Ibanez’ Most Overlooked Pedals: The DCP Series

There are many (in)famous Ibanez pedal series down through the decades. Some are remembered most for a single iconic effect, like the TS9 Tubescreamer. Others are remembered but vaguely, like the plastic-encased “Sound Tank” series. One, however, was the fastest flash-in-the-pan of Ibanez effects and is all but forgotten in modern gear lore.

I’m talking about the DCP series. The what? Exactly. This acronym stood for “Digitally Controlled Processor” and signals a series of made in Japan pedals that leveraged both digital sound design and an innovative style of effect connections. To tell this story, we need to wind back the clock more than thirty years.

Ibanez hit a homerun with the 9 series, which wound down by 1985. Though the success of the 10 series was arguably not as far reaching as its forebear, by the time of its termination in 1989 the lineup was so expansive it’s collective impact proved success. To go for the hat trick, Ibanez needed something exceptional that at once looked and felt familiar yet pushed the envelope. Enter the DCP series, which had a short production run lasting less than two years from 1988-1989.

From a design standpoint, the 9 and 10 series pedals are traditional: they are self-contained single effects with limited tone sculpting based on predetermined pots and parameters. The DCP series, however, changed all this. In short, the pedals were almost a hybrid of traditional stompbox and rack style multi-effect. Each effect was connected to a mothership style computer unit that controlled the pedal. On first glance, this looks almost more like a vintage video game system than a guitar rig!

The lineup of pedals included: the PDD1 Delay, PDM1 Modulation Delay, PDS1 Distortion, POD1 Distortion, and the PPE1 Parametric EQ. While the distortion effects of this series were not themselves digital — remember, the design heralded digital control — the others in the lineup were largely digital signal paths and sounds. This digital control had both the potential for deep sound design and easy onset confusion. Each pedal had a small display screen — think that old Casio watch you used to wear — as well as sound, bank, and patch buttons. The idea itself was great: enable deep design but do away with that towering cash suck of a rack unit. In reality, however, the custom sounds didn’t come easy without hours poring over the manual.

Was the DCP series a worthy follow-up to the Ibanez’ effect pedal successes of the early 1980s? Well, yes and no. It’s clear from the unbelievably short production run that the reception of the pedals was lukewarm at best. Yet while the pedals had their flaws, the idea of computer driven effects in a compact pedal form was arguably forward-thinking. Perhaps the problem was they were too ahead of the curve for the world of 1989.

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