Is the Nobels ODR-1 the real holy grail overdrive pedal?

Nobels ODR-1 pedal
(Image credit: Nobels)

Watch enough YouTube guitar videos and eventually, you'll discover a lot of the gold comes from session guitarists – the players who have clocked enough hours in studios and on stages to know what they're talking about when it comes to tones. And as we discovered in Tom Bukovac's recent overdrive pedal blind test, the Nobels ODR-1 keeps coming up. 

It's often touted as a Nashvilles session players' favourite overdrive pedal, and with fans like Bukovac, Guthrie Trapp and Tim Pierce, that bears out. But why? And were all ODR-1s made equally. 

RJ Ronquillo is one of our favourite demo guys and he's asked that question in a new video, because he wasn't sold on the new ODR-1 he bought. "It's just ok, it defnitely didn't blow my mind," he reveals. "And when I told some of my friends that they said you should get [the Wampler Belle], which is a Nobels with some added controls and features. And it was better, and while this is a great pedal don't get me wrong, it still left me a little underwhelmed, or at least left me wondering what the deal is with these original '90s Nobels. There has to be something more to this Nobel's addiction everyone has."

Uh oh. Vintage usually means pricey. As Ronquillo notes, some optimistic people have been known to charging up to $2,000 for original '90s ODR-1s on Reverb. So what's going on here? Is this another Klon fever taking hold for a pedal that was $30 back in the day… 

Ronquillo's video is about finding the substance for any claim the old ones are 'better'. So he plugs in for a good 'ol shootout; tries a new ODR-1 (without the newer bass cut feature activated), a vintage '90s one he's borrowed and Wampler's take (and let's not forget how good Brian Wampler's version of a Klon is). The controls are set to get them as close as possible to his ears.


(Image credit: RJ Ronquillo / YouTube)

Listen and judge for yourselves, and take note of what Ronquillo says about the feel. Because that's real currency for players and whether they are convinced enough to add a pedal to their connection, but can often be the hardest thing to put into words because it's personal. And therefore can be subjective, to say the least. 

Spoiler: Ronquillo prefers the original… but not for everything. He's also much more convinced by all three by the end. "In an ideal situation, I would have all three of these on my 'board, depending on what guitar I was playing and what pickup position I was in."

But it's not over… at the end of the video he reveals two pedals arrived that will feature in a further video. The Truetone Open Road and the pricey Vemuram Shanks ODS-1. The search continues! 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.