Chris has been a guitar player for 16 years and a guitar teacher for 10 years. He plays many musical styles, including pop, rock, and funk.
Overdrive vs. Distortion
There have always been discussions about what is the difference between an overdrive pedal and a distortion pedal. To tell the truth, all overdrive pedals are distortion pedals because they distort the signal of your clean sound.
Technically, overdrive pedals use "soft clipping" technology, meaning, that only part of your input signal is distorted, while distortion pedals use "hard clipping" technology, which distorts all of your input signal. That is why overdrive pedals tend to have a softer and warmer sound compared to distortion pedals which have a dirtier sound.
Overdrive pedals are used in a lot of music genres like blues, rock, pop, and reggae, while distortion pedals are more prominent in metal and hard rock genres.
The overdrive pedals I selected are:
- Ibanez TS9 Tubescreamer
- Boss SD - 1 Super Overdrive
- Electro-Harmonix Soul Food
- Fulltone OCD Overdrive
- Way Huge Green Rhino MkII
You can learn more about the overdrive Here
Ibanez TS 9 Tubescreamer
Price: ~ 100$
Ibanez TS 808 and TS 9 tubescreamer pedals are considered the holy grails of overdrive pedals by many guitarists. Dating back to the 70s, these pedals have found a way into a lot of people's pedalboards, including mine.
It's a simple pedal and can be set up in minutes. There are three controls for tweaking the sound of the overdrive: Drive, Tone, and Level. Drive lets you adjust how much gain you are applying to the incoming signal, Tone is one knob eq setting, letting you adjust the treble of the outgoing signal, and finally, Level lets you choose how loud the outgoing signal will be.
Ibanez TS9 comes in a green metal housing, with input and output jacks, a red LED light that shows if the pedal is turned on, and a switch that turns the overdrive on. It can be powered by either a 9V battery or an AC adapter.
You can use this pedal in numerous ways. If you turn Drive all the way down and the volume all the way up, it gives you a great clean boost. If you turn both Drive and the volume to the middle, you get a good overdriven rhythm sounds. Turn the Drive all the way up and leave the volume in the middle and you get a great lead sound for solos.
Players like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Edge, and Kirk Hammet use or have used this overdrive pedal in their rig.
Check out the video of TS9.
Boss SD - 1 Super Overdrive
Price: ~ 50$
Boss SD - 1 has been around since 1981 and is the Tubescreamer's biggest rival. It is similar to the TS9 in shape and features, but it has a brighter sound and a little more gain.
It also has three controls: Level, Tone, and Drive. Level lets you adjust the volume level of the outgoing signal, Tone controls the bass/treble response, and Drive lets you set up your desired gain level.
It comes in yellow metal housing with input and output jacks, a bright red LED light which shows if the pedal is turned on, and a switch for turning it on or off. It can be powered by a 9V battery or by an adapter.
Super Overdrive and the Tubescreamer are similar, yet the SD has a bit more gain to offer, making it almost a distortion pedal. I tend to use this one a my main overdrive and the Tubescramer as a clean boost for solos, and I can honestly say that this combination works perfect.
You can set this pedal in couple of ways. If you leave all the control knobs at 12, you get a classic overdrive sound. For clean boost just turn the drive all the way down or leave it on around 9 if you need a little grit in the sound and turn level all the way up and leave the the tone knob at 12 or move it to about 2 for more higher frequency response. For really heavy sound turn drive all the way up, level at 12 and tone at about 1.
Zakk Wylde and Edge are some of the famous guitar players that use this pedal.
Check out the video of Super Overdrive.
Electro-Harmonix Soul Food
Price: ~ 80$
EHX Soul Food is arguably one of the most popular overdrive pedals in the market today. It was designed as a clone of the famous Klon Centaur and it really does capture that Centaur sound, but at a much, much lower price.
As with almost all ovedrive pedals Soul Food also has three control knobs - Vol for volume changing, Treble for adding high frequencies to the sound and drive for the neccesary gain to the sound. As a centaur clone , this pedal is a great clean boost option for those who want a transparent , clear sound and ir really shows some grit when you start to to the drive control knob up. It is also very responsive and cleans up nicely when you turn the volume down on your guitar giving you clear, clean sound.
