I’m sharing reviews for the best overdrive pedals for electric guitars you can buy right now. The items I chose can fit all budgets: I have entry-level options, mid-level options, and professional, costly options that can take your sound to another level.
Are you thinking vintage and powerful? Well, the overdrive pedal brings that sweet, cranky, and warm tube amp distortion to your electric guitar. Personally, this is my favorite kind of pedal, and I think it’s paramount to every guitar player as it can fit so many genres.
In fact, I consider the 4 pedals every guitar player should have are: chorus pedals, delay pedals, reverb pedals, and overdrive pedals.
Stay with me and learn everything you need to know about overdrive pedals.
- 1 Overdrive vs. distortion
- 2 What do overdrives pedals do?
- 3 OD pedals: where do they come from?
- 4 Buying advice: what to look for on overdrive pedals?
- 5 The top 10 best overdrives pedals reviews
- 6 Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
- 7 Fulltone OCD V2
- 8 Joyo JF-02 Ultimate Drive
- 9 Boss BD-2 Blues Driver
- 10 EarthQuaker Devices Plumes Small Signal Shredder Overdrive
- 11 Keeley Electronics D&M Drive
- 12 Fender Santa Ana Overdrive
- 13 Electro-Harmonix Soul Food
- 14 JHS Morning Glory V4
- 15 Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive
- 16 In summary…the top 5 choices
- 17 Final Considerations
Overdrive vs. distortion
Overdrive and distortion pedals are usually sold as the same thing. In reality, though, these two effects are very different.
Although they both work with the purpose of boosting the sound, the impact and how they work is very different.
The overdrive effect
Before it was even a pedal effect, it was already a collateral effect of cranking the volume of a valve-tubes amplifier You see, these amps use vacuum tubes to handle the amplification. These tubes have a lot of headroom, so guitarists can dial-up the volume knobs without destroying the instrument’s sound.
Then, the overdrive happens when you feed tube amps with too much power as it starts to “clip”, which gives you the coveted overdriven sound.
More impressive, you can achieve this overdriven tone by simply playing your guitar harder, as tube amps are very dynamic and react to the strength of your strumming.
So, whereas you can get this organic distortion with expensive tube amps, you can also achieve this without having to turn the volume knob and whilst having a cheaper, modern solid-state amp. The overdrive pedal gives you that “soft-clipping” phenomenon that produces harmonic overtones.
So you can use overdrive pedals with both solid-state and tube amps. More so, the best way to use these pedals is through the clean channel of the amp. It allows you to reach distortion without having to change the strength of your strumming or without having to roll up the knobs.
Here’s how overdrive pedals sound:
In professional terms, overdrive pedals produce soft-clipping on the sound waves.
I’m one to recommend overdrive pedals to anyone and for anything. However, if I wanted to be more honest, overdrive goes for genres that don’t require a lot of distortion.
Good examples are indie music, blues, jazz, country, garage rock, hard rock, alternative rock, and even progressive rock.
There’re plenty of professional bands using overdrive pedals. The most iconic guitar players who have used these pedals include Jimmy Hendrix, Steve Ray Vaungh, Peter Frampton, The Edge (U2), and Radiohead’s Jhonny Greenwood.
Even so, these are a great addition to harder genres. If you place these pedals before distortion pedals on the signal chain, the overdrive will actually increase the gain of your distortion pedal. It’s a great way to increase sustain and volume for those big solos and lead riffs.
Another thing is some artists use overdrive pedals as a volume boosts for these devices can also increase the tube amp’s gain, and it does so whilst retaining the amp’s original tone.
However, how they react to solid-state amps depends on the amp itself: some solid-state amps will actually give you a softer sound when you turn on the overdrive, while others will deliver the volume boosts.
You must know that there are clean boost pedals that amp the volume of your guitar without coloring the tone.
Distortion pedals and OD pedals can work great together.
On the contrary, a distortion pedal produces a hard-clipping phenomenon, which gives dissonant and enharmonic overtones.
“Enharmonic overtones” is another way of describing overtones that are dissonant with the notes you’re playing. This is why playing chords with lots of distortion doesn’t sound very good. And it’s also why you should play power chords or single notes when you engage a distortion pedal.
Still, distortion sounds are fuller, more complex, and more powerful. In fact, distortion pedals give hard rock and metal genres their particular tone.
