Modifying the Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer


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I remember the first time I plugged in the classic Ibanez TS-808. I was working in the studio with Dennis Hodges, as we were preparing to film one of the very first song lessons we had ever filmed.. a lesson for Pantera's "Walk". I was a young pup them, maybe 25 years old, without a clue of what I was doing. I had never really played guitar, hardly screwed around with recording a guitar, and better yet, had very little clue what I was doing trying to film video. But hey, it was a startup. was hardly a thing, and I was 100% committed to the fake-it-till-you-make-it idiom I was taught in college.

Crate Amp The amp we used was this Crate P.O.S (if any Crate executives are reading this, my apologies. Keep reading, it gets better). It had been through a good 10 years of touring with 18 year olds (I think everyone who used it was 18, it just was a hand-me-down between locals). Old cigarette stains, torn carpet, battered speaker covers on the cab.. but nonetheless, a decent sounding solid-state amp. I didn't mind it. Granted, my ears for hearing good tone were about as undeveloped as they could be, but I still enjoyed it. I almost appreciated tone more back then as I do now... my virgin ears just loved everything I heard.

Anyway, recording the thing was a nightmare. I had to learn the hard way. I would crawl in front of it with headphones on and a SM57 or Sennheiser e906 and try to find "the sweet spot". I don't think I even knew what a sweet spot was, and certainly didn't understand that I was mic'ing the thing to fit into a mix. What mix? We were using lousy MIDI backing tracks back then anyway. Here's the proof:

Tone Puberty

I present to you... tone puberty. My futile attempt at mimicing Dimebag's tone in 2007. This is the sound of innocence, the aural waves of naivety, and the tone of ignorance. This was produced in a 8x10 bedroom before we ever had a clue what we were doing. Also please notice Dennis laughing at the staff having a pseudo head bang session behind the cameras.

But I digress. The 808. The first time I really played around with it I finally realized what a good pedal could do. It didn't make that Crate sound like a $3,000 head, but it cleaned it up a lot. It rounded the ratty gain, it muted the fuzz you couldn't stand to hear, and rolled off the noisy high end I could never tame. I plugged the thing in, and it just made sense.

Fast forward 3 years later and I'm filming Emil Werstler. He has the 808 in the chain, with tone and gain rolled to dead 0, and the volume at full. "It's just a boost dude". I didn't even understand it at first, but that PRS suddenly sounded even fatter than before. Each note was pushed, and it seemed like his playing was jumping out of the amp.

Fast forward another 2 years, and the 808 was with us during each film session. I also discovered the cult-like following of the pedal, and how many super nerds out there would modify the thing even further. The tone malcontents just can't keep their hands off the thing, and that's why we are here. For those select gear freaks who can't help but to rip apart a perfectly good, perfectly performing pedal.

So here it goes, with Steve McKinley's full tutorial on how to mod this 808. Steve will show you how to tear this thing apart, along with showing some classic, and original mods. Disclaimer: Mod at your own risk. Your crazy idea of modding this thing will void the warranty, and I can't be responsible for your gear addition, or damage you do!

Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer Mods by Steve McKinley

Taught by Steve McKinley

Steve McKinley takes a look at a couple mods for the Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer. In the first section you will learn how to make your sound more transparent and lower the noise floor, and in the second part you will focus on cleaning it up so it can be used as a clean boost..

Once again, please be careful and modify at your own risk. If you don't feel comfortable with the solder gun or were horrible at playing "Operation" when you were a kid, you may want to hire somone locally to complete these mods for you. For those smarter than myself, here is a full diagram, compliments of Steve Cerutti.

TS808 Diagram

Steve's Series on JamPlay

Gear nut? We have plenty more from Steve, which include tutorials on replacing your input jack, installing a killswitch and much much more. View the full series below, and of course, create a full membership to access this material.


Replacing Your Input Jack

In his first Guitar & Pedal Mods lesson, Steve McKinley shows you how to replace the input jack on your guitar. If your jack has worn out or has corroded over time, this lesson is for you.

6:11 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty

View this Lesson

Replacing Your Pots

Steve McKinley talks about replacing your pots, or your potentiometers, in your guitar. Used for your volume and tone control, they may need to be replaced if they start to get scratchy or lose functionality over time.

9:14 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Stratocaster Pickup Swap Mod

Steve McKinley goes over a simple mod that will place a Tele-like pickup configuration in your Strat. A Phillips head screwdriver is all you need for this mod.

5:56 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Installing a Killswitch

Steve McKinley provides a detailed lesson on how to install a killswitch in your Stratocaster.

7:55 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Gibson '50s Wiring

Steve McKinley shows you how to take your Les Paul back in time and give it '50s style wiring. This small change in wiring will deliver big changes in tone.

9:35 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Independent Volume Controls

Steve McKinley does a lesson on independent volume controls for your Les Paul. This mod allows you to blend your pickups together for a variety of tones, where as modern wiring does not.

4:17 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Cry Baby Mods: Adjust the Sweep

Steve McKinley talks about adjusting the sweep on your wah pedal. This mod allows for easy control over the high and low end on your sweep.

3:55 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer Mods

Steve McKinley takes a look at mods for the popular Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer. First you will learn how to convert a TS9 to TS808 specs, and second, you will take a look at the "More" and "Less" mods.

18:45 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer Mods

Steve McKinley takes a look at a couple mods for the Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer. In the first section you will learn how to make your sound more transparent and lower the noise floor, and in the second part you will focus on cleaning it up so it can be used as a clean boost.

17:30 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Changing Wah Inductor

Steve McKinley talks about changing out the inductor on your wah. Most come equipped with a red fasel inductor, giving it more of a modern and aggressive sound. Steve will be replacing it with a yellow fasel inductor, giving it a smoother, more organic sound.

9:02 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Adding an On/Off LED

Steve McKinley's latest lesson covers how to add an on/off LED to your wah. This useful mod takes out the guesswork on whether your wah is on or off.

17:22 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Boss DS-1 Mods

Steve McKinley finishes up his guitar and pedal mods series with a killer triple mod lesson on the Boss DS-1. Mods featured are the diode lift mod, Jack Orman's fat mod, and a Marshall-like crunch mod.

28:57 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty

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Get better this weekend..

Set a goal, improve.

I encourage you all to take a step forward this weekend. Record yourself, be embarassed, and face your playing head on. Set a goal for the next step you are taking with your playing and hold yourself to it. I know it is a difficult process, but the rewards are awesome. Next week? Well, I will figure out next week's topic... next week. Like yourself, I am narrowing my focus and tackling what is in front of me.


Chris Dawson
JamPlay Co-Founder

Chris Dawson JamPlay Co-Founder Chris Dawson is a JamPlay Co-Founder. He graduated from the University of Dayton in 2005 with double majors in Entrepreneurship and MIS, and shortly after began creating with partners Jeff Booth (Colorado) and Kevin Wimer (Dayton, OH). He first began the development of in 2007, but transitioned to artist relations, video editing, and operating the Ohio production studio from 2009-2013. Chris is now tasked with front-end web development, client-side code, accounting, music publishing, and writing crappy publications such as this. Go easy on him, he's shy.

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