Best Overdrive Pedal: Top 5 Picks To Buy Right Now

If you are researching effect pedals on the web, it won’t take long till you conclude this market is huge. Literally, hundreds of effect pedals wait for you out there.

The challenge is not minor when we talk about finding the best overdrive pedal because it’s not easy to find the right drive pedal for every taste.

That is why you need some help in this quest to find the best overdrive pedal for your style. In this article, I will help you find the right one for you.

The 5 Best Overdrive Pedals Out There - Reviews

Overdrive pedals occupy an exceptional niche in the world of electric guitar among essential guitar effects like delay or fuzz. You will not buy an overdrive pedal to change your sound in any drastic way.

An overdrive pedal is commonly bought to add color to an existing tone, one that can’t be achieved from a tube amp. Depending on your necessities, there are a group of overdrive pedals available that stand out above others.

In the following list, I’ll show you my selection of the best overdrive pedals currently available on the market.

#1 Fulltone OCD V2

The Fulltone OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Drive) is one of the best overdrive pedals in the market. It has an open sounding Overdrive/Distortion circuit. Born in 2004, it was the first pedal to use Mosfets (Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor) as clipping devices.

The OCD V2 has a remarkable touch-sensitivity. It makes the tone react well when the strings are hit hard or soft. It has an extraordinary sound & feel, hugely different from the vast majority of pedals out there.

Best Overdrive Pedal: Top 5 Picks To Buy Right Now 1

It has an output buffer that prevents it from being influenced by the effects that came after it. Thanks to this feature, your tone will remain consistent despite the place it occupies in your pedalboards.

The OCD has an internal switch to choose between “Enhanced Bypass” or “True-Bypass”. This avoids all kinds of popping sound in both modes. This is a unique feature that no other company currently offers.

It has a Volume Knob that controls the amount of signal that exits the pedal. The HP LP switch (High Peak/Low Peak) allows you to get a great distortion and high volume in the High Peak mode. But you can achieve incredible accuracy to the original tone of your guitar and amp in the Low Peak mode.

The Tone Knob affects high frequencies. The 12 o’clock position is neutral; turning it counterclockwise to 10 o’clock achieves high-gain lead guitar sounds, and turning it clockwise to 2 o’clock or more gets a more cut and a less compressed feel.

You can run the OCD at different voltages like 9 volts, 12 volts, and 18 volts without hurting the pedal because Fulltone designed the pedal to run at 18 volts. Finally, the OCD will let you obtain a wide range of sounds and suit many playing styles.

You’ll love this:

  1. More Dynamic-Range: The OCD differs from other overdrives because it has more Dynamic-Range and the pedal itself seems like an overdriven amp.
  2. Excellent interaction with most pickups: This latest version of the OCD brings a significant raising of the input impedance to 1 Mega ohm (previously 330K), resulting in excellent interaction with both types of pickups, humbuckers, and single coil.
  3. Enhanced Bypass: The Enhanced Bypass makes it possible that just having the OCD turned off in your signal chain makes the whole rig sound alive, fresh, and more powerful again.

You might not like this:

  1. Lack of clarity: Some users have witnessed that the Fulltone OCD V2 has a noticeable lack of clarity on the top end and instead rely on a more present bottom-end with more headroom for volume and gain.

PROS

CONS

#2 Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer

The Ibanez Ts9 Tube Screamer is between the best overdrive pedals and an exceedingly popular one in the guitar effects market. Over time Ibanez has made several versions of the Ibanez Tube Screamer used by countless great guitarists since the first models in the late 1970s.

The Tube Screamer is undoubtedly between the best overdrive pedals out there. This was designed to provide a warm tone, crunch, and gain. But, unlike most other drive pedals, this version was designed to complement the guitar tone rather than reinventing it.

Best Overdrive Pedal: Top 5 Picks To Buy Right Now 2

Ibanez has manufactured all types of Ibanez Tube Screamer, starting with Maxon’s TS-808 since the late 1970s. The more modern TS-9 offers all the classic tones of the Tube Screamer used by players, from Stevie Ray Vaughan to Trey Anastasio.

The TS9 Tube Screamer has collected a lengthy list of important artists who have used it in the studio and on stage. That is why the TS9 will suit those looking for an overdrive tone that isn’t too saturated in gain.

If you’re looking for an ultra-saturated Death Metal sound, then better look elsewhere. Because this Tube Screamer will give you anything more than a great overdrive tone.

It’s easy to like this iconic pedal. It has an unquestionable pedigree, and the list of legends who use it elevates it to another level. Besides that, the TS9 Tube Screamer has a very affordable price, considering the positives and the lack of negatives attributes.

The Ts9 will complement your sound and give you a surprising variety of options and all this without breaking the bank. You simply can’t go wrong with this pedal.

