The Essential Guide to Finding the Best Overdrive Pedal + Reviews
Are you trying to find the best overdrive pedal but have little time on your hands to do proper research? Then fear not, as we’re here to help. We’ve browsed through tons of models so we could choose the pedals that offered the most amazing overdrive effects and features without breaking the bank. After a careful analysis, we recommend that you consider getting the Fulltone Fulldrive2 MOSFET. This pedal comes with a 16-gauge steel enclosure for proper protection, 4 knobs for easy control, as well as two switches that allow you to change styles. In case this item is no longer available, you might want to take a look at the Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive instead.
Highly Recommended Choices – Reviews & Comparison
If you’re searching for a reliable overdrive pedal that can boost your performances and give you the control you need for the right sounds, then you should check out our overdrive pedals reviews below. We’ve selected some of the most popular models on the market so you get to save time and end up with a high-quality overdrive unit.
Fulltone Fulldrive2 MOSFET B000S5V510
This pedal gives you full control of the overdrive effect via 4 large knobs that are easily adjusted. You get volume and tone knobs, as well as controls for overdrive and boost. There are even two toggle switches, one allowing you to change from CompCut to Vintage, the other changing between Standard and Mosfet overdrive.
There are also two switches for the On/Off function and Boost. This pedal allows you to enjoy music every time, whether you’re looking for that creamy, rugged blues tones or more overdrive for some heavy metal performances.
Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive B000U0DU34
Fulltone has done it again with the Obsessive Compulsive. This no-nonsense pedal comes with a simple and effective design that’s bound to give your guitar versatility and a sound that you’ll love from the get-go. This rugged unit has a sturdy case that’s supposed to withstand the rigors of touring.
As its name suggests, this pedal is perfect for guitarists who want complete control over their guitar’s sound. You can easily go from super-smooth and clean to dirty and warm performances that will raise goosebumps.
This model enables you to enjoy a sound that’s mightily similar to a vintage tube amp. With this pedal, you don’t just get the standard Drive, Volume, and Tone controls but also a High Peak/Low Peak toggle that allows you switch from spanky clean to insane distortion in a jiffy. Both the In and Out jacks are conveniently placed in the middle for easy setup every time.
Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer B000T4PJC6
The Tube Screamer is a reissue that stays true to the original pedal, hence its appeal to many old-school and young guitarists alike. This unit comes with a simple design that makes it incredibly easy to use.
The tough housing has the same green ‘sea-sick’ paint, offering its cranking power which can turn any mild guitar into a crunching performer that can still go back to a clean sound in no time. Operating the pedal is simple, as you get level, tone, and drive knobs to give you the sound you’re looking for and a distortion that will transform your guitar playing.
Electro-Harmonix Soul Food B00HEQ6J0I
With this model, you get a transparent overdrive that gives your guitar a raw sound while maintaining high responsiveness every time. You get to choose between true bypass and buffered bypass modes to suit each occasion so you can go from clean to crunchy and back again in no time.
This pedal has three knobs for Drive, Volume, and Treble, and a rugged design that’s meant to keep it working well for many years. This unit comes with a 9.6 DC-200 power supply, but it can also run on a 9-Volt battery for increased autonomy.
TC Electronic MojoMojo B004OK1G64
The interface is simple as well, with 4 knobs for Drive, Level, Treble, and Bass, as well as a Voice switch that allows even more subtle and complex harmonics to stand out. Thanks to the increased circuit board voltage, you get to benefit from extra headroom so you can obtain smooth sounds without overdoing it with the distortion.
The precise controls allow for easy tweaking while playing in order to find the right balance and sound for each part of the song. There’s also a true bypass function that allows you to obtain crystal-clear sound without any loss of tone. This pedal is designed and engineered in Denmark.
