The Best Selling Overdrive of All Time
A few years ago we tried to figure out which were the best selling overdrive pedals on the market by looking at several online music stores’ listings organized by “most popular.” The answer we got from the data was unequivocal: the Ibanez Tube Screamer TS9 and its mini sibling won first and second place. In all likelihood, those two pedals are still topping that list to date, and it’s very likely that the Tube Screamer also tops the list of the best-selling pedals of all time.
But why is this stompbox so popular? There is certainly more than one answer to this question, but when a piece of gear becomes so dominant, the main reason is always a mix of quality, versatility, and affordability: the Tube Screamer sounds good on most guitar/amp combos, it has a great dynamic response, it’s versatile enough to be used as a boost or an overdrive, it stacks well, and it’s used by many electric guitar superstars!
When a product reaches this level of popularity (or even a much lesser level, for that matter!), it’s only normal for the industry to take note and try to “join the revenue party.” That’s why the Tube Screamer has become one of the most cloned and referenced pedals of all time.
In this article, we try to put some order in the jungle of Tube Screamer-related releases. We decided to do so by organizing the content in the following categories, highlighting one pedal for each, and offering a selection of similar offerings:
The Original Ibanez Tube Screamers
Best Tube Screamers in Mini Format
Best Multi-Voice Tube Screamer Clones
Best One-Channel TS-Style Evolutions
Best Dual Channel TS-Style Evolutions
Best Tube Screamer Boutique Clones
Best Affordable Tube Screamer Clone
The Original: Ibanez Tube Screamer TS9
$99 | A faithful reissue of the most popular version of the Tube Screamer from the ’70s, and slightly edgier-sounding than the original TS808, the Ibanez TS9 is the most classic of overdrives. It confers your tone a slight mid hump that allows your guitar to better cut through the mix and therefore be heard in a live band context. This is in all likelihood the best-selling guitar pedal ever.
Ibanez released several versions of the Tube Screamer with different improvements/modifications, here’s a shortlist of the most popular:
Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini
[Best Tube Screamer in Mini Format]
$79 | The real thing, in a solid miniature case, with all the features of the bigger sibling, including the JRC4558D IC Op-Amp chip – and it’s also cheaper than the original!
There are several Tube Screamer clones in mini format more affordable than this one (you can find them mostly on Amazon and they all do the same thing). But at $79, why not go for the original? Here’s a list of boutique mini pedals that try to take the TS tone to the next level:
[Best Multi-Voice Tube Screamer Clone]
$229 | A painstakingly encyclopedic take on the Tube Screamer clone that offers (reportedly) exact replicas of nine rare, classic, and must-have tube screamers from over 41 years of green overdrive history – and the usual three knobs to tweak them. “Is it analog?” we hear you ask. Yes, it is! The company goes as far as saying: “When you plug into the Bonsai, you’re playing through the exact same circuitry as the original pedals.”
The Bonsai is quite unique in its multi-mode faithful recreation of existing units. There are other Tube Screamer-inspired pedals that offer multiple TS flavors, but they all include extra circuit variations and tweaking options that put them in the “evolutions” category below, rather than in the “clones” one.
EarthQuaker Devices Plumes
[Best Single Channel TS-Style Evolution]
$99 | A Tube Screamer interpretation featuring three clipping voices that affect the tone without necessarily referencing existing TS models: 1. “Symmetrical LED clipping” delivers more crunch and compression. 2. “No clipping” uses a wide-open OpAmp drive for a clean boost. 3. “Asymmetrical silicon diode clipping” offers more transparency with a loose feel.
Here’s a list of other pedals that take the Tube Screamer’s tone in new directions.
EarthQuaker Devices Palisades V2
[Best Dual Channel TS-Style Evolution]
$249 | This is probably the most versatile take on a Tube Screamer design, but it’s much more than a clone. It sports 2 channels in the shape of an extra Gain B stackable on top to Gain A via a separate footswitch and an extra boost to boot (also with its own footswitch). Bandwidth acts as a mode selector, ranging from thinner, lower gain sounds to fatter, higher-gain tones. Voice selects between clipping diode configurations, offering a range of drive options. A selectable buffer and normal/bright modes round out the tonal options. This pedal is basically every type of Tubescreamer in one, with a boost and extra tweaking options.
This category of pedals includes Tube Screamer evolution that, like the Palisades, include an added boost or a dual channel configuration.
Maxon OD808 Overdrive
[Best Tube Screamer Boutique Clone]
$199 | Maxon built the original TS808 for Ibanez – the first edition of the series. Identical to the original circuit and featuring the JRC4558 IC chip, the Maxon OD808 reissue offers the smooth, natural and incredibly dynamic overdrive of a full-up tube amplifier in a compact pedal.
Maxon released a series of variations on the OD808, including mods from Keeley, Catalinbread and Pigtronix to celebrate the circuit’s 40th anniversary.
Here’s an interactive gallery with other boutique Tube Screamer clones that remain pretty faithful to the original.
Joyo Vintage Overdrive
[Best Budget TS Clone Under $60]
$35 | An incredibly affordable Tube Screamer clone delivering more defined mids and a wider gain range.
Here’s a selection of other Tube Screamer clones under $60:
Tube Screamer Shootout Videos
Did we forget anything? Please leave your feedback in the comments and we’ll consider adding the missing pedals. Please note that in this article we try to stick to products that are currently available (we make exceptions only for really peculiar devices).