Overdrive is a go-to effect for guitarists around the world. A well-designed and quality-built overdrive pedal unit will really step up a guitarist’s (or bassist’s) rig, whether the effect is subtle or pronounced.
A nice overdrive pedal unit can really allow us to tune our tone to our specific liking while keeping our amp at a reasonable level.
In this article, we’ll discuss the top 10 best overdrive pedals in the world. More specifically, you’ll read about the top 5 overdrive pedals for guitar and the top 5 overdrive pedals for bass guitar.
Of course, there are countless overdrive pedals on the market and this list could easily span into the 20s, 30s or beyond.
The fact that there are so many options and these types of lists are opinion-based means that the pedals mentioned here may not align with other people’s subjective lists. That’s perfectly fine. These 10 pedals are what I would consider the best overdrives and I share to help you decide on the best unit(s) for you!
The top 5 best overdrive pedals for guitar are:
- Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
- Wampler Tumnus
- Fulltone OCD V2
- EarthQuaker Devices Plumes
- Hamstead Soundworks Odyssey
The top 5 best overdrive pedals for bass guitar are:
- Ibanez TS9B Tube Screamer
- Boss ODB-3 Bass Overdrive
- Ampeg Scrambler
- MXR M89 Bass Overdrive
- TC Electronic Spectra Drive
What Are Overdrive Pedals & How Do They Work?
Overdrive pedals act to recreate the effect of overdriving a guitar (or bass) tube amplifier without having to actually overdrive the amplifier, which, by the nature of amplifier circuits, can get very loud.
Overdrive happens naturally when a signal is amplified just passed its clean gain limits, typically through a tube amplifier. Past this point, the peaks/troughs of the guitar signal are compressed and “soft-clipped,” resulting in warm saturation in the signal. The overdrive circuit is designed to achieve this soft distortion with or without signal amplification. More overdrive can be achieved by playing harder/louder.
Overdrive is an awesome effect that plays with the dynamics of the signal. In other words, with overdrive, we get more the harder we play. This also means we can stay clean when playing softer.
Overdrive pedals are often placed with other gain-based effects and before any modulation or time-based effects.
Related article: How To Order Guitar/Bass Pedals (Ultimate Signal Flow Guide)
With that being said, let’s talk about some overdrive pedals!
For a more in-depth article on overdrive pedals, check out my article Guitar Pedals: Boost Vs. Overdrive Vs. Distortion Vs. Fuzz.
Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
A “best overdrives” article wouldn’t be complete without the poster child Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer (link to check the price on Amazon) overdrive pedal.
The Ibanez TS9 is actually a reissue of one of the classics. In fact, a great number of overdrive pedals on the market today are either clones of the Tube Screamer or highly influenced by the classic OD pedal.
This overdrive is a classic that has been heard on countless records and has made its way onto countless pedalboards around the world. It’s a no-brainer to have this pedal in the top 10!
The TS9 has 3 knobs:
- Drive: adjusts the amount of distortion.
- Tone: controls the amount of high-end in the signal.
- Level: controls the level of the distorted signal.
Second on this list is the compact yet powerful Wampler Tumnus (link to check the price on Amazon).
Wampler’s Tumnus is a versatile yet straightforward overdrive pedal with a compact form factor. This pedal can easily be made useful on any pedalboard, which is part of the reason why it’s one of the best!
Use the Tumnus to help push other pedals in the chain; as a standalone overdrive, or to give the front of your amplifier a bit more juice. You could even choose to use simply as a buffer and keep it bypassed and kick it in sparingly when it’s the most needed.
Volume, Gain and Treble controls allow users to quickly set this overdrive pedal to the desired effect. The small footprint allows it to fit on even the tightest pedalboards. The amazing tone it provides makes it one of the best overdrive pedals in the world.
Wampler Effects is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Boutique Guitar/Bass Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
Fulltone OCD V2
When it comes to overdrive, you really can’t go wrong with the Fulltone OCD V2 (link to check the price on Amazon).
Fulltone’s original OCD has been around since 2004 and has seen multiple tweaks throughout its manufacturing. The OCD V2 is the new and improved, less compressed version of this pedal that gets its own official title as “version 2”.
Like the original, the OCD V2 uses MOSFETs to clip the signal, giving both pedals a certain overdrive tone. In fact, the original was the first overdrive to be based around MOSFETs. While many overdrives are simply variations of the aforementioned Tube Screamer, the Fulltone OCD is something else completely.
