingly bad. If i was to dig up one good thing about the adult orientated distortion sound this unit offers, that would be the consistency. The distortion is so squeaky clean that it kills all possibility of sweet harmonic overtones. Once you bend your strings around the 12th, it still remains sterile. Now that’s a feature you don’t run into too often. Treble content is clipped much louder than the bottom, so in best case scenario – playing with hot jazz neck humbucker one can get relatively useful tones. But let’s face it. This is probably the worst design in the whole series. Trumping even The Cyberdrive and the Autowah.

Ibanez CP5 Compressor

Friday, September 6th, 2013

CP5

What is it?
Ibanez CP5 Compressor from Soundtank series in plastic enclosure. Serial points to somewhere around ’95-97. Date is based on a educated guess, as always with these.

First off. Ibanez compressors tend to use somewhat obscure OTA replacement in a few designs. The 9-pin  SIP-chip in question is BA6110, which is in fact a VC opamp. The datasheet doesn’t have a word about transconductance. It does talk about voltage controlled amplifiers, filters and oscillators. While the chip is way different from the obvious CA3080(A/E) found in MXR Dyna, Ross Comp and about a hundered different derivatives, it can do the same thing. Ibanez uses the same SIP-chip in only tremolo it ever produced, the TL5 – only there the VCA is harnessed to be used with LFO instead of controlling it with the input signal’s voltage. More about the tremolo once we get to it.. This post is about the compressor.

CP5-guts

To study the schematic, you can check it out on Dirk’s page. His trace is beautiful work of art as always. All the other stuff going on with the circuit are relatively close to Dyna/Ross, so the base design is and isn’t a ripoff at the same time. I’m not quite familiar where in the Ibanez/Maxon design timeline did the BA6110 chip arrive, but it seems that the Master series CPL was the first one. Followed by CP10 and this circuit. Which are, all three of them, pretty much the same thing. In other words, an VCA adaptation of CP9, which uses more traditional LM16900 dual OTA. Which is, CP9 i mean, actually Dyna/Ross comp with dual OTA (second half unused). So the histroy behind this Soundtank CP5 is pretty clear. This time, the design revamped by the Maxon/Ibanez  team is better than the original.

I can say this with confidence. All four mentioned above do work and sound a lot better than currect Dunlop/MXR version of the Dyna.

How does it sound?
One of the great ones. Where as MXR Dyna is a lot more like shock effect with it compressing way too much even on minimum settings – This one can be used on all the time without excess noisy mushiness. Of course it can be turned to the max, which makes it quite close to Dyna. In a few words – Really good sounding compressor with classic feel to its sound. Doesn’t give you as much noisy mush as CA3080 designs, but good compression that thrives with a telecaster.

Ibanez CM5 Classic Metal

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

CM5

What is it?
Ibanez CM5 Classic Metal from Soundtank series in plastic enclosure, made in Taiwan. Condition could be better, but after swapping the switch it runs like a charm. I never thought that dents or scratches affected the sound in any way. Late 90’s date, so this unit isn’t the most valuable soundtank in my collection, but its value comes more easlily through use.

This is one of the pleasant surprises in the series. Name and basic controls do not raise interest that much, but once plugged in, my face just raises a smile. Clean high gain distortion without noticeable noise content. Simplified Rat as main gain stage that drives a pair of hard clipping diodes. Followed by two active gyrator filters for tone control and taking ecxess frequencies out of the signal. Standard Ibanez switching and buffering included. Simple, yet effective.

This one’s gain stage could be modded closer to a Rat, but as it is – i simply don’t see a reason to do so.

CM5-guts

The board seems quite spacious when compared to some other Soundtanks. Basic, good use for JRC4558. Other half for gain stage and other for tone driver. Again. Simple, yet effective. For those interested, Dirk has a schem up at his site. All in a nutshell – its main stage may be based on a Rat, but overall design doesn’t have too much in common.

How does it sound?
Surprisingly good. Subtle overtones for those high note bends, massive but accurate chord rhythms. In general, very underrated pedal with really good sound. It is just a one trick pony, but does that trick really well. One that should not be overlooked.

Ibanez FL5 Flanger

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

FL5

What is it?
Ibanez FL5 Flanger from Soundtank series in plastic enclosure, made in Taiwan, late in the 90’s. So it’s pertty new unit in my collection with only about 15 yesars of age.

