For many of us, the overdrive that is built into our amplifier, even if it is a good one, can become stale and restrictive over time, thus leaving you looking for something more. An overdrive pedal can be the perfect solution. Pedals are usually much cheaper than a new amplifier, and much less bulky. There are so many overdrive pedals available that it won’t be too hard to find one or more that you like, thereby leaving you free to create for yourself a truly custom sound that is unique to you. Right now we’re going to look at some of the best guitar overdrive pedals available out there, and we’ll talk about why they are so great, and also what makes them that way. We’re going to take a look at vintage designs as well as modern overdrive pedals, to see how things have changed, and how they have remained the same. These are all going to be Overdrive pedals, so we will probably see a few tube emulators, and pedals designed to sound like an amp naturally breaking up. You’ll get some good crunch and even distortion out of many of these pedals, but these are not Fuzz pedals or Metal distortion pedals; those are for another time.
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Fuzz pedals are often a great substitute for other solid state, and sometimes even tube-driven, overdrives and distortions. Fuzz was actually the first solid state distortion available to guitar players and it has been around long enough to have a vintage sound to it, as well as a long list of big name users. Fuzz is usually created with either germanium or silicon fuzz-based transistors. The germanium-based fuzz boxes produce a warmer sound, more like a tube amp, and you can also change the fuzz level by adjusting your guitar’s volume. Germanium-based fuzz boxes are affected by the environment and can sound differently on warm and cold days. A silicon-based fuzz pedal will sound brighter and sharper, and since silicon transistors are cheaper than germanium, the pedals are usually cheaper as well.The level of fuzz is not affected by the guitar’s volume knob and silicon is much less susceptible to the environment. Both types of distortion are capable of going from just a hint of fuzz to massive levels of tone-changing fuzz at any volume level. Right now we look at the best of the best so you can see which one is right for you.
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One of the aspects that seems to be particularly high on the list of priorities for guitarists is how to achieve the perfect driven sound. There are so many overdrive / distortion pedals out there. You could spend all day and night just trying them all out to see which one sounds best. Although guitars, amps and even pickups are often candidates for “Best of the Best” ranking among guitarists, the overdrive pedal seems to hold a special place in our hearts as a critical component to our sound and an item that we keep ourselves in constant “Search” more for.
Continue reading “The Fulltone OCD – In Search of the Holy Grail”
Of all the Fuzz pedals I have tried, the Fulltone ’69 is really the king. An incredibly transparent pedal with a top-shelf fuzz that can be easily rolled-back for great tonal variations.
Contour is key
The knob labeled “Contour” is where the real fun starts. It is kind of a combination mid-range / thickness control. Needless to say, when turned down, the fuzz is a bit thinner as is the overall tone. This is helpful if you want Fuzz without all the “Woof” When you increase the Contour level, the Fuzz get’s thicker and has more body. This also adds to the random harmonics and general squeaks that are likely to come out of your guitar. If you experiment by using less drive and more Contour (or vice verse) there are some seriously fun sounds to be found.
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Maybe you have an MXR Phase 90, maybe you are thinking of buying one, or maybe you are considering an upgrade. Either way the MXR Phase 100 M-107 is a great alternative to the Phase 90 if you want a bit more control to the overall shape of the wet signal. As the older cousin of the MXR Phase 90, the Phase 100 offers the same great tone but a few more features. The biggest difference is the notch control that lets you select the wave pattern. In conjunction with the speed control, you can dial in the exact phase sound that you want.
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OK, this thing is pretty good. The kicker is that it retails for under $100. At that price range, true bypass and warm analog distortion is definitely a feature set that should impress anyone. Of course this is all very subjective. You have to factor in your setup, taste, and playing style. That said, all things considered, it’s a strong pedal. I’m not too sure what the ’78 stands for. I guess I don’t really care, but I am curious.
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I remember these pedals being quite popular back in the late ’70s, but I think most would agree that it was Stevie Ray Vaughan who played a pretty big role in the TS9’s surge in popularity. Eric Johnson was also a fan and known to use one to a large degree. What’s amazing is that over all these years, and through all the re-issues, the overall design has never really changed. This is most likely due to the fact that Ibanez had no reason to fix what was not broken. Many guitarists love the Tube Screamer, and many have loved it just the way it is.
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One of the most popular guitar effects of all time, chorus is often used to fatten-up the sound and give it more of a “3-D” feel. Some of the most popular guitar tones of all time have involved the smart use of chorus (reference just about any song by the Police; Andy Summers really knew how to use chorus wisely). Even in the budget arena, thick and creamy sounds can be generated when using a chorus pedal in true stereo. Below is a list of the most popular guitar chorus effects pedals, arranged by price range.
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