Pretty much every pedal maker has had a go at making an Ibanez Tube Screamer style model, after all, it’s one of those “must have” pieces for every pedal board. It should then come as no surprise that Behringer, a purveyor of budget priced pedals, have released their own interpretation of these legendary green overdrive stomp boxes.
It certainly looks the part, and on paper, it seems like the perfect low cost overdrive pedal, but how does the Behringer TO800 Tube Overdrive perform in the real word, and could it really replace an Ibanez Tube Screamer on your board? Scroll down to see what we found.
Who Is This Pedal For?
The Behringer TO800 Tube Overdrive is marketed towards players at all ends of the spectrum, from beginners to pros. Modern electronic technology has really enabled manufacturers to make great sounding pedals at incredibly low prices, which means that the likes of Behringer, whose target audience is generally guitarists on a budget, can provide pedals like the TO800, that sound as good as more expensive equivalents, but without the associated price tag.
Just because the target market is those looking to keep costs down, it doesn’t mean that this pedal won’t work for studios and gigging musicians, too, though. Despite the low price, it’s still a full featured overdrive with the same functionality as the more expensive pedals it was inspired by.
Appearance / Features / Controls
As with Behringer’s other pedals, the TO800 Tube Overdrive is made with a plastic shell. While it’s obviously not indestructible, we wouldn’t call it flimsy either. The chassis is finished in a classic vintage overdrive green, letting you know immediately which famous pedal served as its muse.
Tube overdrive pedals like this one are designed to mimic the natural distortion created by analog valve amplifiers as they are pushed to saturation. The reason that tube amplifiers are so sought after is because of how ear pleasing this natural distortion is. Tube overdrive pedals achieve this by pushing the input gain past the point at which clipping of the signal occurs, resulting in the familiar breakup sound we all love. Unlike a fuzz pedal, which employs hard clipping, overdrive pedals use soft clipping, which has a much more natural sounding result.
The TO800 can be operated either on DC power, using Behringger’s PSU-SB DC adapter, or, you can install a 9v battery. The pedal barely sipped at the available power on the battery we used during testing. The review period lasted around 8 hours of total play time, and the low battery signal still hadn’t illuminated.
The layout of the TO800 will look pretty familiar to anybody who has played a Tube Screamer before. It has a simple 3 dial control setup, with a hinged pedal for activating the effect. The 3 dials are drive, tone, and level. The drive knob controls the amount of overdrive the pedal generates, from minimum to maximum gain. Tone allows you to adjust how much treble or bass you’d like in your sound. The level dial simply a preamp volume control.
Performance / Sound
The best thing about reviewing a vintage tube overdrive pedal like this one is that there are so many on the market voiced with a similar tone that it’s pretty easy to make a judgment on whether you’ve got a great pedal, or one to sell on Reverb.
Without giving too much away, this one was a keeper.
After plugging in, our initial observation was just how quiet it was. We noticed no unwanted buzzing or interference, which is either down to the plastic shell, or a testament to the surprising quality of the circuitry and components used in the manufacture of this pedal. It wasn’t silent, but in our experience of other common overdrive pedals like the Boss Blues Driver and the Ibanez Tube Screamer, it certainly wasn’t any noisier.
Before adjusting the drive, tone, and level, we set everything to noon and began testing. We were playing into a tube amp, so we kept the gain low on the amp to try and keep it clean to get a truer picture of the pedal’s tone. Base settings with everything at noon were promising. We got fat tones with a really nice breakup, even at low volume.
Next, we cranked the drive to 10, and while it was very obviously distorted, the tone never got muddy. It didn’t have quite the same clarity as an Ibanez, but considering the almost $100 price gulf between the two pedals, we were seriously impressed by this Behringer.
After playing around with the tone, drive, and level sounds, we were really pleased with the variety of tonal possibilities with this pedal.
The plastic chassis doesn’t exactly scream premium, but after using it we realized there was no need to be precious about the fact it isn’t made from metal. In fact, especially with budget pedals, where the risk of internal wiring issues is higher, having a plastic shell makes it less susceptible to ground issues, which can cause havoc as you try to figure out where the buzzing is coming from.
We found the pedal action itself to be solid, and the rubber pad seems as though it will hold up to years of use – and let’s not forget, at the price, it’s an affordable pedal to replace should it break at any point.
The battery compartment is definitely something that Behringer should address. The process for accessing it was more work than we’d anticipated – in fact we needed to depress 2 pins on the pedal hinge and carefully lift the pedal itself until it unclipped. In all, we’d much rather have seen a magnetic cover like on Fender’s new pedal range – even a standard latch cover would be better.
Other Tube Overdrive Pedals to Consider
A favorite amongst those looking for the classic blues sound, smooth, creamy, and with just enough breakup to keep things interesting. This pedal will get that saturated tube sound from even a basic solid state amp, which has made this a popular choice for many players. Being a Boss pedal, you know it’s reliable and extremely well made.
If you’re looking for a premium pedal and you want saturated tube tones, the Fender MTG Tube Distortion is one of the finest on the market. It doesn’t come cheap, but it offers active EQ, a boost channel, and true bypass. If looks are important to you, this might just be the prettiest pedal on the market.
The TS9 Tube Screamer is always going to be in consideration for anybody looking for pedals of this ilk. It offers everything that the Behringer TO800 does, and a little more. It’s made with a more premium metal chassis, and arguably offers a little more clarity when maxed out. Whether you’re looking to pay the extra premium for the construction and brand name will likely be the deciding factor.
Whether or not you’re into low budget pedals, you can’t help but be impressed with Behringer’s lineup, the TO800 Tube Overdrive in particular. If you need a pedal that can get you the Tube Screamer sound, and leave you with enough cash to fill a board with other FX, this Behringer is absolutely worthy of anybody’s consideration.