We Review the Best Overdrive Pedals for Blues Today

There’s nothing like the joy of hearing that smooth, yet somewhat rugged, overdriven guitar tone. While many players often aim at those “scorched” tones of regular distortions, overdrives have their important role too.

They just give a different flavor, while maintaining enough thickness of the tone. Whether we’re talking about guitars with single-coils or humbuckers, overdrive always manages to give that highly desirable and distinctive creaminess.

While many consider it to be just a milder version of regular distortion, there’s actually another important distinction.

Yes, overdrive is indeed a type of distortion, but with softer clipping. Compared to fuzz and regular distortion pedals, the tone of overdrive has softer “edges” in the clipping process.

Essentially, these pedals add their own tone coloration but still manage to keep the natural tone of your guitars and amps. In a way, it replicates the tone of clean tube amps pushed over the limits.

This is why overdrive pedals are quite popular among blues, jazz, or and vintage-oriented guitar players.

Slash

In many cases, they’ll use them in pair with tube amplifiers to push them into uniquely smooth, yet distorted territories.

Even to this day, various manufacturers are still producing overdrive pedals. While these find use in many different genres, including modern metal, they’re mostly still popular among blues and blues-rock players.

This is why we decided to look more into the topic and find out – what are some of the best overdrive pedals for blues today?

After a lot of digging, testing, and experimentation, we came up with the following list. Now, whatever your musical tastes are, these pedals can come in handy for a wide variety of genres.

However, we would argue that they work best for blues and blues-rock.

Feature Picks


Boss BD-2 Blues Driver

bd-2_1

It’s not a surprise that we open up this list with a pedal featuring “blues” in its designated name. Made by Boss, the BD-2 Blues Driver has been popular among blues guitarists for quite some time now.

The pedal is pretty simple to use, and features the always present three controls – volume, tone, and drive. Just like with the classic Tube Screamer, there’s nothing more that you need.

While it mostly comes in handy with tube amps, trying one of these with a solid-state will do just fine. In fact, it will even slightly enhance the tone and add the much-needed warmth in the mix.

While it’s great for any type of guitars, we would argue that it shines when you use it with guitars equipped with single-coil pickups.

A few years ago, Boss also made the BD-2W version, featuring their Waza Craft technology.

Visit the Boss website here


Fulltone OCD V2

Fulltone OCD V2

The only thing we didn’t like about this pedal is the Comic Sans font on the front panel. Other than that, this could easily be one of the best pedals of all time.

Its rich harmonic content and the responsiveness of controls are what make it so great. Aside from the three basic controls, there’s an additional switch for highpass and lowpass filtering.

This way, any guitar player can orient their tone towards the bottom or the higher end of the spectrum.

Also, there’s an internal switch that allows you to use it in true bypass and buffered bypass mode. So that’s a pretty neat addition.

Visit the Fulltone website here


TC Electronic MojoMojo

TC Electronic MojoMojo

TC Electronic’s MojoMojo has got to be the best deal for the price. Although it’s pretty cheap, it deserves to be mentioned among the best pedals you can find today.

This true bypass pedal allows a lot of versatility with a 2-band EQ and the “Voice” switch that toggles between the vintage and modern-sounding drive.

Knowing that Paul Gilbert uses one, it’s pretty clear that MojoMojo is worth it. It’s just a simple little piece that can do wonders when pugged into clean or distorted channels of tube amps.

Trying one of these out, you won’t believe that the retail price is just around $50.

Visit the TC Electronic website here


Electro-Harmonix Soul Food

Electro-Harmonix Soul Food

What many don’t know is the fact that Electro-Harmonix made Soul Food according to the legendary, and somewhat mysterious, Klon Centaur pedal.

Knowing that Klon is no longer in production and that they reach some astronomical prices, Soul Food comes in as a viable solution. Although reasonably priced, it still does a great job of capturing some of the original pedal’s tone.

Featuring only three basic controls, Soul Food will give you some very transparent and bright overdriven sounds.

While it comes in handy for any type of pickup, we thoroughly loved how it sounded with humbuckers.

It’s also important to note that Soul Food features a true bypass.

Visit the EHX website here


Boss OD-1X

Boss OD-1X

Knowing what a great line of products they have in their arsenal, we just couldn’t help but add at least one more Boss overdrive to the list.

Here we have the old classic OD-1X Overdrive, made according to the classic old pedal released back in the 1970s.

Some controls are added, but the tones replicate the warmth of the original pedals. The best part comes with this pedal’s dynamic response.

You’ll feel as if though you’re playing through a tube amp.

Visit the Boss website here


MXR M193 GT-OD

mxr-m193-gt-od-overdrive-pedal

Anything from subtle sparkling overtones, up to harmonically rich and tasty drives – this pedal has it all with just three basic controls.

It’s interesting, though, how it manages to keep all the smoothness while also delivering that bright, transparent, and very defined edge.

What’s more, MXR’s M193 adds a decent amount of sustain to your tone without adding any unwanted noise. We’ve gotta say, it’s a real mystery to us how they managed to make it so good.

If you like adding something in front of your tube amp to push it over the limits, while adding some coloration and clarity to your tone, you should definitely consider getting the M193.

While the looks of it might suggest that it’s just another Tube Screamer imitation, it’s actually a completely different type of overdrive.

Visit the Jim Dunlop website here


Chase Bliss Audio Brothers

Chase Bliss Audio Brothers

Audio Brothers by Chase Bliss is a fairly expensive pedal, at least compared to many of the products that we listed above. However, it’s definitely worth every penny.

First off, it’s a pedal with two separate stages. While on the top panel we have six main knobs, there are many other mindblowing and complex features.

With its numerous controls, it allows anything from simple clean boosting, over smooth overdrive, and even the buzzsaw-like fuzzes.

Audio Brothers pedal fuses analog and digital technologies, allowing you to save 33 different combinations of presets.

You can combine channel A and channel B in different ways, and even blend them together. It’s one of the most complex and intricate pedals that you can buy today.

Visit the Chase Bliss Audio website


Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer - Classic

And we finally come to the legendary Ibanez Tube Screamer. The history of Tube Screamer has been explored by many guitar pedal fanatics, but for a good reason – there are so many great versions and clones.

What started back in the late 1970s with the original TS-808 has evolved into so many different overdrives. Today’s TS-9 is a direct continuation of that pedal, with just a few minor modifications done over the years.

This version is made according to the old Tube Screamer made in the first half of the 1980s. The circuitry is completely the same and the tones are some of the best that you can get for blues.

At the same time, this pedal presents a great basis for any kind of modification.

Visit the Ibanez website here


Keeley D&M Drive

Keeley D&M Drive

You don’t often find a pedal that’s as good as Keeley’s D&M Drive. Here we have a two-stage piece that incorporates simple boost within an overdrive pedal.

Interestingly enough, you can use it as two standalone pedals. But what’s really mindblowing is that you can choose whether boost comes before or after the drive section.

This provides some great tone-shaping options. What’s more, you’re also able to choose between true and buffered bypass. So aside from quite a great tone, we have a lot of functionality features.

As a result, the types of tones you can get are pretty much endless.

Visit the Robert Keeley website


Strymon Sunset

Strymon Sunset

Strymon is a one-of-a-kind pedal company that manages to surprise us with every single piece they’ve ever made.

For this list of the best blues overdrives, we’d like to include their extremely versatile Sunset. Additionally, you can also venture into the world of distortion with this pedal.

