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Green Giant: History of the Tube Screamer

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Green Giant: History of the Tube Screamer

The Master Series only ran for one year, though—and the Tube Screamer wasn’t M.I.A. for long. In 1986, Ibanez released the brightly colored Power Series (aka the 10 Series), which boasted a new, high-fidelity TS10 with quieter circuitry that eliminated the vexatious chirp that older Tube Screamers sometimes emitted when all the controls were turned up. However, these alterations affected the burgeoning star’s signature tone, and the TS10 wasn’t as well received as Hoshino hoped. Thanks to blues and blues-rock mavens like SRV, many players were getting hooked on the tones of TS808 and TS9 Tube Screamers.

1986-1993
Model: TS10
Series: Power/10 Series
Knob Configuration: Overdrive, Tone, Level
Notes: Changed cosmetically to
match the 10 series. John Mayer’s
current Tube Screamer of choice.
Country of Origin: Taiwan
1991-1998
Model: TS5
Series: Soundtank
Knob Configuration: Overdrive, Tone, Level
Notes: Changed cosmetically to
match the Soundtank series of
smaller, plastic pedals.
Country of Origin: Taiwan

Piera says that, until the recent use of TS10s by players such as John Mayer, TS10s had remained undesirable. “I still hate them,” he says, calling it a “disposable” pedal. “They used cheap, proprietary parts— jacks, switches, and pots that often break and can’t be replaced, because the sturdy parts used in handmade, handwired pedals like the TS9 won’t fit. They have circuit boards that have all these parts mounted on them that break off, just so they could make pedals cheaply with machine soldering.”

Lomas explains how the economy affected the quality of manufacturing during those years. “When I first joined the company,” says Lomas, “back around ’83 or ’84, it was, like, 260 yen to the dollar. Today, it’s around 77 or 78. Back around ’85, the yen started a turnaround and was coming down to about 150, 160—and they [Hoshino] were crapping their pants. They used to be able to take anything that was made in Japan and throw it out on the US market and make money because it was good quality and the exchange rate was very favorable for the yen. Then, suddenly, they had to start worrying about making things cost effectively.”

When Ibanez launched its Soundtank effects line in 1991, the new TS5 Tube Screamer’s design goal was to capture the sound of the older, vintage units at cheaper costs by using streamlined manufacturing techniques. The TS5 was not handwired like the TS9 and TS808, and it was eventually sold in a high-impact plastic case, rather than the original metal casing. The TS5’s circuit is comparable to the TS9, but it was made by Taiwan-based manufacturer Daphon rather than Nisshin, and it featured smaller, cheaper components.
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