Ibanez Tubscreamer TS-9

By otcconan

Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer.

Apparently, they've reissued this thing, and it's been out for a while. Now, a vintage one will set you back about $200. Brand new, mine cost $75. When I was young and very stupid, I bought a vintage one for $77 (I think it was 1988 and SRV had not died yet and that could only explain the price). I later sold it for almost 2 C-notes. That was the time when everybody and his dog wanted one, and I had one, but I wanted a Rat (don't ask me why...still have the Rat by the way, nice box for certain things). Anyway, my point is that when I bought this thing the other day, obviously I had a frame of reference for the tone already established.

I also have in my posession, the much greener TS-10, which my brother loaned me before flying off to fight terrorists in Iraq.

So, I have a point of reference for comparison! And I now have the perfect amp to try them out on. Seriously, who uses a TS as their only source of distortion? Even when I didn't have a tube amp, the TS was nothing more than a little "nudge" to really excite the sound. So I thought I'd compare the '70's vibe of the TS-9 to the '80's version, the TS-10. I won't be talking about other variants, obviously.

So, in my house, I have five OD's or Distortions, however you want to put it. I've got the two above-mentioned, and I have a home-made contraption that I love to rave about here, called Robert's Death Box (I honestly shudder to think of the sound of that beast driving the TT), the Rat (not the Rat II, but the original thing), and I have a Boss Metal Zone. The less said about that, the better...other than if you own one, you better have a graphic EQ.

Right....to the business of comparing the two TS's.

The TT gets pretty good metal/hard rock tone right out of the box if you peg it. My only complaint that the tone knob all the way up is a little too bright. So I roll it off to about the 2 o'clock position. With it there, you can do just about any metal rhythm chunking you like. But let's be honest; I play strats, and even a Hot Rails tends to sound kind of thin when you get into lead-land. You got to have something to give you that nudge. So first I tried the TS-10, and then the TS-9. I set both of them at zero for distortion, and half-way for tone and volume.

Well, the results were not as dramatically different as I'd hoped or expected, but they were there, and there was a clear favorite. The TS-10 was obviously created to capitalize on the success of the then-discontinued TS-9 (which is also known, as you know, as the Maxon OD-9). So it was voiced with that in mind. And it really does push the amp well. I think it's a little too bright. That's something I never noticed when I owned one before (actually, just before I owned my old vintage TS-9). But it was the '80's, the age of pink pointy guitars, and excess was obviously the thing. At a time when I really wanted treble in my tone, this did it in spades. Now? It just hurts the ears. Back to the naughty pile for you, little box.

The TS-9...sounded remarkably similar, but...darker. Moodier. It made me play angrier. It did not hurt my head. It just drove the amp in the right way. Pure metal tones just ooze from the amp with this thing. You want Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth tones...you got 'em. Evil Muppet riffs just play themselves...the tone is just, somehow, right. I can spend 3 hours twiddling the knobs of my Pod to get the same tone that it takes me 15 seconds to get with the TT + TS-9.

So there you have it. If you're in a pawn shop, and you have the choice, get the old box. The darker green one. Or buy a reissue. Or, a Maxon OD-9. Same box. They rule.