We Review the Best Distortion Pedals For Metal


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


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


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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Ibanez Ts808 Overdrive Pedal

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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.


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.


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.

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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.


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.

Boss BD-2 Blues Driver Pedal Review

boss bd-2 blues driver

The Boss BD-2 Blue Driver Pedal is an impressive yet inexpensive overdrive pedal from BOSS, and today is the focus of our review.

Released in 1995 the BD-2 was an immediate success and remains one of the company’s most successful products, and for good reason with artists such as John Mayer, Newton Faulkner, Jake Bugg and Paul Weller all using the pedal at some point during their careers.

Ideal for both musicians looking to find a defined sound and session players who may have to work with a variety of different tones, the BOSS BD-2 Blues Driver has it all.

Boss BD-2 Blues Driver Guitar Effects Pedal review


The pedal has a relatively simple design with the 3 main controls being the Level, Tone and Drive controls. It can be powered by a 9 volt battery or an external AC adapter can also be used.

The versatility of the drive knob is an impressive feature and don’t let the name fool you, the Blues Driver is capable of a range of sounds and can be used for multiple different genres.

For example with the drive knob turned to around 9 o clock the pedal gives a slight bite to an already clean tone, allowing it to cut through a mix.

With all three knobs turned to 12 o clock the pedal gives a nice crispy tone, reminiscent of a slightly overdriven tube amp.  

Turn the drive up to around 2/3 o clock and the pedal has a more distorted hard rock Marshall-esque tone, and with the drive turned all the way up to ten the pedal gives a guitar a fuzz tone similar to that of a big muff pedal.

boss bd-2 blues driver

As well as its versatility as an overdrive/distortion pedal, the BD-2 can also be used as a boost pedal to increase your level in a live setting, during a solo for example.

By turning down the drive knob down to around 1 and turning the level knob up to 10 the pedal will act as a clean boost, increasing the volume of your guitar signal without any additional gain.

Alternatively if you wish to have a boost with a bit more gain you can adjust the drive knob accordingly.

Pros of the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver

Price – The price of this pedal is a major selling point, at around £79 this is a bargain for such a versatile piece of gear. Considering distortion and overdrive pedals can be priced up to hundreds of pounds this is a very fair price for such a good product.

Multiple Uses – As stated above the pedal has multiple uses which is major selling point and makes it ideal for a guitarist either on a budget or looking to use as little space as possible on their pedal board.

As both a distortion pedal and boost this is a very useful and versatile piece of equipment for both a live and recording situation.

Sturdy – Much like other BOSS products this pedal is solid and well made, while still only weighing 0.4kg.

When it comes to pedals, reliability is an important factor to take into consideration, especially if you’re going to be using it in a live gig situation.

BOSS also includes a 5 year warranty when the pedal is bought new.

Cons of The Boss BD-2

Tone Knob – One of the few cons of this otherwise great product, the tone knob can give a nasally tone when turned past 12 o clock which I personally found unpleasant, however this is entirely down to personal preference.

Plug not included – Another small detail which has been left out from this pedal is that there is no plug included with the purchase, which although it would have been a welcome addition, it is not essential as the pedal can run on 9V batteries or via a daisy chain with other pedals.


In conclusion, the BOSS BD-2 Blues Driver Pedal is a great addition to anyone’s pedal board, from a beginner guitarist looking to find their own sound to an experienced musician looking for a cheaper alternative to the more expensive pedals on the market.

Its ability to double up as a both an overdrive pedal and a boost pedal is extremely useful, particularly at a live gig were pedal space may be an issue.

It’s versatility and ability to completely change tone at the turn of a switch makes this a must have piece of equipment.

Watch this video review for added information on the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver Guitar Pedal:

Check for deals on the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver on Amazon now

What Kind of Overdrive Pedal Does Yngwie Malmsteen Use?

ts9 tubescreamer review

Overdrives are both one of the best guitar effects you can get out there, and one of the most misunderstood ones as well. With that said, overdrives have been the staple of the modern rock sound.

We might even dare to say, of modern electric guitar sound in general. As it usually happens, some models become famous and reach a legendary status.

However, no one really expected to see a single pedal, or better yet, pedal design reach the levels like Ibanez TS-9 TubeScreamer did.

In short, this is one of the most legendary and influential guitar effects pedals, period.

