Best Overdrive Pedal for Tonal Variation and Clean Boost 

 April 21, 2021

By  Zen Chung

The best overdrive pedals are used to add flavor and color to an already existing sound character. They are not bought to change a tone or alter a sound.

Depending on your requirements, there are different overdrive pedals that you can choose from. You may wonder what makes one overdrive better than the other; the answer is simple.

There are small tones of variation from the circuits used to the pedal's main objective. It is the variables that affect the tone that the player hears.

An overdrive pedal mimics the effect of a tube amp being pushed into harmonic break-up and not just to give the searing, thick sound associated with punk or metal. Overdrive pedals have a lower range of gain as compared to fuzz or distortion pedal.

A wide range of overdrive pedals provide a simple boost and give you more accurate control over the whole frequency spectrum. The music genre will influence the type of pedal you choose.

Let us look into the best overdrive pedal.


1. Fulltone OCD V2 Overdrive Pedal

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The Fulltone OCD is an example of a pedal that bridges the gap between overdrive and distortion. Their configuration as "hard clippers connected to v-ref" instead of their ground was another feature they possessed first.

These features give the OCD a touch of sensitivity. It has an internal switch that lets you choose between 'Enhanced Bypass TM' and True Bypass with no popping sound in either mode. The OCD delivers the sounds of a great tube amp.

Along with standard Volume, Drive and Tone controls, the OCD V2's High Peak/Low Peak takes the pedal from a clean boost to manic, sustain-laden distortion.


  • It comes with a battery inside.
  • It makes very little noise as compared to other overdrive pedals.
  • Its casing is very sturdy.
  • The key is very simple.
  • Reasonably priced.
  • It provides a very transparent boost.


  • This overdrive pedal has very few highs.
  • Its lows are too much.

2. Mesa/Boogie Flux Five Overdrive Pedal

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The Flux-Five overdrive gives you total harmonic control over every frequency; Its controls are foot-switchable HI/LO control, Treble, Level, Bass, Gain, and 5-band EQ. The LO is the original Flux-Drive pedal. On the other hand, HI adds some benefit to the original sound for scorching leads and chunky rhythms.

If you're a rock or metal player, with Mesa Boogie, you will have extensive gain. It takes the smaller Flux overdrive and adds in the five-band EQ. You can set the EQ to work on either or both modes. This overdrive has the tone-shaping features you'll need to make your perfect tone.

If you want precise and accurate control, this is the overdrive to buy. You will love it! You will be able to push an already on-the-edge amp signal over the falls or give a clean amp two extra channels. A one-9V battery powers the Boogie Flux-Five.


  • It produces an iconic Mesa tone.
  • Its tone-sculpting abilities are exceptional.


  • It is pricey.

3. Ibanez Tube Screamer TS Mini

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The Tube Screamer Mini packs the TS808's coveted JRC4558D IC chip. It delivers the same tones you would expect from the larger overdrive pedals. It is a mini, roughly half the size of the original. Its required current is 18A@9V.

The pedal has an external DC power supply of a 9V AC adapter (center-negative). The TS Mini has three self-explanatory adjustment knobs that you don't need a guide to use. The three knobs are Drive, which controls the amount of gain; the Tone, which contours the tonal character and the third knob is the Level, and it controls the output gain.

TS Mini is adjustable. Players in all music genres, including blues, country and even metal, use it. Its versatility simply means that you can buy it regardless of what music genre you play. The Tube Screamer works well with a clean amp channel.

This little green box enables you to get a mixture of pedal and amp distortion of your liking. You can also use the Tube Screamer as a boost. If you like, you can mod this pedal to fit vintage specs, make it true bypass or use it as it is.


  • You can mod it.
  • It is easy to use.
  • It is small and portable.
  • It's good for a solo guitarist.
  • Great for boosting distorted amps.
  • It is versatile.


  • The small knobs lack a highlighted tick mark.

4. Electron-Harmonix Soul Food

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Your amplifier may have found a new best friend. Electron-Harmonix provides clean boosts and that you don't want to miss. It provides a wide range of drive control that gives you a clean boost and a fully saturated distortion.

It has a switchable true bypass or buffered switching. Harmonix is a wonderful complement to a valve amp. This Soul Food provided a cheaper alternative to Klon Centaur, which had been quite pricey.

This pedal offers transparent overdrives with great touch and response; Its boosted power rails provide abundant headroom and improved definition. It is simple. It has three knobs; the Volume, Drive, and Treble (Tone) knobs.

When you plug in your guitar, the power turns on, and when the pedal is active, an LED light shows.


  • Great with a valve amp.
  • It is super responsive.
  • It has a switchable true bypass.
  • Includes a power adapter.
  • Boosted power rails extends definition.
  • It is more affordable.
  • Keeps your core sound intact.


  • Battery operation is impossible.

5. JHS Double Barrel V4 Overdrive Pedal

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If you need a versatile and transparent overdrive at a medium and light gain, JHS Double Barrel is for you. It will provide you with the character and stacking abilities to cover a majority of tonal needs.