This is how distortion pedals sound:
Use of distortion pedals
As distortion adds complexity and sustains to your guitar tone that increases as the distortion level increases.
Distortion pedals are the easiest way to get metal and hard rock sound, so they are practically essential for these genres.
In theory, you can push an amp hard enough to get metal and hard rock tones with just an overdrive pedal, but you would need a high-quality guitar gear to reach it, so it’s much simpler to just use a distortion pedal.
One more thing: there’s a variety of distortion pedals in the market aimed for different genres. In summary, some are good for classic rock, others for hard rock, and others for metal.
Even so, here’s a popular metal song played with overdrive pedals:
The third alternative: Fuzz pedals
Fuzz pedals also distort the sound but with a unique effect separate from overdrive and distortions.
As I said before, distortion uses enharmonic overtones while overdrive uses harmonic overtones. The fuzz is a dramatic increase in the harmonic phenomenon so that it clips the signal so much that it creates a new tone.
In professional terms, fuzz pedals clip your guitar to the extreme in a phenomenon known as square-wave clipping. More so, it compresses the distortion to give you a new sound.
Artists known for using fuzz pedals include The White Stripes, Pink Floyd, Kaleo, The Black Keys, Ritchie Kotzen, and more.
Here’s a video example of how fuzz pedals sound:
If you’re interested, fuzz pedals are great for garage rock, blues rock, and classic rock. However, this is a less versatile effect than distortion and overdrive. If you’re looking to cover as much ground as possible on a tight budget, you’ll probably be happier with an overdrive pedal.
I already made a review on the best budget fuzz pedal there is the Behringer Super Fuzz.
Overdrive is the tone of blues, classic rock, and other roots genres. If your guitar playing is heavily inspired in this music, then overdrive is for you.
Furthermore, overdrive pedals are pretty versatile and are able to achieve hard rock and metal tones if used correctly.
Even so, distortion is the defining effect of meral and rock and has evolved pretty much from its main use.
By simply knowing the difference between these two effects plus how they work, you can start your journey towards your perfect tone.
OD pedals imitate the organic distortion of tubular amplifiers.
What do overdrives pedals do?
Overdrive pedals play several roles on your setup:
- On the clean channel: it makes the tone richer and more saturated. If you turn the gain or drive knob of the overdrive up, it gives you an aggressive color.
- On the dirt channel: the result varies according to the amp’s channel and the other pedals you’re using. Usually, you get a completely new tone on your distorted sound, and the tone is generally bigger.
- On other pedals: when you stick the overdrive pedal before a distortion pedal, you’ll get a louder tone with more power and definition.
OD pedals: where do they come from?
The overdrive is the result of an accident. When ‘40s and ‘50s blues and jazz guitar players started to push their amplifiers to the limit, they discovered distorted sounds.
People first though distorted sounds were a mistake, so the music industry said distortion wasn’t a valid guitar effect.
Early uses of OD also came from using broken tube amplifiers.
When louder music came to existence (such as punk), the effect started to gain more popularity and it became an essential part of every band’s set up by the late ‘60s and ‘70s.
Since then, manufacturers have been creating more and more pedals to achieve these “accidental distortions,”
Overdrive pedals can work on solid-state amps and tube amps equally well. I advise you to use it on the clean channel of the tube amp, although you can certainly plug this on the distortion channel of your digital amp.
Buying advice: what to look for on overdrive pedals?
So, at its core, the overdrive pedal is a tiny box that packs the sound of rock&roll. From the sweet bluesy growl to howling, fiery lead lines needed for heavier genres, the overdrive is a must-have effect for almost any guitar player.
In fact, it’s very common for guitar players to get overdrive pedals before any other effect, as they start to build their own pedalboard. The other two most common pedals are reverb and a tuner.
But here’s the question: what makes an overdrive pedal good, or better than others?
If you’re a beginner guitar player, then I bet choosing the best overdrive pedal that suits your needs, budget and desired style can be overwhelming. There’re tons and tons of pedals and pedal manufacturers nowadays, so we have hundreds of choices.
Here’s how you can help yourself make an informed decision.
Overdrive pedals vs boost pedals
First and more importantly, don’t confuse boost pedals with overdrive pedals.
Boost pedals only raise the level of the guitar signal. They often ship with a 2-band EQ (treble and bass) plus gain and level knobs (gain amplifying the effect itself, and level raising the unaltered guitar’s volume).
