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Budget Tube Screamers - Can they do the job?

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

Head right to the end of the page if you just want to watch the video demo of the budget pedals compared to the Ibanez Tube Screamer.

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We all love a good Tube Screamer. Whether you're chasing Stevie Ray Vaughan's tone, John Mayer's, or want to tighten up the bottom end when chugging away with a down-tuned 7 string, this pedal is ubiquitous for good reasons.

However, the Ibanez TS is not a cheap pedal coming in at around £120 for the TS9 and £145 for the 808. You can get the mini for more like £55 which is a good price but for me it is a compromise, although I love the small form factor. Check out a comparison between the 808 and the mini in this video.

There are also loads of other brands and boutique makers rolling out their versions of Tube Screamers, but these cost even more than the Ibanez versions, and you can check out some of the best here:

However, budget pedals just don't get enough coverage and so I thought I'd give them some love here.

The Behringer TO800 is a great green beast of a pedal, and comes in at the princely sum of £26, which is about as budget as they come. It has the same three controls as the Ibanez Tube Screamer and does an extremely convincing job. In fact, in a mix or when playing with others, I don't think you'd be able to tell the difference at all.

It's easily powered with a standard 9v centre negative supply, like nearly all modern guitar pedals, so no issues there.

The only issue with this pedal is the cheap casing as it doesn't feel massively sturdy. That being said I'm sure it would last long enough for you to decide if a Tube Screamer is a must on your pedal board and to save up for a more robust one if you felt the need.

The other pedal I used in the video is the Tone City Kafir Lime. This one is a little more interesting than the Behringer as it has a form factor more similar to the Ibanez Mini TS, but also approaches the tone control in a slightly different way.

Instead of having just one tone control, it has two knobs - a high and low - which gives more overall control than you usually get with a TS.

It is more solid in feel than the Behringer and, again, does a very good job when compared tonally and the high and low tone knobs do provide that extra layer of control, which is actually pretty useful. Maybe this would be a good reason to go for this rather than the actual Tube Screamer Mini?

If you want to hear these pedals in use compared to an actual Ibanez TS808, check out the video below:

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