And so to the 4th and final of the ’Pedal Primary Colour Wheel’ series. Here I highlight the most obvious of pedal colour associations or the Green Tube Screamer pedals - as originally by Ibanez, and Maxon to some degree as the OEM builder of said overdrive. It has to be the most ubiquitous of overdrive pedals - pretty much every pedal builder there ever was has made their own derivations of this relatively simple mid-humped drive circuit at some stage - albeit not all in signature Green enclosures.
My most recent Tube Screamer Style Overview featured just 4 green varieties from the group of 12 - with Seymour Duncan trying to distance itself somewhat with a strategic use of teal! In any case this article is for Green Screamers and I have found 9 specimens past and present that fit the bill.
From the above number I currently have two in my collection - both fantastic all-rounders which do things in vastly different ways - the Foxpedal The City V2 relies on extensive Tone-Shaping options and an independent Boost, while the JHS Bonsai delivers 9 classic Tube Screamer circuits in a single pedal via rotary Mode selector. Those two have long been my pick of the bunch, while it’s actually my fairly recent Jackson Audio Broken Arrow Drive + Boost that has taken up Tube Screamer duties currently in my rig.
Of those listed we have 3 classics - the original Ibanez TS808 and it’s follow-up the TS9, as well as Maxon’s original self-liveried OD808 equivalent. The one discontinued pedal here is the still much loved DigiTech Bad Monkey, while we are also fortunate that the new EQD Plumes follows the appropriate colourway - while Mad Professor’s cold metallic green is right on the boundary of being acceptable colour-wise!
Pedals are listed alphabetically by brand as usual:
This has often been the go-to sort of budget option for Tube Screamer, while it seems like prices are creeping up again somewhat since being discontinued a number of years ago now. It's one key point of difference is that the typical Tone control is split out here into separate Low and High knobs. There are still many who love the sound of this - and good condition examples typically get snapped up pretty quickly on Reverb.com
It was somewhat fortuitous that EQD chose the right colourway to appear in this roundup - it's previous Tube Screamer style overdrives - the Palisades and Dunes are both very monochromatic, and actually voiced quite differently to this particular iteration. Key controls are the same in terms of Level | Tone | Gain, but we have a 3-way clipping toggle-switch - Symmetrical LED Clipping | No Clipping | Asymmetrical Silicon Diode Clipping. So the last option gets you more into Boss DS-1 territory really. The Plumes has been deliberately priced at a very affordable $99 which through current rubbish exchange rates equated weirdly to £105 imperial credits. It's certainly a decent enough proposition, while many view it as one too many option in an already extremely crowded marketplace, and where EQD already has the Palisades and Dunes fort his category.
This is currently in extremely short supply particularly on this side of the pond, but remains my favourite all-rounder specifically Tube Screamer -style overdrive to date. You get 7 controls here, 4 knobs - Drive | Tone | Level | Body, and 3 toggle-switches - Clipping (Red LED / Mosfet), Flat/Mid-Hump and Boosted Presence / Higher frequencies. Furthermore you get a really handy independent boost, albeit you cannot switch the order on that - that would possibly be my only change here. This is a singularly powerful Tube Screamer-style overdrive, while the Tube Screamer mode on the Jackson Audio Broken Arrow is also excellent - but that is one of several flavours - and his City V2 is dedicated to TS808 tones and more. For an all-rounder Tube Screamer in compact enclosure I know of no more capable variety than this specific pedal - whose tone-shaping options propel it far beyond its humble origins.
Still for many the original and best version of this mid-humped overdrive style - blisteringly good for juicing up an already cranked tube amp - which is probably still the default mode of use here. While I've always used this type of pedal more as a low-to-mid-gain overdrive. I actually have Mini variety in my collection, but have a number of other varieties which I personally prefer to the Ibanez originals. You can say that Helen of Troy was the face that launched a 1000 ships, while the TS808 is the pedal which launched a 1000 clones. It can be revealing for many in any case to return back to the source every now and again.
While the TS808 and TS9 circuits are nigh identical in make-up, there are though adherents to both schools - with Rob Chapman for instance infinitely preferring the TS9 variety with its near indistinguishable differences. As with many things guitar - as much to do with touch and feel as actual tone no doubt. I like both TS808 and TS9 varieties but prefer the JHS and Keeley modded versions of each, and have other TS-style overdrives I also prefer to the originals.
This 9 mode Multi-Screamer is actually relatively simple to navigate - you have just the 3 classic dials - Volume | Drive | Tone, and then a separate rotary switch for each of the modes:
My 3 favourite modes here are nothing to do with the originals weirdly - but they are what I like - the Exar, Keeley and JHS variations! I did a recent article on 40th Anniversary 808 Drive Pedals - where I feel that the JHS Bonsai is actually the most suitable candidate for that - seeing as it gives you a whole potted history of those 40 years of iterations. Every Tube Screamer fan should have one of these - just so they can compare and contrast the different modes. I would still have liked a 3-band EQ on here, or at least a Mids control - as I feel that you can likely get better individual flavours outside of this unit, but nothing has the breadth of coverage that you get here for a relatively modest outlay all considered.
There are so many TS808 clones out there that it is easy to overlook one or two or four score or more. This particular pedal has frequently fallen under my radar - with it's simple 3-knob approach of Volume | Drive | Body. The Body control here is quite a clever control as it allows you to get quite far away from the typical Tube Screamer profile which many love, but almost equal numbers dislike. So this is really intended as a sort of Tube Screamer for those who want an Overdrive in that territory, but might not be wholly won over by the TS808's signature frequency profile. The Body knob cleverly adjusts low-mid content as well as treble. Many swear by this pedal, while I would always typically go for something a touch more feature-rich.
Maxon famously OEM'd the original Ibanez TS808 pedals under licence, and these are supposedly those circuits in their least changed format and for half the outlay of the current equivalent Ibanez. It really is the same circuit even though the dials are labelled somewhat differently as Drive | Balance | Tone. It depends how much original authenticity matters to you and of course whether you want your 808 style drive to look like the original. Here the colour and price are certainly right, while I quite understand that the looks might not be to everyone's satisfaction.
Another rather over-looked TS808 derivative, but delivered with MXR's usual quality and efficiency. The standard 3 controls = Output | Tone | Gain and not much else. For £5 more purists should probably rather look up the Maxon - but this is certainly one of the more cost-effective options in this category.
I think all told I have around 12 varieties of Tube Screamer in my collection currently - with some smart BYOC and Jackson Audio derivations particularly fun to deploy.
Of the listing of 9 I can't see much point in looking much beyond Foxpedal's The City V2 and JHS's Bonsai - those are easily the most capable on offer - both in this listing and elsewhere. While the $99 Plumes would take the runner-up price here as far as I'm concerned - these are all quality examples of that classic Tube Screamer sound though - so you can't really go wrong with any of these.
This single or at least hued colourway approach allows us to include a number of the key players here, while from my more comprehensive multi-coloured 12 of the Best Compact Tube Screamers Overview I would single out the KHDK Ghoul Screamer, MI Effects Super Blues Pro, VFE Pale Horse and Wampler Clarksdale for special mention.
One thing is abundantly clear though is that there are plenty of Tube Screamer options out there regardless of your enclosure colour choice. And as always - there are no wrong answers here! Just what suits your needs and preference the best.