You might want to choose a boost pedal if you already have a tube amplifier. It can add a generous amount of gain and easily push your guitar towards the lead-tone territory.
To use it right, set the amp right before is breakup point. Then, by turning the boost on and off, you’ll be able to swap between clean and overdriven tones.
Another way to use boost pedals is to put it at the end of your signal chain to keep your signal level on pair with the amp.
You might have a low-output guitar you’d like to boost before any of the other effects on your chain.
Now, overdrive pedals give you more options. However, both modern and vintage reissues more or less mimic the breaking point of tube amplifiers, where playing softer gives you a clean sound and playing harder gives you a crunchy sound.
Many overdrive pedals allow you to obtain higher-gain sounds appropriate for aggressive rhythms and lead guitars.
Overdrive pedals often ship with a boost control to drive the amp harder when you engage the pedal. So, if you combine this pedal with the amp’s natural overdrive character, you can get a monstrous tone.
And lastly, most overdrive pedals intend to do what they’ve always done, which is essentially emulating the analog sound of tube amps turned much louder than they actually can.
Other upper-range overdrive devices will give you more complex controls and the ability to adjust settings like boost, “Compcut,” and “Mosfet.”
The Tube Screamer is one of the most popular OD pedals on the market.
Getting an OD is not very expensive. You might very well get a high-quality OD without going deep into your wallet. However, as I hinted on above, there’re different levels of OD pedals that you can access depending on your price point.
So, for example, the entry-level Joyo JF-02 gives you a standard sound plus standard settings, if that’s what you’re looking for.
As you see, the controls of an OD product depends mostly on its price range.
The standard OD pedal gives you:
- Volume/level: raises the volume of the guitar without altering the tone.
- Gain: raises the volume of the effect, so it distorts the sound even more as you dial the knob up.
- High pass / lowpass: a 2-band EQ.
- Bypass: activates the true bypass option.
- Tone: alters the tone of the guitar slightly, sometimes going from vintage tones to more modern sounds.
The quality difference from pedal to pedal revolves around how effective each of these controls is, although all of the controls are practically the same.
More complicated controls come when you push more money into it. Some high-end OD pedals add more complex configurations.
There’s also an ongoing trend of having onboard editing features on guitar pedals, as well as the ability to create, store, select presets. However, these options are not common on OD products as they tend to have an old-school design.
However, there’s another trend regarding OD devices, which is the ability to edit settings via a mobile device through an app, or with a computer with additional software. More so, the app would allow you to control the effects of the pedal remotely.
I advise you to go for simple OD effects, as this is an old-school pedal. More so, the more complex it is, the more difficult it will be to navigate as you play live or rehearse. For instance, products with onboard editing or additional apps make it harder to switch between settings.
Otherwise, you could find presets and apps attractive because a phone’s screen is usually a better place to adjust the settings than the devices’ LED screens.
The Fulltone OCD is a perfect example of OD pedal’s usual control knobs.
Now, even when OD pedals can fit with any form of amplified music, there’re some of these devices that are more focused on the kind of sound they produce as, for example, the result might be too bluesy.
So, in recent years, OD pedals have branched off blues and rock (and all of its subgenres, which include hard rock, rock&roll, metal, alternative rock, indie, progressive rock,…). Now, we can find ODs made for techno, Electronic Dance Music (EDM), soul, and pop.
OD pedals are usually not too large, thin, and light, which is why they are so pedalboard-friendly.
Most of these pedals ship with the basic settings, so the size and weight are about the same. What changes, though, is the chassis. Some manufactures tend to sell cheaper pedals by using plastic as the chassis material (like Behringer), which makes its cheaper, lighter, but also less sturdy than metal or aluminum bodies.
Additionally, some OD pedals may have a larger foot switch than others, like for example the Ibanez and Boss pedals I’m reviewing down below. Other OD devices also have a button instead of a footswitch.
Higher-end products with more settings are bigger, probably twice as long. They are also heavier, probably twice as heavy. That means they are better for home studios rather than carrying it around. Or you could also have a small guitar gear (if you rely on an amp’s effects rather than pedals, like for example the Boss Katana), or with a roadie.
Most OD pedals have the same size as they have the same features.
True Bypass is the method the guitar’s signal uses to travel through a device without any side effects like noises and interferences.
When you engage a True Bypass switch, then the guitar’s signal will go straight from the pedal to the amp, and it gives a stronger body to the original tone of the instrument.
