The Best Overdrive Pedal

Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive

Our Top Pick for 2016: Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $118.15*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

As a guitarist, you can create a plethora of unique sounds with just the power of your instrument. Whether you’re an acoustic player or like to hook up to an amp, you can play in a wide variety of genres just by altering the way you play your guitar. Having said this, there are of course, limitations. To break these limitations, you can utilize a pedal and amp setup that will heighten the amount of sounds that you can generate from your electric guitar. One of the unique pedals that you can get is one of the most widely enjoyed, yet often overlooked is the overdrive pedal. An overdriven guitar tone is a distorted guitar tone; and as a result, is one of the tones heard most in rock from the 60s onward. While this distorted effect is achievable on an amplifier, you’ll get the best sound from a dedicated pedal, and while many get overdrive pedals confused with distortion pedals, these two pedals produce very different levels of crunch. To make your search for a new pedal easier, we’ve found the four best units on the market.

Table of contents

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Drive, Level, Bass And Treble Controls
Tube Amp Distortion Feel
Quality Switch, Tone, Volume And Drive Knobs
True Bypass
Gorgeous Overtones
LED, Notched Knobs
Zero Loss Of Tone
Responsive
Stomp Box Style DPDT Switch
Voicing Switch
Thick Overdrive
Clean, Quiet Switching
Warm, Sustaining Overdrive
Very Sensitive To Your Dynamics
Classic Overdriven Tube Amp

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive

Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $118.15*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerFulltone is a company that almost solely specializes in instrument pedals. Founded in 1991, by Michael Fuller, a guitar composer and tinkerer, Fulltone was designed to provide a higher quality of pedal for guitarists than what was available during the time. During that period, pedals were considered successful if they didn’t fail within the first two years of use. Today, Fulltone has produced hundreds of pedal models and is widely considered one of the best pedal producers in the world.

The OCD in this pedal stands for Obsessive Compulsive Drive, and it provides this OCD experience by producing a truly quality sound with gain to spare. Widely considered one of the best overdrive pedals on the market, this pedal has garnered its gold status with us because both industry experts and the everyday guitarist appreciates the nearly unparalleled quality of this device.

Let’s start with the overall design of the pedal. Firstly, you might notice that this is a relatively small pedal, it’ll easily fit on most pedal board setups with its svelte 10 (L) x 7 (W) x 4 (H) inch measurements. Fulltone opted to utilize a cream colored metal chassis in its design, the edges are sharp, and the device is very sturdy-looking.

Fulltone utilizes the fairly standard three dial setup found in many pedals of this type; one dial controls volume, another drive, and the final controls tone. The main pedal switch is comprised of a durable stainless steel and utilizes a system called True Bypass to provide the best sound along your guitar chain. The switch clicks well into place, and when the device is turned on, a blue LED will illuminate. Between the switch and the bottommost tone dial, the letters “OCD” are emblazoned on the cream-colored body. It looks very cool and makes this pedal instantly recognizable.

One feature of the OCD that you might not find on all pedals of its type is the HP/LP switch that is positioned between the volume and drive dials. This switch allows you to change the status of the mid-level sounds that your guitar produces. Here is how each setting works:

HP (High Peak Voicing) – With this setting, you’ll get more of a mid-range presence. When activated, a lot of the distortion will ring out loudly from the center of the note’s sound. It’s been argued that this setting is better for a guitar like a Les Paul. This level of overdrive sounds great with hard rock or metal.

LP (Low Peak Voicing) – With this setting, there will be a somewhat cleaner tone that works well with Stratocasters or Stratocaster variants. There will be less gain in the mid-range and a less crunchy sound output. This is a great sound setting if you’re looking to produce some bluesy tones or jazz.

The pedal requires a 9v or an 18v battery for power; and as a rule, you’ll get more output out of the 18v variant. Both of these battery-types will last for a while before needing to be replaced. You can also wire directly into the wall through the AC connector positioned along the side of the device.

