The Best Overdrive Pedals
This is a list of the best overdrive pedals I have ever used. I have reviewed each of these units on the intheblues YouTube channel and had extensive live playing experience. If you’ve been wondering what the best overdrives are of all time, consider this my definitive list!
Finding the best overdrive is all personal choice based on your own needs. I encourage you to check out my video reviews below to find out which pedal best suits your tone. Check out my effects pedals buyers guide listing for more information.
1. VS Audio Royal Flush
The Royal Flush is my favorite dual overdrive of all time. If I had to pick one pedal to gig with, it would be the Royal Flush. VS Audio makes their pedals in Greece, and they are among the best 10 pedals in the world.
The left side of the Royal Flush is one of the best overdrive tones I have ever heard. The tones are musical and clear, without ever sounding thin. This left channel is my “always-on” side, and then I use the right side as a boost.
The right side of the pedal is a much lower-gain version of the left side. The result is that the right side can be used as a boost channel into the left.
VS Audio pedals are handmade in Greece and include great designs and robust build quality. If the dual pedal is a little too large for your pedalboard, check out their single version called the Straight Flush.
Below is a video I shot of the Royal Flush Dual Overdrive Pedal (Limited Edition version).
2. Nordvang Gravity
The Nordvang is one of the best overdrive pedals of all time! This combines two of my favorite pedals in one. The left side is based on the Ibanez TS10 and the right side on a Klon Centaur.
I’ve tried so many dual overdrive pedals that try and do this circuit, and none of them come close to the Nordvang. The Gravity is heavily inspired by the “good” John Mayer’s tone of days gone by.
I have used a Klon KTR and a Maxon Overdrive Pro OD820 extensively for live shows. The Nordvang Gravity saves space over that combination of pedals, and it sounds just as musical as the real pedals.
Additionally, Nordvang kept it pretty simple. I worked as a consultant with a few pedal companies over the years, giving them ideas on making this exact pedal, and they never hit it out of the park as Nordvang has.
This top-loaded overdrive pedal allows you to select the signal path from right to left or vice versa. Furthermore, Gravity has some additional tone-shaping options thanks to the toggle switches on the top.
Overall, the Nordvang Gravity is as good as the Royal Flush, only vastly different in its tonality. Much like the VS Audio Royal Flush, the Nordvang will stack beautifully with your other effects pedals.
Here is my video of the Nordvang Gravity as shown on the intheblues YouTube channel.
3. Maxon Apex 808
The Maxon Apex 808, where do I begin? This modern take on the famous Vintage overdrive circuit seems to offend so many, and yet, I love it.
There are so many variations on the Tube Screamer circuit. For those unaware, the Maxon OD808 is the circuit that Ibanez rebranded as “Tube Screamer.”
This limited edition overdrive pedal has a little magic under the hood, making it, in my experience, a modern classic.
Susumu Tamura was the creator of this legendary circuit, and he’s back making a run of these new APEX 808 pedals.
What separates this from many of the other Tube Screamer variants is that it contains a variant IC chip that gives the pedal a different sound.
How different is the APEX 808 over an OD808, I hear you ask? This new APEX 808 has more headroom and top-end clarity than a stock OD808. Does this make it better? While this is all personal choice, the APEX stacks far better as a boost thanks to the extended high-frequencies available.
In conclusion, the Maxon APEX 808 is one of the best overdrive pedals I have ever used, and it’s going to be part of my live rig for years to come. I wrote a full review on the Maxon APEX 808 that you can find on my website if you are interested.
Below is my review video and sound sample of the Maxon Apex 808 overdrive pedal.
4. Buffalo FX Carrera Overdrive
The Buffalo FX Carrera Overdrive pedal is a beast! I believe this to be arguably the best always-on pedal I have ever used. This is very similar to a classic vintage overdrive circuit expect it has a few advantages.
The first advantage Carrera has is the two-band EQ. This two-band EQ allows you to dial in more or less bass and treble, giving it a huge advantage over many other pedals. One common complaint with any Tube Screamer circuit is that it rolls out your low-frequencies.
