The Nine Series pedals feature improved analog circuitry and reduced noise levels, which together result in greater transparency, higher resolution, better dynamics and more detail. Perhaps the most important update the pedals have received is the hardwire bypass, which preserves the integrity of the unaffected signal.
I'm glad to report that the overall quality of the Nine Series pedals is as good as ever. Still built by Japan's renowned Nisshin factory, these units boast hearty die-cast zinc boxes, 9-volt DC inputs that work with Boss-type adaptors, smooth pots and ultra bright LEDs that dim when the battery needs to be replaced. If you use a 9-volt battery, you'll appreciate the easy-access battery compartment, which snaps open and shut without tools.
The Tube Screamer was the first pedal that could boost an amp's treble and emulate the sound of blazing tubes.
As such, it was crucial to many of the best overdriven tones on record, including those of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Like the original Tube Screamers the TS-808 and its successor, the TS-9 Maxon's OD-9 sports Day-Glo-style green paint, employs the famous JRC4558 IC chip and features the familiar triangulated controls for drive, tone and level.
In use, the OD-9 was transparent and natural and exhibited better dynamics and a wider overall frequency response than either my Ibanez TS-808 or TS-9 pedals. While this may be the result the 808's age and the reissue status of my TS-9, the OD-9's superior performance was undeniable.
It effortlessly produced a Texas flood of whining overtones and a midrange that perfectly complimented almost any guitar I threw at it. This is absolutely my favorite "Tube Screamer" to date. My check's already in the mail.
AF-9 Auto Filter
Wah pedals produce an effect that is determined by the position of their foot rockers. Conversely, envelope filters, which were popularized in the Seventies, create a wah effect that's dependent on the instrument's output voltage. Thus, the effect is controlled via picking-hand dynamics and drive levels.
The AF-9 features the same photo coupler used in the heralded Mutron III, a fact that is undoubtedly responsible for this pedal's fantastic tone. Slider-type controls for sensitivity, peak, filter type (low-, band- and high-pass), drive and range make the AF-9 suitable for use with practically any instrument.
The sensitivity control lets you set the pedal's responsiveness, while the peak knob controls the intensity of the wah's "quack."
The low- and band-pass filters worked well with most guitars, but the high-pass caused notes to drop off too quickly. The range control worked best when set high, where it produced an immediate and normal response, while engaging the drive switch produced a boost that was obvious and exaggerated.
After spending some time matching the effect to my guitar, I enjoyed the AF-9s evolved wahs, funky highs and vocal accents. The AF-9 Auto Filter is a professional-level pedal that opens new musical boundaries and sounds good enough to replace many wah pedals.
CS-9Pro Stereo Chorus
If you're like me, you've tried most of the chorus pedals out there, only to have them squash your tone and attenuate your signal level.
This new violet vixen doesn't affect bass response, definition or output level. Instead, it delivers incredibly thick chorusing with unbelievable transparency and string-to-string definition.
The CS-9Pro has controls for speed, width, delay time and blend, as well as a standard output and an inverse output that shifts the signal 90 degrees out of phase.
Using this latter input, I finally nailed Zakk Wylde's chorus tonepings were screaming tight and chords were intense, while the unit's precision circuitry allowed me to play at warp speed with tonal impunity.
For stereo effects, the two outputs can be used simultaneously. Bear in mind, this is no squishy chorus from the pedal Kwik-E-Mart. The CS-9Pro Stereo Chorus is possibly the best chorus pedal I've played for any style, with incredible range and delicious high-end sound quality.
Few flangers could be included on a list of universally recommended pedals. Luckily, Maxon has created the FL-9. Essentially the same as the Ibanez original, the FL-9 has symmetrically placed controls for speed, regeneration, width and delay time.
I tested this canary-yellow wonder in a variety of clean and distorted rigs and found it incapable of producing bad tone. In fact, its quality was on par with a few high-dollar rack flangers I've used.
The FL-9 exhibited none of the faint, telltale ticking heard on other flangers, and its tone rewarded every nuance of my sound with perfect definition and unaltered balance. From a mild wave to a heavy inebriated swirl, the Maxon FL-9 preserves every note and has enough drive to actually boost your output. Van Halen fans rejoice: this one nails it!
AD-9 Analog Delay
Players with a serious investment in their tone are notoriously unwilling to sacrifice an ounce of analog integrity by using a digital delay. Yet, it's well known that most analog delays remove highs and limit transient response.
The AD-9 is the happy exception. It has a smooth delivery and unbelievable signal preservation, delivering warm tones and natural delay via its controls for delay time, repeat and delay level. Best of all, the highs were cleanly reproduced and the attack was unfettered.
Digital delays may be fine for most rockers, but tone enthusiasts will revel in the sonic integrity of the AD-9. Created with top-quality components in a proven design, the AD-9 has a musical delivery, accurate tracking and organic tones that place it among the elite analog delay pedals.
SD-9 Sonic Distortion
When the milder effect of an overdrive fails to produce the sustain and crunch you desire, it's time to think about a good distortion box, like the slime green SD-9.
With straightforward controls for distortion, tone and level, the SD-9 employs the often-used JRC4558 IC chip to produce tube like sounds and a complex drive that's lean enough to not overtake your tone.
Although it's capable of hitting an amp's front end with 42db of extra octane, the SD-9 never becomes overbearing. Even dialed full up, the pedal blended with my amp's sound, maintaining clear definition and balanced lows.
It's reasonable to say that the SD-9's performance is similar to that of the Boss DS-1, but with greater clarity and more low-end push. Whether you use it as a standalone gain device or the supercharging force in front of an overdriven amp, the SD-9 Sonic Distortion makes an excellent addition to any system.
The Bottom Line
It's a rare treat when a classic series of pedals is updated and reissued with performance and quality that exceed the original. Built with the express purpose of eclipsing other effect devices in sound, ease of use and ergonomics, the Nine Series pedals are masterful creations.
My favorites were the OD-9 Overdrive, FL-9 Flanger and CS-9Pro Stereo Chorus, but check out all of them and decide for yourself.
List Prices: OD-9 Overdrive, $180.00; AF-9 Auto Filter, $229.00; CS-9Pro Stereo Chorus, $299.00; FL-9 Flanger, $320.00; AD-9 Analog Delay, $399.00; SD-9 Sonic Distortion, $180.00.
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