It has two overdrive circuits from Morning Glory V4 and the JHS Moonshine. Moonshine V2 has classic mid-heavy tones but with more gain, tones and volume. Morning Glory V4 is transparent. Open tones lurk in the circuit, as well as the new hi-gain toggle with Red Remote capability.

When the two circuits are stacked, they generate original and fresh tones that come with flexibility and ease. The circuits can be used independently or together.

There is a sequence signal chain switchable. If you are having trouble getting the tones you want, JHS Double Barrel will help you get through that. It is easy to use, and you will hit the target.

The Moonshine section controls Volume, Drive, Tone, and clean blend. On the other hand, Morning Glory controls Volume, Tone, and Drive. It has a footswitch for Morning Glory and Moonshine.


  • It is easy to use.
  • Two effective pedals in one.
  • It is versatile.


  • None.

6. BOSS Super Overdrive SD-1

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The BOSS SD-1 provides a range of smooth overdriven sounds, and it has unique asymmetric circuitry. It is straightforward and a powerful electric booster.

They are known for their durability and are therefore a choice for guitar players looking for premium tones without overspending. Its compact size makes it easy for you to place on your pedalboard.

The SD-1 has three standard controls. The Tone nob is used to adjust the color and frequency response. The Level knob adjusts volume, and the Drive knob adds distortion to the sound.

It is good for rock n' roll, blues, and all genres that feature warm, smooth guitars. It is among the best options for those shopping on a tight budget but still want an authentic sounding tube.


  • It is versatile.
  • It is affordable.
  • The SD-1 is durable.
  • Great beak-up dynamics.
  • Responds well.


  • It does not work well with the Fender amp rig.

Factors to Consider When Buying the Best Overdrive Pedal

1. Tone

Tone differences are minimal between overdrive pedals and are mostly dependent on the guitar and amp in use. It is still important to consider the tone of an overdrive pedal before buying. A good overdrive pedal should react well to dynamics, be it in the techniques you use to pick the strings or the guitar's volume and tone controls.

Different pedals will offer different levels of control over what the pedal can do, including it's effects on your tone. Therefore, before buying a pedal, make sure you are comfortable with the tone that it produces.

Moreover, ensure that that is the tone you want to achieve. You should, however, not just judge a pedal by the number of knobs. Instead, find one with the proper controls to inspire you to play better music.

2. Build Quality

It is not only important but also wise to buy an overdrive that is durable. It should be made with long-lasting materials to give you a long service. You can check other customers' reviews to know more about a pedal before you buy it.

Buying things without any prior knowledge can sometimes be disappointing if it does not meet your expectations. Therefore it is best to ask and also see reviews to be informed.

The best overdrive pedals are durable. They should not break within the first few months. If they break without providing enough service, you would have to go back to the market to get a new product; that is very uneconomical

3. Price

The price is an important factor to consider before purchasing a pedal. Some manufacturers overprice their products, and this is why you should consider the price before deciding to buy the item.

Also, it is important to not go for the cheapest because that is what you can afford. If the price of what you can afford and what you want is only $50, then instead of going for the cheap one, you can save and buy the best overdrive, provided it is what you want.

4. Your needs

Although most overdrive pedals are versatile, they don't provide the same type of service. Overdrives sound different with different amplifiers. It would be best if you got an overdrive that sounds perfectly with your amplifier.

In addition to that, considering the genre of music you play, some overdrive pedals may not favor your type of music. Classic overdrive pedals are voiced to be transparent but often emphasize the mids to let your signal cut through a mix better.

Blues and rock players still choose TS88 Tube Screamer as it preserves the dynamics of your original guitar signal. It is beneficial to know what you want to achieve with your pedal and guitar before getting yourself a pedal.

5. Amp and guitar setup

If you want your overdrive pedal to be your main dirt unit, you will want flexibility and gain range. On the other hand, if you simply want to drive your tube amp or supplement another pedal, then you will need to check the most transparent overdrive pedals available. Different pedals work well on different setups, and for your music to sound better, make sure you chose a pedal that is works best for you.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Overdrive Pedals

a). Which is the best budget overdrive pedal?

If you are looking for a budget pedal, I will give you the price ranges of some of the cheapest best overdrive pedals.

  • Fulltone OCD; its effects are: overdrive, distortion. The price range: $130
  • Ibanez TS Mini; effects: overdrive. Price range is $80
  • BOSS Super Overdrive SD-1. The price range is $50

b). Which is the best guitar effects pedal to buy?

Overdrive is one of the essential guitar effects pedals. Some of the best overdrive pedals are listed below.

  • Fulltone OCD V2
  • Mesa/Boogie Flux Five
  • Ibanez Tube Screamer TS mini
  • Electron Harmonix Soul Food
  • JHS Double Barrel V4
  • Boss Super Overdrive

c). What is the difference between overdrive and distortion on a guitar?

The biggest difference is the way the pedal clips the signal. Overdrives use softer clipping and, at times, add only harmonics without clipping the signal. On the other hand, distortion pedals use much more aggressive hard clipping.

Zen Chung

I'm Zen Chung, a piano and violin teacher based out of Plano, Texas. I started this blog because my students (and their parents) kept asking about the best musical instruments to buy online. Look no further I'm here to save the day! 

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