GEAR: All hail the Ibanez Soundtank DL5 Digital Delay!

I just dug out my old Ibanez Soundtank DL5 digital delay pedal. These came out some time in the 90s, and I remember a Guitar World review referring to them as “fat little potato bugs.” The advertising campaign showed the pedals kitted out with tank tracks, charging over a hill, while such hardasses as Ministry’s Mike Scaccia posed in full military regalia. Because nothing says ‘trained for lethal combat’ like plugging into a little plastic potato.

Anyway, my DL5 was a birthday present when I was about 15, which would mean that as of this past July I’ve had it for, gulp, half my life. Yipes. The pedal wasn’t working any more (after it gave up the ghost I gave it to my baby son to bash around – knobs and footswitches aplenty for tiny hands and feet to learn coordination). I’ve been on a bit of a pedal spree lately – buying new ones, firing up old ones – so I took it apart to look for any loose solder joints to see what I could to do make it live again. I couldn’t find anything, but I gave it a general clean-out, and now it miraculously works fine, though the switch requires a good hearty stomp to activate.

Now that I’ve played about a million delay units, I appreciate this one a lot more. It doesn’t sound as warm as my MXR Carbon Copy, but it’s a little soft around the edges compared to a Boss digital delay. The repeats sound slightly smoothed over, and when used with a good power supply it’s very quiet. When used with a bad one, it sounds like the background noise on the Death Star.

Delay time is only 400ms, but that can be doubled with a simple mod if you care to get tweaky. Construction feels a little flimsy, and battery life is remarkably low, but despite these little niggles, I still really like it, and I’ve made a permanent place for it on my pedal board. I might put it in a true bypass loop just in case the switch gives me any further trouble, but as it is, it’s a fun little pedal with great slap-back sounds. It’s also really good for that Van Halen ‘Cathedral’ trick, where you hammer on notes while working the guitar’s volume knob, and let the delay fill in notes in between the ones you’re playing.

I’ve found a few helpful links to getting the most out of the DL5.

Here’s the schematic at
Experimentalists Anonymous.

Meanwhile at the fantastic DiscoFreq site there’s a great article containing the mods for doubling the delay time, increasing the feedback level for near-infinite repeats, and fixing the intermittent switch.