For all the ways overdrive pedals have evolved, we still tend to praise them with the same descriptors used to hail the original TS-808: bluesy, organic, amp-like. It’s a joy to hear a good overdrive do those things. Yet today, OD circuits are more numerous, varied, and more likely to interact with your amp, guitar, and other effects in unexpected ways than ever before.

Overdrives are often the point around which a whole pedalboard pivots, making the variables and differences between these devices critical. And whether you consider the mysterious harmonics and compression they can add to an analog delay, the way they give a clean 6L6 amp the ringing grit of EL34s, or the way they can heap mass on a germanium fuzz, overdrives can go beyond just adding a spoonful of Buddy Guy attitude to your tone.

In reviewing these five recent stomps, we took this broader outlook on the overdrive’s role in your rig. And while we primarily evaluated each for its standalone performance (indeed, some of these pedals left us convinced we’d need little else), we also paid attention to how they interact with such common effects as fuzz and delay.

You’ll see familiar and classic lineage and inspiration among our selections, as well as a few unique circuits that evolve the overdrive concept along interesting trajectories. Each showed us something about the possibilities of this often overlooked effect. If you think you’ve got the world of OD all figured out, we might just have a few surprises in store.

Click onto the next page or select the dirtbox you want to explore next:
JColoccia ID
Mojo Hand Sacred Cow
Oddfellow The Bishop
Zen Zero Red Crown
Pettyjohn PettyDrive
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