Ultimate Pedal Effects Special: Overdrive Pedals

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Here at Mixdown we wholeheartedly believe that there’s a pedal out there for every guitarist. A stompbox soul mate, if you will. That’s why we have fought tooth and nail – day in and day out – to put to together the most comprehensive, toe-tingling and tone rich pedal effects special for this month’s issue. From pummelling distortion that leaves you gasping for air, to the purest of sweet delays, our writers have sourced the cream of the crop. Time to kick it up a gear with the best in overdrive pedals.

Keeley Red Dirt Mini Overdrive

EFFECT: OVERDRIVE | RRP: $169 | DEALER: GLADESVILLE GUITAR FACTORY

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Those looking to add a little grit and push to a simple sounding rig.

 

VERSATILITY:

If the Red Dirt is designed to do one thing, being add grit and boost signal into your chain, then it does that one thing particularly well. Run all the dials at 12 o’clock and it’s practically invisible as a tone boost, push the dirt and level knobs past there and you start to get into some subtle, classic overdrive territory. Good for pushing a solo through a mix or running into another gain to achieve a stacked drive sound without losing too much of the tonal quality of everything around it.

 

USABILITY:

The two smaller knobs mean you can set and forget your level and tone settings while the standard sized drive knob is considerably more accessible. The options afforded by the internal dipswitches are definitely worth exploring if only at the expense of a little bit of surgery. Options range from ‘amp’, a perfectly transparent boost, to ‘crunch’ and ‘distortion’ where things start to slide into Sabbath territory.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

It’s compact and sturdy enough to handle a good amount of stage time. Red, sparkly polymer is always a plus too.

 

OVERALL:

A signpost steering in the right direction on the road to tone heaven.

 

BY LUKE SHIELDS

 

Bogner Wessex Overdrive Pedal

EFFECT: OVERDRIVE | RRP: CONTACT FOR PRICING | DISTRIBUTOR: EGM DISTRIBUTION

RECOMMENDED FOR:

The rock and blues guitarist who wants tonal versatility in their overdrive without compromising textural depth.

 

SOUND AND VERSATILITY:

With minimal gain a warm growl comes to the fore. By bumping up the low frequencies with the treble you can nail a classic ‘70s twang – the pedal’s vintage leanings on show – while greater gain and bass deliver a thicker woolly OD. Flicking the E & N toggle switch to enhance instantly enriches high and low frequencies. As a clean boost, an assertive crunch and a densely driven OD, its adaptability is a key feature.

 

USABILITY:

The four-knob layout – level, gain, treb, and bass – will be familiar to all guitarists. Altering your low and high-end frequencies is straight forward – as it should be. The E & N Toggle Switch is a simple answer to a tone boost.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

The compact pedal is housed in hardened metal casing, and could definitely stand up to a beating if gigged heavily. This is industrial in make and design. The jewel light on board lights up when it’s turned on and responds to your playing with flashing. It’s a nice touch.

 

OVERALL:

The versatility of this rather straightforward OD makes it instantly appealing. But it’s the complexity of tone, the bold bass, clarity in highs, grit and growl, that make it a unique proposition.

 

BY CHRIS SCOTT

 

Earthquaker Devices Gray Channel

EFFECT: OVERDRIVE | RRP: $295 | DISTRIBUTOR: GLOBAL VINTAGE

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Rock, blues, pop, funk and country players.

 

SOUND AND VERSATILITY:

Designed as a two-channel pedal, the Gray Channel is one of EarthQuaker’s original designs. Both channels have three distinct clipping modes – green has silicon, germanium or no clipping diodes whilst the red channel has LED, FET and No clipping options. Both sides can go from slightly gritty to fairly rocking dirt. Nearly all the scope of the dial is usable and works as a booster or go to gain pedal. The beauty of the two-channel operation lets you click between settings (along with bypass) to get two tones in one.

 

USABILITY:

It features two large gain dials at the top edge of the pedal and individual level controls underneath for each channel. It’s very easy to adjust and get a working sound from. The clipping toggle switches are well worth experimenting with too.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

Tough and stompable, the Gray Channel takes up a surprisingly small patch of real estate on the pedalboard, despite the fact it packs in essentially two channels of tones.

 

OVERALL:

Great for two channel switchable sounds for rock, blues, funk or country (and lots in between). It’s a little gnarly and hairy, but it can also tighten up a little with different clipping settings. Very cool.

 

BY NICK BROWN

 

Ninevolt Pedals Surfing Bear Overdrive

EFFECT: OVERDRIVE | RRP: $124 | DISTRIBUTOR: HOT APPLE DISTRIBUTION

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Rock, pop, indie, blues and funk players.

 

SOUND AND VERSATILITY:

Ok – so it’s an OD pedal. How does it sound? Pretty darn great for my thinking! Edgy and boosty, you can get that blues type fix that is juicy with a little extra when you really dig in. Crank up the drive control and it’s great for chords or more saturated lead lines. Sounds just as good as many OD pedals I’ve played that are twice the price.

 

USABILITY:

Level, drive and tone are quite the standard controls for this type of OD pedal and the SB is super easy to get up and running. The real key for me other than (obviously) getting the level right is the tone control. It can help add some edge to the drive control or take away a little bite allowing you to add some drive if you want a little more grunt.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

A powder blue type colour this time, the Surfing Bear is straight-forward and seemingly built to be played!

