15 Best Overdrive Guitar Pedals 2023
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Overdrive is perhaps one of the most essential guitar effects that every guitarist needs in their rig. There’s an undeniable awesomeness to a guitar tone that is saturated in a slightly overdriven grainy grit.
Even if you’ve had experience with overdrive in the past, buying an overdrive can feel like a complicated ordeal. Be sure to check out the following overdrive guitar pedals if you’re considering adding one to your rig.
JHS Morning Glory V4 – Best Overall
Interested in one of the more modern groundbreakers in classic overdrive capability? Look no further than the JHS Morning Glory V4 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) to get the job done.
As far as the JHS pedal chronology goes, the Morning Glory is one of the company’s first pedal designs. This overdrive quickly became a hit, filling the void by providing tones that guitarists have spent lifetimes seeking.
From a circuit standpoint, the Morning Glory takes its inspiration from the iconic AnalogMan King of Tone. JHS adds its own unique twists to make this pedal worth your time and money.
The Morning Glory V4 is one of the best overdrives on the market offering transparent overdrive tones. In fact, you could go to lengths to say that the pedal retains much of the guitar’s natural tone characteristics.
If you prefer to have overdrive tones that lean more towards a clean tone, you know how difficult it is. The Morning Glory V4 makes it easy, while also serving up a healthy dish of crunch if you need it.
This pedal has more capabilities than what it initially shows, offering unique features such as:
- Expression capabilities for increased gain
- 2-way switch for increased gain
- Hi-cut switch for more presence in the low end
It takes a lot to move the needle in the overdrive world these days. The Morning Glory V4 is one of the most recent innovations in the space and is well worth its price.
JHS Double Barrel V4 – Best Premium
Are you a guitarist that could benefit from a 2-channel overdrive for an additional boost? The JHS Double Barrel V4 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) has what it takes to become a permanent solution.
This pedal essentially combines 2 successful JHS overdrive pedals into 1 convenient housing. In effect, you’ll get to use either or in any sort of gain staging manner you wish to orient.
The overdrive circuits included in the Double Barrel V4 include the:
- Moonshine V2
- Morning Glory V4
As mentioned before, the Morning Glory V4 works best as a transparent overdrive, adding a pristine crunch if needed. The Moonshine V2 is inspired more by the Ibanez Tube Screamer, providing its own unique transparent overdrive flavors.
This combination is actually quite genius in concept considering that both of these could act as a boost if desired. It’s also ideal as you get a comparable (but distinct) clean overdrive to boost an already-clean overdrive tone.
The Double Barrel V4 is quite pricey for an overdrive and probably isn’t best for beginners buying their first pedal. However, for those who know what they’re looking for, this pedal is a bargain.
Buying both of these pedals individually would cost more money than buying the Double Barrel V4. Plus, each pedal’s entire circuit and original range of adjustable parameter knobs are included with each channel.
Behringer TO800 – Best Budget
Need an overdrive but don’t have very much money to spend on a pedal? The Behringer TO800 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) might be worth your attention.
Behringer’s range of pedals is notorious for a number of reasons, with the biggest being price. Granted, not all of these pedals are all that great, but there are some models that have a historic legacy.
As far as utility goes, the TO800 is actually one of the standout pedals in Behringer’s line of budget pedals. Its green chassis indicates that it takes its inspiration from the iconic Tube Screamer.
How does it sound? Believe it or not, the TO800 produces a tone that can really emulate that Tube Screamer sound.
It might not be as transparent as the original, as it can be a hair bit more gritty in nature. But for the right person, that might not necessarily be a bad thing.
For the price, the TO800 is worthwhile for any beginner or hobbyist to check out. The pedal can help you determine if you enjoy the TS-style of overdrive and the sounds that come with it.
Want to utilize a massive range of different overdrive types in one pedal? The JHS Bonsai (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) has different overdrive types for just about any situation.
If you’ve noticed, many pedals seem to follow a sort of color code, with the Tube Screamer being no different. Using the TS as a rule, green pedals take inspiration from the Ibanez pedal more often than not.
The JHS Bonsai follows this rule but goes above and beyond supplying just 1 or 2 different overdrive sounds. There are actually 9 different circuits featured here, many of which are Tube Screamer-related, including:
- Metal Screamer
- EXAR OD1
- JHS Tube Screamer Strong Mod
- Keeley’s Tube Screamer Mod+
Because of the pedal’s analog circuitry, you’re getting the actual circuits of each of these pedals. In turn, the Bonsai is a bargain considering how much each individual pedal would likely cost.
