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.
Our Top Choice
There's no denying that the Fulldrive2 MOSFET is affordable and intuitive. It will help you enhance the capabilities of your electric guitar since it will give it a clean boost via its two channels. It features a 16-gauge steel enclosure, a smart addition that makes it resistant to wear.
When it comes to downsides, some customers weren't pleased with the fact that the volume knob sometimes has a jumping effect.
The pedal gives the player full control of the overdrive effect. Its four large knobs are ergonomic, and there are even two toggle switches, for switching CompCut to Vintage, and the other one to help you change between Standard and Mosfet overdrive.
Fulltone created a product that will stand the test of time. The piece has a clean and effective design which doesn't compromise on versatility. With its many settings, it will give you back control over the sound of your guitar. It also offers gorgeous overtone so you can free your creativity.
Because no item is perfect, this one seems to have a hard time with keeping the low frequencies at a high quality from time to time.
With the pedal in your accessories collection, you'll become the creator you've always wanted to be. It features the standard Drive, Volume, and Tone controls and, for experts, the High Peak/Low Peak toggle. Also, the in and out jacks are very well placed.
Also To Consider
One thing is for sure - this is an overdrive pedal that sounds like a classic tube amp. And this small feature combined with its effortless design, make it ideal for old-school rockers looking to instill new life into their tunes. It is a reissue of the brand's insanely popular model with a new coat of paint.
As two buyers noticed a while ago, this model comes in a package that is poor in quality and not up to par with the product itself.
The product offers tone, drive, and level controls without being priced too high. What's even more important is the life cycle of the Screamer - it is sturdy enough that it can survive years of intensive use in all conditions like all premium products should.
14 Best Overdrive Pedals (Reviews) in 2021
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.
- 1. Overdrive pedal
- 2. Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Pedal
- 3. Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
- 4. Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Distortion
- 5. TC electronic MojoMojo Overdrive Pedal
- 6. Joyo JF-01 Vintage Overdrive Guitar Effect Pedal
- 7. Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive
- 8. Behringer TO-800 Tube Overdrive
- 9. MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive · Guitar Effect
- 10. Donner Blues Drive Classical Electronic Vintage Overdrive Guitar Effect Pedal
- Yearly Guide & Report
- Best overdrive pedal brands
- Overdrive pedals – FAQs
1. Overdrive pedal
The Fulldrive2 MOSFET from Fulltone is an affordable overdrive pedal that can give any electric guitar a clean boost as well as a crunchy sound for heavier rock styles. This unit has a 16-gauge steel enclosure which makes it resistant to the usual wear and tear of touring so you don’t have to worry about damaging it while on the road.
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.
Affordable and intuitive, the product will help you improve your electric guitar’s performance thanks to the clean boost provided through its two available channels.
The unit boasts 16-gauge steel enclosures which make it sturdier and more resistant to wear and tear, meaning it is a great product to be used in outdoor venues, maintaining its quality even after a couple of years.
It offers full control of the overdrive effect with the help of 4 large knobs that you can easily adjust. The knobs can be used to control the volume, tone, boost, and overdrive.
Thanks to its wide array of effects, you can easily switch from rugged blues tones to vamped up rock performances with a switch of a button.
Although we appreciate the nuances and tones it delivers, the interface of the device is not very user-friendly, so it will take you some time to get through all of its functions.Click to see the price on Amazon!
2. Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Pedal
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.
Boasting a super cool design with all the right buttons and shapes, the device is a delight for those OCD musicians. Every button is in place and blends perfectly with the rest of the knobs and features, making the overall user experience easier and more pleasant.
The rugged unit features a sturdy case designed to withstand harsh weather and traveling conditions, making it a great accessory for tours.
If you’re looking for a product that gives you complete control over your guitar’s sound, the OCD pedal won’t disappoint you. It has all the versatility you need to express your feelings through sounds but in a controlled manner, like a true person with OCD.
Apart from the standard tone, drive, and volume controls, you also get a high peak/low peak toggle that allows you to distort the sound as you please.
Some might describe this pedal as heaven on earth, while others may not be impressed with its retro color and design.Buy from Amazon.com
3. Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
If you’re looking for a quality overdrive pedal that sounds just like a classic tube amp, then you definitely need to take a look at the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer. This pedal is perhaps one of the most popular models in modern music history, with famous guitarists spanning across diverse genres having used it successfully.
