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Best Overdrive Pedals for a Powerful & Full Guitar Sound 

 June 9, 2021

By  Zen Chung

If you are a rock or blues enthusiast, you know that sometimes a gritty, rusty sound will make the song sound better than a soft output will. When you want to raise the volume of your guitar playing right to the limit, there's nothing better to use than the best overdrive pedals.

However, with the many overdrive pedals available, finding the right fit can be a hassle. This post reviews the best overdrive pedals you can buy and the factors to keep in mind when making your choice.

Let's get straight to business!

1. Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer Classic Overdrive Pedal

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer - Classic
  • Classic tone Tone, drive, and level controls
  • Tone, drive, and level controls give you access to warm, amp-like overdrive...
  • The Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer is a reissue that's just like the original in so...
  • Same factory, same components, same housing, same famous seasick-green paint,...
  • Guitar Player called it the best

Opening our list of the best overdrive pedals is the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer, a popular choice among professional guitarists everywhere. Since this pedal was made, we haven't seen better tone, drive, and level controls in an overdrive unit. It provides a warm, touch-sensitive output that sounds like it's coming from an amplifier.

The reissue is like the original in every way that counts since it comprises the same parts, housing, and finish in addition to being made in the same company. If you want to see what all this fuss is about, get yourself the Ibanez Tube Screamer and thank us later.

Pros

  • Sturdy build
  • Multifunctional
  • Super-overdrive output
  • Classic feel
  • Durable

Cons

  • Sound compression

2. Fender Santa Ana Overdrive Pedal

Fender Santa Ana Overdrive Pedal
  • This pedal draws more current than a typical stomp box. Make sure your power...
  • FET Technology for tube-like performance
  • ‘A’ and ‘B’ overdrive voicings
  • Led backlit knobs
  • Magnetically latched hinged 9V battery door

The second option you have on our review of the best overdrive pedals is the Fender Santa Ana Overdrive Pedal featuring the latest FET technology for a high-quality vintage-feel tube amp. You can say goodbye to the unnecessary maintenance requirements or noise production you find in other overdrive pedals when you buy this one.

The tone knobs on this model are LED-illuminated, making it an excellent choice if you are performing on a dark stage. You'll be able to adjust the volume and other settings without straining your eyes. If it's a variation you want, then this overdrive pedal is the choice for you because it offers two overdrive voicings in the flexible tone controls.

To get a cleaner output, all you'll need to do is dial back the guitar's volume or select a softer tone, just like you would do with a tube amp. On the other hand, if you want some "hair" in your sound, you can achieve it by slamming your guitar.

This unit is stage-ready and will last long since it's made from durable anodized aluminum to endure the severity of a musical tour without giving out. Additionally, changing the batteries is a no-brainer, thanks to the intuitive design of the magnetic latch battery door.

Pros

  • Tube-like output
  • Ideal bass frequencies
  • LED lighted knobs
  • Three control knobs
  • Works with multiple styles and genres

Cons

  • Tall, bulky design

3. Boss BD-2 Blues Driver Guitar Effects Pedal

Sale
Boss BD-2 Blues Driver Guitar Effects Pedal
  • Classic "blues" guitar tones with tube amp simulation
  • Warm distortion and overdrive
  • Responds to nuance and volume changes
  • AC adaptor (not included) or 9V battery operation (included)
  • BOSS five-year warranty

In third place, we have the Boss Blues Driver Pedal, which is a legendary pedal suitable for a thick, crunch blues sound. With this unit, you'll get the emotive distortion and warm overdrive that produces a classic blues sound for a great performance, similar to what you get from 30-year-old tube amps.

You'll be glad to hear the distinct yet subtle differences you get from toying around with the settings if you are an advanced guitar player. You can run this unit on the 9v batteries it comes with or uses it with an AC adapter, which will cost you extra.

You can rest assured of the quality of this pedal since it comes with a 5-year warranty, making it one of the best overdrive pedals you can buy.

Pros

  • Long-lasting construction
  • Versatile
  • Classic blues feel
  • Clean boost without extreme distortion

Cons

  • Additional costs for the AC adapter

4. Fulltone OCD V2 Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal

If you'd prefer an easy-to-use pedal without any fuss or unnecessary complications, the Fulltone OCD overdrive pedal will provide that. Featuring a compact design and intuitive volume, tone, and drive controls, you don't need any technical expertise or experience to use it.

Whether you want a clean and detailed sound or heavy crunch, this overdrive pedal will do it for you, which is why it's better than other pedals. This pedal responds just like a tube amp and can mirror your playing style to produce a detailed output that your hearers won't forget.

Something to note about the OCD V2 is the True-Bypass mode and Enhanced Bypass mode, which get rid of any unwanted sound effects. You'll also get a better sustain in your sound and overtones thanks to the buffer, which reduces the loading when the pedal is on a hard-clipping stage. It's easy to open the battery compartment when you need to swap out the batteries.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Internal dip switches
  • Compact pedal
  • Great overdriven tone
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Doesn't come with an AC adapter

5. Amazon Basics Overdrive Guitar Effect Pedal

Amazon Basics Overdrive Guitar Effect Pedal - True Bypass, 2 Modes
  • Overdrive guitar effect pedal gives an original tone an extra boost; produces...
  • 2 modes; rotate the knobs to boost the guitar amp for vibrant tone or overdrive...
  • Made of reliable high-quality aluminum alloy with a green finish; anti-skid...
  • LED status indicator; user manual included; no batteries needed; powered by an...
  • Measures 3.7 by 2.1 by 2.1 inches; backed by an Amazon Basics 1-year limited...

