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Best overdrive pedals 2021: Find new inspiration with 14 of the best drive pedals for guitar

Best overdrive pedals 2021: Find new inspiration with 14 of the best drive pedals for guitar
(Image credit: Future)

Overdrive pedals are massively popular with a whole range of guitar players, which is one of the reasons why there are so many of them on the market. Unlike most other effects units, overdrive pedals aren’t there to drastically change your tone - they’re there to enhance what’s already there. The best overdrive pedals add colour to your sound, as opposed to changing the picture completely. They don’t usually have as much gain as distortion or fuzz pedals - they’re a little more subtle, adding a bit more grit, sustain and, if dialled in, volume. 

There are different ways to use an overdrive pedal, but they’re usually used to either push a tube amp harder which results in natural, harmonic distortion, or if using a solid state amp, mimic the sound of a driven tube amp. Some players use them to tighten up, or shape their tone a little more too.

There are so many different options available, all with different components and circuit boards affecting their tone, but what are the best overdrive pedals around right now? We’ve put together this list that covers a range of different sounds, features and price points to help find the one that’s right for you.

Best overdrive pedals: Our top picks

While there are some incredible options out there, the Fulltone OCD V2 does take some beating. It’s transparent enough to let your tone come through, but if dialled in, can add a lovely rich warmth that’s really musical, plus it plays well with both tube and solid state amps.

The Mesa Boogie Flux Five offers incredible drive tones, as well as surgical precision over the EQ which many players will love. If you’re seeking a great-sounding, reliable overdrive pedal on a budget, then the TC Electronic Mojomojo is worth checking out. 

Best overdrive pedals: Product guide

Best overdrive pedals: Fulltone OCD V2

(Image credit: Fulltone)

1. Fulltone OCD V2 overdrive pedal

The latest version of one of the world's most highly regarded stack-in-a-box pedals

Specifications
Price: $140/£139/€166
Controls: Volume, drive, tone, HP/LP switch
Sockets: Input, output, power
Bypass: Fulltone Enhanced Bypass, true bypass
Power requirements: 9-18V power supply, 9V battery
Reasons to buy
+Captures classic rock tones+Surprisingly flexible+Dynamically responsive
Reasons to avoid
-A little pricey, given the number of affordable clones

The OCD has a reputation as one of the best stack-in-a-stompbox overdrive pedals. The rich harmonics and responsive controls make it a great overdrive for capturing that hallowed classic-rock sound of an amp pushed to 11, while its HP/LP switch affords it considerable versatility. 

12 years on from its initial release, Fulltone released a fully-fledged V2, which packs an output buffer, which stops the pedal from being influenced by stompboxes before or after it; a Class A configured discrete 2N5457 JFET input section, which raises input impedance and increases dynamics; plus an internal switch to change between Enhanced Bypass and true bypass.

Best overdrive pedals: Mesa Boogie Flux Five overdrive pedal

(Image credit: Mesa Boogie)

2. Mesa Boogie Flux Five overdrive pedal

Get total harmonic control over every frequency

Specifications
Price: $349/£349
Controls: Level, Bass, Treble, Gain, 5-band EQ, footswitchable HI/LO control
Sockets: Input, output, power
Bypass: True bypass
Power requirements: 9V battery or optional 9V DC PSU
Reasons to buy
+Iconic Mesa tone+Exceptional tone-sculpting
Reasons to avoid
-Dedicated mid-range controls would have made this perfect

For rock and metal players, Mesa Boogie is the gold standard for thick, expressive gain. The Mesa Boogie Flux Five overdrive takes the smaller Flux overdrive and adds in the five-band EQ as seen on some of Boogie’s most famous amps, resulting in a huge amount of control. 

It is, it must be said, not a cheap pedal so it’s probably not advisable for players looking just to tighten up an existing tone. But if it’s precise, accurate control from one of the world’s best tone houses you’re after, then this could be the pedal for you. 

