Many of you might remember the legendary Tube Screamer TS808. This unique pedal was renowned for its scooped mids and the ability to replicate the sound of tubes. It could create organic overdrive that was widely employed by musicians, such as George Lynch, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Keith Urban, Alex Turner, John Mayer, Joe Bonamassa and many more. Such ubiquitous utilization is what made TS808 so legendary and, thus, desirable. Numerous manufacturers have tried to mimic its characteristics and tone, but only few of them have succeeded. Seymour Duncan – one of the most reliable producer of pick-ups – have created 805 Overdrive Pedal that is based on Tube Screamer TS808. However, instead of copying all of its capabilities, they have incorporated a newer touch that extends the possibilities of the original even further. Even though the brand is new-comer to the stompbox business, their products have proved to be amazing. Today I am going to discuss the features, controls and sound of Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive to let you know if it deserves to be called the better version of Tube Screamer.
Right off the bat, Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive looks very different. It has a light-green appearance that was so characteristic to ‘50s. Its shell sports the combination of white knobs and black pots. Everything about this pedal is reminiscent of good ol’ days, even the script takes you back in time and submerges you in the archaic sense. However, those vibes stop right there, since the circuitry and other constituents are rather modern. Initially, Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive operated with JRC-4558 chips which it inherited from TS808. But later on the team behind the pedal decided to substitute it with MC33178 chips that have lesser noise and extended battery life. The distortion circuitry is glass diode, back-to-back stack, which guarantees to deliver organic overdriven tones. More importantly, this bad boy has amazing build quality, promising to last you through a lifetime. It can withstand a drop or two as well, so that you do not have a heart attack every time you hear a bump in the back of the van. Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive took a different approach to tone shaping and assembled a three-band capable equalizer, which is a great addition to already top-notch pedal. This bad boy has standard powering options (i.e. batteries and power supplies), forcing you to forget about technicalities and dive right into experimenting. Just a glance at the features is enough to understand how powerful and versatile Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive is.
The controls of Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive are very accurate and responsive. They rotate pretty easily without the sense that they will fall off any minute. The combination of big and small knobs saves up a lot of space on the pedal and maintains the high level of control. Such approach is quite intuitive and, in my book, should be followed by more manufacturers. Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive proves that you do not need that much space to provide the users with precision.
Let’s start with those big encoders. The first one is Level which sets the volume of the overall output. The second one, a.k.a. Drive modifies the intensity of signal clipping and alters the amount of distortion. These two siblings can be used together in order to enhance the tonal versatility and create different flavors of overdrive (or even clean sounds). Then we have three tiny pots, namely B (Bass), M (Middle) and T (Treble). The first one offers up to 11 dB boost or cut and operates at 90Hz, second does the same thing at 750Hz, while the third has up to 12dB boost or cut at 2.12kHz. These three knobs shape your tone to perfection and target specific frequencies in your sonic spectrum. Apart from these controls, we have a footswitch that activates the effect or engages the true bypass. The latter transfers your signal without affecting it to any extent, thus maintaining all of its qualities.
Huh, I have so much to say about the sound of Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive. Even though it does share certain sonic characteristics with the Tube Screamer, I would say it has slightly different touch to the whole overdrive hype. Both pedals add the effect little by little, and blend it with the signal perfectly. Their gain and sustain is out of this world and ranges from warm tube overdrive that is very reminiscent of amplifiers to heavier modern metal tones. However, Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive has tighter bottom-end, no matter how you set the bass control. The rest of the frequency range is dynamic and defined and the ability to modify them individually gives you numerous possibilities to explore.
This pedal can be utilized in different ways to achieve different results. With the level knob cranked up and the drive at lower settings, you can simply boost the clean signal of your amplifier to break it up a bit. You could also employ lower settings of both knobs to achieve that sweet overdrive that adds texture to your sound and is perfect for blues. But you could simply crank everything up and produce rhythmic leads while still maintaining tube character. No matter what approach you choose, Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive will respond wonderfully to your guitar controls and playing techniques. This pedal has rich harmonics and tonal qualities that are extremely hard to compete with.
Even though Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive truly is one of the best replicas of TS808, I do not think it is fair to judge it only by this parameter. This pedal can do way more than create boosted mids and scooped low-end. Its tonal characteristics are diverse and distinctive, leaving you with a whole lot of choices and possibilities. If you want to create natural and organic sounds, then you will have hard time finding better option than this one. Explore its capabilities further and let them compel your whole existence. Good luck!
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