The new range of Ibanez pedals are being endorsed by studio guitarist John Tropea, among others, but are mostly suitable for keyboards, guitar, or indeed vocals and any other instrument. Similar in conception to the popular Boss pedals, the Ibanez -9 series of effects will become instantly popular due to their reasonable retail prices.
The TS9 is clearly an exception to the above generalisation in that it's primarily designed for guitar. It's a distortion unit intended to simulate an overdriven valve sound, and makes a neat and well-constructed package. Like the other pedals received, it measures 124 x 74 x 53 mm, weighs a little under 600g (1.3 lbs) and has a die-cast zinc body with a silky paint job. The TS9 itself comes in an apple green colour.
Power can be supplied by a 9V PP3 cell, installed by pushing a spring clip underneath the unit and removing part of the bottom panel. This is a quick and easy method of changing batteries which is infinitely better than having to unscrew a battery compartment cover. On the other hand, the cover comes away completely and so could be lost - it seems that the increasing compactness of effects has made the good old integral sliding cover a thing of the past.
The inside of the battery compartment is foam padded and the unit can be taken apart by removing four crosshead screws. All other parts are in chromed metal, the ¼" jack In and Out sockets being heavy-duty and positive in use, and the on-off footswitch being satisfyingly heavily sprung, silver in colour and about two inches wide. The DC power connector has a matt black plastic surround which matches the silver-capped controls, Drive, Tone and Level.
These controls act in a fairly conventional manner. Drive selects the degree of input to the internal preamp and therefore the degree of overload distortion produced. Tone is a simple active filter circuit which can remove the harsher upper harmonics to give a smoother fuzz. Level sets the degree of boost so that it's possible to exactly match the guitar volume with the effect on and off, or to amplify it if the Tube Screamer is to be switched in only for lead breaks.
After a little use it becomes clear that the TS-9 is a pleasant little unit, but not particularly well named. It does its job in delivering the sort of warm, tube-type overdrive obtainable on valve amps, but even with drive and tone fully open this doesn't constitute a scream in any sense of the word. Perhaps WF-9 for Warm Fuzz would have been more appropriate.
Internally the construction is up to the typical Japanese standard, similar to the Amdek effects kit in fact. The design is based around a dual op-amp with all components soldered directly to the circuit board. Component polarities and wire colour codes are marked on the board, and miniature pots are used for the controls.
An interesting feature common to all the effects is the LED indicator. This shows when the unit is switched on, its brightness giving an indication of battery state. It's mounted on a tiny circuit board of its own, and is quite transparent until switched on, when it glows red. The PCB is well insulated and the TS9 gives every indication of being a reliable unit.
Recommended Retail Price including VAT is £40.59.
The Flanger is similar in design to the Tube Screamer, but has four control pots and comes in a bright yellow finish. The controls are Speed, Regeneration, Width and Delay Time. Power is again from a single battery or 9V DC power supply, and the foot-switch is a very quiet FET design.
The design is an analogue BBD circuit, with flanging rate set by the speed control. This ranges from one cycle every 30 seconds to about 10 cycles per second, a very respectable range for a small unit.
Regeneration controls the amount of feedback of the signal into the flanging circuit, and thus the degree of colouration or resonance given to the sound. This ranges from very plain to just below the point where the circuit oscillates itself. Again a good range for an inexpensive unit.
Width controls the degree of flanging in terms of the magnitude of the delay used. In conjunction with the Regeneration control this determines the quality of the flanging effect. The final control is Delay Time, which doesn't affect the flange itself so much as the frequencies it acts upon. Delay Time in fact positions the centre frequency of the sweep, so turning clockwise makes the flange act on higher frequencies, while turning anticlockwise makes it concentrate on lower frequencies. This is a useful effect which, in conjunction with other pedals, opens up the possibility of having two very different sounds emerging simultaneously from one guitar or keyboard. If the Width control is full up, the Delay Time control doesn't have any effect.
The flanging sounds available are smooth and clear, but not unusually powerful or suggestive of, as the booklet hints, a studio quality unit. Internally the construction is as good as that on the TS-9; the FET footswitch and LED have their own circuit boards, and the main PCB design is based on a voltage controlled clock, a pair of op-amps and a single IC delay line.
