Tube Screamer Mini: A Comprehensive Review

Here at MuisicianVault we love our Tube Screamer (TS) pedals. With much pleasure, today I will be taking a specific look at the Tube Screamer Mini pedal. The Tube Screamer Mini is a compact version of the legendary Tube Screamer overdrive pedal. In this article, I will look at its inception, specific features, and make comparisons between other Tube Sscreamers, such as the TS9 and TS808. Lastly I will answer common questions musicains may have. Lets dive in, and take a closer look at all the details, starting with the history of the TS line.

tube-screamer-mini-a-comprehensive-review-article

History of the Tube Screamer Mini

To understand the Tube Screamer Mini’s history, it is essential to look at the lineage of the Tube Screamer series. The original TS was the Ibanez TS-808, which was first introduced in 1979. The TS-808 quickly gained a loyal following among guitarists due to its smooth, warm overdrive sound. The original TS-808 was manufactured until 1981, when Ibanez replaced it with the TS9 model.

The Ibanez TS9, introduced in 1982, featured a slightly different circuit and a more aggressive sound compared to the TS-808. The TS9 became popular among guitarists seeking a more pronounced overdrive tone. Today, it remains a favorite among Tube Screamer enthusiasts. In 1985, Ibanez discontinued the TS9 and replaced it with the TS10, which had a more modern design but failed to gain the same level of popularity as its predecessors.

In 2015, Ibanez introduced the Tube Screamer Mini. The goal was to deliver the same legendary overdrive sound as the original TS-808 and TS9 models but in a more pedalboard-friendly format. And so, the TS Mini features the classic Tube Screamer circuitry, including the renowned JRC4558D IC chip. It didn’t take long for the TS Mini to gain popularity. Especially amongst those guitarists who needed a smaller pedal for their crowded pedalboads. In the next section I will take a closer look at the build specifics of the TS mini.

Tube Screamer Mini Guitar Pedal
Tube Screamer Mini

Build and Design of Tube Screamer Mini

The Tube Screamer Mini overdrive is designed with meticulous attention to detail, retaining the iconic sound and aesthetic of its larger counterparts. Ibanez incorporates modern engineering techniques to create this compact and pedalboard-friendly overdrive pedal. In this section, I will focus on the construction, materials, and specific elements that make up the Tube Screamer Mini.

1. Enclosure and Controls

  • Robust metal green enclosure for signature Tube Screamer finish
  • Compact size measuring 3.4 inches (86 mm) in length, 2 inches (50 mm) in width, and 1.8 inches (45 mm) in height
  • The TS Mini features three control knobs on its top panel: Overdrive, Tone, and Level. These knobs are made of sturdy plastic and have a grippy texture for easy adjustments.
  • Overdrive control is large, while the other 2 are compact
  • Standard metal 1/4-inch input and output jacks

2. Circuitry and Components

At the heart of the Tube Screamer Mini’s construction is the legendary JRC4558D integrated circuit (IC) chip. This chip is responsible for its distinctive overdrive tone of the Mini. The pedal’s internal circuitry is carefully assembled and soldered onto a printed circuit board (PCB) for precise and reliable performance.

3. Power Requirements

The Tube Screamer Mini is designed to operate on a typical 9-volt DC power supply. The power input is located at the top of the pedal and features a 2.1mm center-negative barrel connector. To maintain the compact size, the TS Mini does not include a battery compartment. An external power supply is required for operation.

4. Footswitch and LED

  • The Tube Screamer Mini incorporates buffered bypass. This ensures that your guitar’s signal remains unaffected when the pedal is disengaged.
  • The footswitch is made of durable metal, providing a solid and responsive feel. An LED indicator, located above the footswitch, shows the on/off status of the pedal.

Features and Sound of the Tube Screamer Mini

Next lets get into the most important part, the tone. The Tube Screamer Mini is packed with features and tonal options, making it a versatile and powerful overdrive pedal. In this section, I will explore the features and unique sound characteristics of the TS Mini. I will also help you figure out how to dial them in yourself and use the pros as examples.

