REVIEW: Maxon’s ST9Pro+ Super Tube Pedal

The Maxon ST9Pro+ Super Tube Pedal!

Maxon is a Japanese company that started in the mid 60’s manufacturing pickups. They progressed to effects pedals for guitar and bass shortly thereafter. Legendary in status, Maxon produced one of the most popular and sought after pedals of all time: the OD808 overdrive that they also developed for Ibanez as the TS808 and TS-9. Through the years the pedal has gone through a multitude of variations in components, mods, and circuit designs. With the all-new ST9Pro+ Super Tube, Maxon has reissued this pedal based on the original 808 overdrive circuit with additional features to bring versatility to this classic design.

FRESH OUTTA THE BOX

Weighing in at nearly 1-1/2 pounds including an installed battery, the Super Tube is heavy and built like a tank. The all-metal enclosure is finished in metallic green. A black plastic faceplate serves as the background for four controls: drive, level, mid enhance, and tone, plus a small toggle to switch between low boost and classic mode. Standard 1/4″ jacks provide instrument input and output, a 9V DC power adapter plug is available, and access to a 9V battery compartment can be found underneath. The bottom side of the pedal is protected by a thick rubber surface which helps give it grab to whatever surface it’s resting on. The foot pedal is designed in classic Maxon rectangular form like a gas pedal turned on its side. All the knobs turned smoothly and felt solid. The toggle switch is on the small side which is good for maintaining a low profile. I get a little anxious about the durability of smaller switches, but it felt industrial.

LET’S DRIVE THIS SUCKA!

Grabbing my 60th Anniversary Strat, I plugged through the ST9Pro+ into a BitMo-modified Blackheart half stack. As a base setting, I dialed drive and mid enhance to zero, tone to 12 o’clock, and achieved balance in volume between the pedal on and off with level set just shy of noon. This left plenty of room to boost. At this “lowest” setting, the pedal is gruff with overdrive – not overly so, but dirty for sure. The pedal uses True Bypass Switching which means the signal goes through a non-electric bypass line when the pedal is disengaged and maintains tone when engaged. This is a godsend as far as I’m concerned. I went through previous Maxon and Ibanez versions of these pedals based on their popularity alone and immediately got rid of them because I hated the mid range hump and the way tone was sucked out of the bottom end. Don’t have to worry about that anymore! For those who like that sound, however, there is plenty of adjustment available to achieve this.

Next, I turned up the drive control. The manual describes this adjustment as controlling distortion. Turning it up did add dirt, but more than that, it filled out and grew hair on its chest, coming across richer and juicier. The tone control adjusts higher frequencies. At lower settings it acts like a treble cut which makes the sound round and muffled, though it never went to mud. At the opposite end, high frequencies are accentuated as low frequencies drop off, resulting in a sharp, more defined delivery.

Mid enhance controls where the signal gets boosted along the mid range spectrum. This works interactively with the tone control to offer a wide palette of tonal options. Playing with these two alone delayed completing this review by a good 1/2 hr. as I found it hard to tear myself away from dialing in a wide range of unique alterations to the pedal’s character. The mode switch, activated by a small toggle, flips between classic and low boost. Classic mode engages the original diode clip circuitry. Low boost activates alternate paired-diode clip and low end circuitry that boosts approximately 10dB in the 100Hz range. Additionally, it adds distortion across the frequency range. All this to simply say rounder, fatter, louder!

A final hidden adjustment lies inside the battery compartment: an operating voltage switch. This changes the voltage between 9V and 18V. The difference is subtle, but at 9V the pedal is leaner and has more of a classic feel. Operating at the incoming voltage, battery life is maxed. At 18V, an internal voltage doubler is designed to increase headroom, dynamic response, and frequency range. In my experience it offered up a more modern and heavy sound.

THE FINAL WRAP

With an eye towards wrangling the variety of mods to the original TS-series into one “super” pedal, Maxon has come up big with their ST9Pro+ Super Tube. It’s built to last and offers enough variety, while maintaining purity of character, to shape anyone’s tube screaming sound to satisfaction. A true improvement on a classic design.

PROS: Durable as durable can be. Versatile. Classic design.

CONS: I still don’t sound like Stevie! (though I can’t blame that on the pedal)

MSRP – $275

Dan Coplan is senior staff writer at SMG. Dan is a Los Angeles based cinematographer and self-admitting guitar junkie. Email: dancoplan@sharemyguitar.com

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