13 Best Overdrive Pedals for Guitars
Are you missing that extra crunch and grit from your guitar tone? If yes, then you probably need an overdrive pedal to boost your sound. Overdrive pedals come in all shapes and sizes, so it can be quite hard to differentiate their various features and tonal differences.
That’s why we’ve researched and listed the best overdrive pedals that you can buy today, along with a buying guide to choose what’s best suited for you.
Top Picks: 13 Best Overdrive Pedals For Guitar
Controls: Voice, Bandwidth, Boost, Volume, Tone, Gain A, Gain B, Bright Switch, Buffer Switch, Boost Switch
- Bypass: True Bypass
- Power: 9V Power Supply
EarthQuaker Devices are a well-known brand in the world of guitar effects, with many of their effects pedals receiving several awards for their innovative design and brilliant sound quality. The Palisades was designed to provide the best overdrive sounds possible by basing it on the classic and legendary TS808 chip used in the original Ibanez Tube Screamer.
The Palisades features two gain channels, six clipping voices, and five bandwidth settings, giving you a massive sonic range and flexibility in choosing your tone. The clipping voices allow you to change the diodes, letting you adjust your tone from transparent and open, to tight and crunchy.
The two gain channels A (for low gain) and B (for high gain) interact smoothly with the bandwidth controls along with the clipping diodes, so it would really take a long time and much experimentation to discover the true sonic potential of this device.
You also get a footswitch for boost control, which lets you drive the signal harder when necessary for those thick lead sounds. There’s a bright switch to add more sparkle to your tone, as well as an adjustable input buffer that lets you adjust the tightness of the sound. The entire pedal comes in a strong metal chassis, powered by a 9V power supply.
If you’re looking for the best overdrive pedal with dozens of overdrive and distortion sounds, then the EarthQuaker Devices Palisades is for you. Most of the pedals on this list are one-trick ponies, but the Palisades has more than 30 tricks up its sleeves. It’s a little expensive, but being the best guitar overdrive pedal, it’s absolutely worth it.
Controls: Drive, Tone, Level
- Bypass: Buffered Bypass
- Power: 9V Battery or Power Supply
Behringer is a German brand that’s popular for making affordable and good quality gear and effects. The Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal may be the cheapest pedal in this list, but it punches well above its weight. It uses an original 4558 op-amp along with an MA150 distortion diode.
Its operation is simple, similar to many other pedals on this list. There are three knobs for drive, level, and tone. The knobs work well, and the drive knob gives you a good range of gain to choose from. The level knob helps in boosting your signal, while the tone knob helps in filtering the high end.
It’s certainly not the best TS clone, but for its price, it does sound amazing. It adds grit and thickness to your tone even with low gain, and the highest gain setting will certainly add punch to the sound. There’s a simple battery check LED, and it can be powered by either a 9V battery or by a PSU. The pedal comes in a sturdy plastic chassis, with a comfortable and big bypass switch that won’t make you struggle to press it.
If you’re looking for an overdrive pedal on a tight budget, then the Behringer TO800 is certainly worth looking at. It sounds good, offering a taste of legendary tones at a very affordable price, making it our budget pick. It’s even battery-powered, so it’s easily portable as well.
3. Fulltone FullDrive 3 Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal – Most Versatile
Controls: Volume, Tone, Overdrive, Boost, Dynamics, Boost Switch
- Bypass: Buffered Bypass
- Power: 9 to 18V Power Supply
Fulltone is quite well known for their OCD series of pedals (another entry on this list), but the Fulltone FullDrive 3 is something of a hidden gem in the guitar pedal community. It’s a very versatile pedal, and is driven by a genuine NOS JRC4558D chip, responsible for a lot of classic rock tones.
The FullDrive 3 features two voicings, one based on the original JRC4558D chip, and another ‘Wide Asymmetrical’ voice, which is more transparent and open sounding. There is also a JFET Clean Boost, that lets you control your guitar signal’s boost volume accurately before it hits the amplifier. The FullDrive 3 really gives you complete control over your sonic requirements.
There is even a ‘Dynamics’ knob that lets you control a germanium diode limiter. This limiting function lets you dial out any frustrating spikes produced by the clean boost, for a very smooth and clear sound. This unit comes in a 16-gauge steel enclosure that makes it resistant to the regular wear and tear of traveling, so you don’t need to worry about damaging it while on the road.
If you’re looking for an amazing overdrive pedal with a lot of versatility in sound, then the Fulltone FullDrive 3 is perfect for you. Its drive and boost sound amazing, and it comes with a lot of flexibility as well. This is why we chose it as the pedal with the best value for money available today.