According to notes from (one of my heroes,) Dirk Hendrik the circuit is pretty much verbatim clone of Ibanez/Maxon FL9, with delay control omitted. So in essence, it is poor man’s version of one of the gratest flangers ever designed. MN3207/MN3102 pair driven by TL022 and two Mitsubishi 5218As for LFOs. One of the most crowded boards in the series. For some reason i can’t find a schematic for this design, while FL9 schem can be found online. Anyone have a copy?

FL5-guts

Circuit is a rock solid workhorse. I acquired one board as an addon to other deal some time ago (thanks Brent!). That board had some bad traces and all the caps were removed. One day, if i find the time, i’m going to try and resurrect that board. Maybe add the missing delay control and rehouse it in D box. That will be huge, but somehow i think it could be worth the trouble. The unit pictured above is my working specimen with high serial number.

How does it sound?
Nothing negative to say. Very warm and soft, while it can be turned to be massive airplane shattering windows in a small town. Exactly like its big brother. This box is really good to have. If you can score one for cheap, do it. You won’t regret it. Just replace the switch and you’ll be golden.

Ibanez FZ5 60’s Fuzz

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

FZ5What is it?
Ibanez FZ5 60’s Fuzz from Soundtank series in plastic enclosure, made in Taiwan. Manufacture date unknown due to missing label that’s been ripped off by velcro at some point before this landed to my care (Grrrrr!).

Techically pretty close to Ibanez OD850 and OD9 (which are damn close to BMP), with some value changes to every single spot of the design, plus completely rewritten tonestack and output driver. The design has remained, but the 60’s Fuzz has been around as metal boxed SF5, then plastic uniform typefaced FZ5 and finally this – FZ5 with its own font and Soundtank “logo”. I’m thinking about getting another one of these, preferably metal boxed one to keep as original and tinker around with this individual. Mainly because i can’t trace this unit back to it’s origin without the serial number. I could take closer look at date codes on components, which should give out estimate that should suffice. Either way, this one is from newer manufacture date, probably from 96-98.. I’m quite interested about modding one to OD850/OD9 specs. This time that won’t happen with just swapping components. The board will need some work too.

FZ5-guts

Good thing there’s room on that board. Note the sticker placed on the PCB label. As stated above, the design used to be SF5, so the PCB type remains as such – only with a sticker saying that it is now “FZ5”.

How does it sound?
Not too great i’m afraid. May be because of the tonestack, but it literally sounds like BMP held down by pack of wild horses. The fuzz is in there, but it’s on the brink of choking to scon at five o’clock tea. It’s a Fuzz. Wich is a good thing. Modding some other companys work should always mean that the end result should be better than the original. This is not the worst effect i’ve had, not even the worst i’ve seen this year. Still nothing to write home about. Probably marketing guys at Ibanez wanted it to sound more mainstream than BMP/OD850, which resulted in adding modified tone control that sucks the life out of it – and other fault is leaving the recovery gain too low. Funny thing is that you can get modern BMP reissue for a lot cheaper than this. One of the few bad (re)designs in Soundtank series. Good to have, but as it is.. Don’t see myself using it a lot.

Ibanez CR5 Crunchy Rhythm

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

CR5What is it?
Ibanez CR5 Crunchy Rhythm from Soundtank series in metal enclosure, made in Taiwan around 1989-90.

It is a design that differs from usual TS and/or Voodoo Labs overdrive topology. Boosting, bluesy overdrive with discrete differential pair to determine which parts of the signal get to Si diode hard clipping before the tone driver. Since the 70s and early 80s, it’s been hard to come up with even remotely original overdrive designs, but this one has some out of the box thinking incorporated. Schematic can be found on the 8bitsindgenug site. It is well worth taking a look for what’s happening in there. The gain/distortion stage makes me smile, as it’s definitely something you don’t see in every OD design around.  My unit is in a metal case and has very small number as a serial. I think it’s safe to assume that this particular unit was made in 1991, when the first (metal boxed) Soundtanks were introduced to the public.

CR5-guts

JRC4558 is there to drive the tone control and other half is used as output buffer. Not sure why the IC half is used as a buffer, as it could have been just as well used as the first gain stage – instead of the lone 2SC1815Y that drives the differential pair. This is part of the reason i care deeply for Ibanez boxes. Even the commercially dullest, most underrated pedals can have good sounding, innovative stuff inside them.

