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You found a great guitar amp, but the first thing you notice is that it lacks the rough tone you hear in your favorite rock or metal songs. If you have a tube amp, the answer to this might be an overdrive pedal.

When shopping for an overdrive pedal, the best thing to do is ask someone who's been there, done that. So that's exactly what we did.

For this post on the 10 best overdrive pedals, we asked 10 different guitarists what their favorite overdrive pedal is, and why.

What does an overdrive pedal do?

There's often confusion among guitarists about what an overdrive pedal actually does and how they're different from distortion or fuzz pedals, so let's take a closer look at what an overdrive pedal does.

Overdrive pedals often aim to accomplish one of two things - overdrive a tube amp into distortion to produce an overdriven tone, or produce a mildly distorted tone of a cleaner sounding tube amp.

In practice, most overdrive pedals do a little of both. If you crank up an overdrive pedal to the max, it's usually going to produce somewhat of a distortion style sound of it's own.

Overdrive pedals don't directly change your tone like a distortion pedal does. Instead, they're meant to push your amp into distortion to achieve a more distorted version of your amp and guitar's natural tone. Because of this, overdrive pedals are often paired with tube amps.

Pairing an overdrive pedal with a solid state amp won't do a lot to your tone. If you have a solid state amp, you may be better off adding a distortion pedal to your signal chain.

As with most effect types, there is a wide range of overdrive flavors that you can choose from and experiment with, which is why we've created this list. However, most overdrive pedals feature two gain stages (input volume and output volume), as well as a tone knob and, sometimes, a few other tone-shaping controls, such as bass and treble.

A common use for overdrive pedals among guitarists who play heavier genres of music is to stick an overdrive pedal in front of a distortion pedal in the signal chain. This increases the gain that they receive from the distortion pedal.

Guitarists also commonly use overdrive pedals to provide an EQ boost in the treble and midrange areas during a guitar solo.. This allows the guitarist to cut through the other instruments to stand out during their solos, since it can provide a nice volume boost.

There are tons of different ways you can use overdrive pedals to influence your tone, but mainly, they're going to provide a more enhanced version of what your guitar and amp already sound like, with some small flavor enhancements that are unique to the pedal itself.

Check out this video for more information on overdrive pedals and what exactly they do.

What's the difference between an overdrive pedal and a distortion pedal?

There's a lot of confusion about the difference between these types of pedals, so let's clear this up.

Distortion pedals achieve a distorted tone by directly altering the signal between your guitar and amp, so rather than sticking to your guitar's natural sound, they're going to put their own spin on it. Distortion will color your tone and add more sustain to a clean channel, and is more aggressive than an overdrive sound. If this is what you're looking for, head over to our post featuring the 10 best distortion pedals.

Overdrive pedals make your amp sound like it's naturally breaking up. This is similar to distortion, but overdrive pedals achieve this by overdriving the signal to your tube amp, causing it to break up into distortion. Overdrive pedals achieve a distortion sound that's more natural to your guitar's tone, rather than modifying the tone itself.

Neither of these pedal types are better or worse, it just depends on your preferences. Distortion and overdrive pedals both have their places.

If you want more information on the differences between these pedal types, check out this video that explains these differences in more detail, and provides examples:


Choosing a distortion pedal

If you've decided an overdrive pedal is the right pedal for you, how do you go about choosing the right one?

When looking for an overdrive pedal, you want to pick the one that pairs best with the tube amp you have.

Most overdrive pedals alter your tone in a similar way, with small differences in flavor, so you don't need to choose a unique pedal that nobody uses to get a truly unique tone. Your tone comes from a number of things - amp, guitar, speaker cabinet, etc. - and the overdrive pedal will basically provide an overdriven enhancement to the sound of what you already have.

Keep in mind that when reading reviews online (like this one) or asking friends about their favorite pedal that these are mostly opinions. Remember to separate opinion from fact. Your guitar tone is going to be built on what you think sounds best, so it's important that you follow your own ear when looking at the demos below. Be sure to pay attention to what guitar and amp they're using as well, because with overdrive pedals, that's going to make a huge difference in how they sound since these pedals don't directly alter your tone in a big way.

Another great place to find what you like in guitar tones is local shows. Check out some of the bands in your local music scene, and after performances featuring guitar tones you like, ask the guitarist what gear he uses. This can also be a great networking opportunity for your band.

Finally, a great way to find an overdrive pedal you like is to check out what your favorite guitarists are using. There are a number of rig rundowns put together by Premier Guitar where guitarists reveal what gear they're using to get their tones.

What to look for in an overdrive pedal

When shopping for the right distortion pedal, here are a few things you should keep in mind for consideration.