Ibanez is famous the world over for the original TS808 Tube Screamer, which was adored by guitarists for several years. Many companies have tried to emulate its iconic and legendary tone, but very few have come close. Now, the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer was re-issued and launched as a successor to the original, manufactured with the same parts in the same factory so as to be faithful to its authenticity.
The Ibanez Tube Screamer is quite simple in operation. There are just three control knobs for adjusting the drive, level, and tone. Getting a good tone out of it is a very simple and easy task for anyone; there’s almost nothing that comes out sounding bad from this pedal. Lower the drive all the way with the level at max, and the pedal basically clean boosts your signal with just a little bit of grit (1).
I discovered the Tube Screamer within the first year of playing guitar. It had that warmth, that tube sound, that tightness, that fullness that I needed.
The Tube Screamer works well in any part of the signal chain, but generally, it’d be a good idea to use it before the amplifier and after a compressor. At max drive, it works almost like a distortion pedal, feeding a very strong and high-gain signal into the pre-amp. The TS9 boosts low-end and high-end very well, leading to a well-rounded tone.
If you’re looking for one of the best sounding overdrive pedals, then look no further. The TS9 is a legendary pedal, having been used by several famous rock and metal players like Eric Johnson and Stevie Ray Vaughn. It’s very easy to configure, and it always adds brilliance to your guitar tone. Most of the pedals on this list were designed to be clones of the TS808 and TS9, so why not go for the original?
Boss is a legendary name in the field of guitar effects, and the Boss SD-1 is an accurate representation of their dedication to quality. The SD-1 Super Overdrive features a unique asymmetric overdrive circuitry, consisting of a uPC4558C op-amp. It’s a classic overdrive used by many great guitarists across time.
The Boss SD-1 offers a very unique overdrive sound, different from most other pedals. Its tone is smooth, with a natural tube-amp style growl, and it reacts to your playing very dynamically. The controls here are standard: tone, level, and drive. The drive goes from a smooth boost at its lowest to an almost distortion like sound at its highest.
The SD-1 is chiefly for hard rock and metal, but it can find its place in softer genres like blues as well. With the drive and tone turned down, you can get some really mellow and smooth tones. The pedal itself comes in a sturdy chassis and is powered by a 9V PSU.
If you’re looking for a different sound than most Tube Screamer clones, then the Boss SD-1 is a good fit for you. It has its own unique overdrive sound, a characteristic of classic Boss effects. It’s lightweight and easily fits in any pedalboard, its controls are really easy to use, and it comes at an affordable price.
Controls: Volume, Drive, Tone, HP/LP Switch
- Bypass: Fulltone Enhanced Bypass and True Bypass
- Power: 9-18V Power Supply
The second Fulltone entry on this list, the OCD Overdrive Effects Pedal is their most well-known and widely used pedal. The OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Drive) is considered one of the best stack-in-a-stompbox style overdrive pedals, with rich, creamy harmonics and very responsive controls that replicate true tube-style amplifier sounds.
Internally, the OCD features a dual TL082 op-amp that offers really great classic-rock style overdrive tones. The controls are standard: Volume for controlling signal strength, Drive to control the signal’s gain, and Tone to control its frequencies. The OCD also comes with an HP/LP switch that lets you switch between ‘high peak’ and ‘low peak’. The HP offers more gain, boosted mids, and an overall increase in volume, while the LP will output the original guitar tone with more of a clean boosted sound (2).
I love the Fulltone OCD pedal and use it in EVERY pedalboard I own and use on stage and in the studio. Amazing piece of gear, and I never say that about anything I don’t truly love.
The OCD also features a Class A JFET input, which has better responsiveness towards the dynamic range of a guitar sound and responds better to your picking. Fulltone have also included their Enhanced Bypass, which is a type of buffered bypass that ensures your guitar’s richness and clarity do not get diminished, as well as normal True Bypass. The new Fulltone OCD V2 also features a better output buffer, preventing any ‘loading’ from pedals further in the signal chain.
If you’re looking for the classic and true Fulltone overdrive sound, then the Fulltone OCD is right for you. Many famous guitarists like Joe Perry, Don Felder, and The Rolling Stones have used fulltone pedals. It’s one of the best guitar overdrive pedals; it’s great for rock-style overdrive tones, it comes in a sturdy and compact chassis, and it’s very easy to use as well.
