Ibanez is about as major a player in the electric guitar market as there is—dishing out an array of products ranging from artsy hollow-bodies and “super-Strats” to amplifiers and cabinets. But they’re arguably still best known for their little green stompbox dubbed the Tube Screamer (TS) that Stevie Ray Vaughan put on the map, and which has been used by about a billion guitarists since. Ibanez has reissued TS pedals for years, and its popularity has spawned clones, DIY kits, and modifications in an attempt to capture that long sought after blues crunch.

Though the Ibanez Tube Screamer earned its rightful place in the blues-rock canon for its sweet overdrive capabilities, many players look to push their TS-9s, 10s, and 808s beyond their inherent gain capabilities. How could do you retain the sweet sound of a TS and catapult an already breaking-up Marshall into more frenzied territory? Many companies have already addressed this issue. And with the JD9 Jet Driver, Ibanez throws its hat in the ring.

Rugged Face
The JD9 marks the first true-bypass entry in the company's 9 Series of pedals (along with the simultaneously released BB9). The pedal  has four simple controls: Drive, Volume, Mid, and Tone. The Drive knob allows you to adjust the gain, ranging from a medium overdrive to a hard punch. The Volume knob controls the output level—a full counterclockwise rotation will shut off the output while a full clockwise rotation will actually give the pedal a fairly significant boost from your base volume level.

Effect parameters at neutral positions with a slight boost in Mids.

The Mid control is the most obvious—and welcome—addition to what you’d consider a standard TS circuit. My previous experiences with an Ibanez TS9 reissue found me using an EQ pedal to deal with the sometimes jammed midrange, which crowded up an already busy pedalboard. The JD9’s Mid control has a very adjustable sweep, however. The Tone knob enables you to very effectively adjust the bass/treble response.

Ibanez has been using these compact pedal casings for quite some time now—and that’s because they work, they’re efficient, and they’re sturdy as hell. In fact, I can’t image how you’d break one of these boxes short of strapping the housing with small explosives. My previous TS9s, which share the same housing, have endured years of road-wear with little to show except a loss of paint, and the occasional tightening of the nut below the knobs. As usual, these things run on 9-volt batteries sheltered with an easy-clip cover, or by a 9-volt barrel input at the crown of the box.

Devoid of simple feet, the JD9 sits atop a full rubber pad that’s sure to stick to any pedalboard and most barroom floors. Thankfully Ibanez got around to putting better LEDs in their boxes—those old ones were near impossible to read in direct sunlight or awkward angles.

Rolling off the Mid control yielded a darker tone reminiscent of ’80s British tube growl, while a healthier dose of Mid summoned a spiked Marshall-type vibe with a more modern tinge.

In the Field
Using a Fender Stratocaster and a Gibson Les Paul, I ran the JD9 through a Vox Pathfinder, a Fender Twin Reverb, and a ’68 Fender Bassman into a 4x12 with Celestion V30s. I kicked off the run with all the knobs at 12 o’clock, which gave me a full-sounding, useable overdrive. Rolling off the Mid control yielded a darker tone reminiscent of ’80s British tube growl, while a healthier dose of Mid summoned a spiked Marshall-type vibe with a more modern tinge.

In terms of gain, the JD9 resides somewhere in between a hot overdrive and a full-blown distortion. Next to a TS9 reissue the JD9 serves as the next step up in crunch. With the Drive dialed down, you’ll get a sound similar to a maxed out TS9. With the Drive completely clockwise, you’ll have a massive wall of hard rock, without stepping into that tinny buzz/fuzz you’ll encounter in some extreme metal. Both settings provided some beautiful sustain with clean, crisp notes.

This pedal will run rather quietly in your stompbox chain, however the actual effect is slightly less than transparent, which I’ve found to be true with most Ibanez overdrives. Unfortunately it wasn’t terribly responsive with either guitar’s volume control—rolling off didn’t segue the tone into a bluesier level, but more of a muffled bark.

Overall, I found the JD9 to be of best use on an amplifier that’s on the cusp of breaking up (in this case, the Bassman), and then hitting the switch to take it over the edge. It works just as well on a clean amplifier, but it’s character shines with thoroughly hot tubes and a lot of headroom (although players with smaller amps won’t be disappointed).

The Verdict
Ibanez continues to release affordable, quality effects, and at roughly $90 the JD9 Jet Driver is no exception. The highly dialable controls are a huge plus on this little guy, which should suit most guitar and amplifier combinations. Fans of alternative and hard rock should give this mid-grade box a try before stepping into the boutique price-range.

Buy if...
you wish your TS9 had more teeth.
Skip if...
your OD collection needs a wildly fresh sound.

Street $90 - Ibanez - ibanez.com