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What are the best Overdrive Distortion and Fuzz Pedals?

Updated on June 1, 2013

Not just Loud, Really Loud and KABOOM!

Not counting music I heard in my Dad's car, the first distortion driven rock song that really stands out in my memory is Guns 'n' Roses 'You Could be Mine'. I still remember the first time I head its thunderous intro and unrelenting torrent of rock blast waves thereafter.

Distortion is a like a V8 Super Charged Engine, way too loud, really silly and way too much fun. I've played the Guitar for over 20 years, and I still get a giddy thrill from whacking out some Tube Charged Thunder Riffs :-)

As a former Grunge Rocker, I was amazed to find out that there are different types of distortion pedal. I thought they just came in loud, really loud and KABOOOM!.

The more I play with and do research into distortion effects, the more variation and subtle uses I find. I built this lens to share my own experiences and research. I hope it'll help beginners and more experienced players alike.

*Turbo Distortion Image by Dhscommtech

What is the Best Overdrive Pedal?

What is an Overdrive Pedal?

Overdrive began life when back when, by sending waaaay too much signal through a Tube Amp. The advantage of creating a 'distortion effect' (not to be confused with a 'distortion pedal') by using this method, is that it allows the Guitarist to graduate the amount of Signal Distortion to a very specific level. Another equally important advantage is that, because the distortion effect is being achieved 'organically' (so to speak) within the workings of the Amp, the resultant overdriven distortion is warmer and smoother than that of distortion pedal distortion.

*This 'Gentleman's Distortion' is, of course, not to everyone's taste and not suitable for every type of musical genre.

The great disadvantage of creating a distortion effect by overdriving a Tube Amp is that the Amp gets a tad on the loud side (think Marty McFly and the first five minutes of 'Back to the Future'). Every Guitarist who has ever lived, or will ever live, loooves the loud stuff, but it's not always practical. This is particularly true in a Home Studio Recording context. In my experience the neighbors tend to complain, if their home is shaking to a degree which suggests an incoming Dinosaur stampede (Ooops!).

To deal with this disadvantage Overdrive Pedals will designed to create the same effect of an overdriven Tube Amp, without the hassle of Police interference, Court Action and possible death threats from your neighbors.

A quality Overdrive Pedal should provide a Guitarist with the same ability to graduate the distortion effect and replicate the charactaristic warmer, smoother sound of Tube Amp Distortion.

Examples of Overdrive : Videos

Boss BSD1 : Customer Reviews - Number One Overdrive Pedal

Let's take a look at the Number One Overdrive Pedal : Boss BSD1.

Boss provide us with our first featured pedal the BSD1 Super Overdrive. This pedal receives overwhelmingly positive user reviews on Amazon and is clearly a big hit with those who use it. Boss is known for solid, reliable Pedal construction, and the BSD1 is no exception to that. With the BSD1 they bring to the table, what they describe themseleves as, a classic Overdrive sound. The BSD1 is designed to give you that full overdriven sound without having to drive the gain on your Amp all the way to eleven.

Considered by many as the Industry standard and the Guitarist's workhorse when it comes to Overdrive Pedals, the BSD1 would appear to be an essential piece kit for any Guitarist. The question is, is it really the classic all round performer it claims to be, or have other pedals come along over the years to supercede it, and now make the BSD1 look outdated and tired?

*I like to read actual customer reviews. It is always useful to hear what people who have bought and used the Kit have to say.

After reading through all the customer reviews on Amazon, I feel these quotes are the most representative of Customer Feedback. I hope they will help inform your decision.

Boss BSD1 Video Demos - The Number One Overdrive Pedal

Is the Boss BSD1 the best Overdrive Pedal?

Would you buy / do you already use the Boss BSD1?

Quick Tips : Overdrive

Typically for :BluesRock 'n' RollRockThink :Tom PettyLou ReedChuck BerryThe Kinks

Signal Distortion Vs Distortion Pedals

Without doubt the defining, iconic sound of the Electric Guitar is distortion : that metal, crack, spike, bark and roar that sends adrenaline surging for your body. From the dry crack of good old Rock N Roll to the thunder wall of modern Heavy Rock and Metal, distortion has taken centre stage on many of popular music's most iconic songs.

Before we talk about the differences between Overdrive, Distortion and Fuzz, we must first take a more detailed look at what we mean by the term 'Distortion'.

Frustratingly, the term 'distortion' refers to two overlapping, but certainly different, terms within the Guitar world. Let's take a look at both of them in a bit more detail.

What is the Best Distortion Pedal?

What is a Distortion Pedal?

Distortion Pedals have a much more demonstrative effect on Signal Shape and, as a result, the sound of your Guitar, than Overdrive Pedals do.

*If an Overdrive Pedal works by 'warming the water gradually to boiling point' like a Kettle, a Distortion Pedal works by sticking the container of water in a microwave.

Whereas large parts of the original Signal Shape are left intact by an Overdrive Pedal, in the case of a Distortion Pedal much of the original Signal Shape is lost to having alteration across the EG range. This is achieved by a Distortion Circuit, which effects the input Signal Shape regardless of Gain.

Typical Distortion Pedals tend to cut down high and low end EQ ranges, leaving the mid-range to stand out as the sound we hear most. In order to compenstate for this, Distortion Pedals contain built in EQ effects that boost the Low and High Frequencies.

The net result of all this is a spikey, aggressive sound where much of the warmth and character of the original signal (preserved by Overdrive Pedals), is lost. As to whether this is a positive or a negative, will depend on your own taste and style of Music and Playing.

Top Five Electric Guitar Distortion Pedals - As Rated by Customers

Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Guitar Pedal
Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Guitar Pedal

It's black, spikey and bad to the bone baby!

Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff Distortion with Top Boost Guitar Effects Pedal
Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff Distortion with Top Boost Guitar Effects Pedal

Once sung in a band with a lead guitarist who regularly blew my vocals out of the room with a Muff Pedal.


Examples of Distortion : Videos

Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Pedal - Customer Reviews

Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Pedal - Video Demos and Reviews

Is the Boss MT-2 Metal Zone the Best Distortion Pedal?

Is the Boss MT-2 Metal Zone the best Distortion Pedal or are there other options?

Quick Tips : Distortion

Typically for :Hard RockMetalIndustrialThink :MetallicaGuns n RosesNine Inch Nails

What is Audio Signal Distortion?

Audio Signal Distortion refers to the measurable degrading of audio signal, not in terms of signal strength, but it terms of signal fidelity. In other words the decibel level of the audio signal can remain the same or, as is often the case, increase, but the clarity of the signal has decreased : a Distorted Signal has a measurable reduction in the true representation of tone, relative to its origin.

To put this in tangible terms, signal distortion can manifest in a wide variety of ways. Here are some examples :

i) A Distorted Signal may suffer from flattened out tone within the treble range resulting in a duller, lifeless Vocals or Drums with cymbals etc that sound harsh and thin.

ii) A Distorted Signal can have to much level in the bass range, resulting in Bass Guitar riffs where notes sound unclear and merge together or Pianos that sound more like badly forged Church Bells.

Signal Distortion can be caused by any number of technical factors, let's take a quick look at some of them now :

i) Signal Distortion can be caused by errors in Microphone technique and position. If a Vocalist stands too close to a Microphone, the Proximity Effect will result in a large increase of bass level. This, in turn, will result in Signal Distortion in the low EQ bands.

ii) Signal Distortion can also be caused by low quality Audio File Conversion. If a large Audio File is rendered down to a much smaller Audio File or if an Audio File is converted into a second Audio File of equal size, but different File Type, by a low quality piece of Audio Conversion Software, either clumsy process can result in multiple manifestations of Signal Distortion.

*When converting / Resizing Audio Files, it is very important thay you check the result on a high quality sound system. Low quality sound systems will often mask low level, across the EQ range, Audio File Distortion.

What is the Best Fuzz Pedal?

What is a Fuzz Pedal?

*If an Overdrive Pedal works by 'warming the water gradually to boiling point' like a Kettle and a Distortion Pedal works by sticking the container of water in a microwave, a Fuzz Pedal works by nuking it.

Fuzz Pedals are by far the most technically 'heavy handed' of the three types of 'Loud Pedal'. In terms of 'signal treatment' :

1. Overdrive Pedals are the most gentle of the Loud Pedals, preserving much of the original sound signal, its warmth and charactaristics.

2. Next up are Distortion Pedals which alter vast amounts of the original signal, removing much of its warmth and characteristics and replacing them with a roaring, shrieking, attack on your auditory senses.

3. The final spot goes to Fuzz Pedals that smash the original sound signal, taking its originating, curved 'organic' sound shape and replacing it wholesale with an angular 'industrial' sound shape.

In order to compensate for the massive, total loss of sound signal warmth and character, Fuzz Pedals artifically add harmonic overtones. Typically the intensity of these overtones can be controlled by the Guitarist. This allows you to generate a wide range of sound effects, from uber harsh industrial sounds to surpisingly subtle sound effects.

Examples of Fuzz : Videos

The Fillmore Thunder By Elite Tone - Video Demos and Reviews

Is the Fillmore Thunder By Elite Tone the Best Fuzz Pedal?

Is the The Fillmore Thunder By Elite Tone the best Fuzz Pedal, or are their better choices out there?

Quick Tips : Fuzz

Typically for :Funky RockDirty BluesThink :Jimi HendrixKeith Richards (Satisfaction)

Distortion Pedals Vs A Distortion Pedal

Distortion Pedal is a misleading and inherently confusing term. Fristly it is used to describe the group of Effects Pedals, that I call The Loud Pedals. Broadly speaking these 'Loud Pedals' all cause an intentional degree of Signal Distortion (or the simulation of), to create a desired sound effect. They don't, however, all does this in the same way or with the same resultant color, shape and tone.

The use of the term Distortion Pedal as a collective name for this group of Loud Pedals would be fine, apart the fact that one of the distinct types of Loud Pedal is also called a Distortion Pedal. This is like instead of using 'Fruit' as the collective noun for apples, oranges etc, we used the word 'Banana'.

*'What are you eating today?' 'Nothing much, had a couple of bananas.'

You can see from this simple example, that it's impossible to tell whether the person is talking about the specific fruit 'the banana' or whether they are talking about 'fruit' in general. The same is true of the term 'Distortion Pedal'.

*'What set up are you using tonight?' 'Uh, keeping it simple, two or three Distortion Pedals.'

Within the group of Loud Pedals there are generally recognised to be three types : Overdrive, Fuzz and, yes, Distortion. The example sentence we just invented could, therefore, run one of two ways :

*'What set up are you using tonight?' 'Uh, keeping it simple, two or three Distortion Pedals - you know, an overdrive, distortion, maybe a fuzz pedal too.'

*'What set up are you using tonight?' 'Uh, keeping it simple, two or three Distortion Pedals - plus two overdrives and seven fuzz pedals.'

Loud Pedals on eBay - Find Cheap, Discount and Bargain Guitar Kit on eBay

*eBay can be great place to find deals on Guitar Kit. Perhaps not for the absolute beginner, but for the Guitarist who knows what to look for and, more importantly, what to avoid, ebay can offer some serious money saving deals.

What is Your Favorite Brand of Distortion Pedal?

Who makes your favorite Loud Pedals?

See results

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    • RichLeighHD profile image


      6 years ago

      Enjoyed the lens... I love my Boss DS-1!


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