Show 209 – Tube Screamers and more!

This week dive deep into the Ibanez Tube Screamer pedal with comparisons, modding, emulations and uses.
In the comments section we talk about close vs far mics for orchestral recording and mixing, opinions on the Heil PR40 dynamic microphone, mid-side fx for widening, Pro Tools 11, iLok, don’t trust avid, and more.

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The randomly selected winner of the Mic Mod kit from is Puneet Taneja

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Audio Geek Zine Tubescreamer shootout: part 1, part 2, part 3

33 thoughts on “Show 209 – Tube Screamers and more!

  1. Great show guys! This is my first time commenting, but I have listened for quite a while! This topic couldn’t have come at a better time as I just finished a DIY build of the OD2 pedal from (Build Your Own Clone); which is essentially a tube screamer clone with some of the more famous mods on switches, as well as a second footswitch for pure clean boost. Having completed this pedal, I must say I highly recommend BYOC to DIY’ers as they have a wide variety of cloned circuit designs from all of the classic pedals, with tons of room for modding! I am loving the OD2 and find it is super versatile with having the option to switch the type of clipping, and EQ configurations right from the surface of the pedal. An additional bonus is that it won’t send someone into a downward spiral of depression and leave them curled in a corner sucking their thumb, like the mod shown in Beavis’ link! As a guitar player of 17 years, full-time student, husband and home owner, I’m always looking to save money while still increasing my gear real-estate on a budget and DIY has afforded me that possibility.

    You guys have inspired me, first with venturing into the DIY world with my first project being the Bit-Mo Trio Mod on an Epiphone Valve Junior (also highly recommended)! And secondly after listening to shows #36 and #159 and the talk of online session work. I launched my website ( to offer acoustic and electric session guitar work for a variety of styles and genres! Despite my limited income, I have begun to make money through this venture and owe you guys a long overdue tip in the tip jar, so thank you! I don’t mind sacrificing a few Tim Horton’s coffees to show my appreciation anyways!

    Another cool use with the tube screamer is to put a clean volume boost in front of the tube screamer. Similar to the method Jon described in running the tube screamer into the front of a high gain amp to enhance tone by overdriving the preamp stage, it produces some cool characteristics when overdriving the preamp of the tube screamer. I’m not technical enough to know what’s actually happening, I just know it can sound good/different! The cool thing with the BYOC pedal I mentioned is the clean boost is built into the pedal. By default it comes after the tube screamer circuit, but there are mods to switch that around or put it on a toggle switch to change between the two configurations. Definitely worth checking out!

    Ps. With Jon’s comment near the end about Black Russian Big Muff’s I was waiting to hear Ryan’s follow up witty comment, but alas… nothing! Man it’s amazing the amount of innuendo in gear talk eh?!

  2. Hey guys, I listen to the podcast on my way to the studio each week… Thanks for putting out a great show! Being a full time engineer your show hits home, especially when you talk about dealing with clients (oh the stories I could tell).

    Currently at the studio we are running Logic Pro and also have two Avid ArtistMix controllers and an MC Transport. The combination is great, being a hands on mixer, I never liked using the mouse and keyboard to get work done (aside from keyboard commands and shortcuts). Sadly though, I feel Apple may have put Logic out to pasture. I agree totally agree with you guys saying “if it ain’t broke… don’t fix it.” I do need to consider the future.

    As we all know Protools 11 is hitting shelves soon. And I am considering making the slow transition. I figure by the time I am as fast in Protools as I am in Logic, Avid will have some of the kinks worked out, then I will be able switch the studio over full time.

    I would love to switch to Reaper, everything about it is awesome… Except no EuCON support, not even a post about it since 1/23/2013. So my controllers would be non functional. I have spent hours trying to get them to work through HUI and MCU. I have searched the reaper message boards… Sadly, nothing!

    Any Ideas… Or do you think I am stuck making the long trek into PT11?


  3. Thanks for answering my power questions in such detail last week. It gave me a lot ideas on were to spend my money. Now i have a question on pre amps / di / channel strips. I’m looking to get my first high end pre/di , and i want the most bang for my buck.
    I want one all around device that can be my go to gear, ( i track mainly di old analog synths, but i want something that i can use for vocals, live percussion, and guitar swell,) do you guys have any experience with the Universal Audio LA-610 Mk II? I’ve been seeing them for around $1000 used and thats the price I’m shooting for. I love how distorted the pre can get as well, i defiantly want a ton of color. is there any pre/di/channel strip i should looking at? ( I’m currently doing a hybrid of electronic, and rock music, along the lines of lcd sound system, soulwax, phoenix,….. if that helps you make a recommendation? p.s. I’m sure Ryan has no clue who any of those bands are and I’m hoping Jon knows at least one of them so he can understand where i’m coming from.)

