When he’s not using high gain amplifiers, Trey uses multiple gain stages to create his signature sound. Perhaps the most important stages — and key drivers of this sound — are the two Ibanez/Maxon TS-9 Tube Screamer Pedals “stacked” atop one another in his signal chain. He can use them separately or together; one is dialed in to what Trey has called “full scream” and the other is a more lightly distorted boost. The Tube Screamer is a well-pedigreed distortion pedal, made most famous by Stevie Ray Vaughan, who used both the TS-9 and also the earlier version of the pedal, the TS-808 (one of SRV’s 808’s was recently for sale). Tube Screamers can produce a sound that ranges from a clean boost with a slight purr (think live versions the composed passages of songs like Fluffhead, Coil, etc.) to a juicy, thick, creamy, mid-boosted distortion (think of the opening lick from Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, the Fluffhead closing jam, Disease, etc.).
The original Tube Screamer was branded as the Ibanez TS-808, but it was actually produced by Maxon for Ibanez until the early 90s. Both companies continue to produce the pedal under different branding with varying levels of consistency with the original 808 design.
The TS-808 has become highly sought after in the last 15-20 years because of the perceived superiority of its sound over the newer and more ubiquitous TS-9. As a result, a cottage industry has sprung up of boutique pedal manufacturers who will modify the stock TS-9 to conform to the specs of the original 808, including replacing the primary tone-driving chip with the JRC4558 chip that is called for in the original 808 schematic. See Mike “Analogman” Piera’s Tube Screamer history for a comprehensive analysis of the Tube Screamer and the modifications that can be made to it.
Since at least 1997, Trey himself has generally been known to use a pair of Analogman TS-9 Tube Screamer pedals (Analogman has documented his work for Trey here). As you can see, the two pedals in this photo both have the Analogman “Sunface” logo (the red sun/smiley face on the silver sticker) on the pedal’s front face. I have pointed out in the tour-by-tour breakdowns that Trey’s TS-9 pedals do not always have the sticker. Perhaps Trey is using stock pedals (doubtful) or another mod company on at least some of his gear; or perhaps, as Trey has done with his Mesa Mark III, his Bogner amps, his Boomerang pedals, his Leslie G-37, and other gear, the branding has been deliberately removed or obscured. I do know from interviews that what appears to be black gaffer tape obscuring the logo on the outermost TS-9 over the last few tours (including Summer 2016) is velcro that is used to attach weather protection when required; that pedal is an Analogman TS-9.
The pictured pedals also have the “RE-J Project” sticker over the Ibanez/Maxon logos, which indicates that they have Analogman’s “Silver” mod, in addition to the standard Analogman TS-9 mods. On his site, Analogman says that Trey has used both the Analogman TS-9/808 “Classic” mod and also the TS-9/808 “Silver.”
During the major rig overhaul that took place in advance of the 2016-2017 New Year’s Run, Trey switched from the dual modified TS-9’s that had been in the rig for 20 years to two vintage TS-808 pedals, as shown below:
The 808’s stayed in the rig until Summer 2017, when Trey swapped one out for a TS-9, leaving him one of each. He’s currently back to the vintage models, but uses them much less frequently since he gets most of his overdrive from the amplifier now.