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August Issue
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Green Giant: History of the Tube Screamer

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Green Giant: History of the Tube Screamer

Rebirth of a Classic
Perhaps the resurrection of the TS9 was inevitable, but Lomas contributed to its legacy first by insisting on the 1992 reissue of the TS9, and then by developing the TS9DX Turbo Tube Screamer. He says when he took over product development in 1990, he immediately started pushing for a TS9 reissue. Used TS9s were selling in stores for well over $250, when Ibanez itself was selling used units to dealers for five bucks. Lomas says management was wary. Nisshin wanted to move toward digital technology and had no interest in going “backward” to the old analog products—which is somewhat ironic, Lomas notes, considering that Nisshin is producing many of the older analog effects now. “At the time,” he says, “they thought we were crazy.”

But money often talks when words fall short. After prolonged browbeating, Nisshin started to see the dollar signs that had convinced Lomas, and they authorized the reissue. Lomas recalls how he and his colleagues spent weeks buying every original TS9 they could get their hands on in order to ensure that the pending reissue was an exact replica. As they cracked open and examined the pedals, they found that almost every one had a Toshiba TA75558 IC chip rather than the JRC chip commonly found in TS808s. “Since 90, 95 percent of TS9s had that chip,” says Lomas, “that’s what we decided to put back in it.” He recalls with a hint of nostalgia the way the company boasted about the reissue when it finally came out—about how it was made in the same factory as the original. “It was even built by the same middle-aged ladies. It was a dead, nuts-on copy,” he says. Even the manual was identical—dated 1981, for authenticity. More than 5,000 sold within weeks of the release, and Ibanez estimates it has sold 10,000–12,000 TS9 reissues each year over the last decade.

1992-Present
Model: TS9 Reissue
Series: 9 Series
Knob Configuration: Overdrive, Tone, Level
Notes: Faithful reproduction of the original TS9
Country of Origin: Japan
1998-Present
Model: TS9DX
Series: 9 Series
Knob Configuration: Overdrive, Tone, Level, Mode
Notes: Offers traditional Tube Screamer tones, as well as three additional modes with increasing amounts of volume and bass response.
Country of Origin: Japan

With the success of the TS9 reissue, the TS9DX seemed like a no-brainer. According to Lomas, the company watched, a glint of envy in its eye, as Dunlop multi-load wah pedals flew off the shelves. Hoshino felt it needed a Tube Screamer with different modes for output and distortion, and it seemed the only thing to do was to get in on the action.

So, in 1998, Lomas designed the DX for players who craved more volume, distortion, and low end. In addition to the Drive, Tone, and Level knobs that had already become Tube Screamer staples, he added a fourth knob with four mode positions: TS9, +, Hot, and Turbo, each one adding low end and increasing volume to some degree. The circuit is exactly the same as that of the original TS9, but the mode switch changes certain components’ parameters via clipping diodes and tone capacitors. The + mode is grittier than the original TS9, whereas Hot yields a crunchier tone with boosted mids, and Turbo, the most powerful of the four modes, projects a thicker, more modern sound.

“I wanted to come up with something that would be as true to the Tube Screamer tonality as possible, so that at least in one position it would be a classic Tube Screamer,” says Lomas. “That’s where I came up with the concept of varying the clippers. I didn’t want any digital simulation because, in my mind, it just wouldn’t be a Tube Screamer then.”
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