In the late 1970’s the overdrive pedal was arguably perfected when Japanese engineers designed the sound that we now know as the heart and soul of so many of our favorite artists, recordings and sounds. Players ranging from The Edge, Trey Anastasio, Buddy Guy, Kirk Hammett, John Mayer, SRV, Carlos Santana and thousands more from every possible genre have utilized and depended on this classic iconic green box. If a single effect pedal was chosen to board a Voyager 3 mission and be solely responsible for showing the universe the sound of overdrive, it would undoubtably be Tube Screamer. It is probably the most produced and sold pedal in the history of guitar pedals! The Bonsai is our tribute to one of the greatest pedals ever created.
The Bonsai utilizes a simple rotary knob to switch through nine classic, vintage, rare, or hard to find variations of the Screamer. Creating the Bonsai became an archeological dig of sorts that sent us deep into the history of this circuit by examining dozens of versions, variations and replications. At the end of it all, Josh chose nine of his personal and favorite units and we painstakingly replicated every nuance and aspect of each pedal. One of the most challenging parts of this project was accounting for component drift as many of these pedals were decades old and the internal components had strayed from their original values. Each pedal was individually replicated using our Audio Precision analyzer and various other methods that allowed us to perfectly replicate every aspect of the sound and feel of the unit. It’s important to know that the Bonsai is not a “box of mods,” it is exact replications of these nine units all housed in one box! The Bonsai is exact replication, not emulation. When you choose a mode on the Bonsai rotary, you are actually activating components specific to each mode and playing the unit that Josh chose along with all the quirks, drift, vintage mojo, and individuality that a vintage pedal has.
Lets take a look at the 9 modes of the Bonsai based on the 9 pedals we have chosen…
OD-1 – 1977
An overall brighter and slightly higher gain mode that does not utilize the Tone knob. This mode also inverts signal just like the original and has asymmetrical clipping. The OD-1 is magical at boosting other drives or amps into singing saturation.
TS-808 – 1979
The classic low gain with that signature pronounced mid range.
TS-9 – 1982
Nearly identical to the TS-808 but with a slightly more pushed low-mid range.
MSL, Power or L Series – 1985
Though metal is in the name, this sound doesn’t quite inspire the modern metal djent we think of. Still it has a higher gain sound with a more low end and an overall more gooey feel.
TS-10 – 1986
Made famous by John Mayer, this model is a slight upgrade from the TS9 for the late ’80s. Bluesy, crisp, more low end roll off and low gain.
Exar OD-1 1989
The EXAR is a Polish made TS-style pedal that has a slightly different drive character with a little more gain than the classic screamers as well as a slightly more transparent feel.
TS-7 (+mode) – 1999
The hot mode on this version gives you the highest gain sound in the Bonsai. More low end and dirt fill out the tone to have you shredding away.
Keeley Mod Plus – 2002
Robert Keeley’s classic mod tightens up the tone on the original giving you smoother mid range and high frequencies, and increased bass response.
JHS Strong Mod – 2008
Our own mod we’ve been doing since 2008 is much cleaner and overall more powerful. The mode has more pronounced higher nd low end drop offs.