I'm on a hunt - to get a good sounding Tube Screamer that has a tad more versatility than the original. I want the original tone mind you, but I'm willing to entertain some bells and whistles if they are actually worthwhile. I'm half tempted to go with the Bad Monkey myself...


So what is it?  Which Tube Screamer do you like? Original? Fancy clone? Bells and whistles?

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It depends what you are looking for tone-wise. The Barber Direct Drive is probably one of the best in a tube screamer type pedal with more versatility. I prefer a different tone so I ended up with two MI Audio pedals - the Crunchbox (good agressive Marshall tone) and the Blues Pro (smoother blues tone). Another option is a Boss SD-1 with Monte Allums Mods done to it. It's essentially the same circuit as a TS but way less money than one.

The BM isn't like a TS - I've had 2 BMs, and they're OK for what they do, but the tone is crunchier, rather than smooth, and they don't really clean up with the volume control. You do need to be careful because they can really tone suck (like something is badly wrong) with the wrong amp.


I have an old Visual sound Jekyll and Hyde, and the Jekyll side is a TS clone. It's a nice sounding pedal for live work, but too hissy for recording. The Hyde is really great for musical distortion or when you need that little bit more and your amp is already on 11.

That's not fair - it's green.

How true to the TS-9/808 design do you have to be? Unfortunately Boss SD-1 are a very similar, but different design. Asymmetrical vs. Symmetrical clipping. That was what Boss was adding to the TS designs when they created their pedals.


I only know this because it was my thesis project in my last year of University. This article has a really good pic of it on the scope. Very similar to what I saw in my research:


SD-1 vs TS-9


>> I want the original tone mind you...


Do you believe in the magic NOS JRC 4558D chip? Carbon resisters? I did the mods once and it didn't blow me away. (Maybe my ears have improved since I was younger...so I don't know how I would compare them now...) The SD-1 is probably one of the *most* mod'd pedal of all time. I've never heard of a bad review for a Keeley mod (or Analog Man for that matter).


BTW You can turn a SD-1 into a TS-9 and vice versa pretty easily.


I have a bunch of drive pedals, but I seem to use the SD-1 most. Probably my affinity for "The Edge" sound.


I don't think I'd go Bad Monkey. I think the buffers aren't as good (you have to cut corners somewhere) and so in real-life applications you might run into problems. By itself I think it sounds good, but my concerns are it in a real chain. But to be honest, I don't have one...

Hmmm. I've been listening to a lot of drives on Proguitarshop and Youtube and there are a couple of things that stand out. 1) There are tons of overdrives out there. 2) There is way less difference between them than there are drives. The most common claim: "Our overdrive emulates the tone of a tube amp". 


So I'm not sure I really have to have the Tube Screamer tone after listening to all of this. It seems to be the most popular pedal sound in the universe. Narrowing it down, I really just want an overdrive that is smooth and non-fizzy. I don't like "hair" and I don't like flabby or heavy low end. Also, I really find it rare that I like a strat through a pedal. So an overdrive that sounds smooth and fat with a strat would be preferred. (As well as my humbucker guitars.)


It looks like the Barber Small Fry, Menatone Blue Collar or Zendrive all sound good with a strat, but heck, what do I know? I've never needed or wanted a drive pedal up to this point because I've always just cranked up my amps. But I'm looking to use one in church and I can't crank the amp there. 


As for symmetrical vs. asymmetrical, I'm assuming it's related to the diode clipping circuit? One thing that really gets my goat is how many tube amps contain diode clipping circuits. The drive sound you're hearing often has nothing to do with the tubes? Or only some of it? It seems absurd to put all that expense and effort into creating a "tube sound" and you're still getting the clipping from diodes.


Hey - cool research. Thanks for sharing!

Well, my conclusion for my thesis was that no analog circuit truly emulates Tube Distortion. It's the higher order odd harmonics that give Tube their sound. Shunted diodes.Overloaded Transistors. ICs. (I built circuits with any diodes I could find, including LEDs. I did them with Germanium and other Transistor I could find. I tried JRC 4558 and 3 or 4 other common op-amps...) Looking at F-T transforms you really see this empirically. These were compared with a simplified Ibanez Tube-King circuit running 12AU7 (as to get it to break up at lower volumes).


However, if you're looking for a good strat sound.. hm.. I'd look to the original master, Jimi. He used a Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face. I have one of the re-issues in red with the GE transistors. Just to warn you this pedal is really really sensitive to input signal. You can use your Strat volume like a 3rd control. It has a very low input impedance. (It should be noted that Jimi had the Wah before the Fuzz. However I think people generally have it last in their chain now...) 

The problem with the Jimi sound is that it was also heavily coloured by cranked Marshall heads running through G12H equipped 4X12s.