Not all products have a True Bypass switch, though, because it can create some troubles as inconsistent volume, noise switching, or louder volumes.
There’s a second option, which is Buffered Bypass, a type of preamplifier that drives the sound and lets you use longer cables without worrying about noise switching. However, the signal does change slightly as it travels through the cables.
Most OD pedals have Buffered Bypass, but you can also find som with True Bypass or no bypass at all.
How to choose between these options? Well, if you have a long string of devices on your pedalboard, then a Buffered Bypass is probably best. However, if you’re intending to connect the pedal straight to the amp, the True-Bypass is a necessity.
Boost pedals are usually at the beginning of the signal chain, but overdrive pedals can sit comfortably near the end, just before heavier effects like distortion.
Mono vs. Stereo
In the context of guitar pedals, mono vs. stereo means the number of outputs the device has.
For example, a mono-product has one output channel, whereas stereo products have two output channels so you can create a stereo mix if you have two speakers or amplifiers available.
Stereo sound is always more progressional, has more depth, and more clarity. However, it requires a larger gear, thus these are options aimed for professionals.
Mono outputs can still deliver very detailed sound, although some low-quality pedals might create some conflicting frequencies in a mono mix. I personally love mono channels because you can choose which channel to direct the mono mix to.
I should note that you can use stereo and mono products on the signal chain at the same time. You would have to place the stereo products at the end of the chain or risk losing half of your sound.
A great additional feature of OD products is the ability to control the pedal with MIDI. MIDI allows you to pre-program your device through a Digital Audio Workspace (DAW) like FL Studio.
Then, you can control the device through its MIDI input during the performance.
For example, one of the products I’m reviewing, the Source Audio L.A Lady allows you to control the pedal with the additional purchase of the Neuro Hub software.
Let me give you some more info of a pedal’s MIDI input with the following video:
Another extra feature these pedals may have is a connection to expression devices (like a footswitch) that may increase the performance and versatility of your OD.
The top 10 best overdrives pedals reviews
While I recognize I didn’t test every overdrive pedal out there, I did a lot of homework and research to review the best 10 overdrive pedals you can buy right now. I mean, there’s no point in reviewing an item you won’t find anywhere.
Now, keep in mind not every pedal is perfect for you, so I’m going to make my best effort to help you understand how these pedals can fit your necessities.
Keep in mind this depends on your existing guitar rig, as every part of your signal chain (your guitar, your effect pedals, your amplifier, and even your footswitches) affect how the overdrive fits into your sound.
Even so, There’re basically two kinds of overdrive:
- Transparent boosts, which give you more power without coloring the sound;
- Coloring pedals, which adds a lot of character to your guitar.
As for the other on your pedalboard, overdrive pedals tend to be right after the modulation pedals (chorus, reverb, flanger, phaser, tremolo, or vibrato).
FOREWORD: overdrive pedals are also known as OD or “drive pedals.” Here’s our prior guide on drive pedals.
Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
It’s difficult to search around the guitar pedal world without seeing the Tube Screamer. This is an iconic pedal that has reincarnated several times since it was born in the late ‘80s.
The TS9 is the reissue of the original Tube Screamer and has become the most popular of the series ever since. In fact, it’s on the #1 spot in Guitar Word’s The Top 50 Stomp Boxes, Devices, and Processors of all Time list.
No wonder why this is our #1 pick and why it deserves a spot alongside your guitar pedals.
Let’s get something clear. This is not a very versatile pedal. Instead, it does one thing and it’s perfect at what it does.
What it does is boost the mid and high-frequency signals to give you a more dynamic tone with some additional gain and power.
That’s why this is the quintessential overdrive pedal: it’s easy to use, simple, straightforward, and deliver the one single effect overdrive should do.
Also, this is not a modern, high-gain pedal, which is why the sound is the pure analog overdriven tube, and the crunch depends on your playing dynamics. That gives you an extra bite, turns your guitar alive, and improves any genre you’re playing.
As for controls, you get Drive (which is like a gain knob), Tone, and Level. Dig through the settings and you’ll hear how much character you can add to your guitar, which mostly depends on the Drive knob.
If you pay with the Drive knob at 0%, the Tube Screamer gives you a clean boost with just a little bit of dirt and grit. Also, it adds a mid bump that’s signature for this model.
As you turn this knob up, the TS9 starts to shine and outshine other OD pedals. Whilst it retains a bit of the original signal, it makes the sound grittier, stronger, and punchier as your roll it up.
