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Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini Review

Hello there and welcome back to yet another guitar pedal article for you! This time we will look at possibly the most popular guitar pedal in the universe, Ibanez Tube Screamer!

In this Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini review, I will provide you with the best historical information on Tube Screamer pedals as well as a helpful Tube Screamer Mini demo video.

Just ask any guitarist “What is that green pedal that every guitar player uses?” and 100% of the time, they will tell you it’s a Tube Screamer pedal! Tube Screamers are so popular that you can find this pedal on many guitar players’ pedal boards whether they play jazz, blues, metal, rock or pop genres.

It’s also very well known that many guitar pedal manufacturers actually started and made their career in the guitar pedal market by simply modifying and cloning Tube Screamer pedals.

Check out every Tube Screamer and its iterations here

For those who have never heard of the Ibanez brand (I’d be surprised!), here’s a quick introduction. Ibanez is a Japanese guitar brand owned by the Hoshino Gakki company in Nagoya, Japan. Formerly known as Hoshino Shoten actually started as a bookstore also selling sheet music back in 1908 in Japan!

They quickly started selling musical instruments under the Hoshino Gakki company and also importing guitars made by a Spanish luthier Salvador Ibanez. In 1957, they decided to use Ibanez as the brand name, thus becoming one of the biggest musical instrument companies in the world.

During the 60s’, it was one of the first guitar and musical instrument companies that made a huge impact in the USA and Europe with its clone guitars (which is called the lawsuit era). They eventually created guitar designs that are considered classics today.

Short History of Tube Screamer

Around the 1970s’, Ibanez also decided to add effect pedals to their product catalogue, but actually designed and manufactured by a different company called Nisshin Onpa which was also manufacturing guitar pickups for Ibanez guitars. So actually Tube Screamer wasn’t designed by the Ibanez company. They agreed that Nisshin Onpa would design and produce the pedal and Ibanez would sell them under the Ibanez brand while Nisshin Onpa would be able to sell other products under their own brand.

Nisshin Onpa chose Maxon as their brand name and wanted to market their design. This deal actually was active from 1979 until 2002. Basically, all the Ibanez Tube Screamers that were manufactured within this period were made by the Nisshin Onpa company.

Susumu Tamura from Maxon company designed the Tube Screamer for both Ibanez and Maxon. For Ibanez, the model was named Tube Screamer TS-808 and for Maxon, it was OD-808 Overdrive.

The Tube Screamer design aimed not to change the original tone of the guitar but to add soft distortion, sustain and dynamics that can be adjusted with the level, tone and gain controls.

The thing that gives Tube Screamers their original voicing is actually the limitation the design has. Even though it’s called a Tube Screamer, it doesn’t distort the signal as a tube amp does which is asymmetrical clipping, meaning that waveforms are clipped from the top to bottom unequally.

Back in the day, the patent for asymmetrical clipping on solid-state circuits was owned by another company. For this reason, Maxon had to use symmetrical clipping on Tube Screamer pedals which sounded smoother than asymmetrical clipping would offer.

How did the Tube Screamer get its name?

Even though there was a market for tube simulation pedals back in the day when solid-state amps became popular, the Tube Screamer name was actually suggested by Sammy Ash who was the grandson of Sam Ash (Samash Music Store).

As the company wanted to meet the designer more often in order to get familiar with their product line, the designer Tamura was also demoing a new amplified along with the Tube Screamer pedal. Sammy defined its sounds like a screaming tube amp, so they actually used this name for the legendary Tube Screamer pedals since then.

If you want to know more about all these cool details and the history of Tube Screamer, I definitely suggest you check out the “A Short History: Tube Screamer” video by 5 Watt World.  I learnt a lot not only about Tube Screamer but also about many legendary guitars, pedal and amp designs from this channel.

As you can see, there are many iterations and models that have been released by Ibanez since then. Even though there are so many variations, I believe they sound pretty much the same.

To be honest, I never had the chance to compare dozens of Tube Screamer variations back to back with the same setup. Around 5-6 years ago, I got a Maxon one out of a trade. Can’t really remember if it was an SD-9 or OD-9. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use that in a proper setup. I had only an audio interface to play my guitar through.

Having said that, there are tons of videos on the internet, showing all the possible Tube Screamer variations made by Ibanez and many other legendary guitar pedal manufacturers. I think they sound pretty much the same with slightly different-sounding voicings.

One of the best ways to check how all these different pedals from different manufacturers is to have a look at the video made by Andertons. I actually used this video to get an understanding and also justify my purchase of the Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini!

Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini

After having watched all these videos and justify my purchasing decision, I immediately went to Thomann and ordered one! 🙂 My current guitar rig consists of many guitars going through an ENGL E570 all-tube preamp, ENGL Cabloader and KRK Rokit 5 G4 studio monitors. I usually use time-based effects on my DAW with a send-effects approach.

ENGL E570 offers so many tonal options when combined with ENGL Cabloader. It also generates extreme amounts of gains with boost options. So you may ask why on earth would one ever like to boost it again?

Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini
The reason is simply to have the ability to boost it with a nice, well-known guitar pedal so one can easily replicate some of the guitar tones they are after in a recording scenario. Just take it as an option to colour your sound differently, rather than ENGL E570‘s lacking gain.

I think the best way to describe having a Tube Screamer pedal is just like using salt and pepper in your dishes. They are almost always included in the recipe! 🙂

Actually, you can still use this kind of setup and prefer using Tube Screamer plugins and pretty much get the same result. But you know guitar players, right? We always want more! 🙂

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Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini is just another authentic Tube Screamer pedal from the original brand Ibanez. The reason I preferred the Mini version is that I did not want to have a chunky pedal with too many options.

On top of that, I also already had Voodoo Lab Pedal Power X4 featuring 4 power outs that I can use, so need to have a 9V battery compartment. Last but not least, it was pretty affordable and didn’t really damage the bank.

As you may already be aware, this mini style, extremely compact guitar pedals are on the rise due to their advantage while travelling and eating up less real estate on the pedal boards.

Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini also offers all these advantages, as I mentioned only drawback might be that battery operation is not possible. Before I provide you with my opinion on the Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini and share my Tube Screamer demo video, let’s first have a look at the tech specs briefly.

Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini Tech Specs

ControlsOverdrive, Tone and Level
SwitchingTrue Bypass
Power Input9V DC, 18mA (negative centre)
*power supply not included
Signal Path100% Analogue
Battery OperationNot available
Dimensions (WxHxD)35x41x89mm
Weight265g
Made inJapan

It’s extremely compact and portable yet sounds killer, just like the authentic Tube Screamer we all know and love! I think manufacturing this mini-series is an excellent move by the legendary Ibanez brand as it makes justifying the purchasing decision extremely easy for guitar players like myself.

As I don’t want to go into building a pedalboard around a nice tube amp, being able to add these sought-after, the traditional guitar sounds to my setup without busting the bank is very good to have!

Apart from the reasons I have listed above, I also must tell you that one of the main reasons that I got an Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini is that using this with my Fender Stratocaster. I think you can use a Tube Screamer with any guitar in any scenario, however, using a TS pedal with a Strat works the best!

I also really like using Tube Screamers in a very traditional way with humbucker-equipped guitars as a clean boost. Especially, if you are after a meaner and more focused hi-gain sound, it’s definitely the best thing!

In order to show you what kind of difference a Tube Screamer makes and what it really adds to your sound, I prepared a demo video using my Fender American Standard Stratocaster and also my Ibanez AR300 for heavier sounds.

Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini Demo Video

Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini Review

The only thing that really annoys me about Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini is the Level and Tone knobs that have no indicator (at least visible ones)! I mean, come on Ibanez! It’s impossible to see the position of these micro notches.

As a quick workaround, I used a white marker pen to make these notches white so one can really see the positions of these knobs. I messed this up a bit, but I can’t be bothered! 🙂 At least now we can all see the exact position of these micro knobs!

I would expect someone already would have thought about this during the design phase. Also, it goes pretty much the same for the red LED light, indicating if the pedal is active.

It’s also not visible from every angle and emits pretty weak red light. When you use it on a pedalboard, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. However, if you use it along with your recording gear on your desktop, you will notice that as well.

For sure, these are all cosmetics and design-related findings and these have nothing to do with the authentic TS sounds it can produce.

As you can notice from the video, Ibanez Tube Screamer, when engaged, just leaves its trademark on your guitar sounds. Very distinguishable with any guitar and also very practical to make your guitar sounds fit into the scene way easier!

It made me play for so many hours and I really enjoy it! When used with Strats, Tube Screamers can really give you the classic, overdriven Strat tones we all die for!

It is definitely possible to get overdriven yet clean sounds with my ENGL E570 by pushing the clean gain a bit and boosting it with the built-in boost function.

However, it doesn’t sound the same as with the added Ibanez Tube Screamer to my signal chain. Couple this logic with a nice spring reverb and you will be playing for hours just like I did!

I’m also a very big fan of boosting an already hi-gain, modern sound with a Tube Screamer. This is again a very traditional way of using a TS pedal. You simply cut down the overdrive to a minimum, max out the output level and adjust the tone to your taste. This gives your hi-gain sounds a better focus and helps them sit in the mix way easier.

Before I got myself this Ibanez TS Mini, I would max out the gain on my ENGL E570 without the built-in hi-gain boost. It would give me very clear yet highly overdriven sounds. But when you need that extra push, the only thing you could do is play with a higher output pickup. Otherwise, in the modern setting, a hi-gain boost would be overkill in terms of compression.

Now I can actually lower the gain on Lead I or Lead II channels down to 12 o’clock and boost it with Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini! Excellent tone for chunky yet clear and mean sounds! Don’t forget to check out the video I made for this article just above to hear what I am trying to explain here. 🙂

I hope you enjoy this article and find it insightful! If you want to have a look at all the versions of Tube Screamers not only made by Ibanez but also by many other brands, don’t forget to check out my Tube Screamers page!

Thanks for visiting my blog and supporting me so far! I will hopefully see you in the next review here!

Osman