An overdrive pedal is a device that alters the sound of amplified electric musical instruments, usually by increasing their gain. The best overdrive pedal is capable of adding distortion to the sound and warm, pleasant tones. That is why it’s considered to be one of the first effect pedals for any pedalboard by most experienced guitarists.
The overdrive is a kind of distortion effect. More precisely, it’s considered as a subtler form of the distortion effect. The overdrive pedals are most commonly used with the electric guitars but may also be used with other electric instruments such as bass guitar, electric piano, etc.
One of the greatest things about this pedal is that it’s not complex. It frequently serves as the first stompbox that the beginners look for when they want to change their sound. Additionally, the overdrive is quite a versatile type of effect pedal. It’s able to produce everything from sweet blues crunching to solo parties in heavier genres. That is why the veteran guitarists also recognize the value of having a good overdrive pedal in their signal chain.
The overdrive pedals were used by The Rolling Stones “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, Jimi Hendrix “Purple Haze”, Black Sabbath “Into The Void”, etc. Nowadays, it can be heard in the songs of Muse “Hysteria” and The Kills “Future Starts Slow”.
If you’re a beginner musician, the choice of the best overdrive pedal can be confusing. There are hundreds of models from dozens of manufacturers with different price ranges, and all of them have their pros and cons. Therefore, if you are curious about which overdrive pedal is the most suitable for you, our article will supply you with all the information you need to make an informed decision.
Overdrive Pedal Reviews
This guitar overdrive pedal from Fulltone can give you both soft blues tones and loud heavy metal tones thanks to two modes: Low Peak and High Peak. These modes give the possibility to reach both aggressive and warm tones. The Low Peak mode gives your sound a certain boost, providing a more aggressive overdrive. The usage of the High Peak mode gives more volume to the sound and increases the level of mid and high frequencies.
This pedal can deliver the sound of a true tube amplifier since it has similar sensitivity and responsivity to the user’s playing style. Plus, its sound remains consistent regardless of its location in the signal-chain thanks to the output buffer which is easy to adjust.
This OCD overdrive is a compact model (5.1 x 3.3 x 2.4 inches) that weighs half a pound. It’s supplied with three standard knobs (Volume, Drive, and Tone) that are very sensitive to touch. Additionally, it also has a switch for True Bypass and Enhanced Bypass.
- The pedal provides the no-fuss operation.
- Knobs with a lot of flexibility.
- This pedal goes with some extra cables.
- The battery replacement is not easy as you have to remove screws for this.
- There is some excessive amount of low frequencies when you turn on the gain.
Video Fulltone OCD
This tube overdrive pedal has a dense sound of a tube amplifier and allows getting a great variety of various effects — from warm overdrive to heavy distortion. With 8.7 x 6.8 x 2.4 inches of size dimensions, this pedal doesn’t pretend to be compact since it’s mainly designed for live performances. With more than 3 pounds of weight, it’s also quite heavy.
This Behringer VT999 is capable of giving out a warm sound thanks to the 12AX7B vacuum tube. Moreover, the pedal has a built-in noise suppressor that can control and adjust the suppression degree, providing complete silence during gaps between playing.
The pedal has the LED indicator which lights up blue when the effect is on. The True Hardwire Bypass system ensures clean signal integration. Being supplied with the Threshold, Gain, Master, Treble, Mid, and Bass controls, the pedal allows shaping the sound in a desired manner. The 3-band EQ contributes to timbre transparency and makes the pedal compatible with almost any equipment and music genre. The pedal can be powered by a standard 9V battery.
- The single tube does its job well in delivering a warm and full tone.
- The housing of the pedal is made of solid steel and has a classic vintage look.
- The pedal requires a pre-heat period before each use.
- The volume dropped once without touching the knob.
Video Behringer Vintage Tube Monster VT999
The JHS Morning Glory is designed to provide a transparent overdrive that doesn’t have any excess mid frequencies. The frequency response of this overdrive tends to be as flat as possible to keep the sound natural.
