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Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

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Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby Wonks » Mon Nov 07, 2005 8:18 pm

Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Introduction


This is both a review of the Behringer TO800 and also a comparison of it to an original Ibanez TS-808.

The TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal is Behringer’s take on the Ibanez TS-808 and TS-9 Tubescreamer overdrive pedals of the early 1980’s and has recently appeared on the market (mid October 2005) alongside other ‘industry standard’ inspired guitar stomp boxes. Having owned a TS-808 from new, I decided to purchase the Behringer unit to perform a comparison. The UK price of the Behringer unit is currently around £15. The current Ibanez TS-9 is around £90 and the Ibanez TS-808 reissue around £135. Original TS-808s are now worth less than they used to be thanks to the re-issue, but cab still reach between £150 and £200 on eBay.

The TO800

The unit comes in a cardboard and clear plastic bubble pack, so there is no cardboard box to keep it in for storage.

It has a plastic (ABS) body. The unit sits on a flat stamped steel base plate but the rest of it, including the footswitch, is plastic. The plastic has been spray painted rather than coloured and it is a rather lurid shade of green. To keep costs down, only the exterior of the unit has been sprayed and the inside remains the original white plastic.

As per the TS-808, the pedal has drive, level and tone rotary controls, an on/off footswitch and a red LED status indicator. The pedal shape is the same as used on the majority of the Behringer foot pedal range i.e. loosely based on the Boss pedals and a similar size to those.

The battery sits in a compartment underneath the on/off selector switch like Boss units (note that a 9v battery is not included). Unlike Boss units, the battery is accessed by removing the whole of the on/off foot switch. This is achieved by depressing the two sprung loaded plastic pivots (which act as the hinges) with a pen and prising the footswitch off. I found this rather awkward and putting the footswitch back on again even more so as you also have to re-position the non-captive switch return spring as part of the process.

The single PCB is a double sided affair, with the large discrete components sitting on the upper side of the board e.g. potentiometers, capacitors, jack sockets. The bottom of the board contains all the surface mounted components – including a surface mount 4558 op-amp. So Behringer have not sourced some of the fabled JRC 4558 op-amps for this unit but are using a modern equivalent. (If anyone's interested the electrolytic capacitors used are Xunda 50v rated devices).

The PCB sits at the bottom of the unit which means that the pots have long spindles (approx.25mm) to accommodate the drive, tone and level knobs which push fit onto the spindles. This leaves the pots prone to mechanical damage over time as there is a fair bit of side-to-side play in the knobs when fitted. The pots are compact Alps units (approx. 8x10mm footprint) and so have less resistance to lateral forces than full-sized or body-mounted pots.

Almost all of the unused PCB copper is used as an earth plane for screening purposes and because most of the circuitry is on the underside of the PCB and thus sandwiched between the metal base plate and the PCB, is reasonably well shielded. A couple of spring contacts make an earth connection between the PCB and the base plate.

Pictures

For those of you interested in seeing what it looks like inside and out, I’ve taken some photos. I’ve put them here as links because they range from 47k to 120k in size and didn’t want to upset those with slower connections.

TS-808 and TO800 side by side
Side View of the TO800
TO800 with the foot switch removed (Note the high-tech hinge mechanism!)
Disassembled TO800 (Note the unsprayed interior).
Top of the PCB (Note the relatively long pot spindles compared to the size of the pots)
Underside of the PCB
Not the classic JRC chip!

Sounds

So, what does it sound like? To be honest, not bad! It doesn’t sound exactly the same as my TS-808, but it’s in the same ballpark. The Behringer provides slightly more of everything at the same knob positions – a bit more drive, slightly brighter and slightly louder. At the full-on positions the TO800 can give a fair bit of extra overdrive, a more trebly sound and a louder signal. However, the way it responds to the guitar and playing techniques sounds very similar. There is still that emphasis on the middle frequencies and lack of bass characteristic of the TS-808 that helps the guitar cut through in a live situation.

For identical knob settings, noise-wise the Behringer is quieter than my Ibanez (although the Ibanez is at least 23 years old now and some components must have degraded in that time). It is an overdrive unit after all with a fair bit of gain available so some noise must be expected. The level of noise seems acceptable to me, and it’s certainly no more than you’d get from an equivalent Boss overdrive like the Blues Driver.

