There’s been an explosion in mini pedals over the last couple of years—everything from tuners, delays and modulation pedals to fuzz and overdrive is represented. And now, the list is expanding to include the venerable green Ibanez Tube Screamer, and it’s still made in Japan.
The Mini preserves the unique shape of its bigger brother, just smaller. So, what’s different on the Mini than the bigger TS-808? It lacks the square footswitch, and that might actually be a good thing. The Mini instead uses a standard size footswitch and, as an added bonus, it’s true bypass.
The knob configuration is another benefit. Unlike the TS-808 that has three equal-sized knobs for Level, Overdrive and Tone, the Mini features two smaller knobs for Tone and Level, and a significantly larger Overdrive knob in the middle, great for toe fiddlers such as myself. It features a nine-volt adapter in the back, and given its small size, no battery compartment is possible. Perhaps more importantly is what hasn’t changed; the JRC4558 chip used over the many years is still inside. One other thing: The TS-808 is $169, while the new Mini is $79. I didn’t have a reissue (or original) TS-808 to compare the two, but after years of owning many different overdrives, including some expensive boutique versions of the original Tube Screamer, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, but I really liked the Mini. A lot.
Many folks like the Tube Screamer to push an already-overdriven tube amp. With Overdrive set lower, and Level cranked all the way, the Mini will be sure to please in this capacity. I thought perhaps there would be more volume on tap, but it did surpass unity with the gain down low. I really liked the gain structure on the Mini; with the Overdrive turned up to noon (or even all the way up), I always thought it sounded really good—the right amount of bite with a little added compression.
The Tone and Level controls are tweakable, but you’ll find they’re basically set-and-forget type controls. If you want some added gain and volume in your rig, the Mini is a great way to add it to your pedalboard, at a great price, and a great size. There’s not much else to say about the Mini—you either get it, or you don’t. What’s not to love?
What we like: It’s that classic overdrive crunch, and while it doesn’t have a signature tone for the most part, that’s never been its goal in life. It’s meant to take your tube amp, and make it scream, in a most pleasant way possible. Mission accomplished.
Concerns: None, unless you need a pedal that is battery powered.