VINTAGE GUITAR MAGAZINE ­ November, 2000

Gear Reviews ­ "Back to the Future ­ Maxon Reissue Series Effects" by Lisa Sharken

While the Maxon name may not be as commonly known as that of its distributor, Hoshino (which handles Ibanez), the company's products are familiar to guitar players. Maxon emerged in the early 70's as a small manufacturer of guitar pickups, then later introduced a line of effects pedals. During that time, Hoshino commissioned the company to build its effects pedals to be sold under the Ibanez name, and first-issue Ibanez effects were identical to Maxon pedals in terms of design and components. While the pedals were available under the Maxon name in Japan, elsewhere they were marketed by Hoshino and sold as Ibanez products. And since the 70's, All Ibanez pedals had been manufactured by Maxon including the Ibanez 9 and 10 series, as well as the Soundtank series.

In response to the steady demand for vintage and reissue stompboxes and the sounds they create, Maxon recently introduced the Maxon Reissue Series effects pedals, based on the original designs. These effects are enclosed in small metal boxes with standard-style on/off stomp switches and LED indicators, much like those on MXR pedals. And each operates on 9-volt or AC power.

For testing, we used a Les Paul Standard with stock pickups and the Zinky Mofo amp and 2 x 12 cabinet reviewed in the September issue.

OD808 OVERDRIVE

Like the original Ibanez Tube Screamer, the OD808 creates smooth-sounding gain and is housed in a green box. Although the effect can get pretty dirty, it isn't quite as harsh-sounding and doesn't produce a "heavy metal" saturated gain. The overdrive effect works in conjunction with the amp (and the guitar's pickups), and responds to the player's attack. The original Tube Screamer has always been a personal favorite, so I had no problem warming up to this pedal. Next to the TS9, it produced similar characteristics. But the sound of the OD808 was a bit smoother, which, for some players, was one of the desirable differences between the TS808, TS9, and TS10. I'd definitely recommend the OD808 to all Tube Screamer fans.

The controls are the same as the TS808, although the names printed under each knob may be labeled slightly different than those on the familiar Ibanez pedals. Regardless, the majority of users will easily figure out how each knob functions. The controls on the OD808 are labeled "Overdrive," "Tone," and "Balance" (same as "Level" on Ibanez boxes).

CS505 STEREO CHORUS

The CS505 is a purple box with a single input and two outputs for stereo, mono, or inverted mono signals. There are knobs for Speed and Width of the effect's modulation, which when used with two amplifiers can produce more spacious sounds. The chorus effect has the warmth you'd expect from an analog pedal and can be set for a variety of subtle or dramatic effects, like a rotating speaker. There was no noticeable extra noise from the effect and the sound of the effect is rich, somewhat reminiscent of a JC120's built-in chorus. The CS505 proves itself a useful device for adding colorful chorus effects.

FL301 FLANGER

The yellow FL301 Flanger produces the wide-sweeping vibrato and jet-like effects characteristic of the 70's analog boxes. One of the downsides of flangers is that many of them can add noise to the signal, and some are noisier than others are. The FL301 isn't as noisy or tinny-sounding as 70's flanging effects were; you do hear the sweep in the background, but it's tolerable. The FL301's controls include Speed, Width, and Regeneration. The effect has a delay time of 1 to 12.8 milliseconds and a speed frequency range of .06 to 13 Hz to construct an assortment of usable sounds from slow and subtle sweeps to one with fast and intense vibrato.

AD80 ANALOG DELAY

The warm tone and smooth effects of analog delays have always made them more pleasurable to the ear than many of their digital counterparts. The AD80 is a basic delay pedal with controls for Delay Time, Repeat, and Blend, and a variable delay time of 10-300 milliseconds. It's a pink box, like the original AD80, and is capable of creating a variety of sounds from quick slapback to wider, more spacious echo. Additionally, the pedal offers two separate outputs for wet and dry (no effect) to create a bigger sound when used with two amps. The original Ibanez AD80 is one of the more sought after pedals in the vintage world and prices can range pretty high. If you've found it difficult to locate one of the vintage boxes in good condition and/or for a reasonable price, you'll be pleased with the sounds and price of the new Maxon version. It's a winner.

One of the features common to the Maxon boxes is that the switches are quiet and have a smoother feel than many of those on vintage boxes. You don't have to step hard, and there's no loud pop. It's no secret that some older switches were noisy and took a heavy foot to engage. Furthermore, none of the pedals produced any more noise than you'd expect from these effects ­ and in certain instances they produced less.

There's a vast realm of choices when considering effects boxes in today's market. Everyone has a personal favorite and it's difficult to pin down any one specific pedal as being "the best." Also, many discover particular settings on specific pedals that they favor, but may not like some of the other features it offers. Certain pedals sound great live, but not in the studio, and vice versa. You really have to do a lot of experimentation to become knowledgeable about the old and new sounds and the benefits and limitations of each device. What's "best" is what works for you, sounds best to your ear, suits your playing style, and fits your budget.

But for fans of 70's stompboxes, Maxon pedals deliver the goods. If you like the sounds produced by the older devices but really aren't interested in having original pedals for their vintage value and collectability, or you just want a set of effects for gigging that are readily accessible and easily replaceable, check out the Maxon Reissue Series.

Other pedals in the series include the PT999 Phase Tone, D&S Distortion & Sustainer, D&S II Distortion & Sustainer II, CP101 Compressor, and GE601 Graphic Equalizer.

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