500 Words with Adam P Hunt- The Tube Screamer


500 Words The Tube Screamer

Since its inception the Tube Screamer has been carved itself out a niche in music history. Starting off life as fuzz pedal the Maxon made / Ibanez branded OD855 Overdrive II the OD855 was the first step in its long history of the TS -808 Tube Screamer.

Maxon (Nisshin Opan) made many effects pedals in the mid sixties and also supplied pickups for many Japanese guitar companies including Aria, Greco and Ibanez.

By 1979 the TS-808 version of the Tube Screamer was made available and gained notoriety for being one of the first pedals to offer a naturalistic overdrive sound. While Stevie Ray Vaughn may not have been the first player to use the Tube Screamer he did a lot to help popularize it.

Other noted Tube Screamer users have been Trey Anistasio, John Mayer, Derek Trucks, Kim Gordon, Billy Duffy, and Brent Hinds.

It’s hard to imagine a time before the TS and while DOD, MXR, Pro Co and Ross all offered some sort of distortion pedal the 808 was smoother and less fuzz inspired.

While not really the ungodly hell-box of distortion the 808 gives even a clean amp a very acceptable blues rock tone. Even though the TS won’t give you a Black Sabbath sound with an 808, a delay and Strat you easily get to David Gilmour land.

The Tube Screamer strength as a pedal is its ability to work well with almost any guitar with any amp for almost every genre of music. I’ve used it as a clean boost with a Fender amp and a Strat and I’ve used one to create some true sonic mayhem when plugging a Les Paul into a Soldano.

While original release 808s fetch a pretty penny on the used market Maxon has made a variety of reissues and both Keeley and Analog Man offer pedal modification services so you can get reasonably close to the original TS sound without with out spending a small fortune for a stomp box.

Owing to the TS popularity a host of imitators have come along and I think there are a few worth looking at:

The Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive. There’s a lot to like about this pedal especially the “clean” knob that acts like a blend knob for some effects loop.
The Barber LTD. Even though it’s not marketed as TS clone the tone and the “feel” of the pedal are very TS inspired, but the LTD is more sophisticated and richer sounding.
Xotic AC Plus. Like the Barber it’s not marketed as a TS clone but with enough experimentation with blending the two channels that sound is in there.
BBE Green Screamer. This is a very convincing 808-style pedal. Although I don’t have any experience with newer BBE G Green Screamer OG-1 the original green and sliver BBE Green Screamer runs about half the price of a Maxon 808.

These are classic pedals and can be used to enhance almost anything you play.


Adam P Hunt is a freelance writer who has previously written for The Library Journal and Premier Guitar Magazine. We are so happy to have him join us here at Guitar Radio Show.com.

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