This hot-rodded version of one of the coolest OD pedals ever is a sweet deal for anyone who’s ever wished for a “more” knob on the Ibanez SD-9
Thick distortion with smoothly tailored highs
Great playing feel and lots of gain and output
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As the first signature model effect from TWA (Totally Wycked Audio), the SH9 Scott Henderson Signature Distortion is also the company’s first ground-up design collaboration with Tube Screamer inventor Susumu Tamura.
For the SH9, Tamura took the basic SD-9 Sonic Distortion circuit that he developed in 1981 and reworked it to meet Henderson’s performance standards.
As the literature explains, “The center frequency of the SH9’s tone control has been shifted and focused in the lows and lower mids. The SH9 retains this low-end response even as the tone control is turned up, allowing notes to speak properly in the higher registers on the guitar. This increased note girth, combined with the SH9’s inherent compression, allows Scott to effortlessly articulate the fluid, horn-like lead tones that he is known for.”
Other improvements are increased output level and the ability to operate on nine- or 18-volt power, the latter providing more headroom, less compression and a slightly different distortion character.
The swanky purple paint job signals to fans of the Ibanez and Maxon SD-9s that there’s a new sheriff in town, and the SH9 is further differentiated by using a mechanical foot switch and true-bypass circuitry.
Removing four screws to peer inside the die-cast housing revealed only the back of the PCB, which is reportedly populated with ALPS potentiometers, Marushin audio jacks and WIMA metal-film caps. There’s also a terminal clip for a battery.
Tested with a Gibson Historic ’59 Les Paul and a G&L ASAT Classic with Seymour Duncan pickups – both through a reissue ’65 Fender Deluxe Reverb combo with circuitry by George Alessandro – the SH9 made its case right off the bat in three ways: its thickness, how much distortion it delivers and the amount of output on tap.
With single-coils, it poured out smoothly textured grind when I set the distortion knob to one o’clock, the tone to nine o’clock or less, and the level to around two o’clock. This worked well for lead and dirty rhythm by simply riding the electric guitar volume.
From there it was easy to dial in a Les Paul to deliver a singing neck-pickup tone that was great for blues, or a fat, sustaining bridge-pickup sound with nicely voiced highs that let it slice through when things got loud.
The pedal’s compression makes for a great feel when soloing, and even with the distortion up past two o’ clock, rolling back the guitar volume produced a ballsy rhythm tone that was killer for crunch riffing.
The thick, muscular drive that the SH9 dishes out makes it a sweet deal for anyone who’s ever wished for a “more” knob on the Ibanez SD-9.
If that sounds like you, then you will likely appreciate the cooperative efforts by TWA’s Kevin Bolembach, Susumu Tamura and Scott Henderson to create this hot-rodded version of one of the coolest OD pedals ever.
- BUILT: USA
- CONTROLS: Distortion, tone, level
- I/O: Input, output, 9VDC jack (adapter not included)
- FOOT SWITCH: Mechanical, true-bypass switching
- EXTRAS: Can operate on battery power
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Art Thompson is Senior Editor of Guitar Player magazine. He has authored stories with numerous guitar greats including B.B. King, Prince and Scotty Moore and interviewed gear innovators such as Paul Reed Smith, Randall Smith and Gary Kramer. He also wrote the first book on vintage effects pedals, Stompbox. Art's busy performance schedule with three stylistically diverse groups provides ample opportunity to test-drive new guitars, amps and effects, many of which are featured in the pages of GP.