What’s really great about the Sunset is that it manages to convincingly replicate the responsiveness of a tube amp.

To be fair, many would fail a blind test and between Sunset in a solid-state amp and an actual tube amp. It’s just that good.

Similar to the aforementioned Audio Brothers, this dual overdrive has so many features, including the expression pedal connectivity. You can also choose the order of the two gain stages, or just blend them together. Barely anything comes close.

One of the best things we liked about it is the replication of those vintage germanium diode tones.

Visit the Strymon website here


Origin Effects RevivalDrive

Origin Effects RevivalDrive

Now here’s a very intricate piece. At first glance, it’s pretty clear that Origin’s RevivalDrive hides so many different tone-shaping options with it.

Like some of the others we mentioned, it’s also a two-stage drive, with one on/off switch and another one that toggles between the channels.

One channel is inspired by tube tones, while the other one features the classic silicon transistor.

But then we come to an abundance of controls that would take days for us to fully explain. RevivalDrive brings the best of two worlds in one pedal.

Visit the Origin Effects website here


EarthQuaker Devices Westwood

eqd-westwood-rhp

Although the controls look like on any other overdrive pedal, EarthQuaker’s Westwood hides a few tricks up its sleeve. What’s special about it is that it has a so-called “active” 2-band EQ.

This means that, when shifted to left and right, the frequency band changes drastically, cutting or boosting up to 20 dB. Also, the drive control is voiced in a special way, providing much more response than standard controls on other pedals.

This compact piece comes in handy both as a booster and an overdrive. It’s a very crunchy pedal, to an extent where it might lack some smoothness to it.

It doesn’t mean that it’s bad, it’s just different and very useful for those who love these types of overdriven tones.

Visit the Earthquaker website here


Fender Santa Ana

Fender Santa Ana

While we mostly remember Fender for their guitars and great tube amps, it’s a shame that people sometimes overlook their extremely versatile and abundant arsenal of effects pedals.

Up next, we have the company’s impeccable Santa Ana overdrive. This is a classic two-stage pedal with very sensitive and responsive controls.

There are six basic controls for a 3-band EQ, presence, volume, and drive. It also comes with a voicing switch that picks between the classic American and British types of amps.

There are two switches on it, one to turn it off and the other one to add the boost. What’s interesting is that you can choose whether the boost option will add more drive or volume to the equation.

Another great feature comes with the addition of true and buffered bypass switching.

Overall, this is a fairly flexible pedal that manages to create a wide array of different overdriven tones.

Visit the Fender website here


Analogman King of Tone

analogman-king-of-tone-overdrive-guitar-effect-pedal-xl

King of Tone is a very special pedal. So special that you need to get your name on the waiting list, and wait for who knows how many months until you finally get it.

These boutique overdrives made by Analogman are in such demand that people started reselling them for higher prices. In fact, there’s a limited number of these pedals an individual can order in their lifetime.

And it’s no wonder that it achieved such a legendary status since it sounds so damn great. Sure, it comes with some customizable features, but the circuitry is almost the same with every one of these.

It’s a two-stage distortion that gives anything from smooth creamy drives up to sizzling heavy distortions. If you want the ultimate blues tone, then get on the King Of Tone waiting list.

Visit the Analogman website here


Thanks for reading!  Have you purchased any of these overdrive pedals?  What did you think?

A Beginners’ Guide to Guitar Pedals

beginners guide to guitar pedals

The world of electric guitars opens up new horizons of expression in music. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that it’s one of the most popular instruments out there. After all, there are so many different things that you can do with an electric guitar, making it a very potent musical tool for almost all of the genres that we can think of today.

The fact that it’s an electric instrument that sends a signal to an amplifier opens up new ways for further altering and improving its tone. With the development of guitar effects, guitarists worldwide were given a new tool that would help them to more easily convey their artistic message.

So it’s not unusual to know that many guitar players have dedicated their time and effort in building elaborate pedalboards. Some of them even feature very complex loops and even external controllers to create different combinations of sounds.

huge guitar pedal board

If you’re new to guitar pedals, some things might get a bit confusing. Well, you’re definitely not alone in this, and even the most experienced guitar players have been there. After all, with so many different pedals and effects, it does get difficult to keep up with how things work.

With all this said, we figured we could help clear things up for beginners and do a detailed guide on guitar pedals. We sorted them out by categories, explaining what these effects do, and how adjusting their parameters affects your tone. At the end of this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of guitar pedals and enough knowledge to start building your pedalboard.


Tuners

Peterson Stomp Classic Strobe Tuner

Tuner pedals are not effects, but we still need to include them in this guide. Essentially, they are like regular guitar tuners, only in the form of guitar pedals that you can put in your signal chain.

What’s important to note here is that they have a display or an array of LED lights along with a display so that you can easily see when the open string hits the desired note.

They’re nothing fancy, but they serve their purpose for live settings. You just hit the footswitch, mute the tone, and tune your guitar. That’s it!

However, tuner pedals usually have buffered bypass, which can serve its purpose in the signal chain. Essentially, they can balance the signal and sort things out, but that’s a whole other discussion that we’ll touch upon some other time.

Read a review of one of our favorite tuning pedals here


Filters

DigiTech X-Series Synth Wah Envelope Filter review

Up next, we have filter pedals that serve the purpose of filtering out certain frequencies in your tone. This means they can also pronounce certain frequency ranges of the audible spectrum by filtering out everything else. One of the examples of filter pedals is the wah-wah.

Wahs can change the peak frequency, pronounce it, while everything else stays the same or gets filtered out. By moving its rocking part, wah pedal sweeps over the spectrum. We also have automatic wah pedals that change these frequencies according to the input signal, or the dynamics of your playing.

Other types of filter pedals are “static” and keep the tone according to your parameters. As a result, they can emulate some quirky synth tones. An example would be Line 6 FM4. However, these are usually more advanced “toys” that you don’t exactly need as a beginner.

Check out our review of the DigiTech Synth Wah Envelope Filter Pedal here


Equalizers

eq700

Just like your guitar amp has a 3-band equalizer with bass, middle, and treble controls, there are standalone pedals that can further shape your tone.

The simplest form of an EQ is a tone control on your guitar, and the most complex examples would be things like 30-band EQs or parametric EQs.

EQ pedals for guitar usually have anywhere between 5 and 10 frequency ranges that you can control using sliders. By turning the pedal on, you change the tone according to the set parameters, and then go back to the original tone when it’s turned off.

This is pretty useful if you need to change the tone for a certain section of a song, like pronouncing mids for a solo. MXR’s M108S is a good example of a 10-band EQ pedal.


Boosters

Fulltone Fulldrive2 MOSFET Overdrive Boost review

We could say that these are the simplest types of pedals out there. All they do is boosting the guitar signal without creating distortion in their circuit. If you need a slight volume boost without changing your tone, they come in handy.

However, they are also very useful with tube amplifiers or other tube pedals and devices in your signal chain. Tube amps tend to “break” their tone and cause that “natural” or “organic” distortion when reaching their limits.

A simple booster can help you achieve that vintage-sounding distortion with a tube amp or another tube-driven pedal.

Check out our review of the MRX MC401 Boost Pedal here


Compressors

boss-cs-3-compression-sustainer-pedal-review

Compressors often get overlooked, which is quite a shame as they are pretty useful. The proper name for them would be dynamic range compressors as they turn up the volume of quiet parts and keep the louder parts quieter.