Best overdrive pedals: Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini

(Image credit: Ibanez)

3. Ibanez Tube Screamer TS Mini

Perhaps the definitive overdrive pedal, downsized

Specifications
Price: $79/£63/€66
Controls: Tone, level, overdrive
Sockets: Input, output, power
Bypass: True bypass
Power requirements: 9V power supply
Reasons to buy
+Classic Tube Screamer tones+Superb for boosting already distorted amps
Reasons to avoid
-More versatile overdrives are available

The adorable TS Mini is made in Japan and packs the TS808's coveted JRC4558D IC chip. You know what to expect from a TS, and the Mini will get your mids humping and your single coils beefing up with the best of 'em. It's not the smoothest Screamer we've ever heard, but it is faithful to the '80s incarnation in that it compresses up a treat and cuts the low-end a little. 

Ramp up your amp, cut the TS Mini's gain and up the volume, and it gives distorted tones extra attack – and that's possibly its greatest strength.

Read the full Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini review

Best overdrive pedals: Electro-Harmonix Soul Food

(Image credit: Electro-Harmonix)

4. Electro-Harmonix Soul Food

An affordable Klon clone that covers a lot of ground

Specifications
Price: $79/£76/€79
Controls: Volume, drive, treble
Sockets: Input, output, power
Bypass: True bypass
Power requirements: 9V power supply, 9V battery
Reasons to buy
+Great with a valve amp+A more affordable Klon+Keeps your core sound intact

The Soul Food is EHX's take on the transparent overdrive of the Klon Centaur, and an excellent complement to a valve amp. The Klon is beyond the means of most of us, but if you're looking for that type of touch-sensitive, transparent overdrive and boost that keeps your core sound intact, the Soul Food delivers it, with a small bump in the low-mids and a range of gain from clean boost up to mid-range drive.

Read the full Electro-Harmonix Soul Food review

Best overdrive pedals: JHS Double Barrel V4

(Image credit: JHS)

5. JHS Double Barrel V4 overdrive pedal

Versatility and control from JHS

Specifications
Price: $315/£309/€359
Controls: Master volume, Independent volume, drive and tone
Sockets: Input, output, power, external footswitch
Bypass: True Bypass
Power requirements: 9V DC
Reasons to buy
+Effectively two pedals in one+Great for blues
Reasons to avoid
-Overkill for some

Despite overdrive being, fundamentally, a simple concept there is infinite variation possible from a single pedal. JHS Double Barrel proves this, by packing in two of the company’s famous individual pedals to give the user a plethora of tone-shaping potential to choose from. 

Simple boosting is possible from the Morning Glory V4 side, which adds a transparent push and increased dynamism to your tone without colouring it. On the Moonshine V2 side, there is tube-like saturation which responds well to your picking and guitar’s controls.

Best overdrive pedals: Strymon Sunset

(Image credit: Strymon)

6. Strymon Sunset Dual Overdrive

A seriously versatile twin-channel overdrive/distortion

Specifications
Price: $299/£285/€339
Controls: 2x level, 2x drive, 2x tone, A switch, B switch, bright switch, configuration switch
Sockets: Input, output, favourite, expression, power
Bypass: Buffered or true bypass
Power requirements: 9V power supply
Reasons to buy
+Phenomenally versatile+Convincing drive tones+Covers overdrive up to distortion
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey

They say you get what you pay for, and with Strymon pedals that seems to ring true. Anticipating seemingly every user need, the Sunset not only has three distortion options with different topologies, but also three boost options and flexible routing that allows for either boost or drive first. 

The two-stage drive cascaded into the ‘Texas’, the company’s take on a Tube Screamer, which is particularly powerful... and fun. When compared side by side with a real tube high-gain amplifier, it’s hard to tell which is real and which is the pedal – there’s certainly not even a whisker of dreaded digital ‘fizz’. 