You’ll definitely love how good this pedal works on both the clean and the distortion channel of the amp. More so, it plays extremely well with other distortion pedals as it gives your guitar just the right amount of clarity, definition, and grit needed to cut through the mix.
Furthermore, this pedal has a buffered bypass switch as it’s designed to work alongside other pedals. However, you can get it modded if you need this to have a true bypass option.
Overall, the controls let you access a clean boost; a warm, subtle crunch, or a responsive analog distortion.
The Tube Screamer is an iconic pedal for good reasons and has been used for countless recordings and shows around the world. Artists who have used the Ibanez Tube Screamer include Steve Ray Vaugh, Jerry Cantrell, The Edge, Noel Gallagher, Rory Gallagher, Billi Joe Armstrong, Kirk Hammer, Joan Jett, John Mayer, Gary More, John Petrucci, Carlos Santana, Steve Vai, and late Metallica’s legendary bass player Cliff Burton (particularly for the intro bassline of For Whom the Bell Tolls).
So, if you’re on the lookout for a dirty stompbox, I recommend the Tube Screamer as your first pedal. It will wor especially well if you have a good distortion channel on your amp or if you have a distortion pedal already. However, if you’re looking for a bit more versatility, though, you can go for our next pick, the Fulltone OCD, although that’s a pricier device.
Fulltone OCD V2
This is the top-seller Overdrive pedal for profesionnal musicians, and I choose this as the premium choice OD for a reason.
The Fulltone Obsessive Compulsive Drive sells for an attractive mid-level price that has helped it become one of the most recommended pedals ever.
The reason is this is a very versatile pedal that delivers a great tone.
Its main feature is the two switchable modes it has. The pedal features a 2-way switch to toggle between LP (Low Peak) mode and HP (High Peak) mode.
- The Low Peak Mode is like a transparent boost. Users describe the LP as a having a Finder-like amplifier sound.
- The High Peak Mode is an aggressive overdrive that delivers a definite volume boost, in particular in the mids and high frequencies. Users describe this mode as a “British” distortion, like a Vox or a Marshall amp.
Additional controls include volume, tone, and drive knobs (gain).
The experience it gives is very smooth, as this pedal is very responsive to your playing and your amp settings. More so, the sound it delivers is the classic analog distortion of a cranked tube amp.
You can really crank some dirt with this pedal with practically any amp. This also gives you a bassy and fat sound, plus defined high tones and harmonic mids. The result is a quality tone that truly enhances your existing guitar gear. And that’s why I love this pedal, and why people love this pedal.
As this device is very responsive to your guitar’s tone and volume, keep in mind your playing dynamics. That means playing softly keeps the OCD at bay. Then, as you dig in, you can really unleash the power of this pedal.
The tone knob is also impressive. As you turn it up and down, you’ll change from dark to bright sounds. Or you could also tame a bright amp, and remember solid-state amps are usually brighter and even more metallic-sounding than
My favorite thing about this pedal is how it responds when you turn down your guitar’s volume. It allows you to access a pretty vintage, classy, and subtle for your rythm guitars.
In summary, the Fulltone OCD gives you fair enough options for the money. It’s able to give you both a boosted clean tone as well as an unleashed overdrive defined tone.
More so, this pedal has a solid build and comes with a true bypass option.
I recommend the Fulltone for hard rock, metal, classic rock, blues, and alternative rock. You can even try this baby with our top picks for metal amps.
Joyo JF-02 Ultimate Drive
This is the best budget overdrive pedal there is, and represents a cheap way to get the same professional Fulltone OCD.
And saying cheap is an understatement. This pedal is dirty cheap for how good it sounds.
Joyo is a Chinese company that does what Chinese enterprises do better, which is copying other products and selling them for a bargain.
So, the Joyo JF-02 is the cheap copy of the Fulltone OCD V2. Although it doesn’t have the best packaging because it’s full of bad Chinse to English translations, once you plug this device, where it comes from doesn’t matter anymore.
Listen, the Joyo JF-02 sounds almost as good as the Fulltone OCD V2. However, I’m not sure if you’ll like that Darth Maul-like aesthetics, but I sure do!.
In terms of controls, the JF-02 gives you Gain, Level, and Tone knobs, plus the same 2-way toggle switch you find on the Fulltone OCD. As you expect, the switch toggles between LP and MP modes.
