I’ve loved Overdrive Pedals since I started to play electric guitar back in 1998. I’ve had lots of different tube amps so far, and I always felt the need to have some overdrive pedal in front of the input of my amp to make it more saturated.
In this article, I introduce you to my top 5 Overdrive pedals, the ones I’ve tried and enjoyed the most. I will explain to you in short why I love them and how a good sounding overdrive can heavily affect your sound.
What is an Overdrive?
Overdrive is an effect used to saturate the input of a tube amp (or even an amp emulator nowadays, for example). It helps you to have much sustain, much distortion, and a fatter sound that can bring you to play with more relax and dynamics in your solos. It makes your sound more “liquid” and it gives you punch to come out in the mix.
Overdrives were born officially to saturate tube amps at a decent volume. When you want to saturate properly a tube amp you’ve to increase a lot the volume of the master amp control in order to increase as much as possible the distortion of the power amp itself. This was a technique used a lot by Edward Van Halen for example and you can hear the results of his “brown sound” in his masterpiece “Eruption” even if he was also using a power amp attenuator.
Of course, you can’t always use a loud amplifier everywhere. Especially in small clubs or in your house: you can’t destroy people’s ears all the time. (even if it’s very Rock’N’Roll 🙂 ). Since you probably don’t want to go to jail, the solution to this problem is an overdrive, who will help you to reach this purpose.
Overdrives are used in pretty much every style in which an electric guitar is involved. From Hendrix to John Scofield passing by Mike Stern and lots of Metal and Djent dudes, overdrives are a very important component of every guitar player’s pedal board and it contributes a lot to the trademark’s sound of every guitarist.
So here we are. Here’s a list of my favorite overdrives, the ones I’ve had and tried in-studio and live so far:
Overdrives: my top 5 best list
This one is a big classic. It has been used by a lot of guitar players, and personally, I love it a lot.
The great thing about this simple pedal is that it gives you more natural distortion while being very transparent. It can also be boosted by a preamp like the MXR Micro amp and it becomes a very nice vocal sounding pedal for your solos, while being at the same time very creamy and huge.
I like it a lot, and it’s definitely my all-time favorite because It adds sustain to my solos and it’s awesome for my rhythms. It’s also relatively cheap and you can find now the mini version to fit your full pedal board without occupying too much space.
What else to say? It’s just my overall favorite, It’s always sweet-sounding and never ever too much high-ended or undefined. When you want to have creamy and punchy solos and always present and compact rhythms, this is the pedal for you. The pedal is equipped with a drive knob, a tone knob, and a level knob. The drive knob adjusts gain, the tone knob adjusts treble and the level knob adjusts the output volume of the pedal
You can find the TS9 here:
Ibanez TS 808
It’s not a secret I’m a big fan of the almighty Steve Ray Vaughan. According to the legend, he used two Ibanez TS808 together to achieve his incredibly huge and aggressive blues sound.
The sound of the TS808 is definitely richer, warmer, much transparent, and creamy.
The main difference with the TS9 is the chip JRC 4558D, which made a big change back in the days when the overdrives were made only with transistors. This is the reason why the sound of this pedal is so rich and profound.
The TS808 is a true legend and a must in a pedalboard of any Blues ( but not only ), guitarist.
Here’s the link to buy the TS808
Here’s the link to the 40th-anniversary version
When wanting the sound of a true boutique pedal you might also check out the hand-wired version with much punch and drive.
This pedal has got exactly the same sound as the TS808, but it’s true bypass.
It’s a very good alternative to the TS808
Here’s the link to buy the OD808
T-REX Diva Drive
This is the overdrive I can’t do without on my pedalboard. Not only it sounds great but also you have one switch to the right side that lets you choose the different frequencies you want to exalt in your tone.
It also has got the control “mix” with which you can control and mix the sound of the pedal with the one from the amp and vice-versa. This control lets you choose the correct amount of sound you want from the pedal itself.
Despite less creamy and much punchy than the TS808 for example, this pedal is totally killer for the guitar rhythms in Hendrix Style and it’s also perfect for the solos. The sound is maybe less transparent than the Ibanez overdrives, but if you like the color of its tone, you’re on a perfect path.
Here’s the link to buy the T-Rex Diva Drive
Xotic BB Preamp
This is another great sounding pedal.
It can be used both as a Preamp-Booster for other pedals or as an overdrive to increase the gain of your amp.
In any case, it will sound phenomenal. The EQ controls will allow you to sculpt your sound with more accuracy.
Again, for me, this is less creamy and way more punchy than the classic TS9 for example, but the color it adds to your sound is very nice to hear. You will always have your proper spot in the mix with its tone, and it’s perfect for the solos as I find it much naturally mid-frequency than the other pedals I talked about above. In any case, this is just a very good pedal according to my opinion, maybe less bluesy and much rock, but still amazing for everything. I think that this pedal can be used for boosting your solos, but it goes very well also with the rhythms.
Here’s the link to buy the Xotic BB Preamp
It puts together the overdrive section and a booster in a two-channel stompbox:
It gives you also many EQ controls to properly sculpt your sound.
This is my personal list of course, according to my experience and personal tastes.
I hope this article has been useful to you!
Don’t forget to leave a comment!