How to Find the Best Overdrive Pedal

Marshall Bluesbreaker vs Fulltone OCD vs Ibanez Tube Screamer

Choosing the right overdrive for you can seem daunting!  Which one is right for you? Which one will help you find YOUR sound?  I don’t know, but maybe I can help you narrow down the search.

There are 2 main differences in overdrives (Yes, I know I’m oversimplifying this).  Overdrives can differ in drive characteristics, and frequency response. Yes, there are more subtle differences between all of the pedals out there, but honestly, who cares.  Let’s dive into these differences a little deeper, and start with drive characteristics.

Marshall Bluesbreaker

Some overdrive pedals operate like a boost that starts to break up when you turn it up all the way.  For instance, my Marshall Bluesbreaker reacts in this way. In order to clip the signal at all, I have to turn the drive up to at least 3 o’clock, and the level at 3 o’clock (my favorite setting by the way).

Some other lower gain overdrives like the Klon behave in the same way.  You can crank them and get some dirt out of them, but generally, that is not where they shine.  These work best to “overdrive” your amp into distortion.

Fulltone OCD

On the other hand, there are pedals that put out more gain, such as the OCD.  These pedals can simulate a slightly driven amp, even at low volumes. If you want a full drive tone from a clean amp, you might want a higher gain overdrive.  The OCD pedal is a great transparent overdrive that can create high gain tones, as well as low gain tones. If you need a single overdrive pedal, pedals like the Fulltone OCD are a great choice.

Ibanez Tube Screamer

Another popular choice with guitarists is the Ibanez Tube Screamer.  As far as drive characteristics, the Tube Screamer lies in the middle of the spectrum.  It has more gain than a Bluesbreaker, but less gain than an OCD. They have a very soft and compressed nature to their saturation, which some people love.

Transparent vs Colored Overdrives

Before you make your final choice on your go-to overdrive, you must first answer the question of how much gain you need.  Once you have that answered, move on to frequency response.

Transparent Overdrive

You may have heard the term “transparent” overdrive before, and this is where that term comes into play.  Overdrive pedals, such as the OCD are considered “transparent”, because they color your tone less. Transparent overdrives usually allow for full bass and treble response, and do not feature any special mid hump or scoop.  They are good when you want your sound to be just a little more distorted, without changing your tone.

Colored overdrive

The Ibanez Tube screamer is not a transparent overdrive, as it heavily colors your tone.  The Tube Screamer has a mid frequency bump, and rolls off a little low end. This works for achieving blues tones from a Fender type amp, or even tightening up the low end on heavy driven guitar tones.  Although it has it’s uses, it is not always suited for the job, since you cannot take that mid hump away.

What’s right for your rig?

Depending on your amp, your guitar, and many other factors, it can seem like an unending search for the right overdrive pedal.  It is important to try out as many different overdrives as you can, in order to find what best serves your rig. If a pedal allows you to create the sounds that you are hearing in your head, then great!  If you like the way that one pedal does a specific tone, and the way that another pedal does something else, then use both. Nobody said you could only have one drive pedal.

I hope this was helpful in equipping you to find YOUR sound!  If you found this article helpful, please follow Moustache Audio on social media, and take a look at our products here on our website.

At Moustache Audio, we build gear that allows you to dial in something unique to fit your personal playing style.  We want to help you groom your tone, and shape it into the masterpiece that you have always dreamed of.
By |2018-12-11T21:05:50+00:00December 11th, 2018|Gear, Tips and How-to|0 Comments

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