Overdrive Knob: adjusts the amount of gain and saturation

Tone Knob: fine-tunes the frequency response

Level Knob: sets the output volume of the pedal

The TS Mini is known for its smooth, warm, and musical overdrive tone that enhances your guitar’s natural sound without overpowering it. It produces a responsive and dynamic distortion that is ideal for blues, rock, and even some heavier genres, depending on the amp and guitar setup. The pedal features the same chip as the TS808, therefore it has a similarly vintage tone. Lets get into specifics as to how to dial in the tones like the pros. Check out the YouTube video I included below to hear the pedal in action.

Dialing in Specific Tones on the Tube Screamer Mini

To replicate the tones of famous guitarists, you can experiment with different knob settings on the TS Mini. Here are a few examples: (these are based on their use of the TS808 which has a similar tone).

a. Stevie Ray Vaughan: Set the Overdrive at around 10 o’clock, the Tone at 1 o’clock, and the Level at 3 o’clock. This will give you a warm, bluesy overdrive with a bit of added bite.

b. John Mayer: For a smooth, transparent overdrive, set the Overdrive at 9 o’clock, the Tone at 12 o’clock, and the Level at 2 o’clock.

c. Gary Moore: For a more aggressive, singing lead tone, set the Overdrive at 3 o’clock, the Tone at 11 o’clock, and the Level at 1 o’clock.

Where To Put the TS Mini on Pedalboard

The optimal placement of the Tube Screamer Mini in your pedal chain will depend on your personal preferences and the other effects in your signal path. However, here are some general guidelines:

  • a. Place the TS Mini before modulation effects (such as chorus, flanger, or phaser) and time-based effects (such as delay and reverb) for a more natural-sounding overdrive that interacts well with these effects.
  • b. If you’re using a compressor pedal, consider placing the TS Mini after the compressor for a smoother and more even overdrive response.
  • c. If you’re using multiple overdrive or distortion pedals, experiment with the order to find the best stacking combination for your desired sound. Placing the TS Mini first in the chain can help to shape the overall character of your gain stages.

The Tube Screamer Mini offers a wide range of tonal options and features, making it a versatile and powerful addition to any guitarist’s pedalboard. By experimenting with different knob settings and pedalboard placements, you can unlock a wealth of classic and unique overdrive tones that can enhance your playing and inspire your creativity. Lets look at some pros and cons now.

Pros and Cons of the Tube Screamer Mini

Here’s a breakdown of some pros and cons of the Tube Screamer Mini for those who want a quick rundown.

TS Mini ProsTS Mini Cons
Compact SizeSmaller Tone Controls
Classic TS808 ToneLess Visual Feedback
Simple Control LayoutNo Battery Option
Build Quality
Versatility
Price

Tube Screamer Mini vs. TS808

The Tube Screamer Mini and TS808 are both well-regarded overdrive pedals, but they do have some differences in terms of build. Let’s explore these differences and consider why someone might choose one over the other.

Build Differences: TSMini VS TS808

  1. Size: The Tube Screamer Mini is significantly smaller than the TS808, making it more suitable for those with limited space on their pedalboards or a preference for a more compact setup. This is by far the biggest difference.
  2. Controls: Both pedals have Overdrive, Tone, and Level knobs, but the TS808 features a larger control layout, which can be easier to adjust on stage.
  3. Construction: The TS808 has a larger, more robust chassis compared to the Tube Screamer Mini’s compact design. Some players may prefer the sturdier construction of the TS808 for long-term durability.

Sound Differences: TSMini VS TS808

  1. Circuitry: Both the Tube Screamer Mini and the TS808 have the highly regarded JRC4558D chip
  2. Tone: The tone is the same, the circuitry is the same and the chip is the same.
  3. Output: The TS808 is known for having a slightly higher output level, which can provide more headroom and potentially less noise when used with other pedals or amplifiers. This is probably the only sound related difference between the pedals.

