Top 5 Budget Pedals: Overdrive

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Electric guitarists constantly dream of building their ideal pedalboard. For most players, number one on that list is a solid overdrive. Seeing the price of legendary tone machines like Klon Centaur or the Analogman King of Tone, however, is enough to pull working guitarists right back down to earth. But excellent tone isn’t only for the guitar elite. In fact, many of today’s biggest players still use gear that we mere mortals can afford.

This list contains five of the most widely used overdrive pedals, and all of them fall under $200. Excellent tone is waiting for you, and it’s all within reach.

Electro Harmonix Soul Food Overdrive — $86.20

For decades, the Klon Centaur has remained the overdrive Holy Grail. Rare. Expensive. Generally unobtainable. Fortunately, many pedal manufactures have worked tirelessly to make that legendary tone more accessible.

One viable option is Electro Harmonix’s Soul Food overdrive.

While technically not a legitimate Klon clone, Soul Food presents a clean, responsive, transparent overdrive, with boosted power rails allowing for extended headroom and crystal clear definition.

The interface features three simple knobs controlling volume, drive, and treble to help form the amount and shape of the distorted output.

Obsessive tone nuts will value the pedal’s default true bypass mode, though it includes a buffered bypass mode accessible via internal switch. This feature offers the benefit of lower output impedance, ideal for players with long cables or complex effects chains.

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer — $99.99

While not as popular as its sibling — the TS808 — the Ibanez TS9 has earned a legendary status in its own right. Easily one of the most popular and imitated overdrive pedals of all time, the TS9 offers a biting, edgy tone, sharpening your axe while preserving its character.

Modern TS9s are era-accurate reissues of the classic Tube Screamers, maintaining all the internal, analog circuitry.

The pedal’s face features three ubiquitous controls — “drive,” which adjusts gain, “level,” which controls volume, and “tone,” which can increase treble frequencies.

The TS9 offers classic, cranking amp-like overdrive. Its tone is articulate and responsive, reacting to the strength or subtlety of your attack. This mighty green monster is just an all-around classic tone machine, and one definitely worth considering adding to your arsenal.

Fulltone OCD V2 — $127.20

For over a decade, this slim, small-profile pedal has powered the shreddocity of players the world over.

Once again, this pedal features an external interface mimicking the simplicity of the Tube Screamer, with volume, drive, and tone knobs. The OCD does feature a unique toggle switch with a “high peak” setting, delivering more headroom and an increased midrange, and a more transparent “low peak” setting.

New to the Version 2 OCD is an internal switch that allows you to select true bypass or “enhanced” bypass, effectively a buffered bypass impervious to the augmentation of successive pedals.

Additional features include a Class A discrete input section, which increases the input impedance from 330K to 1 mega ohm, allowing for a more engaging relationship with your guitar’s pickups and your playing style.

Overall, the Fulltone OCD is a formidable overdrive worthy of even the highest professional boards.

MXR Timmy Overdrive — $129.99

Based on designs from legendary mad tone scientist Paul Cochrane, the MXR Timmy is a mini monster. Housed in a smaller casing, the Timmy is especially ideal for those trying to maximize space on their pedalboards.

Though small, this miniature menace has got it where it counts, delivering enormous range, dirty tones, and articulate response.

The Timmy not only features gain, volume, and treble knobs, but a bass knob, allowing for more detailed tone shaping and layering. The bass control only affects the signal pre-overdrive, preserving the low end even at lower gain settings, while the treble impacts the post-OD signal, providing that extra push while staying clean and smooth.

The interface also includes a toggle switch with three peak options, from brash, bold settings with ample headroom, to a more subdued and compressed sound for beefy chords.

The Timmy is an excellent overdrive pedal in a tiny package, whether you need the extra board space, or simply want a beastly tone.

Wampler Tumnus — $150

Value is not just about price point, but what you get for that price. While the Wampler Tumnus sits at the highest price point on our list, it is arguably the best value.

As mentioned before, there is a whole slew of Klon wannabes out there. And while there are certainly more accurate Centaur clones on the market, few exist below the $300-$500 range. The Tumnus is a mythical creature offering an incredible approximation while falling under $200

This completely transparent overdrive feels as sensitive as playing through a hot tube amp, reacting to attack, strumming, articulation, and so forth.

The biggest drawback is that it is a buffered bypass pedal with no option to switch to true bypass. In general, however, the Tumnus is among some of the best overdrive pedals on the market and it doesn’t come anywhere near some of the bank-breaking price points you’ll see out there.

Get Cranking

In general, a solid overdrive pedal is essential to any serious player’s rig. Like most gear, though, quality tone doesn’t require you to have platinum record sales to purchase. Many of the pedals featured on this list have found homes with some of the biggest names in the industry. Incredible tone is accessible regardless of where you are on the road of Rock n’ Roll.

Matt Gose Matt loves using creative expression to connect with people, whether it's with music or storytelling. When he isn’t writing for Humbucker Soup, he can usually be found at the beach, reading a good book, or playing his sunburst Jay Turser 220-SC Les Paul and Taylor 110E.