Read the full Strymon Sunset review

Best overdrive pedals: Keeley D&M Drive

(Image credit: Keeley)

7. Keeley D&M Drive

A flexible drive and boost combo from That Pedal Show

Specifications
Price: $201/£255/€295
Controls: 2x level, 2x gain, 2x tone, drive first/boost first switch
Sockets: TRS input, TRS output, power
Bypass: Buffered or true bypass
Power requirements: 9V power supply
Reasons to buy
+Two drive circuits in one chassis+Stacking versatility+Functions as two pedals (with a switcher)
Reasons to avoid
-Position of 9V power input could make using some connectors awkward

That Pedal Show's Mick Taylor and Daniel Steinhardt's signature pedal with Keeley Electronics is a dual-format design featuring overdrive and boost sections that can be used individually or stacked – with the option of putting the boost before or after the drive. 

Extra flexibility comes from input and output jacks that will take TRS cables to allow the two circuits to be split, so each can be used in a different loop of a switching system, effectively having two standalone pedals. Stacking the two sections together offers more opportunity - both routing options have their relative merits, but we really like the way that the Boost before the Drive ups the saturation quota.

Read the full Keeley D&M Drive review

Best over drive pedals: EarthQuaker Devices Palisades

(Image credit: Earthquaker Devices)

8. EarthQuaker Devices Palisades V2

A Tube Screamer-derived multi-channel dirtbox that can do it all

Specifications
Price: $249/£229/€299
Controls: Voice, boost, volume, tone, bandwidth, gain A, gain B, normal/bright switch, input buffer switch
Sockets: Input, output, power
Bypass: True bypass
Power requirements: 9V power supply
Reasons to buy
+Sounds to suit most players+Covers drive, fuzz and distortion+Two channels, plus boost
Reasons to avoid
-Initially daunting to control

Just about every boutique pedal maker turns out some sort of Tube Screamer clone, but EarthQuaker has taken a radical approach to the task. While the company may have based its Palisades on the classic TS808, it's built into it a larger array of options than we've so far seen in any overdrive pedal. 

There's a choice of six clipping voices and five different bandwidth settings (via a pair of rotary switches): 30 variations on the character of the effect before you even start to tweak! The result is a pedal that lets you dial in a massive range of overdrive tones – not just good impersonations of TS pedals, but much gainier drives verging on distortion and fuzz, as well as transparent boost/overdrive.

Read the full EarthQuaker Devices Palisades review

Best overdrive pedals: Boss BD-2

(Image credit: Boss)

9. Boss BD-2 Blues Driver

An old favourite for low-gain drive tones

Specifications
Price: $102/£79/€99
Controls: Level, tone, gain
Sockets: Input, output, power
Bypass: Buffered
Power requirements: 9V power supply, 9V battery
Reasons to buy
+A classic low-gain drive+Ideal for boosting overdrive amps+Perfect for blues, especially single-coil users
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn't handle higher-gain sounds

An old favourite, the BD-2 is fantastic for just boosting an amplifier that’s working and giving it a little bit more edge. But it’s definitely an overdrive pedal, not a clean boost, because a certain amount of that drive tone is being created in the pedal itself. It’s very warm and very natural. Strat players often get on well with the Blues Driver, because the pedal tends to gently balance out the Strat’s toppy sound. 

It takes the spirit of Boss's much-loved OD-1 and SD-1, but adds gain, edge and bite to emulate a cooking valve amplifier. The Blues Driver responds well to picking dynamics, too.

Best overdrive pedals: Catalinbread Sabbra Cadabra

(Image credit: Catalinbread)

10. Catalinbread Sabbra Cadabra

Thick, doom-laden overdrive in spades

Specifications
Price: $170/£164/€195
Controls: 2x gain, 2x tone, 2x boost/drive/fuzz switches, master, mix, stack switch, 16 external DIP switches
Sockets: Input, output, ext(A)/MIDI, expression/CV, power
Bypass: Buffered or true bypass
Power requirements: 9V power supply
Reasons to buy
+Nails that unique tone+Great for detuned styles
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most versatile

No prizes for guessing which specific genre of player the Catalinbread Sabbra Cadabra will appeal to. This awesome-looking pedal is essentially a Rangemaster-based treble booster, with some unique tricks of its own. Volume, presence and gain are all pretty standard, but with the additional range control you have the ability to boost either high-end frequencies or the entire spectrum.

