Are you looking to take your guitar tone to the next level? One of the best ways to do that is by adding an overdrive pedal to your setup. Overdrive pedals can help you achieve a warm, natural-sounding distortion that’s perfect for a variety of genres.
But with so many options on the market, how do you know which one to choose? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take a look at some of the best overdrive pedals available today. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, we’ve got you covered.
We’ll explore the differences between overdrive and distortion, discuss how overdrive pedals work with tube amps, and even delve into some of the gear used by legendary guitarists like Eddie Van Halen and Metallica. So sit back, grab your guitar, and get ready to find the perfect overdrive pedal for your needs.
What is an Overdrive Pedal for Guitar?
Understanding the purpose of an overdrive pedal in a guitarist’s signal chain can greatly enhance the nuances and subtleties of their tone. An overdrive pedal is an effect that adds gain to a guitar’s signal, resulting in a slight distortion that can range from a subtle warm boost to a crunchy, driven sound. It’s a must-have pedal for guitarists who want to achieve that classic rock sound or push their tube amp into saturation.
Overdrive pedals are different from distortion and fuzz pedals, as they add color and grit with less gain. They enhance the existing tone of the guitar without drastically changing it, making it a versatile tool for guitarists who want to retain their guitar’s unique sound. Overdrive pedals can also be used to mimic the sound of driven tube amps for solid-state amps, providing a vintage sound without the need for expensive equipment.
Overall, the purpose of an overdrive pedal is to add character and depth to a guitar’s sound. It’s an essential tool in a guitarist’s kit that can enhance tonal preferences and take solos to the next level. With so many options available, it’s important to consider personal needs and preferences when selecting the best overdrive pedal for one’s rig.
What’s the difference between overdrive and distortion?
So, you’re wondering what sets overdrive apart from distortion? Well, let me tell you, the difference is like night and day.
Overdrive pedals add a touch of warmth and grit to your tone without completely changing it. This effect is achieved by boosting the signal just enough to push your amp into a slightly overdriven state, mimicking the sound of a tube amp being pushed to its limits.
On the other hand, distortion pedals are designed to completely transform your tone into a heavy, crushing sound that’s perfect for hard rock and metal. They achieve this by heavily compressing the signal and adding a lot of gain, resulting in a sound that’s almost like a second instrument.
While overdrive pedals are great for adding some character and flavor to your tone, distortion pedals are best used when you want to completely change the sound of your guitar.
In the end, the choice between overdrive and distortion comes down to personal preference and the style of music you’re playing. If you want to add some warmth and character to your tone, an overdrive pedal is the way to go. However, if you want to completely transform your sound and create heavy, crushing tones, a distortion pedal is the better choice. Or be like me and have several of each type of pedal.
Either way, both types of pedals are fantastic tools for any guitarist looking to create their own unique sound.
Overdrive pedals on tube amps
To truly enhance the tonal nuances of your tube amp, you may want to consider incorporating an overdrive effect into your signal chain. Overdrive pedals are a great way to push your tube amp harder, creating more natural-sounding distortion and saturation. Here are four tips to help you get the most out of your overdrive pedal on a tube amp:
- Start with a clean tone: Begin with a clean sound from your amp and gradually increase the gain on your pedal until you reach the desired level of saturation. This will allow you to control the amount of overdrive and ensure that your tone remains clear and articulate.
- Try it with a High gain channel: I usually turn the gain down and level about half way. Then experiment with the level knobs. Often a low gain / high level can compress tube distortion and give you a really cool saturated sound. But some amps will sound better with a bit more gain. I rarely use a lot of overdrive gain on a high gain tube amp channel.
- Experiment with different settings: Overdrive pedals offer a variety of tone-shaping options, such as EQ controls. I always suggest experiment with these settings to find the perfect sound for your playing style. With gain you can often get a nice tone by increasing the treble. I usually try to find that point where it sounds a bit too bright then back off slightly.
- Pair with other pedals: Overdrive pedals can be used in conjunction with other effects, such as delay or reverb, to create unique and complex sounds. Try stacking your overdrive pedal with other effects to see what new tones you can create.
