Best Overdrive Pedal – 2021 Reviews & Guide
Last update on 2021-04-05 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Finding the best overdrive pedal can be a make or break for getting your tone just right, and ultimately fitting in with your unique style. If you play any form of metal, blues or rock then you may want to consider your options carefully, as there can be a lot of variation in the types of sound created by each product, and as always the best one is the one that matches your unique style.
Below we will review different types of overdrivers on sound, style, genre and price in order to give you the best view of what may be right for your sound!
- Our Top 10 List – Overdrive Pedals in 2021
- 1. Fulltone OCD Guitar Pedal
- 2. JHS Morning Glory Guitar Pedal
- 3. Friedman Amplification Guitar Pedal
- 4. JHS Moonshine Guitar Pedal
- 5. Caline Digital Guitar Pedal
- 6. BOSS Super Guitar Pedal
- 7. TC Electronic MojoMojo Pedal
- 8. MXR EVH5150 Guitar Pedal
- 9. Wampler Tumnus V2 Guitar Pedal
- 10. Ibanez TS808 Overdrive Pedal
Our Top 10 List – Overdrive Pedals in 2021
For well over a decade, the Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive pedal has been a favorite of many professional guitarists. Now, the updated OCD v2 seems just as popular as ever.
One of the most impressive upgrades Fulltone made for the OCD v2 is the improved output buffer. The reason guitarists are so particular about where they place pedals in their chain is that each pedal can influence the one before it.
Fulltone’s updated output buffer maintains a consistent tone no matter where the OCD v2 is positioned in your chain. It also adds some extra sustain by reducing loading on the hard-clipping stage.
The OCD v2 also delivers a wider dynamic range, thanks to the premium class A JFET input. Input impedance has gone from 330k to 1 megaohm, ensuring better performance with single-coil or humbucker pickups. In simple terms, it provides a consistent tone and enhanced dynamic range no matter what guitar you are using.
Fulltone’s Enhanced Bypass system makes the OCD v2 one of the most expressive overdrive pedals available.
By changing the configuration of FET’s (Field Effect Transistors) in their bypass circuit, Fulltone captures more expression than traditional pedals. In other words, while some pedals lose a lot of articulation in your playing by boosting gain in unison across the board, the OCD v2 keeps the human connection between input and output.
A more standard True Bypass mode is available via a switch, too; both modes are safe from pops and clicks.
The most crucial aspect of most overdrive pedals is that they add dirt to your tone without coloring it, or at least not too much anyway. The JHS Morning Glory V4 Transparent Overdrive Pedal does that better than most.
Dialing in the perfect tone is easy, thanks mainly to the simple layout of controls. The Drive control, as expected, controls the amount of overdrive in your tone. As you turn it up more, it increasingly boosts the treble (high-end).
The tone control acts as a high-pass filter that adds brightness to your overall sound. A high-pass filter attenuates lower frequencies below a given threshold while letting frequencies above the threshold pass untouched. Used in combination with the drive control, it allows for incredibly detailed sound-shaping.
The Morning Glory’s gain switch increases the overall gain, boosts the low-end, and adds some fizz to the high-end gain. All of this brightness and high-end sparkle sounds fantastic, but depending on your rig setup, it could be a little too much. If that’s the case, there is a handy little hi-cut switch on the side of the pedal. Flipping the hi-cut switch will smooth out any harshness that might come from an overly bright sound.
For anyone unfamiliar with Friedman, they are the manufacturer of the legendary (and super expensive) BE100 amplifier. Friedman’s BE-OD is modeled on the BE100 amp, and luckily, it comes at a fraction of the price.
Despite being American made, the BE-OD has a distinctly British sound, generally associated with a crunchier, more aggressive tone. It offers a broader tonal range than most similar overdrive pedals, making it more versatile for the experimental guitarist.
That vintage British crunch is there in spades, but it doesn’t need to be aggressive when you don’t want it to be. The full sonic scope can produce anything from clean gain and mild break up, to unapologetic, disturb every neighbor on your block aggression.
The tone controls on this pedal (bass, treble, presence) are active, unlike the passive tone controls of the BE100 amplifier.
Being active means the tone controls can’t only attenuate, but they can boost frequencies, too. As for the other knobs, volume and gain do as expected, and it’s a lot of gain! The tight control is a high-pass filter that cuts out the low-end, tightening up the punchy tone. The high-quality true bypass mode means it won’t affect your sound, or pedal chain at all when disengaged.