Tone: While the tone differences are small between overdrive pedals, and are mostly dependent on what guitar and amp are being used, it's still an important consideration. When listening to YouTube demos, or the ones embedded in this article, make note of what you like about the sound of each pedal, and what guitar and amp setup they're using. Listen to different pedals side-by-side and weigh them against each other to find a clear winner. It might also be worth your time to look at multiple demos on YouTube of the same pedal with different guitars so you can hear exactly what part of the tone is effected by the flavors unique to the pedal vs. the guitar and amp setup.

Build Quality: This one is much easier to find information on from online reviews. If people are complaining that the pedal is breaking too easily, it might be built with low quality materials. While build quality is an important consideration, keep in mind that it's important to ultimately choose the pedal that works best with your amp and guitar setup.

Price: While price is an important factor, don't go for the cheapest pedal you can find just because you can afford it. If the pedal of your dreams is only $50 more than the one you're able to buy right now, it might be a good idea to wait and save up your money for a bit longer so you can purchase the pedal you really want rather than settling because of price.


Now that we've gone over some distortion pedal basics, here are the top 10 overdrive pedals as recommended by guitarists, with the best videos demos we could find for each one.

Top 10 Overdrive Pedals - According to Guitarists


Ryan Baustert from Throw the Fight

Website | Personal Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


What's the best overdrive pedal?

Maxon OD808 Overdrive Pedal

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

This pedal is so awesome and is my secret weapon. I use a Mesa Dual Rectifier so it really helps push the tubes and tighten up the sound. The Maxon is great for high gain amps.


Jacob Hoffman from Drop the Act

Website | Twitter | YouTube | Facebook


What's the best overdrive pedal?

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

This pedal is a MUST for ANY guitar player. This pedal can bring your sound to new heights and honestly could be the missing piece for your set up. This pedal is awesome to use if you do a lot of solo guitar. This pedal will bring your leads straight to the front and deliver a punch that every guitarist needs. Do not be that person that refuses to use it because everyone uses it. Everyone uses it for a reason.


Stephen Perry from City Sounds Rhythm

Facebook | iTunes


What's the best overdrive pedal?

Fulltone OCD

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

  • Reasonably Priced.
  • Very simple is key.
  • Good for clean rhythym, as well has heavy crunch. Perfect for tube amps.
  • Good tone through my Fender Blues Deluxe Tubes

Patrick Wilkins

Instagram | Twitter | YouTube


What's the best overdrive pedal?

JHS SuperBolt Overdrive Pedal

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

I know everyone says this about overdrive pedals but in this case it’s more true than usual (to my ears anyway). It’s extremely versatile. It pushes any amp I’ve put it in front of well, and there’s so many different tones you can craft/create with that small box, it’s rad.


Miguel Sequeira

YouTube


What's the best overdrive pedal?

Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

Everything depends on the sound that each one wants or seeks. I've tried many and what is most identifiable with my sound is the Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive.

  • A warm sounding drive pedal for adding grit and overdrive to your clean tone, or boosting your distortion tone for lead playing.
  • Maintain the subtle nuances of a player's picking technique. - It's amazing when used as a booster pedal for valve amplifiers! (love it)
  • You can control the Level, Tone, and Drive.

Seth Michael Keil from Powder River

Bandcamp


What's the best overdrive pedal?

Death By Audio Interstellar Overdriver

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

It's just so simple and perfect. Two knobs are all you need to flavor to your taste. Hand made. Attitude to spare.


David Mathew from City of Takers

Bandcamp


What's the best overdrive pedal?

Boss OD-1x

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

I love anything that makes life easy. This pedal is easy to use. There's a great balance with this pedal when paired with distortion. The quality is great and I trust boss.


Chan Maurice Evans from YOUPEOPL

Facebook | Twitter | YouTube


What's the best overdrive pedal?

SMS Earth Drive

What makes it awesome?

The SMS Earth drive is the modern answer and update to the Ibanez Tube Screamer. Brad at SMS has somehow made that classic sound BETTER! Use it to boost your signal with smooth overtones for solos or run it to the max for an edgy bite. On top of that, Brad Sarno is one of the best people on the planet, as well as an excellent guitar player.


Chris Saalfeld from Orchid in the Ivy

Facebook


What's the best overdrive pedal?

Horizon Devices Precision Drive

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

It’s got a built in noise gate for more modern high gain sounds. It’s super tight as far as latency. True Bypass. Easy to dial in. Can be made to sound like a more classic OD like a tube screamer. A newer company, but I’ve been won over.


Jeremy Aitken

Bandcamp


What's the best overdrive pedal?

Way Huge WHE205 Saucy Box Overdrive

Get this pedal on Amazon.

What makes it awesome?

The saucy is my newest addition and it kicks ass. Fully cranked it's in classic ACDC territory. I run it about mid-gain and stacked with my Timmy it sounds like a cranked Marshall!



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