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September 2014
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Ibanez Tube Screamer Amp TSA15H Review

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Ibanez Tube Screamer Amp TSA15H Review

Download Example 1
Clean - no TS or boost. Les Paul (neck)
Download Example 2
Tube Screamer circuit & Boost engaged. Les Paul (bridge)
Download Example 3
Tube Screamer circuit & Boost engaged. Les Paul (neck)
Download Example 4
Tube Screamer circuit & Boost engaged. Strat (neck)
Download Example 5
Clean - no TS or boost. Strat (second position)
All clips recorded with Gibson Les Paul Custom or Fender Stratocaster Reissue (maple neck) with slight reverb added.
Ibanez—a name long associated with guitars and effects—has once again entered the world of guitar amplification with the TSA15H. This newest offering is a 15-watt, all-tube head and matching cabinet featuring none other than the world-famous Ibanez Tube Screamer built right in to the amp.

Using a Tube Screamer to drive the front end of a good tube amp is really nothing new. We guitarists have been doing this for years with great success. I think I would be hard pressed to find a player who has not at least tried this in the search of their special tone. The results differ based on the type of amp that was being overdriven—British amps end up more gainy and robust, while American amps are more bluesy. Ibanez has set out to try to achieve both types of desirable tones.

First Impressions
The Tube Screamer half stack is a very clean-looking rig in cream vinyl covering with black grille cloth and a dark green faceplate and two-button footswitch (sold separately, Street $34.95).

The head’s front panel (left to right) consists of Input, followed by the Tube Screamer controls—Overdrive, Tone, and Level—a Tube Screamer on/off toggle, a boost toggle, which gives a 6 dB boost to the front end, Bass, Treble, and Volume controls, and Standby and Power switches.

The rear panel features the AC power input, a 15-watt or 5-watt selector switch, output and footswitch jacks, and a send return for the effects loop. For this amp, Ibanez opted for a set of output jacks, rather than a switchable impedance selector. Combinations include two 8 ohm, one 4 ohm, two 16 ohm, one 8 ohm, one 16 ohm selection. The amplifier boasts two 6V6 output tubes and two 12AX7 preamp tubes.

The cabinet, model TSA112C, is a half-open back enclosure fitted with one 8 ohm Celestion Seventy/Eighty 12-inch speaker.

Plugging In
The theory behind the recent trend of low-wattage, portable tube amps is that a player can achieve great tube sounds for low volume practicing or recording. It is necessary however, to push the power section into the amount of output tube clipping required for best sound and response. As a player who grew up on tube amps, I feel that a lot of these amps fall short of these expectations. This Ibanez amp actually delivers.

The first thing I noticed was the 6V6 tube’s character. Unlike the usual EL84 types frequently used in small watt amps, 6V6 tubes are more robust when driven and have higher headroom than other smaller types. The second feature that I liked was the fact that there was no master volume. This meant that the amp actually had to be cranked up to drive the output tubes. With all of the switches in bypass position, I was met with a very pleasing clean tone—even at nearly full volume and with humbucking pickups. The tone controls were very effective and wide ranging and provided me with the control necessary to dial in a great clean tone.
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