Price paid: $ 499
Purchased from: Online Retailer
Features: Specifics are here:
Ibanez TSA15H Tube Screamer 15W Tube Guitar Amp Head
- 15W All-tube head
- 2 x 12AX7 tubes (Pre)
- 2 x 6V6 tubes (Power)
- Genuine Tube Screamer circuit built into the front end (TS9 Circuitry)
- Controls: Tube ScreamerOverdrive, Tone, Level; AmpTreble, Bass, Volume
- Modes: Pentode15W; Triode5W
- Speaker Configuration: 4ohm, 8ohm, 16ohm
TSA112C Tube Screamer 80W 1x12 Guitar Amp Cabinet
- 1x12" speaker enclosure
- Celestion Seventy80 Speaker
- 80W power rating
- 8 Ohms impedance
Overall it is a pretty basic EQ controls but the feature of having one of the most popular Over Drive Stomp boxes as your "2nd channel" really make this a very unique amp. I was pretty impressed and intrigued simply that the makers at Ibanez came out with a very classic rock/bluesy amp. // 8
Sound: I tested this amp at a local music store and as I had time and it was tucked away in a corner I was able to really fiddle with this amp. Luckily as well I was able to crank this on both the 5w and 15w settings. If you have read any of my reviews on amps or pedals or anything that has EQ settings I play primarily one way. In The Middle. All EQ was set to 12 o'clock or 5/10 or however else you would like to describe it. I decided to try this amp with a Fender Stratocaster as I know how well Strat's respond to Ibanez OD pedals. I plugged in and was playing through the matching cabinet which was loaded with a Celestion Seventy 80 Speaker, not one of my favorites. Plug in and play on the clean channel and it sounded a whole lot better than expected. The price point of this amp is $499 for the head and 1x12 cab and for what it is I think it is a pretty great amp. On the clean side there is a boost channel which gives a 6db boost. This is pretty great for a lot of blues players that don't want to engage overdrive but want to boost the tone that they already have. Very easy to use either the boost or overdrive mode by use of toggle Switch on the amp or footswitch on the floor.
I primarily use low wattage amps at home and for gigging (all under 30watts) and the two that are the lowest, the Orange Tiny Terror (15watt) and the Marshall 2061x (20watt) both use EL84 tubes. Most of the lower wattage amps use this tube which really gives off a British feel but this amp uses 6v6's. It really gives it a much different tone, a lot less chimey I would say and although a lot of Fender Amplifiers use 6v6's this Ibanez definitely does not give you those cleans. In fact it is a lot more beefier in its sound delivery. Bottom line is it sounds good on the clean channel, it is not the beautiful sparkly Fender Cleans of a Deluxe Reverb and it is not the clean growl of a Marshall but falls somewhere in between those two. Not great, but good. For the price point though, great.
Now the exciting part, the TS9 circuitry channel. So this is a completely switchable channel which you can do easily with the Ibanez footswitch. Oh wait, that's not included, I have to buy that separate? Ya, you do. Extremely bad decision on Ibanez's behalf in my opinion. Just throw the footswitch in there Ibanez; It is a huge benefit and essentially necessary on this amp if you ever want to play this outside of your bedroom. Now that I am done venting I can return to the review. The TS9 circuitry on this sounds great. I own a TS808 which is extremely similar to what a TS9 is. For a little history the TS808 was made extremely popular by this one guitar guy, not sure if you heard of him, had pretty amazing tone and some wicked guitar skills, Stevie Ray Vaughan. He used both the TS808 and TS9 for live and recording and as he is arguably one of the best guitarists ever (can we please not have a top guitarist ever discussion in the comments talking about how Petrucci eats Kirk Hammet-O's for breakfast, thanks). After Stevie's passing we started to see the price of these pedals climb and climb due to the massive increase of their popularity. The TS808 ("the Mac Daddy") is currently $179 from any online retailer while the TS9 is $99. So think about it: if we look at just the head unit you essentially get a 15w Class A Tube amp and a TS9 for $299. Pretty damn good deal if you ask me.
