One of the reasons why there are so many overdrive pedals on the market is that they are quite popular with a wide variety of guitar players. Overdrive pedals, unlike most other effects units, aren’t meant to radically alter your tone; rather, they’re meant to enhance it. Rather of completely changing the picture, the best overdrive pedals bring color to your sound. They normally don’t have as much gain as distortion or fuzz pedals, but they do provide a little more grit, sustain, and, if dialed in, volume.
An overdrive pedal can be used in a variety of ways, but it’s most commonly employed to as a starting point to either push a tube amp harder, resulting in natural, harmonic distortion, or to replicate the sound of a driven tube amp while using a solid state amp. They’re also used by certain players to tighten up or shape their tone a little more.
Table of Contents
Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
- Classic tone Tone, drive, and level controls
- Tone, drive, and level controls give you access to warm, amp-like overdrive that's touch sensitive and ready to rip
- The Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer is a reissue that's just like the original in so many ways
The first, and still the best overdrive pedal in many respects. The Tube Screamer is pure blues heaven with the gain, loudness, and tone pushed back. However, if you turn up the volume and open up the tone, you’ll discover that it’s more than capable of creating modern rock tones at an affordable price tag sounding overdrive.
Dim the volume and reduce the gain somewhat in front of a tube amp, and you’ll be in metal territory. A TS set up as a boost, with gain down, volume way up, and tone up, in front of a Peavey 5150 or comparable high-gain amp can produce a characteristic modern metal ‘djent’ tone. Lower the bass on the amp and start chugging series overdrive.
The TS9 is ideal for a wide range of genres, including rock, metal, blues, and country. The pedal has a low learning curve, and the subtle tone options make it a highly flexible pedal all rounder for guitar sound. John Mayer, James Hetfield, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ray Toro, and Buddy Guy have all utilised this pedal for rhythm tones.
The Tube Screamer is a legendary pedal for a reason: it’s been heard on stages all around the world and on numerous recordings. Whether you should get one or not is largely determined by the state of your pedalboard’s “dirt” section. We hesitate to recommend the Tube Screamer as your first overdrive true bypass power or distortion pedal if you don’t already own any. We prefer the adaptability of a Fulltone OCD for this. If you play classic rock or blues and your amp has a good distortion channel or you already own a distortion pedal, we can’t suggest the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer highly enough. This is the Best Overdrive Pedal in 2023.
Electro-Harmonix Soul Food
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The Electro-Harmonix Soul Food’s inclusion on the list comes as no surprise. It’s the best of the boutique Klon Centaur clones at a much lower price, so it’s a no-brainer for anyone looking for something in that sub-class. However, some consider it to be one of the best, if not the best, overdrive pedal.
It excels at providing a sensitive overdrive that reacts to your playing dynamics while maintaining transparency, allowing your own tone to shine through with a pleasing, albeit slight, low-mid bump for added warmth to your amp sound.
Many people like this pedal because of the higher output it offers, which can be used to create a clean boost or a smooth, crunchy overdrive with a lot of bass. This is made possible by the increased headroom and definition provided by the boosted power rails. The Soul Food pedal’s warmth and bass add “soul” without being muddy.
The Treble knob, which has a steep roll-off, is used to control the high-end. If you prefer, you can reduce the Drive to make it more of a clean boost. This vintage, retro-sounding pedal offers a plethora of options. When compared to the original Klon Centaur, many people think this is essentially a freebie. Bottom line, if you’re familiar with that sound and would like to hear it, take a look at the effects pedals. This is the Best Budget Overdrive Pedals in 2023.
Fulltone OCD V2 Obsessive Compulsive Drive Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal
- Compulsive Drive Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal
What was once a common competitor in the world of overdrive pedals is now a well-known model that many guitarists trust and enjoy for its great sounding. The Obsessive Compulsive Drive Pedal was born as a result of Fulltone’s understanding of what the people needed.
With its superb and readily controlled gain, the OCD creates a deadly overdrive. The OCD has three volume, drive, and tone controls, as well as a High/Low Peak switch. It features the same volume, drive, gain settings and tone settings as the preceding pedals, but it also contains a one-of-a-kind HP/LP switch. The letters HP and LP stand for High Peak and Low Peak, respectively. The LP mode has less distortion and gain, whereas the HP mode has more punch and distortion, which is ideal for metal.