Of course, you’re able to set parameters and intensity of this compression. They can also boost the signal when needed, but the main purpose is to keep everything in check and prevent anything from popping up in the mix.

This is why they’re very useful for bassists and rhythm guitarists.

Read our review of the BOSS CS-3, one of our favorite compressors


Expanders, aka noise gates

Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor Pedal review

An expander is the opposite of a compressor – quiet parts get quieter, and louder parts get louder or just stay at the same volume.

This effect is perfect for dealing with high gain distortions that tend to add that hissing sound when you’re not playing. While it can’t filter out the hissing during your playing, it does keep things quiet in between the notes.

They usually have just one control that sets the threshold at which the effect is activated. They’re simple to use but still require some experience to implement properly without soaking up your tone.

Check out our review of the Boss NS-2


Pitch-altering pedals

digitech-whammy-pedal-re-issue-with-midi-control

This is where the fun stuff begins. Pitch shifters can alter the pitch of your whole output or add one or more intervals to what you’re playing.

For instance, the famous example here is the Digitech Whammy that can alter the pitch of your tone as you rock the moving part of the pedal back and forth.

Kind of like a wah pedal, but it changes the pitch. You can hear this one in Rage Against the Machine’s famous song “Killing in the Name.”

Octaver pedals are also pretty common on pedalboards, and they usually have settings to add two additional tones to what you’re playing, one and two octaves below.

They can find uses in lead sections or anything that doesn’t involve playing more than one note at a time. Boss has some great Octaver pedals, like the OC-3.

We also have harmonizers that add the desired interval above or below notes that you’re playing. These can either work chromatically by adding a fixed interval (i.e. major third) or diatonically where they work “smart” and accommodate the intervals according to the scale that you’re playing.

To use these “smart” versions of harmonizers, you need some basic music theory knowledge. Examples of harmonizer pedals include Boss VE-2, Boss VE-8, TC Helicon Harmony, and many others.

Read our review of the Digitech Whammy 5


Distortion

Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion review

Now we get to the most important part of every pedalboard – distortion pedals. In the world of guitar, the distortion effect is divided into three categories, which are overdrive, classic distortion, and fuzz.

They create this effect by intentional boosting and clipping of the signal. Different types of clipping create different types of distortion.

There’s something for everyone’s taste these days, and the most attention is usually dedicated to finding proper distortion pedals for certain styles of music and playing.

Some of the famous examples include Ibanez Tube Screamer with all of its variants, Boss DS-1, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, MXR M75, the legendary Klon Centaur, Pro Co Rat, and many others.

Read our review of the Pro Co Turbo Rat distortion pedal


Modulation

mxr-m134-stereo-chorus-273109

Modulation effects include everything that adds the copy of your signal, alters it a little, and blends it in with the unprocessed signal.

The most famous modulation effect is the chorus that adds a very short delay and alters the pitch up and down according to the set amplitude and speed.

We also have flanging and phasing, which are in some technical ways similar, but in practice produce completely different effects.

Most of the modulation pedals have a “mix” or “blend” control that determines the ratio between unprocessed and processed signals.

There are also depth and speed controls, along with a few other things. Strymon has a great chorus pedal called Ola. MXR has the M134 stereo chorus that’s pretty great too.

Check out our review of the MXR M134 Stereo Chorus Pedal


Atmospheric effects: delays and reverbs

electro harmonix holy grail reverb

To keep your tone more interesting, you should think of different “atmospheric” effects. After all, you can’t keep it “dry” all the time. For this purpose, we have delay and reverb pedals. Both of these add repeated copies of your tone to create an illusion of a bigger or smaller room.

Delays add simple repeats according to set parameters. You can control the time distance between these repeats, the number of repeats, and the mix between the original and repeated signal.

It’s the classic echo effect. In some cases, pedals also have separate EQ controls for shaping the tone of the repeated signal. There’s anything from the simple stuff like the MXR carbon copy, up to very complex pieces like the Empress Echosystem.

Reverbs also repeat the signal, but in a more “shimmering” manner, giving the impression of one prolonged atmospheric continued repeat. It’s as if you’re playing in a large hall or a cathedral.

They also include blend or mix controls, just like delays. Strymon’s Big Sky is a great example of a very spacious-sounding reverb.

Read our review of the TC Electronic M3000


Volume pedals

morley-volume-pedal

While they could be the most boring part of one pedalboard, volume pedals should be an essential part of every signal chain, especially if you’re playing in a bigger band or an orchestra.

They’re pretty simple – you use them to control your output volume. They have a rocking part that you use to turn the volume up or down. There’s usually the “minimum volume” switch that sets the volume when the pedal is at its minimum position.

There’s a common misconception with beginners thinking that the volume pedal can do the same thing as the booster pedal. The thing with volume pedals is that you’re reducing the volume to the desired level. You use it when you’re supposed to keep quiet in the mix.

There are high impedance and low impedance volume pedals, but we’re not going to get too much into technical details about this. Low impedance pedals are more common and they go at the very end or near the end of the signal chain. Ernie Ball has its MVP volume pedal that’s very reliable.


Expression pedals, tap pedals, and sequencers

8StepProg-large

Some of the effects we mentioned usually support connectivity with external control sources. For this, we have expression pedals, which are just multi-purpose potentiometers in the form of a pedal.

Automatic wah-wah, certain modulation pedals, or even delays can work with an expression pedal, but only if they have a separate input jack for it.

On their own, expression pedals do nothing, although many volume pedals also have the expression pedal functionality.

Tap switches work the same way, it’s just that they have one control switch that sets the tempo of the effect. For instance, you connect it to a delay, and when your delay pedal is turned on, tap the switch pedal twice and the tempo of your repeated tones will be set according to the tempo that you tapped.

Sequencer pedals are a bit more complicated, and they’re definitely not something that a beginner would use. It’s a complex controller that has a sequence of adjustable steps.

It controls any effect with the expression pedal connectivity feature, but it does nothing on its own. An example here would be the well-known Electro-Harmonix 8-Step Program Analog Expression Sequencer.


What’s the correct order of pedals in the signal chain?

First off, there’s no such thing as the “correct” order of pedals. There are, however, some standards in arranging your pedalboard that may help you get the clearest tone without any unwanted noises or hisses.

This is the usual order, but you’re free to experiment. The whole thing is open for discussion.

From guitar to the amp, it goes like this: tuner – filter – EQ – compressor – boost – pitch altering – distortion – modulation – volume pedals – delay – reverb. Volume pedal can also come after the delay and reverb.

We Review the Best Distortion Pedals For Metal

We Review the Best Distortion Pedals For Metal

Horns-Simpsons-Drooble

When the gods made heavy metal, as per the gospel of Manowar, one of their first and only tenets, were to play it as loud and wild as (in)humanly possible. Since those early days, cunning minds and champions heavy music have been finding new ways to make their guitar sound louder, meaner and nastier.

And let’s be honest here – very few things in life feel better than when you plug in your guitar, strike that first evil chord and feel the very foundations of earth shake and scream at the tips of your fingers, or when you start laying down a deep, wicked gallop and an evil grin starts creeping up your lips as you something raw and animalistic stirring deep in your belly, and you’re lusting to burst into a full sonic charge, no quarter to be given.

