Shrouded in mystery, the highly anticipated, limited-run Jemini Distortion pedal has arrived. A twin-stomper that's had Jem forum-junkies clamouring for details ever since it was spotted at 2008's NAMM show, one glance at the finish and signature reveals it to be the first Ibanez Steve Vai signature stompbox.
The finish is designed along the same visual lines as Vai's signature UV Jem guitars. With multicoloured swirls on the diecast zinc casing you are unlikely to trip over it onstage.
The Jemini has two very similarly voiced channels: the first being an overdrive and second being a distortion. It's been rumoured that Ibanez designed the Jemini to replace two of Vai's favourite pedals: a TS9 Tube Screamer and a BOSS DS-1 distortion.
Each channel has a trio of identical controls in the shape of independent drive, tone and level pots.
A notable addition is the bright/save switch. The other feature that stands out is the bright/save switch. It's not for storing sounds or adding sparkle to the tone though – it controls the intensity of lights!
For example, bright consumes 49mA current, which basically makes the circular LEDs very bright for, well, bright gigging conditions. Save reduces the current to 23mA for darker stages, and saves battery power in so doing.
Here are a series of sound clips that show how the pedal pushes an amp that's set on the edge of break-up. This is the right-hand pedal, with all controls at 12 o' clock:
This is the left-hand pedal, with all controls at 12 o' clock:
This is the right-hand pedal with the volume and tone at 12 o' clock and the drive at 3 o' clock:
This is the left-hand pedal with the volume and tone at 12 o' clock and the drive at 3 o' clock:
Now the right-hand pedal with the gain on full:
And finally the left-hand pedal with the gain on full:
You quickly notice a distinct difference between the two channels: channel one seems to be a straightforward low-gain overdrive. Tonally it's vaguely similar to an Ibanez TS9 (Tube Screamer) but has nowhere near the same presence or aggression an original TS9 has at its disposal.
To remedy the lack of cut and high-end, the tone control now steps in: moving it along to four o'clock dials in more top-end which in turn seems to add a little more sparkle to proceedings, dial out some of the flabbiness and bring us towards that more recognisable Vai low-gain sound. However, with the drive control maxed out it's not as defined as you might expect.
The drive control isn't particularly interactive either as it seems to go from minimal drive and output to a slightly more satisfying grainy, heavy overdrive. Somewhat surprisingly, this seems to be great for a no-frills grunge sound where a super defined drive tone is not the order of the day; just a big muddy note-texturing overdrive that works for thrashing out barre chords.
Channel two is a more face-melting and hair-raising affair. Yet again with the tone rolled off the pedal gets dark very quickly, although with that the low end gets softer and more spongy in response.
This channel, as with the first, finds its home or 'sweet spot' with plenty of gain from the drive control and with the tone pushed for optimum presence and attack – this is where fans of Vai's signature lead tone will have the most fun. It's a harsher sound than channel one and with drive on full it has a more cutting rasp to the top-end. All of these tones point to one man: Steve Vai.
This pedal is almost exclusively designed for Vai's fans, guys who have the guitars, the amps and other ephemera associated with the man in question, or at the very least those who are beginning to get into the Vai sound.
Its limited run appeal should not cloud its potential as it's a very cool looking and sounding dual-channel distortion pedal that, while it takes up a fair bit of real estate on your board, may save on the cabling nonsense between two single stompers of the same creed.
At £149 it's not unreasonable for a 'dual' pedal and with this kind of star attachment and Japanese build, which at its best is a match for any American or EU built pedal.