The Ibanez Tube Screamer and Boss Blues Driver are two iconic overdrive pedals used by many professionals, but which is the best option for you? In this article, I’ll compare the tone, controls, specifications and the pros and cons of both pedals, so you can figure out which is suitable for your style of music.
The Quick Answer
The Ibanez Tube Screamer has a boosted mid-range compared to the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver, which has a more balanced tone. The Boss Blues Driver has a higher output so sounds louder, and also can sound more overdriven than the Ibanez Tube Screamer. Both pedals are similarly priced.
|Ibanez Tube Screamer||Boss BD-2 Blues Driver|
|Mid-boosted tone||Balanced and warmer tone|
|Produces a specific tone||Produces a more versatile range of tones|
|Good for rock, metal and lead||Good for rock, blues and rhythm|
|Lower maximum output||Higher maximum output|
|Mini option is available||No mini option available|
|Level, drive and tone controls||Level, gain and tone controls|
Here are some links to the products on Amazon so you can check the current prices.
First, let’s talk about how these two pedals sound, starting with the EQ (bass, mids and treble balance).
The Boss Blues Driver has a more balanced and glassy tone compared to the Tube Screamer, which is mid-range boosted. The Tube Screamer allows you to cut through the mix more than the Blues Driver, due to it’s boosted mid-range, whilst the Blues Driver sounds warmer in comparison.
Here are the three key differences I’ve noticed between the tone of the Blues Driver and Tube Screamer:
- The Boss Blues Driver has a higher output than the Ibanez Tube Screamer. This increase in “level” causes it to sound louder than the Tube Screamer when on similar settings.
- The Ibanez Tube Screamer has more of a boosted mid-range with cut highs, and especially lows. The Blues Driver has a more balanced tone, with less mid-range, causing it to sound warmer.
- The Blues Driver has a greater range when considering the “drive”. This means it can sound cleaner, and more overdriven than the Tube Screamer, which has a narrower drive range.
Check out this video comparing the sound of the Ibanez Tube Screamer TS9 and the Boss Blues Driver BD-2.
There are three versions of the Ibanez Tube Screamer: the TS808, TS9 and Mini. You can check out this article I’ve written comparing the different Ibanez Tube Screamers here if you want to learn more.
Music Styles and Applications
The Blues Driver has a more balanced EQ and can either sound quite clean, or heavily overdrive, depending on where the controls are set. This makes it very versatile and suitable for a wide variety of music styles such as country, blues, indie and rock.
The Tube Screamer’s most notable characteristic is the boosted mid-range. This is very popular in rock music in particular. The Tube Screamer can also be used for metal, as it “tightens” the tone by boosting the mids and cutting the bass, so works well through a distorted amp.
I think one of the best ways to understand the best applications of these pedals, is to consider how they would work together in a pedal chain. The most popular way to use them both, is to have the Boss Blues Driver on at a low level, all the time, to provide some warm overdrive, then use the Tube Screamer as a boost pedal for solos and lead playing, due to its boosted mid-range.
Although you can use either pedal for different music styles, or lead/rhythm switching, they do have their strong points. Check out this table.
|Metal||Ibanez Tube Screamer|
|Country||Boss Blues Driver|
|Blues||Boss Blues Driver|
|Rock||Ibanez Tube Screamer|
|Rhythm Playing||Boss Blues Driver|
|Lead Playing||Ibanez Tube Screamer|
Of course, the “winners” in my table above are just my opinion, and I’m sure some will disagree, but let me explain why I’ve chosen them.
- Metal: the Tube Screamer works better for metal than the Blues Driver, because it “tightens” the tone by cutting the bass. When played through a distorted amp, this is useful because it helps provide more definition, whilst the Blues Driver can sound a bit “loose” and warm for modern metal.
- Country: the Blues Driver sounds less aggressive when you decrease the drive and play it through a clean amp, compared to the Tube Screamer which sounds grittier. This makes the Blues driver more capable when playing country, than the Tube Screamer which can sound too punchy.
- Blues: the Blues Driver usually sounds better when trying to achieve a classic blues tone through a clean amp compared to the Tube Screamer. The warmer and less aggressive Blues Driver tone, suits this style of music very well.
- Rock: the Ibanez Tube Screamer is better for rock music than the Boss Blues Driver, due to its boosted mid-range and cutting tone, which gives it a punchy rock and roll tone.
- Rhythm Guitar: the balanced EQ of the Blues Driver makes it more capable for rhythm guitar than the Tube Screamer, which has a more biting, mids-boosted tone which can interfere with the vocalist and lead guitarist more.
- Lead Guitar: the mid-range boost on the Tube Screamer makes it perfect for lead guitar boosts, allowing it to cut through the mix more than the Blues Driver’s warmer tone.
Options in the Range
Now let’s take a look at the different options made by Boss and Ibanez.
Ibanez Tube Screamer
- Mini Overdrive
Boss Blues Driver
- BD-2W Waza
Here are the main differences between the models in the Ibanez Tube Screamer range (from lowest to highest price):
- The Mini Overdrive Tube Screamer is a smaller version of the TS808 and requires an external power source. It has level, tone and drive controls.
- The TS9 this is one of the most popular Tube Screamers and sounds a bit brighter and grittier than the original TS808. It has a level, tone and drive control.
