The Bass Tube Screamer’s control layout is about as simple as it gets: The TS9’s single Tone knob has been divided into two separate EQ controls, and a Mix knob has been thrown in to give the TS9B a grand total of five knobs—Level, Gain, Bass, Treble, and Mix. The pedal sits on a thick rubber pad, where there’s also access to the 9V battery door. Inside the pedal, you can see a neat, all-analog circuit with well-soldered connections.
Screaming for Vengeance
One of the things Tube Screamers are known for, especially TS9s and vintage TS808s, is touch sensitivity. And the good news is that the TS9B bears the same sonic traits as its forebears in this regard—it really shows off its muscle when you dig into the strings. To test it, I used a Fender American Special Jazz bass through a Genz Benz ShuttleMAX 12.0 driving Genz Benz 1x12 and 1x15 cabinets. While fingerpicking a groove on the low strings, the TS9B delivered just a tiny amount of grit with the Mix and Gain knobs maxed. It wasn’t until I hit the strings hard with a pick or slap technique that the pedal thundered like an ominous storm, and there was a tinge of fuzz-like distortion on the high end.
Backing off the Gain a bit and experimenting with the Mix control, I realized how heavily these controls interact. Because I tend to use aggressive picking-hand attack when playing rock bass lines, I didn’t need to max the Gain to get heavier grooves. Being an overdrive rather than a distortion, the TS9B naturally doesn’t dish out gain levels suitable for extreme metal, but it provides more than enough to create well-defined and multi-dimensional bass lines. The tone is quite wooly in the midrange, with a vicious amount of low end accessible from the Bass control. And with the pedal’s incredible sensitivity, I could control the amount of grit simply by adjusting my picking style.
When I wanted to put down a fat foundation for blues-oriented material, I found the Gain and Mix controls among the most useful for changing music styles. Upping the Bass knob, lowering the Treble knob considerably, and setting the Mix control a hair shy of high noon was one of my favorite settings for this style. With a moderate Gain setting, the TS9B served up a subtle low-end boost—and there was plenty more to add by increasing the Mix setting. This is a great way to tailor the bass tone for a suitably girthy foundation, upper-end bite, and volume in the overall mix, while still having complete control over the tone from the bass’s pickup controls.
For bassists looking to put a little more attitude in their arsenal, the Bass Tube Screamer TS9B is an excellent choice. It won’t do all the work for you, but for those who know how to get a lot of dynamics out of their hands, it’ll reward in spades. There’s ample gain available, but not enough to compress the tone into sterility. For big, rock bass tones with plenty of dynamic range, the TS9B is definitely worth checking out.
you need fat, dynamic overdrive with a natural, uncompressed feel.
you need raging, molten distortion.
Street $119 - Ibanez - ibanez.com
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