Joyo JF-01 Vintage B004FEGXDK
These LED-notched knobs also allow you to see in the dark so you can adjust settings even when playing in dark concert halls. The stompbox comes with a DPDT switch which makes for quiet and swift True Bypass switching. The ¼-inch input and output jacks are placed in the middle of the case for easy access and effortless setup.
This model is powered by a 9V adapter, but it can also run on a 9V battery, which is included in the package. You get a Tube Screamer-like overdrive and sustain with an increased clarity and a decreased muddy effect.
Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive B0013NDBS6
Not only will you get just the right amount of sustain and overdrive on your guitar, but also maintain the subtleties of picking techniques. The smooth effect is perfect for a variety of genres, from blues to rock to jazz.
Tweaking the settings is really easy, thanks to the large and marked knobs that allow you to adjust level, tone, and drive. There’s also a Check LED that lets you know when the effects are working. This little unit will provide you with more than enough flexibility so you can play anything from subtle rhythm to searing leads.
Behringer Vintage Tube To800 B000KIRT74
Despite the warm and rugged sound, this pedal can still capture subtle nuances so you don’t miss a note to heavy clipping or compression. There are dedicated Drive, Level, and Tone controls which ensure that you can shape the sound in any way you want to. There’s also a status LED for battery check and on/off functions.
The on/off switch makes for easy and noise-free operation, while the sturdy construction and high-quality components ensure a long service life. You have the option of powering this pedal with a 9V battery or you can use a PSU-SB DC power supply (these are not included so they must be purchased separately).
MXR EVH5150 B0179ZQW0K
This model helps both novice and experienced guitarists enjoy hyper-driven tones with high-clarity every time. The unit is capable of delivering strong performances and powerful saturation. You get Gain and Output controls so you can choose the right distortion and volume, as well as a 3-band EQ passive tone stack section for exceptional flexibility.
There’s also a Boost switch which gives you extra gain and compression, while the Gate control eliminates unwanted noise that could spoil your otherwise stellar playing. This little pedal also features true bypass switching. The rugged housing is strong enough to resist a lot of abuse associated with non-stop touring.
Donner Blues Drive Classical B00GROJWAW
This unit features a case that’s made of heavy-duty aluminum which makes it both lightweight and resistant to damage so you can count on it whenever you’re on the road. The compact shape and small size also make this an ideal traveling partner. This device is fairly simple to use, as you get a large Gain knob, as well as two smaller controls for Tone and Level.
You also get a switch which changes between Hot and Warm modes, the former being ideal for more aggressive guitar playing, while the latter being perfect for all sorts of blues bands. The indicator LED will let you know if everything is ok. This model also comes with true bypass.
Tom’sline Engineering AGR3S B01I56JJJS
Despite its small size, this model is capable of delivering more punch and character to your guitar for both searing solos and powerful riffs. You can control and adjust the sound by using the Gain knob for overdrive, as well as the volume and tone knobs. The model has a switch that changes from Normal to Boost mode for extra crunchiness.
All pedals are sold with MAB or Michael Angelo Batio stickers. The unit has a protection bar that should keep this unit safe from damage during even the longest trips. The bar should also protect the controls from being accidentally moved with the foot.
Xvive Sweet Leo O2 B01DKBM6OS
The pedal was designed by “STRAT KING” Thomas Blug, a guitarist, composer, and electronic engineer, and it features quality components that ensure a warm and dirty overdrive every time. Operating this device couldn’t be simpler, as you can adjust the Drive, Tone, and Level with their corresponding knobs.
There’s also a Growl knob that combines a smoother overdrive with a shimmering bell sound in the high range. This isn’t just a rhythm guitar pedal, as its dirty sound and controls allow you to set it up for amazing lead solos that will impress your audience as well as yourself.
ammoon KOKKO Electric B01JA6FOGO
The device has three knobs that you’re probably familiar with by now: Drive, Level, and Tone. You can increase gain and distortion with the Drive knob, crank up the volume with the Level control, as well as change the tone color with the Tone knob. This unit comes with true bypass hardware switching which allows you to change from overdrive to clean and back to overdrive in no time.