There are multiple ways you can use this pedal. When you turn vol slightly past 12, treble in the middle and drive to 11, you get a slightly overdriven tone reminiscent of a tube amp that has been pushed to te limits and is starting to distort a little. With vol on 12, treble on 1 and drive on 4 you get a full on overdriven sound for great rhythm tones. For the clean boost just turn the drive down, volume all the way up and adjust treble for your liking.
Comes in a metal housing and can be powered by a 9V batter or a 9V power adapter. A 9V power adapter is included with The Soul Food giving you even more value for the money you pay for this overdrive pedal.
Check out Soul Food in action
Fulltone OCD Overdrive
Price: ~ 110$
This overdrive pedal from Fulltone is one of the best selling and also best sounding overdrives in the market.
Fulltone OCD has the standard 3 control knobs for volume, tone and gain plus it also has a HP/LP switch. The LP (Low Peak) mode is basicaly your standard overdrive sound and when you engage it in HP (High Peak) mode it gives you a little bit more punch and sustain by adding gain and tightening up the low freqencies.This pedal is a great all around workhorse and can be used in many ways.The overdrive itself is very warm and transparent and can used as a main overdrive. It is also great as a clean boost giving you that extra push for great lead sound.
Although this pedal can be used in many different ways, I would suggest using it as you main overdrive, because of it warm, organic sound. My main settings on this overdrive are volume at 12, tone on around 1 and drive on around 3 which gives me a very smooth, organic overdrive. Of course , you can also use it as a clean boost or just set it up to push the amps overdrive to a new level.
It comes in white metal housing with a red led light showing if the pedal is turned on/off and Fulltone custom made swith, which is one of the best footswitches I have seen in pedals.
Guitarists that use Fulltone OCD are Keith Urban, Al Di Meola and Eric Johnson.
Check out the video of Fulltone OCD
Way Huge Green Rhino MKII Overdrive
A great overdrive pedal from Dunlop adding some serious competition in the stacked ovedrive pedal market.
The Green Rhino has been modeled after another green overdrive pedal that is on this list, but what makes this ovedrive pedal unique is the 100Hz eq and curv controls. You can do the basic overVdrive setup with the standard control knobs that 99% of the overdrive pedals have and then tweak the sound with those two eq controls. The 100Hz knob allows you to cut or boost the 100Hz frequency to up or down 12db and curve control to furthermore tweak the sound of the ovedrive. Together these features gives you a puntchy dynamic overdrive sound great for rhythm playing.
Of all the overdrives in this list, this is the most tweakable of them all. I would suggest setting the main three control knobs at 12 and then just tweak the two little control knobs for a smooth, warm overdrive tone. Or you can set the drive to full on and the tone at about 1 and then tweak the little controls for a massive overdrive sound. I wouldn't suggest to use this pedal as a clean boost because it can give you a great main overdrive sound and if you just need a clean boost you can get one a lot cheaper than this overdrive pedal.
The Green Rhino Mkii comes in a green metal housing and can be powered with either 9V battery or 9V power adapter.
Check out Green Rhino in action
© 2013 Chris Whiter
Adam Harkus from North Shields, United Kingdom on January 07, 2016:
Agree with the Tubescreamer, but there's some glaring omissions here, Like the fact that the Bad Monkey and SD-1 are based off the Tubescreamer. No mention of the Fulltone pedals (OCD, Fulldrive) and no mention of boutique pedals either.
Brian on April 06, 2015:
This list is pretty lame...no Fulltone?
Cameron on February 05, 2015:
This article is bull. Most basic overdrives and none of these (other than possibly the tube screamer) would be considered "the best".
Clinton on January 29, 2015:
Moen makes great faucets and plmuibng fixtures too! Just kidding thanks for posting this, I've not heard of Moen pedals before, so it's good to know about them!Thank you also for linking to Stratoblogster! I really appreciate it! I will return the favor. You have a cool blog, so keep at it ok!jp
SERGIO on December 09, 2014:
DESPITE THE MANY GRAMMATICAL ERRORS, THIS IS A GOOD AND INFORMATIVE ARTICLE