How does overdrive differ from its popular cousin’s distortion and fuzz? There’s a subtlety to overdrive that can be easily missed, so let’s check out the best overdrive pedals you can get.
Overdrive is when you turn up that amp and it goes into…overdrive. I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve done this in the last few decades, so it’s no surprise that an overdrive pedal can do the dirty work for you.
Overdrive is the ability to get those rich tones of your instrument — yes, basses and synths are welcome here too — without completely drenching the sound in distortion or fuzz. It’s the fine wine of pedals, the if-you-know-you-know of effects, and the idea that using a small amount — as a Michelin star chef would — can be the secret sauce to tone.
We’ve had the chance to dig into quite a few, here’s some cream of the crop.
JHS Overdrive Preamp
JHS Pedals has taken inspiration from a beyond rare pedal from the ’70s — an extremely early version of the revered DOD 250 Overdrive Preamp. This recreation is classically simple — its got two knobs, a slider, and an on/off footswitch and its housed in a solid design that’s not too small or too big. The magic is all in that slider.
The slider provides a variation of clipping sound, with the Down position representing a sound with germanium diodes from a DOD pedal that the JHS crew tracked down to recreate this pedal — 75th pedal of any kind ever made by DOD, and the Up position representing the slightly later clipping variant with silicon diodes.
You’ll find the germanium selection to be notably different with the diodes clipping more of the input signal, with a softer saturation sound to provide slightly less output but maintaining a uniquely smooth, rich tone. Whereas the silicon section is approaching the grey box DOD 250 variant, as different as they all may sound, with its more familiar, classic sound.
For more details on the JHS Overdrive Preamp head over to their website Jhspedals.info and check out our Engineering the Sound video below.
Catanlinbread Tribute Overdrive Pedal
The Tribute absolutely hits the mark with the inclusion of an EQ built into a drive pedal. Whilst keeping the pedal’s profile small and the knobs simple with Tone, Frequency, Volume and Drive, it’s an instant classic.
It might present as simple but it’s not. The Tribute has 4 controls, Tone, Freq, Vol, and Drive. The Tone knob has a 12dB cut and boost — plus a handy centre-detent at noon so you know where zero is. The Frequency knob — which works in conjunction with the Tone knob — sweeps from 1.4kHz to 70Hz with 440Hz sitting at noon. And the Volume knob works the…volume.
For more details on the Catanlinbread Tribute Overdrive Pedal head over to their website Catalinbread.com and check out our Engineering the Sound video below.
EarthQuaker Devices Special Cranker
For three knobs and one toggle switch, the Special Cranker that covers so much variation. It covers all your heavy Queens of the Stone Age inspired tones and lightly gained colouration like the master Jimi Hendrix.
This is an update on EarthQuaker Devices Speaker Cranker Pedal. It’s got the same More knob, but with the inclusion of Level and Tone knobs, and two Diode transistor modes to choose from — Germanium (labelled as Ge) and Silicon (labelled as Si).
For more details on the EarthQuaker Devices Special Cranker head to their website Earthquakerdevices.com and check out our Engineering the Sound video below.
All Pedal Devil’s Triad Jeff Loomis Signature Pedal
While not exclusively an overdrive pedal, multi-effect pedal (don’t cringe — it’s a good one!) is a signature pedal from Master shredder Jeff Loomis. He teamed up with All-Pedal for the Devil’s Triad.
The Drive section is op-amp based with LED soft clipping for the distortion, with 20dB of level boost available, and tone and gain control. To help the drive along, the Boost is a single knob with 20dB of clean, open op-amp gain; indeed a generous helping of extra level.
For more details on the All Pedal Devil’s Triad Jeff Loomis Signature Pedal head to the only place you can get it Reverb.com and check out our Engineering the Sound video below.
Death by Audio Germanium Filter
The Germanium Filter from pedal lords Death By Audio is a perfect marriage of simplicity and style. Germanium Filter, is DBA’s “love letter to sticking a pencil through your speaker.” Dishing up fuzz that fizzles and crunch that sputters and reacts to the dynamics of your playing is no mean feat, but this is exactly what Germanium Filter delivers.
You’ve got two knobs — the top one controlling the Filter: turn left for bassy, turn right for bright. The bottom one controls the Germanium (at the heart of the stompbox are two low gain Soviet MP10B NPN germanium transistors): turn left for a sweet, pushed console tone, turn right for all-out destruction!
For more on the Death by Audio Germanium Filter head over to their website Deathbyaudio.com