For the actual tone of it, yes it sounds exactly like a TS9. Same controls on the amp as you would find on the pedal. It sounds good. I usually use my TS808 as a boost anyways which is the one pedal I do not have set at 5/10 on everything sits like this: Overdrive 3/10, Tone 5/10, Volume 8/10. That is how I set this up on the amp and it sounded just like it should. If you want some heavier tones just crank the Overdrive up and it should suit you well. This amp will NOT get you into any sort of Hard Rock, Doom, or Metal so if you buy it just know that thejester told you so. This amp really shines when it comes to classic rock and blues. For the price point I really cannot think of anything that can beat it. In addition, as all amp companies are finally catching on to the Boutique band wagon of low-wattage amps this also has a 5w Switch in the back which to be honest does not really help quiet it down but you can achieve tube overdrive easier. For any of you who have ever played a 5watt amp with no pre-gain or any mumbo jumbo and where you had to turn up the volume to get your overdrive sound like in the old days you know how loud 5watts can get. Your neighbors will be pissed in the first 2 minutes of you playing. The problem with the 5watt mode is that the amp will sound constricted so if you are in a store I recommend trying it out on the 15watt setting. // 8
Reliability & Durability: From looking this thing over it looks like it is extremely well built. I am still trying to figure out how Ibanez is offering the whole package at $499 based on build quality alone. It has a very boutique feel to it and also feels like it has the same care and attention put into it, which you usually do not get from massive companies from Ibanez (not saying they do not make good products, just saying a different feel). Having used 3 different Ibanez products in my music life I see no problems with this piece of equipment. The TS9 circuit is very basic so I cannot really see anything going wrong with that considering that pedal has been around for 20+ years and all they did was put it inside an amplifier head. So we will see with the test of time, until it proves itself it earns a 7. // 7
Overall Impression: Overall I am very impressed that Ibanez, not known for their bluesy instruments stepped in to this game and came out with a great looking amp (anybody think that Ivory White and Green doesn't look dead sexy?) that performs extremely well, has one of their best selling pedals inside it and are offering it at an extremely affordable price. I think when we get all those "New Amp Help" forums that this should really start becoming a topic for a Blues/Classic Rock player that wants to get a low wattage tube amp, with good tone, and can still afford Del Taco afterwords. I was not really impressed with the Celestion Seventy 80 speaker but I am a complete Greenback fanboy, self-admitted and I'm ok with that. I would love to run this through my Greenback or G12H30 cab to hear how much different it would sound. I could definitely see myself buying this at sometime, essentially I would only want the head but I am so in love with the color combo and the look of the Head and Cab together that I would inevitably do a speaker change. For me this would strictly be an amp to have just because. It would not make a big footprint in my room and it would primarily stay there as this would not make stage use for me but I see no problems with this amp what'soever in a live setting for those who want to.
There were two things that left a bad taste in my mouth about this amp. One was due to the dealer one was because of Ibanez. I cannot stand the fact that they did not include a footswitch with this amp. I would have rather have had them charge an extra $20 for the head and have it included then buying it separate for $20, I cannot explain the chemical imbalance in me that makes me feel that way but I just cannot stand that. The second thing that really annoyed me was that the dealer was saying that this amp was equipped with the TS808 circuit which is dead wrong. Do not let any dealer talk you into that. I wish it did and I have a feeling they will come out with a special edition 808 version if sales are good enough on this one but just know before you buy. Do not think you are getting a $180 pedal and an amp for $300. Buyer beware of shady sellers! In closing this amp did a fantastic job for its price point. If you want to compare it an amp twice its price it will not perform as well, but for what Ibanez is offering, you can achieve a fantastic blues tone right out of the box. I encourage you all to play this and tell me what you think. As always if you have any questions do not hesitate to PM me, thank you for the read. // 8
Jesse Kleinow aka thejester