This pedal has all of your amplifier’s full and round low-end sounds while still having a very familiar tone.
The second huge advantage to the Carrera overdrive is that it stacks fantastically with other effects pedals. While you can run the Carrera into another pedal, but it shines best as the always-on pedal. There’s not much to dislike about this effects pedal making it one of the best overdrive pedals.
I have been using this as part of my live rig for several years, and I have no plans on moving or selling it. Check it out of you are looking for a modern take on a classic tone.
Below is my review video featuring the Buffalo FX Carrera Overdrive pedal. Sadly, this pedal has been discontinued, and your best bet is to find this on the used market. Click the links under the video for my best alternatives.
5. Maxon OD-820 Overdrive Pro
Earlier I mentioned that there are a lot of Tube Screamer-type pedals available. The Maxon OD820 has been a favorite of mine for many years now. This is more than just a one-trick Pony.
What separates the Maxon OD820 Overdrive Pro as one of the best overdrives of all time is that it is a two-in-one, with a twist! The overdrive pro is a more premium tone over that of the OD808. This overdrive effect has some internal voltage-doubling that gives the pedal a similar headroom range to the Klon. Reading some reviews and comments online, people seem to think this also sounds like a Klon; it does not. It couldn’t sound further from a Klon Centaur or Klon KTR. This is a Tube Screamer (vintage OD) through and through.
The difference with the 820 over the 808 is that the “drive” kicks in once you gain control over 9 O’Clock. With the gain under nine o’clock, the OD-820 is a clean boost with tone and volume control.
Having these two effects in one can be great, depending on your signal chain. If you ever tire of the vintage overdrive sound, you can turn it into a clean boost. This versatility makes the OD-820 a great addition to any pedalboard.
The only downside of the Maxon OD-820 overdrive pro is that it is HUGE. If you have enough space for this fantastic pedal, give it a shot. I put this on an even level with the APEX 808, but this has a similar sound to a classic Tube Screamer. If you can’t live with the size, then get the Maxon Apex 808 instead.
Below is my most recent review of the Maxon Overdrive Pro OD-820 pedal.
6. Boss OD-3 Overdrive Pedal
The Boss OD-3 overdrive is one of the best-sounding overdrive pedals ever. This simple effects pedal does exactly what you want it to do. Boss got it right back in the day, and this pedal still stands as one of the most functional pedals in overdrive history.
Loaded with three simple controls, the BOSS overdrive will give you anything from great rhythm tones to killer lead tones. The Boss OD-3 stacks beautifully with other pedals, making it a great and compact solution for a single-stage dirt pedal for many players.
When I purchased my OD-3, I had no idea it would be as great as it was. I much prefer this over the Blues Driver BD-2 pedal because it sounds far better in a live mix, thanks to the additional mid-frequencies.
Unlike a Tube Screamer, the OD-3 has a wider frequency of sound, allowing it to sound fuller and brighter when compared with a TS9, for example.
In conclusion, for players wanting a great all-in-one for blues country, rock, and more, give the Boss OD-3 overdrive a shot. This might look like a bit of a bland pedal visually, but it’s all about tone, and the Boss OD-3 delivers the goods!
Below is my original review video of the Boss Overdrive OD-3 pedal.
7. J Rockett Audio Designs Blue Note OD
The J Rockett Audio Designs Blue Note Overdrive is one of the most undiscovered pedals on the market. The Blue Note offers a great ‘woody’ tone that allows you to get rich sound overdrive without much compression.
The Blue Note features a two-band EQ section that includes a bass and treble control. These controls allow you to shape the tone for more or less bass or treble, depending on your desired tone.
This pedal has slightly more gain than a Tube Screamer, for example. This is not a Tubescreamer clone in any way, so don’t expect that. The Blue Note can handle anything from an off-clean boost to moderate gain.