Choosing between the Tube Screamer Mini and TS808

The choice between the Tube Screamer Mini and the TS808 ultimately comes down to personal preference and specific requirements. Here are a few reasons why someone might choose one over the other:

  1. Space Considerations: For those with limited space on their pedalboards or a preference for compact pedals, the Tube Screamer Mini is an excellent choice.
  2. Tonal Preferences: The tone is the same, the bigger consideration is the potential for higher output with the TS808.
  3. Budget: The Tube Screamer Mini is much more affordable than the TS808. The TS Mini runs about $80 dollars while the TS808 runs about $180.
  4. Durability and Build Quality: Players who prioritize sturdier construction and a more robust chassis might prefer the TS808. For live gigging the TS808 is more reccomended.

Both the Tube Screamer Mini and TS808 have their unique characteristics and appeal to different players based on the biggest factors of size and budget. Our recommendation is that if you are playing live, then you should probably opt for the TS808. If you mostly practice at home or small rehearsals, then the Tube Screamer Mini is a great fit.

If you want a more in depth review and comparison of the TS 808 and TS9 pedals visit our article TS9 vs TS808.

Ibanez TS 808 tube screamer guitar pedal
Ibanez TS808

Tube Screamer Mini vs. TS9

In this section, I will highlight the distinctions between the TS Mini and TS9, focusing on build differences and sound differences.

Build Differences: TS Mini VS TS9

  1. Size: As mentioned earlier, the Tube Screamer Mini is significantly smaller than its counterparts, including the TS9.
  2. Controls: The TS9 has a larger control layout
  3. Construction: TS9 has a robust durable body fit for live shows.

Sound Differences: TS Mini VS TS9

  1. Circuitry: The TS9 uses the TA75558 chip, which contributes to its unique tonal characteristics. Lets look in detail.
  2. Tone: The TS9 is known for its slightly brighter and more aggressive sound compared to the Tube Screamer Mini. The TS Mini, as mentioned earlier, has a more compressed sound with a pronounced midrange emphasis.
  3. Clarity: Some players find the TS9 to offer better note clarity and articulation, particularly for complex chord work or faster playing styles.

Choosing between the Tube Screamer Mini and TS9

Deciding between the Tube Screamer Mini and the TS9 comes down to personal preferences and individual requirements. Here are some factors to consider when making your choice:

  1. Space Considerations: For players with limited pedalboard space or a preference for compact pedals, the Tube Screamer Mini is an excellent option.
  2. Tonal Preferences: If a brighter, more aggressive sound is desired, the TS9 may be the better choice. Conversely, those who prefer a more compressed sound with a pronounced midrange emphasis might opt for the Tube Screamer Mini.
  3. Budget: Generally, the Tube Screamer Mini is more affordable than the TS9. TS mini runs about $80 on average while the TS9 about $110.
  4. Durability and Build Quality: Players who value a more robust construction and sturdier chassis might be more inclined to choose the TS9.

In summary, both the Tube Screamer Mini and TS9 have unique characteristics that cater to different players based on factors such as size, tonal preferences, budget, and build quality. When deciding which pedal is best for you, I recommend looking at the specific tonal differences between these two pedals. For a more modern sound I recommend the TS9 pedal. But if a vintage rock groove is your thing, then the TS mini is the right fit. Also consider where you plan to play the most because the TS Mini might not be as road ready as the TS9, or the TS808.

Ibanez TS9 tube screamer guitar pedal
Ibanez TS9

The Verdict on the Tube Screamer Mini

The Tube Screamer mini overdrive pedal offers the same iconic tones of the iconic TS808 in a smaller sized body. It stands up well to its larger counterparts the TS808 and the TS9 as we saw above. The compact build and the This may be suitable for some players who need to save room on their pedal board. The compact build, the presence of the JRC4558D chip, and the affordable price, make the TS mini a winner in our book. However, the smaller size makes it less suitable for the rigors of the road, or more aggressive footwork. The choice ultimately remains up to you! I hope this guide helps you make a better decision about which pedal to purchase. Rock on!

Thank you for reading!

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