The world of guitarists is divided into two parts: on one side you can find those who love the Tubescreamer and on the other side there are the Tubescreamer haters.
This is why I think that it is pretty difficult to recommend a Tubescreamer in a forum when the question comes up which overdrive pedal might be the most appropriate one for a guitarist.
Live vs. bedroom
There are good reasons why the Tubescreamer became legendary but in fact it has got his very own application area. Live on stage it is completely suitable to boost a lightly distort 100 watts Marshall amp. By clipping the bass a little bit the TS cleans the signal in a certain way before it gets feed into the amp and thereby prevents that the sound becomes undefined. Furthermore, the Tubescreamer has a lot of mid-range and compression. This emulates quiet well the behavior of a rowdy tube amp and, in addition to the amplifier, fits perfect into the mix. The guitar will cut through the mix without drowning the other instruments.
Playing this sound without a band it might seem as if there are far too many mids and one or the other miss the punchy bass (which, in a band will – hopefully – be added by the bass player).
If you go one step further and replace the rowdy 100 watts Marshall amp by a small bedroom amp you will surely be disappointed: the Tubescreamer will sound crummy and because of its circuit it will never sound quiet well in a context like this.
The circuit is based on a treble booster. And of course no one would ever put a treble booster in front of a clean amplifier. A treble booster as well as a Tubescreamer must interact with an amplifier that is driven near to saturation.
Does a modification solve the problem?
Definitely: No. Frequently the disappointed bedroom guitarist is recommended to modify the Tubescreamer. There are numerous mods to clip the mids, to produce more bass and possibly also to make the Tubescreamer sound less compressed and more open. But in the end all these mods will only chance nuances and are suitable for not more than customize the Tubescreamer for a guitar with humbuckers or a Deluxe Reverb.
The Tubescreamer should be used live on stage to create a punchy sound. There are so many other overdrive pedals that go together with bedroom amps. Also in front of a clean amplifier they will produce a sweet sound which maybe would be impossible in the mix.
Click here for a shootout with the Tubescreamer.