The pedal has standard Volume, Drive, and Tone knobs. Additionally, it’s supplied with two-position Gain toggle-switch which allows playing both completely clean and rock ‘n’ roll tones. It also activates the Boost mode. In this mode, the pedal sounds more powerful, the signal has more low frequencies, and the level of overdrive is much higher.
Since this bass overdrive pedal may seem overly bright for some combinations, there is a Hi-Cut switch on its side panel which eliminates the excess high frequencies.
Despite being quite small (6 x 3 x 3 inches), except for standard input and output, the pedal has the Red Remote jack. It allows pairing the device with JHS Red Remote for switching between the higher gain mode and standard mode on the fly. It can be powered by standard power supplies with an output voltage of 9V.
- This pedal has true bypass.
- LED changes from blue to red, indicating the boost circuit status.
- It can’t be powered via batteries.
- The pedal can’t produce huge volume.
Video JHS Morning Glory V4
The JHS Double Barrel is a versatile dual overdrive pedal that provides overdrive at medium and light gain levels.
The right side of the pedal (the Moonshine V2) provides strong and saturated sounding. It has controls for Volume, Drive, Tone, and Clean Blend which allows mixing clean signal and overdrive signal. It also has a Proof toggle switch with the help of which you can select one of two overdrives: a dynamic Open or rich and dense Saturated.
The left side of the pedal (Morning Glory) gives a transparent sound that can serve as a clean booster or an aggressive overdrive. It’s supplied with Volume, Drive, Tone controls and Gain toggle with Red Remote capability. By plugging the JHS Red Remote pedal into the Remote Gain jack, you can drastically change the level of the overdrive on the left side. You will get 5 overdrive options to choose from.
Both sides of the pedal complement each other well so you can use them together.
The pedal has 6.3mm mono in/out jacks. With 6 x 4 x 4 inches of size dimensions, the pedal is quite compact.
- The order of the pedal in the signal chain is switchable.
- The pedal is supplied with a true bypass.
- Despite being a 2-in-1 pedal, it consumes less than 100mA.
- Beware of the static that may appear when distortion or volume knobs are turned up.
- The switch may jam from time to time.
Video JHS Double Barrel V4
This TC Electronics pedal goes in a metal housing and sounds like an amplifier. Having an increased circuit board voltage, it gives more headroom and dynamics to provide more lively overdrive sound.
On the pedal, you will see Drive, Level, Bass, and Treble knobs to get full control over the overdrive. The Drive control also works as a booster at low frequencies. With these Bass and Treble controls, you can reach both thick tone and bell ringing at highs. Both controls are active which means that the 12 hours position is neutral, so you can add highs and lows and customize them in relation to the original signal.
Despite having four knobs and true bypass, the pedal is impressively compact: 5 x 3 x 4 inches. It can be powered by a 9V power supply or a battery.
- The pedal provides easy access to the battery compartment.
- It has the Voice Select switching so you can choose whether natural overdrive sound or a juicy tone.
- This model has flexible input and output which accept both instruments and line level signals/FX Loop.
- If the EQ is not set correctly, the pedal may sound slightly compressed.
- This model is not designed to provide heavy saturation.
Video TC Electronic MojoMojo
The Joyo ultimate drive is suitable for reproducing classic rock tones. It provides transparent overdrive and low gain which is suitable for light overdrive on a clean amplifier.
This model has three control knobs (Gain, Level, and Tone) and a High/Low tone switch which allows for flexibility. The true bypass switch is also available, letting your signal pass through a non-electronic bypass line when the effect is turned off. It also gives your amplifier direct, unaltered signal from your instrument.
The pedal features classic mini-size design (21 x 6 x 51 inches). It goes with a 9V battery, so it’s ready for usage right out of the box.
- The whole pedal is made of a durable aluminum alloy.
- It can recreate the tone of a tube amplifier at the high volume level.
- The pedal has convenient LED on/off indicator light.
- Sometimes bypass doesn’t let the signal go through.
- Some sounds are a little bit unfocused.
Video Joyo JF-02 Ultimate
This Boss overdrive pedal provides this classic, creamy, and crunchy sound which is perfectly suitable for blues guitar. It ensures warm overdrive and emotive distortion reminding the sound of old tube amplifiers.