Well, distortion pedals are one of the things that make all this possible.

guitar metal face

Although we’ll be referring to the equipment in question as distortion pedals in the rest of this article, there are a few differences in ways various pedals dirty up your sound, and, technically, distortion is just one of the three effects from the unholy trinity of overdrive, distortion, and fuzz.

Feature Picks

In short, overdrive enhances your fundamental guitar signal without drastic changes, distortion clips the hell out of it, and fuzz clips it so hard that it’s barely recognizable (although when speaking specifically of metal, this one isn’t used that often as it produces a warm, wooly grumble more characteristic of stoner rock for instance).

Of course, there are overlapping areas between the three, but here we’ll focus mostly on distortion and pedals suited the most for aspiring metal ax-wielders. Without further ado, here are some of the best guitar pedals to use for heavy metal…


Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff

MetalMuff-large

The metal successor to Harmonix’ Big Muff Pi has been around for a while now and has proven to be a simple, yet effective solution for metal distortion, all wrapped up in a gorgeous design that just screams metal.

In addition to its name written in spike-y chrome script, you’ll see several knobs that might seem intimidating at first glance, but all are very straight-forwardly arranged and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way around it.

The Metal Muff sports a three-band EQ that helps you manage the gain, as well as a boost mode that really cranks up your signal.

It’s suitable both for gentler distortion as well as producing sounds that might have come from Satan’s own BDSM dungeon, and you’ll find that it works great both with passive and active pickups.

However, if you’re looking for a pedal capable of extreme amounts of distortion, look no further.


KHDK Dark Blood

khdk dark blood

Is there a more metal thing than Kirk Hammett’s signature distortion pedal?

This angry beast is perfect for both fans of Metallica as well as anyone who might be looking to hopefully stand toe to toe to Hammett when it comes to producing killer distorted tunes on your instrument.

The pedal itself looks gorgeous, with a red and black interface with a human heart painted on it. It is perfect for cutting off background noise with an onboard noise gate, but the real treat here is the Doom knob that really brings up that bottom end that Metallica’s sound is known for, letting you wield the powers of metal gods Hammett and Hetfield themselves.

There’s also a Hi/Lo switch which lets you play with two distinct modes – a gruff one for laying the foundation riffs (Lo), and a shrieking one that makes you soar through lead breaks with boosted top-end and sustain (Hi).

A surprisingly versatile treble control is the icing on the cake here. This thing comes with a fairly reasonable price too and is perfect for beginners and veterans alike.


Wampler Triple Wreck

triple wreck wampler

This one may not be a looker like the previous two, but let me tell you, it packs a brutal punch. Straight off the bat, you’re looking at ungodly amounts of gain, which is complemented by – you guessed it – even more gain.

This blasphemous thing was made possible by Wampler’s efficient three-band EQ and dedication to providing smoothly-nuanced gain curves.

Once you plug it in, you’ll realize that, although you’ll have command over more gain than you’ll ever need, the pedal is very easy to temper and lets you play with a tremendous specter of distortion. It’s all about them gainz bro.


Blackstar HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal

ht-metal-front-view-large

Coming from the company with a hefty reputation of making top-notch amplifiers for headbangers around the globe, the HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal is a product of extreme quality and reliability.

This pedal’s cascading tube gain stages and the tube amp response are revered by amateurs and professional musicians alike.

It will provide you with a sound as gritty as Clint Eastwood’s spit, with organic qualities of the excrement to boot – you won’t hear anybody complaining about your sound sounding “too digital“ despite buckets of gain and distortion.

Its vacuum tube circuitry is powered by a 300V DC connection, and the pedal’s numerous features include 3-band EQ, Clean/Overdrive switch, and a tone shape knob, really letting you play with various effects as much as you want.

The Blackstar HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal is an all-in-one toolbox, perfect for both garage, studio and stage.


MXRM116 Fullbore Metal

FullBoreDist-large

MRX has been around for ages, and in their case, ‘age’ most certainly equals quality and reliability.

This one gives you an incredible amount of bang for your buck, and really lays down the foundation of your metal sound. In addition to pure distortion, loads of features let you tweak your sound even further.

Although it is (arguably) the least pretty of the bunch, the MXRM116 Fullbore Metal pedal simply emanates with no-bullshit-just-metal big dick energy.

True to its meat-and-potatoes pedal nature, it is fully analog, with a built-in noise gate as well as true-bypass.

Also, this pedal gets the job done with underpowered single-coil guitars as well. If you’re looking for a really heavy, industrial metal sound, this is as good as it gets.


Conclusion

Distortion pedals are essential tools for any musician intent on wreaking some heavy metal havoc. And after all, there’s no reason not to use one – they’re tremendous fun, and you’ll be able to experiment with your sound like you never could without one.

Besides, not only will having a reliable pedal be a must-have if you ever decide to take your music to the stage, but it will also encourage you to take a stroll down that path as you realize how easy and fun it is to produce sounds that the gods of metal themselves would be envious of.

Each of these five is more than a solid pick, and any musician is bound to find one that suits his taste and budget the most. I hope that you do too.

Recommended Rig Run Downs

Lovepedal Amp 50 Overdrive Review

lovepedal_amp50_002

Luckily for us, there are plenty of distortion, overdrive, boost, and fuzz pedals to choose from these days. In fact, there are so many that it can become challenging to go out there and choose the best one for your own needs.

Entering a guitar store can sometimes give you weird feelings – there are so many effects and pedals in existence, with so many different features, that it becomes impossible for you to try them all out.

Just imagine: there are pedals that you won’t be able to try in your lifetime!

However, despite all this, a considerable portion of the guitar-playing population still loves to keep it simple. Whatever are the amps, pedals, or other gear – some of them just like to use equipment with simplified and straightforward controls and features.

Now, this doesn’t mean that these products are not good enough. It means they have a very narrow use. In this article, we will be exploring one of these simple pedals, which you can find in the rigs of guys like Mike McCready and ex-Guns N’ Roses’ DJ Ashba.

Made by a small company called Love Pedal, it’s called AMP 50 Overdrive.

lovepedal-amp-50-overdrive-1644033

About the company

Before we get into it, we’d like to share a thing or two about Love Pedal as they’re not exactly one of the famous mainstream pedal producers.

Started by a guy named Sean Michael, they’re focused on making quality boutique pedals. The main twist here is simplicity, led by the idea that “less is more.” Pretty much all of the products are straightforward.

But Sean took it to a whole new level in 2009 when the company introduced their “Mini Line” featuring some minimalistic and really compact pedals.

One of those is the Amp 50 Overdrive, but the series also includes Pickle Vibe Vibrato, Echo Baby Delay, as well as the Baby Face Trem.

The AMP 50 is currently not produced by the company, but they still have some other great products at the moment.

Features

And like we said ñ Love Pedal AMP 50 Overdrive is straightforward. It’s a compact little dirt box with just an input jack, output jack, one control knob, a footswitch, and a LED light indicator. That’s it! Straight to the point without any flashy additions.

The pedal is essentially based on Church of Tone 50 model, just gives a smaller and simplified version of it. And what’s more, the control is unlabeled. But it’s referred to as “bias/gain” by the builders.

The idea behind it is to be more than a boost and a little less than a distortion. Well, technically, it is a distortion effect since it adds some saturation and clipping to the tone. But it’s so nuanced that at lower settings it brings just a regular boost without almost any distortion. But we’ll get to that later.

