Posted by: worshipguitarguy | October 24, 2006

The Ibanez Tubescreamer

ts9.jpg

Vintage overdrive is the foundation of many worship guitarists tone, and it’s impossible to discuss overdrive without mentioning the Ibanez Tube Screamer.  The best way to describe the Tube Screamer (or TS for short) is it’s the Stratocaster of overdrive pedals; many manufacturers have copied the TS circuit design and marketed it in their own pedals… manufacturers such as Maxon (who made the original TS), Fulltone, Voodoo Labs, and Visual Sound. 

The purpose of an overdrive pedal is to generate light distortion by pushing the preamp tubes (of a tube amp of course) into overdrive.  When many guitarists talk about the Tube Screamer, they’re referring to the holy grail of the TS family. the TS-808 pedal from the late 1970’s, which contained the JRC4558 chip.  

If you check the pedalboards of most worship guitarists who use single effects, chances are you’ll find a Tubescreamer or a Tubescreamer copy.  

Now a look at the many editions of the TS compliments of Analogman (www.analogman.com):

TS-808
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. The TS-808 and its generation have small square chrome 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 with more distortion. 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 next to the input jack. It used the same case as the earlier OVERDRIVE and OVERDRIVE-II pedals which used stomp switches. Ibanez probably had many left over and remade them as “TS-808” pedals to sell off the remaining cases.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. I can use this chip in the mod if you would like, or can send both the JRC4558D and the RC4558P chips. A rare chip used was the TL4558P chip, as used in the early 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).

TS9
Around 1982 until 1985 the Ibanez pedals were repackaged and the 9-series of effects were made. The most popular is 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 seemingly random 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.

STL and TS10
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. 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. 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 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.

TS7 Tone-Lok
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.  Most TS7 pedals come with the correct JRC4558D chip… The TS7 is a lot cheaper than a TS9 and will probably not hold up as well to severe use.

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Responses

  1. Sigh… you’ve opened an old wound. My TS-9 was ruined by a well-meaning guitar tech who plugged in the wrong AC adapter. It was a bad day.

  2. I like my Fulltone Fulldrive II, a little spendy, but it sounds great. One of the finest overdrive pedals out there in my book.

  3. You suck! Just kidding. 🙂

    I hate single effects they’re not worth the money.

  4. I have the Visual Sound Rt 66 and I’m very pleased with the Tubescreamer tone is produces. I also love the Fullton and the Maxon clone. (AD9? can’t remember.) The Maxon had a great “angry” tone to it. What has surprised me is the need for more than one overdrive, or an overdrive and a distortion for layers of gain.

  5. Basically, although ts’s are good, and the fulltone, visual sound, voodoo labs etc. variations are very good, if you can track one down, the crowther audio hotcake is THE BEST overdrive/ts pedal on the market, it’s incredible. Rich, fat tones, yet cutting and smooth, it’s got it all. Blindingly good pedal.

  6. I use a Visual Sound Jekyll & Hyde, and am also very pleased. The Jekyll channel produces a very TS-808ish tone. And the Hyde channel?? Yum. Anywhere from British Stack to metal zone. Lol. Ohhhhh God bless the metal zone. I hope I don’t offend anyone that uses one, but can you honestly get any kind of usable tone out of that thing? 🙂

  7. I couldn’t agree more with you in terms of the wonders of the Ibanez Tube Screamer. It’s always good to find another guitar enthusiast sharing his knowledge to others. Do visit my site and link my site to yours as I have link yours!

  8. I had a TS-9 modded to have the JRC4558 chip and basically become a TS-808. I had been looking for that tone forever! Niles from Hillsong United uses an 808 and you can hear it on most of his solos, it sounds like Charlie Hall’s guitarist uses it too, notably on Majesty. I hear it everywhere now that I learned to pick the sound out.

  9. Hello everyone, I recently came across a Ibanez TS9 model. Im not sure what year it is or where to find a site listing the serial codes. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    THX.

    Zach.

  10. Hillsong?? sorry but I grew up listening to alot of rock music, Hillsong doesn’t give effects that much justice, they have a very weedy sound, not to mention the over-done, one string delayed solo’s?? If you want to talk about the Tubescreamer, you need be talking about guys such as Stevie Ray V!! the players that had serious tone


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