On a deeper level, TS-9 ushered a whole new era of overdrives.

For this reason, and many others, you can find one of these bad boys on pedalboard of some pretty popular guitar player, including Yngwie Malmsteen himself.

For a design that has held up for several decades, Ibanez changed very little in the way this pedal works or appears, and that is a great thing.

Ibanez TS-9 TubeScreamer Review

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Ibanez Ts9 Tube Screamer – Classic

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When Ibanez first released this pedal back in 1985, everyone was hyped. Its predecessor, the TS808, was a huge success but Ibanez still had some minor details to iron out.

This is exactly what they did with the TS9 series. It didn’t take long for the newly adapted model to make a boom on the market, and become one of the most sold guitar effects pedals.

In all honesty, this isn’t that huge of a feat if you consider the fact that there weren’t many guitar effects pedals available back then. What is a huge feat is TS9s ability to remain relevant and hold its position until today.

Let’s do a quick rundown of this icon, and see what it has to offer in its current configuration.


Some say that enclosure design we are so used to today came from this very overdrive. How true this claim is remains to be seen.

However, Ibanez TS9 does feature that standard stompbox form factor almost every guitar pedal shares today. In terms of quality and reliability of said enclosure, you are looking at a tank.

One more noticeable design feature that simply needs to be mentioned whenever you discuss the TS9, is its green color.

This specific shade of green has become the mark of tube screamer pedals, both the original and a lot of subsequent copies. So, if you see a bright green pedal on someone’s pedalboard, chances are it’s a TS9.

Anyway, we digress. Ibanez went on and upgraded some components which had no effect on the core tone of the pedal, but offered a significant boost in durability.

The top panel, where all the controls are, is rather simple and minimalist. Aside from the foot switch, you only have three knobs to work with.

We are, of course talking about the Drive, Tone and Level knobs – a configuration that will go on to become a standard of sorts. These three controls were enough for you to dial in a wide range of different tones.

This incredible versatility is a result of a very interesting circuitry design. Incidentally, it will go on to become one of the most copied and modified designs in the world of overdrives.

Here is a quick video demo of the Ibanez TS-9 Tubescreamer from Reverb.com


Even though we praised the Ibanez TS9 TubeScreamer so much already, it’s important to distinguish what made it so popular back in the day. It’s not like TS9 or TS808 were the only overdrive pedals available.

No, TS9 and its predecessor secured their place in the hall of fame thanks to their performance. This pedal brings a very refined overdrive effect which was mid-heavy in some ways, but also pretty flexible.

You could get anything from very slight bluesy overdrive, to a more aggressive and wholesome rock sound. Both of these settings would sound better than what most other models had to offer.

Now, include everything between the two extremes, and you get the picture.

The other important factor was the price. Ibanez TS9, the original as well as the reissue, comes at a reasonable price.

This makes it attainable for all user groups despite their budgets, and it allows anyone to access that impressive tone we have just talked about.

Simplicity, combined with reliability and awesome performance, is the type of formula that is bound to work.

If you really look into it, you will find that a large number of iconic albums were recorded using the very TS9 pedal we are talking about here. It just swept the world off its feet.

On top of all that, the hardware used to build the pedal was pretty accurate. By this, we mostly mean the knobs and potentiometers below them.

You could dial in just the right amount of Drive or Level, without having to spend 20 minutes just trying to get the value you need.

ts9 tubescreamer review


In an era which was mostly defined by various fuzz pedals, TS808 and later TS9 brought a breath of much needed fresh air.

Thanks to its legendary circuitry, TS9 proved that you can take an overdrive effect and do a whole lot more with it than it was previously the norm.

It offered a dose of ruggedness and subtlety at the same time, allowing the user to choose either one of these options, or anything in between.

The main fault of the original TS808 was the lack of output.

However, when Ibanez TS9 TubeScreamer came along, that issue was solved. From that point on, this pedal continued to grow its following and that is exactly what it is doing today.

If you are looking for a proven, reliable and flexible overdrive pedal, TS9 is always going to be the right choice. It is that simple.

It’s also worth mentioning that Ibanez evolved the series a lot ever since the reissue came out. Aside from the vanilla TS9, you also have several more variants which bring something unique of their own.

Which one you’re going to like the most comes down to personal taste, as always.