So you play guitar, and are in the market for an overdrive pedal to give you that great dirty sound or crunch you’ve been looking for that your amp just can’t give. Or perhaps you’re looking for a pedal that will give you a bit of a clean boost along with a bit of dirt? Some overdrive pedals are perfect for that, too. No matter the case, having a good overdrive pedal in your array of guitar pedals is a must. What are some of the best overdrive pedals for guitarists to use? I’ve done the research and compiled a list of the 10 best overdrive pedals below – check it out!
On a budget? Scroll down to #6 to see my list of the best overdrive pedals for under $50!
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Here is the list of the 10 best overdrive pedals for guitarists:
BEST OVERDRIVE PEDAL ON THE MARKET The Fulltone OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Drive) Overdrive Pedal is a pedal you will hear about over and over when researching overdrive pedals. Many forums and sites will say that this is the best overdrive pedal out there (it lists around $115). I AGREE! I own this pedal myself and it sounds amazing through a Fender Blues Jr. amp and a Fender American Deluxe Telecaster guitar. The pedal has 3 controls – volume, drive, and tone. It also has a single switch for LP and HP which is Low Peak and High Peak. The Low Peak (LP) option will give you an untouched tone – basically gives you the tone that your guitar and amp are giving you. The High Peak (HP) option gives you boosted mids, slightly boosted highs, a boost in volume, and slightly more gain.
With the drive knob turned all the way down and the volume knob turned up, you can get a nice gritty boost to your cleans. On the other hand, with the drive knob turned all the way up, you can get a thick crunch, with even more gain in the HP setting. The tone control has a great range for making your tone sound dark (turned all the way down) to sounding very bright (turned all the way up). This way, you can make even the darkest sounding amps sound bright, and vice versa.
The amount of tonal variations you can get with this pedal makes it worth it. It’s actually labeled as an overdrive/distortion pedal. That’s because in the LP (Low Peak) mode you can get a nice clean boost with the drive turned down or a crunchy overdrive with the drive turned up. However, keep that gain up and flip the switch to HP (High Peak) and all of a sudden you have a Marshall-like distortion screaming out of your amp. It’s wonderful. Needless to say, the Fulltone OCD Overdrive Pedal is, in my opinion, one of the best overdrive pedals on the market, and would be a great choice for anyone looking to add an overdrive pedal to their array. I also like that it’s a simple one-button, compact pedal which helps not take up so much space on a pedal board.
THE CLASSIC OVERDRIVE PEDAL The Ibanez Tube Screamer is a legendary overdrive pedal that has been extremely popular since the original TS808 Tube Screamer pedal was released in the late 1970s. This is the classic overdrive pedal. If you ever have a conversation to anyone about overdrive pedals, I guarantee this pedal will come up almost every time. The pedal has a mid-boosted tone that is popular especially with blues players. One of the most notable blues players ever, Stevie Ray Vaughan, used an Ibanez Tube Screamer. Other notable guitarists to have used an Ibanez Tube Screamer are Steve Vai, Carlos Santana, Keith Urban, Kirk Hammett, and many more.
Since Ibanez really nailed that classic overdrive tone, the Ibanez Tube Screamer is easily one of the most popular, and most cloned/modded pedals out there on the market. Everyone wants to build their own slightly tweaked version to see who can get the best sound.
If you’re looking to have those blues riffs of yours shine, this is the classic blues overdrive pedal to have. Don’t have around $100 to spend? Check out #6 – the Joyo Vintage Overdrive Pedal. It is a clone of the Ibanez Tube Screamer Pedal that is sold at a fraction of the price. I believe it sounds just as good if not better, too.
The Fulltone Full-Drive 2 MOSFET Overdrive Pedal is a two-stage overdrive pedal that has a vast array of options and flexibility. It has a volume control, a tone control, an overdrive control which determines the amount of gain in stage 1 with the overdrive channel on, and a boost control which determines the amount of gain in stage 2 with the boost channel on. Additionally, it also has two switches. The first switch is what really helps give this pedal a huge variety of sounds with 3 different options:
- Vintage: Vintage mode acts as your “base” mode. The other two modes (FM and CompCut) are additive. Vintage mode gives you mid-heavy tones that cut through the mix.
- FM (Flat Mids): The FM settings gives you a more natural, transparent sound. With slightly less gain, this mode would be great to use with a Strat’s neck pickup.
- CompCut: CompCut takes any kind of clipping out of the circuit which can be used for a great clean boost with a lot of headroom. Also, it gives BIG volume boost.
The second switch (farthest to the right) lets you choose between “Standard” and “Mosfet” mode. “Standard” mode is more asymmetrical, more open sounding, and more transparent. In “Mosfet” mode, you get tighter low notes and bit more overdrive. Switching between these modes is a fairly subtle difference, but still gives you that many more tonal options. Take into account the extra boost channel on this pedal and you’ll find it is PACKED with options.
It’s tough to explain all tonal variations this pedal provides. The best way would be to just watch the pedal demo and listen for yourself! This pedal by far gives the most amount of sound variations and is very highly rated by many users. You’ll find this pedal high on many lists of the best overdrive pedals out there.
The Fulltone Full-Drive 3 Overdrive Pedal is the newest overdrive pedal from Fulltone and the cousin of the Full-Drive 2 pedal above this. There are many of the same options available as the Full-Drive 2 but with a few things switched around. You still have all the same controls – volume, tone, overdrive, and boost. However, the two switches on the pedal are where things have been changed a bit along with an additional “Dynamics” dial for the boost section. The first switch has some different options than the Full-Drive 2 which are listed below:
- 90’s: 90’s mode gives you smooth, symmetrical clipping which shows off the classic overdrive tone from the Full-Drive 2.
