What do you do when you need a thick, high-quality overdrive? Many turn to a little mean green machine known as the Ibanez Tube Screamer. This classic has been around since 1978, when most other overdrives were primitive fuzzboxes.

Ibanez designed the TS808 Tube Screamer together with Maxon, who manufactured the effect for a long time. After ending the partnership, both companies have later produced similar pedals, but the TS808 is still the holy grail of distortion and overdrive to many guitarists.

Next, the updated Ibanez TS9 sits beside the TS808 on the overdrive throne. The differences between the two are small, and some consider them interchangeable. But, what is it that makes the Ibanez Tube Screamer pedals so popular to this day? Let’s take a look.

Ibanez Tube Screamer Sound

This little green stompbox gives you a huge, rich sound. It’s the kind of thick valve distortion that can give you a smooth bluesy finish or push your amplifier’s distortion channel into thrash metal territory, or anything in between. That’s why you’ll find it on the pedalboards of legends across the genres.

Stevie Ray Vaughan, Keith Urban, and John Mayer all use Ibanez Tube Screamer overdrive. So do blues icons Buddy Guy and Joe Bonamassa. Carlos Santana and U2 guitarist The Edge are both long-time fans as well. Steve Vai, John Petrucci of Dream Theater, and Phish frontman Trey Anastasio prove that it can handle all sorts of advanced guitar playing. Furthermore, it shaped the sound of Metallica’s bass and lead guitar.

While it’s a powerful overdrive, the Ibanez Tube Screamer lets the characteristics of your guitar through. This transparency is what makes it so popular and versatile. Being a distortion effect, it favors humbucker pickups, but single-coils will also sound great with milder settings. With an overdrive this transparent, quality strings will really shine.

Ibanez Tube Screamer Features

In terms of hardware, this is a tough metal box with sturdy controls and an LED check light. It’s compact and light without being flimsy. The distinct big square footswitch makes it easy to toggle in the dark.

Inside the Ibanez Tube Screamer, you’ll find the legendary JRC4558D IC chip. In the past, this was unique to certain editions of the TS808 which became very sought-after guitar pedals for their great sound. These days, it’s the standard.

The key difference between TS808 and TS9 Ibanez Tube Screamer pedals is the output circuit. This gives the TS9 a hotter, harsher sound. It also has a bigger footswitch. Which one you should get is a matter of preference.

You get three knobs for fine-tuning the tone. The Overdrive knob drives the saturation, and Level adjusts the output volume. Last, the Tone knob lets you diminish or restore treble frequencies.

Technical Specs

  • Size: 2.8 x 2 x 4.9 inches
  • Weight: 1.2 lbs
  • Max gain: +30 dB
  • Input impedance: 500 kilohms
  • Output impedance: 10 kilohms
  • Equivalent input noise: -100 dBm (IHF-A)
  • Power requirements: 9-volt battery or power supply (not included)

Should You Buy an Ibanez Tube Screamer?

The Ibanez Tube Screamer is one of those timeless distortion pedals that can handle any style of music and sounds great with most equipment. It can get wild, but it won’t make your guitar tone an unintelligible mess. You get the vintage analog overdrive in a reissue that meets modern demands. It’s as authentic as the original but cheaper and more dependable.

Many world-class guitarists consider the Ibanez Tube Screamer a pedalboard staple. When you want a well-rounded, no-nonsense overdrive, this green monster is your friend. It can be smooth and it can be rough, and it responds well to your playing style.

Now you know what makes the Ibanez Tube Screamer an excellent pick. If you want to compare it, my articles about the best overdrive pedals and the best distortion pedals will help you. Stay tuned for more guitar lessons and reviews.