The Ibanez Tube Screamer needs no introduction as it’s one of the most legendary overdrive guitar pedals ever made. Used by Stevie Ray Vaughan and countless other guitarists who all love its signature mid-boosted sound, the Tube Screamer TS-808 is also one of the most cloned and imitated pedals ever released. With the growing trend of downsized effects pedals taking over guitarists’ pedalboards, Ibanez decided to stake their claim to your precious board real estate with the Tube Screamer Mini.
The Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini (TSMINI) features a real analog tube screamer circuit, the classic JRC4558 IC chip, and the same knob configuration as its larger siblings, the TS-808 and TS808HW. But does it live up the reputation that precedes it? Is it the rightful heir to the Tube Screamer legacy? You’ll find out in our Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini review.
- Controls: Overdrive, Tone, and Level.
- 100% Analog Circuitry.
- Genuine Tube Screamer circuit with JRC4558 IC chip.
- True Bypass Switching.
- Made In Japan.
Sound & Performance:
For this review I went right for my Fender American Standard Stratocaster and plugged into my Rivera Venus 5 head. I dialed in a clean tone, and kicked on the pedal with its knobs set to noon. The moment you activate the Tube Screamer Mini, you’ll know you’re hearing real Tube Screamer tone. Despite the fact that Ibanez shrunk down the TS-808, they made every effort to capture that iconic sound. The fact I got lost just jamming away for 30 minutes before even touching the knobs was a very good sign.
While the TS-808 sound is undeniably present in the TSMINI, I eventually realized that I hadn’t even bothered trying to fine-tune the sound or adapt it to my guitar and amp. Sure, there’s something about the Tube Screamer’s mid-boost that makes it enticing to play through, but there are some sweet spots to be found with a little tweaking that’ll help you get the most out of this pedal.
When I turned up the Overdrive knob to around 2-3 o’clock, the added saturation thickened up the tone accordingly. Pushing up the Level knob past 1 o’clock added similar tonal enhancement as the pedal began overdriving the front-end of my amp slightly. This range of settings is an excellent start for some nice rhythm tones. Consider cutting the Overdrive to the range of 9 o’clock to noon for more subtle overdriven rhythm tones. Maxing out the Overdrive induces some nice saturation from the Tube Screamer Mini’s JRC4558D chip, excellent for singing lead breaks. It’s at these higher gain levels where a little extra attention should be pain to the Tone knob’s setting. I like to cut it back just left of noon to tame the high-end a little. I wouldn’t call it harsh by any means, but a little roll-off helps smooth it out a little. Of course, some darker pickups will benefit from a mild boost from the Tone knob.
The Tube Screamer Mini is a bridge between your guitar and amp, adding another musical dimension to your sound and creating a very rewarding playing experience. I sometimes forget just how great a Tube Screamer is. Once I plug in, it all comes back to me. The TSMINI’s simplicity and undeniable presence make it an essential tool in the modern guitarist’s pedal arsenal. In fact, if you’ve never owned a Tube Screamer and want to see what all the fuss is about, the TSMINI is a great introduction to the Tube Screamer legacy. It certainly stacks up well against other Tube Screamers I’ve played and is a steal at the price Ibanez is selling them for..
Speaking of stacking up, since the Tube Screamer Mini isn’t too over the top when it comes to overdriving and distorting your sound, it’s great to pair up with other pedals or a high-gain amp. If you already have some decent chunk going on, kick on the Tube Screamer Mini in front for a hotter sound. The Tube Screamer Mini sounds especially great for the “Killswitch Engage” style of ultra-heavy, 808-infused distortion tones. Put the TSMINI in front of a high gain amp. Start with the Overdrive all the way down and the Level at around noon. Raise the Overdrive to taste. Voila’! Added pick attack bite and heaviness galore! This is a great trick if you’re stuck with single coil pickups but want some heavier tones. I demonstrate this towards the end of my Tube Screamer Mini Review YouTube video.
While every Tube Screamer does have very minor tonal variances, it’s very commendable how Ibanez have maintained a more than solid TS-808 sound while shrinking the TSMINI to its pedalboard friendly size. There’s really no excuse for not squeezing a Tube Screamer Mini on your board if you don’t have a TS-808 already. It’s even worth considering picking up the TSMINI anyway in case you want to leave that vintage Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer at home and put this space-saving little wonder on your pedalboard.
Sure, you can find overdrive pedals out there with added tonal options (i.e. more knobs and switches, etc.). But the Tube Screamer Mini excels at achieving classic Tube Screamer tones while saving space on your pedalboard and being gentle on your wallet (akin to Ibanez’s budget-friendly ES2 Echo Shifter Analog Delay). Ibanez have laid down the gauntlet for micro-sized classic Tube Screamer tone with the TSMINI. The final verdict is below.
The Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini recreates the legendary TS-808 sound in a pedalboard friendly enclosure. What more could you ask for? Not to be mistaken for the knockoffs floating around, the TSMINI is the real deal. It holds up against other Tube Screamer models and stands well on its own. Whether you’re a guitarist on a budget, are looking for a small overdrive pedal, or simply want great Tube Screamer tone, the Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini is among the best mini overdrive pedals around.
That concludes our Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini review. Thanks for reading.
Want to buy the Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini?