VINTAGE GUITAR MAGAZINE ­ FEBRUARY, 2002

Gear Reviews ­ Maxon VS Effects ­ 70's tones, 21st-century quality

With their straight-out-of-the-70's groovy colors ­ pea soup green, bright orange, powder blue, plum purple, and Mopar metallic green ­ Maxon's Vintage Series effects look like new old stock, lost-in-the-basement-of-a-music-store units.

But we've seen loads of cool-looking pedals that just didn't float our boat. Because we're all about tone, obviously, the real test is whether they sound like vintage pedals. Physically, they're all a match (except for their colors), sharing the same cast metal case (6" x 4"), black retro knobs, on/off LED, and classic heavy-duty stompswitch.

To find out, we tested them with a '68 Gibson SG and an '83 Strings-N-Things Telecaster copy plugged into a Carvin 2x12 Belair combo and our co-feature review amp, the Reverend Hellhound 40/60.

AD900 ANALOG DELAY

The control layout was what you would expect, with knobs for delay time, repeats, and delay level. The delay time knob offers no indication of the actual delay time, but we found the shorter slap-back delay sounded best ­ a lot like a tape echo, in part because the repeats had a mirky analog tone to them. Longer delays (500 to 600 mS) could be used effectively, if subdued.

We noticed that this was a very quiet pedal compared to other analog (and even some digital) delay pedals, and a more reliable alternative to tape echo.

CS550 STEREO CHORUS

We hooked this in stereo through two amps and were able to achieve great stereo separation by manipulating the depth and delay controls, giving us a very liquid, Univibe-like sound. In mono into just one amp, we got flanger-like tone with lots of depth due to the rear-mount depth control, which was a bit difficult to change on the fly.

Again, the pedal is very quiet and there is no loss or coloration of tone.

PH350 ROTARY PHASER

With controls for speed, depth, feedback, and mode, this pedal emulates different classic phase patterns. We also tested it in stereo and found the center-detent feedback control offered both positive and negative feedback.

Compared to other phase shifters, the PH350's subdued effect won't let you overdo it. Waylon and Willie probably won't like this pedal.

DS830 DISTORTION MASTER

We were able to obtain everything from a thick, crunchy overdrive to heavy distortion with a lot of musical sustain. The no-frills control layout (gain, bass, treble, level) covered most needs, except maybe the heavy metal "scooped mids" sound.

OD820 OVERDRIVE PRO

This unit sounds a lot like an original TS808 or Overdrive II, with slightly more midrange and less low-end. A very usable, ultra-smooth sounding pedal, whether used for all the distortion, or to drive the preamp in the Hellhound.

While all the Maxon Vintage Series pedals borrow a 70's vibe cosmetically, and offer true vintage effect tones, they draw the line in a key area: Quality of construction. Unlike our often-chintzy friends from back in the day, these pedals are well built, high quality, and quiet. And each is packaged with its own AC power supply and skid pad. If there were one other 70's aspect the Maxons could share, it would be the price, which may keep these units out of range for many.

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