Overdrive / Distortion Pedals

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About Overdrive / Distortion Pedals

Overdrive and distortion effects are by far the most popular pedals on the market and often the first type of effect guitarists buy when entering the world of pedals. In simple terms, an overdrive pedal is designed to simulate an overloaded guitar signal. In the early days before pedals, guitarists looking for a wild tone would turn the input level of their amps up to overload the power section and output, creating a pleasing ‘overdriven’ tone. Pedals do essentially the same thing, with more or less of their own sound added into the mix depending on your choice of pedal.

Distortion is a more exaggerated form of this. Distortion radically overdrives the front end of your sound, resulting in rock, metal and more extreme tones depending on your approach. You can simulate classic valve stacks from rock’s history without having to play at ear splitting volumes to achieve the requisite overdrive.

Distortion is a primary tool in every guitarist's tone toolbox. At guitarguitar, we are obsessed with guitar pedals and with overdrive & distortion pedals in particular. In each of our UK stores you’ll find a vast array of stomp boxes available from the mildest overdrive to the most gargantuan distortion. We keep ranges from all the major brands including Electro-Harmonix, BOSS, Ibanez & MXR. Alongside these, you’ll find comprehensive selections of hand-made pedals from smaller, more boutique manufacturers such as Xotic, Darkglass, Catalinbread, Morgan and Walrus Audio. These pedals often go further in terms of features than the mainstream choices. Make sure you dive in and experiment!

Frequently Asked Questions about Overdrive / Distortion Pedals

The most popular distortion pedal is, without a shadow of a doubt, the BOSS DS-1. This famous orange box is less than £50 to buy and was used by both Kurt Cobain and Steve Vai...what more do you need to know?
We don't think so. In our experience, the worst case scenario that can occur when you use lots of distortion pedals at once will be that you will have a horrible, unmanageable mess of a noise coming from your speaker! There is definitely a threshold where 'lots of gain' simply becomes 'too much gain' and you don't benefit from it. You won't sound heavier or more aggressive (if that is what you're after), you will just sound messy and chaotic. The point just before this happens is probably where you want to be. Huge amounts of gain can be lots of fun though, so experiment and find those thresholds for yourself!
Yes, definitely! You can get some amazing results by experimenting with using distortion-on-distortion and we definitely encourage playing around with not only different distortion pedals but also different orders of pedals within your pedal chain. It is worth perhaps reducing the gain levels of each pedal to compensate for the fact that you are stacking the gain up. Too much distortion is a rookie error not worth unleashing on your audience!
That's a tall order, and we would recommend investing in perhaps two separate pedals to handle different types/levels of drive. Having said all that, one of the best sounding and most useful drive pedals in existence is without a doubt the Fulltone O.C.D. From light drive to a plexi-style crunch with a little 'Texas tone' thrown in there, this pedal is in a league of its own in terms of its usefulness and adaptability, not to mention its pro-level sounds and fantastic touch response.
Well, that's really a matter of opinion but we'll recommend a few of our favourites. We would add, however, that speaker size with play an important part in this. Huge guitar sounds often need huge speakers to be really convincing. Valve amplifiers often take to pedals better than solid state amps too, so bear that in mind. Anyway, here are some of our favourite planet crushing high gain distortion pedals: Diezel VH4-2, Suhr Riot Reloaded, MXR M116 Full Bore Metal, Catainbread Sabbra Cadabra, Wampler Triple Wreck, Pro Co Turbo Rat, and Bogner Ecstacy Red. The list could go on and on but these are all superb heavy distortion pedals and should be on your shortlist without question!