- Consider the type of overdrive: Different overdrive pedals offer different types of distortion and saturation. Some pedals are transparent and retain the natural sound of your amp, while others add more color and character. Consider your personal preferences and the type of music you play when selecting an overdrive pedal.
With these tips in mind, you can use an overdrive pedal to enhance the natural sound of your tube amp and create a unique and personalized tone. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find the perfect combination of pedals and settings that work for you.
The Best Overdrive Pedals
This is a list of both old school and modern overdrive pedals that are well known for producing awesome sounds. These pedals come in a wide range of prices to cover every budget.
You’re looking for a solid distortion pedal that won’t break the bank, and the BOSS DS-1 might just be the orange-colored gem you’ve been searching for to add some grit to your tone.
This pedal has been a staple in the music industry for decades, used by everyone from Kurt Cobain to Steve Vai. The DS-1 offers a simple layout with knobs for distortion, tone control, and level, giving you plenty of control over your sound. It runs on a 9V battery or AC adapter and has a solid, durable build that can withstand the wear and tear of gigging.
While the DS-1 may not be the most versatile distortion pedal on the market, it provides a clear and powerful sound that can complement any guitar and amp combination. However, it may take some time to dial in the desired tone, as every player has their own unique preferences.
If you’re looking for a more customizable option, you may want to consider the DS-2 Turbo Distortion. Regardless, the BOSS DS-1 is a tried and true option that won’t disappoint.
Looking for a versatile and transparent overdrive pedal that can cover almost any tonal need? Look no further than the JHS Double Barrel V4 Dual Overdrive.
This pedal contains both the Moonshine V2 and the Morning Glory V4, allowing for medium and light gain levels with character and stacking abilities. The order switching toggle also adds flexibility to the already versatile pedal.
Not only is the JHS Double Barrel V4 Dual Overdrive highly recommended by customers for its range of sounds, but it also has a product warranty available. However, some customers have reported disappointment with the pedal’s performance and the fact that no cables or power source are included in the package.
While the price may be considered steep by some customers, the investment is worth it for the quality of the product.
Now that we’ve talked about the JHS Double Barrel V4 Dual Overdrive, let’s take a closer look at the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer Overdrive. This pedal is a classic in the overdrive world and has been used by countless guitarists over the years.
The TS9 is known for its warm, amp-like overdrive and is famous for its outstanding tone. Its reissue comes with the same factory components, housing, and paint as the original, making it a reliable choice for any guitarist.
With its tone, drive, and level controls, the TS9 can produce crunchy, crisp, and nuanced sounds even at low volume. While it may not be as warm and creamy as the T808, it still has a full sound that can be used in a variety of musical contexts.
The pedal’s heavy-duty metal construction with responsive soft touch switch ensures that it can withstand the rigors of touring and gigging. And even at max distortion level, the TS9 has low noise, making it a great choice for studio recordings.
While it may lack tone adjustment with only tone, drive, and level controls, the TS9 can be stacked with other dirt pedals for a professional-level sound. Overall, the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer Overdrive is a reliable and versatile choice for any guitarist looking to add some warmth and grit to their sound.
If you’re searching for a versatile and compact overdrive pedal that preserves the essence of your guitar’s tone, the MXR Timmy Overdrive might just be the perfect fit for you. Designed by veteran Nashville pedal builder Paul Cochrane, the MXR Timmy provides a wide range of overdrive tones in a mini housing.
It offers three different clipping styles to cover a multitude of situations and ingeniously configured Bass and Treble controls to refine your sonic profile. Moreover, the MXR Timmy Overdrive can be used as a clean boost pedal or driven into the distortion category, making it a suitable option for classic rock and blues tones.
The MXR Timmy Overdrive has the same circuit as the full-sized Timmy v3 and requires a power supply (not included) as it cannot use a battery. While it may be difficult to use in live situations due to its small enclosure and closely spaced knobs, the MXR Timmy Overdrive is a great option for guitar players who want a versatile and compact overdrive pedal that preserves the fundamental character of their guitar rig.
Designed by veteran Nashville pedal builder Paul Cochrane, the MXR Timmy Overdrive provides a huge range of overdrive tones in an MXR mini housing. It offers three different clipping styles to cover a multitude of situations. You can refine your sonic profile with ingeniously configured Bass and Treble controls.