Upgrades include a selector for “Enhanced Bypass” and “True-Bypass,” an output buffer, and a Class A configured discrete 2N5457 JFET input section, which raises the input impedance to 1 mega ohm and increases dynamics. You get a lot of overdrive possibilities for your money with the Fulltone OCD, from a boosted clean tone to an all-out overdriven-yet-still-detailed tone that hits the sweet spot.
The pedal is well-made, genuine bypass, and comes with a 9V battery for a very reasonable price. We tested it with three different amps (a Fender Bassman, a Vox AC15, and an Orange CR30R), and the OCD worked well with each. You can really blast the bottom end on this pedal, and despite how bassy and thick the low end gets, you’ll adore how wonderful the tone quality remains. It’s fantastic.
Boss BD-2 Blues Driver Guitar Effects Pedal
- Disttion Overdrive Effects Guitar Pedal with Tube Amplifier Simulation Blues Guitar Tone with Level
- Gain Controls
- Classic "blues" guitar tones with tube amp simulation
The Boss Blues Driver can be used for a variety of purposes. The overdrive tone is frequently compared to the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer, which is a high compliment as far as drive pedals go. Countless professional guitarists in the blues, pop, rock, and alternative genres (such as John Mayer and Billie Joe Armstrong, for example) still rely on this pedal during live performances. The Tone, like most, can be adjusted from bright to dark, while the Gain can be adjusted from a cleaner grit to a very warm distortion tones and crunchy sound for the guitar signal. Most people think this is a much more reliable pedal that consistently delivers the overdrive effect you’ve come to expect. It excels at what you’d expect rather than creating its own distinct sound.
The knobs on this one, like those on other overdrive pedals, are familiar: LEVEL, GAIN, and TONE. You can get a crunchy Hendrix-like tone by setting the Gain to around 30%. You have a lot of fine-grained control over the amount of crunch and break-up thanks to the interaction between your guitar’s volume knob and the BD-2’s tone.
To get a nice big blues solo tone while still being able to articulate chords, turn the gain knob to between 60% and 70%. The Tone knob, like the previous pedals we’ve discussed, lets you adjust the tone from very dark to very bright and treble control, and you’ll adjust it depending on your guitar/amp combo.
Waza Craft versions of some of Boss’s most popular pedals have been released, which are essentially made with higher-quality components by Boss engineers in Japan, and incorporate the mods that Keeley and others used to do. However, they do come at a higher cost. Is the higher cost of the Boss BD-2W justified? Some say there’s a subtle difference (for example, more low end and less noise), while others say it’s too close to tell and thus not worth it. We’re a bit more in the latter camp, though if you have the spare cash you might as well go the Waza Craft route since it’s a more “premium” pedal.
TC Electronic MojoMojo Overdrive Compression Effect Pedal
- Drive, level, bass and Treble controls - total control of your overdrive sounds
- True bypass - Zero loss of tone
- Voicing switch - for an awesome mid-shift
TC Electronics provides excellent quality at a reasonable price. The MojoMojo Overdrive Pedal delivers and enhances the tonal aspects of your solos in the finest way possible, even if you’re on a budget. The MojoMojo is protected by a tough, heavy-duty housing. It also includes two band EQs, Level and Drive controls, and a Voice switch for completely customising your tone. You can easily tune in a whole spectrum of tones using just this pedal if your imagination runs wild.
Regardless of construction, this beast is one of the greatest and includes a two-band equaliser, full bypass, the ability to be powered by a battery, and a voice switch, among other things.
The voice switch acts as a mid-boost, allowing you to emphasise or take some life from the warmth. This allows you to instantly change the tonal quality of the output without having to fiddle with the EQ knobs, which is very useful if you frequently swap guitars on stage, such as switching from a single-coil to a humbucker. Despite the fact that it’s a neutral overdrive, there’s no limit to the sounds you can make with the knobs. This is a powerful stompbox that will please even the harshest critics.
The bass knob has a lot more versatility than you would think. Turn it down for a harsh, thin-sounding crunch, or up for a deep, warm low-end that delivers the mojo its name suggests. If you don’t currently have a large pedal collection and want to add versatility to your signal chain, this will solve the EQ gap while adding a really nice overdrive to your signal route.
Keeley Electronics D&M Drive
- The perfect storm of Drive and Boost
- Offers a gorgeous sounding high-voltage Boost side which is designed to impart the perfect tone on any amp that needs to be pushed
- The Drive side offers everything you would want in a powerful gain stage. From flat honest overdrive that is perfect for any set of chords to searing...
