Overdrives are both one of the best guitar effects you can get out there, and one of the most misunderstood ones as well. With that said, overdrives have been the staple of the modern rock sound. We might even dare to say, of modern electric guitar sound in general. As it usually happens, some models become famous and reach a legendary status. However, no one really expected to see a single pedal, or better yet, pedal design reach the levels like Ibanez TS-9 TubeScreamer did. In short, this is one of the most legendary and influential guitar effects pedals, period.
On a deeper level, TS-9 ushered a whole new era of overdrives. For this reason, and many others, you can find one of these bad boys on pedalboard of some pretty popular guitar player, including Yngwie Malmsteen himself. For a design that has held up for several decades, Ibanez changed very little in the way this pedal works or appears, and that is a great thing.
Ibanez TS-9 TubeScreamer Review
When Ibanez first released this pedal back in 1985, everyone was hyped. Its predecessor, the TS808, was a huge success but Ibanez still had some minor details to iron out. This is exactly what they did with the TS9 series. It didn’t take long for the newly adapted model to make a boom on the market, and become one of the most sold guitar effects pedals. In all honesty, this isn’t that huge of a feat if you consider the fact that there weren’t many guitar effects pedals available back then. What is a huge feat is TS9s ability to remain relevant and hold its position until today. Let’s do a quick rundown of this icon, and see what it has to offer in its current configuration.
Some say that enclosure design we are so used to today came from this very overdrive. How true this claim is remains to be seen. However, Ibanez TS9 does feature that standard stompbox form factor almost every guitar pedal shares today. In terms of quality and reliability of said enclosure, you are looking at a tank.
One more noticeable design feature that simply needs to be mentioned whenever you discuss the TS9, is its green color. This specific shade of green has become the mark of tube screamer pedals, both the original and a lot of subsequent copies. So, if you see a bright green pedal on someone’s pedalboard, chances are it’s a TS9. Anyway, we digress. Ibanez went on and upgraded some components which had no effect on the core tone of the pedal, but offered a significant boost in durability.
The top panel, where all the controls are, is rather simple and minimalist. Aside from the foot switch, you only have three knobs to work with. We are, of course talking about the Drive, Tone and Level knobs – a configuration that will go on to become a standard of sorts. These three controls were enough for you to dial in a wide range of different tones. This incredible versatility is a result of a very interesting circuitry design. Incidentally, it will go on to become one of the most copied and modified designs in the world of overdrives.
Here is a quick video demo of the Ibanez TS-9 Tubescreamer from Reverb.com
Even though we praised the Ibanez TS9 TubeScreamer so much already, it’s important to distinguish what made it so popular back in the day. It’s not like TS9 or TS808 were the only overdrive pedals available. No, TS9 and its predecessor secured their place in the hall of fame thanks to their performance. This pedal brings a very refined overdrive effect which was mid-heavy in some ways, but also pretty flexible. You could get anything from very slight bluesy overdrive, to a more aggressive and wholesome rock sound. Both of these settings would sound better than what most other models had to offer. Now, include everything between the two extremes, and you get the picture.
The other important factor was the price. Ibanez TS9, the original as well as the reissue, comes at a reasonable price. This makes it attainable for all user groups despite their budgets, and it allows anyone to access that impressive tone we have just talked about. Simplicity, combined with reliability and awesome performance, is the type of formula that is bound to work.
If you really look into it, you will find that a large number of iconic albums were recorded using the very TS9 pedal we are talking about here. It just swept the world off its feet. On top of all that, the hardware used to build the pedal was pretty accurate. By this, we mostly mean the knobs and potentiometers below them. You could dial in just the right amount of Drive or Level, without having to spend 20 minutes just trying to get the value you need.
In an era which was mostly defined by various fuzz pedals, TS808 and later TS9 brought a breath of much needed fresh air. Thanks to its legendary circuitry, TS9 proved that you can take an overdrive effect and do a whole lot more with it than it was previously the norm. It offered a dose of ruggedness and subtlety at the same time, allowing the user to choose either one of these options, or anything in between. The main fault of the original TS808 was the lack of output.
However, when Ibanez TS9 TubeScreamer came along, that issue was solved. From that point on, this pedal continued to grow its following and that is exactly what it is doing today. If you are looking for a proven, reliable and flexible overdrive pedal, TS9 is always going to be the right choice. It is that simple. It’s also worth mentioning that Ibanez evolved the series a lot ever since the reissue came out. Aside from the vanilla TS9, you also have several more variants which bring something unique of their own. Which one you’re going to like the most comes down to personal taste, as always.