On Amazon, 91 percent of the 102 reviews for this pedal are of a positive, four or five star rating level. To best summarize some of the overall impressions of this pedal, here is an example of a five star rated review on Amazon:

“Okay, this pedal is very versatile for an overdrive. The HP/LP switch alone gives you a very distinct tone for solos or rhythm, and tweaking the dials adds to the fun (I’m constantly playing with the tones; a minor adjustment makes a huge difference)”

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): TC Electronic MojoMojo Overdrive Compression Effect Pedal

TC Electronic MojoMojo Overdrive Compression Effect Pedal

View it on Amazon for $44.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerOur Silver Pick comes to us from the sound experts at TC Electronics. TC Electronics began its history in 1985 by producing the TC2290 delay pedal, which was far ahead what was available on the market during that time. Since then, TC Electronics has gone on to produce a quality line of tuners, bass amps, and effects pedals. Their MojoMojo pedal is a very well-regarded unit that is in demand by many guitarists, globally.

The first thing that you’ll notice about this overdrive pedal is that its burgundy-colored chassis. TC electronics secures this covering with a single screw that attaches neatly, and firmly to the back panel. The glossy covering has inset highlights to give the whole overdrive panel a sparkly profile. Measurement-wise, this pedal comes in at 5 (L) x 3 (H) x 4 (W) inches and is very light; it weighs about 14.4 ounces. As a result of this sizing, this is a great overdrive for any pedal board.

Insofar as controls, this overdrive has four rather than the three present on our Gold Pick Model. These include a the drive dial that’s aligned on the top left. The level dial, which you’ll use to control the volume of the output, is aligned on the top right. A bass dial, which you can use to reduce or increase the bassiness of your tone, is located on the bottom left. Finally, on the bottom right is a treble dial, which controls tone.

Like our Gold Pick, this overdrive pedal uses a true bypass system, which lets the input signal pass through the pedal evenly when it’s unengaged. Once you do engage the chrome footswitch, there is the chance of a slight pop at activation, but it’s not very noticeable. Centered between the two topmost dials is a voice switch that has a similar functionality to the OCD’s HP/LP switch. In the top position, you’ll have a sound with a larger midrange, and in the lower position the sound will be slightly cleaner.

You can power this pedal through the use of a 9v or 18v battery, and they’ll last for months of gigs and venues. If you’re looking for a battery-less connection, you can also power this through a 9v cable connection.

Just like the OCD, the MoJoMoJo has a 91 percent positivity ratio when it comes to reviews. The review that best represents the reviews for this pedal starts rather ominously:

“Don’t buy this pedal if…… you really hate warm, sustaining, natural-tube overdrive; you won’t like it at all. This is my favorite OD pedal that I have. I have compared it to the Vox ValveTone OD, the OD side of a EHX Germanium4 BMP, a EHX Linear Power Boost(my second favorite), an Ibanez TS5(90s model) and a Boss Fender Bassman FBM-1. They all have their uses but I find the MojoMojo to be the most versatile, warm and punchy OD I have.”

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive

Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive

View it on Amazon for $46.55*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardThere’s definitely something to be said about the classics. Boss has been producing pedals since 1974, and the SD-1 has been in production since the 1980s and has been utilized by many a famous musician, including Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. While there aern’t a lot of extra bells and whistles for this overdrive pedal, it has plenty of great-sounding functionality that is sure to satisfy guitarists of any level.

The first thing you might notice about this overdrive pedal is how simply it’s designed. Taking a cue from Boss’s other lines of pedals, this device has one very large footswitch. A problem with the tiny footswitches featured in our gold and silver picks is that in a darkened performance space, it can sometimes be hard to accurately locate the switch to engage the device.

With a larger switch that takes up about half of the device’s construction, it’s very hard to miss the key sound transition that you need when engaging the overdrive pedal. The area where your foot is supposed to contact is black and features the Boss logo, but the actual footswitch extends for a little more than an inch past this area. The casing for this pedal is yellow, and the whole device feels very sturdy, which it’ll need to be to survive the rigors of the road. If you prefer a little more tension in your footswitch, there is a knob where you can adjust that to your preference at the base of the device.