- CompCut: CompCut mode would be like the Full-Drive 2’s CompCut mode. It takes any type of clipping out of the circuit which can be used for a big boost, especially in volume.
- Wide Asym (Wide Asymmetrical): Wide Asym mode really helps the highs and lows cut through the mix, and gives a chimey, Class-A type of harmonic overtones.
The second switch (farthest to the right) lets you choose the order of the overdrive and boost channels. For example, with the switch up in “OD-BOOST” mode, the overdrive comes first, and then the boost. This gives you a volume boost. With the switch down in “BOOST-OD” mode, the boost comes first, then the overdrive. This results in more gain when you enable the boost channel.
Lastly, the “Dynamics” control is a Germanium diode limiter which, when turned clockwise, helps take out the irritating spikes that can occur with other clean boosts when you hit the strings hard.
To top it off, this pedal casing is 20% smaller than the Full-Drive 2, which is always a plus! This pedal is one of the newest, most versatile, and hottest overdrive pedals on the market right now!
The Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Overdrive Pedal is a tasty, transparent boost/overdrive pedal that can produce some great sounds. One nice thing about this pedal is it has boosted power rails which provide higher voltage to the circuit. This will boost your output giving you a boomier bass with a high gain setting or a nice boost to your cleans. Whether you are using this pedal to give you a wonderful sounding clean boost, or turning the gain up to get a smooth, yet crunchy overdrive, this pedal is sure to add value to your array of sounds. Fantastic ratings on Amazon prove that this is a loved pedal by many.
I really dig the sound of this pedal. Check out the pedal demo and I think you’ll see what I mean. I plan to add this pedal to my arsenal in the future.
On a budget? Here is a list of the best overdrive pedals for under $50:
I highly suggest watching the comparison video mentioned in the paragraph below to see how this pedal compares to the Ibanez Tube Screamer.BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK I can’t say enough good things about the Joyo Vintage Overdrive Pedal for the price point it’s sold at. I own this pedal and can personally say this pedal ROCKS for the money. If you are interested in the Ibanez Tube Screamer and the sound it delivers, this thing will do just that for a fraction of the price. I dare say that I like the sound of this pedal more than the actual Ibanez Tube Screamer. Want proof yourself? Check out this comparison video between the Joyo Vintage Overdrive Pedal and the Ibanez Tube Screamer Pedal. I personally believe the Joyo Vintage Overdrive Pedal sounds better.
If you’re looking for that pedal to give you the classic Tube Screamer tone for a much cheaper price, this is the pedal for you. You’ll get a nice clean boost with the drive turned all the way down and the volume boosted. Additionally, turn up the gain and you’ll get that perfect mid-boosted bluesy sound that blues players like Stevie Ray Vaughan used so well.
The Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive Pedal is an industry standard overdrive pedal that has been popular for decades since the early 80’s. The nice thing about this pedal is that it’s inexpensive, has a nice overdrive tone, and uses asymmetrical clipping. What does that mean? Well asymmetrical clipping means that the pedal gives the natural overdriven sound of a tube amp cranked up which many people love and desire.
Boss pedals have been around for a long time, and many of them are classics. Many large pedal boards will most likely have a Boss pedal on there somewhere as they make TONS of great pedals. If you’re looking for an inexpensive industry standard overdrive pedal made by a long-standing company, this is the pedal for you.
The Donner Blues Drive Pedal is a great, tiny little pedal perfect for that bluesy overdrive. If you’re looking for an overdrive pedal that will give you light to medium added gain, this pedal is fantastic for the price. It does not have a ton of gain when the gain is turned all the way up, but hey, if you want a ton of gain, look at distortion pedals! The tiny size of this pedal can also be a major perk for people struggling with space on their pedal boards. The pedal has a large knob for gain, and then two smaller knobs in the upper corners for tone and level along with a switch for both “Hot” and “Warm” tones. All of this packed into a tiny little casing!
The TC Electronic MojoMojo Overdrive Pedal is very cool because it offers a LOT of different sound options in a small, compact pedal. With 4 controls and a separate voicing switch all packed into a small pedal, this is a pedal to definitely check out. As far as the 4 controls go, you have your fairly standard drive, level (volume), and treble control (which can basically be translated to a “tone” control). However, on top of those 3 controls, this pedal also provides you with a bass control and a “voice” switch which provides an awesome mid-shift.
I think the best part about this pedal is how versatile it is for its size along with the bass control. This bass control alone gives you so much power over your sound. With the bass control all the way down, your sound will be harsher and thin-sounding. But, turn that baby up and all of a sudden you have a nice warm, thick tone that not only brings out the low end, but really helps give thickness and sustain to those higher notes. With 4 full-sized controls and a “voice” switch all packed into a small casing, this overdrive pedal will give you a vast array of cool sounds using a small amount of space on your pedal board. Pretty awesome!
The Behringer Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal is the least expensive pedal in this list. You can usually pick one of these up new for only $20! Not bad. Although it’s not my first choice when it comes to overdrive pedals, if you’re just looking for a cheap overdrive pedal to add to your sounds, you should consider this one. It has your standard three knobs – drive, tone, and level to help shape your sound. People describe this pedal as having a more “vintage tube” sound (hence the name) which indicates it has more of a bluesy, overdriven tube-amp type of sound when enabled. Although the casing is made out of plastic (instead of metal like many of the other pedals I have listed), it’s really hard to complain when it only has a $20 price tag. Try one out!
So there you have it – the list of the 10 best overdrive pedals. I own a couple of these, and plan to purchase a couple more in the future to try out because there are just so many good options available when it comes to overdrive pedals. Having an overdrive pedal on your board I believe is a must, and the ones listed really shine!