Ibanez TS808 Descripiton:
It's back—the incomparable overdrive pedal that's been described as "the Holy Grail of Tubescreamers." Our 2004 TS808 reissue features the same famous standout square footswitch of the original and the even more famous warm tones of the JRC4558 chip used in most of the original TS808's. Ignore any over-the-counter lookalikes. If your tone is suffering from a lack of real warmth, the TS808 is the real, non-generic prescription.
Ibanez offers the TS9 reissue and the TS808 limited production reissue. So which one is best for you?
The reissue of the TS9 in 1993 and the reissue of the TS808 in 2004 mean that players don't have to plunk down the vast quantities of cash that the originals have been known to fetch. Although neither of the reissues is cheap, players can get the original Tube Screamer specs and tones without breaking the bank.
For collectors who are also players, the reissues mean that they don't have the tough choice of either subjecting their beloved original Tube Screamers to the dangers of contemporary gigging or leaving those great tones at home.
So what's the difference between the TS9 and the TS808? For one, the TS9 reissue is less expensive than the TS808 and for two, they sound somewhat different. Why?
On paper, the original TS9 (circa 1981-84) was supposed to feature a JRC4558 chip. But in practice, that's not what happened. Most TS9's ended up being loaded with the more "high-fidelity" TA75558 chip. Which is why, for historical and tonal accuracy, the TS9 reissue features the TA75558 chip.
The TS808 (circa 1979-80), on the other hand, was spec'd with the JRC4558 chip, and that's what most of the original TS808s did feature and that's what the reissue features.
Players who prefer and cleaner, clearer sound tend to prefer the TS9 with its "high fidelity" TA75558 chip. Players who prefer a warmer sound tend to prefer the TS808.
However, to get the warm sound of the original TS808s, Ibanez can't use just any currently manufactured JRC4558. In over two decades since the original TS808's were made, the manufacturer has made improvements in consistency, electrical characteristics and fidelity of the JRC4558. Unfortunately, those aren't necessarily "improvements" when your goal is vintage distortion. (And don't let anyone tell you that a "chip is a chip is a chip." Chips vary from country to country, factory to factory and even foundry to foundry within a factory.)
The result is that present-day chips are different than those of the "good old days." However, we discovered that we can pick out a small quantity from current lots of JRC4558 chips that match our vintage TS808 spec, if we measure them one-by-one to find those with the desired characteristics. This careful and labor intensive selection process limits the production of the TS808 and increases its cost (as does its famous old square footswitch, which had to be completely recreated in order to make for an accurate reissue).
Now that you know some of the differences, the choice comes down to your ear and your budget-and if budget is the major concern, don't despair. You can also opt for the very affordable TS7 Tone-Lok Tubescreamer, which features a JRC4558 chip using automated circuit board construction, instead of the TS9's and TS808's more labor-intensive hand-wiring.
The story of the Tube Screamer reissue is featured in the book, Ibanez - The Untold Story. Coming soon!
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