You’ll love this:

  1. High quality and strength: The Ts9 was made with quality and strength in mind. These are reasons why there are few more iconic effects pedals than this one.
  2. Great to achieve a distinctive touch: With this Tube Screamer, you’ll get a different tone depending on the instrument. It can help you emphasize your actual tone rather than create a new one for you.
  3. Clear sound pedalboard: With the TS9 Tube Screamer between other pedals in your pedalboard, your sound will keep clean and original.

You might not like this:

  1. Basic effect pedal: Since the Ibanez Ts9 Tube Screamer has only 3 controls: Drive, Tone, and Level. It is maybe a basic and low-performance effects pedal for some tastes.

PROS

CONS

#3 Fender Santa Ana

The Fender Santa Ana overdrive pedal will let you dial in a wide collection of tones from a smooth fuzz to a fully saturated sound. It comes with all the Fender pedals’ classic controls knob (bass, middle and treble control), adding Level and Drive knobs. This well-known Fender format is easy to read and a breeze to activate.

Fender’s commitment to refinement and with time-tested results is well appreciated by experienced Guitarists. This overdrive pedal features a new original diagram of circuitry equipped with FET technology to deliver valve amp-style drive.

Best Overdrive Pedal: Top 5 Picks To Buy Right Now 3

Fender kept things simple, so you can revel in the vintage sonic flavors of distortion. This brand knows that a classic overdrive pedal box doesn’t need more than this to shine more than the best overdrive pedals.

It has reminiscent of a Fender amp front panel with a set of four EQ knobs and a wide range of different tones available from a clean boost to a more saturated amp sound. The magnetically latched 9-volt battery door makes that changing out the battery is easier than ever.

The Fender Santa Ana has a nice expressive touch sensitivity and keeps a clean sound when you turn up the volume on your guitar. Santa Ana has two amp voices designated American and British. The first one is brighter with a sharper, almost percussive timbre, while the second one is darker and a practical choice against too bright amps.

This Candy Apple Red pedal is undoubtedly one of the nos simple and flexible drives out in the market right now. One important benefit of twin pedals is that you can change the order of boost-into-drive or vice versa.

To finish this mini-review of the Fender Santa Ana overdrive pedal is important to say it can help you find that classic dirt audio you are looking for from an OD, and it’s one of the more flexible guitar effects pedals on the market.

You’ll love this:

  1. Classic Fender sound: The Fender Santa Ana overdrive pedal was designed by their own in-house team, who understands well the classic tones that Fender is known for.
  2. LED-backlit knobs: The Fender Santa Ana has LED-backlit knobs that make it easy to spot the knobs on a dark stage, and the chassis is made from durable, lightweight, anodized aluminum.
  3. Great additions: The two voices joined with the two footswitches for Boost and Bypass are great additions.

You might not like this:

  1. Absence of a boost level control: The Fender Santa Ana has all the Fender pedals’ classic control knob. But it would be better for some guitarist to include a boost level control.

PROS

CONS

#4 BOSS BD 2 Blues Driver

Boss released the BD 2 Blues Driver in 1995, and it was aimed at generating a valve bluesy overdrive tone. And BOSS successfully achieved that goal by making a new tonal palette for guitarists that you’ve heard on countless live shows and great albums.

The Boss Blues Driver is unquestionably one of the most popular and one of the best overdrive pedals ever released. Over time, it became the standard pedal for many guitarists because it offers a clean, vintage, amp-like sound. In 2020, it will be 25 years of successfully delivering access to timeless tones.

Best Overdrive Pedal: Top 5 Picks To Buy Right Now 4

It has three classic and simple knobs; we have LEVEL, TONE, and Gain. With LEVEL, you will control the pedal’s output volume of the overdrive signal. The TONE sets the filtered range of your distorted signal just before the output, after the clipping stage. The GAIN control will let you obtain a diverse palette of overdrive tones, from a blues sound with great sustain to a soft, little more aggressive overdrive tone.

Both members of the BOSS pedal family, the Super Overdrive SD 1 and the BD 2 Blues are overdrive/boost pedal, not distortion ones, although the BD 2 can unquestionably deliver a good amount of grit with the gain knob all the way up.

The BOSS BD 2 shines as a clean boost pedal, although its overdrive might not be perfect for everyone. But the BD 2 can control the onstage volume or work as a moderate distortion pedal, delivering versatility and value like few other cans.

As with all the members of the Boss Overdrive & Distortion pedals family, the connection never was so nice & simple. Simply connect your guitar to the INPUT and the OUTPUT to your amplifier’s input. You can power this device with an internal 9v battery or via the power supply on the back.

The BD 2 Blues Driver has high-quality construction, it’s built solid, and it’s a pedal built to take the beatings of the live stage. BOSS describes the BD 2 as a pedal designed to provide the warm overdrive and emotive distortion usually reserved for a 30-year-old tube amp. That creamy and crunchy tone is associated with blues guitar.