Switching from LP to HP brightens the tone and gives you a top-end sound that plays very nice with humbucker pickups.
I also love how responsive the gain knob is. When you turn it all the way down, you can get a transparent boost. On the other way, turning it up to the highest makes a huge difference in coloring the sound.
The JF-02 sounds very good and replicates the high-end sound of the Fulltone OCD pedal. It’s so similar you might wonder how it sells for such a low price. There’s one difference, though: with the same settings and the same guitar gear, the JF-02 has a darker sound than the OCD.
But even if the Joyo is not as bright as the OCD, is definitely has more gain. It can reach higher volume outputs and higher power than the OCD and, generally, you would have to turn the gain knob of the OCD higher to reach the gain output of the Joyo.
The tone control of this device can also get darker as it works as a treble control: as you roll it down, you get a fatter, darker sound, rich on low-end frequencies. That practically means the knob is unusable below 1 o’clock as it has too much mud and not enough clarity.
Lastly, this pedal has a single output and a single input.
All in all, this pedal is remarkably similar to the OCD, and despite its low price, I’m happy to report it has an all-metal chassis that’s sturdy and durable. In fact, this looks and feels much like a beloved MXR pedal.
In summary, this is a truly impressive budget pedal. Unless you’re a total sound purist, you won’t even hear a difference between this device and the much more expensive Fulltone Obsessive Compulsive Drive.
If you’re on a budget and you don’t care much about the brand, then this is the best option for you. Because this pedal goes to show you you don’t need to clean your bank to buy something pretty impressive.
Boss BD-2 Blues Driver
The acclaimed Boss BD-2 Blues Driver works for so much more than just blues. However, this pedal definitely excels in blues similar styles as the sound is warm, emotive, and responds to your playing dynamics just like a vacuum tube amplifier does.
It’s very similar to the prior alternative, the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer because it’s Boss’ alternative to the highly praised Ibanez’ OD.
And considering how good the Tube Screamer is, that really means something.
Even when this pedal was created to compete against Ibanez, it already gained plenty of popularity as John Mayer and Green Day’s guitar player Joe Armstrong have used this pedal for their shows. I also think this is the best overdrive pedal for beginners.
Let’s find out why…
As every Boss stompbox, the build quality of the Blues Driver is great. It looks like the classic Boss pedal and has some very attractive yellow and blue lettering.
Something I really like about this pedal is how easy it is, and thus how friendly it is for beginners. It has three knobs: level, gain, and tone; and it has a huge footswitch to turn the pedal on and off.
I love how responsive the knobs are and how many options they give you. For example, if you turn the gain knob at about 30%, you get the classic Jimmi Hendrix crunchy tone. Or roll the gain knob to about 70% to get that fat blues solo tone, and back to 60% for powerful lead lines filled with chords.
Then, there’s a tight relationship between your guitar’s volume and the BD-2’s tone knob. That gives you a fine grade, easy sound customization. The tone knob works best with half the guitar’s volume, and it lets you go from dark tones to extremely bright and high on treble. You can adjust this further with your amp/guitar combo.
Whilst the BD-2 excels in boosting your clean tone or creating a very broken, crunchy sound, it’s not meant to create high-gain distortions. Instead, it offers the familiar overdrive sound, a sound that’s friendly, non-intrusive, easy on the ears, and easy on the mix. That’s a feature I find great for beginners, as you wouldn’t have to meddle too much with this peddle to make it into your style.
The tone of the distortion, as I said, is warm. I would describe the overdriven tones as creamy and crunchy, sounds typical of vintage tube amps. Particularly, I love how this pedal reacts to your playing dynamics, which makes your sound feel more alive.
Even so, this pedal still packs a thick growl with all of the knobs turned right.
In summary, this is a top overdrive pedal that features a great tone and plenty of ease of use. I like this more over the Tube Screamer because it has more dirt, although it’s a bit difficult to tell the difference between this model and the Tube Screamer.
I’m sharing an affordable bundle that includes the pedal, the power supply, and 4 guitar picks.
NOTE: Boss has been releasing Waza Craft versions of some of their most popular pedals, like this Waza Craft analog chorus pedal. These devices have higher quality components designed by Boss engineers and sell for higher prices. If you’re into premium stuff, you can definitely check the Boss DB-2W.
