Archive for the ‘7 / Tonelok-Series’ Category

Ibanez PM7 Phase Modulator

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

PM7

What is it?
Ibanez PM7 Phase Modulator from 7/Tonelok series. Made in china, 2005

As the truly modern guitar effects go, there are usually those that designers have spent hours to design an effect that sounds great on guitar. Better than the previous takes on this same subject. Then there are these designs that try to create something completely new and something that’s never heard before. These two imaginative design methods rarely combine well. That said, the Maxon engineers behind the PM7 Phase Modulator have reached a line that’s not often crossed. The controls are loaned from flanger designs and the versatility of Speed, Depth, Manual, Feedback and three LFO waveform modes, in addition to four/six stage switch and two in/out of phase modes for the 6-staged phase, is just more than convincing. Manual can be seen at Midimanuals.

PM7-guts1

Everything is still through hole construction on five board system that is familiar from all the other effects in this series. No surprises in build quality or component selection. The phase utilizes three dual 13600 OTA chips. SO every phasing stage has it’s own half of the chip.

The factory schematic is up at Ibanez.com. Yes, since it’s 7-series factory schematic, it is a pain to read.

PM7-guts2

Buffering and mixing is done with obvious Ibanez/Maxon weapon of choice, the 4558. LFO is created with NJM2904D. I’m guessing that the choice for this chip as LFO has been made due it’s stability in case of taking more wobble out of the LFO than what we usually see in any, or at least most, LFO controlled circuits.

PM7-guts3

Solid construction and designed to withstand a hit. Thick metal housing for everything electronic that is fastened with screws. Nothing floating or other wonky in there. These will be able to take years and years of abuse on the road.

How does it sound?
From mild sweeps that remind us a little of the original MXR Phase90 to absolute noise madness that can be described better with a word monster pseudo-ring-modulator. Well, this is to be expected. If one takes out a 6-stage OTA-based phaser and equips it with more feature packed LFO than most design have, this is what you’ll get. The palette is very versatile and the sounds range from mild to extreme, while still hanging on to term usable. Overall, this is a very good pedal.

Ibanez AW7 Autowah

Monday, December 1st, 2014

AW7

What is it?
Ibanez AW7 Autowah from 7/Tonelok series. Made in china, 2005.

Where Ibanez AW5 from soundtank series left me a little on the cold side by its sound and overall feel, the follower for the Tonelok series does things differently. To begin with, all  the control slots on the enclosure are in use. Two slide switches and four pots. Before checking the features, let’s take a quick look under the hood.

AW7-guts1

Board looks like all the rest of designs in this series, so no surprises there. There’s a factory schematic up at Ibanez.com. Which shows us that the design is a hybrid with a 13600 OTA envelope filter and a distortion. Slightly over engineered feel to it, but the board isn’t too packed and still looking pretty pleasing with all through hole construction.

AW7-guts2

Envelope driver and distortion are powered by those three JRC4558Ds.As usual, the pedal is made with five different circuit boards and those boards are connected by wires on clip terminals. The control board and the main board connect with terminal pins directly.

AW7-guts3

Neat, but nothing too exciting. But then, what comes to features.. Board may not be that packed, but the design is. Feature-wise. The envelope has two modes, wah and LPF (low pass filter). Wah mode takes the envelope to wider frequency range than the LPF, which takes some of the brightest highs away from the sweeps. Sensitivity and manual control the envelope. After those we have our drive control and a switch associated with that. On distortion off, the pedal acts as a basic envelope filter/autowah and disables the drive control. Two other modes of the switch activate the distortion. These modes let you choose the distortion to be in front of the wah or after it. This, in addition to wah/LPF switch gives out a lot of options for the tone.

A noticeable amount of features. In many ways the design and features squeezed in are impressive.

How does it sound?
Light years a part from its predecessor, the AW5. The optical envelope used in AW5 has its advantages, but so does the dual OTA based design on this one. The envelope part is decent sounding, but nowhere near the greatness of nine series classic, the AF9. AW7 doesn’t roll out nearly as much lows from the signal as AW5, but still more than AF9. This tri-comparison may feel a bit much, but bear with me. AF9 is a real milestone that is very hard to beat. On this one, i’m thinking the designer has added more features on modernization of AF9, trying to genuinely make it better. As an envelope filter (or autowah) the AW7 still stays light years away from AF9, but it has the firepower to take the AW5 out at any given minute.

Biggest culprit is the the distortion an the tone it has. Which is ok, but not great or not even particularly good. Slightly on the thin side and slightly boring. One can get decent late 80’s and early 90’s lead tones out of this, but it’s all still a special effect that i’d describe as novelty pedal. To sum it up, this sounds way better than AW5, but still not as good AF9.

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 TC7 Tri-mode Chorus

Friday, November 29th, 2013

TC7What is it?
Ibanez TC7 Tri-Mode Chorus from 7/Tonelok series, made in china. Stamp on the enclosure suggest the build date to be around 2005.

Now here’s the first! There’s not a hint of blue on this box! And in other news, the three modes are quite interesting – at least on paper. There are basically two separate delay circuits for two separate choruses that are simply out of phase with each other. And there’s only one LFO driving those delays. Tri-mode in this case means that the first gives out mono chorus and splilts the clean signal to second output. Second mode is for out-of-phase stereo output and the third widens the delay time range and has both outputs active. Quite usable options.

Ripping one open shows a highly populated board with crowded joints and modern traces.

TC7-guts1

As with all 7-series boxes, the insides are made of five different boards. Well made solid build with pin terminals instead of board to board wiring to connect boards to each other.

TC7-guts2

Work is neat in many ways, which validates the point that there are good manufacturers in china. I do not know which of the companies have built these, but they probably should be credited.