What also needs to be mentioned is that the pedal features true bypass. Now, there have been countless discussions over the years, debating whether true bypass or buffered are the way to go. In case you’re up for buffered stuff, you need only one buffered pedal in your signal chain to get this sorted out.

Just like most of the pedals out there, it’s powered either by a standard 9-volt AC adapter or a regular 9-volt battery.

Design

Like we already mentioned, the whole idea behind this pedal is to be as simple as possible. This is also the case with its overall design.

So let us start with its size. We could compare it to those mini pedals by TC Electronic or by any other manufacturer with similar small-sized and compact units.

This comes as a great advantage if you’re having troubles fitting a new pedal in your signal chain, but you really need an additional overdrive in there. Or in case you need just one pedal in front of a tube amp and just want to keep it as simple as possible.

The color of the pedal is white, the knob is the classic one you’d find on vintage-type pedals, and the only thing breaking the monotony is the name of the pedal written on the front panel. That and the blue LED light (which could be better if it was red but let us not be so picky).

Its aluminum casing is pretty sturdy and the overall build quality is impressive. There won’t be any worries with taking this little bad boy on tour with you.

Performance

Talking about the tone and the performance, the main intention behind such a pedal is to have something to just a little bit of boost and coloration to clean or overdriven channels of your tube amps.

Although we would argue that it works best in pair with those vintage or vintage-inspired clean tube amps. It adds just enough of overdrive to have solid and dynamically responsive performance.

Setting the knob lower will give more of a boost with just a dash of that sparkling crunch. As you move it up, you’ll get more saturation in there, and at highest settings, you might get into some solid mid-range soft clipping natural overdrives. Tones are a bit brighter than compared to a Tube Screamer.

But plugging it in front of a solid-state amp, you won’t get much of a tone there. Not that it’s terrible, but it’s surprisingly disappointing compared to tube amplifiers. The sound won’t be as thick, and there won’t be so much dynamic response in there.

Conclusion

A pedal like the Love Pedal AMP 50 Overdrive generally has a narrow scope of use. It’s a very specific unit aimed at those who prefer old bluesy tones and just some boosts and colorations to their tube amps.

Obviously, it’s not that versatile, but it can act bost as a boost and as an overdrive. Additional volume control would have been great, but we generally get the idea why there was just one gain knob on it.

If you’re looking for anything for these purposes, AMP 50 is definitely a great choice to consider. In case you manage to find one of these somewhere.


Recommended Viewing

Tube Works Real Tube Overdrive Pedal Review

Out of all things guitar related that we like to spend our money on, we probably pay the most attention to distortion and overdrive pedals. After all, they are used more often compared to other effects, and it’s just something that shapes your tone the most.

And the variety to choose from is endless so you can easily spend days, weeks, even months, going through different distortion and overdrive pedals until you find the one that suits the style of music that you’re playing.

However, most of the standard overdrive and distortion pedals out there lack the warmth, organic sound, and the dynamic response of tube amps. If you’re not satisfied with that, then there are plenty of tube equipped pedals out there to choose from.

Like the Tube Works Real Tube Overdrive which we will be examining in this review.

The pedal was designed back in the 1980s and it was one of the first (if not THE first) examples of pedals that actually have a tube inside it.


Features

Ruggedly built Real Tube Overdrive features the simple basic configuration – input and output jacks, foot switch, and five control knobs. These knobs are output (as in output volume), drive, hi, mid, and lo.

The controls on the 3-band EQ have exact frequencies that they’re controlling. The low knob adjusts frequencies around 150 Hz, the mid knob works within the 800 Hz to 1.5 kHz territory, while the high knob adjusts everything from 2.5 kHz and up.

As already mentioned, and as the product’s name suggests, this overdrive pedal runs with one tube. We’re speaking of a standard preamp valve, the 12AX7 which you can find in most of the amps out there. It can also work with other compatible tubes like the 12AT7, ECC83, and others.

With frequent and regular use, the tube inside will last somewhere between 2 and 4 years, after which you’ll need to replace it if you want to keep the tone fresh and consistent.

In order to run it, you need a standard 9-volt power supply, either an AC adapter or a pedalboard based power unit. This being a tube unit that requires some power, it cannot run on a battery.


Design

Looking at the Real Tube Overdrive, you’ll easily see that it’s well-built as it is placed in a rugged metal casing.

The knobs, the main footswitch, and all the other parts are also quality built so you most likely won’t have any issues with broken components even after frequent use and rougher handling.

The overall design gives out those old vintage 1980s vibes. When it comes to the looks, we could describe it as somewhat of a more handsome brother of the legendary ProCo Rat pedal.

It’s completely black with yellow writings and other labels on it. Although somewhat small, the letters are neat and easy to read as there are no quirky and unusual fonts.

The Real Tube Overdrive has two LED light indicators on it. On the left side, next to the output knob, there is a green light indicating that that the pedal is in the bypass mode.

On the right side, right next to the drive knob, there is a red LED that lights up when the distortion is on. This makes it pretty easy to handle in darker settings when you really need to know if the overdrive is turned on or off during a gig.

Even after long use and some “battle scars”, the Real Tube Overdrive will still look great. What’s more, some signs of use might even make it look cooler.


Performance

There are some divisive opinions online when it comes to the pedal’s tone, with guitar players comparing it to standard solid state units. In our own experience, this is not really true, as we’ve heard the warmth and the overall quality of this piece.

It is a bit fuzzy, which some guitar players might find off-putting, but it still doesn’t “spill” the tone all over the place. But if you’re into ZZ Top and Billy Gibbons’ tone ñ or anything similar ñ you’re gonna love the Real Tube Overdrive.

Although it adds some dirt, it still doesn’t completely suffocate your guitar’s distinctive voice, unless you decide to push the drive and volume knobs to the max.

The single coils will still have that pleasant sparkling tone with some fuzziness on top of it. But in our experience, it works the best with humbuckers.

Sporting a tube inside, you’ll be able to make even cheaper solid state amps to sound good with this one. It’s as if you’re turning a solid state amp into a hybrid with one tube in its preamp section.

At the same time, it also works well with standard tube amps and can really push the tone on clean channels.

While it’s designed to be the main overdrive in your signal chain, it can come in handy for boosting other distortions or even high gain lead channels on tube amps. This way, you can create distinctive tones and additionally shape your already distorted sound.


Conclusion

Although you won’t find one that often, the Real Tube can definitely be a good purchase if you’re into classic vintage and slightly fuzzy drives. In case you want something a little bit cleaner, then you can go with the classic option of Ibanez Tube Screamer or any of its clones instead.

Being simple to use, this can be a good option for anyone wanting to get into the world of tube-based guitar distortion pedals. Yes, the tube replacement might be somewhat of a chore and the manual does not recommend that you do it on your own, but it’s not an impossible task.

Either way, the Real Tube Overdrive is a quality piece of gear and you’ll be satisfied with it if you’re looking for the aforementioned tones that we described above.


Video Review

Bixonic Expandora Overdrive Review

While many of the amps, pedals, and guitars advanced over the years, many guitar lovers around the world remained loyal to the vintage sounds of the ’60 and the ’70s.

Today, you’ll see many of the newer bands going back to this sound, sometimes even recording everything with analog equipment and vintage amps.

Various manufacturers try to replicate the old overdrives, in the vein of Electro-Harmonix Big Muff or the legendary Ibanez Tube Screamer. Some of the smaller companies and pedal builders became very dedicated to this task.