Something like this is especially great for studio work as it means you aren’t limited to just one overdrive tone.
Soldano Super Lead Overdrive
Technology has allowed things to become smaller, with the guitar amplifier head being one of these advancements. The Soldano Super Lead Overdrive (see price on Sweetwater, Guitar Center) lets you tap into the classic amp’s capabilities.
For the uninitiated, the Soldano Super Lead Overdrive 100 head is legendary in its tones. It helped to provide a distinct overdrive tone heard in much of the classic rock from the late 1980s.
This is going to be ideal for those who want a ton of high-gain saturation present in their tone. The pedal is easy to set up, offering traditional controls in addition to a 3-band EQ.
Throw one of these in your signal path if you’re going for that hair metal sound that isn’t overly distorted. This can definitely get dirty and is by far one of the dirtiest pedals on this list.
Again, if you’re looking for something clean and transparent, the Super Lead Overdrive will not be ideal.
With that being said, this pedal delivers that iconic sound with the signature aesthetics found on the original amp.
Wampler Tumnus Deluxe
Looking for that golden overdrive crunch that can be transparent if you need it to be? The Wampler Tumnus Deluxe (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) might be a good fit for you.
While its original artwork (depicting a hoofed creature) alludes to the Klon Centaur, the Tumnus Deluxe has its own tone. The overdrive crunch delivered from this pedal is incredibly articulate and is never muddy in its presentation.
If you need something crisp that doesn’t overtake your entire tone, the Tumnus Deluxe will tick the boxes. This Deluxe model builds upon the critical success of the original Tumnus, adding features such as:
- Full 3-band EQ
- Normal/Hot modes
The Hot mode is especially ideal for when you want something noticeably crunchier while still being articulate. Having a full 3-band EQ does unbelievable wonders compared to a simple 1-knob tone control EQ.
Compared to the original, this might be a little too pricey for some budgets. But, for the value that’s added for a minimal cost, the Tumnus Deluxe is worth every penny.
Bogner Ecstasy Blue Mini
Bogner has always been a respected name among boutique amplifier manufacturers. Part of their charm lies in the distinct overdrive characteristics present when pushing the volume of the amplifiers.
If you’ve ever wanted this boutique amplifier overdrive without the price, you’re in luck. The Bogner Ecstasy Blue Mini (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) provides those Bogner tones while saving space.
Bogner’s original run of Ecstasy pedals was a massive hit, but they were admittedly quite large. The Ecstasy Blue Mini brings the same, powerful functionality in a smaller, standard-size format.
Despite the size difference, the Ecstasy Blue Mini provides an incredible amount of control over tone shaping. Knobs for volume, gain, and a 3-band EQ is provided, as well as switches for:
- Variac mode to simulate dying battery
- Gain staging
- Pre-EQ shaping
This pedal remains a classic mainstay due to its excellent versatility and usability across music genres.
J. Rockett Audio Designs Archer Ikon
We’ve already talked at length about the fabled Klon Centaur, which is unattainable for most people. If you’re looking for a clone, check out the J. Rockett Audio Designs Archer Ikon (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon).
Some of J. Rockett Audio’s best pedals happen to be clones (and slight variations) of the original Centaur. This clone brings that transparent drive but provides it in a standard-size format to save pedalboard real estate.
Not only is the Archer Ikon a respectable clone, but it also retains the classic gold and oxblood color scheme. Even the dials used for the knob are reminiscent of the corresponding Klon Centaur production model.
While the Archer Ikon is excellent for a clean, slightly overdriven, boost, it can provide some grit. However you decide to use it, the Archer Ikon will have your tone soaring to new heights.
Warm Audio Centavo
Looking for more of an authentic Klon Centaur clone that has the aesthetics nailed perfectly? The Warm Audio Centavo (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is sure to look great on any pedalboard.
While other clones manage to emulate the Centaur’s tone, many do not provide the full aesthetic charm of the original. The Centavo actually has that iconic rectangular shape that looks like something from the art-deco period.
Warm Audio seems to have gone the extra mile in producing a clone that uses the exact same circuitry components. They’ve even added a modification switch to run the pedal with a boost in the bass EQ range.
Even the artwork with the iconic archer centaur is featured here in a nearly identical reproduction. With the dial knobs, any guitarist is sure to look twice at your pedal board thinking it’s a real Klon.
For the price, it’s definitely a nice alternative solution. You can get those classic Centaur tones at a serious fraction of the cost of the authentic original models.