The pedal features Gain, Tone, and Level controls which provide a great variety of low to moderate distortion sounds. It has standard input and output jacks, as well as an input for the power supply. In addition, this Boss BD-2 can be powered via a separate 9V battery.
The pedal has a high-quality construction able to survive some rough conditions during live performances.
- The Boss BD-2 blues driver responds to nuance and volume changes.
- With 3.9 x 3.9 x 1.6 inches of size, this pedal is a space-saving one.
- The pedal can deliver a good amount of grit when the Gain knob is turned up.
- The BD-2’s distortion may seem a little sharp for someone.
- The Tone knob can give some nasally tone.
Video Boss BD-2
This transparent overdrive pedal from Wampler can go from extremely thick tones to warm and natural overdrive. Three gain stages offer three distinct styles of overdrive that will easily add some grit to your sound without changing the tonality.
With 7 x 4 x 7 inches of size dimensions, the pedal isn’t big.
In this Wampler Euphoria review, I can assert that this pedal is among the most versatile ones thanks to its four sound-shaping control knobs. The Tone knob has a large range of adjustments, from smooth high frequencies to clear, precise notes. The Bass knob, except for adjusting the low frequencies, also adds more gain to the sounding. The Volume adjusts the output level of the pedal and the Gain control adjusts the desired level of crunch.
- The pedal has a completely true bypass with soft relay switching.
- The pre-gain bass control gives more sustain to your tone.
- The pedal tends to produce some hum sometimes.
- It may sound muddy with some guitars.
Video Wampler Euphoria V2
How to Choose the Overdrive Pedal?
The best overdrive pedals are intended to turn dry, clean tone into a warm, distorted timbre that is able to keep your listeners interested and excited. However, how do you get one?
You may want to hear the way your desired pedal sounds by watching videos, but that’s not what will give you the most accurate information. The better way to feel safe about your choice is to be aware of the unit’s specs, built quality, etc. That is why the overdrive review dedicated to the model you are interested in is a more reliable way to get yourself informed.
To make the right choice, you should make sure that the pedal will work with your amplifier. For this, you should consider how much distortion the pedal is capable of producing and what kind of distortion it provides. Some musicians search for some heavy distortion, the others consider the natural one as more pleasant. It’s also important to know how transparent the overdrive is. The flexibility of the pedal is important as well. The more knobs and switches it has, the more flexible the pedal is.
What Kind of Music Do You Play?
We are all used to hear the growling, harsh distortion in such genres as heavy metal and hard rock. Players of such music genres normally use the overdrive pedal to boost their amplifiers, adding some extra layers of gain to the sound. However, there is also a pleasant and soft overdrive distortion used to add color and warmth to the tone.
Mostly, they can be used with quite a wide range of music genres. They are widely used by musicians who play blues, country, rock ‘n roll, classic rock, etc. However, there are hundreds of different models and not all of them are equal. Some models are created specifically for rock, some are better for blues, the others work for metal. Although all of them are great helpers when it comes to singing and songwriting. Some musicians even tend to use several overdrive pedals on their pedalboards simultaneously to have different tones for different songs.
What’s Your Role in the Band?
Before opting for an overdrive pedal, you should understand how it will work with your instrument if you want to take your tone to the next level. This way, as a rhythm guitarist, you will need a pedal that is good at its low and medium gain settings. In this case, you may use the volume knob on your rhythm guitar to make the sound dirtier or cleaner. This way, you will be able to reach tones in the range from the 50s blues to contemporary country and sound very balanced and organic.
If you are a lead guitarist, you may want to emphasize higher frequencies. So, you will need a specific model for a gain boost. Most likely you will need all the gain that the pedal is able to provide. You can also hit the front end of your amplifier harder and control the speaker’s volume via your amplifier. This method was frequently used by Stevie Ray Vaughan, for example.
It also should be mentioned that some models of overdrive pedals have a specific frequency response. But you don’t need such model just because you’re a leading guitarist. After all, you may alter the frequency response the way you want on any pedal and even place an EQ after it if needed.
If you are a universal player, the overdrive pedal that features at least three control knobs is able to give you quite a wide choice for sound customization.