We find it works best when paired with a detuned guitar and high gain tube amp, and we unashamedly had all the fun in the world churning out those iconic riffs laden with that dense, raucous tone we all know and love.

Best overdrive pedals: Origin Effects RevivalDrive

(Image credit: Future)

11. Origin Effects RevivalDrive

The most versatile overdrive pedal on the market

Specifications
Price: $529/£559/€569
Controls: 2x volume, 2x lows, 2x more/presence, 2x output, 2x blend, 2x ghost, 2x bright cap switch, 2x preamp switch, mid-assign switch, re-amp EQ, mid level, mid frequency, dry gain, high shelf, bright-cap cut, mode switch
Sockets: Input, output,, footswitch, power
Bypass: Signal-conditioning bypass
Power requirements: 9V power supply
Reasons to buy
+The sound and feel of a vintage amp, adaptable to work with any amp+Blend knob allows great dry/dirt blends+Unique ghost notes facility
Reasons to avoid
-The price will put it out of reach of many-Daunting to set up at first

With the RevivalDrive, Origin Effects aimed at delivering the sound and circuit behaviour of a classic amp in a fully variable and controllable format. The resulting dual-channel pedal has one bypass footswitch and a second to toggle between the channels. Each have an identical set of controls but while one channel is based on a valve rectifier, the other has a solid-state (Silicon) rectifier for the different responses associated with each. 

The two channels are sufficiently different, the Silicon channel having a tighter, more aggressive feel to the squishier sag of the Valve channel. With an ability to mimic a whole range of amps, notably Marshall and Fender models, or provide overdrive that’s perfectly tailored to be an extension of your clean amp tone, it will give you a proper cranked vintage amp sound at practical stage and home levels whatever amp you are using.

Read the full Origin Effects RevivalDrive review

Best overdrive pedals: MXR Timmy

(Image credit: MXR)

12. MXR Custom Shop Timmy Mini overdrive pedal

A compact replication of one of the best transparent overdrives ever made

Specifications
Price: $129/£135/€159
Controls: Bass, gain, volume, treble, clipping switch
Sockets: Input, output, power
Bypass: True hardwire bypass
Power requirements: 9V power supply
Reasons to buy
+Nice and compact+Stays true to the original+Transparent   
Reasons to avoid
-Cut-only EQ restricts tone-sculpting a little 

This is based on the famous Paul Cochrane Timmy overdrive pedal - Paul even helped MXR with the design. These are known for being super transparent and allowing your guitar’s fundamental tone to really shine through. The originals however can be hard to come by, but this MXR version does a great job of replicating that sweet, low-gain boost, in a compact casing.

If you’re looking to drive a tube amp without colouring your sound, then this could be one of the best overdrive pedals for you. The EQ has been designed in a clever way too - the bass and treble are cut-only, so you’re not adding in frequencies but keeping your tone ‘truer’, plus the controls are wired pre- and post-overdrive to help maintain your low end, and smooth out the top.

The three-way clipping switch provides you with even more options and different headroom settings. Overall, the MXR Timmy Mini is a really good take on a classic pedal - it keeps everything that players love about the original, and houses it in a smaller casing.