MXR Duke of Tone
Have you ever wanted an AnalogMan King of Tone, but don’t have the time to wait? The MXR Duke of Tone (see price on Sweetwater, Guitar Center) provides a unique opportunity.
For those unfamiliar with the King of Tone, you should know that it is a sort of mythological overdrive pedal. This mythology comes from the fact that there is a 5-year waiting list to get the pedal from the manufacturer.
In fact, by the time you read this, it’s a guarantee that the waiting list will only have gotten longer. AnalogMan does not have the manufacturing capacity to supply all guitarists worldwide all at once.
This is where MXR has stepped in, giving AnalogMan a platform to provide his circuit to the wider masses. Thus, the Duke of Tone was born, offering KoT capabilities in a smaller housing and a smaller price.
The Duke of Tone has a fairly basic setup, offering traditional knob controls for volume, drive, and tone. MXR has included a 3-way switch to engage the Duke of Tone’s different modes, which include:
- Boost (transparent)
- Overdrive (moderate crunch)
- Distortion (full-blast)
Some guitarists have claimed that the magic from the King of Tone isn’t present in the Duke of Tone. However, just as many guitarists feel that it comes incredibly close to indistinguishable differences in sound.
Nevertheless, for the price, the Duke of Tone gives you the chance to utilize those tones yourself. Plus, you wouldn’t have to wait half of a decade to get it.
You know what they say. Sometimes, it’s the little ones that you need to watch out for and keep an eye on.
The MXR Timmy (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) might be small, but it’s more capable than it appears. This overdrive has a pleasantly smooth grit that is quite responsive to dynamic playing.
If you love a transparent crunch, the Timmy is sure to have your mouth watering with delight. The tone of the guitar coming through the amp is not overtaken by saturation by any means.
Instead, the MXR Timmy preserves the guitar’s original tone and puts it at the forefront. When you need a little extra lightning, the Timmy will saturate more with increased volume and attack.
The Timmy is a mini guitar pedal with a 2-band EQ and controls for both volume and gain levels. There is also a mini 3-way switch to put the Timmy in different gain stage modes.
For the price, this classic circuit really cannot be beat. The fact that it saves pedalboard space is just a secondary added benefit.
Are you a country guitarist looking for an overdrive to put in your signal chain? The Nobels ODR-1 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a classic that will fit the bill however you use it.
Remember how we mentioned that pedals seem to be color-coded by circuitry inspiration, and how it wasn’t a hard rule? The ODR-1 is actually an exception to this rule, having a green color purely by coincidence.
While it might not be based on the Tube Screamer, the ODR-1 actually has a unique and desirable tone. You can dial it to be smooth or you can crank up the crunch for lightning in a bottle.
The pedal has a good mid-range presence, allowing bass and treble to be filtered in as needed. Plus, let’s not forget the aesthetics, which make the ODR-1 look like it came from a decade long ago.
As far as popular overdrives go, the Tube Screamer might take the cake. The Ibanez TS9 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) has remained a go-to since the early 1980s.
Part of the reason the TS9 is so legendary is that there have been innumerable guitarists using them. Some of the most noteworthy include guitarists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Mayer.
The TS9 has that distinct character of providing overdrive while also remaining fairly transparent if desired. You could almost use the TS9 as a boost that remains mostly clean with slight breakup on the edges.
That “clean” overdrive tone has been a quality that many overdrive pedals have sought to achieve. The TS9 seems to be one of the best at getting the job done when reaching for those classic tones.
Of course, if you need to put some extra grit in your tone, the TS9 can provide. However, this is more akin to a medium-strength clipping compared to other overdrive sounds on the market.
This pedal is about as basic as it gets, offering controls for volume, gain, and tone. However, it’s what it provides that has caused this green pedal to become the legend that it is.
Perhaps the best part is that the TS9 is incredibly affordable compared to most overdrive pedals. This is a good starting place for somebody who has never had an overdrive in their signal path.
Are you new to overdrive pedals and finding the Tube Screamer not fitting for your tastes? You might want to consider the Boss BD-2 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon), which many feel is an equal alternative.
Sure, the Tube Screamer circuit has been around for longer than the BD-2, but the BD-2 is just as popular. The BD-2 has a bit of a deeper clipping profile compared to the shallow grit of the TS9.
That means, if you play more modern rock that utilizes a heavier overdrive, the BD-2 might be more appropriate. It has a similar setup and vibe as the TS9, but with its own character that refuses to be ignored.