- The TS9DX is based on the TS9 but has an additional “mode” control which allows you to select between +, Hot, and Turbo modes.
- The TS808 is the original Tube Screamer and has a level, tone and drive control.
- The TS808DX is based on the TS808 but a boost functionality as well.
- The TS808HW is the most expensive Tube Screamer and is hand-wired. It has a true-bypass, which means the guitar and amp will sound the same whether the amp is disengaged, or completely unconnected.
Here are some images of the pedals, they all link to Amazon so you can check the current prices.
Check out my in-depth comparison between the different versions of the Ibanez Tube Screamer to learn more.
Here are the differences between the Waza and standard versions of the Boss Blues Driver BD-2:
- The BD-2 Waza sounds a bit brighter and has better sustain than the standard BD-2.
- The Waza edition of the BD-2 is around half as much again in terms of price as the standard Blues Driver BD-2.
The main things to note, are that the Ibanez Tube Screamer range is much larger and the models have different functionalities compared to one another, whilst the Boss BD-2 models are very similar and the price justification between the Waza and the standard BD-2 won’t be worth for most players.
Also, if you’re looking for a mini pedal, or the most affordable pedal, then the Ibanez Tube Screamer is the only option, since the Boss Blues Driver only comes in full size options.
The Boss Blues Driver and Ibanez Tube Screamer have the same basic controls: tone, drive/ gain and level. The drive tone on the Tube Screamer is designed to produce the same effect as the gain control on the Blues Driver. Here’s what they mean:
- Tone: this adjusts the EQ to either boost the bass or treble frequencies primarily. Turning the dial clockwise will emphasise the treble to produce a brighter and harsher tone, whilst turning it anti-clockwise will emphasise the bass to give it a warmer tone.
- Drive/ Gain: this affects the amount of overdrive produced.
- Level: this adjusts the output (volume).
Although both pedal types have the same controls, the different sounds you can achieve with them are slightly different.
- The level control on the Blues Driver causes it to have a higher output than the Tube Screamer, even when at the same position on the dial, causing the Blues Driver to sound louder.
- The gain control on the Blues Driver allows you to switch from quite a clean to a very overdriven tone, whilst the Tube Screamers drive control does not have quite as dramatic of an impact.
- The tone control on the Blues Driver mainly affects the treble and bass frequencies, causing it to sound a lot brighter or warmer. Whilst the bass frequencies remain fairly high throughout, it can be very high when the tone control is set to minimum. The tone control on the Tube Screamer mainly affects the upper-mids and treble, whilst the bass frequencies also remain largely unaffected when adjusting the control.
The only other real difference, is that the DX versions of the Tube Screamer TS808 and TS9 also have a boost functionality, which is something you can’t find on a Boss Blues Driver.
Now we’ve been through the key features and tones of both pedals, I wanted to quickly run through the specifications of the TS9, TS808 and BD-2.
|Specification||Ibanez TS9||Ibanez TS808||Boss BD-2|
|Dimensions (inches)||4.9 x 3 x 2”||4.9 x 2.8 x 2”||5.1 x 2.9 x 2.4 “|
|Dimensions (cm)||12.4 x 7.6 x 5.1 cm||12.4 x 7.2 x 5.1 cm||13 x 7.4 x 6.1 cm|
|Weight||1.3 lbs (0.6 kg)||1.2 lbs (0.5 kg)||0.9 lbs (0.4 kg)|
|Input Impedance||500 kOhms||500 kOhms||1000 kOhms|
|Output Impedance||10 kOhms||10 kOhms||1 kOhms|
|Maximum Output Level||0 dBm||0 dBm||-20 dBm|
|Equivalent Input Noise||-100 dBm||-100 dBm||-118 dBu|
Pros and Cons
Before we come to the final conclusion, I wanted to quickly compare the advantages and disadvantages of each pedal type in the tables below.
Ibanez Tube Screamer
|Range of models with extra effects||Lack of versatility|
|Iconic tone||Limited “drive” range|
|Compact and lightweight||Limited EQ range|
|Study design||Fairly low output|
Boss BD-2 Blues Driver
|High output||No mini option|
|Versatile tone||Limited controls|
|Good build-quality||Less suitable for metal|
Which Should You Choose?
This brings us to the ultimate question, which pedal is the best for you?
If you’re looking for versatility, but don’t play metal, then the Boss Blues Driver will probably be the better option compared to the Ibanez Tube Screamer, due to its more balanced and adjustable EQ, and large “gain” range, making it suitable for most music styles.
If you are looking for a pedal to tighten up your metal tone, and plan on using it through a distorted amplifier, then the Ibanez Tube Screamer will be more suitable than the Boss Blues Driver. The Tube Screamer cuts the low end to focus the gain more than the Blues Driver which sounds a bit woollier.
However, just because I think this is what these pedals particularly excel at, that doesn’t mean you can’t use them for different applications. The Ibanez Tube Screamer is the more iconic of the two pedals, and produces a very unique tone which is hard to achieve with any other pedal, whilst the Boss Blues Driver has less rigid identity, and can do a bit of everything.
Here are some links to Amazon so you can check the current prices:
Looking to get the best out of your pedals? Check out my article on the best pedal chain order here to learn everything you need to know about setting up your chain.
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