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Ibanez MC1 Pitch-to-MIDI Converter

Ibanez MC1 Pitch-to-MIDI Converter

Features and Specifications:

  • Continuous control of MIDI trigger threshold
  • Continuous control of MIDI dynamic range
  • Effects Loop Send and Return
  • Peak and decay calibration mode
  • 10 segment display for string dynamics
  • Two mono synth inputs, internal Voltage Controlled Amplifiers are used to control guitar and synth levels
  • Dedicated HOLD foot switch with front panel display LED
  • Dedicated front panel Chromatic mode LED
  • Built by Maxon Electronics (manufacturer of Ibanez foot pedals)
  • Dedicated multifunction edit keys for easy editing, with support for assignable MIDI control numbers from 0 to 32
  • Optional use of Ibanez IFC60 foot pedal controller to change patches
  • Dimensions: 482 mm (W) 276 mm (H) 44 mm (D)
  • Power Requirements: 12 watts
  • Weight: 4.0 kg 8 lb. 13 oz.
  • Response Time: 33.62 ms
IMG2010 Black

Introduction to the Ibanez MC1:

The MC1 is NOT a copy of the much more familiar, industry standard Roland GM-70. Both units convert Roland 24-pin guitar signals in MIDI information, but there the similarity stops. The Ibanez MC1 puts a premium on guitar player friendly performance. For example, rather than using Controllers One and Two for MIDI control, the MC1 uses the knobs to fine-tune playability. Control One is used to adjust the MIDI trigger level (amount of picking strength required to trigger a MIDI note). Control Two adjusts the dynamic range of your picking style. The GM-70 does not have a threshold control, and offers only five velocity response curves.

The MC-1 does not transmit MIDI volume controller 7 with its master volume knob. By modern standards, this seems like a problem. There are two ways to look at this issue: one, you can assign CV #4 (control knob) to controller 7 (MIDI volume). This solution will really work only with the IMG2010 guitar, since only the IMG2010 has CV #4 always active.

Alternatively, you can use the two rear panel inputs for synthesizers to be controlled by the MC-1 internal VCA circuit. The both the MC-1 and GM-70 have rear panel analog inputs that pass through a VCA. The VCA (output) level is controlled by the master volume on the guitar controller. The difference between the two units is this: the MC-1 has two mono inputs that are summed together and passed to the mono output jack. The GM-70 has one stereo input that is passed to the stereo output. In both modules, the balance control on the guitar controls the balance from the rear panel analog inputs and the clean guitar signal generated by the pickups on the guitar. Plugging a cable into the guitar output jack removes the guitar signal from the outputs.

The MC1 also includes an effects loop. However, there is no way to switch the effects loop on or off!

One final observation: when carefully calibrating my rig, I noticed that both the GM-70 and MC-1 have a pretty coarse control resolution. Rather than seeing numbers smoothly scroll from 0 to 64, or 0 to 128, I would only see even numbers. I would have to say this indicates a lack of resolution in the GM-70 and MC-1 circuitry.

MC1 Multifunction LED Display:

Dedicated LEDs show Hold Mode (Green LED), Chromatic mode, and 3 display modes Shown here is calibration mode for String 1, with Peak (top) and Decay level (lower) Shown here is calibration mode for String 3, with Peak (top) and Decay level (lower)

Accessories Ibanez IFC60 Foot Controller


The Ibanez IFCO60 (Intelligent Foot Controller) is hard to find foot controller that was sold with the MC1 as a set.

It features five programs foot switches, plus a bank foot switch. It also works with the Ibanez DUE400, EPP400 and the SDR1000+ Digital Reverb.

Similar to the way the Roland FC100 and FC-100 MKII can be used as stand alone MIDI pedals with the Roland RMC-1, the IFC60 has the ability to be used as a stand-alone MIDI foot controller when used with the Ibanez MIU8 MIDI Interface. The hard-to-find MIU8 is a really cool box, that could double as a 1-in, 8-out MIDI thru box, or as a MIDI interface/breakout box for the IFC60.

If you read the IFC60 instruction manual, there are details on removing the bottom panel of the IFC60 and changing DIP switches to change the basic MIDI channel of the IFC60.

Links to more information:

The Ibanez MC1 - Manufactured by Maxon

Ibanez MC1 built by Maxon MC1 built by Maxon

Maxon built the MC1 for Ibanez. As most players of vintage gear are aware, Maxon built all of the Ibanez branded foot pedals, including the famous Tube Screamer. When I pulled my MC1 apart, I was thinking that the MC1 could be asking itself, "Who am I?" The MC1 says "Ibanez" on the front panel, but has the "Hoshino" logo, and once you open the unit up, all the parts are branded as "Maxon!"

Why do the Roland GM-70 and Ibanez MC1 include synthesizer inputs?

MC1 Setup

IMG2010/MC1 manual showing both MIDI and audio synthesizer connections.

Click on image for larger view.

You may have noticed that both the Roland GM-70 and Ibanez MC1 include analog 1/4" inputs for synthesizer, in addition to MIDI input and output, and a guitar output.

The Roland GM-70 has a stereo input and stereo output, plus one MIDI output, and the MC1 has two mono inputs that are summed to a mono output, and MIDI out "A" and "B".

Why? Keep in mind that both these units are some of the very first MIDI processors ever built. At the beginning of MIDI, it was not clear how manufacturers would actually implement the MIDI specification. If you buy a keyboard or MIDI module today, it is accepted that the unit will support MIDI controller #1 for modulation, #7 for volume, #64 for sustain, controller #71 for filter resonance, and #74 for filter cutoff.

But in 1985 it was not clear that MIDI controller #7 would be universally implemented as volume control. So the inputs on the GM-70 and MC1 pass signal through voltage controlled amplifiers, with the control voltage supplied by the volume knob on the guitar controller. If a synthesizer did not support MIDI volume, the output of the synth could still be passed through the GM-70 or MC1 for volume control. This makes sense, if you check out the MIDI implementation for the Prophet 600, regarded as the first MIDI synthesizer, there is no support for MIDI volume, only note on/note off, program change, and modulation wheel.


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Schematics - Repairs - Service Bulletins:

There are no known service bulletins from Ibanez addressing any MC1 problems.

Memory Failure - Battery Replacement:

If the display of your MC1 flashes when first turned the unit on, this indicates the lithium memory backup battery is dead. The MC1 uses a tabbed version the very popular CR2025 battery.

MC1 Damaged Battery Replaced Battery
Hold Footswitch Inputs Stops Working:
DTA Q101 Replacement 2368

Probably four out of five MC1s that I have tested have problems with a failed sustain (hold) footswitch input. To test your MC1, just plug a simple SPST on/off footswitch into the MC1. You should see the front panel HOLD led light when the switch is closed.

The problem here is a digital transistors that acts as a bridge from the remote footswitch and the internal circuitry. A check of the schematic shows the parts is the digital transistor, DTA143, labeled as DTA Q101.

This is a discontinued item, but NTE makes a substitute, a NTE 2368. Replacing the transistor solved the problem. Once I became familiar with this part, I realized that similar digital transistors are everywhere, used as digital switching transistors in the Roland GR-700, US-2 and BC-13, and more.

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