The Best Overdrive Pedal (For Blues, Metal & Rock)
We revised our list of best overdrive pedals for metal in 2019 to figure out which ones perform best vs price point.
Our top choices based on verified buyer experiences are:
Finding the best overdrive pedal can be a make or break for getting your tone just right, and ultimately fitting in with your unique style. If you play any form of metal, blues or rock then you may want to consider your options carefully, as there can be a lot of variation in the types of sound created by each product, and as always the best one is the one that matches your unique style.
Below we will review different types of overdrivers on sound, style, genre and price in order to give you the best view of what may be right for your sound!
Overdrive, Distortion and Fuzz: An important Discovery
The history of overdrive is a topic that is widely debated because there are multiple variations of the story of how it was first discovered. However, one legend has it that there was a guitar player who threw his guitar at his amplifier in a fit of rage and the guitar crashed into the amp and knocked something loose. The guitar player picked up his guitar and started to play and a crunchy, dirty and distorted sound came out.
The result turned into our modern day overdrive, distortion or fuzz effect that can now be re-created in a compact guitar pedal.
Technically the sound associated with these types of pedals is created by “clipping” the signal coming from the guitar and going to the amplifier.
Imagine a big wave in the ocean going under a bridge and hitting the bottom of a bridge. The waveform breaks up because the top is “clipped” off by the bridge and thus changes the wave. This is what is happening to a distorted guitar. The signal hits resistance and changes the sound wave, creating a “dirty” kind of sound.
At first it wasn’t a desirable quality in an amplifier. But over time with creative input and artists experimenting with the sound, the crunchy and gritty tone that is recognizable a lot of modern day music was created. It is an especially crucial element to any guitar player’s sound who plays metal, blues or rock.
There are three main types of pedals that create a “dirty” guitar signal. They are mentioned above. Obviously this is an article on the overdrive pedal, but if you want to check out our review on the best distortion pedal then just follow the link!
The Sound of the Effect
As you can hear in the above video, the sound associated with this effect compared to the distortion pedal and fuzz pedal is a softer more full toned sound. It boosts your signal enough to break up the waveform but keeps the tones of the guitar natural and true.
It isn’t as harsh as the distortion and fuzz pedal’s sound. This can be a very desirable quality for a lot of different genres because you can craft the tone of your guitar more and keep your tone consistent while giving it a bit more energy.
Typically overdrive pedals have three dial knobs for drive, tone and level (or volume depending on the pedal) as well as a foot switch to turn it off and on. Each pedal is powered by either battery or a 9v connection, if you have more then a few pedals then be sure to check into buying a power supply or daisy chain if one of your pedals can distribute power.
The Best For Rock
If you are just starting out or play a wide variety of music, it would be beneficial to find an overdrive pedal that is very versatile and can be used for generally all kinds of music.
This is a classic sounding overdrive and is found on a lot of pedal boards. It mimics a mid/deep sounding tube that is pushed to the max. It has a simple to use interface with a nice feeling stomp pad type pedal.
It is very versatile but brings out some nice low and mid tones. It has a very tough design that can handle whatever you throw at it, plus it is simple to use. This is a great all around product and is rated as one of the top pedals out there. It is a fairly priced pedal and doesn’t break the bank account for the quality you are getting.
Take a listen below:
Boss is a staple for guitar pedals and there is good reason for it. These pedals are tough and can handle some rigorous conditions when touring and gigging.
The Boss SD-1 overdrive pedal is a good balance of crunchy mid/high and low heavy tones. If you are looking for a pedal that accomplishes a wide variety of genres and sounds, this one would be a solid option.
It can also be used as a “boost” to your amp’s drive or even clean sound. If you turn the drive down to zero and put the level where you want it can add a decent boost to your sound for those louder moments.
However, this pedal is not as heavy sounding as other pedals on the market. So keep that in mind if you are playing heavy metal or rock.
The boss OD-3 Overdrive pedal brings out a bit of a heavier sound then it’s brother the SD-1 pedal. The OD-3 has a heavier gain and low end tone that comes through when it is engaged.
