14 Best Tube Screamer Clone Pedals: The Ultimate List

In our post covering the best Big Muff pedals, we posited that the contest of the most-cloned pedal came down to a race between the Muff and the Ibanez Tube Screamer. This is a touch on the reductive side, but it’s fair to say that every inquiry about an overdrive pedal can start with, “Is it Tube Screamer-y? Tube Screamer-ish?” You get the picture. Love the mid-pushed, lightly distorted sound of the Tube Screamer but want something more? Below find our list of the best Tube Screamer clones to expand your lightly-overdriven horizons.

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What is a Tube Screamer?

The Tube Screamer is a mid-boosting overdrive that produces a somewhat thin, relatively transparent tone that was popular for power blues players beginning in the late 70s. Many, many players have used it, and that almost certainly includes one of your favorite musicians.

The history of the Ibanez Tube Screamer — which we naturally included among our best overdrive pedals — is not quite as twisting as that of the Big Muff, but has its fair share of intrigue. It was originally designed in the 1970s by Susumu Tamura, rose to notable prominence in the 1980s, and remains the standard bearer to which all other overdrives are compared.

Like the Big Muff, there are versions and variants worth knowing about. The original was the TS808 and was actually produced by Maxon, who has employed Mr. Tamura for a very long time. Next was the TS9, which was brighter and had slightly higher gain and employed a range of op-amps instead of the venerated JRC-4558 chip. These are the two main versions everyone talks about. There was also the TS10, TS5, and TS7, but none of those were quite as well loved.

Something so ubiquitous could never be left alone. And, like the Klon, you could find yourself staring down the barrel of a $1,000+ purchase if you really, really want an original TS-808. Nonsense, I say.

Given that the most popular way to start a pedal company is to develop your own take on the Tube Screamer, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to really, really good sounding take-offs. I'm not just talking about cheap Chinese clones, although you know something? Even those are worth a look. Almost every pedal company going has their own Screamer version, which is good for you, the guitar-playing consumer.

Unlike the Big Muff post, we didn't include a version of the Tube Screamer from Ibanez. As mentioned, you can find it perched atop our best overdrive pedals post where it (arguably) belongs. This list is dedicated to the wealth of high-quality versions made by any number of other companies.

To be totally fair, most of them are pricier than the current-generation TS9 or Tube Screamer Mini. Most are even probably pricier than the TS808 currently being made. Still, some of the "boutique" makers use higher-quality components and some folks (like me) just like the smaller makers. The point is: options are good, and we are bringing you 15 of them.

We didn't put the Maxon OD808, Maxon OD-9 or Maxon ST-9 Pro+ on this list, largely because they're virtually identical to the Ibanez offerings and are even still made in the same factory. They're definitely worth considering if nothing on this list appeals to you.

Is the Tube Screamer True Bypass?

In its original Ibanez guise, no, it isn't. The buffer the original units tended to help more than it hurt, so most people don't mind. That said, this is a pretty good reason to consider a clone, since modern pedal design favor true bypass, if that's what you want.

A traditional Tube Screamer can be made true bypass, but by the time you pay for the mod, you might as well buy one of the pedals above.

Why is the Tube Screamer so popular?

Some of it is hype, if you can call it that. It's a tried-and-true pedal, so "hype" isn't quite the right word. It's been used by virtually everyone at one point or another and it is dead reliable for doing that certain job.

What is that job? Boosting midrange frequencies and slightly attenuating low end frequencies. The guitar is a midrange-focused instrument, so it works naturally with the sound it makes, thereby serving as a very sweet, natural-sounding enhancer. It can push the best-sounding parts of a guitar forward when you need it most.

Additionally, it works for all kinds of players. For those using loud, clean amps, it provides musical breakup without generating loads of distortion. For heavy players, it provides focus into the front of a driving amp, which can really help to step in front of the mix for solos or key passages.

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