Waza Craft versions are usually superior. However, the difference between the regular Blues Driver and the Waza Craft is so subtle I don’t think it’s really worth the extra investment.
EarthQuaker Devices Plumes Small Signal Shredder Overdrive
Whenever I do a pedal list, I always choose an item from EarthQuaker Devices. This is a company that tries to give little spins on known formulas and thus deliver creative, unique, and surprisingly affordable pedals.
The highlight of this pedal if its circuitry, which changes the standard overdrive circuitry formula for something more advanced that results in less noise, higher headroom, more clarity, and overall more sonic dimension.
It’s also very versatile. Its key function is its 3-way switch:
- The left position produces a saturated distortion. It works great with single-coil pickups and loud amps. It’s great for dirty rythm guitars.
- The middle position produces a soft-clipping distortion.
- The right position sounds darker and more compressed, and it works great with high distortion and high gain. It has an excellent balance and it’s very responsive to picking attack.
With the control knobs it has (Tone, Level, and Gain), you can further customize the sound. It allows you to keep the sound clean and noise-free.
It has an interesting feature called “Flexi-Switch Bypass”. If you press it quickly, it allows you to toggle the effect on and off in a standard manner. And when you hold it down, the OD sounds until you release the switch. This allows you to use the pedal in shorter bursts, which is a fun way to play once you understand how it works.
Overall, the Plumes has so much going on that I choose this as the best overdrive pedal for versatility. Not because you wouldn’t be able to find other OD pedals with more functions, but because it has so many possibilities with such simple controls. Plus, the Flexi-Switch its a really nice and creative addition you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
Keeley Electronics D&M Drive
The D&M Drive pedal is a device designed by hand. So, aside from a beautiful sound, it has a beautiful design.
This stompbox has an Overdrive and a Boost pedal at the same time, as both these effects can work independently. You see, this device has two soft-click footswitches to turn each effect on and off separately.
You can also have them both working at the same time, a feature that makes all the difference giving you a lot of crunches and drive for classic rock, country, blues, indie, alternative rock, and hard rock music.
The sound is very warm and vintage, and the definition is crystal clear especially on low volumes (either the guitar or the pedal). And just like other OD pedals, it really shines when you crank the gain up.
The controls are also pretty simple, as they are identical on both sides: Level, Gain, and Tone knobs are everything you will find in there.
On the downside, this is a very expensive pedal suited for pro players. The circuitry is very advanced and the sound it provides is a high-gain, high-voltage drive.
Also, this may very well give you the most perfect clean boost there is…for a cost!
In summary, the D&M is a top-end overdrive/boost pedal that sounds so good you’ll be tossing aside the Tube Screamer or the OCD. And that’s what you get for the money it costs, as this is a boutique pedal.
Fender Santa Ana Overdrive
The Fender Santa Ana Overdrive achieves the coveted analog distortion of Fender tube amps, so it’s impossible to disregard this device. More so, it packs an overdrive and a boost effect on the same pedal.
This is a rock-solid stompbox shipping in a red aluminum, sturdy chases and LED lights on the knobs to help you on dark stages.
The looks foretell the quality. It packs the classical Fender overdriven tone plus a lot of versatility:
- It has a 3-bad EQ (bass, middle & treble)
- It has a presence knob to sculpt your sound in and out the mix
- It has two different voicings: A, which is bright and warm; and B, which is darker and fatter.
- It has a switch that allows you to select between True Bypass or Buffered Bypass.
- It has Boost footswitch that allows you to give your boost some extra drive or just some extra volume.
People regard this pedal for how good it works with the knobs in the middle. It gives you a balanced drive with just enough dirt, just enough warm, and just enough boost.
The bottom line, Fender has created a great overdrive amp, as they have plenty of knowledge on the organic distortion of the valve tubes, and it shows. This pedal is a straightforward flavor into Fender drive and sounds very nice.
On the downside, it’s very pricy, but maybe it’s worth it because it provides more options than your typical OD stompbox.
Electro-Harmonix Soul Food
The EHX Soul Food is based on the legendary Klon Centaur from the same brand. However, this is a much cheaper alternative that delivers true bluesy, vintage overdrive and a clean boost.
Using your Soul Food on your pedalboard is as easy as it gets. It has a simple three-knob setup (Volume, Drive, and Trebble), which are very sensitive and respond as well as you’d expect.
On the pedal’s bottom cover, there’s also a switch that allows you to swap between True Bypass and Buffered Bypass.
