Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer – Still Going Strong After 30 Years

Ibanez TS9 Tube ScreamerStarting with the TS-808, these little green monsters — known as “tube screamers” — have been gracing the pedal boards of guitarists for more than 30 years.

Over the years, the shade of green and look of the pedal have morphed a bit, but the popularity has never waned.

I remember these pedals being quite popular back in the late ’70s, but I think most would agree that it was Stevie Ray Vaughan who played a pretty big role in the TS9’s surge in popularity. Eric Johnson was also a fan and known to use one to a large degree. What’s amazing is that over all these years, and through all the reissues, the overall design has never really changed. This is most likely due to the fact that Ibanez had no reason to fix what was not broken. Many guitarists love the Tube Screamer, and many have loved it just the way it is.
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Line 6 Vetta II Combo Guitar Amplifier

Line 6 Vetta IIAs digital modeling amplifiers go, the Line 6 Vetta II is at the head of the class.

This amplifier is extremely well designed, well made and sounds fantastic. At 150 Watts, there is more than enough volume and headroom. Whether you plan to use the Vetta II for live performance or recording, the feature set provides plenty of tools for you to sculpt your sound as you wish.

The Vetta II is literally two amplifiers in one. At first glance, one might say: “Well, it’s just a stereo amplifier,” and this is true. But more importantly, it is designed so that you can have two completely different sounds going on at once. Of course, you’d probably choose two sounds that are somewhat alike, but in theory, you could have a clean Fender Twin sound and a cranked Marshall Plexi tone combined into one. The combined sounds become one named and saved preset. This is amazing. Just imagine all the possibilities.
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What Are the Best Telecaster Modifications?

What Are The Best Telecaster Modifications?So you have a stock Telecaster; now what? There are several modifications you can make that will transform your Tele.

Judging by the number of articles related to the Fender Telecaster in this site, anyone can guess that I am a big fan of this guitar. In some ways, the Telecaster is for me, the perfect guitar; it looks right, it feels right, and it sounds right. But out of the box, this guitar might not be equipped for exactly what you had in mind and you may want to consider a few Telecaster modifications. For example, some want more muscle in the bridge pickup, some want more beef in the neck pickup, some want a speedier neck, some want… well, you get the picture. Fortunately, most Telecaster modifications are fairly painless. You can take the modifications to various levels and in some cases, you might want to enlist the help of a qualified guitar technician. So, that said, just use your best judgment.
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What Are the Best Mini Humbucker Guitar Pickups?

What Are The Best Mini Humbucker Guitar Pickups?If you are thinking of switching to Mini-Humbuckers, or upgrading to them, here is a rundown of the best ones out there.

Mini Humbucker pickups offer you the best of both worlds; they are humbucking (i.e. no 60-cycle hum), they are capable of great chime and clarity when you play clean, and when you use a lot of drive, they sound fantiastic. They will never sound quite the same as a full-sized humbucker, but they have a fullness and grit all their own. You really have to experiment with Mini Humbucker pickups and find the ones that are best for you, but it is worth the effort.
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Telecaster Neck Pickups: What Are the Best?

telecaster neck pickupsIf you are looking to upgrade your Telecaster neck pickup, you are in luck. Many great-sounding models are out there, and they offer a high-quality tone at a pretty reasonable price.

Nowadays, between digital modeling and overall great engineering, you can make virtually any guitar sound like just about any other guitar. Except, you cannot make any guitar really sound like a Telecaster. You can try, but it will never really quite smell right. But if you’re thinking about upgrading your Tele neck pickup, you’ll find many great-sounding, affordable models. Here’s a sampling of some of the best Telecaster neck pickups.

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Music Man RD 50 Head

Music Man RD 50 HeadI’ve been ranting and raving for years — to anyone who will listen — that Music Man amps are some of the greatest. Unfortunately, you are in for more of the same.

This rant is about the much-overlooked RD-50 Head. I must admit that, for a long time, I didn’t even know this thing existed. If you can believe it, I actually found one in a pawn shop on 7th Ave and 23rd Street in New York City. These kinds of things don’t happen quite so much anymore, as Guitar Center and Sam Ash have pretty much put everyone else out of business.

But in this case, there I was in this pawn shop, surrounded by cameras and cheap jewelry, when I saw this little mini head, with that familiar Music Man logo on it. I scratched my head: “…this ain’t an HD-130… what the hell is this little thing… I didn’t know that Music Man even made a head this small…”
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Fender Cyber Twin SE

Fender Cyber Twin SEOk, so they pretty much invented the analog guitar amplifier. They perfected it and pretty much any guitarist would agree that few are better. So, why they heck would anyone use a Fender digital modeling amplifier? …’cause it’s a great amp, that’s why.

I’ll admit that I really resisted this stuff, I really really did. In principal, it just goes against everything I believe in. But then again, when the “Frying Pan” guitar was first put out by Rickenbacker, I’m sure it was met with the same disdain. Same for the Solid body electric, the Flying-V, The Explorer, the Parker Fly, etc… So, I decided to lighten up and just enjoy the amplifier and there is a lot to enjoy.
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Power Tube Differences: EL84, EL34, & 6L6

The Power Tube: Differences Between EL84, EL34, & 6L6When you start to push an amplifier, the characteristics of these tubes become more apparent.