    Thanks for all the Awesome shows!

    • I have the ART Pro MPA II as well, and it’s surprisingly good for the price. It’s a really flexible preamp. I’m usually very skeptical of ART gear, but this particular piece is solid.

      You’ll have a lot of cash leftover but so maybe pick up a Focusrite ISA One as well?

  4. Hi guys

    GSAA… ooops… Premature appreciation. I haven’t listend to the show yet.

    Anyway, I have a question I wanted to ask while I still remember it.
    We all know good quality monitors and sound treatment is a must for mixing. But are they also necessary for tracking in a small home setup? Or can you get by with a pair of good headphones?


    • Headphone mixes usually don’t translate too well, mine didn’t. But if you want monitors, you need a good treated room IMO. Let’s see what the guys have to say 🙂

      • Yeah, I realise that for mixing, monitors and sound treatment are essential.

        I was thinkg more about the TRACKING stage of the process. Is it feasible to get good workable results regarding e.g. guitar tone, voice etc., to the point that you won’t have too many problems at a later mixing stage (with the right equipment).


  5. I really enjoyed this episode, but I still glaze over and begin to drool uncontrollably when the discussion gets technical. I really want to know what the hell you’re talking about. Where can I go to grow in my knowledge of electrical engineering? I’m kind of a book nerd, so any books you suggest would be great. Keep up the great work! And solder that chicken to Jon’s Big Muff.


    Thanks for another great show. My comment today is for the other people out there who just got their curiosity piqued about overdrives.

    I spent about a year trying out different models at local guitar shops, listening to comparison videos on YouTube, reading reviews and generally geeking out about tube screamers back in 2011. The amazing range of different versions of this circuit and the variety of sounds you can get from them are crazy.

    I was surprised that you guys didn’t cover stacking tube screamers, the tones you can get using one overdrive to push another over the edge are incredible. You end up with this super compressed, endless sustain sweet tone if you set them up right. In my rig I usually have one on most the time, set to a low/medium setting, and then another set to high gain that I kick in to send the guitar off screaming. This approach requires a good sounding compressor to tame the madness that results, and rather than the conventional approach of compressor first in the chain, you put the comp after the overdrives. Now your guitar’s volume knob is dirt control and you have clean, mild and out-of-this-world at your feet. Set your amp right on the verge of breakup and you can get an amazing range of tones from just that setup.

    My personal holy grail of overdrives is the Heavy Electronics Red Eyes. The Red Eyes is very dynamic and touch sensitive, it’s a medium gain overdrive, and it has the cool eyes on it that light up as it clips like the seeing eye mod you guys were talking about. I can’t do it justice but here is a great review you should check out: This guy has a great ear for tone and really gets into the nuances of the pedal better than I can explain.

    When I was looking for a high gain overdrive to slap in front of that bad boy, I ended up falling in love with the Suhr Shiba Drive. It had to my ears the smoothest sound of any tube screamer that simultaneously rips your face off with gain. It seems to turn your guitar way, way up while somehow keeping your tone intact. I use this one in front of the Red Eyes and it slams it into sustain heaven. I follow it with an MXR Super Comp although a lot of people who like this setup rave about Ross clones.

    Anyway, for those just getting the TS bug, here is a video comparing different models that will give you a good idea just how different all of the many takes on this circuit are: Here is one covering some popular mods on a stock screamer:

    If you find that interesting, dive into the rabbit hole of YouTube videos and you will learn so much about this pedal. I seriously think there are more tube screamer comparison videos on YouTube than Harlem Shakes or Gangnam Style remakes.

    Oppa chicken style.

  7. Hey Fellas,

    I’m a long time listener etc etc….


    I purchased the Golden Age Project Pre73 (through your link of course) and I am having some confusion about optimizing its performance with my current setup.

    My chain is: Rode NT1-A condenser mic, GAP Pre73, MBox 2 mini, Imac.

    I need some clarification on how to get the least amount of coloration from the MBox mini. I’ve read a few articles about pushing the line/DI button, going in through the line 2 port, and pressing the pad button. I have also heard things about how to find “unity gain.” All this jargon is confusing me. Puedes ayúdame?

    • The coloration from the MBOX should only come in if you are using the GA Pre into the MBOX’s preamps. You should be able to bypass them by changing the input to line level. After looking around I see articles saying you need to run your pre thru the 1/4 inch jack. Sounds a little sketch but give it a shot. You shouldnt need to worry about Unity in this instance.

  8. GSAA and all that, but what’s up with this denying singers a reverb? A good sounding reverb can be big part of a great vocal performance and I feel it needs to be given a bit of time applying. If a singer hides behind it or gets sloppy to it, maybe it’s not the right reverb for the song or perhaps it’s not given the attention to get dialed in properly. I know they talked about this on an episode of Pensado’s Place but I can’t seem to find the episode. If I do I’ll post a link to it. It starred someone of the greater vocal producers and the point made was taking the time to find the correct reverb/delay for the song and the performance and then stick to it, all the way through the mixing process. Changing it would be like changing the sound of a guitar and loose the whole feel of that performance. See where I’m going with this? End of rant.

