Best Guitar Overdrive Pedals – 2019 Buyer’s Guide

The art of distorting a guitar's sound to produce the growl heard in popular rock and metal music has been around for more than seventy years.

That being said, the technology of overdriving has long been improving and choosing the best pedal couldn't be more difficult.

Take a look at our selection of exceptional overdrive pedals to decide which would be your preferred purchase. 

Comparison Chart of the Best Overdrive Pedals

PRODUCT DETAILS
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Fulltone OCD

  • The best overall guitar overdrive pedal
  • It’s been around for decades, with many satisfied users
  • Amazing sound quality is what you can expect from the Fulltone OCD Drive Pedal, and it is very popular for its versatility
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BOSS SD-1

  • The BOSS Compact Guitar Pedal needs to be learned and ‘nuanced
  • This pedal works great when used along with other guitar effects gear
  • It has three adjustment knobs that will allow you to shape the sound exactly the way you want it to
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Ibanez TS9

  • Best guitar overdrive pedal for the money
  • You’ll get a variety of sounds from the pedal - all satisfactory
  • This is a high-quality, versatile pedal worth looking at closely
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Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini

  • Best Overdrive Pedal for Blues
  • With the Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini, your harmonics will be increased
  • Thanks to its versatility, you can use this pedal for rock and metal music, as well.
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JHS Morning Glory V4

  • Best Overdrive Pedal for Worship
  • The JHS Morning Glory was made to be transparent
  • The pedal will give you all the responsiveness and tonal nuance you won’t get from an amp alone
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What is an Overdrive Pedal and What Does it Do?

An overdrive pedal is an audio signal processor used to alter the smooth sounds of an electric instrument to produce distorted buzzy or growling tones. It was first discovered by electric blues guitarists who had to 'overdrive' their amplifiers to produce the dirty resonances of the music associated with artists like Junior Barnard. It remains popular among modern guitarists who pushed the genre of grit guitar to the heights that it enjoys today.  

How Does an Overdrive Pedal Work? 

Overdriving is achieved by pushing the valves of an amplifier beyond its maximum. In other words, the amount of energy added to a sound wave to increase its signal strength, ultimately amplifying the volume or gain, is pushed further than the normal rate. This makes it change its original waveform and produces a distorted sound. The best guitar overdrive pedals use modern, solid-state technology that is not only energy-efficient but also allows better overdriving control. 

What is the Difference Between Overdrive and Distortion?

Some might believe that distortion and overdrive are the same. That could not be further from the truth. Distortion is far more aggressive than overdrive, and the pedals used to produce each unique tone vary by design. Distortion is better applied to genres such as heavy rock and metal, whereas overdrive is more suitable for softer genres like country and blues. 

How to Choose an Overdrive Pedal

As most musicians know, an artist will only sound as good as the quality of the instrument they are playing. Therefore, it is essential to buy the best equipment available to progress your creativity to its maximum potential.

Choosing the best, however, may not be the easiest decision to make, especially if you are a little uninformed on the quality of available brands and manufacturers. Having a prescribed list of features to be looking for in an overdrive pedal can be handy, but keep in mind that your needs and preferences may vary. No artistic vision is ever the same. 

Durability

The first thing to do when buying an overdrive pedal would be to consider how often it is going to be used and if it has sufficient durability. For limited functions, the casing can be softer, but for industrial use, a stronger pedal will be more efficient. 

Quality

The most important feature to consider is the sound quality you want to produce with your pedal. Choose a pedal that offers better noise reduction and isn't noisy by itself. Go for a pedal that is more sensitive over pick attack, a feature more common in a few exclusive models, as this improves responsiveness. The change in the tone quality you want is influenced mostly by what you play, so keep this into your considerations, as well. 

Compatibility

If you already have a setup, you would want to choose a pedal that would best fit in with the guitar and amplifier you already have. You should also consider the stacking potential of the pedal you want to buy if you are going to add it to other pedal effects. 

Price

The most expensive option is perhaps not always the best choice, nor is it the cheapest. Choose price according to what you can budget and don't be fooled by fancy gimmicks that only increase the cost but do not provide the correct sound. 

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Here are the best overdrive pedals:

  1. Fulltone OCD
  2. BOSS SD-1
  3. Ibanez TS9

Review of the Best Overdrive Pedals

Choose your pedal according to your creative needs and what the pedal offers you. If budget influences choice, attempt to choose according to what's the best option for the price without sacrificing the sound quality. 