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.
The reputed former Spanish, now Japanese guitar manufacturer is expanding its market by adding the perfect accessories to its popular electric instruments. Simple yet effective, the Tube Screamer is everything you need to express your “roar” on stage.
The great advantage of this overdrive pedal is that it sounds like a classic tube amp, making it one of the favorite items of famous guitarists, regardless of the music genre they interpret. Thus, it appeals to many professional musicians from different generations.
The tough case is designed to withstand months and even years of abuse, which means it’s a great device to take on tours. Featuring the signature “green seasick” color, the new Ibanez TS9 has the power to turn any mild guitar into a crunching one.
We also liked the user-friendly design with the common tone, level, and drive knobs.
The fact that this little green box has survived throughout the years with little design and technology improvements makes you wonder how you can perfect the already perfect pedal.Buy from Amazon.com for ($99.99)
4. Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Distortion
The Electro-Harmonix Soul Food is a pedal that can give musicians an amazing overdrive effect without costing an arm and a leg. This unit comes with a hard case that hosts high-grade components, with circuitry featuring boosted power rails which enable the device to create that creamy effect with lots of headroom while preserving a high definition.
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.
This pedal offers an overdrive effect while still being extremely accessible to most buyers. So, if you’re looking for a high-quality yet affordable sound enhancer, the Electro-Harmonix Soul Food is the right choice.
Boasting a retro look and convenient knobs for easy access, the product features boosted power rails to deliver creamy effects while still maintaining a high sound definition. In other words, the pedal is a great acquisition for blues or soft rock guitarists.
The hard case is designed to withstand constant wear and tear while maintaining the high quality of the components inside. Thus, you can carry it with you on tours and enjoy its benefits gig after gig.
The unit is delivered with a power supply but can also run on a 9-Volt battery to increase its autonomy and provide maximum freedom.
The footswitch doesn’t seem to last too long, which is a shame because the overall quality and sound enhancement of this product are great.Buy from Amazon.com for ($109)
5. TC electronic MojoMojo Overdrive Pedal
The TC Electronic MojoMojo gives you a great amount of control and a sound that resembles a fully cranked tube amp. Despite its simple design, this pedal has an open character and less compression than similar models, resulting in high-definition tones even at high overdrive settings.
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.
Featuring a modern design with just the right amount of retro, this overdrive pedal is easy to use even by those who are less experienced in the field.
It comes with 4 regular knobs, one for the drive, level, bass, and treble, as well as a voice switch that provides more complex or subtle harmonics, depending on your preferences.
One feature that we particularly enjoyed is the increased circuit board voltage that enhances the headroom so you can achieve smoother sounds without using too much distortion, making the pedal a great choice for guitarists who love soft rock ballads.
The bypass function enables crystal-clear sounds without losing the tone.
Despite the great number of functions it provides, this affordable pedal may not be exactly what you’re looking for. If you turn it up all the way it hisses and still sounds muffled. It doesn’t claim to be a distortion pedal but it’s not the best overdrive one either.Buy from Amazon.com for ($99.95)
6. Joyo JF-01 Vintage Overdrive Guitar Effect Pedal
If you’re looking for a cheap overdrive pedal that can give your guitar that rugged sound of the 60s and 70s, then the Joyo JF-01 is surely an option you shouldn’t overlook. This pedal gives you control over your guitar’s distortion through three knobs for Drive, Tone, and Volume.
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.
If you can’t afford to spend a fortune on pedals and other accessories for your electric guitar, this product from Joyo gives your instrument the rugged sound of the late 60s and mid-70s you were looking for.
It offers control over your guitar’s distortion with the help of three useful knobs, designed for the drive, tone, and volume.
Unlike many other products within the same price range, the knobs attached to this pedal come with LED lights which allow you to see in the dark and adjust the settings during your gig, even if you play in dark venues such as night bars.
It can be powered both by regular electricity but it also comes with a 9V battery that ensures increased autonomy and maximum flexibility so you never run out of power.
