Boss SD1 vs Tube Screamer – Which Distortion Pedal to Choose?

Author: Dedrich Schafer | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

The distortion pedal is a key part of almost every guitarist’s pedalboard. But how do you choose the right distortion pedal?

Well, two of the most popular distortion pedals are the Boss SD-1 and the Ibanez Tube Screamer. But how do these two pedals compare?

Let us take a look. And just for simplicity, because there are multiple versions of the Tube Screamer, I will be using the TS9 which is the “basic” version and most comparable to the SD-1.

Boss SD1 vs Ibanez Tube Screamer

Comparing the Pedals

It could be argued that the Boss SD-1 and the Ibanez TS9 are almost identical. Many will even argue that the SD-1 is just a Tube Screamer clone.

But the truth is that, despite their similarities, these are two distinct pedals, and the SD-1 certainly is more than just a clone of the Tube Screamer.

Design

At face value, the SD-1 and the TS9 are almost identical. They have the same controls, each featuring a Level, Tone, and Drive control, and a footswitch.

The Level and Drive controls are reversed. The TS9 has its Drive control on the left and its Level on the right, with the SD-1 being the opposite.

If it weren’t for the TS9’s distinct green color and the SD-1’s big Super Overdrive labelling, you would probably not be able to distinguish between these two pedals.

The SD-1 is a touch bigger than the TS9, however. The SD-1 is slightly longer and taller than the TS9. Oddly enough, though, the TS9 is slightly heavier than the SD-1, even though it is smaller.

Functionality

This is probably where these two pedals differ the least. In fact, I would call them identical.

The controls are super responsive, and the footswitch on both pedals feels really good to use. They are both smooth and react immediately. There is no delay when hitting the footswitches and they don’t get stuck or have any weird clicks or hitches.

Since both pedals use a simple input and output, they are also super quick and easy to set up.

Sound

You could be forgiven for thinking that these pedals sound the same. They do have a very similar sound, but there are some subtle differences that set them apart.

The SD-1 was a bit more of a saturated sound. It has a nice bit of muddiness to it that gives it a slightly more bluesy tone.

The TS9, on the other hand, has a cleaner sound. It is a bit crisper when the overdrive is active.

The TS9 also has a bit more attitude than the SD-1. While the SD-1 certainly has a lot of grit and bite, it does feel a bit more subdued compared to the TS9.

Playing each of these pedals in a vacuum, you wouldn’t really notice these differences, though. But comparing them side-by-side, you certainly pick up on these slight differences in their sound.

Notable Advantages

Even though these pedals are similar, each has an advantage over the other. The Tube Screamer, for example, works really well as a boost pedal.

If you just turn up the Tone and the Level, you can give your guitar a significant boost without distorting it.

The SD-1’s advantage is simply that it is cheaper. It is a great pedal that is comparable to the Tube Screamer at almost half the price.

Who Are These Pedals For?

Because of their similar sounds, neither pedal is particularly better suited to one genre or another. And they are both equally versatile, capable of performing in a wide variety of different genres from blues, to rock, and even metal.

Each pedal is preferred by a different type of guitarist, however. Guitarists that favor a slightly dirtier sound prefer the SD-1. This includes guitarist like Eddie Van Halen, Zakk Wylde, and Josh Homme.

While guitarists looking for a cleaner, but meaner distortion will pick the Tube Screamer. This includes guitarists like Kirk Hammett and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Even John Mayer uses a TS9, showing just how versatile the pedal is.

Conclusion

When it comes to choosing between these two pedals, there really isn’t a right or wrong answer. Both the SD-1 and the Tube Screamer are fantastic pedals.

They have both earned their place as two of the most beloved distortion pedals among guitarists. And I don’t see them falling out of favor any time soon.

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About Dedrich Schafer

Dedrich is a guitar player, songwriter and sound engineer with extensive music production and studio experience. He mostly listens to classic rock and punk bands, but sometimes also likes listening to rap and acoustic songs.

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