Looking to infuse some style and pomp to your guitar sound? Get yourself an overdrive pedal. Like adding spices to a dish, an OD pedal flavors your tone in a way that just wouldn’t be possible with the standard ingredients. And the good thing is that there’s no shortage of options out there. If you want the very best of overdrive, however, you want a tried-and-tested pedal like the Ibanez Tube Screamer. Or is it the Fulltone OCD? Let’s see how the two most popular overdrive pedals stack against each other.
Ibanez Tube Screamer
To call the Ibanez Tube Screamer an icon would be an understatement. Before the original TS808 came along in the late ’70s, overdrive was pretty much a myth. Sure, there were a few fuzz and distortion pedals that could function as ODs; but only if you knew how to coax the genie out. The easier alternative was to literally overdrive a valve amp — a privilege of the lucky few who could afford one. To the rest of the masses, OD was the musical equivalent of a unicorn.
And then came along the Tube Screamer. This little seasick-green stomp box somehow nailed perfect OD, mimicking a tube amp at the edge of breakup while still maintaining tonal integrity. Guitarists the world over were wowed, and the Tube Screamer went on to become a bestseller, and perhaps the most imitated pedal in history.
So influential are the original Tube Screamers that even Ibanez themselves have released copycats. Or are they actually copycats? Seasoned shredders will attest that this isn’t the case — the latest lineup of TS’s are every bit as authentic as their ancestors. While there’ve been a few changes in the circuitry on some models, you still get the glassy OD and overall sonic integrity.
On that note, let’s see what’s on the menu for those who want a piece of the TS mojo:
- TS808 Reissue: As the name indicates, this is a faithful reproduction of the original TS808, featuring the same square footswitch and JRC-4558D op-amp chip under the hood.
- TS808DX: The Tube Screamer has frequently been deployed the Level dial cranked up and Drive/Tone dialed down for a clean boost. The TS808DX is Ibanez’s effort to simplify things here. It’s the 808 circuitry with a clean boost that can be configured to apply as either a gain boost (Pre), or as a volume boost (Post).
- TS9 Reissue: Again, this is a rendition of the “9-Series” pedals produced by Ibanez in the early ’80s. The model features the same sonic “stamp” that set the original TS9 apart from the 808.
- TS9DX: A TS9 remake with three additional modes ( +, Hot & Turbo).TS9B: Yet another TS9 variant that’s been revoiced for more low-end crunch.
- Tube Screamer Mini: This is the original 808 squeezed into a downsized case, and available for a cheaper price too; but with no sacrifices in performance whatsoever.
Fulltone OCD Overdrive
As splendid as Ibanez’s Tube Screamers were, they had their fair share of shortcomings. Or, rather, there are certain tonal needs that no Screamer in whatever configuration can fulfill. The propensity of these pedals to maintain fidelity in the signal can, for instance, prove a hindrance if you’re aiming for a slightly-roughed-up type of OD.
Just to be fair to Ibanez, the TS was never meant to be a jack-of-all-trades. But it’s from such gaps that great concepts are born. Concepts like Obsessive Compulsive Drive, or OCD as most people know it.
The Fulltone OCD was devised as a pedal that could bridge the gap between docile overdrive and the comparatively-unhinged distortion. It came with the usual controls (Drive, Volume & Tone), plus a HP/LP toggle for accessing different sound profiles. HP increases girth on the bottom end while sharpening the mids, giving your guitar more presence. LP is a subtler effect that retains the incoming signal’s character.
And so, the original OCD quickly became recognized as one of the most versatile stompboxes on the market. Keen to stay atop this enviable perch, Fulltone have continually refined the pedal over the years, recently releasing the second generation dubbed OCD V2. With a switchable true-bypass and a slew of upgrades in the circuitry, Obsessive Compulsive Drive is as good as it’s ever been.
Like with the original, the OCD V2 allows you traverse the tonal spectrum from low-gain crunch to gnarly, fuzzy distortion; with all manner of possibilities in between. The tone stays warm and consistent throughout, and the headroom is ever so ample. It’s an incredibly-dynamic response that lets you explore your way to the sweet spot on your favorite amp.
But perhaps the most intriguing thing about this pedal is its humility. Even with all its talents, the Fulltone OCD V2 remains affordably priced. And it still has the same user-friendly demeanor of its predecessors.
Ibanez Tube Screamer vs OCD Overdrive Pedals: How do They Stack up?
It certainly wasn’t the first stompbox to see the light of day. But the original Tube Screamer, with its unprecedented ability to emulate an over-driven tube amp, went on to set the gold standard for what OD should feel and sound like. It’s pleasing to see that all the reissues and variants that have followed retain their ancestor’s overall pedigree.
Fulltone’s OCD concept has been compared to the Tube Screamer in lots of ways — with some even claiming that it’s a copycat of the latter. Admittedly, there’s a bit of logic behind this opinion. No other pedal released in recent years has carved out a niche for itself quite like the OCD has. But that’s about as much as it has in common with the Tube Screamer.
The Screamer is meant to be an overdrive pedal through and through. Sure, you can get it to crank out some fuzzy filth if you dialed in the right settings and pushed hard enough. But the TS will strive to retain the signal’s character. Consequently, the result might not be what you hoped for.
And it’s here that the OCD comes in. It’s also designed primarily to provide OD, but with more flexibility. You can set it up to function more as a distortion box if you want. Its biggest selling point, however, is the ability to switch between the two at and/or dial in hybrid effects.
Now, there’s nothing to keep you from adding both the Tube Screamer and OCD to your pedalboard. But if you’re like most players, you’re better off with the one that suits your style best. Go with the Fulltone OCD if you like to play around with your sound and don’t mind a bit of color. If you prefer squeaky-clean tones, on the other hand, the Ibanez Tube Screamer is your best bet.