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User Review

It is a Classic Piece of Gear for a Reason - Reviews Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer Vintage

Value For Money : Excellent Audience: Anyone
Back in the eighties I walked into my local music store, and in the display case was a used green pedal. An Ibanez TS-808 Tubescreamer for sale for only $10. I had the money in my pocket, and having an unhealthy love of gear I bought the pedal. I did not realize what I had just bought. For years I did not realize the Holy Grail that I had found. I kept it because it had such a unique sound, and I had written a guitar part for a song that used “that” sound. Years later I made the mistake of selling it to a friend. He sold it back to me, which was very gracious of him.

What is it about this pedal that makes it so sought after? Why is it such a legendary piece of gear? You can point to Stevie Ray Vaughn’s use of it as reason, but I think there is more to it. It comes down to the reason I could never give it up- the sound. It’s unique. It’s awesome.

I bought the pedal, and retained it for years not because of the buzz surrounding it. I kept it because it sounded so good. It is simple with only volume, tone, and drive controls. A simple on/off button (that is square). It is excellent as a base sound, a pedal you leave on and never turn-off. I used it as my dirty but not distorted tone. Then I layer my distortion pedal with it for a distinctive and biting tone. It is perfect for rock, but can be rolled back for mellower styles and genres.

I had to have a single repair in all the years I’ve owned it. The power supply jack had a problem that my local music store fixed up for me. The guy behind the counter said I needed a time-machine, not a repair. I am tempted to buy a modern version of the pedal, and to retire this old friend into a shadow box on the wall. Someday I might. It comes down to the old adage, “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.”

In all honesty I have never done a head-to-head comparison with the newer versions of the pedal made by Ibanez. The version that Line 6 has available on their gear sounds really close, and was one of my favorite “pedals” that I used in my chain. Although, typical of digital reproductions it lacked the analog warmth of the real thing. The Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive and Sparkle Drive Mod both capture the sound very well, but lack the mojo of the TS-808. The Sparkle Drive Mod sounds very neat and tidy compared to the TS-808, which has a more feral sound to it.

As guitarists we do have a tendency to not like change. I believe a part of that is that we fall in love with the original pieces of gear that we buy. No chorus has sounded as good as my cheap Arion CH-1, analog delays sound best to my ear, and no overdrive pedal has ever completely captured the sound of my TS-808.