Moreover, the MXR Timmy Overdrive can be used as a clean boost pedal or driven into the distortion category, making it a suitable option for classic rock and blues tones. The MXR Timmy Overdrive has the same circuit as the full-sized Timmy v3 and requires a power supply (not included) as it cannot use a battery.
While it may be difficult to use in live situations due to its small enclosure and closely spaced knobs, the MXR Timmy Overdrive is a great option for guitar players who want a versatile and compact overdrive pedal that preserves the fundamental character of their guitar rig.
The EarthQuaker Devices Palisades V2 is a versatile and unique pedal that offers everything you could want in an overdrive, with a distinct hotness to it that’ll take your tone to the next level. Based on the legendary TS808, this pedal is a versatile relative of the 808 available today.
It can dial in a wide range from sweet and mild to total destruction, thanks to its controls for clipping, voice, bandwidth, volume, boost, and tone. The Palisades V2 is a great option for those who’re looking for a pedal that can enhance their existing tones without drastically changing them.
While the Palisades V2 may not be the prettiest looking pedal with its metal flakes in the paint, it makes up for it in its sound quality. The flexi switch buttons can be annoying at times, but the unique and simple design of the pedal is awesome and makes it stand out from other overdrive pedals.
Despite some reported flaws with the knobs and foot-switch not engaging, many users have found that the pedal stacks well with other overdrives and produces amazing results.
Overall, the EarthQuaker Devices Palisades V2 Overdrive Pedal is a great choice for those who want a versatile, unique, and high-quality pedal that can take their tone to the next level.
You’ll definitely want to check out the MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive if you’re a fan of Eddie Van Halen’s iconic sound and want to add a touch of his signature tone to your own playing. This pedal has been designed in collaboration with Van Halen himself, and features hand-adjusted multi-stage mosfets and a 3-band passive tone stack EQ section. These features allow for exceptional sonic flexibility and the ability to dial up the whole spectrum of Van Halen’s tones.
In addition to this, the MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive also includes a boost switch for extra gain and compression, as well as a gate control to tame unwanted noise. True bypass switching ensures that your signal remains pure and unaltered when the pedal is not in use. This pedal is housed in a sturdy, road-worthy enclosure with custom EVH artwork. It is a must-have for any fan of Van Halen’s distinctive sound.
Amazon has a deal now to get this pedal with picks and patch cables for the same price as just the pedal. See below:
If you’re looking to add some classic BOSS tone to your guitar rig, the WAZA Craft Super Overdrive Guitar Pedal (SD-1W) is a must-have addition. It can enhance your existing sound with its premium, all-analog circuitry and custom sound modes.
This special edition pedal delivers the ultimate BOSS tone experience, based on the legendary SD-1 Super Overdrive. The newly revised, all-analog discrete amplifier circuit ensures that you get the authentic sound that BOSS is known for producing. The custom sound modes offer a new tonal range and gain.
Passionately designed by the master engineers at BOSS in Japan, the WAZA Craft Super Overdrive Guitar Pedal (SD-1W) is crafted with an ear for highly refined sound. The standard mode captures the classic SD-1 sound, while the custom mode offers a new level of tonal range and gain. This makes it great for fans of customized pedal tone and those looking to add a good overdrive pedal to their arsenal.
This pedal is perfect for guitarists who want to add some classic BOSS sound to their rig without breaking the bank. Its solid chassis ensures that it will last for years to come.
Check out the Wampler Tumnus Deluxe Overdrive for a versatile and high-quality addition to your guitar rig. This pedal offers the same magic-sounding buffer as the original Tumnus, with all the clarity, punch, and detailed breakup. It also has an easily accessible true bypass switch for uncolored tonal purity.
The pedal features a classic treble control, as well as active bass and mid controls for boosting or cutting desired frequencies. The normal/hot switch goes from standard Tumnus gain to higher gain, making it a great option for boosting a driven amp or another pedal, as a standalone overdrive, or as an always-on tonal sweetener.
One cool feature of the Tumnus Deluxe is its boost function, which provides a great idea for tonal variation. However, it would be nice if the boost provided a little more tonal variation, or if the signal chain order could be switched (the boost is pre-gain vs. post).