Here are some sounds I recorded of a Telecaster, Stratocaster and Les Paul played through a Fender Hot-Rod Deluxe amp using the TS-808 and the TO800. The sounds were recorded using an EV 767 dynamic mic positioned about 4” from the speaker grille direct into Wavelab at 24 bit/44.1kHz. Apart from subsequent normalisation and conversion to a 192kb/sec MP3 file, no compression, EQ or other effect has been applied. Playing back at a suitably loud monitor volume, the recording sounds very much like I heard the sounds when playing. Note that I did not try to get the exact same sound from the TO800 as the TS-808, but set the controls to the same positions in each instance.

TS-808 Vs TO800

Conclusions

When compared side by side I prefer the sound of my TS-808 to the TO800, but the Behringer would do a very comparable job in a live set-up. The question is for how long? My TS-808 has lasted me for 23+ years. It’s a bit battered and the pots require the occasional spray to stop them crackling, but there’s nothing to suggest that it won’t last for another 23+ years. The Behringer may last a couple of years, or it may last even less time depending on how you treat your pedals and how often you gig. Put it in a pedal case, don’t drop anything on it and it may last even longer. But don’t expect it to last or be as reliable as the original. With Ibanez now doing theTS-808 re-issue, and if you are serious about your playing and want that particular sound, you would be better off saving up for one of those than buying a Behringer unit… and then a replacement Behringer unit…and then another replacement Behringer unit ! If £15 is all you can afford at the moment but would like that sound, then go ahead. But don’t expect it to last a lifetime or be ultra-reliable.
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby gerard » Mon Nov 07, 2005 11:35 pm



dude, love the photos and your audio file!

great stuff!
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby loverocker » Mon Nov 07, 2005 11:59 pm

Good work, Wonkey! :)

To my ears the Behringer sounds a bit more brash at the same settings. Not necessarily a bad thing and it's likely that component drift/aging accounts for the difference in tone and gain.
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby Wonks » Tue Nov 08, 2005 7:57 am

Cheers guys. I agree that the Behringer sounds slightly brasher for the same knob settings, but it's probably a question of turning the tone knob and drive knobs down a touch.

I found it very difficult to try and get exactly the same sounds from each unit. If you put them in series, then they sound slightly different depending on which one is first in the chain. If you try and do them seperately, then you've got to keep the sound in your head all the time - which is prone to mistakes. Which is why I didn't bother in the end. You are going to tweak the amp and effects settings anyway to get a sound you like so minor differences in the basic sound won't count for much in the real world.
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby RegressiveRock » Tue Nov 08, 2005 10:32 am

Wonkey

Great and informative review with the right level of depth to help people make some decisions about these peices of kit.

It might have been interesting if you had posted a blind test to begin with ;) I found all of the Behringer stuff rather brittle and very high frequency loaded, but then again I knew which it was and wonder if I may simply have been prejudiced by my previous experiences with this manufacturer.

I think the Behringer performed slightly better in the more real world scenario of being used as a distortion booster for an already overdriven amp. Here those higher frequencies might cut through a mix a bit better, although they also could wash out other instruments more. Don't suppose you have any experiences in terms of the Behringer's performance in a mix?
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby rmaxtpmx » Mon Nov 21, 2005 9:25 am

definatly a great review man. as a newbie to this site, i'm kinda roamin round and whatnot, and came across this. i been wonderin bout these, since early summer. i've loved my v-tone amps, and mixers, but now i'm quite sure that i'll steer clear of their pedals. i'm rather fond of my line6 distortion modeler. the ts-808 model is my most used as of lately. anyway, nice work.
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby Wonks » Mon Nov 21, 2005 6:29 pm

Again, thanks for the complements. Reg, haven't used it in a mix as yet as Cubase SX crashed in a big way and I still haven't got it up and runnng again so I'm currently limited to Wavelab.
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby Mr DiBergi » Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:41 pm

Hmm, I got one at the weekend (it was a Xmas present but I had to check it worked, like you do...

Broken. Within a couple of minutes! You know the little battery "cap", that you plug the 9v battery into inside? The male terminal actually snapped off INSIDE the female receptacle of the battery, so the battery's useless as well as the pedal.

I also bought the tremolo pedal at the same time, and that's going back too - not what I was hoping for at all... I'll do a review sometime this week, but as so many people have said, time and time again, the build quality does seem to be a serious issue.
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby Wonks » Mon Dec 05, 2005 4:58 pm

Better tears now than at Christmas! Mine is still working but has only been used at a couple of rehearsals. Chris of Arabia had one down on his Christmas list as well. Perhaps we should warn him!

