The tubescreamer is a staple in gear culture. You can find it in many pedalboards across players of different genres and backgrounds.
This pedal was a hit that still lasts these days.
And of course, with a great hit, it’s inevitable to have a lot of new versions and iterations with the years.
The manufacturers want to milk dry this best-selling piece of gear and it’s their right.
It’s also YOUR right to know what you’re buying and how it compares with other models of, presumably, the same product.
If you’re in a hurry, here is the short version of this article:
The main differences between tubescreamers: The TS9 has a higher output than the original TS808, the TS10, TS7, and TS5 are lower quality iterations with quirky features. The TS mini is a true bypass small form factor TS808. The TS808HW is hand-wired. The TS808DX has a booster circuit. The TS9B is a bass pedal.
In this article, we will talk about every version of the tubescreamer, describe them briefly along with their specs. Then, we will put them side by side to see what are their main differences. Finally, we will give you our insights about which one would be the best for you.
Let’s get started!
Main characteristics of the TS808
The TS808 is the one that started this madness.
It was first introduced in the late 1970s and from then on has been present in numerous pedalboards across the globe.
Ibanez is still manufacturing and selling a reissue of this model with original specs.
Serving as a soft overdrive this pedal became the industry standard. From Stevie Ray Vaughan to many metal players, this low gain boost in signal is almost a necessity for many guitar players.
Its main uses are as a mellow overdrive to push clean tones into a hotter territory or as a signal booster before a heavy amp distortion. This last use case is very common among metal players since it changes the character of the amp.
By pushing the pedal’s volume to the max setting, the signal is boosted to the point of getting compressed in a very particular way.
Main characteristics of the TS9
The TS9 came after the TS808 in 1985. This iteration of the classic pedal is almost the same as its predecessor but it incorporates some key changes that changed its character.
This version of the tubescreamer has a higher output which makes it sound brighter and less smooth.
However, this by no means implies that the TS9 is a harsh-sounding pedal. Don’t get me wrong, the soul and core concept of the stompbox is the same, and it’s still an amazing pedal.
The thing is that this subtle change in specs made the purists, at least, feel the need to note it.
Many say that this distinct change in the character of its tone may suit it better for humbuckers and for heavier distorted tones.
Main characteristics of the Tubescreamer Mini
Enter the mini version of a classic.
Because pedalboard real estate is always climbing in price, less square inchage is always welcomed.
The tubescreamer mini is a modern version that Ibanez launched for players in need of a more compact overdrive solution.
It is said to be inspired in the original TS808 and not in the TS9.
This, as many players report, makes it have less gain and less of a mids hump.
Also, this version is around 20% cheaper than the full-sized one and it is a true bypass pedal.
Main characteristics of the TS10
The TS10 came third in the history of variations for the original tubescreamer. This one came in 1986 and added still more changes to the original circuit.
A new design for its jacks made them more easily breakable.
As for tone differences with the other models, they are subtle but noticeable for some players.
It is said to have a less pronounced midrange, which can also be the effect of having a fuller low end.
Main characteristics of the TS5
The TS5 “Soundtank” was available until 1999 and was the predecessor of the TS10.
It’s by far the weirdest looking of all the versions, but apart from that, the spirit remains the same.
The tones that this thing emits are said to be a bit grainier than the original versions, but that difference is very subtle.
The big advantage of this model is that nowadays it sells used for very cheap since it doesn’t look as pretty or iconic as its older brothers.
Main characteristics of the TS7
The TS7 “Tone-Lok” came after the TS5 and it surely looks as it just came from outer space.
This version achieved its sounds by using the same chip that TS808s and TS9s used but it incorporates a “hot” mode switch for an extra dose of distortion and volume.
Many players say that the TS7 is a cheaper-sounding version of the TS9. And that might be the case since pedal specialists report that it is made with more inexpensive materials.
For those that are on a budget, like the novelty, or might enjoy the hot mode, this is a nice alternative.
Main characteristics of the TS808HW
HW stands for hand-wired.
Since all modern versions of the TS808 are not hand wired as the originals were, and some purists might find a problem in that, in 2016 Ibanez decided to make them happy.
It was a limited edition pedal, marketed as a premium alternative, built with premium materials.
It comes standard with true bypass, which is a very common mod between the tubescreamer fans.
Main characteristics of the TS808DX
The TS808DX is a double pedal that incorporates a 20 dB booster alongside a classic 808 tubescreamer.
Both the tubescreamer and the booster part of this piece of gear can be used alone or at the same time.
It is true bypass and its boost circuit tends to cut from the mids and add to the highs and lows.
This option is for those who really need the two-in-one package and like to experiment with the tone possibilities that combining the overdrive with the boost circuit might deliver.
Main characteristics of the TS9B
The TS9B is a tubescreamer for bass players.
It is actually just using the brand tubescreamer since its features are not very much like the rest of the classics previously detailed.
For starters, this pedal has 5 knobs. Drive, mix, bass, treble, and level. This is not the tubescreamer way, but it works.
Having a mix knob on an overdrive designed for bass is essential because overdriven bass sounds tend to lose low end. And in many cases, you don’t want a bass to not have low-end.
The mix control lets you choose how much of the pedal processed signal get through and how much of the original signal passes, giving you the chance to get a more balanced sound.
This is not a bad pedal, and surely the original spirit of the tubescreamer lives within it, but it’s not a true TS.
Differences between tubescreamer models
So far we have discussed the main features of the most popular models of this amazing pedal.
Now it’s time for us to put them side to side and find out which makes every single iteration of it special. We will only focus on what we think is their main feature.
|Original version||Higher output||Lower quality||Lower quality||Lower quality||Hand-wired||Modern reissue||Double TS808 pedal with an added booster circuit||Bass pedal with mix and EQ controls|
|Less midrange||Cheaper||Same chip as TS808 and TS9||True bypass||True bypass|
|Ugly aesthetics||“Hot” mode||Modern reissue of the TS808||20% cheaper|
|Based on the TS808|
Which one should you choose?
Here at GearAficionado we don’t like making direct recommendations of gear.
We always encourage you to go try the equipment side by side and let your ear decide.
What you might read in an article or hear in a YouTube video will never be as useful as having the real thing with you.
Of course, this is not possible every time and we know that.
We can try to point you to some ballparks to make your decision easier:
- If you’re a vintage lover, try to get an original TS808
- If you have nothing against modern reissues and like the original, get a modern TS808
- If you’re looking for a TS to boost your distorted sound, try a TS9
- If you want a more scooped sound, look for a TS10
- If you’re looking for a vintage bargain, try finding a TS5
- If you’d enjoy the versatility of the “hot” mode, choose a TS7
- If you can’t afford the original but prefer hand wiring, look for a TS808HW
- If you have a crowded pedalboard and want a true bypass TS, pick the TS mini
- If you’d like to experiment with a booster alongside your overdrive, choose the TS808DX
- If you’re a bass player, go get a TS9B
As for our overall opinion and biased by the GearAficionado’s personal taste, we would choose the TS mini due to its convenient size, cheaper price, true bypass feature, and TS808 sound.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.