Overdrive pedals designed to give you all of the crunch that you need without emptying your pockets.
Effect pedals are a great way to change or enhance your sound. You can get almost any sound you can think up, somewhere in a pedal. You can do anything from adding a slap-back echo to turning your guitar into a synth. Their small size and relatively inexpensive price allows players to get several types of pedals and string them together on a pedal-board, or several of the same type and swap them out. Many vintage pedals are collected and can sell for thousands of dollars.
Right now we’re going to take a look at overdrive pedals in particular, and of those we want the ones that won’t break the bank. Each pedal on this list costs less than $100, looks and sounds great, is high-quality and durable, and will deliver all of the overdrive crunch that you need. We’ll look at, and discuss a few vintage pedals that have more than proven themselves, and we’ll also take a look at a few of the more modern ones on the market today to see how the technology is changing, and determine if they sound as good, or better, than the old pedals.
Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
The original Ibanez Tube Screamer is one of the most popular and imitated overdrive pedals of all time, and the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer reissue is made in the same factory, with the same parts, to get the same tone. This pedal has three controls to help get the tone you need. Drive lets you adjust the amount of overdrive added to your signal, Tone lets you adjust the brightness of the sound, and Level lets you set the pedal’s volume. The Tube Screamer includes very little other than overdrive to your tone, adding only a slight boost to the midrange frequencies and boosting the overall volume of your signal.
The pedal is designed to be transparent enough to double as a signal booster when not being used for overdrive, to help your clean sound cut through a mix, or to drive another piece of gear. The overdrive itself is legendary, being used by hundreds of the greatest guitar players out there, including Metallica, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayer, Trey Anastasio, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and The Edge. You can run this pedal on a 9-volt battery or an external 9-volt power supply.
Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Overdrive
The Soul Food Overdrive is yet another great effect pedal from the people at Electro-Harmonix. This is their representation of the KLON CENTAUR overdrive pedal, one that can cost thousands of dollars. This pedal features boosted power rails to give the guitar signal more headroom and definition. Three controls, Volume, Drive, and Treble make it easy to get the exact tone that you’re looking for. The Soul Food is Designed to deliver a wide range of usable overdrive tones; everything from a clean boost to heavy distortion is easily dialed in. It features true bypass for purists, and also a buffered bypass for transparently boosting your signal even when the pedal is off.
The overdrive is also designed to be as transparent as possible at low settings, then, as you increase the overdrive you also increase the amount of midrange added to the signal, helping it cut through as the sound gets more and more distorted. The Soul Food Overdrive is sensitive to your playing and you can control the amount of overdrive by using a softer attack or with your volume control. You can run this pedal with a 9-volt battery or the included 9-volt power supply.
TC Electronic MojoMojo Overdrive
The TC Electronic MojoMojo Overdrive is designed with extra headroom and precise control in mind. Made in Denmark the pedal features an inner circuit that boosts the voltage three to four times the amount of most overdrive pedals. This extra voltage is what adds the headroom, similar to some other pedals where you can swap out a 9-volt adapter for an 18-volt adapter, to gain more headroom. The MojoMojo is powered with a 9-volt battery or an external 9-volt power supply. You can adjust the sound of the pedal using a Drive control knob, a Level control knob, and High and Low tone control knobs. There is also a center-mounted VOICE switch which shifts the emphasis on the midrange and reduces the bass slightly.
The MojoMojo features true bypass switching for no loss of tone, and it also features analog-dry-through circuitry, meaning the dry part of your signal is never affected by the electronics. The pedal is very responsive and will react to the way you play and to the volume control on the guitar, which can create a very expressive overdrive. Many great players use the MojoMojo including Vernon Reid, Larry Mitchell, Johnny Hiland, and Boz Boorer.
Electro-Harmonix CRAYON Full Range Overdrive
The Electro-Harmonix Crayon Full Range Overdrive is designed to overdrive the full frequency range of the signal, unlike most overdrives which concentrate on the midrange frequencies. There’s a Volume control to adjust the pedals output level, and a Gain control to adjust the amount of overdrive applied to the signal, from a very subtle crunch to a heavy distortion. There are: a two-band EQ with two independent controls, and Bass and Treble controls which are designed to enable a wide range of usable tones, including the sound of midrange boosting overdrives.
This pedal does clean up quite a bit when using the volume knob on the guitar, and it’s also great for plugging into other overdrive pedals. The Crayon features true bypass for an un-corrupted signal through the pedal when in the off position. The on/off button also makes use of a green LED indicator light. The pedal is powered by a standard 9-volt battery, or with an external 9-volt power supply. It has a sturdy and compact build, designed for years of use and for easily fitting into a pedal board.
Outlaw Effects Deputy Marshal
The Deputy Marshal, by Outlaw Effects, is a micro overdrive pedal with a huge sound that’s similar to Plexi-era British tube amps. The pedal has three control knobs for fine tuning your sound. With Level you adjust the overall volume, which is in great abundance in this pedal, unity being achieved around the 9 o’clock position. With Tone you adjust the ratio of highs and lows of the signal. With Gain you adjust the amount that’s added to the signal; it’s capable of going from just a hint of overdrive to heavy feedback, inviting distortion pretty quickly. There is also a center-mounted toggle switch to boost the high end for more tone versatility.
The Deputy Marshal features true bypass switching for an uncompromised signal when the pedal is disengaged. The on/off switch also makes use of a bright LED indicator light. The Deputy Marshal features offset input/output jacks for minimizing space, and since there’s no battery compartment, the unit needs to be powered via an external 9-volt adapter that can be purchased separately along with a pretty cool pedal case for storage or travel.