Despite this, the Tumnus Deluxe is perfect for achieving a dirty twang tone or a Satrianish lead tone. If you’re looking for a high-quality overdrive pedal with versatile tonal shaping options, the Wampler Tumnus Deluxe Overdrive is definitely worth considering.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a guitarist who hasn’t heard of the TC Electronic MojoMojo. This pedal has gained a loyal following for its affordability and versatility. The MojoMojo allows for a wide range of tonal shaping with controls for drive, level, bass, and treble. The voicing switch also adds a mid-shift option for even more flexibility.
The MojoMojo works well with single coil pickups and can be used for a variety of genres, including jazz and funk. However, some users have noted that it can be muddy with chords and may not work as well with high output humbuckers.
Overall, the MojoMojo is a reliable and well-built option for those looking for an affordable overdrive pedal with a lot of options. Its crazy to me that you can a true bypass pedal in a metal casing for under $75.
The JHS Morning Glory V4 is a game-changer in the world of transparent overdrive. It delivers nuanced tonal warmth and responsive touch that fills in the gaps of any less-than-ideal amp. Its gain control sweeps from completely clean to rock n roll, adding mid to low level grit to your crystal clean tone and boosting a crunchy tone into thicker sustain. The pedal switches between two gain levels on the fly, giving you all the tonal and responsive nuance that your amp is missing, and nothing that your tone already has.
One of the standout features of the JHS Morning Glory V4 is its side-mounted bright cut switch. This allows you to tame the high end on brighter rigs, giving you more control over your tone. Additionally, the pedal has increased headroom and output for use as a full frequency boost.
The 3-band EQ sets it apart from other similar pedals, with the drive knob behaving like the volume on an old tube amp. With this pedal, you can achieve vintage British rock tones that will make you feel like you’re playing through a classic Marshall.
Overall, the JHS Morning Glory V4 is a versatile and transparent overdrive pedal that will enhance your existing tone without drastically changing it. It adds color and grit with less gain than distortion or fuzz pedals, and can push tube amps harder or mimic the sound of driven tube amps for solid-state amps. If you’re looking for a pedal that delivers all the tonal and responsive nuance that your amp is missing, and nothing that your tone already has, the JHS Morning Glory V4 is definitely worth considering.
If you’re a blues or classic rock guitarist looking for warm, emotive overdrive and creamy yet crunchy distortion, the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver is a solid option. It has Level, Gain, and Tone controls for instant access to your desired tone, and provides a tube amplifier simulation for that great blues guitar sound.
The Boss BD-2 Blues Driver is known for its ability to deliver a smooth and natural overdrive that enhances your existing guitar tone without drastically changing it. While it may not be the best option for heavy metal guitarists, it is a great choice for those looking to achieve bluesy and classic rock sounds like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Customers have reported that this pedal works well with Fender Hot Rod Deluxe IV amps and provides the sound they are looking for. Additionally, the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver is a popular choice for those who are new to analog pedals, as it is easy to use and delivers great results.
Overall, the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver is a reliable and versatile overdrive pedal that can enhance your guitar tone in a natural and musical way. Its Level, Gain, and Tone controls give you a lot of flexibility to shape your sound, and the pedal’s tube amplifier simulation adds warmth and character to your playing. If you’re a blues or classic rock guitarist looking for a solid overdrive pedal, the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver is definitely worth considering.
Looking to add some serious grit and color to your guitar tone? Check out the Keeley D&M Drive! It’s a versatile overdrive and boost pedal that packs a powerful punch and can help take your playing to the next level.
This pedal offers a high-voltage Boost side for perfect tone on any amp. The Drive side provides a powerful gain stage for overdrive and lead work. Plus, it can be stacked together for unique tones, making it a must-have for any guitarist’s pedalboard.
One of the standout features of the Keeley D&M Drive is its pro switching system. It allows you to select which side comes first. This means you can configure it for independent Boost/Drive use with the G2 system, making it incredibly flexible and customizable to your needs. Plus, its toggle switch changes the order of gains for different tones, so you can experiment and find the perfect sound for your playing style.
Overall, the Keeley D&M Drive is a fantastic option for anyone looking for a versatile and high-quality overdrive and boost pedal. It’s sure to become a permanent fixture on your pedalboard. So why not check it out and take your playing to the next level?
