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Digitech Bad Monkey, Ultimate Tube Screamer?

by vaughn skow January 27, 2014 3 min read

Digitech Bad MonkeyI’ve managed to collect some seriously cork-sniffer level gear over the last few decades, but make no mistake: I am absolutely NOT a gear-snob.  No way.  Not even a little bit.  My philosophy is this: a piece of gear is fully awesome if it does what you need it to, and does it well … regardless of price.  So, using that convention, let’s talk monkey … BAD Monkey!

I’m a Tube Screamer guy.  Oh sure, I dig Fuzz tones and straight-up distortion on certain tunes, but it’s the ubiquitous mid-heavy tube tone of the Tube Screamer type pedals that serve as my go-to dirt pedals.  Over the decades, I’ve owned almost every T-S type pedal ever produced, from the original 808’s and Maxon’s to the cheap knock-offs, to the modern boutique re-creations.  The one that has found a permanent (for now) place on both of my gigging pedal boards is the under-rated Digitech Bad Monkey.   Now, for those of you out there who really AREgear snobs (or at least pedal snobs), I’m sure you find this to be utter heresy, so please, let me explain.  Here are my reasons:

  1. Like I said, I’m NOT a gear snob, and seriously, I LOVE getting a good deal, and I HATE paying more than I need to, especially when the more expensive product actually is lame by comparison.
  2. Pedals take a LOT of abuse … for God’s sake; we “stomp” on them with our feet!  Why on earth would anyone put a $400 pedal in harm’s way on a grungy club stage when a $40 pedal can nail the desired tone as well or better?
  3. Yea, I love, love, love the characteristic mid-heavy throaty vibe of a T-S, but sometimes, I NEED to balance lows and/or highs with that big mid-boost; the “typical” tube screamer just CAN NOT do that with it’s simple high roll-off tone control.  The separate bass and treble controls on the Bad Monkey can do that, and can provide so much more tone sculpting than just a “tone” control alone.
  4. The separate “amp emulated” output of a Bad Monkey can be a gig-saver, and for me it was just that on one occasion.  When my well-worn blackface Super Reverb showed up DOA for a club gig, I was able to get a passable tone from the “amp-sim” output of the Bad Monkey DI’d into the PA.  At that gig, all I had was the Bad Monkey and a Cry Baby, and I survived just fine. Not something you could do with any other T-S type pedal!
  5. Like all Digitech pedals, the Bad Monkey (I don’t think I should abbreviate it B-M … if you know what I mean) is built like a tank and is utterly reliable.
  6. I like the form-factor.  The big rubber switch that engulfs nearly the entire forward half of the pedal is something I rarely miss … even when I was a hard-drinking chap! And, the knobs are positioned and recesses so as to make breaking them off something that you almost can’t do by “accident”.
  7. The TONE.  The biggie, of course!  Every point up to this one would be moot if the thing sounded like crap, but it doesn’t.  In fact, the Bad Monkey sounds more like a vintage 808 than most any other “clone” out there.

Okay, so there are a few caveats I should mention: 

  1. The Bad Monkey REALLY sounds like a vintage TS-808; a lot of the modern T-S type pedals have upped the maximum dirt available way beyond that of the original Tube Screamer, if that’s what you want; look elsewhere.  The Bad Monkey actually provides just a tad LESS available “distortion” than an original TS-808.
  2. In real life, it looks even cheesier than it does in pictures.  I mean seriously, it’s downright stupid looking.
  3. It’s not true-bypass, but don’t worry TOO MUCH about that, “True-Bypass” gets a lot more credit than it deserves!
  4. There are no bragging rights associated with having a Bad Monkey on your board.  Nope.  In fact, other guitar players may actually joke about it behind your back. 

A final thought:  Like darn-near every pedal out there, there are several mods available for the Bad Monkey.  To my ears, none of them really improve the tone … again IF you actually LIKE the TS-808 sound, so I recommend you just forgo them.  However, if you replace the LED with some alternative color and put some kind of a “modded” sticker on it … then caveat #4 becomes null-and-void :-)

Here is my #2 pedal board, used exclusively for playing direct with in-ear monitors. It's quite a mix of high-end, mid-range, and downright inexpensive pedals ... with the Bad Monkey most certainly in the latter catagory!ultimate guitar pedal board pedalboard

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