Sunday, November 27, 2011

Review: Ibanez AF9 Auto Filter

This is the Ibanez AF9 Auto Filter Pedal. Made by Maxon in Japan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, this pedal is essentially a compact version of the Musitronics (Mu-Tron) III Envelope Filter.

Unlike the Mu-Tron, however, the Ibanez AF9 uses a battery or a standard 9v adapter instead of a proprietary power supply (useful if you're using a pedal board or daisy-chain adapter). The controls are the same (Level, Peak, Filter, Drive and Range) as the Mu-Tron, but with a slightly different configuration.

The biggest advantage the AF9 has over the Mu-Tron is the price: where a Mu-Tron will cost you $700-$800, an original AF9 goes for around $100-$150 (which is less than the Maxon reissue as well).

If you're a collector, though, consider the Musitronics; since the AF9 was reissued, prices for the original version have decreased.

What does it do? The AF9 is an automatic envelope filter. This means that, like a wah-wah pedal, the circuit varies the shape of the "Q" or equalization curve of the signal. This causes a wah-like effect, but unlike a wah, you don't control the sweep yourself. The settings on the pedal determine the depth, peak, and direction of the control sweep, and the level to which the pedal is sensitive to pick attack.

The sensitivity control allows you to play with the pedal on, and minimize its effect by reducing the volume of the guitar, or picking more softly, then exaggerating it by increasing pick attack and volume. The direction setting allows you to have your signal "wah" up or "wow" down with each note. The drive level gives a little boost to your signal as it passes through the filter circuit (this works especially well when paired with another distortion/overdrive, much like the depth setting on the WH10 wah-wah pedal).

Aside from its obvious uses as a source of "quack" for funk, reggae, jazz, or anytime you just need a funky, skanky backing rhythm, the pedal performs well as a mid- and treble booster as well. If you use a TS9 or similar overdrive, and run it into the AF9 at a high gain level, you get a great, fully open sound not unlike leaving your wah in the "sweet spot". After fiddling with the dials a bit, I found I was able to keep my guitar in that "sweet spot" no matter where on the neck I was playing. This doesn't work well for chords, but it has great potential for lead playing.

Price Range:$100-$150

Highs:-Great at what it does
-Solid construction
-Compact case

Lows:-Doesn't do much else
-A bit noisy (esp. with too many other pedals)

Rating: 7/10


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Have you ever seen an effect that, rather than controlling the Q, altered the filter frequency (whether through envelope filtering or manual rocker pedal)?

    I've messed around with it as an effect in recording sessions by cranking the EQ knobs around but I want it in a standalone effect.

    For an example, listen to "Hey, Johnny Park!" by Foo Fighters. On the CD it starts at 2m58s. Here's a Youtube video of the song, starting at the point where the effect kicks in: Foo Fighters, "Hey, Johnny Park!

    1. Never heard of such an effect. Sounds pretty awesome, though!