In the mid-1990s, a company called Bixonic introduced one of their pedals called the Expandora Overdrive.

This piece of gear has been used by many famous players over the years, most notably legendary ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons.


Features

The main concept of the Expandora can be compared to any other simple overdrive that you can find there, although it has some additional features.

The essential parts are there as it has the standard input and output and three basic control knobs. There’s the main switch for turning it on and off, and there are controls for volume (labeled as “level”), tone, and gain.

While we’re at switching the distortion on and off, Expandora overdrive has a true bypass, which is a common characteristic for all the vintage-styled overdrive pedals.

But at the same time, with all these basic features, there’s some variety to this pedal. It’s not only with the three basic knobs that you can get some different tones as the pedal is basically three in one kind of deal with three modes of operation, labeled as Distortion, Overdrive, and Crunch.

Now, the mode switches are not visible on the front pedal and you need to unscrew the bottom plate and find them inside. There are DIP switches inside that let you change the sound. There are two switches, labeled as “1” and “2”, which can be either on or off.

On the back plate, there is an instruction on how to pick these modes. With No. 1 off and No. 2 on, you get the distortion. With the opposite setting, 1 on and 2 off, you get the overdrive.

As for the crunch, it is achieved when both of these switches turned off. While this may seem like a chore to open the pedal and tweak it from the inside, a newer version of Expandora was released sometime in the 2000s, called the 2000R, which features the DIP switches on the front panel.

It is powered by the standard 9-volt battery you use for most of the pedals out there.


Design

Looking at this pedal, right away you can notice its peculiar design. Put in a custom metal casing, Expandora is pretty well-built and can handle standard operation and even some rougher handling.

While it might not be of great importance, as there are only a few controls, we need to point out that the carver writing on the pedal is pretty great looking, although would be pretty much impossible to read in darker settings.

The three pots are solidly built and their caps are relatively large compared to the size of the pedal. The LED light is weirdly placed right below the tone knob. The pedal’s name, “Expandora”, is seen in custom font letters right below the center of the front panel.

One obvious visual feature is, of course, the pedal’s round shape. While it looks neat and everything, it might be somewhat annoying since the shape differs from the standard manufacturers and you might have some troubles fitting it in on a standard pedalboard.

This being an old pedal, you’ll usually find worn versions out there. At the same time, this might make it look even cooler.


Performance

This being a throwback to the vintage distortions and overdrives, you’ll get somewhat of a warmer tone out of it. But the sound is, in all three modes of operation, really thick and full, slightly bottom-end oriented.

The distortion can enter some solid high gain lead territories with the gain knob pushed over the edge. The overdrive mode is slightly tamer, although it also can get pretty wild on the higher gain setting, without making it sound too blurry or muddy.

Crunch is a bit different as it resembles a classic fuzz sound. On the lower gain settings and with the tone knob over the middle, you can get some serious Billy Gibbons sounds out of it.

But turning the gain knob up, you can easily replicate some doom/stoner metal sounds with it. We could compare it to the good old Big Muff in a way, although it is a bit more versatile.

The three knobs – volume, tone, and gain – are pretty responsive. Even with only these three controls, there’s a lot of stuff that you can do, even for one mode of operation, as they’re pretty responsive.

But while all the three modes differ, you can still recognize the pedal’s own unique tone. But at the same time, it’s really disappointing that you have to open up the pedal and mess around with the small DIP switches.

While everything works like charm, it’s really a tedious task and someone less experienced might end up doing some damage.


Conclusion

It’s not that hard to notice that Bixonic Expandora Overdrive is aimed at the vintage ’70s guitar tone lovers. However, it does well for other styles as well as it can deliver some sharper tones with some additional tweaking.

But despite its simplicity, it might not be the perfect solution for the beginner level guitar players. You would need some knowledge and experience to set it properly depending on what kind of an amp, guitar, and pedals you use.

But overall, you can use it either as your main distortion or as a tone-shaping and lead-boosting overdrive. In both situations, the pedal proves to be a great tool and gets the job done.


Video Reviews

Dunlop MXR Zakk Wylde Berzerker Overdrive ZW-44 Review

berzerker overdrive review

Sometimes there’s just no compromise in creating the best tone possible. Especially if you’re into heavier music. It’s hard to have that heavy guitar sound that will easily cut through the mix and not get all compressed on the higher gain setting.

The often-used solution to that issue is using a quality overdrive pedal on a clean channel of a tube amp pushed to its limits. Or using the same overdrive pedal on a drive channel of an amp with the gain set down low.

The famous combination of Ibanez Tube Screamer into a Marshall JCM800 pretty much changed the game for all the lovers of heavy sound, and numerous other manufacturers followed later and made their own alternatives. One of the products is the Dunlop MXR ZW-44 Zakk Wylde Berzerker Overdrive.

Knowing what kind of an uncompromising, raw, and heavy tone Zakk Wylde has, it’s obvious that this pedal is worth checking out if you’re into those meaty metal tones.

After all, many people out there would like to sound like one of Ozzy Osbourne’s most famous guitar players. So let’s get right down to it and try to be as heavy as Zakk.


Features

The first thing you can notice here is that the pedal is in the classic MXR metal casing, meaning that it’s not exactly easy to damage this one. Also, it can fit pretty nicely into any pedalboard along with all the other pedal brands that you own.

The ZW-44 is pretty simple when it comes to features. It’s packed with three control knobs, one foot switch, and input and output jacks on the side. The controls are output (which is volume), tone, and gain.

What’s important to note here is that this pedal features a true bypass, meaning that when the drive is off, the signal is going directly to the amp or the next available pedal without any interference or buffering.

The benefits of the true bypass and buffering are often discussed among guitar players and pedal enthusiasts, so this particular conversation deserves a whole other article on its own.

The pedal is powered by the standard 9 volt battery, just like most of the other effect units out there. It can be also powered with a 9 volt AC adapter, and Dunlop recommends their own ECB003/ECB003E or the DC Brick power supply.

However, it can be powered with any other quality 9 volt AC adapter or any other kind of pedalboard based power supply.


Design

As already mentioned, it’s packed in the traditional MXR metal casing, which is not only very resistant and practical but also really good looking.

There is, however, a slight twist to the design of MXR ZW-44 as there are intentional wear signs, both with the metal casing and the paint job.

Of course, it’s done with class and style and represents that whole rugged Zakk Wylde vibe which goes so well together with his printed signature, which is located right above the pedal’s knobs.

The on and off switch is surrounded with two black circles and the “Berzerker Overdrive” black writing in the nicely fitting Old English Font, which is the signature style of Zakk’s Black Label Society. If the aesthetics of the gear you use are of your concern, you most likely won’t have any issues with this pedal.


Performance

Taking a listen to this pedal’s tone, we can easily address it as the heavier young brother of Ibanez Tube Screamer. It’s mostly used for the same purpose, boosting a tube amp, but the MXR ZW-44 has its own unique sound which is pretty useful for some metal stuff.

But the pedal is also quite handy for other stuff as well and can be somewhat versatile, despite its simplicity. Lowering the gain down can bring you into the softer bluesy waters, but it also requires some adjustment of the tone knob and, obviously, your amp.

All of the controls are pretty responsive, meaning that the user can do all sorts of minor tweaking and still get the needed difference in tone. It’s not like it’s super flexible when it comes to getting various different sounds out of it, but it’s a pleasant surprise for such a straightforward pedal.

