The 10 Best Overdrive Pedals

Updated April 21, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

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We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. When trying to mimic your favorite musician's tone, you have to look at not only their guitar, but the rest of their equipment, too. More often than not, an overdrive pedal is an essential part of bringing those distinctive, crunchy riffs to your ears. So, for the future rock stars out there, we've assembled this selection of models that balance sound, affordability, and versatility. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best overdrive pedal on Amazon.

10. MXR Custom Badass Modified O.D.

The MXR Custom Badass Modified O.D. is a little gold brick that may be small enough to squeeze onto your overcrowded pedal board, but it packs a big punch. It features a 100-Hz cut and boost for fine-tuning your sound, and is ideal for classic rock.
  • bump switch for the lower midrange
  • great sustain without interference
  • not incredibly versatile
Brand Jim Dunlop
Model 11077000001
Weight 12.6 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. TC Electronic MojoMojo

The superior bypass feature of the TC Electronic MojoMojo guarantees zero loss of tone or volume when activated. Its bass and treble knobs will add versatility to the range of sounds you can achieve, which is something many alternatives lack.
  • great for a low to medium boost
  • voicing switch for mid-shift
  • too fuzzy when pushed
Brand TC Electronic
Model MojoMojo Overdrive
Weight 12 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

8. Boss SD-1 Super

With the Boss SD-1 Super, there's no need for a maxed-out amp to get that raw, powerful sound you desire when thrashing away on your electric guitar. Fire this option up and control the distortion just by altering the ferocity of your picking.
  • great for heavy metal guitarists
  • smooth sustaining lead tones
  • some slight buzzing
Brand BOSS
Model SD-1
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

7. J Rockett Audio Designs Archer

The J Rockett Audio Designs Archer is a faithful recreation of the iconic circuitry of the company's celebrated original pedal, a tool cherished by generations of musicians. This gem can be utilized for a simple boost with a little edge.
  • solderless foot switch
  • robust design made for touring
  • too clean for some genres
Brand J. Rockett Audio Design
Model Archer
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

6. Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive

Like its name suggests, the Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive is for those guitar players obsessively searching for that perfect tone. Plug this into your setup to hear powerful ringing overtones or dial it back to just add some crunch to your clean sound.
  • low and high peak modes
  • responsive to picking dynamics
  • minimal tonal loss
Brand Fulltone
Model Full Tone
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

5. Fulltone Full-drive2 Mosfet Boost

You can spend an entire lifetime exploring the multitude of sounds the Fulltone Full-drive2 Mosfet Boost offers. It's a two-staged unit, so stomp on the left foot switch for the normal effects, then the other one for an extra layer of midrange growl.
  • true bypass capability
  • two mini toggles
  • bulky on your board
Brand Fulltone
Model FD2-Mos
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

4. Maxon OD808

Originally unveiled in 1979, the Maxon OD808 has withstood the test of time with its smooth and natural sound, while being relentlessly copied by other brands. For guitarists who play with heavy distortion or high-gain amps, this is a necessary accessory.
  • extremely responsive range
  • organic and creamy tone
  • boosts and tightens sound
Brand Maxon
Model OD808
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

3. Maxon RTD800 Real Tube

The rugged and capable Maxon RTD800 Real Tube achieves its natural tonal saturation by employing vacuum tubes in its circuitry, which gives you the ability to add warmth and presence to an amp that might not cut it on its own.
  • variable noise reduction
  • dual clipping stages
  • selectable solid state distortion
Brand Maxon
Model RTD800
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Electro-Harmonix Soul Food

The sounds you get from the Electro-Harmonix Soul Food can, indeed, give your playing that soul it needs. It's a replica of the near-mythical Klon Centaur, but at a budget price, so you'll be hard-pressed to find a reason not to pick one up.
  • responsive circuitry
  • compact and rugged design
  • highly recommended for clean boost
Brand Electro-Harmonix
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

1. Wampler Tumnus Deluxe

The Wampler Tumnus Deluxe takes the company's original boost design, which provides simple control over your natural distortion, and adds a three-band equalizer and a toggle switch to take you from normal mode to hot, where it really screams.
  • seamless pedal board integration
  • built in the usa
  • buffer and true bypass options
Brand Wampler
Weight 15.8 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

What To Look For In An Overdrive Pedal

Thanks to the numerous manufacturers on the market today, choosing an overdrive pedal can be difficult. Every brand will say theirs is the greatest, but if it does not fit your specific needs, it will not be the best pick. The difference between a good effect and a bad one can mean the difference between playing music and making noise, so it is important to choose wisely.

