Greetings Fellow Gear-Whores, and Six String Elitists,
OMG! Tubescreamers - There are sooooo many! WHY!?!?!?!?
As we know options lead people (like most other things) to vast stupidity and ignorance. Idiocy and ignorance puts money in two places, the hands of techs (me for example), or manufacturers. What is stupid? how about this: most of this is based on at most a half dozen or so different components that add up to be south of $1.
From the Ibanez/Maxon lineage, there are two caps and two diodes and an op-amp that separate the TS-9 from the TS808. Why in the hell does this add up to a $40ish dollars? (I said it above in case you don't remember), stupidity and ignorance.
You want a "4558" op-amp. That is the consensus.
The NJM and/or JRC models are more sought after, there are a lot of opinions on that though, I am not going to get into that. There are still some NOS ones out there, but there are very mixed opinions there too. Note that for the record NOS is not always the best way to go, depending on the component type and application.
So what are the differences in a TS9 and a TS808 audibly? If I put one of each in an amp in the room with me, (with discerning ears) you COULD tell the difference. HOWEVER, I bet you couldn't tell me blindly which is which through different guitars and amps. This is largely a psychosomatic type thing.
the Rambling -
WHY in the HELL would you BUY a Maxon or Ibanez (lets stay with current production) tube screamer? in short- you shouldn't. There are literally over a hundred TS based pedals, some are cheaper and lower quality, some are cheaper and higher quality, some are more expensive and lower quality and some are more expensive and higher quality, more versatile and less versatile... etc.
There are two things that impact this: Do I even want a traditional tube screamer? and Am I open to new ideas?
Why wouldn't I want more options if i can get them? You aren't sacrificing anything in most cases by taking the new breed of TS-a-likes-. The prices are very similar as well new and used, so why not get more for your money. Also, support the little guys, I know a handful of guys who build better stuff, and a lot cheaper.
The 'alternatives' out there have better EQ'ing. The flexibility ranges from having more than just one tone knob, to full EQ's, to switches for different levels of treble and mids. A lot of them also have different/multiple gain modes, THAT is a game changer, in my book. Also some have a second switch for a boost (which allows me to take one pedal off the board). Some even have a fuzz circuit built in (i am looking at you MI Audio)
Then, why stop at tube-screamer-a-likes, The Paul C Timmy is awesome, the Hermida Audio Zendrive is heavenly, Pigtronix has some wicked stuff (with three band active EQ's), ZVEX is just flat out insane, Xotic has some REALLY nice stuff, Fulltone has the OCD which is stupid popular (they don't gel with me though), Keeley makes some really nice stuff, etc. etc. etc.
At the moment i am loving my Fulltone Fulldrive 2: Mosfet, and its under $100 used all day, everyday.
My favorite company at the moment is CMATMODS, they are a small business that is turning out some stupid nice stuff. It is all very well built, and the Signa Drive is sweet. I own five of their pedals at the moment, and that number will only go up.
To the Brethren, may your strings sound like music to your ears,