Best Overall and Best for Tube Amps:
Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Pedal

Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal

PROS

  • Offers True Bypass through its unique, state of the art foot-switch
  • Pedal features a funky design that is both light and durable, as well as easy to use
  • High Peak is used for aggression, and the Low Peak setting is for softer resonances
  • Offers exciting overdrive tones that are easily accessed with its incredibly sensitive knobs
  • Has a High Peak/Low Peak switch for varying the intensity of the tone you want to produce
  • Can be powered optionally by a 9V or 18V battery, of which the 18V is the better choice if you want higher volumes and stronger distortion

CONS

  • Might pack up after a year or more of use
  • Buying online can be tricky with suppliers boosting prices randomly
  • Some users noticed an annoying humming sound caused by the pedal

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers of the Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Pedal have had good things to say about it. One reviewer even described it as the finest-sounding overdrive in existence. Users have been impressed with how easy it is to use and how great it sounds. Many music lovers swear by this drive pedal and would use nothing else.

Why it Stands Out to Us

For its price, you’d be hard-pressed to find a drive pedal as smooth and as popular as this one. There has been a lot of excitement around this pedal, and for good reason -- the quality of the sound is impeccable. It is a favorite with pedal users and has been for years.

Who Will Use This Most

Anyone who enjoys making music and applying changes to their music would likely benefit from using Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Pedal. Music makers that are especially obsessed with tone would really love this drive pedal.

Bottom Line

All in all, the Fulltone OCD Drive Pedal is made for people who are ‘obsessive-compulsive’ about getting great tone and quality for their buck. It has been a trusted product for many, many years and remains one of the most recommended drive pedals you’ll find.

BOSS Super Overdrive Guitar Pedal (SD-1)

PROS

  • Works great with other products
  • Responds really well to picking dynamics
  • Gives you an elevation of distortion effects that are superb
  • With this pedal, you’ll get solid construction and reliable design
  • A fantastic choice if you’re planning on playing solos a lot

CONS

  • Can flatten and weaken the signal from your guitar
  • When used on its own, the BOSS pedal can give you a ‘thin’ sound at times
  • Doesn’t come with patch cords, and runs on a battery (you can get an adapter for it)

What Recent Buyers Report

According to buyers of this pedal, the amp you have doesn’t really matter -- whether it’s tube or solid-state, if you require sufficient tube-driven overdrive sound with amazing sustain, this pedal is right for you. The quality of the pedal is awesome, and it will last for a very long time without problems.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This pedal stands out because it works so well when put in a ‘chain’ with other guitar effect products, and it can create an impressive ‘full sound’ with astounding distortion effects. Because it is made so solidly, it will last for years and years.

Who Will Use This Most

Guitar players who want a rough and dirty sound when they’re jamming or playing their solos will fall in love with this pedal. It is a great choice when stacked with a distortion guitar effect. Additionally, if you are in a rock, blues, or country band and you are looking for some extra sizzle for your music, take a look at this one.

Bottom Line

The BOSS Compact Guitar Pedal is a fine pedal on a lower quality amp, but it can actually be ‘harmful’ to the deep tube tones. In general, this pedal is smooth and round, not too shrill or harsh; so, if that’s what you’ve been looking for, this could be perfect for you.

Best for the Money:
Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer - Classic

PROS

  • Compact and versatile drive pedal
  • Gives you exceptional sound quality
  • Knobs are nice and firm, not lacking quality at all
  • Simple and straightforward pedal that’s easy to use
  • With this product, you will get a great selection of effects

CONS

  • Can sometimes give you an unpleasant ‘smushy’ sound
  • Some of the pedal’s effect takes away the bottom end of your sound
  • Volume can be considered too low when compared to other pedals

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers of this particular pedal have found that it offers them a lot, considering that it is not super expensive. They loved the selection of effects that the pedal offers so freely and the quality of the sound it produces.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Ibanez offers a classic tone that any guitar lover would appreciate. Its tone, drive, and level controls are impressive. Thanks to its versatility, you can use it for years without getting tired of it. Plus, you can fiddle with each of the effects to find just the sound you want, which is handy when you get bored of hearing the same effect over and over.

Who Will Use This Most

This pedal is really popular with blues players, garage rockers, super-church power groups, and classic rock enthusiasts. It won’t be as popular for metal players or country lovers, though, so if you are looking at playing those genres, give this one a skip. Additionally, if you are a beginner, you will find this one easy to use, which is a big bonus.

Bottom Line 

If you’re looking for a responsive pedal, today is your lucky day -- it is a great sounding pedal that doesn't destroy your tone and, instead, lets your tone and technique shine through as you use it. You can use it easily, no matter what skill level you have, and the quality is evident - both in the physical build and the effects that you receive.

