The Maxon PAC-9 Pure Analog Chorus is a resurrected (albeit “improved upon”) version of Maxon’s fabled CS505. “Fabled,” because Maxon decided to discontinue it after Panasonic ceased production of its MN3207 chip, making it one of the most sought after pedals around. Maxon filled the void with the options-rich CS-9 Pro, but those who fell in love with the shimmering three-dimensional sound of the CS505 were left wanting.
Enter the PAC-9, which is built around Maxon’s proprietary chip (the MC4107D BBD IC to be exact!) and sports upgrades to the 505 such as RMS Noise reduction and a larger adjustable rate for the Speed and Width knobs. We are not certain whether or not the proprietary Maxon chip was designed as a clone of the defunct MN3207 chip, but it sounds fantastic nonetheless.
|Documentation & Support||10%|
|OVERALL RATING = 3.5
3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
3 stars or better: Worth considering
2 stars or better: Suited to specific needs
1 star or less: Not recommended
None of this comes cheap however, with a price tag that puts it out of range for a lot of players. Luckily though, the old adage “you get what you pay for” certainly applies to the PAC-9, as you get a ruggedly built pedal that offers a truly world-class sound.
The PAC-9 sports the same basic Speed and Depth knobs as most Chorus pedals, but takes the design a step further with Pure and Bright mini switches. When engaged, the Pure switch creates a technically correct chorus based on the chorus theory (even levels of dry and delayed signals) and when it’s Off the delayed signal is boosted 4 DB creating a tremolo-like effect. The Bright switch on the other hand cuts low end when engaged, producing a clearer and brighter sound, and when disengaged a standard “flat” chorus sound is achieved.
Stereo outputs complete the PAC-9’s package and allow traditional inverted phase output for use with two amplifiers. The PAC-9 features True Bypass switching using a state of the art 4PDT low-noise switch to ensure silent pop-free switching and no “tone suck” when the pedal is disengaged. Powering the PAC-9 is achieved by way of a 9-Volt battery or an optional 9-Volt DC converter.
The PAC-9 is super easy and intuitive to use. Dialing in a useful tone right out of the box was a cinch – just use your ears. Whether you want a traditional Andy Summers style chorus or trippy warbling tremolo effects, you will be there in seconds. Place your favorite distortion pedal before the PAC-9 and you’ll get instant “L.A. sound” (Aqua-Net not included!).
We found the 4PDT switching system to be quiet and “pop free,” and there was no discernable loss of tone when the pedal was inline thanks to the true bypass.
During our testing, the PAC-9 produced some of the most lush and realistic chorusing we have ever heard (and as you know, we love chorus pedals, reviewing many of them regularly). The unit exhibited none of the cold and sterile sound sometimes associated with certain Boss models (namely the classic CE-1 Chorus Ensemble and Ch-1 Super Chorus). Even with the bright switch invoked, the sound remains easy on the ears.
Using the clean channel of a Rivera Hundred Duo Twelve, we found that setting both the Bright and Pure switches to On, with the Speed at ten o’clock and the Width at two o’clock gave us everything we needed to faithfully recreate dozens of Police songs.
Moving over to a 50 Watt Marshall JCM 800 with a fair amount of gain dialed in, we achieved a nice three-dimensional sound perfect for invoking your inner Steve Stevens, or Moving Pictures era Rush. Turning the Width and Speed towards their maximum settings gave us some bizarre, almost flanged effects.
Documentation and Product Support
As mentioned earlier, this unit is truly plug and play — let you ears be your guide. The instruction manual provides a basic overview of the knobs and switches as well as a few sample settings to get you started. Like some other companies we’ve seen, Maxon’s instructions adhere to the “one size fits all” rule and not only include documentation pertinent to the unit being reviewed, but their entire product line as well!
The Maxon PAC-9 (MSRP $375) can be had on the street for about $280 – ouch! While we agree that you can’t put a price on great tone, this is by anyone’s standard a high price tag for a floor-based effect pedal, priced even higher than some other popular boutique models.
The PAC-9 is definitely one of the best sounding chorus pedals our review team has ever had the pleasure to play. However, if you are on a budget, or if you only use a Chorus effect on occasion, you don’t need to spend this much money to get a good chorus pedal. Check out some of the other models we’ve reviewed, too.