When it comes to dials, the SD-1 has the standard three. There are two larger, grooved dials for level and drive, and a slightly smaller knob for tone. In between these dials is a red LED that will let you know visually when the pedal is engaged. Unfortunately, this overdrive pedal does not feature true bypass, so if you’re planning on switching this pedal on and off a lot, you might experience more distortion than you’d like. In that case, a model with true bypass might be best for you.

Many guitarists use this overdrive pedal as a signal booster. It’s a cheap and quick way to get a boosted signal through your guitar chain where other effects can be added for varying sounds. Some musicians actually double up with this overdrive; having a second unit on your chain will really high gain out of your guitar’s sound.

89 percent of the Amazon reviews are of a positive, four or five star rating level. For the most part, reviewers appreciate the boosting capabilities of this overdrive, and also revel in its dependability and build quality. Here is one review:

“I was on the fence about getting this overdrive because I wasn’t THRILLED with the DS-1, (similarly priced Distortion Box) but I was in the market for an overdrive and I gotta tell you, I’m a tone snob, and I was NOT disappointed with this overdrive. Not just for the price, but overall… an excellent choice for an overdrive.”

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Joyo JF-01 Vintage Overdrive Guitar Effect Pedal

Joyo JF-01 Vintage Overdrive Guitar Effect Pedal

View it on Amazon for $31.19*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickIf you’re looking to change up your sound and gain a little gain, but are a gainless starving artist who happens to be ballin’ on a budget, you don’t need to despair. Joyo has been developing pedals and amplifiers for musicians for years and fortunately, they’re devices are reliable and affordable.

For a relatively low-cost pedal, it’s amazing how good this device looks. It has a sparkling green chassis that is comprised of metal. The base of the pedal houses a rubber mat that is glued onto the base and is fairly non-slip. This is a three dial overdrive pedal, and it doesn’t do anything revolutionary with these controls, the top two are drive and volume and the lower middle dial is there to adjust tone. Each of these dials are yellow and have square-shaped grips so that turning them while on stage is a fairly easy task.

Like our gold and silver units, this pedal uses a smaller chrome footswitch that some guitarist enjoys. Amazingly for the price, Joyo utilized a true bypass system that will not affect your guitar chain when the device is disengaged. A red LED will illuminate when the device is engaged, and like the other overdrive pedals in this write up, this device is powered by a 9v battery.

The sound that this unit generates is very crisp. The overdriven notes are just fuzzy enough to really add soul to your guitar tones; there are even videos online comparing this to the fabled Ibanez tube screamer. Most agree that this overdrive pedal produces a warm sound that will sound great just boosting your signal, or as a dedicated effect on your pedal board.

87 percent of the reviews on Amazon for this overdrive pedal are positive. The majority of reviews sound tonally similar to this one:

“The Overdrive is very expressive. as you turn the volume up, it gets louder but doesn’t really change the sound. The drive knob has plenty of functionality. It sort of caps out the grit around 12 o’clock but the rest of the pot really shapes the tone. I kept mine pretty low and really dug the tones.”


Pre-purchase considerations

Uses for a Overdrive Pedal

There are three key ways to use an overdrive pedal, as a boost, as a partial gain device, or as a full gain device. Here’s an explanation for each:

As a Boost – This will boost the sound of your guitar. To do this, you’ll have to set your amp to dirty (full gain), set the pedal to clean by adjusting the drive dial, set the volume on the pedal and the amp to a high level, and match up the tones as closely as possible (activate the foot switch mid tone to adjust this setting). The result will be a boosted sound coming from your amp, this won’t be an incredibly overdriven sound, but there will be some distortion.