The EarthQuaker Devices Westwood Translucent Drive Manipulator is a versatile and affordable overdrive pedal. It’s perfect for guitarists looking for a pedal that can push low-wattage combo amps into cutting-edge rhythms and articulate lead tones with even-order harmonics and sustain. The active EQ section allows players to tailor their tone to either warm and girthy or fizzy tones.
The Westwood can be used as a clean boost, dirt pedal, or main distortion. This gives players the ability to achieve the tube-like, organic warmth that solid-state amps lack. If you’re looking for a pedal that can provide you with warm and girthy or fizzy tones, the Westwood is perfect for you.
The affordable price tag also makes it a great option for guitarists who are on a budget. The Westwood can be paired with your favorite head and cab for even more output, and its versatility is unmatched by other overdrive pedals. Overall, the Westwood is a great option for guitarists looking for an overdrive pedal that is affordable, versatile, and can be used as a clean boost, dirt pedal, or main distortion.
Its ability to provide tube-like, organic warmth to solid-state amps makes it a must-have for any guitarist’s pedalboard.
Overdrive pedal from Famous Bands / Guitarists
Here’a look at some bands and the type of overdrive pedals they used.
What Overdrive Did Eddie Van Halen Use?
Eddie Van Halen is known for his iconic guitar playing style, which includes the use of various effects pedals to create his signature sound.
Early in his career, EVH didn’t use an overdrive pedal. He used many Marshall plexi and superlead. He eventually worked with Peavey to develop 5150 amp in 1992 and he used that amp moving forward.
Eddie Van Halen eventually developed and used was the MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive pedal. The MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive pedal was designed in collaboration with Eddie Van Halen to recreate the sound of his legendary 5150 amplifier when playign with other amplifiers. This overdrive pedal features a simple yet powerful design that allows guitarists to achieve the same classic tones that Eddie Van Halen is known for.
What Overdrive Does Metallica Use?
Metallica uses the Ibanez Tube Screamer in their live performances, which has been a staple in their sound for decades. It adds a warm and tight mid-range boost to their heavy riffs, and is known for its ability to push tube amps to their limit, creating a distortion that is perfect for heavy metal.
The Tube Screamer is also great for soloing, as it adds sustain and clarity to lead lines. Its popularity is due to its ability to add a natural-sounding overdrive that doesn’t overpower the original tone of the guitar. The Tube Screamer also responds well to different playing styles, allowing for more dynamic range in the sound.
The Ibanez Tube Screamer has been used by many famous guitarists in addition to Metallica, including Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Mayer. If you’re looking to add some overdrive to your sound, the Ibanez Tube Screamer is a great option to consider.
What overdrive pedal does David Gilmour use?
David Gilmour, the legendary guitarist of Pink Floyd, is known for his iconic tone and use of effects. One of the most important effects in his arsenal is the overdrive pedal, which he uses to add a rich, warm distortion to his guitar sound.
David Gilmour is famous for using the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi. This really isn’t an overdrive pedal has been a staple of his tone for decades and has been featured on many of Pink Floyd’s most famous songs, such as “Comfortably Numb” and “Money.”
The Big Muff Pi is a fuzz pedal that produces a thick, saturated distortion that can range from a warm, vintage sound to a harsher, more aggressive tone. It features a simple three-knob layout that allows for easy control over the level, tone, and sustain of the distortion.
Later in his career, David Gilmour switched to using the BK Butler Tube Driver when he started doing his solo tours. The pedal is known for its warm and responsive tone, which is achieved through the use of a vacuum tube. The Tube Driver is also highly versatile, offering a range of gain and tone options that allow guitarists to dial in the perfect sound for their playing style.
With so many options out there, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one. But with expert reviews and testing, you can rest assured that any of the pedals mentioned in this article will enhance your tone and take your playing to the next level.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, an overdrive pedal is a must-have for any guitarist. It’s a versatile tool that can be used to add warmth and grit to your tone, or to push your amp into overdrive for that classic rock sound. So, don’t hesitate to add one (or more!) of these pedals to your arsenal.
Your ears (and your audience) will thank you.