Maxon OD808 Review
|Date:||September 24, 2004|
"An Ibanez Tube Screamer is an overdrive/distortion pedal that is mild compared to
many, but allows the true sound of the guitar and player's technique to come
through. The most popular use of a tube screamer is to push a tube amp to make it
overdrive more, but they sound good through almost anything." - analogman.com
Ah the old Tube Screamer, there are many variations however the one constant is
they have all been manufactured by Maxon. But they all say Ibanez on the front
so whats the deal? Maxon has always manufactured the Tube Screamer series and
Ibanez marketing them under their brand, Maxon has been what is referred to as a
OEM manufacturer... Until now.
Maxon has released under their own brand the OD808 which is built identically to
the treasured TS-808. Before jumping into the specifics on the Maxon OD808 I thought
it would be good to take a brief look at the history of the Tube Screamer.
Tube Screamer History
The Tube Screamer as we know it today started in the late 70's with the TS-808
model which was made famous by the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. SRV used the TS-808
for his trademark juicy strat tone. When he used smaller Fender amps that had
natural overdrive, he used the TS set clean (low drive setting)with the level up
high to push the amp for more distortion. When he played through big clean amps
he turned the drive up more, about 1/2 way, with tone on about 3 and level about
7 to get the distortion from the TS.
The main component of any solid state distortion device is the Op-Amp which gives
the distortion is flavor. The different Tube Screamers have used different Op-Amps
throughout their history with many believing the best to be the JRC4558D chip.
The JRC4558 or RC4558 chip was used throughout the life of the TS-808.
Around 1982 the Ibanez pedals were repackaged and the 9-series of effects came out.
The most popular is the TS-9 tube screamer, which is almost the same as the TS-808
internally. Externally the on/off switch grew to fill about 1/3 of the effect. The
main change in the TS-9 circuit is in the output section. This caused the tube
screamer to be a bit brighter and less "smooth". The Edge from U2 uses a TS9 for
most of his overdrive tones, as do countless other famous rock and blues players.
In later years the TS-9s were put together with seemingly random op-amp chips,
instead of the JRC-4558 which is called for in the schematics. Some of these sound
BAD, especially the JRC 2043DD chips.
After the 9 series was discontinued, the more cheaply made TS-10 appeared. In
about 1988 some TS-10 pedals were made in Taiwan, using an MC4558 chip. The plastic
TS-5 "Soundtank" followed the TS-10 and was available until about 1999 when the TS7
"TONE LOK" series came out. The TS-5 circuit is very similar to the TS-9 but made
in Taiwan with cheaper, smaller components. Also, the box is plastic so there may
be more noise than a shielded metal TS-808 or TS-9 box. Some people are happy with
these but most prefer the older ones. Compared to a TS-808, a TS-10 has about 3 times
more changes than the TS-9. A few years ago, Ibanez started to make the TS-9 again
due to popular demand. This "reissue" is basically identical to the last "original"
TS-9s in sound, circuitry, and appearance. The IC chip they use in the reissue is the
same as some later original TS-9s, the Toshiba TA75558.
In about June of '96 the reissue TS-9 was changed slightly, and finally can be
told from an "original" TS-9 easily. There is a "CE" symbol on the back, which is
required for selling electronics in Europe.
So what about Maxon's OD808?
The OD808 is identical to the original TS808 circuit and features the JRC4558 IC chip.
The packaging on the OD808 is reminiscent of MXR pedals with it's thin (width) metal
box and large foot switch.
When comparing the three pedals the OD808 definitely weighs less than the TS9 Reissue and
a bit more than the TS10. Sound wise when using Tube Screamer to push the POD (level at
3 o'clock, tone and drive around 7 o'clock)the modded TS9 and the OD808 sound very similar and better than
the TS10. For leads (level 3 o'clock, tone and drive 11 o'clock) the OD808 lets the
individual notes to ring just a bit better than the modded TS9 and far better than the
TS10. One of the things I really noticed on the OD808 was it's response to pick attack,
the amount of distortion or overdrive could really be controlled by varying my pick
I set my POD on the Super Reverb setting for this comparison which can be heard in the
MP3 files. The rhythm track using the Tube Screamers set to push the amp per the settings
above goes in the following order: POD, TS10, modded TS9, OD808.
If you've got a tube amp and really enjoy the sound but need just a bit more overdrive
then definitely check out the OD808. If you've already got a TS9 then listen to the
sound files and make the call but it's a close call. If I were still gigging or playing
with a group then I would stick with my modded TS9 but without the TS9 I would definitely
grab the new OD808.
Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer Effects Pedal Original Reissue
Maxon OD808 Overdrive