Some pedals claim to be an amp in a box; the BE-OD just might be.
Another JHS pedal to add to our top 10 list, this time it’s the Moonshine Overdrive v2 pedal. For what it’s worth, JHS may have the best-named pedals in the industry, but let’s get back to more pressing matters, like what it does.
The Moonshine doesn’t exactly follow the rules, which makes it a very fitting name. Overdrive generally avoids coloring the tone where possible; the Moonshine doesn’t. Instead, it adds a very distinct and unique character to the tone.
One of the first things that make the Moonshine different is the fact that it runs on 18v rather than the standard 9v. JHS added an internal charge pump to the Moonshine that converts power from the standard 9v adapter to 18v. The results are enhanced headroom, aggressive punch, and a wide low-end.
The Moonshine is a low-mid range overdrive pedal, leaning more towards the midrange, at first glance. But the inclusion of a 2-way proof switch lets you quickly move between low-end and high-end gain. Whether you want thumping lows, a thick midrange, or soaring highs, JHS has got you covered here.
A very welcome new addition for the Moonshine v2 is the blend knob. This control lets you gradually blend in your clean/unaffected signal for extra clarity. The blend knob is a useful way to tame this beast of a pedal and be more precise in shaping your tone.
The Caline USA Digital Overdrive pedal is an affordable introduction to the world of overdrive. It serves two purposes; first, it’s a more than decent overdrive pedal, and second, it’s the perfect way to get used to using overdrive without breaking the bank.
It comes with four control knobs; gain, volume, bass, and treble. The adjustable +/- 15 dB boost covers a wide dynamic range, more than enough to get you from clean to crunch. A 2-band active EQ (bass and treble) lets you be more precise with your tone, and get a more natural sound.
The true bypass mode ensures a 100% unaffected tone, and visual feedback via LED light shows when the true bypass is engaged. A little visual feedback goes a long way, especially on a dark stage.
The bright orange pedal is surprisingly robust, given its low cost. It’s by no means amongst the highest quality pedal on our list, but it’s the cheapest in our top 10!
The Boss SD-1 is a very straightforward overdrive pedal, it does what it should and noot much more, but it’s the way it does it that’s impressive.
Boss’ unique overdrive circuitry provides very accurate replication of an overdriven tube amp. It’s warm and smooth until you dig in a little more, and it gives you that valve break-up style growl. More than most other pedals in its price range, the BOSS SD-1 reacts to your playing naturally. The responsiveness of this pedal means none of the expression in your playing is lost in translation.
As for the controls, it’s very basic with the tone, level, and drive knobs. Once you have the right amount of drive, the tone control will iron out any subtle adjustments you want to make. The main goal of the SD-1 is to deliver a natural-sounding distortion, so having fewer controls to fiddle with is a good thing.
Despite the budget-friendly price, we had no hesitation in including the SD-1 in our top 10. When asked if it was the best overdrive pedal on our list, we would comfortably answer no. But, if asked if it’s the most responsive and expressive pedal, we would have to think about it. For that reason, it deserves its place on our list.
The MojoMojo is another budget overdrive pedal that delivers a very natural tube-like response. It reacts to the volume of your guitar better than most pedals – at any price range.
One of the things that make the MojoMojo so natural is the way the drive knob works. Rather than increasing the overdrive level as a whole, it alters the threshold. The threshold is the point where overdrive will kick in and create that natural distortion. Doing it this way allows the overdrive to be utterly dependent on your guitar volume and articulation.
Analog dry-through circuitry helps maintain the purity of the dry signal by allowing the dry signal to pass straight to the output without being converted to digital.
The 2-band EQ lets you dial in more detail in your tone, but with this pedal, it’s perfectly acceptable to set everything to 12 o’clock and just ride the volume. This pedal is truly one for the players; it’s a thing of beauty. Simply put, this is the best cheap overdrive pedal you can buy.
If you didn’t know already, the EVH in this pedals name stands for Eddie Van Halen. The pedal was designed in conjunction with the hard rock icon, so if you want to get your Jump on, this might be the one for you.
This overdrive pedal is based on the blue channel of the EVH 5150 III amplifier. Billed as an amp in a box, it offers the same high gain as the amplifier, and just as much clarity.
Finding the perfect tone is an easier task with a 3-band EQ rather than the standard 2-band EQ; now, you have more control over the midrange. On the sides of the EQ, you will find output and gain, both of which work in the traditional way. Next to the gain knob, there’s a +6dB boost button to make sure your tone punches through the mix.
The noise gate in this pedal is rather smart; it varies its reaction time based on your playing. For example, if holding a long sustained note, it reacts slower, and when playing fast, it reacts more quickly. This intuitive function adds realism to this amp-emulating pedal.
If you’re a Van Halen fan, you will know what it’s all about. The thick distortion you get when the EVH 5150 amp is pushed hard is present in this pedal. So, if that’s your thing, this is the one for you.
Wampler pedals are known to be incredibly well-built and extremely versatile. The Tumnus v2 offers as much tonal flexibility as we have come to expect from Wampler.
It works equally well for adding dirt to the front-end of your amp, as a boost to other pedals, or as a dedicated overdrive pedal. Not many pedals get so close to recreating the sound of vintage tube amp overdrive as the Tumnus. Every component was hand-picked by Wampler not just because it did the job, but because it was part of the best combination of components tested on a multitude of guitars and amps.
Wampler kept it simple with a three-knob layout, volume, gain, and tone. Despite the simple layout, the Tumnus is incredibly accurate, and it doesn’t take long to find the exact sound you want.
The Tumnus has buffered bypass as opposed to true bypass. The difference is that the buffered bypass maintains the signal level and quality with low output impedance, even with long cables. It can also feed other true-bypass pedals without losing tonal quality.
Wampler always goes the extra mile during development, testing, and manufacturing. The result is one of the best overdrive pedals money can buy.
This absolute beast of a pedal is a must-have for many guitarists. It’s a reissue of a classic, made famous by Stevie Ray Vaughan and his signature style. FYI – the original TS808’s are now worth a small fortune.
The reissue shares the same chip and analog circuitry with the original at a much more affordable price. The JRC4558D IC chip is the heart of the Tube Screamer, with a smooth, full overdriven tone. Everything important cosmetically about the reissue has remained the same, from the iconic green casing to the square footswitch.
Level, tone, and overdrive knobs are there to tweak the tone as you see fit. However, it’s unlikely you would spend too much time tweaking. If you buy this pedal, you want it to scream, that’s it.
With Stevie Ray Vaughan being the first true guitar star to make this pedal famous, it sounds fantastic for the blues, as expected. As time went on, the TS808 Tube Screamer became synonymous with metal music.
So, while it’s a versatile pedal, we can confidently say it’s the best overdrive pedal for metal in our top 10.
Overdrive, Distortion And Fuzz: An Important Discovery
The history of overdrive is a topic that is widely debated because there are multiple variations of the story of how it was first discovered.
However, one legend has it that there was a guitar player who threw his guitar at his amplifier in a fit of rage and the guitar crashed into the amp and knocked something loose. The guitar player picked up his guitar and started to play and a crunchy, dirty and distorted sound came out.
The result turned into our modern day overdrive, distortion or fuzz effect that can now be re-created in a compact guitar pedal.Technically the sound associated with these types of pedals is created by “clipping” the signal coming from the guitar and going to the amplifier.Imagine a big wave in the ocean going under a bridge and hitting the bottom of a bridge.
The waveform breaks up because the top is “clipped” off by the bridge and thus changes the wave. This is what is happening to a distorted guitar. The signal hits resistance and changes the sound wave, creating a “dirty” kind of sound.At first it wasn’t a desirable quality in an amplifier. But over time with creative input and artists experimenting with the sound, the crunchy and gritty tone that is recognizable a lot of modern day music was created.
It is an especially crucial element to any guitar player’s sound who plays metal, blues or rock.There are three main types of pedals that create a “dirty” guitar signal. They are mentioned above. Obviously this is an article on the overdrive pedal, but if you want to check out our review on the best distortion pedal then just follow the link!
The Sound Of The Effect
The sound associated with this effect compared to the distortion pedal and fuzz pedal is a softer more full toned sound. It boosts your signal enough to break up the waveform but keeps the tones of the guitar natural and true.It isn’t as harsh as the distortion and fuzz pedal’s sound.
This can be a very desirable quality for a lot of different genres because you can craft the tone of your guitar more and keep your tone consistent while giving it a bit more energy.Typically overdrive pedals have three dial knobs for drive, tone and level (or volume depending on the pedal) as well as a foot switch to turn it off and on.
Each pedal is powered by either battery or a 9v connection, if you have more then a few pedals then be sure to check into buying a power supply or daisy chain if one of your pedals can distribute power.