The flexibility of overdrive pedals is one of the things that makes them unique, but like me, you were probably struggling to pick the best overdrive pedals from the insane amount of pedals on the market.
As you know, quality overdrive pedals can be used to drive up the input of an amp, provide an overdrive effect as well as in combination with other dirt pedals - distortion pedals, fuzz pedals, gain pedals or another boost pedal - for gain-stacking.
This versatility has made it a staple among pedalboards forcing manufacturers to create all kinds of overdrive pedals.
To help you narrow down the crazy amount of choice, we have bought, tested and reviewed a list of the best overdrive pedals that are worthy of your time and money.
IN A RUSH? HERE ARE OUR TOP RATED OVERDRIVE PEDALS:
The Best Overdrive Pedals
The Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive uses a unique multi-stage circuit that can achieve a dynamic feeling similar to what you get on high-grade tube amps. The Obsessive Compulsive Drive is for those who are obsessed with their tone.
It allows you to adjust the output volume, dial in the gain as well as find the tonal balance that you need. It gives the guitarist a lot of freedom and flexibility to achieve what they need. There is a High and Low Peak mode (HP/LP) which adds to the resulting sound that you crave for. The High-Peak offers increased distortion with a low-end rendition of your sound. While the Low-Peak mode offers a more accurate rendition of your sound but the tone's coloration won't be as you expect.
We tested this overdrive pedal some days back using volume controls at 10 o'clock with a tone at noon. When we switched the HP/LP settings to Low-Peak, we were able to hit a classic rock rhythm territory. Increasing the volume controls a little notch gave an astounding headroom. There was a bit of dynamic and smooth saturation to the sound it produced.
This pedal can produce searing tones with depth and range not found in other high-end overdrive pedals. It is versatile, has a great sustain and it can rip some shredding solos at will. All in all, we rate this pedal as one of the best and most dynamic overdrive pedals.
It will bring your sound to life. From country to rock and blues, you will definitely find a use for the Fulltone OCD in your sound arsenal.
Among pro guitarists and enthusisast, the Fultone Fulldrive 2 is sort of an indusry standard when it comes to overdrives. It's even the top pick in most magazines. It is user friendly and versatile with options to create great sounds. The MOSFET is an upgrade to the other models with some improvements.
The Fulldrive Fulltone MOSFET is a pretty flexible pedal that can get you different sounds with the CompCut/Vintage/FM switch as well as the booster with the MOSFET/Standard switch
We like the Fulltone MOSFET Overdrive for the amount of control it affords the guitarists. You can control the volume, tone, overdrive as well as toggle switches when you want. The first toggle switch can control the modes of overdrives from Compression Cut, Flat Minds to Vintage. The second toggle switch can change the settings from Mosfet to Standard. This overdrive pedal works with both a 9V battery or a 9V DC power supply. The LED light indicates different light based on the actions being performed. You will quickly notice a bright LED light flick on, which shows status; when the boost is engaged, a red LED is shown.
The Fulldrive 2 like other overdrives featured in our best overdrive pedals controls the overall output level of the pedal. The volume knob offers a lot of functions that are quite interesting. The output of the pedal can be controlled by turning the knob clockwise - which increases the output. This knob can also be used for moving from one overdrive setting to another. The tone knob is seen as a presence control by some professionals s it can change the total output of the pedal while still affecting the treble frequencies. It also controls the amount of gain in the path of the pedal. While it is true that the Fulldrive 2 has a significant amount of gain on tap, it also cleans up well and performs nicely.
The Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive is an industry standard that has a wide appeal that has been popular for decades. Its appeal is simple and interesting. The Boss SD is inexpensive has a nice overdrive tone that uses asymmetrical clipping which is the pedal giving the natural overdriven sound that most people love to hear.
This overdrive pedal which weighs less than 15 ounces can produce a simple slight overdrive perfect for Sunday worship service as well as swing it to rock n roll rhythm.
One of the features that make the Boss SD-1 a standout performer is the large footswitch.
This is a change compared to the previous models that had a tiny knob which wasn't' easy to use at venues or events with low lighting situation. The footswitch on this pedal takes up half the real estate making it easy to stomp hard and play without trying to aim every time you want to switch.
This pedal also makes it easy to get your tone through any amount of effect that you have on a chain. An effective and powerful way of using this overdrive pedal is by pairing two quantities in your chain to get a high gain out of your tube amp.
The tones that will come out of this pedal will both shock and astound you, with the volume knobs placed slightly above 12 o'clock, you will get a mix of metal or hard rock. Fitted with the basic tube screamer controls, a metal chassis, and a responsive stomp switch. This overdrive pedal is a quintessential pedal for creating the best crunch sound
The Maxon Reissue Series OD808 Overdrive is known as the tone that made Stevie Ray Vaughan famous. It's a tube-amp overdrive simulator that reduces noise levels while keeping the legendary "808" tone that made it famous. This overdrive pedal comes in a warm, creamy organic design. When you need to push an overdriven amp over the edge, the OD808 is the best candidate for this.
The Maxon Reissue OD808 comes with mild compression and a slight low-end cut that works well for tightening up high gain amps. There are several guitars that you can use this overdrive pedal on including the Epiphone LP Custom Pro and Ibanez RG1570 Prestige. It adds a new element to each instrument it’s added to it. The OD808 produces a great natural sound that accents your tonal amps even when it can overdub them on its own.
Using overdrive pedals can be tricky, if your effect is way higher than is needed, then your natural tone will be replaced with a gross lame line of distortion and if the effect is too gentle, it will sound like the amp is cramped up. In spite of all these, the controls are simple, with a long range that will astonish you. If you pair it up with other gear like a Telecaster, you will produce a sound that will shake your walls.