Power tubes can have a dramatic effect on your amplifier’s sound. At low volumes, the difference between one tube and another can be difficult to decipher; it’s almost not worth talking about. Once you start to push a little air, however, your amplifier will show off what it can do and the power tube will display its individual characteristics more. Keep in mind, that by using pedals, you can make one amp sound pretty much like any other one, so this discussion is focused on how a few of the most popular power tubes differ from each other when using the amp, and not the pedals, to get your sound. The tubes that readers ask about most often are the EL84, EL34 and 6L6. So, here is a rundown of how these tubes differ in sound.

The EL84 Power Tube

The EL84 tube has a snarly sound (bright with midrange punch), and is usually found in smaller wattage amplifiers. They break up faster than any of the three power tubes mentioned here and have the least amount of headroom. EL84s can be brighter than the EL34 and have a bit less low-end. In America, these tubes are known as 6BQ5. They were first produced for radios, helping to eliminate the need for a driver tube and as an inexpensive alternative to the larger audio tubes of the time. You can hear these tubes in the Fender Bassbreaker, Fender Blues Jr., Peavey Classic 30 and many other popular amplifiers.

The EL34 Power Tube

The EL34 is found in the most well-known UK heads, such as Marshall, HiWatt, and Sound City. These power tubes also have a snarly sound but it’s a little warmer-sounding than the EL84 tubes. The EL34 is larger and it puts out two to three times the watts as the EL84s. More watts equal more Volume, more Headroom, and a better Frequency response, even at low volumes. Bass needs power, and the higher wattage of the EL34 is what leads to the warmer tone as the tube is better able to handle the full frequency spectrum. The increased headroom can lead to a more open and less compressed sound than that of the EL84s. This tube is most associated with the “British Sound,” an expression often used with regard to amplifiers. EL34 tubes were quite popular in stereo amps years ago and you can hear them today by listening to those such as the Marshall Origin20C, the EVH 5150IIIS, and Mesa/Boogie Lone Star Special.

The 6L6 Power Tube

The 6L6 is the power tube most associated with the term: “California Sound.” These tubes are usually associated with American-made amplifiers more so than British. 6L6 tubes have been a mainstay in Fender amplifiers for more than 70 years and a Fender amp with 6L6 tubes is widely considered to be the “gold standard” by which we judge clean guitar tone. The 6L6 has plenty of headroom and does not break up nearly as quickly as the EL84 or EL34 tubes. 6L6 tubes tend to put out a much brighter tone with more top-end sparkle (e.g the “Fender Chime”), while still allowing plenty of low-end to come through. You can hear these tubes by listening to the Fender Hot Rod Deville III 410, Mesa/Boogie Roadster, Peavey ValveKing 100 and many more.

The 6V6 Power Tube

Originally designed to be used in less expensive consumer radios, the 6V6 tube is just a scaled-down version of the 6L6. It has the same “California” or “Tweed” kind of tone most often associated with Fender amplifiers, but it uses less power and is a lower priced tube. Consequently, you do get a little less headroom and they break up earlier than 6L6 tubes. It is still very popular in guitar amplifiers and you can hear it by listening to a Fender ’57 Custom Deluxe, Randall RD5H Diavlo, Ibanez TSA15H, and many more.

Summary

Start by listening to your own playing. If you play with distorted tones 75% of the time or more, then you probably want to look at EL34 and EL84 tube amps first. You probably want the natural breakup of the tubes to distort your sound and give you that warm crunch that made you want to play the guitar in the first place. Many people agree that a pedal just doesn’t sound as good as real amp distortion. And EL34 and EL84 tubes just enhance natural amp distortion so nicely and drive the amp so well.

If you use distortion any less than 75% of the time, you might want to consider the 6L6 and 6V6 tube amplifiers. The idea is to get that unbeatably clean tone with infinite headroom, and add pedals to get any sound that you want.

Again, it’s not likely that you would feel the differences between the tubes at low volumes. It’s when you start to push an amplifier that the characteristics of these tubes become more apparent. And keep in mind that as much as power tubes differ, amplifiers differ as well, so the overall voice and behavior of the power tube will vary, depending on how the amplifier is designed. If you want to really get a feel for how these tubes differ in sound, get your hands on something like the Mesa Lone Star, which can use both the EL34 and 6L6 power tubes.

What are the Best Music Styles for the Telecaster?

The Best Music Styles for the TelecasterThe Fender Telecaster is probably viewed by most as being a somewhat specialized guitar, but it is also surprisingly versatile.

Best known for it’s “twang,” this guitar has been used most often for Country, as it lends itself well to chicken pickin’ and other similar sounds. Some players have a Stratocaster pickup installed in the middle position for more tonal options. This is called the “Nashville” setup. Although most associated with Country, the Telecaster also does a lot of other things quite well. Continue reading “What are the Best Music Styles for the Telecaster?”