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Best Guitar Overdrive Pedals: From Vintage Warmth To Modern Grit

February 23, 2024 
best guitar overdrive pedals
Last Updated on February 23, 2024

The quest for the best overdrive pedal is a lifetime pursuit of guitarists. From bluesy growls to silky leads, who doesn’t want that extra rock ‘n roll sound? Your pedalboard just isn't complete without an overdrive pedal.

Okay, but what makes a good overdrive pedal in the first place? It’s not uncommon for pedal manufacturers to have one or two overdrive pedals of their own. In other words, there are virtually infinite options out there that can easily overwhelm first-time buyers.

What qualities should you want for your overdrive pedal? How much are you willing to pay to achieve that unique sound? Let’s make it easier for you and share our top picks of the best overdrive pedals you should have in your arsenal.

Included in this guide:

Best Overall
Ibanez TS808 Original Tube Screamer Overdrive Pedal

Ibanez TS808 Original Tube Screamer Overdrive Pedal

  • Superb gain range
  • Excellent build and appearance
  • Drive, tone, and level controls
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JHS Pedals Morning Glory V4 Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal

JHS Pedals Morning Glory V4 Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal

  • Top-notch tone transparency
  • User-friendly design
  • Hand-built and enduring design
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Top Pick
Keeley Noble Screamer Overdrive & Boost Pedal

Keeley Noble Screamer Overdrive & Boost Pedal

  • Intuitive and user-friendly design
  • Versatile with plenty of sound control options
  • Four tones, dual analog circuitry
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Top Pick
MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive Pedal

MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive Pedal

  • Dynamic control setup
  • Exceptional sonic flexibility
  • Designed to capture Eddie Van Halen sounds
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Lowest Price
Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive Pedal

Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive Pedal

  • Compact and built like a tank
  • Straightforward and practical design
  • Five year warranty
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Related Article: Distortion Vs Overdrive: How Do These Tones Shape A Guitar Sound?

The Top 5 Best Guitar Overdrive Pedals

Considered the “holy grail” of overdrive pedals, the classic Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer is a legend imitated by many. Its durable zine die-cast construction has charmed famous guitarists like Rory Gallagher and Steve Ray Vaughan. For over 30 years, the warm and creamy tone and unwavering responsiveness of the Ibanez TS808 made it a favorite for many guitarists worldwide.

The TS808 flaunts ultra-simple dials fit for amateurs and professionals alike. It has Tone control for your midrange and Level control for your effect volume. It also has a dedicated Overdrive control, giving you complete reign over the Tube screamer sound! This classic piece can drive a tube amplifier, augmenting your mid frequencies and highlighting the guitar in your mixes. This quality makes it a superb companion for your guitar solos.

  • A versatile boost function
  • LED indicators for effects and battery
  • Plug-and-play mechanics
  • Less gain than newer models
  • The square foot switch can feel fiddly

If you want the cleanest overdrive sound, the JHS Morning Glory V4 Pedal should be the first on your shopping list. Awarded for its transparency, the V4 will take your guitar tone to great heights without the need to alter the guitar’s character. Here’s a pedal that offers grit and crunchy tone without drowning your sound with mid frequencies or other unwanted quirks.

The pedal boasts three-knob controls for volume, tone, and drive. Beyond those three is a handy remote-controllable gain toggle switch activating the pedal’s boost mode. Turned on, it provides more low-end, a massive high-end, and the power to knock your socks off. With this innovative addition, changing from clean to total rock ‘n roll is one switch away!

  • Convenient remote-controlled functions
  • Full frequency boost with twice the headroom
  • Side-mounted bright-cut switch
  • It’s not the most affordable pedal
  • Rare cases of hissing

The Keeley Noble Screamer Overdrive and Boost is a four-in-one guitar pedal featuring 100% analog circuits and a versatile tone.

Looking at its controls, you have three knobs for level, drive, and tone. Switching the Tone knob to “OD” mode gives you the ability to alter the EQ from flat to an enriched treble and bass response. Knocking it to “TS” mode provides a Low Pass Filter, minimizing the high-end frequencies.

