ICE 9 OVERDRIVE
By Steve Ouimette
For those who unwaveringly associate the Vox brand with ’60s pop and
Joe Satriani with shred, the partnership they cemented in 2008 might
seem odd. But despite any preconceptions you might have, the collaboration has been prolific, yielding the Satchurator distortion, Time
Machine delay, and the Big Bad Wah. The Ice 9 Overdrive is the latest
offering in the Vox Satriani Series, and this time around the goal was
to design a wide-ranging overdrive that would span tones from Surfing
with the Alien to Satch’s current hard-rock sound.
Clean and Easy To Navigate
Packaged in a rugged, pearl-white enclosure with royal-blue pointer
knobs, the Ice 9 looks clean and classy. Its four dials let you adjust Gain,
Tone, Bass, and Volume. Just above the dials, you’ll find a mini switch,
labeled Vintage/Modern. There are two stomp switches down on the
lower half of the pedal—one to engage the overdrive and another
labeled More. The latter provides 14 dB of additional volume boost.
Standard input and output jacks are located on the sides of the pedal,
and there’s a 9V adapter jack around back.
The Vintage/Modern switch toggles between two different overdrive
circuits, with Vintage providing op-amp and diode-based gain, and
Modern using a germanium diode for more contemporary nastiness.
With its More switch and tone controls, the Ice 9 presents a wealth of
overdrive possibilities to explore.
166 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2010
I conducted my first tests of the Ice 9 using a Hamer Korina Special
and a 3rd Power American Dream combo set to a slightly overdriven
tone. I cranked the Ice 9’s Gain, set the Tone at noon and Bass at 9
o’clock, and toggled the circuit switch to Vintage. In this configura-
tion, the Ice 9 delivered a warm, not-too-biting overdrive and sustain
that proved very addictive. Finding that tone a little dark, I brought
the Tone knob up all the way. The last bit of travel on the Tone knob
prompted a dramatic sonic shift that delivered both treble definition
and sustain for days. Not the best for a chugging sound on the lower
strings, but perfect for singing melodies that benefit from never-
ending single notes.
I also tried a 2003 Les Paul with Sheptone AB Special pickups. This time
I scaled the Gain back and switched over to the Modern circuit. This
tightened the pedal’s sound and responsiveness, and added a bite and
immediacy that allowed me to dial back the Tone a bit. This proved
to be a great sound for chugging rhythms. And although the gain was
lower, the sound felt tougher, yet it still offered ample clarity and cut.
With a Fender American Standard Strat and clean amp tone as a base,
the same pedal settings accented the Strat’s chime with extra kick and
warmth. And stepping on the More switch added a girth and boost in
volume that was perfect for soloing.
The Ice 9 gave me such a varied menu of tones that I never really
got around to hunting for any of Satriani’s signature tones. But the
fact that the pedal packs so many other tonal possibilities makes it a
truly intriguing sound-shaping tool, whether you play humbuckers or
single-coils, or high- or low-gain amps. And at just about 130 bucks
on the street, the Ice 9 packs a lot of inspiration for the buck. Pretty
cool—or should I say, Ice!
you want versatility and vintage and
modern overdrives that are never shrill.
you need super-high levels of gain.
By Steve Ouimette
Most every pedal built by Colorado-based WMD is designed on the principle that a device should be as versatile as possible. It’s a cool philosophy that makes every WMD pedal a tool of impressive creative potential.
And the aptly named Acoustic Trauma analog distortion stompbox—
which can generate everything from mellow preamp overdrive to seriously sick sonic damage—is a beautiful embodiment of the company’s
ambition in the form of a wide-ranging distortion/overdrive device.