Best Overdrive Pedal for Blues:
Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini

Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini

PROS

  • Harmonics enjoy great focus – better quality
  • Versatility is astonishing and better than that of some bigger pedals
  • The mini has all the same features and great tonal range that the original has
  • Compact size makes it easy to carry around and use wherever there’s power
  • Can go from a from a searing clean and light ‘fuzz’ to a heavier ‘crunch’ sound

CONS

  • Pedal has really small knobs
  • Requires an electric power source and has no provisions for a battery

What Recent Buyers Report

Overall, buyers of the Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini are very happy with it. One said it made his acoustic-electric sound great, and it had a good amount of grit to it. It is believed that this pedal provides a lot of bang for your buck; it sounds awesome and is well made with a nice and balanced tone.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The compact size of this pedal sets it apart from other similar products. Despite being smaller, it’s still very effective and offers the same value as its bigger counterparts. Plus, it’s much cheaper than similar models, making it a really good choice as a backup pedal or a pedal for beginners.

Who Will Use This Most

Any guitar player with a fondness for blues, rock, or country will adore this pedal. It’s perfectly suited to the amazing tones of blues music and enhances the sound greatly. If you’ve been looking for a drive pedal to complement your blues, rock, or country music -- whether solo or with a band -- this is the pedal to go with.

Bottom Line

For blues players, this drive pedal is a must-have. It is compact, but it doesn’t sacrifice efficiency for size. Although you’ll need to have it plugged in at all times because there’s no place for a battery, it’s still a great choice that is offered at a cheaper price than most of the bigger pedals out there.

JHS Morning Glory V4 Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal

PROS

  • Gain control is very impressive
  • Works well as a high gain overdrive pedal
  • You will find a lot of good, useful sounding effects on this pedal
  • JHS Morning Glory sounds great with delay and is a great pedal for heavy lead tones
  • Buffered bypass is also top-notch and places tone back into your signal if you have more than a couple of pedals in your chain

CONS

  • Not a good pedal to play rhythm with
  • Can sometimes make a lot of noise, especially when stacked with other overdrives

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers have commented that this pedal is an awesome-looking product that has a nice, clear sound. If the volume pot was louder, this would be the perfect pedal, according to one user. Another has deemed it to be the most transparent OD ever and that it is great on the dirty channel for boost.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This pedal has really great tone and touch sensitivity -- a superb feature for a pedal to have. It will add ‘dirt’ to your tone without actually changing it fundamentally. It is very easy to dial your sound with this pedal because its layout is straightforward.

Who Will Use This Most

The JHS Morning Glory is a great pedal for blues and rock style music, so any guitar player who wants to focus on these genres and use a pedal that will give their sound a boost will appreciate this product. It can be used whether you are a solo performer, part of a duo, or the lead guitarist in your band.

Bottom Line

You can achieve your preferred level of overdrive with this pedal thanks to its drive control, which is very effective. It is a transparent pedal that will leave you satisfied and spending hours playing your instrument. Although the pedal can cause a lot of noise when used with other overdrives, it is still a favorite with music lovers.

Pros and Cons of Overdrive Pedals

When looking at the best guitar overdrive pedal, you need to make sure you consider both the pros and cons. Let’s look at a few:

Pros

Sound Quality

An overdrive pedal pushes your valves to distortion point, or mimics the sound it would make if you were using a solid-state amplifier. This is a safer option that actually pushing your valve amp to distortion point. Plus, because it has been created to sound a certain way, it has good sound quality rather than just noise.

Dynamics

An overdrive pedal responds when you touch your guitar strings. If you play softly, you will barely notice any gain, but if you play hard, you can hear how the signal breaks up. It provides a soft-clipping sound rather than a hard crunch, adding to the dynamic, smooth sound instead of making a noisy sound that your neighbors will hate you for.

Uses

Contrary to what many believe, an overdrive pedal is not just for heavy metal guitar players. In fact, rock, country, and blues players can enjoy the boost of gain that has some flavor and flair that does not affect the overall tone of their favorite guitar.

Cons

Playability

Unfortunately, because of its construction, the purpose of an overdrive pedal is to drive up the gain. This means that if you play too softly, you will not be able to notice the gain. You have to play hard before unleashing the sound you desire.

Conclusion

Overdrive pedals are great for enhancing and complimenting the sound from an amp. It adds ‘color’ to your tone and boosts the quality of your music. You can better control the sound you produce. There are many different pedals to choose from, and your specific needs will determine which one you end up choosing. In the end, the most important thing is that you enjoy using your pedal -- that’s the point of making music.