AD-9 Analog Delay Reissues from Ibanez and Maxon go Head to Head! (Continued)
Some old analog delay “tricks” involved opening up the units to extend the delay times or repeat levels beyond where they were originally set with the adjustable potentiometers. I’ve done this myself and gotten workable delay times beyond 500 ms. Also, delays that are pre-set from the factory without infinite-repeat/feedback capability can be dialed in for this effect. Discussing these tricks with Maxon, they advise against playing with the internal potentiometers of any units because the potentiometers also work to align the circuitry itself and not simply extend the delay times or adjust the repeats. In addition, tampering with the units WILL void the warranties of the units. So that said, I did this experiment for the sake of the review here only.
That said, I carefully noted the original positions of the delays and then went about adjusting the delay times and repeats. The basic conclusion I discovered is that the Maxon can be adjusted for additional delay before severe degradation and the Ibanez really can’t. Clock noise and thumping sounds set in almost immediately with the Ibanez AD-9 in addition to severe degradation on even the very first delay repeats. From this test of extended delay and repeats, it again validated the use of superior quality components and layout on the part of the Maxon unit.
One area that I was able to adjust without noticeable problems with the Ibanez AD-9 reissue was to set it for infinite-repeat “self oscillation” by turning the appropriate potentiometer control (I needed to have the unit plugged in while I was playing with it to know which potentiometer controlled which particular function). Stock from the factory, the Ibanez AD-9 is set to decay after a given number of repeats – even with the feedback control set to maximum. The Maxon is already setup for self-oscillation. Those not familiar with that effect need only set their delays for maximum repeat and delay time, play a chord or note, then slowly move the delay time back toward a shorter delay as the sound is still cycling. The pitch of the signal will rise upward until the transition to delay oscillation feedback is generated. Then play with the delay time some more for other interesting spaceship and ray gun-like effects.
The AD-9 review wouldn’t be complete without us getting our hands on an original and we did so. One thing noted with the vintage Ibanez we obtained is that its internal trim pots had been tweaked already. According to Maxon, the proper alignment of a delay for optimal tone must be done on special equipment. Presuming this is the case, this may be a concern for those shopping for vintage units as signal quality may vary if prying hands get into the units. Indeed playing with the potentiometers without proper knowledge will result in compromises in noise and tone.
That said, we reset our vintage AD-9 by ear for the same maximum delay time and infinite repeat setting as the Maxon’s in stock form. The Maxon AD-9 and vintage Ibanez AD-9 units sounded and felt virtually identically even with our “non-precision” style alignment completed with the original unit. And even though the Maxon has the compander circuit while the original AD-9 does not, I was impressed at the relative quiet operation of the original. It had background hiss at higher delays that was essentially so minimal, I considered not even mentioning it. Noise simply wasn’t an issue with any of these three units. That said, the Maxon is the quietest.
The Ibanez AD-9 reissue has the basic analog character down – especially at shorter delay settings, but its repeats and decay tones are noticeably different at higher delay time settings. For those looking to recreate and obtain the original analog delay tones they grew up hearing, with the added benefits of true bypass and compander circuitry, the Maxon AD-9, though higher in price, gets the job done correctly. Those with less concern over analog delay tone accuracy compared with the originals, or may be wanting more short-delay slapback tones, and/or are simply in need of a more affordable unit could do well with the Ibanez AD-9 reissue. Its street price of $139.99 is quite compelling for this made-in-Japan unit. That said, there are other lower-cost analog delays on the market to consider if you’re looking solely for low cost. A Johnson analog delay unit can be had for example for $49.99.
However, most analog guys are very particular about their tones and are looking for a particular characteristic sound, so whether or not the Ibanez AD-9 passes the grade with them remains to be seen.
And if your analog-delay needs must go further still into added refinement or just additional custom options, both Analogman Mike Piera (www.analogman.com) and Robert Keeley Electronics (www.robertkeeley.com) offer additional modification services to these units. Check out their sites and work respectively as it may be of interest.
Now for our pick: For its recognition and choice of using premium N.O.S. Panasonic chips that clearly demonstrated better signal quality and best tone, with no annoying clock-noise, a clean circuit design layout, and finally because of it adding additional features that were stemmed by listening to and fulfilling the demands of its customers, Maxon is our winner with its AD-9 in our AD-9 “Head-to-Head” battle. It’s the real deal in performance and tone staying true to the original, while adding refinements for today’s players. For those concerned about the cost of the unit versus the less expensive Ibanez – just think: you do get what you pay for and besides sometimes it’s often best to pay a bit more money and just buy it right the first time.
from Mike : I found that the Ibanez reissue AD9 does not have seperate bias adjustment trimpots for the two chips so it's a compromise. Also there is no trim pot for the BALANCE so that is also a compromise and they cannot be calibrated for the ultimate in low noise and best tone.