Aside from tone versatility, the Screamer rocks soft and hard diode clipping for smooth or hard overdrive reproduction. It’s straightforward to use, too! Simply flip the toggle up if you want aggressive and edgy or down if you need soft, overdriven tube amp sounds.

  • No power supply included

If you’re a fan of Eddie Van Halen or trying to emulate his signature distortion-drenched brown sound, the MXR EVH 5150 Pedal is right up your alley. Collaborated with the legendary guitarist himself, this pedal is more than capable of nailing Van Halen's music. Featuring a multi-stage MOSFET, True Bypass Switching, classy design, and great tones, it’s everything you need in a single chassis.

But, of course, that’s not all. The MXR EVH 5150 is rocking a dynamic control setup. It has lots of tweaking options with dedicated knobs for your bass, mid, treble, gain, and output levels. There’s a boost switch for harmonizing high gains without volume fluctuations. 

Best of all, the 5150 possesses gate control for regulating stray harmonics and noise, keeping the unit dead quiet during high gains. The verdict? This pedal takes you one step closer to that Van Halen dream!

  • Defined and concentrated gain sounds
  • Boost switch that doesn’t increase the volume
  • Elegant, matte black graphics
  • Not designed for bluesy tones

Celebrated as one of the best overdrive pedals in four decades, Boss’s SD-1 Super Overdrive remains a favorite pick for guitarists worldwide. But what’s not to love about this yellow pedal? Boss SD-1 is subtle, responsive, and smooth despite its affordable price tag—the perfect companion for swinging between rock and blues music.

The SD-1’s primary selling point is its asymmetrical clipping. For the uninitiated, asymmetrical clipping means the pedal walks in the balance of even and odd harmonics, unlike your typical overdrive pedal. Despite its straightforward, three-knob control design, Boss SD-1 produces tube-like overdrives to fit into your mixes, regardless of genre. A quality you can hardly find at this price range!

  • One of the most affordable pedals 
  • Buffered bypass
  • Works great with humbucker and single-coil guitars
  • Lacks the variation modern pedals have

Related Article: The Top 5 Best Guitar Chorus Pedals For Your Rig (2024)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is overdrive?

An overdrive pedal is a type of guitar effect that boosts the signal before it reaches your amp, creating a warm, distorted sound that mimics the natural overdrive of a tube amp turned up loud. It's different from distortion and fuzz pedals in that it usually provides a smoother, more nuanced gain.

What are the key features to consider when choosing an overdrive pedal?

Gain: This controls the amount of overdrive applied to your signal.

Tone: This shapes the overall sound of the overdrive, from bright and cutting to warm and round.

Clipping: This refers to the way the overdrive circuit distorts the signal, affecting the character of the sound. Common clipping options are diode, transistor, and op-amp.

EQ: Some pedals offer EQ controls to further refine your tone.

Boost: Many pedals have a boost function that can be used to push your signal without adding overdrive.

Versatility: Do you want a pedal for a specific sound, or one that can cover a range of tones?

Can I use an overdrive pedal with any guitar?

Yes, overdrive pedals are versatile and can be used with almost any electric guitar. The pedal interacts with the unique characteristics of your guitar, so the resulting sound will vary depending on your guitar's pickups, wood, and construction.

What's the difference between vintage and modern overdrive pedals?

Vintage overdrive pedals aim to replicate the classic sounds of early rock and blues, offering warmer, smoother tones with moderate gain. Modern overdrive pedals, on the other hand, offer a wider range of tones, from subtle boosts to aggressive grit, catering to genres like metal, hard rock, and everything in between.

How do I choose the right overdrive pedal for my style?

Consider the genre of music you play, the tone you're aiming for, and your existing gear. If you're into classic rock or blues, a vintage-style pedal might suit you. For more aggressive music, look for a modern pedal with higher gain options. Try out different pedals if possible, and listen to demos and reviews to understand their range and character.

Product Recap

So, which overdrive pedal should you go for? The Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer is a no-brainer pick if you want the industry-trusted classic tones. Are you still experimenting with your sound? Go for JHS Morning Glory V4 for a cleaner musical experience. New to the game? Then, the versatile Boss SD-1 would be a superb investment for your pedalboard!

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