Read the full MXR Timmy review

Best overdrive pedals: TC Electronic Mojomojo

(Image credit: TC Electronic )

13. TC Electronic Mojomojo

One of the best affordable overdrives, still going strong

Specifications
Price: $68/£52/€49
Controls: Drive, level, bass, treble, voicing switch
Sockets: Input, output, power
Bypass: True hardwire bypass
Power requirements: 9V power supply, 9V battery
Reasons to buy
+Replicates the cranked amp sound nicely+Voicing switch gives you options+Inexpensive+Dynamic and responsive 
Reasons to avoid
-Sound might be limited for some 

While the TC Electronic Mojomojo might sit at the more budget end, it’s still absolutely one of the best overdrive pedals out there. It’s been used by none other than virtuoso Paul Gilbert, and offers a dynamic, smooth overdrive with lots of headroom. It won’t give you massive amounts of gain on tap, but, if you’re running it through a clean amp, it does give you a very nice cranked tube amp sound.

The pedal has been designed in such a way that it increases the voltage sent into it, to increase headroom which makes it super responsive to your playing - all the nuances in your picking hand will shine through, and it will react really well to your guitar’s volume knob. 

There are bass and treble controls for tone sculpting, as well as gain and volume knobs so you can dial in exactly what you want it to do. There’s even a voicing switch that eases off on some of the bass frequencies - ideal for using with darker sounding guitars.

Read the full TC Electronic Mojomojo review

KMA Machines Logan

(Image credit: KMA Machines)

14. KMA Machines Logan Transcend Drive

The best overdrive pedal for midrange control

Specifications
Price: $219
Controls: Level, Drive, Mid Cut/Boost, Mid Freq, Lows, Highs, Post/Pre switch, internal trimpots x 2, Mids footswitch, Engage footswitch
Sockets: Standard input, standard output, Expression pedal input
Bypass: True bypass
Power requirements: 9V DC adaptor (not supplied) 30mA
Reasons to buy
+Impressive range of drive tones+Expansive control over midrange+Footswitchable
Reasons to avoid
-The extensive features might require a learning curve for some

The guitar is a midrange instrument so why not embrace that? KMA Machines understand this and its Logan goes as far as to introduce footswitchable mids alongside parametric control for the Mid Cut/Boost and Mid Frequency, effectively offering two overdrive pedals to use at once.

The ability to place mid-EQ before or after the gain stage elevates the Logan as distinctive and versatile drive in a crowded market. You can even plug in an expression pedal and use the Logan as an auxiliary wah. The overdrive tones here cover everything from a clean boost to cranked crunch and even cocked wah. Transcendental indeed.   

Read the full KMA Machines Logan Transcend Drive review

Best overdrive pedals: Buying advice

Close up of MXR Timmy controls

(Image credit: Future)

If you’re looking for the best overdrive pedal for you, then there are a few things to consider beforehand. Firstly, what are you looking to get out of it? Are you looking to use it as a boost for solos? Do you want one as the basis of your main sound? Are you using it to push an already driven amp? Thinking about the application will help you figure out what you need in an overdrive pedal.

Whilst overdrives aren’t there to completely change your sound, many do add some tonal qualities that players love, so the inherent sound of it should be considered. Others really let the sound of your guitar and amp shine, so if you’re happy with your tone as it is, but want a bit of extra attitude, then you’ll want to look for an overdrive pedal that’s more transparent.

Some feature more tone-shaping controls than others too. If you have a specific sound in mind, then look for something with more EQ controls, as these will give you more ability to fine-tune your sound. You can also use these to combat troublesome frequencies within your amp, for example, many metal players use a Tube Screamer, or something similar, to push the front end of an already distorted amp a little more, and to tighten up the bottom end. If you’re using an overdrive pedal for solos, then dialling in more high-mids and top-end can help you cut through a live mix better.

Some of the best overdrive pedals even have different foot-switchable gain stages. These can be really handy if you’re playing live, as they can act almost like extra channels on your amp. Stick it through a clean amp, then have one section of the pedal set to a mild crunch, and the other with more gain - hey presto; you’ve got yourself a three-channel amp that retains your fundamental tone.  

Whichever one you opt for, and however you’re using it, an overdrive pedal will give you a bit more of what you’ve already got, with some added grit and volume that can help you play with more feeling and expression.