Best Overdrive Pedal 2018 – Our Top Picks
Eight pedals that push your tone into the zone
Before we answer the question of ‘which is the best overdrive pedal’ let’s firstly look at the importance of this often understated effect. We’re all familiar with modulation effects, reverbs, and delays, and the huge impact they can have on your sound. Yet the simple overdrive is critical when it comes to creating the basic foundations all the other effects have to work with. They differ from distortion pedals in that they assume you’re coming from a place where there’s already a base level of grit to expand on, as opposed creating a base dirt tone from scratch.
The majority of players use their amplifiers to create an initial sound. Particularly when the amp in question is a valve amp, with all that glorious harmonic goodness on tap. But it always helps to have something extra in your arsenal. This is where a good overdrive pedal can help. Think of it as an afterburner switch. You have a great tone to start with, but who wouldn’t want the chance to light a rocket up it?
There are a couple of scenarios where overdrives really shine. Often, they’re used as the ‘tipping point’ between a standard tone you’d use for a verse, perhaps, and a slightly heavier, more pushed tone you’d use to embellish a chorus riff or a solo. Alternatively, a lot of players use them as ‘always-on’ pedals to add a boost to their existing tone.
We’ve chosen eight of the best overdrive pedal effects from our range. Each of these pedals shares a lot of similar characteristics, yet each also brings its own tonal flavour and potential to the mix. Let’s explore.
The Boss BD-2 Blues Driver is one of the longest serving, most established pedals in the list. For years it’s been the tonal backbone of many players, both within the blues genre and otherwise.
Its speciality is that warm, smooth overdrive which has sustain to burn. Paired with a neck pickup – ideally a ‘bucker or a P90 – the Blues Driver gives you glorious, thick tones. It’s not a one-trick pony though; despite its demure appearance and name, this little box can provide some serious filth if required.
Ibanez Tube Screamer
Another icon in the world of overdrives, the Ibanez Tube Screamer is the go-to drive pedal for players looking for a clean, transparent boost to an existing tone. Particularly favoured in the world of metal players, the Tube Screamer has a legacy which is unmatched.
A great example of how the Tube Screamer is used comes from players looking for that tight, surgically precise metal tone. While they’d rely on a high gain amp to get the texture and flavour of the tone, the Tube Screamer is the tool which sits at the front of the signal chain tightening everything up.
Fender Santa Ana
A newer entry in the list is the Fender Santa Ana overdrive pedal. While Fender’s amps are famous for that bell-chime clean sound from amps like the Fender Deluxe Reverb, they also know how to add a bit of grit. Its tweed valve amps, like the Fender Blues Junior, are notoriously hairy when pushed, so it’s fair to say Fender knows a thing or two about overdriving a valve amp.
That heritage shines through in the Santa Ana. Offering the versatility of a standard overdrive with the practical utility of a clean boost, this pedal covers a lot of bases.
Orange Getaway Driver
While Orange is better known for its incredible, unique valve amplifiers, it’s recently taken a slight detour by throwing its name into the pedal ring.
The Orange Getaway Driver is its debut overdrive offering. Dubbed an ‘amp in a box’ style, the Getaway Driver is perfectly suited to studio use on account of its CabSim output, meaning you can direct it straight into a recording device.
Orange being Orange, the tones you can coax out of the Getaway Driver are superb. From a light smattering of grit, through to full-bore sludge tones, this pedal is a versatile wonder.
Electro Harmonix Crayon
If you’re still in any doubt of the importance of overdrive, allow us to point you in the direction of Electro Harmonix. The New York-based pedal maker extraordinaire has approximately 74,302 different overdrive pedals in its range, each with their own unique foibles and tricks.
We’ve opted for the Electro Harmonix Crayon, an account of its superior tone-shaping potential. With independent controls for bass and treble, this is a pedal which can happily shape your sound on its own, yet really comes to life when paired with other pedals. You can think of it almost as a hybrid overdrive/EQ tool.
Strymon is the cool kids of modern pedal design. Their range – which admittedly isn’t cheap – offers the peak of engineering, tone, and design. The Strymon Riverside is their core overdrive pedal and, in keeping with the overall ethos of the company – is a technological wonder. Seriously; if you can’t find an overdriven tone here that you like, you probably never will.
The Riverside offers full-spectrum EQ control, along with a footswitch input allowing modular control over your chosen parameters, and a boost input which provides an additional +6dB of clean drive.
Wampler Dual Fusion Tom Quayle Signature
Produced in conjunction with Dawsons’ very own Tom Quayle, the Wampler Dual Fusion is a serious piece of kit. Merging two existing pedals – the Euphoria and Paisley Drive – into one, the Wampler Dual Fusion packs perhaps the most tonal punch of any other individual drive pedal.
A neat touch here is the ability to mix and meld together the two separate ‘channels’, meaning you can come up with some seriously unique new drive tones which react brilliantly with both amps and other pedals.
MXR Custom Shop Shin-Juku
The final entry in the list is the MXR Custom Shop Shin-Juku, which is a collaboration between MXR and Shin’s Music Japan. Shin Suzuki is a legendary amp and pedal builder, so this drive can be relied upon up to have some seriously interesting and usable tones.
Ideally suited as an ‘always-on’ drive, it features a ‘dark’ switch which offers a slight high-frequency cut for a smoother, more focused output.
To conclude, below are quick links to the best overdrive pedals to check out:
- Boss BD-2 Blues Driver
- Ibanez Tube Screamer
- Fender Santa Ana
- Orange Getaway Driver
- Electro Harmonix Crayon
- Strymon Riverside
- Wampler Dual Fusion
- MXR Custom Shop Shin-Juku
View the full range of Overdrive Pedals at Dawsons Music.