You’ll love this:

  1. Amp-like sound: The Boss BD2 simulates the sound of a vintage tube amp and delivers a clean, vintage, amp-like sound successfully.
  2. Great volume: The BD2 is capable of a significant amount of volume, so you can use it to generate a higher-gain setting or push up the volume of your amp.
  3. Clear sound: Using this pedal at any setting never compromises its ability to clean up with the guitar’s volume knob.

You might not like this:

  1. Lack of responsiveness: The BD 2 may suffer from a lack of responsiveness we can associate with a tube amp overdrive sound.

PROS

CONS

#5 JHS Morning Glory v4

JHS Morning Glory is a classic and is between the best overdrive pedals available. It comes to its fourth version after much recognition and appraisal from the guitar community. JHS worked hard to make it one of the best transparent overdrive out there.

JHS had the goal, back in 2009, to create a transparent overdrive pedal that took a guitar amplifier’s tone to the next level without adding strong mid frequencies. For example, the traditional Tube Screamer overdrive adds mids while reducing the bottom end. And that might be what players are after.

Best Overdrive Pedal: Top 5 Picks To Buy Right Now 5

JHS says that the best way to explain the MG is “that it delivers all the tonal and responsive nuance that your amp is missing, and nothing that your tone already has”. The ideal choice when you just want to add some mid to low-level grit to your clean tone.

There is the case of many overdrives pedals that seek to copy a signature tone of a favorite amp. This can be good or bad depending on your taste and what you are looking for. But, if you are a player wanting to take your amp just as it is but adding some rich, creamy overdrive, so the MG is the right choice for you.

The Morning Glory is one of the best overdrive pedals, the one that put JHS on the pedal building map, and it is the company’s best-selling pedal too. It has a simple premise, to make your amp sound as natural as possible, but by adding a real overdrive tone to your sound.

Whether you want to boost a crunchy tone into thicker sustain, or you need to add a tube-like touch response to a less-than-ideal amp, or you need to switch between two gain levels, then this one is the most suitable choice for you.

Maybe it’s difficult describing a pedal that can have little effect on your tone. Let’s say you will have a gain control sweep from clean to Rock & Roll overdrive and output for use as a full-frequency boost.

This overdrive pedal adds dirt to your guitar tone without changing its fundamental character. It has only three knobs: VOLUME, DRIVE, TONE, and it is simple to handle.

Use the VOLUME knob to set your master output level. The TONE knob sets the right tone for you. The DRIVE knob will let you get the right drive sounds with a rather large amount of tonal control and gain options. GAIN activates a boost mode that yields more power, a more low end, and more high-gain sizzle.

The JHS Red Remote allows you to switch easily between the two voices, obtaining a more powerful sound with the second one. To finalize, the MG is well-built and feels very sturdy. It will suit anyone looking for a great-sounding overdrive.

You’ll love this:

  1. Natural amp sound: MG takes amps’ tone to the next level without adding strong mid frequencies. It makes your amp sound natural but adding a real overdrive tone to your sound.
  2. Transparent Overdrive: this is what you’ll have when you plug the MG into your guitar and amp.
  3. JHS Red Remote: with this update, you can access the boost mid-song. And It’s like having two pedals in one only pedalboard.

You might not like this:

  1. May hum a little: Sometimes, the MG caused it to hum a little with other pedals on the same rig. Something to consider when using the MG in an effects chain.

PROS

CONS

Most Asked Questions About Overdrive Pedals

When you use an amp, there’s a maximum amount of sound you can amplify cleanly before the signal starts to distort. Since the late 60s, some pedal effects companies are doing their best to recreate this sound effect in a form that can be controlled.

The search to reproduce this sound has produced a huge amount of overdrive over the last decades. Next, I will answer the most asked questions about overdrive pedals.

Should I Get a Distortion or Overdrive Pedal?

Overdrive is the term used to say you are driving an amp over its clean capacity. To generate that sound from a pedal, you need something called soft clipping. But you need a more saturated distortion sound for some genres like Hard Rock or Heavy Metal. This can be reached by using hard clipping.

You should get an overdrive pedal when searching for a subtle boost in volume and sustain, but you aren’t interested in obtaining a great distortion. You better get a dirt pedal if you need the high gain of a more saturated sound for playing more aggressive styles.

What Pedals Should Every Guitarist Have?

Like a technician needs to have elemental tools in its toolbox to do a decent job. The same happens with a good pedalboard. To obtain a good and personal touch in your sound, you will need some elemental pedals. Now, let’s see some effects pedals every serious guitar player should own.

