TS9 vs TS808: The Ultimate Tube Screamer Showdown

The Ibanez Tube Screamer is an iconic guitar effects pedal, famous for its warm, smooth overdrive and recognizable midrange boost. There are several versions of the Tube Screamer, but the two most sought-after models are the TS9 and the TS808. In this in-depth article, I will compare the legendary pedals TS9 vs TS808 pedals. I will discuss their features, explore their history, and provide insights from notable users. I will also provide video examples for each pedal so you can hear them for yourself! Let’s dive into the ultimate Tube Screamer showdown. First lets look at the history of these iconic pedals.

TS9-vs-TS808-The-Ultimate-Tube-Screamer-Showdown-article

History of the Ibanez Tube Screamer

The Ibanez Tube Screamer first hit the market in the late 1970s, quickly gaining popularity among guitarists seeking a distinctive overdrive sound. The TS808 was the original model, followed by the TS9 in the early 1980s. Over the years, Ibanez has released numerous variations and reissues, each with its unique tonal characteristics.

TS808 Origins

The TS808 was introduced in 1979 and quickly gained a reputation for its warm, smooth overdrive and midrange boost. The original TS808 featured the JRC4558D op-amp, which contributed to its distinct tonal character.

TS9 Evolution

The TS9 made its debut in 1982, featuring a slightly brighter and more aggressive sound than the TS808. The main difference between the two models was a change in the op-amp used. Read on below to see the specifics on the circuit design and op-apmp in each pedal.

Detailed Comparison TS9 vs TS808

Lets compare the pedals in detail now looking at their circuitry and controls.

a. Circuit Design

Both pedals use similar circuitry, but there are slight differences in the components used. These differences contribute to their distinct tonal characteristics.

  • The TS808 uses the JRC4558D op-amp, which is known for its warm, smooth clipping.
  • TS9 uses the TA75558 op-amp, which tends to produce a slightly brighter and more aggressive sound.

b. Gain Range

The gain range of both pedals is similar, but the TS808 tends to have a smoother transition from clean to overdrive, making it more suitable for players who prefer a subtle, controlled breakup. The TS9, on the other hand, has a more pronounced mid-hump and can deliver a more aggressive overdrive tone.

c. Tone Control

The TS808 has a gentler tone control, which provides a more subtle treble roll-off, resulting in a smoother, warmer sound. The TS9’s tone control offers a more noticeable effect on the high-end frequencies, providing brighter, sharper tones.

d. Output Volume

The TS9 tends to have a slightly higher output volume compared to the TS808, which can be an advantage for players who want to use the pedal as a clean boost or to drive their amp into natural overdrive

Ibanez TS9 tube screamer guitar pedal
Ibanez TS9
Ibanez TS 808 tube screamer guitar pedal
Ibanez TS808

TS808 vs TS9: Recommendations

The choice between the TS9 and TS808 ultimately comes down to personal preference. Here are some general recommendations based on playing styles and genres:

  1. Blues and Classic Rock: The TS808’s smooth overdrive and warm tonal character make it a popular choice among blues and classic rock guitarists.
  2. Modern Rock and Metal: The TS9’s more aggressive sound and pronounced midrange make it well-suited for modern rock and metal players who need a more cutting and articulate overdrive.
  3. Versatility: If you require a versatile overdrive pedal that can cover a wide range of styles and genres, either the TS9 or TS808 could be a great fit. The TS9 may offer a slight edge in versatility due to its brighter and more aggressive sound, which can be dialed back for a smoother tone if needed.
  4. Pedalboard Space: Both the TS9 and TS808 have similar dimensions and will occupy roughly the same amount of pedalboard space. Your choice will likely come down to tonal preference rather than size constraints.

Price Differences TS808 vs TS9

Another important factor to consider when choosing between the TS9 and TS808 is the difference in price. While prices may vary depending on the retailer and market conditions, generally, the TS9 is more affordable than the TS808.

a. Ibanez TS9 Price

The Ibanez TS9 is typically priced in the range of $100 to $130, making it an attractive option for guitarists on a tighter budget or those looking for a cost-effective way to add a Tube Screamer to their setup.

b. Ibanez TS808 Price

In contrast, the Ibanez TS808 is generally priced higher, often falling within the range of $180 to $220. The higher price can be attributed to its closer replication of the original Tube Screamer circuit and components, as well as its iconic status among guitarists.

c. So Which is Worth it?

If you are looking for a more budget-friendly option, the TS9 might be the better choice. However, if you prioritize the authentic vintage tone and are willing to invest a bit more, the TS808 could be the ideal pick for you. Or you can be like Stevie and use both pedals at the same time! Read on below for more details on Stevies Tube Screamer setups.

Notable TS9 and TS 808 Musicians and Settings

Lets look at what settings the pros used on their TS pedals. Read on to see more on Stevie’s dual TS setup specifics.

