At a time when most amp makers were embracing the new world of solid state amps, the (Tube Screamer) made its debut in the late 70’s as a way to link the two fields. What amounted to essentially a tube simulator ended up setting an entirely new gold standard for overdrive tone.
While its predecessor the Overdrive II could wind its way up to 11 in terms of crunch and break up, and its successor in the form of the TS9 had a notoriously smooth drive and tone control – the TS-808 sits right smack in the middle.
Roland’s Boss OD-1 of the same vintage clipped the guitar’s signal asymmetrically, similar to the effect of a vacuum tube, trimming the top and the bottom of the sound wave differently, resulting in a harsher sound. The TS-808 clipped it symmetrically, producing a dynamically smoother voice. This aided the Tube Screamer in preserving the original dynamics and clarity of the input signal and preventing it from getting too coarse or too muddy. For this reason, a lot of players will keep the overdrive at almost zero and wind up the level to essentially boost the properties of any given amp.
The TS-808 had an Overdrive knob to control distortion and a Level knob to adjust output volume. Differing from the original OD-1, it also had a tone knob to dial in the amount of treble, and this became key to its flexibility.
A major component of the Tube Screamer’s tone came from its operational amplifier (op-amp) integrated circuit chip. The early versions of the TS-808 used either Malaysian-made Texas Instruments RC4558P or Japanese Radio Corporation JRC4558D chips. Both have their fans. This particular unit has the Japanese chip.
For those who feel the need to scratch the inner nerd itch, here’s a link that goes into further depth on the circuitry – http://www.bteaudio.com/articles/TSS/TSS.html
On a small amp that overdrives easily (such as the Fender Deluxe), you can run the Tube Screamer clean with a low Drive setting and high Level, to push the amp to more distortion. On a larger, cleaner amp, you can dial the Drive up about halfway, set the Tone at a quarter, and the Level to three-quarters to dirty up the sound. The result is more sustain, edge, and harmonic lushness. Dial it harder, and you can achieve fuzz.
This pedal has a proven history as an absolute lynchpin to the foundation of classic tube driven sound, as well as an invaluable addition to any gear line up.
Here’s a link to a demo by Reverb – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aSbsMR7NyQ
This particular TS 808 is in exceptional original condition. It is a one owner unit, bought new in 1980. It has been used sporadically over the years, but for the past decade or so it has sat unused in storage. It has a few expected chips off the paint, but is in overall excellent cosmetic and structural condition. An iconic vintage pedal that sounds exactly the way it should – fabulous.