In the center of the pedal is a two-way toggle switch. This switch controls the gain structure of the pedal from “standard” to “hot.” This pedal is versatile and has a more open tone, allowing it to pop out of the mix in a band situation.
This is one of the best pedals I have ever purchased, and I can highly recommend it even all these years later.
Below is my review of the Blue Note overdrive from J Rockett Audio Designs.
8. Chellee Pony Boy V3
The Chellee Ponyboy V3 is handmade in Orange City, Florida. This pedal is unashamedly a Klon clone but with some key upgrades over the Klon KTR or Centaur. That’s right, I like this more than my old Klon KTR, and I will explain why.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the tones of the Klon Centaur, but some players find the pedal very limiting or a little nasty when it’s the only pedal in the chain. The idea of a Klon is to cut the mix with that classic upper mids and high-frequency boost, but that is clearly not for everyone.
The Chellee Ponyboy V3 takes this to the next level by adding in the classic tones of the Klon while adding in some EQ and tone-shaping options. Included is a two-band EQ allowing you to fully shape the low and high frequencies of the overdrive pedal. This means you can dial in a ‘modified’ Klon tone that works better when it’s your only dirt pedal in the chain.
Additionally, a two-way toggle switch in the center gives us both a Modern and Vintage option. The Vintage option subtlely rolls out the high-frequencies, whereas the modern option gives the pedal its classic high-end.
Below is my review video of the Chellee Pony Boy V3 Overdrive Pedal.
9. Rockfabrik Effects Aqua Lung Overdrive
The Aqua Lung from Rockfabrik effects made my best of 2017 list for a reason – it’s awesome! This lower-gain overdrive pedal is still in my top 10 of all time and features some of all time when it comes to great overdrive tones. This truly is a wonder for both rhythm and lead guitar parts.
Rockfabrik effects are made in Turkey, and they designed the Aqua Lung to be as simple as possible while still sounding great. On the top of the pedal, we get three controls: Level, Tone, and Gain. As a starting point, these three controls sound great with everything set around 1 O’clock.
Additionally, we get two toggle switches that control the low cut and high cut options. These two options allow you to keep or roll out some low or high-end (think high/low-pass filter), giving you more sound-shaping flexibility.
Furthermore, the Rockfabrik Effects Aqua Lung pedal stacks really well with other pedals. If you wanted to run a boost pedal into the Aqua Lung, it works great.
Below is my original review video of the Rockfabrik Effects Aqua Lung overdrive pedal.
10. Danelectro Pride of Texas
Do you like Texas Blues? If so, you’ll love the Pride of Texas by Danelectro. When Danelectro released this range of ‘Billionaire’ pedals, it was refreshing to see. Danelectro was known for cheap plastic pedals that were average at best, but then this range of pedals came out and surprised us all.
The best of the Danelectro Billionaire series is the Pride of Texas. This power-house of an overdrive pedal gives you everything from classic blues tones all the way through to screaming blues-rock tones.
Additionally, this pedal is loud! The Pride of Texas has no issue pushing the preamp on any good tube amp into total saturation while also working great on a clean pedal platform amp.
The tonality of the Pride of Texas is very Marshall in its design, but this not a JCM800 or DSL clone. The pedal is fitted out with a Gain, Volume for controlling the pedal’s output gain and volume structure. The Pride of Texas also features a two-band EQ system allowing full EQ shaping of the high and low frequencies.
As of writing this post, the Danelectro Pride of Texas brings a smile to my face thanks to the great tones available at a very affordable price point. To my knowledge, this is not a direct clone of anything else, so it was a welcomed addition to the pedal market that is flooded with clones and copies. Well done, Danelectro, for making a monster of an overdrive pedal!
Hear it for yourself by clicking on my review video of the Pride of Texas overdrive located below.
11. PedalPalFX PAL800 (Marshall in a Box)
The PedalPalFX is the best Marshall JCM800 amp in a box ever. I’ve tested so many different Marshall in a box pedal, and none of them do it better than PedalPalFX. This pedal borders distortion territory, but it also works as a fantastic overdrive depending on your gain structure and signal chain.
