To the Nines - Guitar World Magazine June 2008 - Maxon 9-Series Pedal Review


“To the Nines” - Maxon Nine Series Pedals
by Eric Kirkland

(Download a .pdf version of this review.)

Maxon’s first set of Nine Series pedals, named for their industry-standard nine-volt power requirement, were mostly high-end reissues of popular pedals that the company originally designed for Ibanez.  These four latest additions to the Nine Series family reintroduce three of Maxon’s lesser known but highly prized vintage overdrives – the OSD-9 Overdrive/Soft Distortion, VOP-9 Vintage Overdrive Pro, and OOD-9 Organic Overdrive – and include a phenomenal revision of the renowned AD-9 Analog Delay.  Each pedal features Maxon’s super-duty die-cast zinc chassis, high-quality components, and true-bypass switching.

Analog Delay pedals are known for their warm tone and imprecise, low-fidelity repeats.  The new AD-9 Pro takes analog clarity and precision beyond what most thought possible from a compact device and offers up to 450 milliseconds of delay.  Maxon creates this magic with four custom-made bucket-brigade devices (BBD’s) and a circuit that virtually eliminates aliasing and clock noise.  In addition to the delay time, delay level and feedback controls, the AD-9 Pro has a mini switch that selects between single-head/dual-head operation to emulate the varying responses from similarly equipped tape echo units.  Dedicated web and dry outputs make it simple to connect to a dual-amp rig.

The AD-9 Pro is a revelation.  Echo attacks are crisp, signal strength is increased, the effect sounds deeper and noise is nearly absent.  Analog delays tend to smear distorted signals and high-speed phrases, but the AD-9 Pro delivers near-perfect note tracking and detail.  Dual-head mode creates wondrous pedal-born reverbs at low settings and bouncing ping-pong effects as the delay time is increased.  The AD-9 Pro’s huge dynamic range (18 dB more than the original AD-9) maintains the punch of your attack and ensures identical performance in an effects loop or in the front of an amp.

The OSD-9 and OOD-9 utilize the same circuit but feature different central operating components.  A vintage 741 op-amp drives the OSD-9 while a 4558 IC chip generates the OOD-9’s more modern tones.  Maxon introduced the OOD-9’s extremely transparent and tube-sounding circuit in its 1977 OD880 Overdrive/Soft Distortion pedal, and vintage units now command upwards of $600.  New to the OSD-9 and OOD-9 is a power-regulating charge-pump, which maintains a true nine volts and consistent tones at all times.

Neither the OSD-9 nor the OOD-9 will alter your tone or roll-off bass frequencies, but their styles of overdrive differ significantly.  The OSD-9’s 741 op-amp enriches presence and drives the signal hard but doesn’t fatten the tone, pump the midrange or make chords creamy.  Single-coils benefit most from this pedal’s transparent tone and clean attack.  The OOD-9 serves up harmonic-squealing rock tones, thanks to its 4558 chip, which is optimized to produce higher gain, wicked low midrange and a searing British-style crunch.  Any pickup will benefit from this pedal, but humbuckers reveal more of its overdriven complexities.  

Available for a short time in the mid-nineties, the Maxon OD820 handily expanded on the TS808’s well-established foundation by functioning as a clean boost as well as an overdrive pedal.  The new VOP-9 Vintage Overdrive Pro reintroduces the OD820’s circuit, which achieves its amazing headroom and clarity by internally doubling the nine-volt power supply to 18 volts and using a dual pot on the drive control that automatically blends a clean boost with the overdrive.  For more compression, an internal DIP switch can be set to halve the power to nine volts.

Though similarities exist between the VOP-9’s warm vibe and the 808’s midrange-heavy harmonics, the VOP is far more vibrant and broad in its response.  As opposed to the 808’s smoky midrange surge, the VPO maintains the original signal’s bass weight and is capable of sharper treble tones.  The range of crunch aggression is dictated by the player’s touch, and the high dynamic ceiling can expand the compressed sound from your active pickups or humbuckers.

Make no mistake – Maxon’s Nine Series pedals are nothing short of production boutique instruments.  For transparent overdrive choose the singing and spacious tone of the OSD-9 Overdrive/Soft Distortion or the screaming gain of the OOD-9 Organic Overdrive.  If the TS808 is your holy grail, the 18-volt VOP-9 Vintage Overdrive Pro will amaze you with its clarity and power.  As for the AD-9 Pro Analog Delay, I have to rank it as the most versatile, clear and accurate analog delay that anyone has built into a pedal thus far.

PRO – High-end tones, Pro-level headroom, Tough construction

CONS – Expensive