    Oh, and if you ever need to put together a porn reference folder, put down Ryans comment at 33:31 at the top of the list: “I’m gonna pull mine up right now…”

    Love the show guys, keep it up!

  9. Re: plugins: I don’t have a lot of plugins in my Reaper plugin folder because I use a small process to keep everything tidy (like Jon, haha): when it gets downloaded, the zip/plugin dll first goes into a folder called Plugins DL; it stays there until I have time to test and play around with it. If I decide to use it, it goes into the proper Reaper plugin folder (unzipped) *and* into my Archive Plugin folder (zipped); I will usually try to limit the number of plugins covering the same need to a minimum, so if 1 plugin goes in, another one will usually come out. If I don’t want to use the plugin I downloaded, it gets deleted. Once in a blue moon, I look at all the plugins I don’t use and delete them from Reaper – which I can do since I have a zipped copy in my Archive plugin folder, tadaaaa 🙂 This way, I have a clean efficient plugin folder for Reaper and my archive where I can go dig out stuff if I ever need to.

  10. I have two plugins that I use, Valhalla VintageVerb and TT Dynamic Range Meter. I might expand it by 100% though with Valhalla Shimmer and Room.

    Great show guys. Keep up the good work!

  11. Hi there!
    Some week ago I realized that I worked through all your shows. Maybe I have to start to listen to music again on my way to work….

    Thought that it’s about time to leave a comment and make some donations, starting with the comment. Thanks a lot for a great and inspiring show, especially the ones about diy builds and mods. Partly because of you I’ve now built one Octave Fuzz pedal, one ribbon microphone, one 1176 rev a compressor and are about to finnish up two diy U87’s. If I didn’t listen so much to your shows on this topic I don’t think I would have had the guts to do it yet.

    Cheers from Sweden!

  12. Hi Guys. Great show as always. I have a strange little problem with an acoustic guitar recording. In this clip ( you can hear that at the end of the loop panned hard right a Phaser like thing happening. I think this is from me moving while I was playing, and the mic being 6 inches from the guitar (its a single KM184 aimed at the bridge pins). Is there a way you know of counteracting this sound. Its cool but I can see it getting in the way later on in the mix. Id appreciate the help.

    On the topic of TubeScreamers, I have a TS9DX and its awesome. I have no idea what the variable modes actually do (and care little to understand it) but they each have a their own characteristic. Have you used this little guy?

    Keep up the awesome shows! Nekcihc Eht Edir

  13. Gsaa! This question is a little of topic but I’m gonna ask it anyway. Several times this winter I got a little shock when I would touch my condenser mic. I just figured it to be static from walking on the carpet, as my house seems to be very static-y. The other day, when I depressed both line/instrument level buttons simultaneously on my M-audio fast track ultra 8R, the piece of D-112 did a bit of a light show and died. I’m just wondering if something shorted when I depressed both buttons possibly, or if its possible to fry the front end of a mic pre with static charge. If so what measures can I take to mitigate this problem aside from rubberizing my control room which may be an appropriate move anyway, considering my deteriorating mental state. lol

  14. Cool show. Love these shootouts! Nothing better for training my ears.

    A question has popped into my head. Many people like to put compression pedals in front of their amps. I was just wondering how this will affect the dynamics of the playing? I.e., playing harder to get more distortion, softer to clean up?


    • As long as you don’t squeeze the hell out of it you’ll still have plenty of dynamics, but levels will be more predictable. It makes it easier to get all your pedals and amp into their sweet spots and take control over how clean or dirty you want to get by controlling the range of the dynamics through compression. It really helps to even everything out. That said, you can also squash your signal down to one dynamic level if that’s your thing…but it sounds like it isn’t :). You can think of it like a range control for your guitar’s volume knob – you decide exactly how loud and soft your rig goes.

  15. Dear HRS-bby,

    I’m going through some rough times right now, and I thought it was best to seek refuge from my fellow audio recording geeks. My girlfriend of 5 years and I are on the verge of a break up. I don’t know if it’s me or her, but she seems to be disconnected. Lately, it seems, the things she says she will work on are the things that all other women do already. Things like offering offline rendering, and a 64-bit architecture. In addition, every year or two, she will steal my credit card and charge anywhere from $300 to $600 with little to show for it. On top of it all, most times that I try to start a conversation, she will refuse to listen saying “I’m not going to do anything until you tell me that you lo— have an authorized license on your iLok” forcing me to unplug and plug in my iLok repeated until she sees what’s right in front of her face.