Controls: Tone, Bass, Volume, Gain, Voice
- Bypass: True Bypass
- Power: 9-18V Power Supply
Wampler is well known for its Ecstasy and Paisley Drive pedals, but the Wampler Euphoria is the one that truly amazes us. It’s amongst our most treasured crystalline overdrives, with the capacity to go from squeaky clean to an aggressive fat crunch with the twist of a knob. It’s built with Wampler’s signature and proprietary circuitry.
The Wampler Euphoria is best known for its ‘transparency’; it has a buttery smooth, classic tube amplifier style overdrive with a very open and free sound to it. The controls are Tone, Volume, and Gain as standard, but the Euphoria also features a Bass knob that equalizes the bass before the signal hits the overdrive, letting you adjust it from smooth and warm to fat and thick.
The Euphoria also features a three-way voice switch that permits you to change between 3 gain stages: the open, smooth, and crunch modes. Controlling these voices along with the pedal’s knobs gives you immense control over your sound, and allows you to explore a diverse range of tones. The pedal comes in a compact chassis, and is powered by a 9V power supply.
If you’re looking for a sweet and transparent overdrive sound, you should give the Wampler Euphoria a try. It’s great for classic rock and blues, and it can add a lot of openness and presence to your guitar tone. It’s compact and can easily fit in a pedalboard too, due to its top-facing input and output jacks.
Controls: Volume, Treble, Drive
- Bypass: True and Buffered Bypass
- Power: 9V Power Supply
Electro-Harmonix pedals have been featured on several other articles here due to their brilliant sound and affordable prices. The Electro-Harmonix Soul Food is essentially a clone of the famous Klon Centaur (a pedal that is simply too rare and expensive today), designed to imitate the legendary pedal’s overdrive sound and responsiveness without having to break the bank.
The Soul Food features a complex circuitry with several op-amps, but the result is astonishing. Its sounds imitate the Klon Centaur, with similar responsiveness, dynamic range, and a very open and transparent sound. The controls are the standard Volume, Treble (for tone), and Drive controls, but the Drive control is extremely dynamic. It can go from a simple, clean boost to full-on distortion at its best.
The Soul Food comes in a compact chassis that’s much smaller than the original Klon, so it can easily fit in your pedalboard. There is an option to switch between buffered bypass and true bypass. The pedal comes with a 9V power supply included, and it can also run on battery.
If you’re looking for a great clone of the iconic Klon Centaur, then your search ends with the Electro-Harmonix Soul Food. It’s compact, affordable, and you have to try it to really believe its sound. It’s extremely versatile, being able to fit anything from blues and jazz to rock and metal.
TC Electronic is a big name when it comes to electric guitars and effects, as they make some of the best effects pedals today. The TC Electronic MojoMojo is their take on the classic overdrive effect pedal, with a signature circuitry designed to produce much higher voltages for a large headroom and a beefy tone.
The TC Electronic MojoMojo comes with a two-band equalizer, with controls for Drive, Level, Bass, and Treble. All of the knobs are incredibly responsive, and really add amazing versatility to it. The Bass knob can really add heaviness and beef up your tone for a thick sound, while the Treble knob can make the higher notes shine through the mix. The Drive knob goes from a clean mid-boosted sound to a heavy overdrive fit for grunge and hard rock.
The MojoMojo also features a voice switch that alters the mid-boost, allowing you to ‘suck’ or accentuate the tone. The pedal is very compact, and it can be powered by battery or a power supply. The pedal is all analog-dry-through circuitry, so your original guitar tone is unaffected, and it also features true bypass.
If you’re looking for a great overdrive guitar pedal and have used other TC Electronic pedals before, then the MojoMojo will fit right into your pedalboard. It’s been used by famous metal guitarists like Paul Gilbert and Steve Lukather, so that definitely adds to its prestige. It’s affordable and sounds great for any purpose.
MXR pedals are iconic for their sound quality and attention to detail. Some of their reverb and delay pedals are very famous and widely used. The MXR EVH5150 Overdrive is an extremely versatile overdrive effect that’s been made in close collaboration with guitar legend Eddie Van Halen, as a sonic replica of the EVH 5150 amplifier’s blue channel.
The MXR EVH5150 pedal features multi-stage MOSFETs, a 3-band equalizer similar to amplifiers, and complex circuit diodes that produce a relaxing and warm sound. The three-band EQ helps you dial in the exact tone you need, making this pedal an amp in a box. The gain knob is very sensitive, going from crunchy cleans to heavy distortion and fuzz-like sounds. You can add even more punch to your sound with the +6dB boost switch for those soaring electric guitar solos.
