Greetings, gear geeks & Tube Screamer fans alike. The following is my personal take on the Ibanez NTS which debuted this year. I have always held the Tube Screamer as the standard in that slight drive in kicking an already driven amp into finer definition (whatever that means to you). I also own some TS-alike pedals/ variations to keep things in perspective.
Be informed that this version of the TS is devoid of the iconic JRC4558D that gave the pedal its individual flavour. In lieu of this goodness, Ibanez had teamed up with Korg to create a tube equipped PCB-based substitute seen here, dubbed the Nutube technology.
Despite the tube technology on board, the NTS is still accommodating battery power in addition to PSU applications. The implication here is that the current draw for this technology is small & not power sapping as many of us would've expected. I've been playing mine with a 9V battery in there to keep track of possible tonal changes if the pedal is running on a draining dry cell unit.
This isn't exactly the best visual representation of the pedal in use but that's the amount of light given off by the on-board tubes once the pedal is put to use. The tubes also double as a clipping device so the brightness corresponds to the guitar's string vibrations which trigger the magnetic/ electrical inputs accordingly. The other major difference is the pedal's MIX knob which allows the player to balance the level of NTS drive performance against the instrument's unaffected signals.
In use, the Nutube technology kerbs the pedal's peculiar midrange hump by making the overall tone a little warmer & less prickly with all controls set at noon. This is more obvious if you turn your amp's volume up. Be informed that there's no extra drive to be heard just because there are tubes in there. If you wish for a more commanding Tube Screamer in this aspect, the Turbo version or even the TS7 in its boosted mode would be a more practical consideration.
Moving on to single coil equipped guitars, this is where the MIX feature proved its exclusive worth. The usual approach in cleaning up driven voicings with any given overdrive unit in use is to - you guessed it - lower its drive level. As such, we have players who eliminate the drive entirely & dimed the level knob to retain the twang from their single coils. The MIX knob here allows the player to retain whatever drive saturation they prefer but reducing its dominance by allowing more unaffected signals through. I must say I enjoy this application with clean-esque tones coming from single coils, definitely.
In conclusion, the NTS is not a fresh take on the TS tone but a differentiated one. It might be a preferred pedal for a certain camp of players with a certain tone take but the NTS is definitely a proven drive booster regardless of the incarnation. That white-based colour scheme is not ideal for a device designated to be stepped on, yes?