 

OVERALL:

I know I know – another overdrive pedal based on the TS 808 circuit...but, the Surfing Bear really sounds good! Great with a clean amp for some grit through to reasonably dirty and then for pushing something already on the edge. And the clincher is the price here folks. Retailing under $140 it’s a seriously good sounding OD.

 

Keeley OxBlood

EFFECT: OVERDRIVE/BOOST | RRP: $280 | MADE BY: KEELEY ELECTRONICS

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Rock and Blues players.

 

SOUND AND VERSATILITY:

With the drive control set lower, the oxblood does more a clean or edgy boost with the tone being a very useful and sensitive to control. Warm, round and almost slightly muted through to bright and sharp, you can get some great tones just balancing these three controls. The drive control opens up really well for added saturation and the phat and clipping switches add some more tonal goodness.

 

USABILITY:

Good for clean boosting or kicking a slightly dirty amp and also as a stand-alone distortion pedal. The phat and clipping toggles really make a big difference, so it’s worth your while tweaking to check out the Oxblood’s full palette.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

Keeley is a respected builder, so there are no doubts about the construction quality. A recent revamp of looks and aesthetics (along with a slew of new designs) has seen the Keeley brand really funk things up. Good stuff!

 

OVERALL:

Keeley’s response to the ‘Mythical Beast’ clones out there is the OxBlood, and it’s quite a tasty pedal. At home in boost mode or as your dirty sound, it reacts nicely to pick and fingers and adds a little body to your overall tone.

 

BY NICK BROWN

 

Dr.No Effects Drive-O-Matic

EFFECT: OVERDRIVE | RRP: $319 | DEALER: TONE PROSHOP

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Players looking to drive their tone a little harder.

 

VERSATILITY:

The first pedal Dr.No ever produced. His directive was simple; build a box that would drive the tubes of the amp it’s running into that little bit harder in order to send solos screaming through the atmosphere. Mission accomplished, with the gain rolled off this is one of the classiest clean boosts I’ve come across. Clipping is kept to minimum, even at full tilt, but it still comes through with all the cracking overtones of a 70s Marshall or HI Watt full to the brim.

 

USABILITY:

Perfect for stacking on top of any number of other pedals, the Drive-O-Matic is essentially doing what a compressor would do without raising the noise floor. Drive tubes harder, max out the headroom of the other pedals in your chain or just make the damned thing louder; it’s simple, effective and a good trick to have up your sleeve for when rock needs you the most.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

All Dr. No effects are hand-built by the madman himself, and you can feel that Scandinavian care and attention to detail even through the rugged, sturdy steel housing. The signature on the side is a vote of confidence that this unit will be strapped to your board for years to come.

 

OVERALL:

Think Neil Young maxing out silver-face Fenders out in front of Crazy Horse. Confident as a roadie, kick it on and it’ll help you crack the sky.

 

BY LUKE SHIELDS

 

Tapestry Fab Suisse OD

EFFECT: OVERDRIVE | RRP: $289 | DISTRIBUTOR: SIGNAL CHAIN

RECOMMENDED FOR:

If you’re in the market for a crushing OD, equipped with low headroom for meteoric returns and tonal scope.

 

SOUND AND VERSATILITY:

This is a play on the renowned Marshall Bluesbreaker circuit, coupled with a 3-band EQ. The three-way toggle switch opens up a world of possibilities, bold clean boost and sweltering distortion both well within its arsenal. The distinctly low headroom paves the way for unbridled licks, and surging riffs.

 

USABILITY:

The three-way toggle switch and EQ controls need to be fine-tuned to really make this pedal roar. When switched to hard clipping, it adds a generous amount of bass emphasis for a commanding low-end. This width, created by less compression, is expansive and multifaceted. By running the switch in the centre the pedal allows for more headroom and increased gain, with no risk in overstepping.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

A solid design, with neat and impeccable spacing. The knobs are equipped with tapestry knob stops that enable your settings to be locked in, preventing unwanted alterations during use – a great feature.

 

OVERALL:

This is a pedal that isn’t going to disappoint. It has the versatility to fulfil a number of roles on your pedalboard and, above all else, brings to life classic tones with a remarkable level of control.

 

Keeley 1962 British Overdrive

EFFECT: OVERDRIVE/BOOST | RRP: CONTACT FOR PRICING | MADE BY: KEELEY ELECTRONICS

RECOMMENDED FOR:

Guitarists in the market for a hefty tube amp distortion, or anyone wanting to reference vintage ‘60s tone.

 

SOUND AND VERSATILITY:

By stacking the classic tonal character
of Marshall’s Bluesbreaker with the ever-popular Katana booster, this OD unleashes a complex, yet harmonically smooth tone. The richness exuded by these hybrid circuits takes care of low and midrange vibrancy – exemplifying the Marshall sound - but also flourishes with higher gain settings.

 

USABILITY:

Gain, tone and level. Like the best amps rocking a single tone knob it interacts beautifully with a diverse range of guitars, amps and setups. You can really make this sing with minimal application. Don’t hesitate in coupling it with your Tube Screamer, the British OD heaviness a perfect complement for significant saturation.

 

CONSTRUCTION:

A lot of love has been injected into this unit. The surface mount JFET transistors have been placed and soldered by hand, and it has been equipped with a distinctly low op-amp. The exterior is solid and will take whatever you throw at it.

 

OVERALL:

This is a big game player housed in a small body. Crafted with care and advanced engineering, it brings to life age-old tube amp distortion with a contemporary shine. A one-two punch that hits hard.

 

BY LUKE SHIELDS 

 

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