The Overdrive pedal has been for decades one of the essential effects every guitarist should have; it gives that special tube amp-like boost sound needed for a wide variety of music genres. The Distortion pedal is mostly used for more aggressive styles like Hard Rock or Heavy Metal, and it’s among the most used pedals in the guitar world.

The fuzz pedal produces a well-known Hard Rock and Heavy Metal sound; it provides an extreme effect and creates discreet buzzing sounds. As its name indicates, the delay pedal literally delays your guitar’s sound signals, playing it back. It offers control over the number of playbacks, the time interval, and the sound volume.

The Reverb pedal creates an echo effect with a more natural sound than the delay. Some amps have knobs to control this, but having a pedal produces a more professional and cleaner guitar sound. The Wah pedal produces that well known “wah” with every step of the pedal. It’s one of the favorite guitar effects for those who like rock, metal, funk, or soul.

What Are the Best Distortion Pedals?

In the article about the best distortion pedals, I selected three ones that represent the best ones for me. The winner was the MXR M75 Super Badass because it is a very versatile device that has an EQ profile with a very vast range of tones and a great richness of sound.

As second on my list, the Proco Rat 2 has a legendary filter control that provides the most brittle frequencies. Finally, the Acapulco Gold V2 has the quality of sounding like an open Model T amp. It’s a real versatile thing that will let you obtain from a soft overdrive tone to a distortion Metal Tone.

Which overdrive pedal should I get?

After all the information about Overdrive pedals I have shared with you over this article, I will answer the question “Which overdrive pedal should I get?” in the Top Picks segment.

Top Picks

Now I’ll reveal to you the Top Picks from the overdrive pedals reviewed in this article. Without further waiting, let’s discover the Top Picks.

3rd Place: Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer

Best Overdrive Pedal: Top 5 Picks To Buy Right Now 2

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer

The TS9 Tube Screamer is with no doubt between the more iconic effects pedals ever made. It was designed to provide a warm tone, crunch, gain, and was made with quality and strength in mind.

It can help you emphasize your actual tone, and with other pedals in your pedalboard, your sound will always remain clean. Thanks to that, I named the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer the Second Runner-up.

2nd Place: Fender Santa Ana

Best Overdrive Pedal: Top 5 Picks To Buy Right Now 3

Fender Santa Ana

The Fender Santa Ana overdrive pedal was made by Fender’s specialist to keep that classic sound that Fender is known for. It has LED-backlit knobs for dark stages and has a lightweight, anodized aluminum durable chassis.

But it brings great additions such as Two voices and two footswitches for Boost and Bypass. Thus, I will name the Fender Santa Ana my Runner-up.

Winner: Fulltone OCD V2

Best Overdrive Pedal: Top 5 Picks To Buy Right Now 1

Fulltone OCD V2

If today I have to buy one overdrive pedal, it is without a doubt the Fulltone OCD V2. It has an extraordinary sound & feel. It has an output buffer that prevents it from being influenced by the effects that came after it. Not only that, but it has an internal switch to choose between Enhanced Bypass or True-Bypass, a unique feature that no other company offers.

OCD V2 differs from other overdrives because it has more Dynamic-Range, and the pedal itself sounds like an overdriven amp. This new version of the OCD brings a significant raising of the input impedance to 1 Mega ohm (previously 330K), resulting in superb interaction with both types of pickups, humbuckers, and single coil.

The OCD V2’s Enhanced Bypass makes it possible that just having the OCD turned off in your signal chain makes the whole rig sound alive, fresh, and more powerful again. Thanks to all these attributes, I will name the Fulltone OCD V2 as The Winner of this review.

Conclusion

In this article, I select what I consider the best five overdrive pedals in today’s market. I select each one of these to show you the ones that present features such as high quality and strength; good to achieve a personal touch; that comes with the best additions; that brings a clear sound, and also the ones that achieve a natural amp sound.

Many other great options, unfortunately, were left out of this list. Pedals such as King of Tone from The Analog Man; Soul Food from Electro Harmonix; Mega Ultimate Overdrive from Earthquaker Devices; and the original Klon Centaur by Bill Finnegan are some of the most sought-after effects pedals.

On the other hand, the Keeley D & M Drive from Robert Keeley; Timmy overdrive pedal from Paul Cochrane, the BOSS SD 1 Super Overdrive; and finally, the Strymon Sunset are examples of more classic overdrive pedals.

As in other articles of this series, I always have in mind to help you find the most suitable option for your taste. I hope you have enjoyed the article and expect this will help you select the best overdrive pedal for you.

Damián Furfuro

Damián Furfuro

Damián is an author of All Stringed. He started playing with an electric guitar when he was 14 as a self-taught boy at home. He has almost 30 years of experience playing electric and acoustic guitar. You can find more about him here.

All Stringed is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Share

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on reddit
Share on pinterest
Share on pocket
Share on email

Table of Contents