Ibanez Nine Series Reissue pedals
AD9, $233.32; CS9, $166.65; FL9, $183.32
IN THE EARLY Eighties, Ibanez released a set of effect pedals that became a classic in the annals of rock gear. The Nine Series pedals, so named because they could run off a nine-volt power supply (some previous Ibanez pedals required 18 volts), were loved for their rich analog tone and sheer musicality. The TS9 Tubescreamer has certainly been the most famous of the bunch, and consistent demand for it prompted Ibanez to reissue the pedal not long after discontinuing it.
But what of the other famed Nine Series pedals? Happily, Ibanez has reissued three of them over the past two years: the AD9 Analog Delay, the FL9 Flanger and the CS9 Stereo Chorus. I had the good fortune to sit down with each and compare their sounds and specs against the originals.
AD9 ANALOG DELAY
ANALOG TAPE DELAYs are beloved for their warm and ethereal sound. Likewise, the high-end roll-off that occurs with each subsequent echo lends the tone a natural sound that all but the most expensive digital units can't imitate. Unfortunately, tape delay units are noisy and mechanically cantankerous. Enter the AD9 Analog Delay, a solid-state analog delay that recreates the supernal tones of tape delays. The delay circuitry on the AD9 reissue is tuned for natural-sounding echoes and features controls for delay time, repeat and delay level. Dual outputs let you send dry and wet signals to individual channels or amps.
I tested the AD9 reissue using Victoria, Soldano and Mesa amps and found its tone and overall performance spectacular. When adjusted properly, the AD9 creates natural reverb-like echo that strikes just the right blend of warmth and precision. Even when I ran my high-end amps loud and clean, proper settings of the AD9 yielded sweet repeat and decay characteristics that sound like an extension of the cabinet and amplifier rather than the result of an outboard device. Though it's the priciest of the pedals reviewed here, it works its charm for significantly less than the cost of a rackmount analog delay, yet it sounds every bit as good.
CS9 STEREO CHORUS
CHORUS IS ONE of a guitarist's most commonly used effects for its ability to double and thicken tone, as well as create a stereo picture from a mono source. Chorus devices accomplish this by slightly delaying and detuning the original signal, then recombining it with the source. The CS9 Stereo Chorus has controls for speed and width as well as mono and stereo output jacks. Note to Zakk Wylde fans: using the stereo outputs is the only way to nail his chorus tone.
I split the CS9's output between two Fender combos and marveled at its ability to create elaborate and lush tones that were never mushy or weak. The original notes maintained their impact and the chorus effect was dimensional without being intrusive. The CS9 was equally good at creating subtle enhancements that would help define a guitar within a mix.
FLANGING IS A FORM of phasing that creates a linear harmonic response across the audio spectrum. The result is a wooshing that, at its most extreme, recalls the sound produced by a passing jet. Flanging was originally created in the studio by recording the same source material on two reels of tape; the engineer would slow down one machine by placing a finger on the flange (i.e. rim) of one reel, causing it to slip slightly out of synchronization. Modern flangers produce the same classic "whoosh" sound by filtering the signal at high resonance and adding varying delay times. The FL9's four knobs let you control the effect's speed, width, delay time and regeneration (a fancy term for feedback that's mixed into the signal).
The FL9's controls offer so many tonal options that it took me a few minutes to find my target sounds. But once I got there, I was promptly addicted to its airy flanging, which rode the frequency of my sustained signal like a surfer riding the crest of a wave. As with the other Nine Series pedals, the FL9's effect never interfered with the response of my original signal and remained clean and pure.
THE BOTTOM LINE
LIKE A CLASSIC tube amp, the Ibanez Nine Series pedals were practically perfect at their inception. These reissues are faithful in appearance and operation to the original candy-colored masterpieces. To my ears, their overall sonic performance is slightly more clear and defined than their Eighties counterparts. While purists perhaps won't settle for anything but the original, the Nine Series reissues will please anyone looking for sweet vintage tones.
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