It should also be noted that the indicator light is pretty noticeable, so in live situations on stage (where it can often get dark and rowdy) you won’t have any issues while checking if it’s turned on before the song or the needed part where you plan to use the pedal.


Conclusion

The Berzerker Overdrive can most often be found on a pedalboard of metal guitar players, even going into metalcore or other more “extreme” genres, usually as a boost for other distortions or the amp’s clean and/or drive channels.

Nonetheless, the pedal is versatile enough to be used in other situations, softer genres, or just as boost for lead or any other parts you need to accent.

However, you need to bear in mind that this pedal does shape the tone in it’s own unique way that does replicate Zakk Wylde’s sound. And maybe this won’t always be the best possible option for everyone out there. Yes, you can plug it in a vintage Fender tube amp from the 70s and try and tweak it the way you want to.

But if you’re really into bluesy stuff or are just seeking for that kind of sound, you might want to go with the Ibanez Tube Screamer or any other of its replicas, or even the BD-2 Blues Driver by Boss.

The best solution is to try it out if you get the chance, or just check out some of the countless demos online. We do hope that you find this review useful and that it will help you out in choosing the best overdrive.

After all, overdrive and distortion are some of the main components of your sound and you should always do thorough research before you jump in and buy any pedals.


Video Review

What Overdrive Pedal Does John Mayer Use? – Fulltone Fulldrive 2 MOFSET Boost Pedal Review

 

There is no doubt that John Mayer is one of the best guitar players in the world right now. He has reached the level many absolute legends of rock reside. While trying to figure out his key to success, we’ve come up with a layered answer. On one hand, his raw skill is undoubtedly what put him into focus, however his ability to fine tune his tone has a lot to do with his success as well. On that note, his pedal board is definitely full of surprises. One such surprise is the Fulltone Fulldrive 2 overdrive pedal. Today we are going to take a closer look at this thing and see what kind of performance it has to offer.

Fulltone Fulldrive 2 Review

Feature Pick

Fulltone Fulldrive2 Mosfet Overdrive/Boost Pedal

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Fulltone’s Fulldrive 2 overdrive is anything but a regular overdrive pedal. That much is obvious from the moment you see the pedal. Instead of taking the same old route, Fulltone opted out for something different. Instead of just designing an overdrive pedal, they went with a two stage package. In other words, you have two gain stages to play with, making the Fulldrive 2 a very interesting pedal to say the least. While such a performance profile may not be interesting to all, John Mayer has definitely found it compatible with his needs. Without further ado, lets get into the review itself.

Design

One thing that Fulltone knows how to do is vintage styling. Fulldrive 2 looks like something that was made in the  ’80s or even before. We are talking steel plate chassis that has that old school slant towards the user. The finish and graphic design also add to our conclusion. Fulltone went with an all blue design where the only things breaking the monotony are the white labels and model designation. It is as simple as it gets. One of the more logical questions is how durable this pedal is? For all intents and purposes, it is a tank. Fulltone is fully aware of the quality requirements most active users are looking for, and are designing their pedals accordingly. You can put the Fulldrive 2 through the regular hell that is stage use and it will come out the other end without a scratch. The only downside to this overall design would be mounting the pedal on the pedalboard. With wide units such as this one, you really need to be aware of the space and positioning. Same goes for cable management. All of I/O ports are in the back of the pedal instead of the sides, making daisy chains a bit difficult, but not impossible.

Features

When it comes to features, there’s plenty to talk about. Lets start by listing the controls. Going from left to right we have Volume, Tone, Overdrive and finally Boost. There are also two switches, one that is labeled CompCut/FM/Vintage and one that’s  labeled Mosfet/Standard. First switch is pretty interesting. CompCut mode adds a bit of compression to the tone while FM flattens out the mids. Standard mode is where you get boosted mids and is probably the closest to a default overdrive setting. Second switch allows you to choose between the standard Fulltone sound and a new Mosfet signature.

You will also notice that there are two footswitches at the bottom. One is your standard bypass switch while the one labeled Boost does engages the second gain stage. That is more or less it in term of features. Fulltone didn’t go all freaky with controls, making the Fulldrive 2 a very easy pedal to use. We definitely appreciate that. Naturally, you will need to get all of the tone shaping done by using other pedals in your signal chain.

Performance

The performance of Fulltone Fulldrive 2 is interesting to say the least. With two gain stages you can cater the heat to suit a vast variety of tone profiles. In its very core, Fulldrive 2 has many signatures of a boosted Tube Screamer. It is aggressive near the top, but not so much in the bottom end. Actually, you won’t find much of a bottom end to begin with. Mids are easily manipulated and adjusted thanks to the available mode selection. What defines the Fulldrive 2 is its ability to offer a vast intensity range. It can be a blunt tool but also a scalpel if you really want to get down and dirty with your guitar tone. We have found that Mosfet mode offers the best color of tone, especially if you are into more intense overdrive. When not in use, Fulldrive 2 is pretty silent. You won’t find many issues regarding noise. After all, Fulltone’s circuitry is on the better side of the industry.

Conclusion

Fulltone Fulldrive 2 man not be the most orthodox overdrive on the market, but that is exactly what makes it so attractive. Sure, it’s a Tube Screamer in its very core, but a different one. With all the modes included, an additional boost stage and a relatively hot output, Fulldrive 2 is definitely a capable tool to have. Now lets mention the best part. The way Fulltone Fulldrive 2 is priced makes it one of the best deals on the market at the moment. It is an absolute bargain compared to the performance it offers.

Speaking of tangible performance, John Mayer has pushed his Fulldrive 2 to the extreme and you can hear the results for yourself. By doing so, he has proven just how much juice you can squeeze out from one of these. Additionally, the pedal has been field tested by one of the best guitar players in the world. That alone means a lot. Whether you are trying to replicate Mayer’s tone or you are just looking for a good overdrive, Fulltone Fulldrive 2 is a model we can easily stand behind. It is simply that good.

Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer Overdrive Pedal Review

ts808 pedal
 

Overdrive on its own is a very old effect. However, the Ibanez TS808 was one of the first instances of overdrive being packed into a pedal format, and actually sounding incredible. First one of these hit the market back in the late ’70s and it didn’t take long before people recognized the potential. Even so, TS808 is not as popular these days as its successor, the TS9 Tube Screamer. Many will tell you it’s an exact same pedal, but that is not quite the case.

There are enough subtle differences between the two, even though the insides are more or less the same. The absolute biggest difference is the output section, which has changed pedal’s tone color. Recognizing that there is a significant demand for the old TS808, Ibanez has released a reissue of this epic model.

Feature Pick

Ibanez Ts808 Overdrive Pedal

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Features

On a first glance, the pedal looks exactly the same as the original. We have that bright green chassis with a really old school foot switch. No matter where you look, everything points to Ibanez following the exact blueprint of the original. That’s great, right? Well, not really. Having the same electronics and the same old output section is awesome, however, we have expected Ibanez to sort out some well-documented issues with the design of this pedal. Namely, the footswitch. Just like it was the case back in the day, the reissued pedal comes with a really weak footswitch that can easily go out on you.

Aside from this issue, overall build quality is rock solid. Its die cast chassis is hard to put a dent in, making it great for heavy duty stage use. Again, that footswitch is the only limit.

Control cluster features the familiar Overdrive, Tone and Level knobs. There’s an input port on the right side of the chassis, with a matching output port on the left. In terms of powering this bad boy, your choices are standard. You can either go with a battery or a power adapter which doesn’t come with the pedal.