The Amazon Basics Overdrive is among the essential guitar effects pedals you can invest in today. It provides an original guitar tone that sounds inviting and powerful enough for an overdrive pedal. It's among the best overdrive pedals because of the two modes you get from rotating the tone knob. One will provide a vibrant tone by boosting the guitar amp, while the other will deliver a unique pedal sound that takes you to overdrive.

Another reason many guitarists call it a good overdrive pedal is because of the high-quality construction. This item is made from a premium-grade aluminum alloy that is durable enough for the roughest performances. It also features anti-skid rubber pads that prevent friction and adding stability.

The user manual is easy to follow, and you won't need any batteries for this overdrive pedal since it uses an AC adapter which is not included in the package.

Pros

  • High-quality construction
  • Excellent overdrive sounds
  • Better stability
  • No batteries needed

Cons

  • The footswitch is hard to engage

6. Electro Harmonix Soul Food Transparent Overdrive Pedal

Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Distortion/Fuzz/Overdrive Pedal
  • Transparent overdrive
  • Boosted power rails for extended headroom and definition
  • Super responsive
  • Compact, rugged design
  • Selectable true bypass or buffered bypass modes

Next up is an iconic pedal that delivers transparent overdrive while still being affordable and highly responsive. You can enjoy better definition and tone clarity with this overdrive pedal since it comes with boosted power rails. The best part about this product is that it's suitable for metal guitarists and other softer music genres.

You won't struggle to use this pedal since it's super responsive, and every adjustment you make will impact the output. The rugged design ensures it can work well in extreme conditions without breaking down. You have the choice of going with the true bypass or buffered bypass mode, depending on your preferences.

Pros

  • Adjustable volume control
  • Versatile
  • Great build
  • Powerful guitar sound
  • Level or gain boost options

Cons

  • Reducing the gain produces a thin, wimpy sound

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Overdrive Pedals for Your Guitar

1. Types of Guitar Pedals

Before selecting the best overdrive pedal, you should understand the various types of pedals available on the market. They include boost overdrive, distortion, and fuzz pedals.

  • Boost Pedals

A boost pedal is designed to increase your guitar signal and is a great choice if you are hell-bent on using a sweet tube high gain amp. When you have a decent amount of gain, you can push it into lead tone territory using gain pedals. You'll need to set the amp just before the breakup point to transition between clean and overdrive tones.

  • Overdrive Pedals

Overdrive pedals come in a wide variety of forms. They work more or less like a tube amp at its breakup point to produce clean sounds when you play it soft and crunchy if you're playing hard. They are appropriate for achieving high gain sounds which are suitable for aggressive rhythms. Nevertheless, you can also add depth and detail to your sound with a subtle overdrive.

  • Distortion Pedals

While an overdrive pedal adds rind and grit to your guitar tones, a distortion pedal modifies the tone in the same way as a high-gain metal amp. Distortion pedals are the ideal choice if you prefer a clean setting without preamp gain. They are not subtle, but they can improve the level of sustain and harmony in your playing.

  • Fuzz Pedals

Fuzz has the same qualities as distortion pedals but produces a glitchy or sputtery sound. You should go with these pedals if you are using a slightly overdriven tube amp. It's a great option for rock music when soloing but is best used in specific song parts for a climactic feel.

2. Stereo vs. Mono

Some pedals will offer the option of running a stereo or mono output. Stereo is a great choice if you want to add depth and dimension to the guitar sound. It can provide nice effects like ping-pong delays and room reverbs. Unfortunately, these aren't any good unless you have two amplifiers or are recording. The stereo also produces some unwanted issues in the tone, which could be tricky to control.

3. True Bypass or Buffered Bypass

Inexperienced guitar players keep asking which is better between true and buffered bypass. The answer is neither, and for a good reason. When true bypass is not in use, it cuts the flow of the pedal's signal path to prevent any additional effects from messing your sound up.

Plus, considering that there is a significant amount of wiring in pedals, having several in a row is just like having extra feet of guitar cable.

Buffered bypass modes can affect the tone of your sound, but they add some amplification to improve signal retention and prevent high-end attenuation. True bypass is better suited when you need a few pedals within a small distance, while the buffered bypass is a great option if you have a packed pedalboard.

4. Battery vs. Ac

Some people believe that all AC power supplies are noisy and reduce the quality of sound. However, this could be more because of a poor power supply than the mere use of AC adapters. If you don't like using power cables, you can comfortably go for battery-operated overdrive pedals.

Bad power can affect the condition of your guitar amplifier more than the pedalboard. One of the things you can do to alleviate the situation is getting a power conditioner and run your pedals and amp through it. This will lead to a cleaner sound that is free from any unwanted sound effects.

The primary downside to batteries is that they could run out in the middle of the performance. In response to this, most manufacturers ensure an easy-to-replace design for the battery compartment to get you back up and running in no time.

5. Construction Materials

The materials used to build the overdrive pedals are quite crucial to consider. Since you'll be operating the guitar pedal using your foot, it should be made of materials that can withstand the weight of your body without breaking down.

The overdrive pedals in this post are made from premium-grade materials like anodized aluminum, which ensures maximum longevity. You don't want a pedal that you'll have to replace every so often. As such, you should ensure that the one you choose is made from durable materials that will guarantee it lasts long.

6. Overall Design

The design of the overdrive pedals is also crucial, especially if you'll be moving around various places as you perform on tour. If the pedal carries a bulky appearance and is made of heavyweight housing, it'll be challenging to handle it as you play guitar on stage.

A lighter build can help you a lot but not at the expense of durability. If you can get a unit with a light but long-lasting build, it'll work wonders for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which is the best overdrive pedal?

The best overdrive pedal you can go with is the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer Overdrive Pedal, a durable, easy-to-use option with great sound output.

2. How do I choose an overdrive pedal?

When choosing an overdrive pedal, the things to keep in mind include the build, weight, effect, and price.

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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