The pedal offers great dynamics and sensitivity due largely to its MOSFET design being connected to a reference voltage rather than ground.
The OCD V2 features an excellent output buffer that can be kept on in Enhanced Bypass mode or set to only engage when the pedal is turned on in True Bypass mode. Not only does this buffer aid in keeping the signal strong within the pedal chain but it also has a profound effect on the sustain and overtones of the overdrive.
In terms of control, the pedal offers Volume, Drive and Tone knobs along with a toggle switch to choose between a high peak (HP) for a slight mid-range boost (1-2 kHz) and a low peak (LP) for a boost in the low end.
The Fulltone OCD V2 is fully capable of getting us a superb overdrive tone and gets a mention as one of the best overdrive pedals to do so.
EarthQuaker Devices Plumes
The EarthQuaker Devices Plumes (link to check the price on Amazon) is an impressive overdrive pedal from one of the most forward-thinking pedal manufacturers out there.
The EarthQuaker Devices Plumes is a Tube Screamer style transparent overdrive pedal. It’s inspired by the legendary overdrive pedal but is far from a clone.
This high-quality pedal delivers big results and really lets the guitar pickups shine through. It’s an overdrive that can really distort the signal but can also push it just enough to really reveal the guitar’s character.
The Plumes offers us 3 different modes, selectable via the toggle switch:
- Symmetrical LED Clipping: for more crunch and compression.
- No Clipping: wide open OpAmp drive for clean boost.
- Asymmetrical Silicon Diode Clipping: more transparency with a loose feel.
Each mode can be controlled via 3 knobs that adjust the Level, Gain and Tone parameters.
The pedal also features EarthQuaker’s proprietary Flexi-Switch technology, which means that the true bypass switching of the pedal is both latching and momentary simultaneously. hold the pedal for momentary functionality or quickly stomp it as per usual to use it in latching mode.
The Plumes by EarthQuaker Devices is certainly one of the best overdrive pedals out there.
EarthQuaker Devices is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
Hamstead Soundworks Odyssey
Coming in at number 5 is the Hamstead Soundworks Odyssey (link to check the price at Hamstead Soundworks): an impressive and versatile overdrive pedal.
Hamstead Soundworks Odyssey is a superb analog overdrive pedal with interactive controls for staggering versatility.
Clean boost with tone-shaping; classic rock drive; heavy metal; full-out fuzz. You name it, the Odyssey has got it. There are plenty of “sweet spots” in this pedal. You’ll certainly find yours after a bit of time with this awesome overdrive unit.
The Odyssey features 3 clipping mode, accessible via one of the toggle switch. These mode are:
- C1: symmetrical clipping for consistent, classic pedal drive tones.
- C2: asymmetrical clipping affecting only half the signal for transparent low-gain drive to splatty fuzz tones.
- C3: engages two clipping circuits for a natural amp-like drive/distortion.
The Tone and Drive knobs will shape any of these 3 drive circuits to our liking.
The 2-band (Bass and Treble) EQ circuit can be put before or after the drive circuit via the PR-EQ-PO toggle switch. Putting the switch in EQ mode turns the pedal into a clean boost.
The third toggle switch selects the input gain level. Choose between 2, 1 and 5x boosts for either additional boost in Clean Boost mode or extra saturation in any of the Clipping modes.
A lot can be done with the Hamstead Soundworks Odyssey Intergalactic Driver. This pedal will sound great in multiple different settings, making it difficult to select just one for our tone!
Ibanez TS9B Tube Screamer
To kick off the bass guitar portion of this list is the Ibanez TS9B Tube Screamer (link to check the price on Amazon). This is the bass version of the almighty TS9 Tube Screamer mentioned previously.
The TSB9 manages to get that sought-after Tube Screamer Tone while preserve the low-end frequencies that bass guitars need. This is made possible by a few extra controls that, additionally, allow bassists to dial the pedal in to their specific needs and wants.
Whether we want a bit of grit or unmistakable overdriven tube tones, the TS9B has us covered.
Let’s have a look at the 5 control knobs of the TS9B:
- Drive: controls the distortion and sustain.
- Mix: adjusts the mix of distorted/affected and clean/direct signals.