You might be wondering if the BD-2 is good for blues music as its name alludes to. The BD-2 is more than appropriate for blues, though transparency isn’t its strongest suit.
Nevertheless, the BD-2 might be the very thing that your ears have been searching for. At this price, there’s really no risk in trying one to find out.
Electro-Harmonix Soul Food
Need a straightforward overdrive that doesn’t break the bank? The Electro-Harmonix Soul Food (see price on Sweetwater, Guitar Center) feeds the soul while being affordable.
If you’re seeking out a transparent overdrive that can provide minimal (but just enough) bite, this is for you. The Soul Food has a traditional layout, offering controls for volume, treble, and drive.
Finding usable tones will take no time at all when plugging the Soul Food in for the first time. This can be great for rhythm guitar parts as well as for solos, depending on how you use it.
When combined with a tube amp, the Soul Food works exceptionally well at driving the amp into breakup. This goldilocks zone is what almost all guitarists utilizing a tube amplifier aim to achieve, and this pedal will help.
What To Look For When Buying An Overdrive Pedal
If you’re looking for an overdrive pedal, be prepared to be overwhelmed by a smorgasbord of options. There are more overdrive pedals than perhaps any other pedal type to be found on the market.
While this range of options is great for specialization, it doesn’t make things any easier for those unfamiliar with overdrive. Navigating this landscape is much easier when you have a better idea of the history and the differences between pedals.
The following points will guide you through some questions that you will need to ask yourself before buying an overdrive. Knowing your own personal answers to this question will give you a compass and a map to follow.
What Kind Of Sound Are You Looking For?
The biggest reason why there are so many overdrive pedals on the market is because guitarists are picky about overdrive. What one person thinks sounds glorious, another could think the same tone sounds like hot garbage.
Personal taste seems to take more of a front seat when it comes to overdrive, but it’s for good reason. Overdrive is often found to be always engaged, providing the base tone of the guitar in a band/recording context.
If your overdrive sounds terrible, there’s a good chance that the music you play will sound just as bad. As such, people take great care to try to find the perfect tone, which is like chasing a unicorn.
The actual effect itself has been sought after since the dawn of the electric guitar itself. By cranking tube amps, and sometimes cutting speakers, guitarists could dial in some grit for that signature electric punch.
Toward the late 1960s, music started to become heavy, with distorted guitars ushering in the 1970s. As far as innovation goes, the 1970s is when overdrive effects and pedals really started to flourish.
Technological advancements have allowed for many of these classic circuits to be reproduced time and again. Because of this, you’ll often find that most modern overdrives are inspired by different classic circuits.
Some of the most common circuits tend to be:
- Treble booster (treble-heavy grit that can border on fuzz-like clipping)
- Marshall “bluesbreaker” (which is fairly gritty, and modeled after the amplifier circuit)
- Ibanez Tube Screamer (semi-transparent overdrive with medium saturation)
- Klon Centaur (supposedly the most transparent overdrive ever created)
Manufacturers will usually incorporate both the original circuit, as well as a tweak of originality to provide something new. Of course, there are many different flavors of overdrive to be found beyond these families mentioned.
Trying out guitar pedals to potentially add to your rig is one of the most enjoyable aspects of buying gear. With overdrives, it can be a little tedious if you aren’t sure which circuit is right for you.
If you’re unfamiliar with the common circuits, try the original circuits (or a respectable clone) to get an idea. Once your ear decides what it likes, investigate the different flavors available within that circuit family.
Overdrive can be as present or as subtle as you wish it to be. Depending on your needs, a simple boost pedal might be all you need if you have a tube amp.
How Will You Be Using The Overdrive?
Another thing to consider is how you’ll be using the overdrive itself. Do you need a sort of “base” tone, or are you looking for something specific for guitar solos?
Perhaps you already have an overdrive pedal. In this case, you might consider something that pairs nicely, providing a synergistic effect while being unique.
Again, the sky really is the limit when it comes to the variety of overdrives available. What sounds good and how you choose to use it will be completely up to you.
Many guitarists will employ an overdrive that is on at all times, kicking on another for extra punch. Some will only do this during guitar solos to elevate the guitar in the band’s overall sound mix.
Then, there are guitarists who absolutely love overdrive and distortion and are in a band that utilizes different flavors. In this case, having a few options isn’t a bad thing, as it provides different contexts for a band’s music.
Speaking of which, you’ll also want to be considerate of the style of music you’ll be playing. Certain overdrives are known legends in rock and blues music, while others are tempered more toward heavier rock music.