What did you feel was wrong with the tremolo pedal? I've got the Boss one and I think it's quite noisy when used in front of the amp - there's a definite cyclical sshh...shhh...shhh noise. I use it in my amp's effects loop now and it appears to be noise free and sound a lot better in that position. If Behringer have modeled theirs it closely on the Boss unit, then it too may exhibit the same noise problem.
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby Mr DiBergi » Tue Dec 06, 2005 11:11 am

Yes, that's pretty much what I thought of the Behringer pedal too - a nasty sort of distorted shh-ing in time with the trem rate, plus it seemed to thin out the sound a fair bit - not "warm or "mind-bending" as stated on the box! But to be fair I did only put it in the front end of my amp, not in the fx loop...

Will give that a go and report back. I have to say though, the build quality really isn't great - as you say in your review it might last a year... Then again if it's just going to sit in the studio for occasional inspiration (as mine is) it SHOULD last longer... Hmm.

Better disappointment now than on Christmas morning indeed!!!

I really want to like them, but I don't know if I can forgive the TS for breaking after no use, just 5 minutes out of the box.
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby Ronnie Wibbley » Sat Jul 22, 2006 9:51 am

Wonkey -

After getting on 9 months is it still working?
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby Wonks » Sat Jul 22, 2006 10:47 am

It's still working Ron, although I've only used it occasionally. After using it a few times in rehearsals I did notice a harsher edge to the overdrive compared to my TS-808 than when I was first comparing them. Not in a bad way, it's just a different sound.

I've just given it away last week to a friend to use with his Tele and Fender Blues Junior and it does sound nice with that.
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby Kalle_in_Sweden » Fri Oct 12, 2007 11:50 am

I have checked the electric schematic design of the "sister" pedal Tube Overdrive TO100 from Behringer and it is identical to the electronic design of a TS9.
And the PCB looks identical to the PCB of the TO800 (same Op-Amp etc). My guess is that the TO800 have the small differences in component values that differs between a TS9 and a TS808(vintage).
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby RegressiveRock » Mon Oct 15, 2007 11:17 pm

Wonkey Wabbit wrote:It's still working Ron, although I've only used it occasionally. After using it a few times in rehearsals I did notice a harsher edge to the overdrive compared to my TS-808 than when I was first comparing them. Not in a bad way, it's just a different sound.

I've just given it away last week to a friend to use with his Tele and Fender Blues Junior and it does sound nice with that.

I recently picked up a fully back engineered TS-9 second-hand although having taken it apart, I could have done the mods that seem to have been applied. If you would like a loan for some more side to side testing, that would be fine. ;)
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby 4TrackMadman » Thu Jun 19, 2008 11:02 am

This battery changing "mechanism" is found on the new Digitech line of pedals as well - I find it better than the DOD and Sansamp plastic battery cover box, but compared to the Boss it might be argued that it is inferior.
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby neilslade » Thu Nov 07, 2019 4:54 am

ImageI just opened up my TO800- THERE IS NO JRC4558 chip ANYWHERE in this pedal- there is no OPAMP in the pedal PERIOD. How they do this, I don't know.
http://www.willcheung.co.uk/wp-content/ ... G_8217.jpg
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Nov 07, 2019 10:24 am

neilslade wrote:I just opened up my TO800- THERE IS NO JRC4558 chip ANYWHERE in this pedal- there is no OPAMP in the pedal PERIOD. How they do this, I don't know.

From Wonks' OP: The single PCB is a double sided affair, with the large discrete components sitting on the upper side of the board e.g. potentiometers, capacitors, jack sockets. The bottom of the board contains all the surface mounted components – including a surface mount 4558 op-amp.
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby Arpangel » Thu Nov 07, 2019 10:39 am

Thanks Wonks, I'm just about to get a couple of these Behringer pedals, and I think they're great value for money, from what I've heard.
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Re: Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Postby Wonks » Thu Nov 07, 2019 10:43 am

The pics and sound in my review have gone as they were hosted on a friend's web site which no longer exists. I have some pics from the review, but most of the ones listed (especially the one showing the underside of the board) seem to have disappeared from my library. I no longer have the TO800 pedal, so can't replace them.
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