Are you looking for the best Tube Screamer pedal to add to your pedal board?
Maybe you’re looking for creamy amp-like overdrive tones. Or you’re looking for a low-medium overdrive to push a dirty amp. Or maybe you just want to tighten up your metal tone.
A good Tube Screamer pedal can do all of these things.
In this post, I’ll be covering my favourite Tube Screamer pedals on the market. This includes Ibanez Tube Screamers, clones, and pedals that were inspired by the original TS style overdrive circuits.
Let’s get started:
The best Tube Screamer pedals and Tube Screamer clones reviewed
1. Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini
The Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini is arguably the most popular Tube Screamer style pedal around.
This pedal is based on the original Ibanez TS808 from back in the day, with a few tweaks. Primarily the addition of True Bypass so your tone won’t be affected when the pedal is switched off.
It’s extremely well built and the controls feel like quality. I’ve had one of these in my collection for a long time and I’ve never had any issues. And most importantly, the tone is great.
Given its small form factor, it’s a great option for those who are looking for that classic overdrive tone but have limited space on their pedal board.
2. Maxon OD808
The Maxon OD808 is a reissue of the original Tube Screamer.
In fact, it was Maxon that originally developed the TS808 circuit in 1979. It was rebranded and sold under the Ibanez name.
It does have some tweaks compared to the origins, however. For example, the noise floor was lowered and the switch was replaced with what you’d typically find on modern pedals.
The improved noise floor makes the Maxon OD808 even better for single coil guitars, especially. In terms of controls, we’ve got the typical overdrive, tone and level (called balance). Power the pedal via a 9v power supply or a 9v battery.
3. Ibanez TS9
The Ibanez TS9 is the second variation of the original Tube Screamer circuit that came out in 1982, 3 years after the original.
While the tone of the two circuits sounds quite similar, there are some differences. The TS9 can drive your amp harder than the TS808 and has more edge to it.
This iteration of the TS9 has the same vintage looks as the original and it’s built to last. It’s also somewhat cheaper than an Ibanez TS808.
4. JHS Bonsai
The JHS Bonsai is a unicorn of an overdrive pedal.
This isn’t a simple Tube Screamer clone, oh no! The Bonsai incorporates 9 different variations on the circuit.
In terms of controls, we have the typical volume/drive/tone controls. And a selector switch for each of the different modes.
Within the selector switch, we can go between the more popular TS808, TS9 and TS10 variations of the Tube Screamer. As well as the OD-1 (based on the Boss OD-1 which features asymmetrical clipping, instead of the symmetrical clipping used by the Tube Screamer), and several other mods.
I especially like the Keeley Mod Plus and JHS Strong Mod. They sound excellent. And, as you might expect from JHS, the build quality is exceptional.
5. EarthQuaker Devices Plumes
The EarthQuaker Devices Plumes has picked up where the Tube Screamer left off and taken things to another level of usability and tone.
In addition to the usual level/gain/tone controls, we have a 3-way toggle switch that controls the type of clipping used in the circuit.
Option 1 offers symmetrical LED clipping. If you want compression & crunch, this will do what you need.
Option 2 is best used as a clean boost because it removes clipping from the circuit entirely.
And, finally, with option 3, the Plumes shakes things up with asymmetrical clipping. According to EarthQuaker Devices, this offers a more transparent tone and a looser feel. A very nice addition to the pedal.
While EarthQuaker Devices are known for higher end pedals, the Plumes is one of the more affordable pedals in their range. And a great choice for any pedal board.
6. Joyo Vintage Overdrive
The Joyo Vintage Overdrive is one of the most affordable Tube Screamer clones on the market.
Usually I find budget pedals to be lacking. Either in tone, build quality, or both.
That isn’t the case with the Joyo Vintage Overdrive. The quality is good and the tone is far better than I imagined. To my ears, it sits somewhat between the TS9 and TS808.
7. EHX East River Drive
The EHX East River Drive is another hugely popular alternative to the Tube Screamer. It’s based on the TS808 circuit and sounds excellent.
Despite being one of the most affordable on the list, EHX hasn’t compromised. The build quality and tone are spot on.
Like the Tube Screamer Mini, the East River Drive is True Bypass but due to the slightly larger pedal footprint, is able to accommodate a battery compartment as well.
8. Ibanez TS808 Pro
The Ibanez TS808 Pro is a vintage reissue of the pedal that started it all. This is typically the pedal that all other Tube Screamer’s are measured by.