It’s important to follow your intuition if you do find an overdrive pedal that speaks to you more than others. If possible, demo the pedal in a real-world situation, as overdrive can sound different in a full band.
Are Boutique Overdrive Pedals Worth The Hype?
No matter how long you’ve been playing guitar, you’ve probably become aware of some pedal hype over the years. The overdrive pedal seems to be the effect that has the most hype surrounding it.
One of the most popular is undoubtedly the Klon Centaur, which has sold for unbelievable prices. Another is the King of Tone by AnalogMan, which has a 5-year waiting list to receive the pedal.
Are these pedals worth the hype, or are they just pure novelty that have become a meme in the community? The answer to that really depends on who you are as a guitarist, and what your own specific needs are.
Sure, the legends around these pedals are quite comical and utterly ridiculous. But, those who are fortunate to have had these pedals all usually agree that they are something special.
Of course, not everybody has access to either the money or the time to be able to acquire these pedals. If anything, the hype of these pedals has only pushed the cloning community toward greater heights of success.
Finding clones of these famous circuits might be the only way that you have access to these tones. Fortunately, there are some excellent clones available for just about any overdrive circuit you could desire.
Are Overdrive Pedals Obsolete Due To Digital Modeling?
Digital modeling and amp simulation have taken the guitar world by storm over the last 15 years. The technology has only gotten better over time, with more guitarists adopting it as a permanent solution.
There are certain costs associated with a quality modeler, which is why many still use amplifiers. Plus, amplifiers have a certain feel that many feel does not quite exist with digital competitors.
Overdrive pedals will always be a thing as long as amplifiers continue to find use among guitarists.
Always be sure to keep in consideration the overall size of the overdrive guitar pedal itself. If you can, find a miniature version of your preferred overdrive, as it can save quite a bit of space.
Overdrive pedals are usually quite basic in design, often only offering just the effect itself with minimal knobs. However, you might want to keep your eye open for any special features that you could put to good use.
For instance, some overdrive pedals have multiple channels, allowing you to essentially have a pair of overdrive pedals in one. This is incredibly useful if you need extra saturation, punch, or volume during certain musical moments.
Some overdrive pedals will offer a range of different overdrive circuits within one unit, often selectable with a dial. These are great for those who want to utilize different tones or maybe aren’t completely decided on a particular flavor.
An overdrive pedal with the right tone can make just about anybody disregard their budget. Make sure you keep the reins in your hand and consider the options within the amount you wish to spend.
Fortunately, most of the classic overdrive pedals are listed around the $100 price mark. Boutique and specialized overdrives will usually cost a fair deal more depending on the features offered.
For a risk-free venture, it doesn’t hurt to utilize the used market when buying an overdrive pedal. You’ll score a pedal for a bargain than what you would pay for the same pedal in a store.
Plus, if the pedal doesn’t exactly meet all of your expectations, you can recoup most of your money. Selling a pedal that you bought new will almost always result in a slight loss of original investment.
Something else you might consider is whether you want to utilize any mods on your overdrive pedal. Manufacturers like AnalogMan and Keeley have a reputation for adding mods to overdrive pedals.
For most people, however, a typical “stock” overdrive is more than enough to get the job done.
Best Brands For Overdrive Pedals
Buying any pedal (especially an overdrive) is a lot more difficult if you aren’t aware of reputable brands. Each of these brands is known for their overdrive pedals, as well as their range of other effects.
JHS is one of the most innovative guitar pedal manufacturers in operation today. The company was founded by Josh Scott, who is a notable gear nerd with a tasteful ear for experimentation.
JHS made a name for itself, particularly from its Morning Glory overdrive and its “Strong Mod” Tube Screamer modification. Since then, the company has released a number of different overdrives for any style of guitarist to utilize.
Wampler was officially started in 2007 in what seems to be a sort of fairy tale story. According to Brian Wampler on his YouTube channel, he started the company while he was living off of credit cards.
Since then, Wampler has received critical acclaim for their range of overdrives. The company also has a few signature overdrives, including a famous model made for Brad Paisley.
Best Overdrive Pedals, Final Thoughts
Overdrive will be one of those effects that continues to see innovation as well as massive cloning of classic takes. Every guitarist is usually pretty particular when it comes to their overdrive sound, and there are options for every taste.
Visit your local guitar shop and try a few of these aforementioned pedals out with your rig. You’ll be on your way to delivering white-hot lightning licks with a little research and experimentation!
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