What every guitarist ought to know about Overdrive Pedals from the people who make them!
Overdrive pedals are driving me crazy right now. They’re not a pre-amp pedal, but they sorta are. It's not a boost pedal, but can be used as one. And, they’re not a distortion pedal, but they kinda are….. at least in similar tone.
We all understand that they push your sound going to the amp to “overdrive” the signal. But that being said, I don't think it's clear enough as to when it makes sense to use one as opposed to a distortion, a fuzz, or even a boost pedal for that matter.
It’s somewhat more of a tool than effect. So how do we know if we need one for our tone?
I'll be really honest with you, my only experience with them has been the Fulltone OCD, and I just sold it a few weeks ago because I didn't really understand it.
So I decided, in order to get the “skinny” on why every pedal manufacturer has to make one, or five, I decide to go right to the source and ask 14 boutique manufacturers all the “why's and what for” that were in my head.
In the process, a few things have become clear, like that an Overdrive Pedal can be used for any style of music playing or genre out there – not just Blues, as I had once thought!
Whether you're about to purchase your first one, or tenth, or you play rock, country, jazz, metal, or indie – I think you'll be surprised by some of the deeply useful insights here! It will help you understand what overdrive pedals do and how they can be used to shape your tone.
And don't be surprised how one simple question can elicit so many different and situational answers. When you dig through each response, you'll get a better idea of where each company was coming from when they made their overdrive pedal, and how they sought to serve a particular tone that you may be after.
So – before we jump in, BIG THANKS for all the companies that participated in this. They're all a hard working and very busy bunch. So I truly appreciate them taking the time to answer my questions and I really hope you all get a lot out of this article!
If you don't see your favorite pedal maker listed, it's just because they were too busy making your next pedal to participate. I contacted a “grip” of them and the group below are the ones who could make the time between burning their hands in fresh solder and the midnight hour.
And if you're still needing answers to what Overdrive Pedals can do, or have any questions, post your responses in the comments section below!
Featured Overdrive Pedals
Roundtable Question 1
What are Overdrive pedals used to achieve and when are they used correctly?
Colt Westbrook & Jason – Walrus Audio: Overdrives are used to give life to signals that could be categorized as boring or stale. They take relatively pure signals and transform them, creating a rich sound with life and complexity. I wouldn’t say there is one correct way to use an overdrive pedal. There are conventional ways, but that doesn’t mean those are the only effective ways to use overdrive.
Nick Greer – Greer Amplification: Overdrive pedals are used to achieve the sound and feel of an amp that is turned up, pushing itself beyond the clean limit of the amplifier, into what is known as overdrive. A good overdrive pedal can sound “transparent”, giving you the natural sound of your guitar and amplifier, or it can completely alter the tonal range of your rig, if that is the desired sound.
Josh Alley – Epigaze Audio: Oh man, right to the point, ha. You want that dirty rock and roll sound, but your amp or neighbors are holding you back! Overdrives are great for pushing an already dirty amp into a sweet spot, boosting leads, or as the basis for your main drive tone when a very loud driven amp isn’t practical.
Aditya Nandwana – Animal Factory Amps: On a personal level, I regard overdrive pedals as the Swiss Army knives in the pedal arsenal. For this reason, it’s very hard for me to speak about the “correct” use of an overdrive.
In essence, the objective of using an overdrive is to push an amp a bit harder into saturation, essentially by slamming the input tube (and due to multiplication of gain, all tubes that follow) with an amplified signal. However, overdrive pedals can also be used to approximate the sound of a tube amp pushed over the edge, which can be achieved by turning the gain up and output volume down lower. While this isn’t anywhere as dramatic as, say, a full-bore distortion, there are generally some great crunchy sounds or softer lead guitar sounds you can get out of it.
Finally, you can use an overdrive pedal as a “dirty boost” of sorts to add both compression and boost to an amp that is already being run dirty, if your objective is to get over-the-top gain and saturation, or to push up certain frequencies (most commonly, treble and high-mids).
Aaron Coleman – Heavy Lid Effects: I don't know about correctness. They can be used however the artist chooses to use them. Usually they're just a way to get different flavors of dirt. No right or wrong.
Lets think about the classic tube screamer. Basically it's an amplifier (JRC4558 opamp) being pushed beyond it's specified limits and distorting. Now lets take that distorting tube screamer and put it in front of an amplifier, let's say a Deluxe Reverb, that is on the verge of break up. If we turn up the volume on the TS it will overdrive the Deluxe Reverb. If that same Deluxe Reverb is set very clean, and the same TS is set with the gain at zero and volume up, when we get no distorting from the TS, and the amp can stay clean so it's not overdriven. All that will happen is the Deluxe Reverb's volume will be boosted. So we can see that the TS is a distortion (because it is essentially a distorting opamp), an overdrive (because it can be used to overdrive the amp), and a boost (it can just increase the volume).
So these terms are basically meaningless. In common usage, a distortion is just a really high gain overdrive, an overdrive is a low to medium gain distortion, and a boost is just lots of clean volume. People get caught up in terms that have no standard definitions.
There is also a lot of marketing that has confused the matter even more. A lot of pedals labeled as “distortion” aren't much different from ones labeled as “overdrives”. So for the sake of discussion, let's say there is a spectrum from clean to really dirty (boost->overdrive->distortion) and most pedals will not fall squarely into one of the categories.
Grant Wilson – BIG EAR n.y.c: There's really no wrong way to use an overdrive. One of my favorite guitar players (Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead) puts his dirt pedals after his reverbs/delays, and to a lot of guys that's a serious no-no. For me, personally, I usually find myself using overdrive pedals stacked with other pedals (usually synth pedals or fuzzes) to either get more gain, volume, or bite.
