The Fulltone OCD – In Search of the Holy Grail

Fulltone OCD
Fulltone OCD

An incredible palate of overdrive sounds in one little pedal

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.

I think the reason for this is that while 100% clean guitar is a thing of great beauty for certain styles of music, a certain amount of drive or saturation is desirable in most situations. If for no other reason, the power-tube compression, the warmth and thickness, all aspects of saturation are generally a positive thing when it comes to guitar. Keeping in mind, this all sounds best when in the hands of a qualified professional. Loud / Overdriven guitar is alot like a really fast sports car; anyone can get in and drive, but only someone who knows what they are doing can get us home alive!

Part of the mystique is also that middle-ground overdrive that is so elusive. “Alot of Overdrive” is a very easy sound to get as long as it’s a decent pedal. But that “in-Between” sound is not easy. Just a little drive, but not too much. When you think of players such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Robbie Robertson or Albert Collins, what you have is a tone that is not really distorted, but it is big, warm, and somehow a little “Pushed”. Regardless of what you may think of their technique, these guitarists, and many others, have a tone that is 100% identifiable and deceptively difficult to emulate.

The “Holy Grail” of overdrive pedals is alot like a surfer who seeks the perfect wave; we desperately seek it, but hope that we never find it. Bad news folks, I think I may have found it. The Fulltone OCD is one hell of a little pedal. Granted, there are other ones out there that offer an actual 12AX7 tube, and pretty serious tone-shaping (for example, the Radial Tonebone), the OCD is just an incredibly simple little pedal that sounds great anytime anywhere.

I’ve been using an OCD exclusively for three years now and this little sucker has never let me down. It plays well with all types of amps; Marshall, Fender, Boogie. In-fact, I’ve plugged this thing into a few solid-state amps and been pleasantly surprised.

My only regret is that I have not made it my business to get one of the proprietary Fulltone AC wall-warts (negative center pin, so you gotta either use theirs, or know how to convert one of the BOSS adapters). From what I understand the OCD can handle anything from 9-18 volts. And, the more voltage you use, the more headroom you get.

I think my love affair with this pedal is mostly driven by the balance of tone vs. “No fuss no muss”. The drive it gives you is about as transparent as they get, yet it’s just a little 1 pound little thang, solid as a rock, minimal controls, and it plays well with all the other kids on your pedal board. If you are looking for a really transparent overdrive that sounds great through just about any amp, give the Fulltone OCD a try. I’m very sure you will be impressed with this pedal.

MXR M78 Custom Badass ’78 Distortion

MXR M78 Custom Badass '78 Distortion
MXR M78 Custom Badass ‘7

MXR’s new ’78 Bad Ass is a dammed good distortion pedal that offers true bypass and a warm sound, at a very reasonable price.

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.

The feature set is pretty standard stuff: Drive, Tone, Level. Done. There is a “Crunch” button that pretty much just gives you a noticeable amount of increased drive. There is good interplay between drive and level. You can get a kind of “plexi” drive with the level way up and the drive down a bit. This setting offers more headroom and clarity, yet less of the juice. For a more saturated sound, do the opposite: more drive and less level.

Anyone who knows anything is aware that with the exception of those early ’80s plastic jobbies, MXR pedals are built like howitzers; stomp on ’em all you want, they hold up just fine. This company can certainly sit back on its heels and coast a bit as they are one of the bigger names and have a solid reputation. But, they are smart, they keep up with the times and have just released a new distortion pedal that for its price range, is pretty dammed solid.

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer – Still Going Strong After 30 Years

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
Ibanez Tube Screamer

Starting with the TS-808, these little green monsters known as “tube screamers” have been gracing the pedal boards of guitarists for more than 30 years. Over the years, the shade of green and look have the pedal has morphed a bit, but the popularity has never waned.

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.

That said, there have been some popular mods. The most well known mod is the Keeley Modded Tube Screamer.  Highlights of this mod are enhanced bass and additional drive. There have been some dark days though. In the mid 80’s, there was the “Master” or “L” series, known for cheap plastic construction, sub- standard POTS and substantial changes to the design. Some recent highlights are the TS-808 reissue, which satisfied the yearning from those who missed the originals, and the TS9DX Turbo, which offered substantially more drive and four “Modes”.

In the end, this pedal has stood the test of time because for most, it sounds great. It may not be some people’s cup of tea, but many guitarists found the tone they were looking for in this pedal.

Ibanez Tube Screamer Links

Ibanez Product Page

Wikipedia

Analog Man – Ibanez Tube Screamers History