The EVH5150 also features an intelligent noise gate that dynamically responds to your playing to attenuate only the unwanted noise, and none of your rockstar goodness. You can set its threshold values with the knob as well. The pedal offers true bypass to ensure a clean guitar signal when disengaged too. The pedal can be operated by a 9V battery or power supply.
If you’re a fan of the classic EVH 5150 amplifier (specifically, its blue channel), then you’re going to love the MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive. It’s a perfect replication of the amp’s sonic characteristics with an amazing and versatile overdrive sound that ranges into distortion; it’s an amp in a stompbox. It can add incredible life and tonal brilliance to any guitar player’s performance.
DigiTech makes some great quality guitar effects, and the DOD Looking Glass is among their collection of boutique effects pedals. The Looking Glass was designed in conjunction with Shoe Pedals (another boutique pedal company) to create an overdrive effect that could be shaped specifically to the user’s needs.
The Looking Glass features an exceptional circuit design by Christopher Venter of Shoe Pedals. It has a very glassy and transparent sound to it, and it responds dynamically to different guitar pickups. In terms of controls, it has the standard Level and Gain knobs, but instead of a Tone knob, it features a dual concentric knob that controls bass and treble cut for accurate tone shaping. It also features a unique input filter that lets you tame the brightness of your guitars and helps cut through the mix.
The DigiTech DOD Looking Glass comprises a Class-A FET Overdrive, with unique asymmetrical clipping that can respond to a very wide spectrum simply based on your picking dynamics. There is even an internal output buffer to control the pedal’s impedance based on its position in the chain. When disengaged, the pedal has true bypass, so it won’t color your tone.
If you’re searching for beautifully designed boutique overdrive pedals, then the DigiTech DOD Looking Glass is definitely worth looking at. It manages to achieve an entire spectrum of tones in a single pedal with great dynamics and responsiveness. On top of that, the pedal looks beautiful and is sure to stand out on your pedalboard.
The second Boss pedal on this list, the BD-2 Blues Driver is a famed classic, known for its vintage tube amp style flavor that can instantly add some groove to your sound. It has been used by several famous guitarists like John Mayer, Billie Joe Armstrong, Tom Morello, and many more.
The BD-2 features simplicity in design, with a simple three-knob control system for Level, Tone, and Gain. However, these controls provide a lot of control and versatility, with the pedals’ overdrive going from clean blues to a hard rock boost pedal type sound. This drive pedal is incredibly responsive to picking dynamics, making it easy to express notes effectively. The overall sound of the pedal is thick and creamy, and makes any guitar tone fatter and warmer.
The BD-2 comes in a metal chassis that’s built like a tank, designed to survive the hardships of touring and rough usage. The pedal can be powered by a 9V battery or by a power supply. It features Boss’ signature buffered bypass that amplifies your signal to make sure there’s no drop in signal strength while maintaining its original clarity and tone. There’s even a BD-2W version of this pedal that has a slightly modded circuitry for a more boosted sound.
If you’re looking for the quintessential blues sound from the likes of Gary Moore and John Mayer, then the Boss BD-2 is for you. It has been designed with Roland’s mastery of guitar effects and will thicken and cream up any guitar tone fed into it, ensuring that the end results out of your amplifier have that groovy blues feel. And it’ll last for years without breaking a sweat.
Joyo makes some great pedals at very affordable prices. The Joyo JF-02 Ultimate Overdrive is among the cheapest pedals on this list, and it was designed to replicate the Fulltone OCD Overdrive as accurately as it could while still being affordable. Hence, it features a very similar circuitry to the OCD as well.
The Joyo JF-02 Ultimate Overdrive has simple knobs for its controls: Level, Gain, and Tone. These knobs are quite responsive and dynamic in nature, going from a low-gain, clean boost pedal to a crunchy and fat high-gain sound. Sonically, it behaves much like the Fulltone OCD, and it has that characteristic rich-harmonic tone to it.
The Ultimate Overdrive also features a high/low tone switch that lets you control the number of harmonic frequencies as well as increase/decrease the gain that the pedal adds to your sound. The pedal features true bypass, so your sound won’t lose its essence when disengaging the pedal.
If you’re strapped for cash and you’re looking for a clone of the Fulltone OCD Obsessive Overdrive, then the Joyo JF-02 is your best bet. It reproduces the sonic characteristics of the Fulltone amazingly well given its price, and it has surprisingly good build quality as well. It’s great for classic rock players looking for an AC/DC and Led Zeppelin era sound.