TS9 Settings:

  • Stevie Ray Vaughan: Stevie Ray Vaughan was known to use both TS9 and TS808 pedals (more on this below). When using the TS9 alone, he typically set his Drive knob around 9 o’clock, Tone at 12 o’clock, and Level at 3 o’clock to achieve his signature creamy overdrive.
  • John Mayer: A fan of the TS9, Mayer tends to set the Drive at a low setting (around 9 o’clock), Tone at 12 o’clock, and Level at 1 o’clock for a transparent boost with a slight midrange bump.

TS808 Settings:

  • Eric Johnson: To achieve his smooth and articulate overdrive, Eric Johnson sets his TS808 with Drive at 11 o’clock, Tone at 1 o’clock, and Level at 2 o’clock for a rich, singing sustain.
  • Brad Paisley: A country guitar virtuoso, Brad Paisley sets his TS808 with Drive around 10 o’clock, Tone at 1 o’clock, and Level at 3 o’clock for a tight, cutting overdrive that complements his chicken pickin’ technique.

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Dual Tube Screamer Setup

Stevie Ray Vaughan used both the TS9 and TS808 simultaneously, placing the TS808 first in the signal chain, followed by the TS9.

  • TS808Drive at around 9 o’clock, the Tone at 12 o’clock, and the Level at 2 o’clock. This setting provided a subtle boost and slight overdrive to the signal.
  • TS9 – Then, the TS9 would be set with the Drive at around 2 o’clock, the Tone at 1 o’clock, and the Level at 3 o’clock, delivering the main overdrive tone with a thick, saturated sound.

The combination of these two pedals in this specific order allowed Stevie Ray Vaughan to achieve his signature tone while maintaining clarity and dynamics.

Pedalboard Order for TS Pedals

The optimal pedalboard order for the TS9 and TS808 varies depending on personal preferences and the other effects in your signal chain. Here are some recommendations to consider from us:

  • Place the Tube Screamer after any compressor or tuner pedals, but before any modulation or time-based effects such as chorus, flanger, or delay. This positioning allows the Tube Screamer to shape the guitar’s core tone before it is processed by other effects.
  • If using both the TS9 and TS808, experiment with their order to find the best combination for your desired tone. Some players prefer the TS808 before the TS9 for a smoother breakup, while others prefer the TS9 before the TS808 for a more aggressive sound.
  • If using the Tube Screamer with other gain pedals, try stacking them in different orders to achieve various combinations of overdrive, distortion, and fuzz.
  • The TS pair well with pickup booster pedals to enhance signal received by the Tube Screamer pedals.
TS808 Hand-Wired

TS808 Hand-Wired

The Ibanez TS808HW is a limited-edition, handwired version of the classic TS808, featuring:

  • Premium components, including carbon-comp resistors and Mallory 150 capacitors, for improved tonal response and clarity.
  • True bypass switching, ensuring your guitar’s signal remains unaffected when the pedal is not engaged.
  • A meticulous hand-wiring process, which results in a more transparent, responsive overdrive compared to the standard TS808.

Check out the YouTube video below to see this amazing pedal in action!

Notable users of the TS808 hand wired include Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Eric Johnson, who both praise the pedal for its organic, responsive character and its ability to retain the nuances of their playing. The TS808HW is ideal for players who seek the ultimate in tone and craftsmanship and are willing to invest in a high-quality, boutique version of the classic TS808.

While the TS808HW comes at a higher price point than the standard TS808 or TS9, its premium components, hand-wiring, and true bypass switching make it a desirable option for discerning players who demand the best possible Tube Screamer experience.

ibanez hand wired tube screamer ts808hw
Ibanez TS808 Handwired

Honorable Mention: Tube Screamer Mini

I cant finish the article without mentioning the Tube Screamer Mini option. Since it has the same JRC4558D op-amp as the TS808 and a compact body, it contends well with the iconic TS808. Check out our in depth review of the TS Mini overdrive pedal (Iprovide comparisons VS the TS9 and TS808 here as well).

ibanez tube screamer mini guitar pedal great contender against the ts808
Tube Screamer Mini

The Verdict: TS9 vs TS808

The Ibanez TS9 and TS808 Tube Screamers are both iconic overdrive pedals that have helped shape the sound of countless guitarists. While they share many similarities, their differences in circuitry and tonal characteristics set them apart. The TS9’s brighter and more aggressive sound makes it well-suited for modern rock and metal styles, while the TS808’s smoother, creamier overdrive is a favorite among blues and classic rock players.

Ultimately, the choice between these two legendary pedals comes down to your personal preference and the specific sound you’re seeking. With options like the Hand Wired 808 you even have boutique overdrive options at your fingertips. I hope our guide was helpful in trying to figure out which pedal best suits your needs. Whichever Tube Screamer you choose, you’ll be adding a piece of guitar history to your rig!

Thank you for reading!

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