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Vox Amplification Ice 9 Overdrive Pedal Review

Versatile modern and vintage overdrive

Download Example 1
High gain P-90 tone. Hamer Korina Special.
Download Example 2
Thick, crunchy and sustained humbucker tone. Gibson '58 Les Paul Reissue.
Download Example 3
Mid-gain Strat chime overdrive with "More" engaged at end of clip. Fender American Strat.
Clips recorded into a 3rd Power American Dream on the Blackface channel. SM57 on center of cone through Chandler LTD-1 preamp into Pro Tools.
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.

Ice It!
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 configuration, 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 Verdict
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!

Buy if...
you want versatility and vintage and modern overdrives that are never shrill.
Skip if...
you need super-high levels of gain.

Street $129 - Vox Amplification -

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