    The thing is… there’s this other girl that might be interested in me and a lot of guys think I should go for her. She’s thin, good looking, and low maintenance. She seems perfect but I’m not sure how easy it would be to get used to hanging out with her for hours a day. Plus, I left all my sessions at my girlfriend’s apartment, and this new girl might give me some trouble if I want to move them to her place.

    So I guess my question is, can Jon go deep inside Reapsy (her friends call her that) and film himself diddling her knobs, caressing her faders, and pressing her buttons (in all the right ways) to show us how a disgruntled and abused boyfriend can customize her to make the transition a little easier to cope with? Please post what you film on YouTube. I’ll watch it on incognito mode so Toolie can’t see it in my history.

    Heart-Broken in New Hampshire

  16. I’m thinking this is coincidence, but I received this email 3 minutes after that last post:

    Avid would like your feedback on Pro Tools!


    We are constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of our products and services. To do that, we need to know what you think. We’d really appreciate it if you would take just a few minutes to give your feedback.

    We value your input and time and this survey should take less than 5 minutes to complete.

    Click on the following link to launch the survey.

    Launch Survey

    We look forward to hearing from you.

    We’re Avid.

    Avid, please show me your iLok authorization before we talk.

  17. First of all, thanks for answering my question. Ryan, if you’re really interested in getting rid of the PR-40, you can get ahold of me at my provided email or on twitter (I just tweetled you…did you feel it?).

    You mentioned the Boss Blues Driver; I DON’T know how similar it is to a Tube Screamer (I always avoided ’em) but I DO know the BD-2 is a cool pedal. I primarily use it live for a pushed classic “dirty” or a bit of extra compression & boost for distorted leads. Useful, for sure.

    High-fives all around for the work you cats are putting in. You’ve got a wonderful resource here and you can probably call on the legions of HRS-holes for anything, anytime (including encouraging – nay – strong-arming a company like Focusrite into loaning you a Red1 500 for demo/review purposes…I think that thing looks pretty interesting).

    Thanks again!

  18. Hey

    I just wanted to make a few comments. Not sure if they will get read but maybe helpful.

    1. Screw Protools in the Avid..
    2. Before you start recording an orchestra or concert band. Stand at the conductors position hit the record button and smack two large sticks together. This will give you the distance to each mic so that you can shift them during mixing.
    3. Those mods were ok if you want the BOMB MODS (no pressure cooker mods) go here.

    I have built MANY of Monte’s mods and they are AMAZING, with a kick ass ZING… He gives great support and the components are top notch. I modded several TS9 and definitely that POS DS-1. I use the TS9 in front of the DS-1. Set the TS9 for low gain and volume about half (tone to taste) turn it on and then start messing with the DS-1’s controls.. You will be utterly amazed. Give him a shot (not that kind Ryan) You will be very pleased. Monte is a great guy and easy to work with. The instructions are also really good.

    4. Have Rob Hull from Tube Depot on your show. I have known Rob for years we have solved many world problems over our guitars. He is another Navy Electronic Tech and so knowledgable on everything TUBE you will be BLOWN away (capital BLOWN) Im sure he would love to do the show. Just call up Tube depot ask for Rob and tell him DO IT..
    5. Protools Sucks and yes I just ordered it.

  19. Hey guys,
    this is pretty off-topic but I’m in the market for new converters and I stumbled across the UA Apollo 16.
    16 analogue i/o is great for my 10+ pres and mix routing, and thunderbolt connectivity is absolutely perfect for my iMac at home and Macbook on location. The onboard Quad card for UA plugins, and dedicated monitor outs is a bonus too.
    I had been looking at Lynx, Apogee, and SSL but it appeared as though USB 2.0 or an outboard PCIe to thunderbolt chassis would have been my only form of adequate connection – so for the proposed price and stripped back features, it looks like the new Apollo wins out for me.
    Keep up the great work

  20. Ryan and Jon,

    Great show and great timing. I just purchased a new “open box” TS9 at a great price last week, so the timing of this episode couldn’t have been better. I plan on doing some reading and listening to sound samples to see which mods I want to pursue. There appear to be many. I know Premier Guitar had a great article end of last year as well.

    Changing the subject slightly, I’ve also become interested in good “practice amps” and the mod possibilities there and because of the ability to control the output level for home use in some of them. I have started building a small collection for the home studio, and recently got a Fender Champ 600 tube amp off of Craigslist for $100 and am anxious to start replacing the tubes and the speaker. However, I’ve read these mods can go a lot further, such as changing out boards, power transformers, etc. Any thoughts or recommendations you’ve heard in this area on good choices to mod but also recommendations on good small studio amps that allow you throttle the output volume without sacrificing the tone.

    Thanks as always for a great and timely show!

    Mod the Chicken


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