GUITAR PLAYER MAGAZINE - JULY, 2003

Bench Tests - Maxon Nine Series Pedals
by Art Thompson

Do these colorful pedals look familiar? They should, as the Ibanez models they're based on were some of the best-loved stompboxes of the 1980s. Maxon made most of the early Ibanez effects, and these new pedals from the Japanese company feature identical-style zinc enclosures, analog circuitry, LED status/battery indicators, snap-open battery compartments, and barrel-style AC-adapter jacks. Besides offering high-quality components and quiet operation, the Maxon reissues have been updated with true-bypass switching (via 4PDT mechanical switches) and each pedal comes with a three-year warranty.

AD-9 Analog Delay

Guitarists have long favored the warm, tape-flavored sounds of solid-state analog delays, and the AD-9 ($399 retail/$320 Street) is one of the nicest-sounding compact units currently available.

The combination of a Panasonic MN3205 BBD (bucket-brigade delay) chip and a Signetics NE570 compander provides 10ms to 300ms of clear-sounding echo with zero clock noise. The AD-9 excels at everything from rockabilly-style slapback to rich ambient delays to otherworldly noise effects, but one of its coolest applications is feeding a pair of amplifiers.

Connected to a Fender Twin and a Matchless Chieftain combo (with the AD-9's Delay Time set to minimum, the Delay Level cranked, and the Repeat knob turned up just a tad) the tones were absolutely immense. Factor in the AD-9's quietness, even at maximum settings, and this box is a winner.

AF-9 Auto Filter

Auto filters are always fun, and the AF-9 ($229 retail/$185 street) is a hip-sounding device that features opto-coupler circuitry and a bevy of controls. Included are Sens and Peak sliders (the former determines how hard you have to pick to open the filter, and the latter controls the effect level), a 3-position Filter switch (low pass, band pass, and high pass), a Drive switch (which selects the direction of the sweep), and a 2-position Range switch (for high- or low-frequency operation).It all adds up to a potent device that can deliver dynamic filter effects ranging from ultra deep to super skanky.

A reasonable simulation of a Mu-Tron III pedal was possible by setting the Sens and Peak sliders about halfway up, the Filter switch to BP (band pass), and the Drive and Range switches to Up and High, respectively.

CS-9Pro Stereo Chorus

A radical update of the classic Ibanez CS-9, the CS-9Pro ($299 retail/$240 street) offers the enhanced flexibility of Delay Time and Blend controls, as well as true stereo outputs that allow for mono, stereo, or inverted-mono signal routing.

Equipped with the excellent Panasonic MN3207 BBD chip, the CS-9Pro delivers supremely lush and highly dimensional chorusing. The Blend control allows you to maintain your guitar's definition even when using heavily effected settings, and by keeping the Delay Time and Width settings at around the halfway mark (higher settings invite excessive pitch-bending), you can dial-in surprisingly realistic rotary-speaker tones.

With its wide speed range and creamy sonic textures, the CS-9Pro is an exceptional chorus pedal.

FL-9 Flanger

Also sporting a Panasonic MN3207 chip, the FL-9 Flanger ($320 retail/$260 Street) specializes in rocket-propelled swoosh. It can also delve into juicy chorusing, wobbly vibrato, and, depending on how aggressively you set the Regen and Delay Time controls, buzzy steel-drum sounds and other neato noises.

While the FL-9 doesn't bring anything radically new to the flanger party, it's an exceptionally clean-sounding and quiet device that provides all the subtle-to-extreme textures one could possibly need live or in the studio.

OD-9 Overdrive

Based on the Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer, the OD-9 ($180 retail/$145 street) features the famous JRC4558 dual op-amp, the same chip used in the original TS-9.

An all-purpose overdriver designed to deliver warm, tube-flavored grind, the OD-9 is well-suited for blues and other styles that don't require blistering levels of gain. Evaluated against a reissue Ibanez TS-9, the OD-9 pumped out nearly identical-sounding distortion, with punchy mids and nicely detailed treble.

Turning the OD-9's Tone control to zero yields buttery tones that stand out well in a band mix. The only faults with this pedal where also present on the original TS-9; a lack of low-end and a tendency to instill a heavy midrange mantra on guitar tones. Still, unless you're a metal maniac, it would be awfully hard to go wrong with the OD-9.

SD-9 Sonic Distortion

Although never as popular as the TS-9, the Ibanez SD-9 was preferred by some players because of its extra gain, bottom, and output.

As expected, the new SD-9 ($180 retail/$145 Street) sounds significantly more buff than the OD-9, and it compared very favorably with a '80s-era Ibanez SD-9.

Featuring transistor and op-amp circuitry, the SD-9 is a different animal than the OD-9, though both units share the same control layout, and can be set to sound very similar. Despite its studlier sonic attributes, however, the SD-9 doesn't match the OD-9 (or TS-9) for clarity, a point humbucker players should consider.

But if you find yourself wrestling over which model to mount on your board, consider buying both; an OD-9 and an SD-9 running side-by-side is a formidable combination that yields three killer sounds.

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