The underside features rubber pads which prevent this unit from slipping while the LED indicator light displays the status of the effect. The pedal is powered by a 9V DC adapter.
Joyo Sweet Baby JF-36 B00HB2ZVRC
With a small and sturdy construction, this pedal won’t just fit on any pedalboard, but also in small backpacks or clogged vans so you can carry it with you anytime, anywhere without extra effort. The true bypass design allows you to change your guitar’s sound from rugged to clean and back again with a simple push of a switch.
There’s a status LED indicator that should help you check out the effect even when playing in poorly lit environments. You can power this unit with a 9V DC adapter.
Yearly Guide & Report
Whether you’re searching for the best guitar overdrive pedal or want advice regarding a model that would work well with your inexpensive beginner electric guitar, then you’ve landed in the right place.
We have not only browsed through countless reviews of overdrive pedals but also tried to see what made them tick and which features customers appreciated the most. This led us to compile a comprehensive guide that should help you learn the basics of these effects pedals so you could choose a model that’s perfect for your needs and budget.
Getting the right overdrive pedal
When looking at overdrive pedals for sale, you should make sure that you’re getting an effect that suits your playing style. You can go for a milder overdrive that should still keep that creamy sound you’re after.
There’s also the possibility of going the opposite way and choosing a hyper-drive model that will surely fit into a heavy metal band. You’d get all the muddiness your amp can take while still preserving some of the original tones of your guitar.
You could also choose the middle ground and opt for a pedal that can range from a smooth distortion to moderate overdrive and complete the effect through your amp or even through a vintage tube amp, in case you have one of these. This way, you get a lot more flexibility in terms of sounds and combinations so you can choose the right one for each occasion.
Especially if you’re touring around the country with your band, you should consider getting a pedal that features a solid construction. If cheap models come with plastic shells, you might want to take a look at models that have metal cases. A good compromise is to go for an aluminum design since this is sturdy enough while also being lightweight.
A hard case will protect the components inside and ensure that the device won’t become damaged during transportation. Such a design would also provide you with countless years of impeccable functionality.
Speaking of functionality, you also want the internal components to be of high-quality. Choose a model from a reputable brand and look at what transistors, diodes, and capacitors it uses. You’d probably want some premium MOSFETs and a well-built circuitry to ensure that the pedal can properly amplify the signal without creating a load of noise that could spoil the entire effect.
Durability and convenience
A solid construction, as mentioned above, would ensure a long service life, which is what you want from a pedal, especially since there are loads of other equipment parts you need to invest in and wouldn’t want to prematurely replace your overdrive pedal.
Many manufacturers offer warranties ranging from one year to several years so you might want to check the specifications before buying.
Convenience is yet another feature that’s also related to design, as some units have an intuitive layout, with properly placed jacks and buttons, while others are a nightmare to deal with and can create an entire mess each time you need to set up your audio gear.
Try to go for a pedal that is easy to use either alone or in a pedalboard. Also, check the In and Out jacks to make sure these are placed conveniently so you don’t have to tie up your cables to connect several pedals.
Interface and controls
An overdrive pedal should have an easy-to-understand and use interface with several knobs that are clearly labeled. Common configurations usually include a Drive or Gain knob which dictates how much power the pedal puts into the signal to create the overdrive effect, a Tone knob to change the tone color, as well as a Volume or Level control.
Of course, there are lots of variations, and there are quite a few models which also come with 2 to 4-band EQs, where you can adjust the Bass, Treble, Mid, etc. Voice switching is yet another popular feature that many pedals have.
There are also other switches for Boost, High/Low Peak, Gate, etc. True Bypass circuitry also deserves to be mentioned, as it allows you to cut off the effect of your pedal with a simple push of the dedicated switch, which means you to go from dirty and warm sounds to clean and back again in no time.