Performance

Once you plug everything together and start opening up that volume knob, all of the imperfections we have just mentioned simply go away. The tone of the pedal is exactly what TS808 became known for. It’s that smooth overdrive with a whole bunch of delicious overtones. Granted, the pedal will work best with a decent tube amp, but you can still make it work with any solid state unit out there.

Compared to most modern overdrives, not to mention distortions, TS808 comes across as weak in nature. That hasn’t changed. However, those who know how to dial in a good tone will make the TS808 work for them. This is the type of pedal where you just have to go with the flow, or otherwise you will get disappointed real fast. Additionally, running the TS808 through an effects loop is a bad idea. For some reason, the pedal just won’t cooperate if it’s not fed directly into the front of the amp.

ts808 pedal

Let’s talk a bit about different settings and what to expect from them. At half gain, the pedal will add some depth to your clean sound, without really pushing too much overdrive at its core. In other words, you won’t notice much of a difference until you hit a juicy chord. In that sense, you can really choose how to express yourself. Once the Overdrive knob maxes out, the pedal really starts to ‘scream’. With a good EQ on the amp side of the business, you can dial in a sweet bluesy tone or even a good classic rock tone. Think of Clapton type sound.

Generally, if you were to put the TS9 and TS808 Reissue side by side, the former would come out as a bit more aggressive. TS808 is noticeably smoother to work with, while it’s gain levels are fairly balanced. With that said, TS808 works rather well with other effects pedals, so you don’t have to worry too much about there being a conflict on your pedalboard. If you were to ask us which amp really extracts the most out of this pedal, we would have to go with any of Marshall’s tube configurations. You’d be surprised just how delicious this thing sounds on a JCM800 or JCM900.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, we are fairly satisfied with how TS808 turned out to be. The sound is there, and that is what matters the most. However, we can’t pass a good opportunity to give Ibanez a piece of our mind. If only they had done a few things differently, this pedal could have been so much better. The worst thing of all is that those differences wouldn’t really be that costly at all. For the most part, a different switch could have made a huge impact on how this pedal was received.

With that said, we are definitely happy that we got a TS808 reissue in the first place. The originals are getting harder and harder to find, especially if you are looking for an unmolested one. Even though there are many tube screamers out there, some belonging to a high-end boutique variety, a good old TS808 is still the standard. Do we recommend you get this pedal? Sure, absolutely. However, we can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be aware of the limitations and issues it brings along. Maybe one day we’ll be able to enjoy the classic TS808 without these issues, but that day is not today.

MXR Custom Badass Modified O.D. Overdrive Review

MXR Custom Badass Modified O.D. review
 

jens borger

 

 

The history of overdrives could not be any more confusing. How do you find a pedal that is good with all the market has to offer? Its not an easy thing anymore, and personally I have been feeling a bit let down by most of the pedals that I have been buying lately.

This is mostly because I felt there was no real versatility and I was bound to one sound or because it didn’t sound good with all of my amps. But what if you want something more solid with a bit more variety? The question that remains is: What really makes an good overdrive?

MXR Custom Badass Modified O.D. Review

The MXR Custom Badass Modified O.D. overdrive pedal is really different – it’s truly one of a kind and yet not totally freaky.  The first thing that grabbed my attention is how incredibly beautiful this pedal looks.

Feature Pick

Mxr M77 Badass Overdrive Stomp Box W/4 Free Cables

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The golden look of the brushed steel looks super amazing and the knobs are not too “light” and don’t really lose the position you set them to which is important if you gig a lot. Countless times I have been annoyed by pedals where the knobs are just so loose that the position of the knob goes off all the time. MXR really knows how to build pedals for people who use it live.  Huge plus.

Purpose of Overdrives

Originally overdrives are designed to push an already slightly overdriven amp a bit more over the edge and, in that way, you get another gainstage, or to get a softly distorted tone out of an clean amp. Most Marshall/Orange users even just use it to get another texture of overdrive or to play a nice screaming solo that stands out with a tone that cuts through the band like a hot knife through butter. That is to say that there is really nothing wrong as using this pedal as a cleanboost too, and thinning out some of the bass in an overly bass heavy amp.

pedalboard

The volume and gain knobs work really well on this pedal. Careful though, as you will increase the volume a lot if you turn it up this pedal you will push the amp more and that will result in more loudness. But its still cool to annoy the drummer if he’s one of those “always loud” musicians. A Marshall fullstack with a 4×12 might get super loud, to the point where you enter the volume of bands like Dinosaur Jr. – also because you push the mids a lot harder than it’s possible without. If you’ve heard Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, he really is a big fan of those pedals and uses them to get that mid-heavy tone.

The gain is tasty and never sounds bad, and I’ve never found that has it sounded sterile or cheap like many other overdrive pedals, and in fact, it sounds quite transparent and really smooth. And it’s fun to play around with the settings.

Here’s a quick little overview video of the pedal and how it sounds by Jim Dunlop USA.

MXR Modified O.D. – Watch Your Settings

The tone knob can adjust how much treble and mids you’re getting, but it’s also meant to match the pedal with the amp. It makes sense to dial in a lot more highs in some setups that sound a bit dull, but I’d say don’t overuse this function. Its the only option on the pedal where you can under or certainly overdo it.

The pedal reminds a lot of the original Boss SD-1, in fact I have never used my SD-1 again since I have this pedal, since it has a lot more options and sounds better overall. The bypass is neutral and doesn’t alter your overall tone, another feature that is important to me and many guitar players.

Experimenting with the Badass

The “clean amp” aka Fender/Hiwatt folks use it to get a touch of O.D. when they need it. The TS-9 plus a Twin Reverb is a combination countless people have used and this combination isn’t worse, it’s equally good. You can easily dial in beautiful indie rock tones just like Interpol or the Arctic Monkeys.  For this, just use it before a clean amp, adjust gain a bit lower and add some reverb and you’re in sonic heaven 100%. It sounds good on both types of amps and works also really well with AC15/30s.

mxr custom badass

If you like to experiment further you can hit the “bump” switch, which allows you to increase the low end and lower mids. People that are into heavy, stoner rock or blues will like this switch as it allows you to get more throaty, deep sounds out of the pedal.  It sounds interesting, but personally I mostly use it without that feature right now. That doesn’t mean that it’s bad. Its still an interesting option for many people, you get a much deeper sound which could be cool for guitars like telecasters or strats.

Wrapping Up

What I really admire the most about this pedal tho is the 100Hz knnob. While you first kinda didn’t like it at all I find this knob works very well with all kinds of setups and guitars, to get some interesting tones or “stacks”. You can get crazy thin sounds with it, just turn the 100hz down a bit to cut the bass of your amp and get an awesome texture for an outro or intro…imagine there is no bass at all and then the band kicks in – great effect. This effect is also super useful in the studio to get layers of crazy guitar sounds.

You can also stack this pedal really will with big muffs. The 100hz cut is where the magic happens, and you can really give your muff that extra cut-through while you can make it sound leess muddy at the same time with the tone knob. If you even add an EQ pedal after that, well, then you have it all, but for most people this is enough. I also stacked it with my RAT and Big Muff and it works equally well.

The best sound for me with the MXR Custom Badass Modified O.D. is when I use it kind of low gain and add some delay or reverb. The tone is just really, really good. You just have to hear and experience it to understand it.