While it doesn’t have the modern features of some other pedals (e.g. true-bypass), it’s an excellent sounding pedal and has a great vintage vibe to it. Tonally, some have described it as having a warm and creamy texture to the sound. That’s all subjective though.
This is likely as close to an original TS808 as you can get in terms of looks and tone. At least from a production pedal, that is.
9. Behringer Vintage Tube Overdrive TO800
The Vintage Tube Overdrive TO800 is the most affordable Tube Screamer clone on the market. If you’re building out a pedal board on a tight budget, this pedal is well worth considering.
How good is the tone? I was amazed at how good this sounded given it’s price tag.
Typically with more budget friendly pedals like this, you’ll find lower quality components. The pots for example, do feel lower quality and the Boss inspired enclosure is made of molded plastic.
How well this would hold up in any live situation, it’s difficult to tell. However, it would be well suited to bedroom use.
Regardless, a good sounding overdrive pedal for the price. Just be aware that while the word “tube” is used in the name of this pedal, there are no tubes.
10. Tone City Kiffir Lime
Tone City’s Kiffir Lime is a great option for those who want a more affordable TS style pedal and save on pedal board space.
This isn’t a straight-up Tube Screamer pedal. Tone City have added their own unique twist.
Rather than a single tone control, we have a 2-band EQ so we can independently control the high and low end. While this isn’t a groundbreaking addition to the pedal, it does make it far more usable when dialing in your tone. There’s also a bit of extra gain on tap!
The pedal comes in one of the best shades of green you’ll see on any stompbox and the volume control doubles as an LED.
11. EarthQuaker Devices Palisades
The EarthQuaker Devices Palisades is another rare unicorn of an overdrive pedal. However, it comes at the Tube Screamer from a different angle to the JHS Bonsai.
If you’re looking for a simple TS style pedal to use as a boost or to tighten up your tone, the Palisades is overkill.
But if you want maximum tweak-ability in your overdrive pedal – you will love this.
Not only does it include a second gain stage and a boost (all independently footswitchable), it allows you to change how the circuit is clipped. Giving you access to some of the various Tube Screamer types of circuits. Allowing you to go from tight to fat sounding.
Then there’s the bandwidth control. You can go from a thinner low-gain tone to thicker high-gain tone. This is far beyond the tonal possibilities of almost any other overdrive pedal I’ve come across.
To top things off, you’ll find a built-in buffer that can be activated/disabled via a toggle switch. And there’s a normal/bright switch to further tailor your overdrive tones to your guitar pickups.
12. JHS Moonshine V2
The JHS Moonshine V2 has its roots firmly planted in Tube Screamer territory but it has been modified massively by comparison.
While most pedals in this list offer medium overdrive tones. The JHS Moonshine V2 offers more headroom, more low-end, and more gain. With the toggle switch you can take the pedal from beautiful low-gain tones all the way to searing high gain tones.
One of the reasons people tend to love TS style pedals for amp-like tones is that it blends part of the clean signal back in.
The Moonshine V2 takes this to another level by including a clean blend control, so you can choose exactly how much of the clean tone is blended back into your signal path.
What is the best Tube Screamer pedal?
The best pedal depends on personal taste and budget. While there are many clones of this circuit, there are also many mods that have been done to it. Then there are pedal builders that have started with one of the Tube Screamer variations and taken it in an entirely different direction.
What is a Tube Screamer pedal?
The Tube Screamer is arguably the most copied & modded overdrive pedal in history. It was originally developed by Maxon and sold under the Ibanez brand in 1979.
It’s known for low-medium transparent overdrive tones that have an amp-like quality due to how part of the clean signal is blended back into the signal path. And various iterations of the pedal have been used by a huge number of artists from Stevie Ray Vaughn to Jerry Cantrell.
If you want to learn more about this pedal, Analog Man has an article on the history of the Ibanez Tube Screamer.
What does a Tube Screamer pedal do?
The Tube Screamer is typically used to get amp-like overdriven tones from a clean amp or to push an overdriven amp into heavier saturation. It’s commonly used by metal players to tighten up the low-end – this makes for better chugging!
Can you use a Tube Screamer as a boost pedal?
Yes. You can use your Tube Screamer as a boost pedal. Like dialing in any amp or pedal, set all controls to 12 and adjust accordingly. However, it generally wouldn’t make for a good clean boost. The Plumes by EarthQuaker Devices could be potentially used as a clean boost as it’s toggle switch in the middle position removes clipping from the circuit.
Featured Image credit: Adam Connell // Tone Island.