Recommended Retail Price including VAT is £59.60.
The Chorus unit is a sort of cut-down version of the Flanger, offering Speed and Width controls only and with a light purple finish. Unlike the Flanger it's totally silent when switched on, until a note is played into it. This would seem to indicate some kind of noise gating, which is reflected in the higher price.
The Speed and Width controls combine to give a good selection of effects from slow sweep to reasonably fast vibrato, and on guitar go some way towards giving 12-string richness from only six strings. It's pretty effective on Casio-type keyboards as well, giving a richer sound with more movement and interest than the untreated version.
The design uses 6 ICs including a 741 op-amp, and the delay circuitry is configured to give a stereo output. Working in mono, either of the two output jacks can be used, the normal output giving a slightly brighter effect than the Inverted output presumably because of different cancellation patterns relative to the sound input.
If both the outputs are used, a stereo shifting chorus is obtained, which is quite a desirable effect if you're lucky enough to have two amps or two mixer channels spare. The speed control then becomes a sort of auto-pan control as well, so the input sound is improved in not one but two different ways.
Recommended Retail Price including VAT is £76.57.
The AD-9 is one of the most interesting of the pedal-sized Ibanez effects, and is a development from the older AD-80 pedal. We examined the AD-80, and are assured that the differences are mainly cosmetic, with a change of footswitch, control knobs and top panel design to bring it into line with the rest of the -9 range.
The delay has three controls for Delay Time, Blend and Repeat. The usual silent FET footswitching brings in the effect, with the mix between effect and straight sound being set by the Blend control.
Stated delay times are 10 to 300 mS, and in fact the longest delays make these figures seem conservative. In addition the echo is very clean, with almost no hiss and only a small amount of treble loss. Compander circuitry is clearly in operation here, and is effective over the whole range of delay times.
At very short delay times the repeat control acts to colour the effect, although this is always too metallic to give a pleasant reverb. At longer delay times the repeat control gives from one 'slap-back' repeat to an infinite number, going into feedback at the highest setting. This is atypical of a range which seems designed to avoid undesirable 'over-the-top' effects.
Power supply (on the AD-80 at least) is by two 9V batteries or an 18V adaptor, a jack socket being fitted to avoid confusion with the 9V supplies of the other pedals.
Internal construction is good again with individual PCBs for footswitch and LED indicator. The circuit is based on an MN 3005 for a BBD type echo, and this chip is socket mounted. Compression and expansion is by an NEC 571, and there are presets to alter the clock speed, balance and delay properties. Fitting all this into a small pedal is quite a design achievement.
Overall an excellent unit for guitars, keyboards, or in fact vocals. The recommended price of £114 may seem a little high, but again the shop price will be a lot lower than this.
Another guitar effects box, and a less subtle counterpart to the Tube Screamer. In fact it gives much more of a 'scream' effect than the latter, producing a thin harsh fuzz which will cut through anything.
The three controls are Distortion, Level and Tone, and again Level is used to balance the output volume while the effect is in or out, and Tone cuts down the upper harmonics to give a smoother sound. In fact the Tone control effectively boosts bass as well, so a wide range of fuzz textures can be produced.
The highest levels of distortion are quite satisfying heavy, while low levels give a subtle overall fuzz to each note. The only problem is that turning up the Distortion control increases the overall volume quite significantly as well.
Power is from a 9V battery and the circuitry is based on a 4558 dual op-amp. Construction is up to the usual standard, and the SD-9 could well become the central effect in any guitarist's setup. Recommended retail price including VAT is £40.59.
The Ibanez effects are ruggedly constructed units which should give long service. All the controls and levels work over a sensible range, so there's no danger of accidentally getting some over-the-top effect. The noise gated chorus is particularly interesting when compared to older and very noisy designs, and as the shop prices are considerably below the RRPs they should be financially attractive.
The full range includes the PT9 Phaser (£48.53) GE9 Graphic EQ (£61.57) PQ9 Parametric EQ (£61.57) CP9 Compressor/Limiter (£43.53) AF9 Auto Filter (£70.10) and a selection of more expensive rack mounting studio effects.
The TS9, FL9 and CS9 pedals were kindly loaned by Honky-Tonk Music, (Contact Details).
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Review by Mark Jenkins