I believe the Tube Screamer is the most ubiquitous, well-known and most copied pedal ever - pretty much every pedal-maker has their own variety / version of a Screamer - I already have 4 - by 4 different companies and one or two more on my wishlist.
My current favourite and ultimate Tube Screamer is the Foxpedal City V2 - which has lots of tone-sculpting options - clipping, EQ-flattening, separate clean boost - it gives me everything I need. It’s not quite the ultimate Swiss-Army Tube Screamer though, that honour goes to EarthQuaker Devices’ Palisades which is about as fully loaded as a Tube Screamer could get - 7 dials, 2 toggles and 3 footswitches - but yes - it is large!
The second largest in this listing is the most recent Green Rhino (IV) from Way Huge, this too features additional voicing options, but not as many as either The City or the Palisades. In fact all my earliest ’Tube Screamers’ were mini pedals - first the Keeley Red Dirt Mini, then the OneControl Persian Green Screamer and finally the Ibanez Mini TS - of those the OneControl gave me the best / crispest tone, although the Red Dirt had the most voicings via 4 internal dip-switches.
Maxon famously was the OEM manufacturer for Ibanez’s 808 model, and has its own version of that, the Seymour Duncan has its 805, and Wampler its Clarksdale. Finally DigiTech used to have the excellent Bad Monkey which is now discontinued, but with many examples still available on Ebay and Reverb.com.
The big surprise is the recent announcement by Ibanez of its new Korg NuTube - loaded ’NuTube Screamer’ which should revitalise the whole best Tube Screamer debate again - I’m definitely up for trying out one of those. I also have my eyes on a Nobels ODR-1 which is a slightly different kind of Tube Screamer much loved by musicians in Nashville - for that bright chicken-picking twang sort of thing. So I have 4, and 2 on my wishlist - could not say when they were likely to be added though as there are lots of other priorities higher up the list. Most likely next acquisition is the new Ibanez.
Originals listed first, then alphabetical.
The Best Tube Screamer yet? Certainly the most original one for a while - sees Ibanez make use of a genuine Korg mini NuTube vacuum tube. Ibanez also add a dry mix dial which allows you to choose how much of the overdrive you mix in with your dry signal. On the original Tube Screamer circuit the mix is internally fixed at exactly 50:50 - but here you have more options for greater tone sculpting ability. Judging from the early demos, this new pedal sounds a bit more lively and dynamic than the old - a little more rounded and amp-like not surprisingly, but with the same underlying tonal profile. This pedal has piqued my interest, and even though relatively pricey, it's definitely on my wishlist, although not quite an imminent contender.
Great little Mini version of the Tube Screamer - I would have preferred an additional voicing option toggle and a little more volume - but it sounds great regardless. My second equal favourite mini Tube Screamer.
Alas this great sounding pedal is now discontinued, but there are plenty of copies around in the second-hand market - courtesy of Ebay and Reverb.com. A fairly vanilla Tube Screamer as such, although it does split out tone to two separate Low and High frequency dials - a great low-cost option.
This is quite literally the Emperor of Tube Screamers - no other pedal offers more. This large format pedal has 2 channels plus a boost, and no less than 7 dials and 2 toggles to alter tone - including a 6-position Voice dial and 5-position Bandwidth dial, with common Volume and Tone dials, and then separate dials for Boost, Gain A and Gain B. A veritable behemoth in every way - especially useful if you want to base your core tone around a Tube Screamer, but obviously a rather large pedal. And in fact the Foxpedal The City V2 gives me everything I need but within a compact form-factor. I would be prepared to consider a Palisades if EQD managed to squeeze most of it into a compact format factor - they could ditch the Gain B channel and keep everything else - use dual-concentric dials if they need to, and keep separate Activate and Boost footswitches!
