The Ibanez Tube Screamer designs have achieved a legendary status with guitarists. The original TS-808 and TS-9 pedals of the late seventies and early eighties are highly prized vintage effects that steadily increase in worth year on year. Known for it’s smooth gain stages and sonic mid-hump it has been the choice of many guitars as smooth gained up dirt-box great for blues or with the level cranked to push a gained-up amp over the edge. It should be noted that many traditional and modified Tube Screamer clones are available on the market and the original circuit has become one of the pedal designers basic templates for tweaking. The Tube Screamer is a master of what it does but it isn’t cheap and with the increasing number of modified and revised designs on the market its throne is regularly contested.
The current crop of TS-9 designs attempt to recreate the magic of their predecessors and feature the same control layout (level, gain and tone) and aesthetic charm. The pedal isn’t true by-pass but the buffer seems to be friendly with every pedal I’ve used it with. It can be powered by the boss style 9v power supply or a traditional 9v battery.
The pedal has a smooth clipping sound which when used as the sole gain sound emits a fat, mid-range driven tone particularly suited to fender cleans. Their isn’t a huge amount of gain available but there is plenty for blues lead tones and the mid-range hump helps you cut through the mix easily. I personally don’t really like this application for rhythm sounds as the pedal sucks some bass off the signal and the sounds a little thin for me.
For me the pedal shines as a boost to a tube amp with either a slightly gritty clean sound or boosting in a high gain situation. I find it has enough level available to to push tube amps over the edge easily into a full distortion with the level 3-5 o’clock and the gain 9 – 12 o’clock (tweak tone to taste). Reportedly this is how Stevie Ray Vaughn would set-up his pedal to push his cranked up fender amps, I can’t imagine the volumes required for his tone.
Finally for all the metal and heavy rock fans out there I’ve found using similar settings as I previously mentioned on a a high gain amp yield great results. The slight mid-hump brings out the pinch harmonics and slight cut in bass tightens up the whole sound.
The Ibanez TS-9 Reissue brings a very musical overdrive sound that seems to find a place with every amplifier I’ve used. Whether its adding gain to a clean signal for warm smooth lead tones that cut through the mix. Or my personal favorite kicking it in on a gained up amplifier to tighten everything up. As always get to a shop and experiment for yourself. Unless I’m gifted an original my staying where it is.
Pros – Smooth cutting overdrive tones and musical amp boosting.
Cons – Some bass loss.