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An Ibanez Tube Screamer is an overdrive/distortion pedal that is mild compared to many, but allows the true sound of the guitar and player's technique to come through. The most popular use of a tube screamer is to push a tube amp to make it overdrive more, but they sound good through almost anything.
If you are a geek like we are, check out this awesome article Tube Screamer®’s Secret for some cool info about why the tube screamer circuit sounds so good.
The first Tube Screamer was the green TS-808 overdrive pro in the late '70s. It was preceded by the Orange "Overdrive" and green "Overdrive-II" which came in narrower boxes without the battery cover, and the reddish "Overdrive-II" which had a box very similar to the TS-808. The lighter green OD-855 Overdrive-II is also in the TS-808 style box and has a circuit which is similar to the 808 - the board part numbers only differ by one digit. The overdrive and OD-II had a different, much more distorted, fuzzy circuit close to a Big Muff.
The TS-808 and its generation have small square metal on/off
touch-buttons. Almost all TS-808's sound great. There were some
TS-808s made in the 1979 period, mostly for other than USA
markets, that came in a narrower box. These have a bottom plate
that unscrews to change the battery like an MXR pedal, no plastic
battery cover. This narrow TS-808 had a different circuit.
It uses two 1458 chips which are the 1st version
of the low-tech dual op-amp. Also the LEVEL knob on these is
labeled BALANCE and the external 9V power jack is on the side next to the
input jack. It used the same case as the earlier OVERDRIVE and
OVERDRIVE-II pedals which used stomp switches. These had a circuit board
labeled OD-801. This board can also be found in some old Maxon
OD-808 OVERDRIVE pedals which had a TS808 style switch and a power jack
on the side (not to be confused with the 2000-era Maxon OD808).
Ibanez reissued the narrow TS-808 as the "35th Anniversary TS-808"
in 2014. It is a very accurate reissue except they used JRC4558D chips
instead of the 1458 chips. We have a mod to make these the same as the originals.
Early TS-808's have the Ibanez (R) "trademark" logo which some people seek. There is really no difference, although some of these have a Malaysian Texas Instruments RC4558P chip instead of the normal Japanese JRC4558 chip. A rare chip used was the TL4558P chip, as used in some early 8-pin IC chip Boss OD-1 pedals. This is also Jim Weider's favorite chip in the King Of Tone pedal. Some of the early TS-808s also have a nut holding the power adaptor jack on, while later ones have no nut and a flush adaptor jack. It is not unusual for a TS-808 to have an undercoat of a different color (which can be seen in the ever-present corner chips).
Click here for some more pictures of our batch of TS-808s and other rare Ibanez pedals from the tube screamer family. Also a new TS9 that we made into a RELIC.
As you can see, the JRC chip was used throughout the life of the TS-808 and the TL4558P was used sometimes. In AB tests, there is VERY little difference between the three chips, although the JRC gives the strongest CLASSIC tube screamer sound- the sweet vocal midrange. The Malaysian RC4558P chip was probably used to save some money as they were cheaper than a Japanese made JRC chip. We would be glad to use the RC chip in your mod if you would like. They have a little bit more grit which some people might like. The early TS808 used a circuit board marked MP-D01201A, then in late 1980 or so they changed to the MP-D01201B board.
SRV used the TS-808 for his trademark juicy strat tone. When he used smaller Fender amps that had natural overdrive, he used the TS set clean (low drive setting) with the level up high to push the amp for more distortion (see my CLEAN BOOST info below). When he played through big clean amps he turned the drive up more, about 1/2 way, with tone on about 3 and level about 7 to get the distortion from the TS.
Around 1982 until 1985 the Ibanez
pedals were repackaged and the 9-series of effects were made. The
most popular was the TS-9 tube screamer, which is almost the same
as the TS-808 internally. Externally the on/off switch grew to
fill about 1/3 of the effect. The main change in the TS-9 circuit
is in the output section. This caused the tube screamer to be a
bit brighter and less "smooth". The Edge from
U2 uses a TS9 for most of his overdrive tones, as do countless
other famous rock and blues players. In later years the
TS-9s were put together with other op-amp chips,
instead of the JRC-4558 which is called for in the schematics.
Some of these sound BAD, especially the JRC 2043DD chips. Many used
the Toshiba TA75558 which was continued on the reissue. If
you have an original TS9 with the 2043 chip, our 808 mods will make
a huge difference in tone.
After the 9 series was discontinued, the MASTER or L series
pedals were made, without a tube screamer in the lineup.