This pedal is made to replicate the tone-stack and feel of the legendary JCM800. This means the gain and tone controls interact in a very familiar way for those who love Marshall amplifiers.
Luis & Alvaro from PedalPalFX make a great mix of Marshall-style pedals and continue to add to their inventory over time without ever rushing out anything not up to their standards.
Onboard is a three control EQ system that allows full shaping of the Low, Middle, and Treble frequencies. There is also a dedicated presence control on the front of the pedal. This presence control helps fine-tune the higher frequencies of the Pal800. An Internal trim control allows a way to adjust the high frequencies for a brighter or warmer tone depending on your taste.
Since reviewing the PedalPalFX Pal800 pedal, it has become my go-to recommendation for anyone looking for a Marshall in a Box that replicates the tones and characteristics of the legendary JCM800 amplifier. While this exact model can only be (rarely) found on the second-hand market, there are some new models available from the PedalPalFx website.
12. The Timmy Overdrive Pedal
The Timmy overdrive was designed by Paul Cochrane and released in 2004. This extremely versatile and popular overdrive pedal is on many pro and enthusiast boards around the world.
The Timmy overdrive pedal is best known for its lack of saturation and compression. This characteristic gives the Timmy far more oomph and headroom when pushing an amplifier. The Timmy is not a high-gain pedal, so this will appeal to those interested in a fantastic transparent overdrive.
Much like the Tube Screamer and Klon, the Timmy has also been cloned a million times. Maybe the most famous overpriced example of this is the Vemuram Jan Ray, which looks really cool, but is not worth it over the Timmy.
Additionally, the Timmy features a two-band EQ system, including Treble and Bass. These two EQ options allow you to shape the low-frequencies to match your amplifier or beyond. Furthermore, the Treble control can be set according to your use case. For those wanting a vintage tone, you can roll out the high-frequencies. Guitarists who want bell-like tones can adjust it brighter to suit their tones.
In the center of the pedal is a two-way toggle switch. This switch allows you to set the pedal up for more or less compression and gain. In the lower gain position, the pedal is far more transparent and ‘open’ sounding. This also sounds louder to the ear as well. Those who need more gain can switch it into the second position at the expense of a little volume drop. This volume drop can also be compensated for by using the output volume control.
The Timmy is a favorite amongst many guitarists around the world with good reason – it rocks. This is an original circuit and was not based on a Tube Screamer or Klon, for example.
Below is my original review video for the Timmy Overdrive pedal.
13. SviSound OverZoid OZ-01 Overdrive Pedal
The SviSound OverZoid OZ-01 pedal is a fantastic overdrive designed by Mark in Bulgaria. I first had a chance to test the OverZoid out in 2014, and it was the best overdrive of the year for me, hands down. This great-sounding overdrive pedal is decked out with an artistic ‘steampunked’ look that is as unique as you’ll find.
Additionally, the SviSound OverZoid OZ-01 is very simple to use. Looking at the pedal top-down, we get three main controls: volume, tone, and gain. Simplicity is a key feature of any great pedal, and SviSound nails it with its approach to pedal making.
The two-way toggle switch very subtly shapes the low frequencies of the pedal. I never really noticed a huge difference with this control, so leave it wherever and the tones will be fantastic either way. Unlike many pedals in the overdrive space, the SviSound OverZoid OZ-01 is not a clone of anything else.
The SviSound OverZoid OZ-01 is very close to a full-range overdrive, making it feel great to play. An advantage to this full-range sound is that it doesn’t feel like it reduces the overall fatness of any given amplifier.
Furthermore, the SviSound OverZoid OZ-01 stacks well with a boost or any other overdrive pedal before or after. Mark builds some amazing pedals, and even when writing this article, the OverZoid is still a favorite.
This list is a compilation of pedals I have purchased, on loan from friends, or was sent in for video reviews. I am under no obligation to mention any companies on this list. Additionally, if you follow the intheblues YouTube channel, you will know I use many of these to this day.