The Keeley D&M Drive is a pedal that we instantly fell in love with. D&M stands for Daniel and Mick of That Pedal Show, who collaborated on this bad boy’s design. Aside from sounding excellent, this pedal has the unique feature of being both an OVERDRIVE and a BOOST pedal in one.
The Keeley D&M may be used as an overdrive or boost pedal independently, with two soft-click foot switches controlling which side is active. The really cool thing is that you can have both of them on at the same time, and a toggle switch lets you choose which way you want to stack them. And this feature really makes a difference, allowing you to tune in almost any style and degree of crunch/drive you can think of – country twang, blues rock, classic rock, and so on.
The Keeley D&M works well with other pedals, but the sound is so amazing that you might forget about your Tube Screamer and OCD. Consider the driving side to be a slightly modified OCD circuit, and the boost side to be a Klon circuit. We really like how good it sounds at low volumes, and it comes alive when you turn it up, exactly like any other pedal of this type. It’s not cheap for a boutique pedal, but considering what you get, we’d call it a bargain.
EarthQuaker Devices Palisades V2 Mega Ulitmate Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal
- Overdrive Pedal f Electric Guitar with 2 Gain Channels Controls f Clipping Voice
Almost every boutique pedal manufacturer produces a Tube Screamer clone, but EarthQuaker has taken a different approach. While the Palisades is based on the original TS808, it has a much wider range of choices than any other overdrive pedal we’ve encountered thus far.
Six clipping sounds and five distinct bandwidth settings (through a pair of rotary switches) are available: Before you start tweaking, try 30 different variants on the effect’s character! The end result is a pedal that enables you tune in a huge range of overdrive tones — not only superb TS impersonations, but considerably gainier drives bordering on distortion and fuzz, as well as transparent boost/overdrive.
Catalinbread Sabbra Cadabra Boost Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal
- Range, Gain, Presence and Vol 4 controls
- Optimized for drop-tuning but works equally well for standard tuning thanks to the RANGE control
- Customize the treble-booster section of the circuit and adjust it anywhere from treble-boost to full-range boost
There are no prizes for guessing which type of player the Catalinbread Sabbra Cadabra will entice. This cool-looking pedal is simply a Rangemaster-style treble boost with its own set of tricks. The volume, presence, and gain controls are all fairly normal, but the range control allows you to increase either high-end frequencies or the entire spectrum.
We think it sounds best with a detuned guitar and a high gain tube amp, and we had a lot of fun cranking out those legendary riffs with that rich, rowdy tone we’ve all come to know and love.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an Overdrive Pedal?
An overdrive pedal is an effect pedal used to add saturation or distortion to a guitar signal. It’s typically used to create a warm, vintage tone, similar to the sound of a tube amplifier. Overdrive pedals are commonly used in genres like blues, rock, and country.
How Does an Overdrive Pedal Work?
An overdrive pedal works by boosting the signal from a guitar’s pickups, which causes the signal to clip and create distortion. This creates the classic overdriven tone that’s so popular in rock and blues music. Overdrive pedals typically have knobs to control the level of distortion, tone, and volume, giving the player control over their sound.
What’s the Difference Between Overdrive, Distortion, and Fuzz Pedals?
Overdrive pedals are often confused with distortion and fuzz pedals. While they all create distorted tones, there are some key differences between them. Overdrive pedals produce a warm, natural distortion, while distortion pedals create a more aggressive, heavily distorted sound. Fuzz pedals produce an even more extreme, fuzzed-out sound, often associated with genres like grunge and stoner rock.
How Do I Choose the Right Overdrive Pedal for Me?
Choosing the right overdrive pedal depends on your personal taste and the sound you’re looking to achieve. Here are some things to consider:
Sound: Different overdrive pedals produce different tones. Listen to demos and read reviews to find a pedal that produces a sound you like.
Gain: Overdrive pedals have varying levels of gain. If you’re looking for a subtle boost to your signal, a low-gain pedal may be right for you. If you want a heavily distorted tone, a high-gain pedal may be more suitable.
Controls: Overdrive pedals have different control layouts. Some have only a few knobs, while others have more complex EQ controls. Consider which features are important to you.
Price: Overdrive pedals can range in price from under $50 to over $300. Consider your budget when selecting a pedal.