This series was only made in about 1985.
They did include the SUPER TUBE model STL, which is like a 4 knob
tube screamer. It is similar to the rare and valuable ST-9
Super Tube Screamer which seems to have been sold only in Europe.
These are like a Tube Screamer with an added MIDS control, which is
before clipping on the ST-9 and after the clipping stage in the STL.
Then in about 1986 the similarly made POWER SERIES or 10 series
appeared, including the TS-10 tube screamer.
Compared to a TS-808, a TS-10 has about 3 times more circuit
changes than the TS-9 had.
From about 1988 through 89 when the 10 series ended, some TS-10
pedals were made in Taiwan, using an MC4558 chip.
All TS-10s (and other L and 10 series pedals) used cheap
jacks and pots which
were mounted to the boards instead of the cases, so they
often break or fall apart and cannot be fixed like a hand-made pedal (ts9 and ts808
are all handmade, hand wired parts). There is also a ribbon cable inside
which attaches the pot board to the main board.
The plastic TS-5 "Soundtank" followed the TS-10 and was available until about 1999 when the TS7 "TONE LOK" series came out. The TS-5 circuit is very similar to the TS-9 but made in Taiwan by DAPHON with cheaper, smaller components. Also, the box is plastic so there may be more noise than a shielded metal TS-808 or TS-9 box. Some people are happy with these but most prefer the older ones.
In about 1993, Ibanez started to make the TS-9 again due to popular demand. This "reissue" is just about identical to the last "original" TS-9s in sound, circuitry, and appearance. They even used the old manual dated 1981 to confuse us more! The IC chip they use in the reissue is the same as some later original TS-9s, the Toshiba TA75558. They are a higher tech chip that will work good in higher tech equipment (where you want a low noise op amp) but are not the best for a tube screamer. If you want some of these chips I have several thousand slightly used ones! ;-)
In about June of '96 the reissue TS-9 was changed slightly, and finally can be told from an "original" TS-9 easily. There is a "CE" symbol on the back, which is required for selling electronics in Europe. Also a capacitor was added to the back of the board (the only component ever used on the back of a tube screamer board). This is to help with the switching circuit and should not affect the sound. The extra capacitor is no longer used, now they changed the value of C113 from 102 to 103 (10,000pF). C113 is between the wires labeled 3 and 4 on the back of the board. If you have a 102 you can change it to 103 to improve switching (switching is the one thing about TS-9s that sucks!). I think the new TS-9 sounds the same as the earlier reissues and last originals.
In late 2002 the largest change to the TS9 ever took place.
Maxon (actually Nisshin Onpa, the manufacturer or Maxon pedals)
is no longer making the TS9 and TS9DX pedals for Ibanez.
Ibanez is now having another company make them.
The new TS9s are now easy to distinguish. The new circuit
board is of slightly cheaper construction, and no longer says MAXON,
now it says Ibanez. You will also see IBANEZ cast into the case if you
pull back the foam a bit near the battery, the older ones said
MAXON there. The battery covers also have IBANEZ on them
instead of Maxon. The battery covers had never been changed
since the original TS-808.
The input jacks on the late 2002 models were terrible and tended to jam, with the plug stuck in tight. In 2003 they made them a little better. Otherwise they are about the same as the Maxon made TS9 pedals and seem to sound the same. But the boards are more fragile, so extreme care needs to be taken when modifying them. But they should be fine, we have not had many problems with these, and the switches seem better than before.
In Europe, they brought back the JRC4558D chip sometime later, possibly due to RoHS laws (leaded parts or solder are not legal in Europe) but as of 2011 they are not using the JRC chip consistently in the TS9 pedals sent to the USA. They did seem to start using them in the USA more recently.
Here are the bottoms of the four different TS9s. On the right is an original with black label, easy to tell and date, if 1st digit is a 1, that would mean 1981 (a VERY early TS9!). These usually have the JRC4558D chip, or sometimes the lousy JRC2043D chip.