Like the SD-1, it is a tough pedal that can be very versatile. You can see a comparison of the two in the video below.
Best Overdriver For Blues
Blues is the best example for why one would want to use an overdrive pedal vs a distortion or fuzz pedal, however, the fuzz can add some great elements in blues. The overdrive allows the tone of the guitar to surface through the clipping signal that results in a very emotive and bluesy sound.
This is a nice versatile pedal that can be used for playing both heavy blues and lighter more melodic blues riffs and comes in at a nice price point, giving you a solid effect that doesn’t break the bank.
The Donner Blues Drive allows you to toggle between two modes, one warm for that produces a softer sound and one hot for playing heavier music. By buying this overdrive pedal you essentially get two pedals in one with great tones for blues!
Think of Stevie Ray Vaughn in either his version of little wing, which uses a softer warmer overdrive or in “pride and joy” where he uses a heavier “hot” overdrive.
This is another staple guitar pedal from the engineers at Boss. These guys really know how to make a great tough pedal at a good price. Although slightly more expensive then the Donner Blues Drive, it is much more rugged and can handle tough conditions, resulting in a pedal that lasts the test of time.
The boss BD-2 has a very classic sound to it which makes it very desirable for old school blues that requires a bit of a raunchy sound but not too overpowering where the tones of the guitar are lost. This pedal provides great versatility in an overdrive pedal that comes extremely close to replicating a vintage tube.
This guy is a little bit raunchier then the previous two above. It is not called the Screamin’ Blues Overdrive for no reason! It would be a perfect pedal to give a heavy guitar solo a bit more edge.
The Screamin’ Blues pedal also has a more flexibility in terms of the controls for tone. It has two knobs to control tone, one for low tones and one for high tones. This enables you to maximize what you want for the particular part of song it is engaged for.
It is a similar price point to the Boss BD-2 pedal but definitely has it’s own sound. Pairing these two pedals on a pedal board would be a perfect duo for having a pedal for a general boost and overdriven tone, and then having an option to really crank it up and experiment with some heavier tones.
This is a really cool pedal. It is a great pedal for blues and rock since it is a very neutral sounding and doesn't take away from your natural tone. This means you can utilize the power and tone of say a Fender Strat and keep intact the elements of what make a Strat a Strat.
When the drive is turned down it allows your signal to be boosted without any change in the tone at all. Paired with a great reverb pedal it can allow great clean solos and rhythmic parts.
When the drive is turned up, the tone that comes out is crunchy but warm. A great sound for a strong dirty blues solo that would be familiar in a hazy pub in Chicago in the 60s.
Best Overdrive Pedal For Metal
When constructing your tone for metal, most would say to look for a pedal with strong low end and nice balanced high tone. This is because when you are ripping a guitar solo you want it to cut through the rest of the band. This is accomplished by utilizing the high frequencies. However, when you are playing a rhythmic section that needs to be full and punchy, the low end will help you accomplish this.
This pedal was made for legendary guitar player Zakk Wylde, who may be most recognizable as the guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne and founder of the heavy metal band Black Label Society. As a guitarist, he rips fast, accurate and heavy and needs an overdrive pedal to match.
A lot of the great gritty harmonic tone that is desirable in heavy metal music comes from the amplifier the guitarist is using. Which means when you are talking overdrive and distortion pedals, you probably don’t want something that wipes out the tone of the amp completely and overpowers it with the pedal’s specific sound.
The MXR Wylde is a heavy sounding overdrive that adds an awesome punch and boost but doesn’t overpower the amplifier’s natural tone. It will enhance the natural tone of the amp but allows you boost your sound without compromise.
It has a nice low-end sound with balanced highs. The gain is a beautiful crunchy sound when it is full on but can be backed off if need be to give your signal an extra boost if you prefer to utilize the gain on your amp.
The OCD is a very full toned thick sounding pedal. It is a great option for metal guitarists because it has such a full sound. It will add a punch and chug in the rhythm section but still has enough force to cut through. It is actually an overdrive pedal but can almost pass off as a distortion pedal because of its thick low-end sound and heavy gain. You can give it a listen in the below video posted by Sweetwater.