How does it sound?
Not too far off from likes of Boss BD-2, even though these two designs are completely different. Resemblance to few other “dumble” styled overdrives should be mentioned here. It has good output level, and real nice, softer texture to the dirt. It keeps the frequency responce well in tact, so it can be used as a really good sounding preamp in beginning of your effects chain. All that in a metal box that just rocks. This model is getting rarer every day, especially the one in metal enclosure. So if you get a chance to score one for cheap – do it without hesitation. It will be worth it. Definitely one of the greatest boxes in Soundtank series.

Ibanez TM5 Thrashmetal

Monday, July 29th, 2013

TM5

What is it?
Ibanez TM5 Thrashmetal from Soundtank series in plastic enclosure, made in Taiwan around 1994-1996

Serial starting with 184 points to early-mid nineties date due to this being with its own type font. Earlier ones should be with uniform type face and so are the metal cased units. Serial is quite low for the box having its own typeface, so i’m assuming this is one of the first batches of TM5s with this font. Thrashmetal was apparently pretty popular pedal back in its day – and no wonder. It is very doog effect pedal, despite to popular disbelief that Soundtanks suck. They don’t. Period. This, like almost every tank in my collection, needed a new switch. Simple, low cost procedure which will give a new life for the box. Mods? No. This puppy won’t need any to sound good. Dirk hendrik has drawn a beautiful schematic for this. Schematic refers to metal cased unit, so there are some slight changes between later units and the first ones. Mainly the opamp used.

TM5-guts

For this unit, the opamp has 6552 413 printed on it, so it is in fact a Panasonic AN6552 – which is cited as Panasonic’s clone of NE5532 in some audio tweaker scenes. Apparently the first versions accomodated JRC4558 chips, but i strongly believe there’s no audible difference. Circuit has some details in common with Proco Rat, the main gain stage and hard clipping included. Rest of the circuit has not that much to do with a Proco design, with its discrete gain stages and active filters and other tricks. Simple, neat and very decent thing to have.

How does it sound?

Real nice. In my opinion, this is definitely one of the best designs in the whole Soundtank series. The short sustain with relatively high gain makes this circuit sound exactly like all the great bands that made 80’s thrash what it was at its best. Circuit isn’t metal in the way kids today see metal. It still offers that natural, amp-like super tight, accurate thrash sound, usually associated with 80s-90s Marshall distortions.  It may be worth mentioning that it doesn’t sound like a Rat at all. It sounds like i need to get a skateboard again.

Ibanez TS5 Tubescreamer

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Let’s start out with underrated, yet obvious classic.

TS5

What is it?
Ibanez TS5 Tubescreamer from Soundtank series in plastic enclosure, made in Taiwan around 1992-1995

This unit has serial number starting with 107, which suggests that it is early Taiwanese Tubescreamer with plastic enclosure. I’m not 100% sure about the serial numbers and how these tell the exact date, but the metal boxed Soundtanks i have all have their serials starting with 001 and the newest plastic one i have has it’s serial starting with 424. All Soundtanks have 6 figure serial numbers. For being from the early half of the 90’s, this unit is in fair condition. Like most of the tanks i’ve ever had, this one had bad connection on its switch. I swapped that for new Alps drop-in replacement and it is playable once again. The 9V battery snap was apparently broken somewhere along the way. It was replaced with cheapest possible soft headed snap by the previous owner. The wires were soldered on to the original snap’s wires. Nothing wrong with that – but the new joints were insulated with office friendly see through tape. I also swapped the snap for hard shell one and used some heat shrink to get it neat.

TS5-guts

As the photo shows, the board has TA75558P chip in it, which makes the board exactly 1:1 with current Maxon/Ibanez TS9 reissues. Yes. I’ve though about modding it. I won’t. Because of the reasonable condition and early serial, i’ve decided to keep this one as original. I could try to score another one and replace the chip with JRC4558D on that one – and of course, swap the two resistors at the output to make it TS808. Update! I bought another, newer unit in worse condition than this and modded it to FYA Electronics Arrow mod specs.

Schematic and tons of other information, plus many DIY projects on this circuit are widely available. Since the circuit is exactly like all the other Tubescreamers, i’d suggest that you read more about it from geofex’ classic article, “The Technology of the Tube Screamer“.

How does it sound?
Well. What do you expect? Circuitwise, it is 1:1 with TS9, so it won’t sound anything different from new store bought TS9. It sounds reasonably good, even with the expected mid hump, harsh unnatural dynamics and relatively low output level.  Output level is my opinion – TS’ are not boosters, but they do have sufficient output levels that go easily over unity. This may be heresy, but i’ve never been too much of an fan of Tubescreamers. There are a lot better overdrives out there. But yes. This one sounds 1:1 with TS9.