Each of these features allows you to create custom sounds, especially if you couple your overdrive unit with other pedals such as loopers, delays, and one of the reliable guitar amps available online.
Because your pedal will need to be powered one way or another, you might want to make sure that the model you’re going for comes at least with a power adapter. Most of these devices work with 9 or 9.6V DC-200 adapters. Don’t forget to check the length of the adapter cable, especially if you know you’ll be playing in venues where power sockets are far from the center of the stage.
It would also be a good idea to check which pedals can also be powered by 9-volt batteries. These would give you prolonged autonomy as well as the ability to busk around town without limiting you to locations that are near a power source.
You might also want to consider getting a unit that comes with a status LED which should tell you when the effect is working. LED-notched knobs are also great, especially when playing in dark venues.
Some pedals even feature a protection bar that’s supposed to keep its knobs and toggle switches from being bumped by accident with the feet or during transportation.
Entry-level or high-end?
How much you spend on an overdrive pedal depends on your needs as well as budget. If you’re just starting out, you might go for an entry-level model that won’t cost an arm and a leg. You’ll still get some cool effects to enjoy, as well as extra money in your pocket to invest in other music equipment such as stable and reliable music stands, guitar picks, and others.
You could also opt for a more expensive model as long as you can afford it and know you will be needing all of its features in the future.
Best overdrive pedal brands
Fulltone is a guitar and bass effects pedals manufacturer that’s renowned for its quality models that are widely used throughout the world. Founded in 1991 by Michael Fuller, a guitarist, composer, as well as an electronic enthusiast, this American company puts a lot of emphasis on designs that mimic the sounds of vintage models.
Fulltone states that its line of pedals was born out of sheer love for the music and sound of legends such as Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. All pedals are hand-built with high-quality components in the company’s Southern California shop. Also, all pedals come with True Bypass and LED status indicators.
Electro-Harmonix is an American company that specializes in designing and manufacturing guitar effects pedals and other audio processors. The company was founded in 1968, in New York, by Mike Matthews, an engineer and musician who used to play a rhythm and blues synthesizer keyboard in various blues bands.
Electro-Harmonix is considered a pioneer in the creation and popularization of stompboxes, with achievements such as having released the first stompbox flanger (Electric Mistress), the first analog echo/delay unit (Memory Man), as well as one of the most appreciated pedals of all time, the Big Muff Pi.
Boss is a music equipment manufacturer that has cemented its position as one of the most powerful and popular effects pedals creators in the world. Legendary musicians spanning over several decades and various genres have used Boss effects pedals, from distortion to overdrive, boost, delay, looper, etc.
It’s hard to even talk about guitar pedals without mentioning this company, especially when musicians such as Eric Clapton, Steve Vai, and the Edge have used its models. The company released its first pedal in 1974, which was designed to be used with high-definition acoustic guitar pickups, with many follow-ups used to this day, such as the DS-1 and DD-7.
Ibanez is surely a company that needs no introduction. The brand has been at the front of the music scene for several decades, with countless appreciated acoustic electric guitar models as well as electric and bass guitars being sold all over the world. The Japanese company started producing its first guitars in 1957, becoming a true legend in the coming decades.
Ibanez isn’t just known for its quality guitars, but also for its effects pedals that brought countless innovations. Perhaps one of this most iconic models is the TS9 Tube Screamer, an overdrive pedal that has been used by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Carlos Santana, and James Hetfield, among others.
TC Electronic is a company founded by Kim and John Rishøj in 1976 in Denmark. This music manufacturer has been a pioneer in the creation of not just effects pedals, but also other audio equipment such as sound equalizers, studio effect processors, and more.
The Danish company managed to release its first guitar pedal with the SCF, also known as the Stereo Chorus + Pitch Modulator & Flanger. It was followed up by several 19-inch rack-mounted processor models that quickly became famous in the rock music scene. There is now a wide range of pedals on the market, from the sought-after Dark Matter to the MojoMojo overdrive.