When looking for an overdrive pedal, it is important to understand the level of control the user desires to have with their equipment. Most pedals offer volume, tone, and drive knobs to control the color and effect of the sound coming out of the amplifier. Other models will take it a step further and allow the musician to boost or eliminate treble, middle, or bass frequencies as well.

This control can also translate to increased functionality. The knobs on some pedals allow for the effect to go from a warm, true boosted sound to a grungy distortion with just the turn of a knob. Instead of requiring multiple pedals and an intricate signal path to create specific sounds, some musicians can create these same sounds from various tweaks on a pedalboard.

It is also important to consider whether the overdrive pedal needs to be a true bypass pedal or not. True bypass pedals do not color or change the signal chain in any way when the pedal is not being used. The term itself has become somewhat of a music elitist's buzzword, but if signal colorization is important to avoid because of studio levels or other songs played very clean, look for a true-bypass pedal.

For the uncertain or newbie musician, there are even overdrive pedals which have presets built into them. If remembering the specific positioning of up to six knobs for every song in a set sounds mind-boggling, look for an overdrive pedal with presets. These allows the musician to focus more on playing the instrument rather than just tweaking it with effects.

For the nostalgic guitarist, there are even some overdrive pedals specifically designed to emulate the tones of rather famous guitar amps. As the world of audio customization is vast, knowing what you want makes all the difference.

The Creation Of The Overdrive Pedal

With the invention of the electric guitar came the ability to manipulate its sound. This was not necessarily a new feature, as guitarists always sought to create unique and original sounds. It was unique in that with the electric guitar they had the ability to do so now more than ever.

One man's individual style paved the way for overdrive and distortion for years to come. Junior Bernard started experimenting with creating a dirty blues sound by attaching a humbucker pickup to a small amp and overdriving its capacity. This created a louder sound and gave the signal a more rounded tone.

This directly influenced popular guitarists such as Buddy Guy and Elmore James, who were always looking for ways to recreate the soul of Chicago Blues in their music. Guitarists would deliberately increase the gain on their amps to create warm, distorted sounds. Chuck Berry would bring this overdriven amp sound mainstream in the 1950s with his iconic song Maybellene.

The early amps were much more delicate and prone to damage than modern amps are. Because of this, these damaged amps would produce distorted noises. Some guitarists began to experiment with these noises, to the point that damaged amps became a desirable thing.

Rather than seek out damaged amps or damage their own, individuals began making circuits which did this same function. The first known use of an effects box of this kind was when Red Rhodes offered the band The Ventures a small fuzz box, designed to recreate this warm fuzzy distortion. This marked the creation of the fuzz pedal, overdrive pedal, and distortion pedal, which all branched out from this device.

What Is The Difference Between An Overdrive Pedal And A Distortion Pedal?

When first discovering the world of musical effects, it can be intimidating to look at a seemingly endless catalog of effects pedals and decide which is the best for specific needs. This is especially true when it comes to overdrive pedals.

Overdrive pedals are gain-based effects pedals, in the same class as distortion pedals. In fact, these terms are sometimes used interchangeably to describe the effect they add to a guitar's signal. Each effect pedal changes the sound in a different way, and it is important to understand these differences.

The general effect of these two pedals is to increase the signal strength of the instrument to the point where it cannot be reproduced exactly as it went in. The term distortion is loosely applied to any pedal which does this, but this requires clarification.

An overdrive pedal is designed to either generate so much signal in a tube amp that the circuitry is overloaded and the signal gets cut, or to mimic this effect in a non-tube amp. As the circuitry of audio amplifiers is already complex as it is, so most manufacturers choose to keep most effects as after-market products. The overdrive effect usually incorporates both the function of a fuzz pedal and the function of a distortion pedal as well, but not to the extent that pedals designed to generate these sounds are.

When amplifiers are overdriven in this manner, the signal gets clipped as the amp tries to deliver a current beyond its capabilities. This distorts the waves and creates the warm and crunchy sound musicians like. As this clipping can cause the amplifier to output more power than intended, this can actually damage or destroy speakers. This is one reason why the pedals were created. Overdrive pedals allow the user to simulate this effect without destroying their amps.

On the other hand, distortion effects pedals are designed to do just that – distort the sound created through the input. This generally involves both boosting the signal like overdrive pedals do, and simultaneously altering the waves created by that signal. This creates additional noise around the input signal which changes the sound entirely.

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Last updated on April 21, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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