The Best Overdrive Pedals – My Top 10
My top 10 of the best overdrive pedals
Overdrive pedals are an important part of guitar tone. The ability to switch between different gain stages while playing live is extremely useful. And that’s probably the reason why the search for the best overdrive pedals never ends. Here’s an extensive list of the ten best overdrive pedals that I’ve played so far. I hope it will be helpful to you.
Visual Sound Jekyll & Hyde
The Jekyll & Hyde is a dual pedal with an overdrive channel on the left side and a distortion circuit (with noise filter) on the right side). The overdrive channel of the Jekyll & Hyde is also in the Visual Sound Route 66 pedal.
When I started playing electric guitar I looked to bands like Kings of Leon and Hillsong United and saw they were using the Visual Sound pedals. So I bought a used Jekyll & Hyde from the internet and it has been on my pedalboard most of the time since.
No matter what amp you’re playing trough, the sound is always beautiful and round. It’s just never harsh (on the flipside, the overdrive is not transparent and it doesn’t sound ‘open’, of thats what you’re looking for). It’s based on the Ibanez TS-808 circuit so it has a great amount of midrange. It has a little bit of bass cut (or boost when you flip the bass switch) and just the right amount of treble rolloff. Also it has an enormous amount of volume available. Unity gain is around nine ‘o clock!
The hyde side is just a lot of fun. Sometimes I use it as a boost to add more low-end, drive and volume to it. On it’s own it’s a great distortion based on the Marshall Guv’nor pedal. Inside it has two trimpots: a bass control and a threshold control for the noise filtering circuit. The mid knob on the pedal is very useful, but don’t expect a round overdrive from this one. It can get harsh!
The Lovepedal COT50 (church of tone) is a crossover between an overdrive and a boost pedal. It has only one knob that offers many shades of overdrive: from semi-clean all the way up to light fuzz. It stacks great with other pedals. It’s very touch-sensitive to the input level, so stacking works best when you put it in front of another overdrive. In some ways the Lovepedal COT is the opposite of the Visual Sound Overdrive. It is very bright and open, but still not as transparent as the Timmy overdrive. It sounds more like an amp than a pedal.
There are different versions of the Lovepedal COT50. I’ve played the COT50 Red and my own modified version (different diodes and a big knob). The latter has been on my board for years. If I use it I set my amp clean and leave the COT50 on all the time.
MI Audio Blues Pro
Just like the Visual Sound overdrive, the MI Audio Blues Pro is based on the Ibanez TS-808. Even though they are based on the same schematics, the pedal sounds a lot more open than the Visual Sound Jekyll & Hyde. The pedal is hand-made and has a very small enclosure. It has a fuzz switch that turns the overdrive into a wonderfull fuzz. All in all the Blues Pro is a very versatile boutique overdrive pedal that can be bought used well under 100 dollars.
Timmy overdrive pedal
I haven’t played this pedal much, but I wanted to add it here anyway. This overdrive pedal is one of the best overdrive pedals I’ve played. It’s super versatile and even more transparent than the DOD250. If you turn the gain, treble and bass all the way down you get a clean boost. The treble and bass controls function as a passive tone rollof. The more you turn it op, the more they cut treble and bass. It gives you a lot of control over your guitar sound. Absolutely one of the best pedals out there. Word is that the builder, Paul Cochrane is a really great guy. You can order it directly from him by phone or e-mail. For more info check his myspace page.
This pedal is a close relative to the ODR-1 overdrive, but with even more control over the EQ. This pedal excels in higher gain territory with nice crunch tones and singing leads. It really reminded me of the SD-1, but it’s more versatile and doesn’t have the tubescreamer mid-hump. The build quality is OK, but not as good as the SD-1.
This is a boutique pedal based on the TS-808. It’s quite expensive but sounds more amp like than I’ve ever heard from a tubescreamer style pedal. Instead of a tone control it has a glass knob. You start with the glass knob all the way back and add more treble as needed.
The builder removed the buffers from the original circuit. This makes the schematic a lot smaller. This is my favourite pedal to build myself. So if you’re into DIY pedal building, this pedal sounds great and it’s quite easy to build. Or buy the original if you can find one, they’re pedals are great quality.
Way Huge Red Llama
This is a classic. It’s a really simple two-knob overdrive pedal. It’s a very open and touch sensitive, in this sense it reminds me a bit of the COT50. The drive can go up all the way into fuzz territory, which I really liked.
Electro Harmonix Double Muff Fuzz
This pedal is a bargain for under 50 dollars new. Just like the Red Llama and the COT50 it’s very touch responsive, but a little bit harsher. It can make a sustainy fuzz that IMHO works a lot better than the Big Muff Pi: It doesn’t have the mid-scoop, so you’re less likely to get lost in a dense live mix. It also does boost settings well on the single muff setting. Get this pedal, its cheap and its fun!
The Boss SD-1 is just a really fun pedal. You can get it used for 30 dollars or less. It’s a bit flatter sounding than the Visual Sound Jekyll & Hyde but still has a lot of midrange. The pedal has a little too much bass cut, this is the only real disadvantage that I know of. It’s Boss so it’s very reliable and will last forever.
It’s also a relative of the Ibanez TS-808, there are some mods available to turn it into an original tubescreamer. Also there are many other mods available that improve this already great overdrive pedal. The best mod I’ve played is the Monte Allums SD-1 mod. It just sounds wonderful. I never wanted to stop playing this pedal. Very smooth, bright and warm, and even less noise than the stock units!
I heard about this overdrive pedal through the YouTube channel of the one and only Gearmanndude! Its such a good pedal to boost other drive pedals or an overdriven amp. It’s super transparent, no bass or treble rolloff whatsoever. If you turn the drive all the way down, all you have is a clean boost with a little grit. The more drive you add, the more it starts to sing. And they just released a reissue based on the old grey version.
Best Overdrive Pedals – what are your favorites?
So you just made it all the way through my list of favourite pedals. But I’m wondering, which of the pedals should I definitely check out? Please let me know and maybe I will feature them on this page.