Buying Guide: How To Choose The Overdrive Pedal That’s Best For You
You might still be wondering, “How do I choose an overdrive pedal?”. We understand that buying a new overdrive pedal can be a frustrating decision, with so many options to look at, many of which might even appear similar at first. That’s why we’ve prepared this short buying guide so that you can understand the important criteria to look at before making your choice.
Circuitry And Sound
When it comes to overdrive pedals, the thing that matters most is their circuit design, which in turn affects their overdrive sound. Most of the classic overdrive pedals on this list have specific circuitry, with signature chips like the JRC4558D chip, which was used in the original Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer and the Fulltone FullDrive 3. It may seem too technical, but these design elements have a massive impact on the sound.
Hence, if you’re looking for a particular type of sound, it’s best to find out which type of overdrive was used by that artist and then pick a pedal that has a similar circuit design or sonic characteristic. Every pedal on this list has its individual sound, and it’s best to try them out at a local store to see what sounds best to your ears.
Controls And Power Requirements
Most overdrive pedals have simple controls, with three knobs for Gain (also called Drive), Level (also called Volume), and Tone. These knobs are usually more than good enough to control and shape your guitar’s sound the way you want it.
However, some more advanced overdrives have 2-band or 3-band equalizer knobs, filter knobs, switches for low-gain and high-gain, and different voice channels. For e.g., the EarthQuaker Devices Palisades has several control knobs for voicing, bandwidth, and gain, so you can accurately shape your sound.
You should pick an overdrive pedal that’s comfortable for you to use and has enough controls to allow you to dial in your required tone quickly and accurately.
The power requirements of a pedal are also an important consideration. Many overdrive pedals can be powered by 9V batteries, which is great for portable usage, but some of them require a power supply of 9-18V. Hence, depending on your usage scenario and also on your pedalboard’s design, you should pick one that will easily fit into your pedalboard and obtain sufficient power to run smoothly.
True Bypass or Buffered?
A dry guitar signal has a very high impedance, which can not be handled efficiently by all electronics. Pedals equipped with buffered bypass turn the signal into low impedance to make sure that you don’t lose your tone significantly. It again amplifies the signal to prevent any loss in signal strength (3).
Depending on your pedalboard size and the length of your overall signal chain, different bypass modes may be required in different circumstances.
Meanwhile, pedals with a true bypass route your signal directly through the output and don’t color your tone in any way. This works best when you only use a couple of pedals and short cables. But adding more true bypass pedals means more cables, and that will result in a loss of brightness and treble along the signal chain, so you have to be careful about that.
However, some of the cheaper pedals often come with a low-quality buffered bypass, which causes “tone sucking,” hence making it pointless and causing you to lose the richness of your guitar sound.
The best Tube Screamer pedal would be the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer, a re-issue of the original Tube Screamer. It’s made with the same circuitry and the same components in the same factory to ensure that it sounds authentic. Considering all the clones that are available today, it’s best to go for the original.
No, overdrive pedals generally cannot damage amps. Most overdrive pedals work on 9V power, and they simply boost the input signal that is going into your amplifier. They do not have enough current or voltage to damage the amplifier’s circuitry, so there is no need to worry about cranking your overdrive all the way up!
Overdrive and distortion pedals may seem quite similar, but they have distinct differences in tonality and usage. Overdrive adds crunch to your sound, fattening it up and making it more thick and warm, which is perfect for blues and rock. Distortion has much higher gain and amplifies your guitar signal to maximum saturation, making it very strong and thick with an excitation to it, which is perfect for metal players. You should pick one based on your genre and style of play.
The best overdrive pedal for tube amps would be an overdrive pedal that adds enough gain and saturation to your guitar signal that excites the tubes in the amp, resulting in a warm, fat, and saturated guitar tone. The Palisades, Tube Screamer, Fulltone, and many other pedals on this list are all great for tube amps, but each one has a slightly different tonality and effect on the sound.
- Kirk Hammett. I First Discovered Ibanez Tube Screamer in 1979. I’ve Been Using It Ever Since. Retrieved from: https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/news/general_music_news/kirk_hammett_i_first_discovered_ibanez_tube_screamer_in_1979_ive_been_using_it_ever_since.html
- Don Felder & The Fulltone OCD. Retrieved from: https://www.fulltone.com/news/don-felder-fulltone-ocd
- What are the Differences Between Buffered and True Bypass Pedals?. Retrieved from: https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/what-are-the-differences-between-buffered-and-true-bypass-pedals/