There seems to be fifty shades of green these days when it comes to clones, takes, and spin-offs of the now classic Ibanez Tubescreamer 808. There is something about that mid-rich gain originally designed to nudge a tube amp into sophisticated overdrive that has inspired a generation of pedal builders. The challenge before guitarists today is navigating this sea of green and finding a best fit for their own tastes and needs.
This week on TPS, Dan and Mick do some public service work by touring through some of the latest additions to the Tubescreamer-verse. Using Dan’s Ibanez Tubescreamer 808 with a Keeley mod as their baseline, the two compare six 808-inpsired pedals: the Mooer Green Mile, JHS Moonshine, EarthQuaker Devices Palisades, Wampler Clarksdale, Way Huge Green Rhino MKII, and Keeley Red Dirt.
Among the many outcomes and few side stories in the episode—including a hilarious segment of seagull attack stories by Dan complete with a seaside backing track by Mick—there are at least three main take-aways for those on the market for (or needing an excuse to buy another) Tubescreamer-like stompbox.
(1) Every pedal on the TPS board could be dialed in for a sound that resembled the 808. As Dan notes at the outset of the episode, the genius of the Tubescreamer “is that it overdrives certain frequencies but leaves others alone,” meaning that you still hear the guitar through the interaction of the pedal and amp. As such, an essential quality of any pedal working off of this template should be its ability to attain that EQ-gain balance without over or under-coloring the sound of the guitar signal.
Arguably the pair that were truest to the 808 sound with minimal required nob-fiddling was the JHS Moonshine and Keeley Red Dirt. Their success in this regard stems not only from expert and authentic circuitry but also their 808-like three-nob design that provides user control over the very same parameters as the original. After several sets of comparisons, at the close of the episode Mick concluded “there’s nothing there that you couldn’t get a good sound out of.” And even Dan confessed the worthiness of the economical Mooer among the roster of greenish overdrives!
(2) Pedals with on-board EQ mean more options for creating fresh gain contours. While the hallmark of the Tubescreamer sound is in many ways anchored in its distinct EQ profile, when that range is opened up for user creativity it is possible to redeploy the sought after 808 gain sweet-spot under entirely new EQ settings. Of the roster of pedals in the 808 showdown, the Clarksdale and Green Rhino best embodied this versatility. For the Clarksdale it was a “big/smooth” switch and set of bass, middle, and treble nobs that imbibed the 808-like drive with different tonal dimensions. In the case of the Green Rhino it was a switch for added EQ control that enabled it to remedy what Dan described as a “main problem that a lot of people find with Tubescreamers,” namely a lack of bottom end. In these cases, both pedals retained an 808-like sound yet excelled in their ability to tailor that tone for playing situations demanding different EQ ranges.
(3) EarthQuaker devices…enough said. This week EarthQuaker Devices made their long-awaited debut on TPS with the Palisades. This pedal is a playground for Tubescreamer enthusiasts: at its heart is a set of six carefully crafted voices meant to model the variable clipping options across the library of Tubescreamer sounds. Along with this, the pedal doubles-up a pair of gain channels, which are ideal for either dialing in two variations on 808-sounds or providing a boost to cut through the mix. For Mick, this setup has a definite foreseeable benefit in the sense that “it is more versatile in a [live] playing situation.”
But, of course, it wouldn’t be an EarthQuaker pedal if you couldn’t force the sound into perilous terrain. With loads of gain on tap and the potential for a layered boost, the Palisades can be cranked into some aggressive fuzz-like drive. So if you’re at once a diehard 808 fan and find yourself sporting a TPS “Fuzz is all you need” classic tee, the Palisades has the tweakability that as described by Mick “almost goes beyond the point of the gain it can handle and it all crushes into one another.” Since Mick is literally that guy, his conclusion on the Palisades is perhaps no surprise: “I really like that. I really, really like that!”
You’ll find every pedal on the 808-roster from this week’s episode over on Riff City, so do the right thing: add a healthy dose of 808 to your board. And don’t forget to look good while playing the new pedal; pick up some TPS merch at www.thatpedalshowstore.com. Already decked out in TPS goods? Click over to www.patreon.com/thatpedalshow to ensure all of our Friday mornings at work include a much-needed hour of TPS.
If you’re looking for more Tubescreamer cage-matches, be sure to check out the first instalment of TPS Tubescreamer comparisons featuring multiple generations of Ibanez’ own green pedals (https://youtu.be/F3nukGyEv1M) as well as a short bout between the Ibanez TS9 and Boss Super Overdrive SD-1w Waza Craft (https://youtu.be/HhsS2P9D2aY).
TPS Episode Rig Rundown:
Guitars: Dan: 1963 Closet Classic Fender Telecaster (ca. 2000). Mick: 1962 American Vintage Fender Stratocaster (ca. 2000); Paul Reed Smith DGT (ca. 2008).
Amps: Marshall Plexi 1987 XL (50 watt), 4x12 Marshall cabinet; Fender Hot Rod Deluxe.Effects: Mooer Green Mile; JHS Moonshine; EarthQuaker Devices Palisades; Wampler Clarksdale; Way Huge Green Rhino MKII; Keeley Red Dirt.