Top Nashville session guitarist blind tests the most coveted overdrive pedals ever… and you might be surprised by what happens

Overdrive pedals
(Image credit: Tom Bukovac)

Tom Bukovac (aka Uncle Larry) has introduced a very interesting format to his excellent Homeskoolin' YouTube series; the blind pedal test. We say test, but it's also an opportunity for Tom to talk tone and have some fun with friends. We're all for that, but as viewers, we ended up learning a lot from this first installment on overdrive pedals.  

Tom is one of Nashville's elite session players, and when he drops in between studio and live work for his Homeskoolin' episodes it genuinely feels like the most fun guitar school around. He knows a lot, but he doesn't preach and has all the humility and knowledge of a musician who has played with the very best around. So when he talks about pedals, it comes from a real place of experience.

The episode, dubbed Uncle Larry's Hearing Test, takes place at Nashville's – an Alladin's cave of gear goodness. The setup, provided by Nashville's XTS Tone Solutions, involves a switching system of five classic overdrive pedals, then five contemporary pedals and finally, the rabbit hole gets super-deep with five versions of the session player favourite; the Nobels ODR-1

The shop has a $6k gold Klon Centaur and that goes in the vintage mix, along with an Analog Man King Of Tone, Nobels ODR-1, XTS rehoused Ibanez MT10 Mostortion and an Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer. Tom is playing a '60s SG through a Fender Princeton while each pedal is switched in without him knowing which one.

Tom Bukovac

Tom Bukovac (Image credit: Elanor Jane)

There's obviously some caveats here – this is Tom's personal preferences but as he explains, all these tones have their uses in his job. But what he gravitates to are not the two pedals most coveted by players. He clearly has some interesting points to make about both the Klon and the Tube Screamer, and later with the perceived compression of Strymon's Sunset dual overdrive and the potential problems that kind of sonic spectrum can cause with gain stacking.


(Image credit: Future)

"I can also hear the clean coming through the dirty, which drives me up the wall," Tom adds of his impressions on what turns out to be the Klon. But of course, many players love that very thing. 

"The whole point of this video is to embarrass Uncle Larry and prove he doesn't know s*** about what he's talking about," laughs Tom. Except he obviously does – he soon recognises the sounds of the Klon and Nobels. But this video isn't really about identifying – it's about reactions based on the sounds in isolation. 

"This is all useful for something," says Tom. "If we had the right song and the right part, all these pedals would be cool. So this isn't a bash pedals day – we're keeping it positive." Nevertheless, some fare far better with his ears than others.

We think this video may sell a few mini Nobels ODR-1s, as well as the new Pedaltrain Nightlight distortion but we can't wait to see more with delays, reverbs and modulation blind tests. 

Needless to say – please go and subscribe to Tom Bukovac's YouTube channel

Find out more about the Nobels ODR-1 Mini overdrive at Thomann, and GuitarGuitar .

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.