However to a degree I agree with Wayne - if it's creamy smooth drive you want then the right fuzz with deliver in spades. Try a fuzz-face for sure, but also try a Dano Cool Cat fuzz - it's sounds surprisingly like my original 70s Coloursound Tonebender, and will do both overdrive and fuzz tones. It's also true bypass apparently - I have a lot of time for the Dano CC series pedals, and really like the transparent overdrive. Avoid the EH muff type fuzzes (except the double muff, which is muff 2 overdrives in 1 box) because they get really splattery and un-musical.


Like Jimi, I think I'd put the wah before the fuzz too (and never last in the chain - always first for me).

Wayne: I tend to agree with you conclusion on tubes vs. pedals. There is one guy who thinks he's done the "impossible":






He used to have language plastered all over the place saying "I've emulated tube amps perfectly". I don't see that so much anymore. But reading his article entitled "prejudice", I can't help but laugh that so many of his "innovations" are aimed at "emulating tubes" - from preamp to output.


Not only that, his amps are tasteless looking. And we know that affects tone.

My son has a nice fuzz pedal - Barber Trifecta. I like it a lot, but it's not the tone I'm after. It's just "too much" and not as well controlled as I'd like.

I feel like I'm getting further away from "sweet spot" of knowledge and experience. However sounds like you're still looking so maybe I'll make 3 more suggestions (YMMV):


#1 - Tech 21 XXL.  I have a friend who calls this great "church distortion".  He loves it. The times I've heard, it sounded great with a Strat and Twin. This is from the website:

"The XXL’s Warp™ control manipulates the structure and balance of odd and even harmonics and influences their relativity to the dynamics of your instrument and your playing style." (Tech 21 XXL)

Who doesn't like Tech21? ;) SanAmps...etc

#2 - Boss BD-2/Blues Driver. Creamier than other Boss pedals. Also hear great results from this. You can see that the BD-2 by far the most right-sided pedal they have on their Vistual Distortion Chart:


Vritual Distortion Chart


#3 - Boss GT-5. I haven't been abel to get my hands on one, but the rumour was the GT-3/GT-5 didn't model distortion, but had basically a number of Boss Distortion units inside of it.

I have always thought of the BD2 but not played one - I'll look for one. I have the OD-3 and it's terrible with my strat. It's ok with my Guild and Les Paul, but nothing to write home about. Tech 21 - I just listened to their sample and it's definitely getting closer to what I'm after.  


The key here is this - almost any overdrive seems to sound ok with a humbucker. But not all sound great with strats and yet I plan to use my strat quite a bit with some of the stuff we do.



Steveo - your original post> I'm on a hunt - to get a good sounding Tube Screamer that has a tad more versatility than the original. I want the original tone mind...is almost a contradiction ( I say this in a friendly manner...)

To get the "original" tone, you would not want any alterations, or 'bells and whistles. I'm just saying...The key here is "not" listening to everyone's "opinion" or 2 cents. The key is what you are hearing and also more importantly what is your other gear?
I would venture to say - almost nobody on this forum even knows why the tube screamer got famous. The only reason I know, is because I am an old guy (and NOT trying to be a wise guy).

Joe Walsh was THE very first prominent guitarist to use a Tube Screamer. Does anyone on this forum own a Joe Walsh album (an Eagles album does not count). After Joe the next guy who used the Tube Screamer was Stevie Ray Vaughn. And it was not Stevie's idea originally, he had other folks helping him sculpt his tone.

Point being, everything has changed since the original Tube Screamer. Joe Walsh had access to rare late 50's Les Pauls, strats and handwired Marshall and Fender amps. Even the typical guitar cables have changed now - Joe never used a George L's cable back then. All this makes a hugh difference.

Observation: once you change the original, by default you are no longer going for the original tone. I have an original original Tube Screamer, and it still sounds the very best for that precise tone. I have a Keeley modded Blues Driver, Keely Modded Sparkle Drive, Barber XXL, Danelectro transparent Overdrive, they are all different by design.

You need to choose what sounds best for you. Many players pick based on what others think is "cool" or hip, or what the latest reviews say is the BEST, but you are the one who has to live with it. And if your tone is great, nobody is gonna care which pedal it is. You have your work cut out for you.

I know this may not answer your question, but typically what folks hear when using a tube screamer, is the little extra signal that is hitting the "front end" of their guitar amp. You can do this two other ways 1) with hotter pickups or 2) with a compressor by boosting the output gain. So, many country players are smacking the front end of their amps, and getting a compressor effect all in one pedal. So...you may not even need a tube screamer. It really depends on exactly a) what you already have b) precisely what you are trying to accomplish or change...


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