Behringer TO800 Review: Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal
A Journey of a Thousand Miles...
...begins with a single step. That's what came into mind when I was tasked to review the Behringer TO800. Is the affordable, seemingly toy-like pedal still a great "first pedal" or has the nostalgia been eclipsed by better offerings in the market?
Once upon a time, everyone was a newbie. We'd do our own research or guesswork as to what gear we'd want on our setups. We'd ask friends about what gear to buy, and we'd hear about the most "Holy Grail" status stuff that would seem to magically make us sound infinitely better. If you were like me, I was deep into researching what my guitar heroes used. I'd find out they would have pieces of gear that was just out of reach for students like me at the time. That's when I encountered a then-obscure brand called Behringer.
Before Behringer became the music industry juggernaut it is today (as Music Tribe), my exposure to their products came in the form of colorful plastic effects pedals that were at my local store. They looked similar in layout to the more expensive BOSS pedals and, to a student like me back then, were a bit more within my budget.
The Behringer pedal form factor is reminiscent of BOSS pedals but constructed in plastic.
My first Behringer pedal was a DM100; an amalgamation of a ProCo Rat, a Boss DS1 and an MXR Distortion+ in one pedal. Back then I just wanted something that I could step on and make noise with. I wasn't too concerned about what modeled what. Eventually though, I sold the pedal to a kid younger than me and went on a tone journey that continues to this day.
This is why I approach this review with a fair share of nostalgia. After trying and owning so many of the industry's most expensive pedals, to return to a simple little plastic pedal was nothing short of poetic. Nostalgia aside, I prepared to put the Behringer TO800 through its paces after nearly 2 decades since owning that bright pink DM100.
The control layout should be familiar to those who have used TS style pedals
The Behringer TO800 is what is now commonly referred to in the pedal community as a YATS or "Yet Another Tube Screamer". However, the TO800 may predate the term since it was released in the early 2000's when boutique pedal makers were few and far between. Aside from homemade clones of the TS circuit, the TO800 was the most accessible Tube Screamer style pedal in terms of affordability back then (at least in my neck of the woods).
Similar to the original green pedal, the TO800 has just 3 controls: Drive, Tone and Level. Drive can range from a nice boost with a mid-bump and lean low end (perfect for boosting a high gain amp), to a warm sounding vintage lead sound all the way. It won't be doing heavier styles on its own, but a TS style pedal is a go-to for a lot of high gain metal as a tone-shaping gain stage to tighten up the low frequencies.
Visible in this shot is where the price of the pedal becomes evident. Don't expect top tier finishing on an affordable pedal. Still, the plastic enclosure holds up to controlled actuations.
It's interesting how a circuit designed to replicate vintage tones is also responsible for some of the heaviest, most crushing metal tones. For metalheads-in-training, the TO800 is still great value for tightening up amplifiers. The circuitry and components are surprisingly quiet compared to early DIY Tube Screamer clones I had back in the day.
One thing that is a consistent con for me for this pedal lineup is the plastic enclosure. I remember breaking my DM100 with one (albeit forceful) stomp during a metal gig. For just a little more, modern affordable pedals are housed in metal or aluminum enclosures.
The battery compartment is opened by depressing the hinges on the side. I used a small screwdriver to push the sides in. It's not as simple and convenient as the BOSS pedal thumbscrew design but it works.
Audio demo of the Behringer TO800*
- Controls: Level, Tone, Drive
- Buffered Bypass
- 9-Volt Adapter/Battery
- Flimsy enclosure
- Battery compartment hard to open without tools
- Distinct TS midrange hump great for blues
- Surprisingly quiet pedal
In the end, there isn't much to say about this little pedal that already has been said for the design it's based after. Purists will say that it sounds different but when you're just starting out, broad strokes are of more value in forming your impression of gear than the finer details. If you're going for absolute value or want to give the circuit a try without investing too much, the TO800 is (still) great value. If you're already well-afflicted with "Gear Acquisition Syndrome", then the TO800 might not be for you.
Gearank High Notes
The TO800 first appeared on our recommended list for Overdrive Pedals Under $50 in October 2022 and it remains on that list today.
|Sound On Sound||Wonks||88/100|