I must add this pedal is a transparent overdrive because it introduces minimal color to your tone. Playing around the Drive knob allows you to get a clean boost with ridiculously high headroom. That means you should use this overdrive on the amp’s dirty channel.
Furthermore, as you crank the Drive knob, you’ll get more and more of that tasty bluesy distortion. Expect the sound to be nasal, heavy, and fiery.
In summary, EHX Soul Food is an easy-to-use simple pedal that delivers a great clean boost for a low cost. It works great when you stack this with other dirt pedals, like for example a fuzz.
JHS Morning Glory V4
Here’s another boutique pedal. The JHS Morning Glory is based on the highly acclaimed ‘90s Marshall Bluesbreaker pedal.
I personally chose this pedal because it’s a true transparent overdrive. It retains your original tone, adds a slight coloration, and keeps your EQ settings.
The pedal offers the three familiar knobs (Volume, Drive, and Tone). You also get a Gain toggle switch, which swaps LED lights from red to blue and gives you fat punch. Think of that option as two boost levels. Plus, you can plug an external footswitch to toggle this setting with your foot.
Rolling-up the Drive knob introduces more trebble into your sound, which is something you’d want to avoid if your gear is already bright. Lucky for you, there’s also a HI-CUT switch on the side of the pedal to tame the brightness.
In summary, The Morning Glory has a subtle color and a clear, powerful boost that’s as transparent as you can get. Keep in mind this is a pricy pedal as you’re on the boutique territory.
Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive
I’m closing the list with another Boss pedal. The SD-1 is a classic, affordable stompbox that features just about everything a beginner guitar player needs.
The SD-1 has been around for decades, and it’s so popular it’s Amazon’s current top seller overdrive pedal.
As for controls, it has Drive, Level, and Tone knobs, plus a footswitch to turn the pedal on and off.
Don’t let its looks and modest price fool you. This is a capable overdrive that has been abused by hundreds of pro artists, and it’s also one of the most sold pedals there is.
This pedal can make your guitar sound as if you had a classic Marshall tube amp (I’m talking about British overdrive). It works great on the amps dirty channel as a boost (with the Drive knob rolled-down and the Level knob all the way up).
Furthermore, the pedal is great when you pair it up with other dirt pedals.
On the downside, it doesn’t have a true bypass. This makes the pedal a little noisy, even a little unpredictable.
In summary, the SD-1 has been a mainstream choice for many years. It’s not a transparent pedal, instead, it adds plenty of British distortion color. Its downsides come with its low price.
If you ask me, I’d always go for the Joyo JF-02 if I were on a budget. But, if you can’t find this pedal or it doesn’t appeal to you, then the SD-1 is the second-best budget overdrive pedal you could find.
In summary…the top 5 choices
- Best overall: Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer.
- Premium choice: Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive.
- Best for value: Joyo JF-02 Ultimate Overdrive.
- Best for beginners: Boss BD-2 Blues Driver Bundle.
- Best for versatility: EarthQuaker Devices Plumes Small Signal Shredder.
Why should you use an overdrive pedal?
Guitar players seeking smooth, elegant and harmonic distortions will prefer overdrive pedals rather than fuzz or distortion devices.
Overdrive pedals are very friendly to your tone as they give you a more refined and clean sound. So, instead of destroying the signal to give you the distortion, they enhance and boost the signal and deliver a guitar full of color and personality.
I can also conclude OD pedals are probably the most flexible and versatile pedals you can find out there, as there’s no situation where you can’t use them. More so, they are compatible with all amps, guitars, and pedals.
If you ask me, the Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Pedal is the best overdrive pedal available in the market right now. That’s because it gives you the best sound, and has just enough customization options to give you a versatile and easy experience. It also has a True Bypass, so it can retain the natural tone of the guitar. More so, this product has a lot of history behind it, and a lot of musicians have used this pedal.
So, are they worth it? Certainly yes, and I’d be happy if an overdrive pedal is your first investment into guitar pedals. If you’re in between going for a fuzz, distortion or overdrive, I recommend you go for the OD because it has a warmer sound that’s versatile, friendly to the audience, and easy to use.
More so, if you’re a beginner, OD pedals can definitely represent a great opportunity to learn about your guitar, to tweak your sound, experiment, play songs you’ve never played, and have some fun.
So, unless you’re a jazz or a funk guitar player, I bet you can put an OD pedal to very good use.