This overdrive pedal produces a certain amount of compression by definition but doesn’t feature a separate compression knob.Buy from Amazon.com for ($34.99)
7. Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive
The Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive is a pedal that can help your guitar achieve that warm and muddy sound you’re looking for. This unit is made according to the highest standards, which is no surprise considering the legendary status of the company. The effect closely resembles an overdriven amp, which is probably what you’re looking for in such a pedal.
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.
Affordable and reliable, the Boss SD-1 is a great choice to enhance your guitar sound and allow it to achieve a muddier, warmer sound.
The company’s reputation screams out of every product available on the market, and this overdrive pedal makes no exception. The effect you are getting from this device resembles the one from an overdriven amp.
With this accessory, you can easily achieve the right amount of overdrive and sustain for your guitar, while still maintaining the subtlety of your picking technique. Therefore, the smooth effect it delivers makes it a great option for those playing rock, jazz, blues, and other music genres.
It comes with a user-friendly interface and large knobs for the drive, level, and tone.
The item isn’t delivered with any power supply, leads or patch cables, so you’ll have to purchase them separately and install them to make use of this pedal.Buy from Amazon.com for ($49.99)
8. Behringer TO-800 Tube Overdrive
With the Behringer Vintage Tube To800, you get a screaming fat tone as well as a smooth sustain for awesome performances. This unit is made with MA150 and 4558 IC diodes which provide that vintage overdrive sound that made stompboxes so popular in the 70s.
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).
If you’re on a tight budget but still want to add some cool effects on your guitar sound, this pedal from Behringer may be a good option to start with. It delivers a vintage overdrive and a smooth sustain, suitable for various music styles, including blues, jazz, and soft rock.
The product runs on the Behringer PSU-SB DC power supply but can also be used with a 9V battery for improved autonomy and maximum flexibility so you’ll never have to worry about running out of power in the middle of your gig.
It features large, dedicated drive, level, and tone controls for increased sound-shaping, according to your preferences.
The pedal seems to capture every nuance of your guitar solo, regardless if it’s a smooth overdrive or a screaming tube sound.
The leads, battery, and the power supply are not included so you will have to purchase them separately.Buy from Amazon.com for ($62)
9. MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive · Guitar Effect
The MXR EVH5150 is a highly versatile overdrive pedal that has been designed in close cooperation with guitar legend Eddie Van Halen. This marvelous pedal is built with premium components such as multi-stage MOSFETs and diodes which ensure a warm and fuzzy sound that will take your guitar playing to the next level.
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.
Benefiting from the quality and the expertise of the reputed musician and composer Eddie Van Helen, this MXR model boasts an innovative Smart Gate technology for richer, deeper, and warmer tones altogether.
It represents a thoughtful choice for both novices and experienced guitarists who enjoy hyper-driven tones while still obtaining the same sound clarity every time.
The Gain and Output controls allow you to choose the perfect volume and level of distortion for your sounds, while the 3-band EQ passive tone delivers maximum flexibility.
One feature that you won’t see in many pedals within this price range is the Boost switch which provides the extra touch of compression. And, thanks to the Gate Control function, you can eliminate all the noise to get exceptional sound clarity.
Although it boasts the chug and power you want from a paddle, the tone has an uncontrollable fizz that you can’t seem to get rid of.Buy from Amazon.com for ($199.99)
10. Donner Blues Drive Classical Electronic Vintage Overdrive Guitar Effect Pedal
The Donner Blues Drive Classical comes with a simple yet efficient design that’s bound to impress and delight. This little pedal is capable of providing your guitar with both smooth sounds as well as muddy overdrive that will surely match blues or rock genres.
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.
Donning a simple and efficient design, this product impresses with its audio performances. Affordable yet easy to use, the pedal will provide a smooth sound and a muddy overdrive, depending on your preferences.
It comes with a sturdy, heavy-duty aluminum case that makes it both lightweight and resistant to tear and wear, meaning you can take it with you while touring without worrying about it breaking after just a couple of gigs. The small dimensions of the tool also make it easy to store in any bag.
The user-friendly interface features two small controls for level and tone and a large gain knob for adjusting your guitar sounds.
The LED indicator shows the working state so it’s easy to see when the product is ready to use.