Second on the right is an original silver label TS9. The 1st digit is a 3 meaning 1983, you will see a lot of these with a 4 for 1984. These can have the earlier chips or sometimes the TA75558 chip as used in the reissues. These are almost impossible to tell from the 1st reissue TS9. But the Reissue TS9 will usually not have a serial # starting with 3 or 4. I have reissues with a 206XXX and 207XXX number here with a capacitor made in 1990, maybe a very early reissue from 1992. These have silver labels, an original from 1982 would probably have had a black label. I also see a lot of TS9s with serial # starting with 1 with a silver label. These are all reissues as a 1981 would be a TS808 or a very early TS9 with a black label. However I have seen a 1983 TS9 with serial number 299866 with a silver label. It has the JRC4558D chip and capacitors with 1983 date codes and resistors coated in green. So if the first digit is 2 and the label is silver you will have to open it up to date it. I have also seen a 1982 Ts9 (chip, caps dated 1982 and green resistors) with the serial number 288379 and a silver label. Also a late 1982 (8250 caps, 2474 chip) serial # 205442 with silver label and green resistors.
If it's a silver label, it's hard to figure out if it's original unless the serial number starts with 3 or 4. if not, and the resistors are not green coated, or it's not an original JRC chip (see below and the TS808 TV mod for pictures of the chips) then it's probably no more valuable than a reissue (if it is in fact an original). Yes this is confusing... you can also try to find date codes on the metal can capacitors. You may find 8302 which means 1983, etc. See below for more on dating the capacitors.
Third from the right is a 2nd version reissue, with the CE symbol. All TS9s with the CE are reissues. It still uses the original MAXON circuit board and MAXON on the battery cover. The reissues all have the TA75558 chip. Note the box has bar code info, this will not be found on the original boxes.
On the left is the latest 2002+ reissue, with the IBANEZ board and IBANEZ
on the battery cover.
You can tell an early TS9 by the green coated resistors inside. But I have a 1980 TS808 that has mostly tan coated resistors and a few green ones so they were not consistent. Some late originals used the brown coated resistors also, so check the date codes on the electrolytic can capacitors. Usually the first two digits are the year, as in the pictures below : A8350 = 1983, 50th week (original TS9, with the TA75558P chip which was used in some later originals and all reissues, with green resistors which were only found on originals). The other picture is a reissue TS9 with date codes A9625 = 1996, 25th week and brown resistors as used on very late originals and all reissue TS9 pedals. Also you can tell the original JRC chips as they are shiny and dark, while the new chips are dull and a bit grey looking.
Reissue TS9 board below:
In early 2004 Ibanez finally reissued the TS-808 pedal due to
popular demand. It looks fine except the color seems a bit off.
The reissue TS-808 uses the new 2002+ TS9 reissue board, made by Ibanez,
not the older, slightly better quality MAXON board like the original
TS808 and pre-2002 TS9. It does have the correct JRC4558D op amp and output
resistors, so it sounds better than the TS9 reissue,
similar to our CLASSIC TS9/808 mod.
We have a cool mojo mod using NOS parts for the TS-808 reissue and also offer
our SILVER mod on it. See my tube screamer page for more info.
In late summer of 1998 the TS9DX Turbo Tube Screamer was made available for those who want more volume, distortion, and low end. It is the same as the TS9 but has an added knob which has four MODE positions. Each position adds low end, increases volume, and actually decreases distortion. The 1st mode is the same as a TS9, the 2nd is not too bad but the 3rd and 4th are too much. Starting in late 2002 we have offered MODE MODS to make all four modes more useable
See our TS9DX page for more info on this pedal. This pedal is AWESOME on BASS GUITAR as well as guitar.
The latest new tube screamer was made available about early 2000, the TS7 TONE-LOK pedal. It is made in Taiwan like the TS5 but in a metal case that should stand up better. There are several circuit boards inside, they seem to be generic and several different effects can be built using the same boards (they are mostly empty boards!). These have a HOT mode switch for extra distortion and volume, which is quite useable. The HOT mode still works after the mod, and gets a similar improvement to the tone (less harsh, smoother, but still has lots of drive). Most TS7 pedals come with the correct JRC4558D chip, so we usually don't have to change the chip in our TS7 mods. The TS7 is a lot cheaper than a TS9 but I don't think they will hold up as well to severe use. They are not hand made/hand wired like a TS9 or TS808. All the boards, connectors, and cables inside add a lot of complexity and there are many things to break. Also the tiny micro switches seem to be failing and we do not carry replacements.
This pedal is the highest-end Tube Screamer ever made, to get part of the boutique market. It does not use a circuit board, instead parts are hand soldered onto a strip board like some old fuzz pedals, our Beano Boost, and many prototypes. The parts are about the same as a normal TS808 except I noticed they used our King Of Tone clipping diodes, which makes them a little louder and less compressed. They also have true bypass and come in a cool box. We can do our silver or TV mod on these but can't change the chip. However they use a "select" JRC4558D chip which should be fine.
