Number 9…Number 9…Number 9…

AD-9 Analog Delay Reissues from Ibanez and Maxon go Head to Head! (Continued)

Both reissue units incorporate improvements over the original in some areas. Beginning with the Ibanez reissue AD-9, it sports a new design compander circuit for lower-noise over the original unit. Other than that, it is wired up in the same fashion and cosmetically looks identical to the original Maxon-built unit. One significant change however in the Ibanez is its use of new-production BBD and clock IC chips made in China by Shanghai Belling. Will this affect the overall tone and signal quality? We were certainly curious to hear for ourselves.

The Maxon AD-9 also is cosmetically the same as its Ibanez counterpart on the exteriror. Inside, is a different story. The board components are laid out a bit differently (and are quite neatly done in fact) to accommodate Maxon’s own version of the compander circuitry in addition changes made due to the use of a true-bypass switching system. The potentiometers are mounted on a separate PC-board with a series of wires then neatly tied into the main board. The Maxon also incorporates an upgrade with elimination of all ceramic disc caps, and instead uses higher quality (and more-costly) mylar film capacitors as well as other components on its board that overall makes a cleaner fit and finish. Many people may not look or care at this point of detail, but it ALL does make a difference. For example, having resistors mounted uniformly and straight on a board like the Maxon's means the potential for that part getting a broken solder joint or creating noise due to interference from a nearby other part is virtually eliminated. Even the wave soldering and seal of the Maxon board is noticeably cleaner than the Ibanez board.

The Maxon AD-9 – at least in this form – will be limited in production because it uses the original Panasonic MN3205 BBD and MN3101 Clock Driver IC’s that are no longer being produced (these were the same chips as used in the vintage Boss, Ibanez, Maxon, and EH designs from the late 70’s on). According to Maxon, the company also initially looked into using the Shanghais Belling chips, but decided they were not suitable enough in quality for their requirements for the AD-9 design.

Plugging into the Maxon AD-9 first, we ran through a range of short slap delays with the delay volume set high like those you’d hear in rockabilly or surf-type sounds and we were pleased with the response. The fact that the repeat is slightly darker and a bit more compressed compared to the original signal helps warm up the sound. Plugging the Ibanez AD-9 reissue in for comparison, the echo compression was similar, but the tone reaction was a little bit more “grainy” – the signal itself was clearly more decayed and broken up even from the onset of the initial echo repeat.

Long delays with extended repeats were next. The Maxon running first at its maximum 300 ms delay setting with high repeats gave me great Floyd-esque tones. As the repeats on most analog delays continue when using high delay times, the signal degrades by changing a bit in tone shift as well as distortion/breakup. The Maxon was no exception to this, and reacted exactly as my older original delays do. The move to degradation and tone shifting was smooth and gradual – and again to me highlights what is most cool about analog delays. It’s a real echo pattern and any real echo sound would degrade over regular repeats and this provides a very natural effect.

The Ibanez reacted differently. Its degradation was more immediate when setting up longer delay times and was more dramatic. Indeed, playing high register notes on the guitar with long delays of 300 ms quickly turned the note into a sound that was reminiscent of an old-fashioned computer “blip” or “bleep” tone. As a special effect, this was an interesting surprise to be had from the Ibanez AD-9, but not one that would be expected if you were familiar with the sounds gotten from the original vintage units. The vintage units would still produce a note that sounds like that of a guitar, regardless of the frequency/note used or delay time length.