The Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini (TS Mini) is the latest release of the popular Tube Screamer guitar pedal. The original Tube Screamer is an iconic overdrive pedal that was popularized by Stevie Ray Vaughan and other notable guitarists. The overdriven sounds of the Tube Screamer is suitable for blues, heavy metal and rock music. The success of the Tube Screamer spawned a number of copycat and modified overdrive pedals. We take a look at the TS Mini to see if it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its big brother.
The first thing that strikes you about the Tube Screamer Mini is that it is a smaller version of the original Tube Screamer. The TS Mini is made is Japan and like its predecessors, it shares the same green colored box. At 92.6mm (D) x 50.9mm (W) x 55.1mm (H), the pedal is half the size of the original and is extremely portable. It weighs only 292 grams, which makes it easy to carry.
There are three knobs on the TS Mini. The big knob in the center controls the overdrive and the two smaller knobs control the tone and the level. For those who are new to pedals and stomp-boxes, the overdrive knob controls the amount of distortion. The tone knob sets the gain of the high frequency components, also known as the treble, and the level knob controls the volume.
The TS Mini has a small round foot-switch to enable or disable the pedal. If you are used to the original TS, you will have to adapt to the feel of the new TS Mini foot-switch. A glowing light bulb indicates that the pedal is enabled. Due to the limited internal space, the TS Mini does not have an integrated battery. An external 9V adapter, such as the AC509, can be used to power the pedal.
One drawback of the TS Mini is that the markings on the smaller knobs are hard to read. The marker to indicate the knob position is black in color, which is identical to the color of the knob. This may not be a problem if you are used to setting the tone and level knobs, and forgetting about it. However, if you like fiddling with these settings, the lack of readability is a big limitation. Ibanez should have used a contrasting color for the markings, as in the earlier Tube Screamers.
The Tube Screamer Mini uses identical electronic circuits as the original Tube Screamer to retain the essence of the pedal. Why would Ibanez want to modify a pedal as iconic as the Tube Screamer? The JRC4558M surface mount integrated circuit used in the original TS finds a place in the TS Mini. Since the signal is processed entirely using analog circuits, it does not sound artificial. The TS Mini also features a True Bypass Switching option that allows you to send the signal directly to the output by skipping the pedal.
Performance of the Tube Screamer Mini
The best way to use the Tube Screamer Mini is to hook up the pedal before a tube amp. With a low distortion setting and high level setting, the TS Mini will provide a saturated amp tone. This results the characteristic warm sound that many guitarists identify with overdriven tube amps. If you would like try out some blues licks or double-stop rhythms, try setting the overdrive at 3 o’clock, tone at noon, and volume around 1 o’clock.
Alternatively, the TS Mini can be set to distort the music heavily by increasing the overdrive setting. This option is particularly useful when the pedal is paired with solid-state amps. Since the TS Mini does not hard clip the audio waveform, it produces a smooth sound without any harsh tones. Setting the overdrive past 12 o’clock adds sufficient distortion to accentuate pinch harmonics as well as to coax out some sustain.
One notable feature of the TS Mini (and the original TS) is that it accentuates the mids. This makes your solo distinct and sufficiently loud to be heard above the band. The pedal responds well to dynamics, even at high gain settings. A gentle thumb-picking action can generate harmonically dense chords. If a heavy crunch is your style, use a strong pick action.
It is fair to say that the TS Mini is the same old Tube Screamer in a new format. The TS Mini is a good choice for your first overdrive pedal. It allows you to own a piece of the legendary Tube Screamer at a fairly lower cost. If you already own a Tube Screamer, you may still consider picking up the Tube Screamer Mini if your pedalboard real estate is at a premium.
The Tube Screamer Mini is essentially a hot-rodded TS9 out of the box
It’s a great pedal. Certainly a benchmark to be tested against other overdrives too. Get one and rock! It does everything I need it to do. It sounds great, in fact, it sounds better than the full-sized TS9.