Josh Scott of JHS Pedals recommends four cheap overdrive pedals so you don’t have to freak out about the Bad Monkey anymore

Sometimes we try to do something for the greater good, maybe to illustrate a point, and events get out of hand, like when Josh Scott shone a spotlight on the largely unloved DigiTech Bad Monkey overdrive pedal in a segment for the JHS Pedals YouTube show that reminded, or rather alerted players to the fact that this pedal was cheap but actually really good, only for price to spike.

Scott was doing a good deed, but in today’s world no good deed goes unpunished. Nothing seems to resist inflation. Certainly milk and eggs, and not the Bad Monkey either. The Bad Monkey skyrocketed in price. The market got out of control. Sure you could buy a Bad Monkey that Gary Moore owned for $10,000 and we could all understand that (that listing has since been slashed by 51 per cent, so if you’ve still got the Blues For Greeny and the green for Bad Monkey…) but there were some crazy prices listed.

This caused a sensation. Scott even made a T-shirt. He told everyone to calm down. The prices would calm down in turn. And what do you know? He was right. Look at Reverb now. You’ll get a Bad Monkey in decent condition for £100.

The moral of all this story is to calm down when the pedal market gets overheated, to appreciate the gear we have, unsexy as it might be, because it is more often than not enough to get great tone. Now Josh Scott has ushered in Act II of this story, recommending a quartet of cheap overdrive pedals in the latest episode of the JHS Pedals that are every bit deserving of your attention, if not more. 

Can you really distort the market with a recommendation of four different pedals? We are about to find out...

Anyway, Scott’s picks, as ever, are fascinating choices. Who here has been jonesing after an Arion MTE-1 Tubulator, perhaps as a TS-style alternative? Brian Wampler gave it a little love some years back. Or a Mr. Black JDS-50, an $88 choice, which Scott says is “one of the most versatile, usable, and unique in the sense of it’s not just some clone overdrive/distortions out there”.

What about the Plexi-style HAO Rust Driver? One knob, MIJ, under $100? And finally there is the Electro-Harmonix Lumberjack, which was launched at NAMM 2014, is largely forgotten now, but nonetheless sounds novel when you consider that everyone is looking out for a dynamic and touch-sensitive drive box.

The Lumberjack, you see, uses a logarithmic response, not linear like your common-or-garden drive pedal, so the change between two values on the dial is perceived as a change in the ratio between two values.

As EHX said at the time: “a change from 1 to 2 (ratio 1:2) is perceived as the same as a change from 4 to 8 (ratio of 1:2). The resulting overdrive is very reactive to the player's volume and dynamics and its response ranges from a powerful clean boost to torn-speaker rasp and up to gritty distortion.” 

Again, like the Bad Monkey, not everyone loves these. There was even a great video made last month from Budget Pedal Chap titled “Is this the WORST guitar pedal ever? Electro Harmonix Lumberjack Log Overdriver”, which tackles that reputation head on by demoing some cool sounds. 

The best part? Someone joking in the comments that Josh Scott will feature a Lumberjack in a video and everyone will start listen them for silly money. Ach, it has been clear for some time now that we are all living in a simulation. 

Anyway, check these pedals out on the JHS show at the top of the page. Subscribe to the JHS Pedal YouTube channel here. Is Josh Scott right? He’s certainly not wrong – if you’ve got any pedals gathering dust, get them out and audition them once more. They might speak to you anew. And check out our list of 8 cheap but great guitar overdrive pedal alternatives to boutique classics.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.