The MXR M75 Super Badass® Distortion is an upgrade from the M78 custom Badass Distortion). This overdrive pedal has everything set to 12 o'clock firmly in the British distortion camp.
It has a gain range that is quite impressive with three-quarters on the distortion knob yielding a chunky growl that will make the biggest rock enthusiast drool. There is a three band EQ that can be employed to increase the Mids.
When it comes to boosting, moderate drive, hard rock and old school metal, the MXR M75 can do it with utmost ease. It is fitted with three potentiometers which give a variety of amazing sound possibilities that you won't probably find elsewhere.
This overdrive pedal has a versatile sound with an amazing distortion with great EQ controls. The flexible 3-band EQ with its impressive low noise levels and touch sensitivity can shape and color the output from mellow to metal leads. This Badass pedal can help get an extra kick from the high-gain amp as well.
The M75 can move from Low-gain to High-gain as well as from classic rock to metallic music. The sound doesn't screech when it comes out. You can add this to a pedal board to vary distortion tones. It holds its own and does everything the guys at MXR say it will do. It works great for recording in the studio as well as playing live.
It is worth noting that the MXR M75 Super Badass® Distortion sounded different with the different combination of guitars and amps which mean it enhances the sound of your gear. It won't dramatically tear it down but the downside to that is you will need to try it out with your rig to be sure it can produce the kind of sound you want and be a perfect match.
The Xotic EP Booster Mini EQ Effect Pedal was created as a go-between for a traditional electric guitar and a tube amp. This overdrive pedal features up to +20db discrete FET design clean boost for the sound, an internal +3db dip switch for adjusting the minimum boost level and True Bypass for eliminating signal interference. At the underside panel on the Xotic, you will find a slot for a 9V battery and two DIP switches which influence the character of the pedal.
When this pedal comes into view, the first thing you notice about the Xotic EP Booster Mini EQ Effect Pedal is its size. It is really small. It can fit easily into the overcrowded pedal boards.
It comes with only one footswitch, a bright blue LED, and a single knob is placed on the front panel even though it has more options for the tone lying inside the pedal.
When you use this overdrive pedal, you will notice a certain coloration to your tone, but this pedal can do so much more. You can also use this for a transparent clean boost. It features a 20db discrete FET design clean boost for the sound.
This is applicable either when running your EP booster to overdrive them or to enlarge them. The two available DIP switches make this unique as you get a Bass Boost switch and a Bright switch. Both of them were created to bring out a mellower side to the Xotic EP Booster Mini EQ Effect Pedal
It can be difficult to accurately describe the feeling you get from the sounds produced by the EP. Any tone obsessed guitarist will find the tones attractive to their ears. This overdrive pedal adds magic to your tone. If you turn this pedal on, your amp will get louder even on its lowest settings.
The Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Distortion/Fuzz/Overdrive Pedal is a simple overdrive pedal meant for those who like their sound simple. Most overdrive pedals work best when paired with a valve amp, so if you already have a solid amp, this may not be suitable for you.
We found it easy to use and needing less work moving around the settings. If you keep the DRIVE knob low and adjust the TREBLE and VOLUME knobs, it will give your clean tone a boost to drive your valve amp. The TREBLE tone acts a bit like a tone control in this model and it can give a very heavy tone unless you roll it back often to get that bassier tone.
The EHX Soul Food comes with a ton of features such as three knobs for volume, drive, and treble. These are the basic controls you should expect on an overdrive pedal with the treble control being a great addition whose usefulness could come in handy.
Another feature that made us include this pedal in our list of the best overdrive pedals is the True Bypass or Buffered Mode. There is an internal switch within the pedal ( you won't be changing this often) that allows you to change the mode the pedal operates in - whether in True Bypass or Buffered Mode.
The source of power for this powerful overdrive pedal is a 9.6DC-200 power supply (which is included in the box) or a 9V battery. It is quite common to buy an overdrive pedal only to realize that there is nothing to power it, the EHX Soul Food comes with a power supply. Alternatively, you can also run it on a 9V battery for added flexibility.
The Soul Food is often referred to as the 'transparent' drive because it allows you to retain the general feel of your tone. It doesn't dramatically change your tone by rolling off the high and low frequencies or by giving the wrong mid frequencies a big boost. It enhances the tone. It doesn't dramatically change it.
Buyers Guide to Getting the Best Overdrive Pedal
There are a few things you should consider before taking the plunge and buying an overdrive pedal
Overdrive pedals are quite affordable save for some few boutique models that are very expensive.
Those who are quite picky about what they listen to and the transparent overdrive in their sound will be willing to invest in the more expensive units.
Others will find the affordable ones to be just as effective
2. Voice Shaping
One thing about classic overdrive pedals is their emphasis on the mids which affords your sound the opportunity to cut through the mix better.
Modern overdrive pedals offer up more control so you can control the final sound with their corresponding EQ knobs as well as use compression settings where it's deemed necessary.
The size of the overdrive pedal as well as the pedalboard space are factors that you should consider before you buy an overdrive pedal.
The board is a dwindling resource and if yours is already full, you will need to expand it or remove some gear from it.
Overdrive Pedals Review Summary and Wrap Up
The best overdrive pedal is largely going to differ based on your budget, how versatile a pedal you need and the overall sound you're going for.
But hopefully, this review of our best overdrive pedals gives you a clearer idea of what pedal will give you the best overdrive sounds and that overdriven tone you crave for your personal need.
There are always other overdrive pedals being released and we'll be updating this review every year to stay on top of the best overdrive pedals available to you at the current time.