- Bass: adjusts the low-end of the output below 100 Hz.
- Treble: adjusts the high-end of the output above 2 kHz.
- Level: controls the overall output level when the pedal is engaged.
Boss ODB-3 Bass Overdrive
The Boss ODB-3 Bass Overdrive (link to check the price on Amazon) is a spectacular yellow stompbox with a superb overdrive circuit for bass guitar.
We couldn’t get through a “best pedals” list without mentioning Boss, could we? The ODB-3 is an inclusive bass overdrive pedal that works amazingly well with hard rock, thrash, and punk.
Designed specifically for bass guitar, the ODB-3 has a built-in 2-band EQ (High and Low) and a Balance control to keep some of the direct signal in the output. This helps us to keep the low-end power in the output signal while still creating the overdriven overtones.
A single Gain knob is used to dial in the amount of overdrive we want. The range is rather large, allowing the pedal to be used effectively in many different mixes.
The versatility and sound of the Boss ODB-3 Bass Overdrive get it a definite position in this ‘top best overdrive pedals for guitar and bass’ article, specifically as one of the best for bass guitar.
Boss is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
Ampeg is a notable amplifier brand. Its Ampeg Scrambler (link to check the price on Amazon) is an excellent overdrive circuit built into a pedal format.
Ampeg is known for their awesome bass amplifiers. Overdrive is based on overdriving amplifiers so it makes perfect sense that the company would be capable of producing one of the best bass overdrive units in the world.
The Ampeg Scrambler Bass Overdrive pedal infuses your sound with authentic Ampeg grit, grind and sag. This unit provides a huge range of overdrive settings from subtle and dynamic to screaming and compact.
Blend the distorted signal in with the direct in the perfect mix with the Blend knob. Use the Treble knob to bring in more high end a saturation.
This all-analog true bypass bass overdrive pedal is one of the best in the world. It sounds just like an overdrive bass amp and is built is a durable all-metal chassis that fits perfectly on a pedalboard.
MXR M89 Bass Overdrive
The MXR M89 Bass Overdrive (link to check the price on Amazon) is an easily set up bass overdrive with a great sonic character.
The MXR Bass Overdrive is simple pedal but an awesome overdrive for bass guitar. What this means is that this pedal sounds great and it’s very easy to find a setting that will work for your own bass guitar.
The pedal offers a superb overdrive circuit and the ability to mix in some clean signal (via the Clean knob) so that we maintain low-end clarity.
The overdrive is warm and tube-like and can be further shaped with Volume, Tone and Drive controls.
Simple, affordable, and sonically impressive. Those adjectives define the MXR Bass Overdrive and are the reasons why the pedal is one of the best!
MXR is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
TC Electronic Spectra Drive
Last on this list is the TC Electronic Spectra Drive (link to check the price on Amazon): an impressive unit with awesome overdrive for bass guitar.
TC’s SpectraDrive is a powerful bass preamp and line driver that’ jammed packed with features including, of course, a superb overdrive circuit. It’s a superb pedal for practice, live, and studio performances.
The pedal offers the typical features of a preamp/DI box. It’s got a 1/4-inch input, output and thru (direct output) along with an XLR line output, a 3.5mm Aux input and a 3.5mm headphone output. This pedal offers an excellent I/O section and 3 toggle switches for Pre/Post EQ, Ground/Lift and Instrument/Line level output from the XLR.
But the pedal is so much more than a simple DI box. It features an intelligent EQ section based on TC’s BH800 bass head with 4 control knobs. It also features circuits from the TubeDrive and SpectraComp pedals along with the buffer circuit from the awesome Bonafide Buffer pedal. TC brings together a wealth of their designs into this single unit.
Focusing on the overdrive circuit, the TubeDrive emulates preamplifier and power amplifier tube stages, offering everything from subtle drive to full-on distortion. Combine this with compression to achieve even more saturation if need be.
Use TC’s proprietary TonePrint technology to import customizable SpectraComp compression and distortion settings into the SpectraDrive. Develop your own settings or download from the community.
Keep the bass signal dynamic while giving it that perfect edge with the TC Electronic SpectraDrive. Utilize EQ and compression to really dial the tone in to your liking. Use the intricate I/O to your advantage in live, studio and practice environments. What more could we want? The TC Electronic SpectraDrive is one of the best!
TC Electronic is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.