Although the overall quality of this product is good, you might hear some buzzing when you plug in your jacks and turn it on.Buy from Amazon.com for ($39.99)
11. Tom’sline Engineering AGR3S
With the Tom’sline Engineering AGR3S, you can achieve a vintage overdriven effect on your guitar with ease. This pedal has a small footprint and it is a great choice for touring since it won’t take much space, in addition to being lightweight.
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.
This pedal is a good choice for those who want to achieve the popular overdriven effect on their electric guitars without spending a fortune on a device.
It features a small footprint and, thanks to its robust, compact, and lightweight construction, it is easy to transport and makes a great option for those who go on tours. It is made of sturdy materials and will resist tear and wear, delivering the same sound quality gig after gig.
The Gain knob allows you to fully adjust and control the sound, while the other two knobs are designed for volume and tone.
If you’re looking for a crunchier effect on your guitar solos, you can easily switch from Normal to Boost mode with the help of this useful pedal.
You can hear the switch function in the amp, which doesn’t make for a subtle transition, especially if you’re on the stage.Buy from Amazon.com for ($34.99)
12. Xvive Sweet Leo O2
The Sweet Leo O2 from Xvive is a classic effects pedal that gives your guitar a unique sound without breaking your wallet. This unit features a robust design with a solid metal shell that’s bound to help it last for a long time even if you’re using it daily or on tours.
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.
The overdrive pedal features a fast and powerful character and a Growl knob to control the blend of effects.
This classic device gives your guitar the unique sound you were looking for without costing a fortune. And, thanks to its robust design and solid metal case, you can rest assured you will count on the item for a long time, without worrying about it being damaged during touring.
Designed by guitarist, electronic engineer, and composer Thomas Blug, the pedal counts for high-quality components that ensure a warm and crisp overdrive every time you are using it. And, have we mentioned the cool animal print design that will make it easy on the eyes?
The Sweet Leo helps you achieve a cleaner, more elegant overdrive, while the true bypass function makes sure there won’t be any tone loss.
With this product, you might get inconsistent sound at times, as well as not enough gain to match all tastes.Buy from Amazon.com for ($55.02)
13. ammoon KOKKO Electric
The ammoon KOKKO Electric is an overdrive pedal that might just give you that natural tube sound you’ve been looking for. This model is made with quality components such as transistors and diodes, and it can enhance your guitar’s performance and add that dirty sound without causing the original tone to be buried underneath all the fuzz.
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.
Just like the name suggests, this pedal features a minimalist, compact, and lightweight design, making it a great tool to bring with you anywhere you perform, including on tours.
The hard metallic shell resists against tear and wear and will protect the electrical compounds inside from harsh weather conditions, including wind, rain, and extreme temperatures, so you can get the same performance for your guitar solos regardless of your concert’s venue.
The device features three familiar knobs, one for the drive, level, and tone. You can increase distortion and gain with the help of the drive knob and make your guitar sound louder by adjusting the volume control.
One feature that we liked is the rubber pads on the back that will keep the unit in place and prevent it from slipping.
Although it can be used for a bass guitar too, you shouldn’t expect a wide array of sounds and effects.Buy from Amazon.com for ($33.99)
14. Joyo Sweet Baby JF-36
If you’re looking for a low-gain overdrive pedal that suits milder guitar playing styles, then the Joyo Sweet Baby JF-36 is a smart option. This model gives you complete control over your guitar’s sound. You can use the Drive knob to increase gain and obtain that dirty overdrive effect, turn up the volume or change the dynamics of the overdrive with the Focus control.
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.
This carrot-colored small pedal represents a popular choice amongst those who are looking for an affordable distortion stompbox for their electric guitars.
The product is small and sturdy so you can fit it on any pedalboard. Moreover, thanks to its rugged construction, it will resist wear and tear, so it’s a great option if you plan on going on tours or you don’t take particularly good care of your stage gear.
The status LED indicator allows you to easily check the effect even when you play in low-light environments and also acts as a warning to not step on it unless you need to.
What we liked about this small pedal is that it provides complete control over your guitar’s sound, so you can use the existing knobs to turn up the volume, change the dynamics of the overdrive or obtain the type of overdrive effect you are looking for.
If you already own the Joyo American Sound version of the pedal, this one doesn’t come with any noticeable improvements.Buy from Amazon.com for ($36.99)
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
Q: 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.
Q: 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.
Q: 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.
Q: 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.
Q: 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.