This is my current Weapon of Choice - it has a separate independent Boost footswitch, Drive, Tone, Level and Body dials, alongside Clipping, Flat EQ and Presence toggles - works wonderfully for my needs and sounds great. I can also use the boost independently down my pedal Chain - great sounding and really smart engineering. Not quite the Palisades in the tone-sculpting stakes, but wonderful nonetheless. I am guessing that because of its fine sound and versatility, this will remain my mainstay even after I acquire the Ibanez NuTube Screamer - but we will wait and see of course.
This was the very first 'Tube Screamer' I bought - based on Robert Keeleys many modifications for original Tube Screamer circuits - he first created his original homage in the guise of the full-size compact Red Dirt OD, but the mini is somehow smarter still - featuring 4 tiny internal dip-switches that give you a myriad of voicing / modification options. You certainly get plenty of variety here, but for whatever reason I still prefer the One Control Persian Green Screamer - which remains my favourite of the mini screamers.
Maxon famously manufactured Ibanez's TS808's under contract, and once the contract had lapsed, set to putting out their own version - in the shape of the OD808. To all intents and purposes exactly the same as the original Ibanez 808 circuity, although within the intervening time each may have slightly different internals / components. Still a great choice for a mid-priced Tube Screamer, many even prefer the Maxon version.
These were around £130 when they first came out but have dropped by nearly half since. Beautiful machined aluminium enclosures with premium components and sound-design by Björn 'Mad Professor' Juhl. Still my favourite mini screamer to date and with a voicing toggle - that allows you to select between vintage and modern - I can't recall which I use, but one of them sounds exceptional and this was my Tube Screamer of choice for a considerable time.
Much beloved of Nashville country chicken pickers - this kinda-sorta Tube Screamer -alike is many a player's secret weapon. I so like the demos I've heard that I've made my mind up to add one of these to me collection at some stage. I will of course get the new Ibanez first - this one likely next year or thereafter.
Seymour Duncan's version gives you a full 3-band EQ for tone-sculpting - which elevates its versatility well above most Tube Screamers. Had I not gone down the Foxpedal route, I may well have picked this up - as it is, I admire it, but have no real need for it currently - and it's not quite as good as Brian Wampler's version either!
Brian Wampler and Seymour Duncan obviously shared notes here, as both went with a full 3-band EQ. The Clarksdale goes one better with a Big/Smooth voicing toggle - making it the 3rd most versatile Tube Screamer (that I know of) after the Palisades and Foxpedal City. Another pedal I considered, but then went with the Foxpedal - which serves me well.
A 5-dial Tube Screamer with separate boost/cut controls for 100Hz and 500hz frequencies - you can also disable those via 'Classic' toggle which means you just use Volume, Drive and Tone. An interesting pedal which gives you something a little different - in a touch oversized enclosure. Not sure it needs to be quite that wide though, would be much more likely to properly consider said pedal if it was housed within a standard compact enclosure - for sure a decent alternative feature-wise.
Tube Screamers are not quite 2 a penny, although they are likely found in their 100's. As with most low-ish gain overdrives - this is also the original amp booster pedal, and works well within all manner of pedal-stacking options. Brian Wampler has posted some really interesting videos recently on the comparative circuits of the 808 and TS9 versions, as well as how to update your Boss DS-1 to a Tube Screamer, and various other TS-related facts and myth-breaking.
As with most things pedal-related - I say set your price and your form factor, and then find a pedal that sounds good to your ears and that works well within your setup. I have tried several and for me there are obvious discernible differences, but the importance of each will weigh differently for each guitarist. I know what I like and like what I know, but am also not afraid to experiment further and keep on trying something new.
Remember that price is not always an indicator of quality or tone, and that often the less costly pedals can sound equal to or even superior to those costing 3 or 4 times the price. There's also something about listening with our eyes too to a degree - which is why some player prefer certain guitar and headstock shapes and not others - the same is usually the case with pedals. People have their own ideas about what makes a great pedal - I just happen to be a tweaker - where some degree of sculpting is key, and the holy grail is Chase Bliss Audio - which is why I so like the Foxpedal City...