We have worked on the Maxon OD-808 and now offer our 808/SILVER mod for it. The Maxon OD-808 is actually a TS-10 circuit (uses TS9/TS10 output section) so it takes some serious work. The circuit boards are a little fragile, like the 2003+ TS9s, so we have to be very careful so as not to damage them. We also include TRUE BYPASS on these mods because Maxon uses a normal size stomp switch which we can easily change to a 3PDT switch for true bypass. So if you are a stickler for true bypass, the Maxon OD-808/Silver may be the pedal for you. The OD808 is not as well made as a TS9 though, the pots are really cheap and break easily and cannot be replaced with a normal pot like a TS9. So the OD808 is only recommended for pedalboard use when it won't be moved or stepped on much due to the cheaper construction.
The Maxon OD-9 was released in the summer of 2002. It is a TS9 with the correct JRC4558D chip and originally had a DPDT switch replacing the FET switching. It had "normal" bypass like an old 70s pedal but did not really suck any tone when OFF. Later ones have a 4pdt switch for true bypass and LED switching. Since it is an exact TS9 circuit, we offer the same mods on the OD-9 as the TS9, either the CLASSIC or the SILVER mod, along with KWS option. These are hand-made with normal hand-wired parts (pots, jacks, etc) like the TS9 so we can keep them running forever.
Can you make my Tube Screamer true bypass??
In order to make an Ibanez, Boss or other electronically- switched pedal true bypass, we need to drill a hole on top and mount a standard round metal stomp switch. On the TS9 there is already a small hole under the plaque on top, and there is just enough room inside the pedal for a switch. We also need to hot-wire the circuit so it is always ON. We do offer true bypass mods on the TS9 and TS808. If you already have a TS9 or TS808, and have too many buffered pedals on your board, then the true bypass mod could be a good idea. If you don't already have a tube screamer, and want true bypass, the Maxon OD9 is the obvious choice and will work out cheaper too with our 808 classic or silver mods. The TS808HW Hand Wired has true bypass also, but is quite expensive.
Another solution would be to use a TRUE BYPASS box, which is a small box with IN, OUT, SEND, and RETURN jacks, and a switch. When OFF, the signal goes direct from the IN to the OUT jack. When ON, the signal goes through the SEND/RETURN effects loop (and the pedal that you have in that loop). These are handy for having around, you can even use it as an AB box in a bind. It is even possible to build multiple true bypass boxes with multiple loops/switches. See our switchbox page for many examples. I tested a TS9 in my TRUE BYPASS BOX to see if the TS9 was effecting the tone when it was OFF. There was a small loss in very high frequencies, but the sound was excellent and actually can be better when using very bright amps like my Deluxe Reverb.
Using a Tube Screamer for CLEAN BOOST mode
Another use, which works best with a TS-808 or my TS-808 mod is a clean boost. Turn the gain (top left) knob almost all the way down (maybe on 1) and turn the tone (middle) knob down almost all the way too, and crank up the output volume (top right) to the desired boost level. This can boost a tube amp with nice smooth tone and very little pedal distortion (makes more tube distortion).
Do you change the capacitors or other components in your mod?
Our CLASSIC 808 mod does not change the capacitor values, it uses the exact same values as an original TS-808. Anyone can find information online on changing various capacitors in a tube screamer to add low end. I have tried every mod I have seen online and many more that I came up with, and none of the simple capacitor changes sound quite right. They lose the sweet tone which is the reason to use a tube screamer, though it will sound good in a bedroom it may get very muddy on stage or recording with a band. These easy capacitor mods boost the low end like in the TS9DX modes, so it tends to get muddy. When we sell the DX we recommend our MODE MODS on the DX, which changes the deepest mode to about the same amount of low end as the 2nd mode on the stock DX. We also do not increase the DRIVE, as this does not sound right on a tube screamer. If you need more drive, it is better to use another pedal either seperately or along with the tube screamer. Or many people use two tube screamers in a row, Trey from Phish and Kenny Wayne Shepherd are some of our more famous customers who use them this way. If you really need a little more low end we can add it at no charge, using the common boutique TS capacitor value, just put a note on your mod form that you want a little more low end along with one of our 808 mods, no extra charge.
Check out our BEAT TUBE SCREAMER page for some nasty looking pedals that still sound killer! Do you have one even more beat up that you still use?
Please see our TS9DX PAGE for more info on modified TS9DX/808 pedals.
Please see our BOSS PAGE for more info on modified Boss pedals.
Keep on Screamin!
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