As a Partial Gain Device – This is the perfect sound for the blues. To get this sound-type, set your amp to partially dirty by hitting the midpoint on the gain knob and cranking the volume up, set the pedal to partially dirty; around 45 percent to full is a great level for this. Then, set the volume or level on the pedal for a small boost and match the tone. This setting will add a decent amount of crunchiness to your sound that won’t be an overpowering metal or industrial tone.

As a Full Gain Device – This is perfect for the metal or industrial sound that we previously mentioned. For this, actually set your amp’s gain to clean and let the pedal execute all of the distortion, set the pedal, of course, to dirty (just crank the gain/overdrive/drive dial to maximum), even out the volume levels on both the pedal and the tube amp, and do the same for the tone. This will help you generate a very distorted sound, while this won’t match what you can get out of a distortion pedal, it’ll still sound very overdriven.

Dials – What Do They Mean?

As with other devices of its class, overdrive pedals have several distinct dials to adjust the sound that your amp is emitting. Here are some of the dials that you might find on your future overdrive unit:

Level or Volume – This is a setting that is independent of the volume that you’ll be able control directly on your amp. You can turn your amp’s volume all the way up in order to get a bit of natural distortion and reduce the volume on the pedal so that you’ll have a bit of gain on your clean sound, but not a huge amount of volume.

Tone or Treble – This is how you can change the tonality of your guitar’s output. As there is typically one on the amp as well, when adjusting this setting on your pedal, you’ll want to change this to either match what’s on your amp if you are pursuing a boosted sound, or for more crunchy distortion, you can set your tone higher on your pedal than is on your amp.

Drive, Overdrive, or Gain – This is where you’ll get your primary distortion effect. How this effect sounds will vary greatly based on the interplay between your pedal and your tube amp. No matter what, adjusting this pedal to higher levels will add increasing amounts of distortion to your guitar tone.

Some pedals will have up to six total dials, but for the most part, these additional dials will affect the control settings listed above; just in different ways, typically based on the right vs. left channels.

Overall design and Pedal board Friendliness

When you want to vary your sound, you may want to consider building a well stacked pedal board. Pedal boards are a device that’ll let you chain multiple effects pedals together so that you can change up your sound, mid-performance. These can include overdrive, distortion, wah-wah, delay, chorus, looping, and compressor pedals. You can even throw in a talkbox style pedal such as the one made famous by guitar legend Peter Frampton.

Fitting all of the pedals you want into your pedal board is typically easy, but sometimes pedals can be a bit overlarge and will have to be placed on the outside of the pedal board itself. When selecting an overdrive pedal, try to know ahead of time whether or not you’ll be incorporating it into a standard pedal board, and whether or not you mind using a larger overdrive with the remainder of your smaller pedals.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

Overdriving your sound can be great in musical genres ranging from blues to metal, and using one of these pedals to boost your sound is amazing for nearly any musician. We hope that this article helps you find the overdrive pedal that will best accompany your unique sound and we also hope that our pre-purchase considerations help you make an informed decision when it comes to buying a device of this type. In any situation, take your time; finding the right pedal for your board isn’t something that you should rush through. Take a look at what’s out there, consider what we’ve posted here, and soon you’ll be generating the sound that you’ve been looking for.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

  1. ACMANIAC, Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Pedal, Guitar Fella
  2. soundpurestudios, Fulltone OCD Pedal Review, Youtube, May 20, 2009
  3. Guitar Lessons with Your Guitar Sage, Fulltone OCD Pedal – Gear Review, Youtube, Jun 5, 2014
  4. Matthew Holliman, TC Electronic MojoMojo Overdrive and Dark Matter Distortion Pedal Reviews, Premiere Guitar, August 03, 2011
  5. GoofyDawg, Gear Review: TC Electronic MojoMojo Overdrive, Guitar Gear, August 16, 2012
  6. SD-1 Super Overdrive Review, Ultimate Guitar, August 08, 2005
  7. Nik Farr, Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive Pedal Review, The Frugal Guitar, June 11, 2013
  8. Mike B, Joyo JF-01 Vintage Overdrive, Pedal of the Day

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