Tone Tips

Five Stupid-Underrated Pedals from the Ibanez 10 Series

  • By TR Staff @tonereport
  • September 06, 2017
  • 2 Comments

Between the heydey of vintage Ibanez effects like the TS-808 Tube Screamer and modern-day pedals like the Echo Shifter, there was an epoch of Ibanez effects greatness which today remains largely underappreciated (and no, I'm definitely not talking about the Soundtanks). This lost era, marked by a series of stompboxes referred to variously as either the "Power Series" or the "10 Series," has only recently begun to be appreciated by the guitar community at large.

The 10 Series pedals were manufactured for a short period of a few years, starting around 1986, and none of its members have been reissued by Ibanez in the time since production ended around 1989. These effects are fairly common on the used market however, and most models seems to have been produced in significant quantities, so generally speaking they are not particularly rare or especially valuable. Most were also built in Japan by Maxon, so it goes without saying that quality was quite high across the board(though the switches reportedly have a tendency to get squirrely as they age).

The reasons behind the demise of the 10 Series—as well as its general lack of popularity among vintage effects hounds—are mysterious. Perhaps it has something to do with the appearance of these pedals, which tends toward a stereotypically eighties design aesthetic that practically screams "Tron!" Looking at the dated "futuristic" looking enclosures, one might assume that they are all nasty sounding, first-generation digital effects, but in fact most of the 10 Series pedals are analog (though the ones that aren't still sound pretty great, actually).

Whatever the reasons for the perpetual underdog status of the 10 Series, it cannot be denied that many of its members are excellent sounding and very well-built effects that offer interesting alternatives to industry standard, run-of-the-mill designs. They are also (at the time of this writing, anyway) quite common and very affordable, with a couple of notable exceptions (one if which is the TS10, John Mayer's favored Tube Screamer). Let's take a look at a handful of the standout effects from Ibanez's great, criminally-unloved 10 Series.

 

CD10 Delay Champ

The 10 Series had a whole bunch of delays in it. Most of them are very good and usable, if not exactly spectacular, digital pedals. The standout echo box of the series, however, is an analog design called the CD10 Delay Champ. The name is kind of awkwardly cutesy, but this pedal should nonetheless be taken seriously by fans of murky, gooey analog slapback tones. Like most iterations of Ibanez's much more famous AD-9 (as well as Boss's beloved DM-2) the Champ is based around the MN3205 chip, giving you some clue as to its sonic qualities and capabilities. As one might suspect, it is superb for warm, vintage echo tones and ghostly cascading regenerations. Wet/dry stereo output and an internal brightness trimpot add an extra measure of versatility to this otherwise no-frills bucket-brigade delay. The Ibanez CD10 Delay Champ is a great addition to any pedalboard, and good working examples can be had for all day long for less than a hundred bucks.

 

SF10 Swell Flanger

The SF10 Swell Flanger is one of the best of the 10 Series pedals. No one knows why this model was dubbed the Swell Flanger, but my guess is that it has something to do with it being such a swell flanger. Seriously though, its circuitry, control set, and overall behavior bears quite a bit of resemblance to Ibanez's other, more famous, flangers, the classic FL9 and the somewhat lesser-known FLL. Both of these fine old analog BBD modulators are known for their rich tones and versatility, including the ability to conjure everything from glassy, chorus-like undulations to warm jet-plane swoosh. The SF10 shares all of these traits. It features controls for Speed, Regenerations, Width, and Delay Time, and offers quite a bit of variation in tone, from subtle to over-the-top. It also has a handsome enclosure painted in instantly recognizable "vintage Japanese flanger yellow." The SF10 can be had from the usual auction sites for between 50 and 70 dollars if you play your cards right.  

 

CP10 Compressor Sustainer

Guitar compressor pedals have a reputation for being for being kind of gross sounding; they're often noisy, and they seem to coat a perfectly good guitar signal in a life-draining goop that sucks every ounce of dynamics and nuance out of the tone. Not so with the Ibanez CP10 Compressor Sustainer (at least if you use it right). The CP10 is a really great comp that won't squash your signal to death, it just fattens it up and evens things out a little while preserving all of the musical subtleties.  Its Attack, Sustain, and Level controls offer a bit more flexibility than many vintage style two-knobbers, and it is very quiet in operation, especially compared to the more egregiously squishy, plasticky examples from other guitar effects manufacturers. Our friend Shnobel has made several YouTube demos comparing the Ibanez CP10 to a handful of its competitors and contemporaries, including heavy hitters like the Keeley C4 and the script MXR Dyna Comp, and the CP10 compares quite favorably. If you want to grab one, they frequently can be found used for 50-60 dollars.

 

OT10 Octave

The OT10 Octave is one of the most unusual Ibanez pedals ever made for a couple of different reasons. For one, it simply doesn't seem to have been produced in significant numbers, and as such very seldomly comes up for sale on the used market. Secondly, it is still the only octave pedal Ibanez has ever made. Like many big manufacturers, Ibanez frequently recycles circuits and design concepts through various product lines, but the OT10 has yet to be reincarnated by either Ibanez or Maxon. This is a shame, because it's a really excellent effect, offering a big, fat octave-down sound, a dry blend control, and a control for "Edge," a somewhat mysterious function which seems to add a little grit and high EQ boost to the dry guitar signal. This gives it a nice cut to help poke through a dense mix. The OT10 tracks quite well, especially on higher strings with a fuzz or OD pedal pushing it, getting a little glitchy on low notes like all analog octaver pedals are wont to do. I have no idea what the going rate on an OT10 is, due to its rarity, but at present I have been able to find exactly one for sale online, with a "Buy It Now" price of 349 dollars. That seems pretty steep, but either way, this is a very sought-after pedal, particularly among Ibanez collectors.

 

FC10 Fat Cat Distortion

The '80s was a big decade for the Pro Co Rat. Its distinctively meaty, focused distortion tones contributed greatly to the pop-metal guitar sounds that were all over the radio at the time, selling lots and lots of pedals for Pro Co. Naturally, competing guitar effects companies also began to do their own versions of the circuit, including the crew at Hoshino-Gakki. The FC10 Fat Cat was a result of this endeavor, with Ibanez adding a few interesting twists to the design. The circuit used a JRC5534 op-amp rather than Pro Co's then-standard LM308, and the tone control was also reversed to act more like a standard tone knob. The Fat Cat also boasted a buffered, higher-impedance input, resulting in a lightened load on the guitar pickups and increased overall sonic clarity. It's a very fine-sounding and versatile Rat variant that can be picked up pretty regularly for 50 to 70 bucks. There's really no reason not to get one.

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