The famed Tube Screamer. It has had many different incarnations. There have also been countless articles and forum discussions on which TS pedal is the “best”. JHS has found a way to help answer this age-old question by releasing the Bonsai. JHS shut down the internet with the Muffuletta (2015) which incorporated the different versions of big muff in one box. Now comes the Bonsai, which is that same platform only, with 9 different TS circuits. This endeavor has been 3 years in the making.
If you follow JHS on social media, it won’t take long to figure out Josh has a thing for vintage pedals. JHS has been modding tube screamers for years, and the strong MOD is considered one of the best mods to the TS circuit. Of course, that variant had to be in the Bonsai. JHS also included the Keeley Mod, which again is very popular. With that said, this is not just about the mods that can and have been done. It’s about history. Let’s travel through time and look back at each pedal.
The famed TS-808 (1979), made famous by SRV, has a classic pronounced midrange while being relatively low gain. Another Classic TS-9 (1982) is very similar in tone with a bit more midrange, and of course, the box change. The MSL, Power or L-series (1985), has a higher gain sound with more bottom or bass response, as well as a sag or, as JHS describes it, as gooey feel. The TS-10 (1986), made famous by John Mayer, is slightly different from the TS9. It was a bit snappier, with a tighter bottom end and low end roll off. It was also more on the low gain side. The rare Exar OD-1 (1989) was made in Poland. This could be considered one of the first transparent style drives. While containing the TS vibe and more gain than the 808 or TS9, it was a bit more aggressive. The TS7+ (1999) is the highest gain of all the settings with the added low end. As you push the gain you can push your amp to shred-tastic levels. This brings us to the famed Keeley mod plus (2002), which tightens up the tone while smoothing out the midrange and highs, as well as increasing the bass response. Lastly, the JHS Strong Mod (2008), which is cleaner, has a great boost, but also has the upper mids and highs pushed, all the while maintaining a great low end response.
At first I was thinking this is some sort of a gimmick. There is no way that the Bonsai can do all of these tones in one box, but it does. I pulled out a couple of my old TS style boxes to A-B them, and JHS did it. This is a pedal for people who love a good Tube Screamer, but can’t see forking out the big bucks to acquire them all. Have some TS fun with the Bonsai.