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Overdrive

Review: Ibanez TS808 Tubescreamer

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The Ibanez TS808 Tubescreamer is undoubtedly one of the most legendary and ubiquitous pieces of gear in the history of pedals. The TS808 has been used by countless players including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai, Misha Mansoor, across the spectrum of styles including Blues, Rock, Country, and Metal. Known for its unmistakable, creamy tone and versatility, as well as its ability to tighten up an already cranked high gain amp, the Tubescreamer has the unique ability to fit in with any type of rig.

The history of the Ibanez TS808 is almost as legendary as the pedal itself. Designed by Susumu Tamura and introduced in the late 1970s as the TS808 Overdrive Pro, this pedal has become one of the most ubiquitous pieces of gear for guitar players across all styles. Originally designed to compete with the Boss OD1 and MXR Distortion+, the TS808’s pleasingly smooth sound caused it to quickly surpass its predecessors. To quote Analogman: “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.” Some people like to use their TS808 to drive a clean amp, while others use the pedal to tighten up the response of a cranked high gain amp.

At the heart of the Tubescreamer sound is the process of symmetrical soft clipping, a process that can be found in the majority of tube amps. Symmetrical clipping generates mainly odd harmonics, as opposed to the asymmetrical clipping found in the Boss OD-1 and SD-1 which generates both odd and even harmonics. While perhaps not as rich in harmonics as the Boss offerings, the TS808 is generally regarded as producing a smoother sound due to its more focused harmonic profile. 

One of the most unique and discussed features of the TS808 is the pedal’s ability to maintain much of the player’s dynamics, while still providing ample doses of saturation. This is achieved rather ingeniously through the circuit design. The noninverting clipper adds the original input signal to the amplified and clipped input signal. Long before the days of “blend” knobs on pedals, the Tubescreamer had its own blend function built in.

 

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Features

Op-Amp: The TS808 uses the JRC4558D operational amplifier (op-amp), which plays a crucial role in shaping the pedal’s sound. This op-amp is known for contributing to the smooth and creamy overdrive character.

Tone: adjusts the frequency response. Turn it clockwise for more high frequencies.

Overdrive: adjusts the amount of clipping. Turn it up to increase the saturation.

Level: controls the overall output volume. 

 

Spectrographic Analysis

Telecaster Style Guitar [Maple Fingerboard, Humbucker (bridge position)] – Cable – Scarlett 2i2 Interface – MacBook Pro 15” 2018 – Logic Pro X

Powered by a grounded Voodoo Labs Pedal Power unit via 9V input.

No pedal in signal path

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TS808 bypassed, placed between Guitar and Interface

Moderate amount of signal loss here, particularly in the upper frequencies. Basically what one can expect from a decently well made pedal without true bypass. However, there appears to be no drastic gouging of frequencies, nor any harsh artifacts added.

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A very natural and present saturation is on display here. Notice how the graph shows how true to the original signal the effected signal is.

*Note that these settings will be mimicked (controls at noon, level at full), when possible, in all of our distortion, overdrive, and fuzz reviews, in the interest of developing a standard that facilitates both comparison and understanding of the inherent tonal qualities of each pedal.

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TS808 ON [Tone: 0; Overdrive: 0; Level: Full]
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TS808 ON [Tone: Full; Overdrive: 0; Level: Full]
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TS808 ON [Tone: 0; Overdrive: Full; Level: Full]
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TS808 ON [Tone: Noon; Overdrive: Full; Level: Full]
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TS808 ON [Tone: Full; Overdrive: Full; Level: Full]
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Specs

Battery Cavity: Yes
DC in: Yes (power supply sold separately, converter needed)
Power Supply: 9V DC (external power supply or 9V battery)
Input Impedance: 500 kΩ
Output Impedance: 10 kΩ
Maximum Gain: Approximately 30dB
Current Draw: 8mA @ 9V
Switch: Buffered
Dimensions: 2.8 x 4.9 x 2.2 inches (70 x 125 x 55 mm )
Weight:  1.1 lbs (500g)

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