Down to the design itself. Couldn’t find a schematic right off the bat, but i assume that the TL022 is used as LFO and JRC4562s are taking care of buffering, mixing and driving for the different outputs and modes. So there’s one LFO driving the two Mitsubishi M65850 digital delay chips.

TC7-guts3

M65850 isn’t that widely used digital echo/delay processor as some others. But it has quite interesting datasheet with notion to Karaoke on it (check it out on AllDataSheet.com). So i suspect one should be able to find those chips from inside a number of different karaoke devices.

How does it sound?
Solid and trustworthy. Nothing too special in the sound, but at the same time it does have some personal character to it. The longer delay times found on third mode have similarities to a flanger design, offerign quite wild and swirly choruses. Not completely unlike vibe effects out there. Not bad at all. The fact that the delay line isn’t your standard BBD or digital chip may be the root of the personality found here. Well designed.

If i needed to drop all other choruses from my collection and leave only three, this one would probably make it to the ones i’d keep.

Ibanez CF7 Chorus/Flanger

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

CF7What is it?
Ibanez CF7 Chorus/Flanger from 7/Tonelok series. Made in china.

One of the more complex designs on the series offers digital chorus and flanger. No blue here either. But then again, it is a flanger too. Got mine for standard market price for used unit and almost pulled my hair off once i opened to parcel. I do not mind the nicks and scrathes, but one should never (NEVER) sell a pedal with “in good condition” label if it really isn’t so. This one had all sorts of crud and human waste on it. That can be addressed with a towel and a considerable amount of turpentine. But the lost bottom rubber and dual-lock-velcro over the serial number is not exusable. Not in any way. So the bottom is practically raped and there’s no chance of salvaging the serial nuber as it’s just a paper sticker fastened to the type plate. I did let the seller know…

CF7-guts1

The horror didn’t even end there. Just check what’s going on in the picture above. To this day i have no clue what he was trying to do with adding two more caps and soldering the wire to the solder side of the board. Could be as it is supposed to be in the original, but i highly doubt it.

CF7-guts2

The source of all the crazy sounds is M50198 digital chip. The same one used in DSC10 and many other Ibanez digital effects. This time the designing engineer put the chip a good use and took it even further. The design has even more similarities with DSC10, but it has evolved to the next level. The “Crazy” switch seems to affect the overall delay time, but it is labeled as it is. With options for “normal” and “wack’d”.This is in my opinion a landmark in digital flangers. A flanger’s what it really is, although it can be used as a sub-par chorus as well.

As for the beaten and mistreated unit? I’m definitely on the look for reasonably priced replacement in a better condition. Once i find one, this one will have to go.

How does it sound?
In the gut of the metal worm! Blasted! Weird and good with enough options to drown you. From mellow classic chorus and flanger tones to metallic, cold chorus to shattering digital flange. Think of this as a bastard child of DFL Digital Flanger and DSC10 Digital Chorus. To me, this one is the shit. Amazing and very usable sounds for many purposes. Classic to noise.

Ibanez LF7 Lo-Fi

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

LF7

What is it?
Ibanez LF7 Lo Fi from Tonelok/7-series. Apparently made in the year  2000, as the enclosure has the date 1/2000 stamped on the inside.

The board itself has a lot of components left out, so it seems that the same board may be utilized in other designs of the series too. I think i may need to do some reading on this. As the circuit is what it is – a distortion with active filters, i think i’ll focus on the enclosure and how the 7-series are made, rather than trying to analyze the circuit on this particular design.

LF7-guts1

The base design for 7-series boxes is made of 5 (!) boards. One for input jack, one for the switching, LED and slide switches (picture below), the main board (above), the control board (aka VR Board) and one for the output jack. It is crowded in there, but this type of design leaves a lot of room for the main board. Which is huge when compared to compact size of the pedal itself. There is a downside to this. Over engineering. You need to use all the space available, right?

LF7-guts2

Meaning that the same results in sound could have been achieved for a lot smaller board and lower parts count. The factory schematics can be found online, but study them with caution. These are the worst schems i’ve seen with depicting of all the 5 PCBs, showing some parts of the layout and having massive, unnecessarily long lines. These also notes how all 5 boards connect together. Good information,  but difficult and/or frustrating to read.

Back to the good things. These also seem to built for war. Couple of the units i have were mailed to me wrapped in just two pages of newspaper and a thick paper bag. Knowing how the postal service treats the parcels, i was quite surprised how none of these had any issues after such treatment. The Tonelok-idea is not a bad idea at all. I’ve run into issues accidentally kicking the pot knobs on some pedals (think ZVex’s Fuzz Factory) that have the stomp switch way too close to the knobs. Add trigger happy controls to that equation, and you’ll find out why locking knobs is a very good idea.

LF7-guts3

Other downside to this series is the use of the same tact switch that’s found on Soundtank/5-series. Swapping the switch takes about double the time compared to Soundtanks, due to complexity of the 5 boards that need to be disassembled. So, disregarding the switch – These are built to last and can take a hit, plus locking controls work great. Overall, i think these are the most underrated pedals ever made. Can’t wait to see if the switches outlast the Soundtank switches or not. And more importantly, how the value of these develop in next 20 years…

How does it sound?
Back to the LF7. This design was just perfect specimen to talk about the series in general. The reason being that this may be one of the worst sounding  Ibanez designs ever. It is truly Lo Fi as advertised. Really bad, ugly misbiased distortion with active, bad tone controls for highs and lows. Doesn’t work for guitar at all, but i can see this being used with a blender circuit for vocals and drum buses. Nice studio tool, but i can’t see any use for this on any pedal board.