With their straight-out-of-
the-’70s groovy colors –
pea soup green, bright
orange, powder blue, plum purple, and Mopar metallic green – Maxon’s Vintage Series Effects look like new old stock, lost-in-the-basement-of-a-music-store units.
But we’ve seen loads of cool-looking pedals that just didn’t float our boat. Because we’re all about tone, obviously, the real test is whether they sound like vintage pedals. Phycially, they’re all a match (except for their colors), sharing the same cast metal case (6″x4″), black retro knobs, on/off LED, and classic heavy duty stompswitch.
To find out, we tested them with a ’68 Gibson SG and an ’83 Strings-N-Things Telecaster copy plugged into a Carvin 2×12 Belair combo and a our co-feature review amp, the Reverend Hellhound 40/60.
AD900 Analog Delay
The control layout was what you would expect, with knobs for delay time, repeats, and delay level. The delay time knob offers no indication of the actual delay time, but we found the shorter slap-back delay sounded best – a lot like a tape echo, in part because the repeats had a mirky analog tone to them. Longer delays (500 to 600 ms) could be used effectively, if subdued.
We noticed that this was a very quiet pedal compared to other analog (and even some digital) delay pedals, and a more reliable alterative to a tape echo.
CS550 Stereo Chorus
We hooked this in stereo through two amps and were able to achieve great stereo separation by manipulating the depth and delay controls, giving us a very liquid, Univibe-like sound. In mono into just one amp, we got flanger-like tone with lots of depth due to the rear-mount depth control, which was a bit difficult to change on the fly.
Again, the pedal is very quiet and there is no loss or coloration of tone.
PH350 Rotary Phaser
With controls for speed, depth, feedback and mode, this pedal emulates different classic phase patterns. We also tested it in stereo and found the center-detent feedback control offered both positive and negative feedback.
Compared to other phase shifters, the PH350s subdued effect won’t let you overdo it. Waylon and Willie probably won’t like this pedal.
DS830 Distortion Master
We were able to obtain everything for a thick, crunchy overdrive to heavy distortion with a lot of musical sustain. The no-frills control layout (gain, bass, treble, level) covered most needs, except maybe the heavy metal “scooped mids” sound.
OD820 Overdrive Pro
This unit sounds a lot like an original TS808 or Overdrive II, with slightly more midrange and less low-end. A very usable, ultra-smooth-sounding pedal, whether used for all the distortion, or to drive the preamp in the Hellhound.
While all the Maxon Vintage Series pedals borrow a ’70s vibe cosmetically, and offer true vintage effect tones, they draw the line in a key area: quality of construction. Unlike our often-chinzy friends from back in the day, these pedals are well-built, high-quality, and quiet. And each is packaged with its own AC power supply and skid pad. If there was one other ’70 aspect the Maxons could share, it’d be price, which may keep these units out of range for many.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Feb. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.