MXR is a brand that is currently owned by the renowned music equipment manufacturer Jim Dunlop. The initial company was founded in 1972 by Terry Sherwood and Keith Barr. After spending a couple of years repairing audio equipment such as radios, the two decided to experiment with effects, creating what was to be their first effects pedal, called the Phase 90.
This pedal was used by renowned guitarist and showman Eddie Van Halen on his first two albums. After a period of hardship, MXR was sold to Jim Dunlop, in 1987. However, the designs and tradition of the former were preserved, resulting in a line of amazing pedals, such as the M75 Super Badass or the highly versatile EVH5150.
Founded by Uli Behringer in 1989 in Willich, Germany, this audio equipment manufacturer has become one of the largest not only in Europe but in the entire world. Despite most of its products being manufactured in China nowadays, all designs are made according to the highest standards.
Behringer currently produces reliable overdrive pedals such as the Vintage Tube To800, as well as other music equipment, from chromatic guitar tuner models to precise guitar metronome and rack devices that are wildly popular among both veteran and beginner guitarists. The company also produces mixing boards, digital pianos, etc.
Overdrive pedals – FAQs
When to use an overdrive pedal
If you’re not really into acoustic guitar playing and don’t want your sound to be cleanly cut, then using a good overdrive pedal is an option. This is especially true when playing certain music genres such as blues, rock, hard rock, heavy metal, etc. Such an effects pedal would transform the way your guitar sounds while still retaining some of the original tones.
Many musicians just love the crunchy sound of overdriven guitars, and many of the guitar legends from the 60s to present day have been successfully using these stompboxes to shape their sounds and create unique sound timbres.
How does an overdrive pedal work?
An overdrive pedal is a music device that distorts or alters the signal coming from an electric guitar. It does this by increasing the gain (power and amplitude) of the signal, causing the amp that’s connected to the pedal to be unable to cleanly amplify the sound, clipping the sound waves and resulting in the characteristic dirty and warm sound.
While in the past, the overdrive effect was produced by cranking up the volume of a vacuum tube amplifier, nowadays, this is done by using solid-state transistors, diodes, and op-amps. Many overdrive pedals don’t just increase the power or gain, but also give controls for volume, tone (tone color), multiple-channel EQ, etc.
Why use an overdrive pedal with a tube amp?
Using an overdrive distortion with a clean amplifier is great in many cases, but this may limit your choices to what your pedal can offer. This can be frustrating at times, especially if you’re using the bypass feature and get stuck with a low-gain amplification from your amp.
Many guitarists opt to use both pedal overdrive and amp high gain. This creates endless combinations, and it also allows you to get that old-school distortion from a tube amp, a sound that many overdrive pedals try to replicate, but fail to get close to. You could do a lot of experimenting and find combinations that work for you in loads of scenarios.
Why use an overdrive pedal at all?
There are lots of reasons to use an overdrive pedal. The first one is that you may simply like the sound it gives your guitar. If acoustic guitars rely on their large resonating chambers to produce warm sounds, the electric guitar does not have such an option. It relies on pickups which capture mechanical vibrations, translating them into electric signals.
These are generally quite weak, and they must be amplified. Many musicians feel that using an electric guitar as it is beats its purpose, and there are few musicians nowadays who don’t use some kind of distortion or overdrive, in addition to a quality delay pedal or other effects.
How much should an overdrive pedal cost?
There are countless overdrive pedals on the market, each with its pros and cons, and with prices ranging from several dozen dollars up to hundreds of dollars. How much you should spend on your first pedal depends entirely on your needs, preferences, as well as budget.
You could get an inexpensive pedal at first to try it out and see if it suits your playing style, and only upgrade later on. You also have the choice of getting a high-end pedal that comes with more than just the usual settings so that you can benefit from an increased versatility and long-term use even if you change your priorities and style further down the road.