Joe Anastasio – Lone Wolf Audio: Overdrive pedals are used to push an amp into distortion. There is no wrong way to use an overdrive. Music and tone is in the hands of the user. Music is limitless.
Mark – Black Arts Toneworks: I like to use OD pedals to push either pedals further down the chain, or a tube amp for a variety of ends. If it sounds good to you, you're using it correctly I suppose.
Kevin Jolly – Electro Harmonix: For me there are three main uses for an OD pedal but I would never say there’s a wrong way (hell, turn the volume down and use it as a mute for all I care. If it works for you, it works for you). First, the traditional would be to push you amp over the edge. It cuts, sustains, and rattles everything into a harmonic glory. Generally speaking, this is being used with an amp that has a decent amount of dirt on it already and needs a “solo” channel effect. Secondly, a not so best kept secret in the world of metal and such is to use an OD to tighten but not necessary drive the amp any further. In this case, you’ve already got copious amounts of gain but the bottom end might be flubby. When running and OD with the volume slightly boosted and the drive almost all the way down, this will tighten the mass and bump the mids so there is more definition and cut to your tone. Finally, when used in front of a clean amp, an OD can be used for just a little extra hair if you can’t crank your amp into natural distortion or be used for solo tones depending on how intense your OD can get.
Eric Jung – Hungry Robot Pedals: Overdrive pedals at their root are used to achieve different tonal characteristics in your rig. They are meant to achieve a sound that mimics a tube amplifier running too loud. A rudimentary technical explanation is that the overdrive is taking the electrical waveform that is sent into the pedal from your guitar and clipping off the tops and/or bottoms of the waveform, thus the term clipping.
Philippe Herndon – Caroline Guitar Company: Overdrive pedals are mainly used for two traditional purposes: one, to create the impression of a clean amp being cranked to clip at a more reasonable volume than you might get if you were to crank the amp, and secondly, to push an already driven amplifier into more of a high gain sound with more sustain, compression, and gain.
Generally, overdrive has meant soft-clipping because of the modern Adam and Eve of this product line – the Boss OD-1 and the Ibanez TS-808, both of which were released in the mid-late 70s and used clipping diodes in the feedback loop to create soft clipping. Overdrive is such a misleading term because anything that adds gain can be called an overdrive. I've seen Big Muff style fuzzes marketed as overdrives. It's a more comforting term, because distortion and fuzz are labels tat tend to have different connotations and are more polarizing.
Jamie – EarthQuaker Devices: Overdrive pedals are used to drive a signal to the point of distortion, whether it be driving the amp hard to drive the tubes (example: Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster) or generating distortion internally on their own (example: MXR Distortion +). As long as you have something plugged into the input and the output hooked up to an amplified source, there is really no wrong way to use an overdrive.
Brad Fee – Mojo Hand FX: Overdrives are typically used to either: a.) simulate the sound of an overdriven tube amp or b.) to push an amp into overdrive. There isn't really an incorrect way to use them. Gear is just like the music we create, subjective. What one player enjoys may not sound great to another, so it's always best to experiment and see what works for you.
Jay Woods – Option 5: They are intended to give the user a sound similar to overloading an amplifier (particularly a good tube amp) – they are used correctly when creating the overdriven sound as a standalone or fattening up an already overdriven amplifier.
Featured Overdrive Pedals
Roundtable Question 2
Given that all tone is subjective, when are overdrives used wrong? In say pedal order, effects loop, or to achieve a particular tone?
Brad Fee – Mojo Hand FX: There are no “Wrongs” when it comes to music. There are some basic rules of thumb. Most people will use overdrives in the front end of their amp vs. an effect loop, but even that is really just a preference.
Philippe Herndon – Caroline Guitar Company: I don't know that there is *wrong* per se. In an effects loop after the preamp? Maybe, but at that point, depending on the amp and EQ placement, you might be using the preamp of the amplifier to drive the pedal. Curious, but possible. Sometimes an OD after your distortion gives this perfect, compact, punchy boost. Sometimes an OD before a fuzz gives something more than the sum of their parts. Other times, based on the fuzz, it makes everything splatty and off. Horses for courses!
Jamie – EarthQuaker Devices: I don’t really think there is a wrong way to use most pedals but using a dirt device in effects loop is pretty frowned upon. I think it’s generally accepted as a bad sound. Dirt usually works best when it’s in direct interaction with a guitars pickups.
Colt Westbrook & Jason – Walrus Audio: When you have the input signal plugged into the output and vice versa; that is the wrong was to use an overdrive pedal (wink wink). The order of things on a board is important. You don’t want a drive in front of a delay, sending an army of trails into your drive circuit giving you mess for the ear to sort through. On the other hand, innovation is most often born from doing the normal backwards. I’ve heard a lot of charming guitar tones on records from people breaking norms.
Aditya Nandwana – Animal Factory Amps: As a general rule, I would avoid using an overdrive specifically after any time-based effects – delays, reverbs and suchlike. The end result is effectively mud, in my experience. There are some interesting sounds that can be gotten out of signal chain abuse; a reverb turned all the way to wet, for example, into an overdrive with the gain dimed to create washed-out shoegaze textures. This is, however, the exception.
Overdrive pedals are a bit out of place in feedback loops as well. Most amplifier manufacturers design these loops well enough to raise the level to sufficiently drive the output stage. I have heard of some people using overdrive pedals in amplifier feedback loops, but this is usually to counter a very specific problem.
Finally, some wahs and overdrive pedals may not play well together if the overdrive is before the wah in the signal chain. I personally like the extra resonance and peaks you can get out of them in this configuration, but very bright/resonant wahs may get too squealy and annoying if pushed too hard.
Other than that, I find there’s a place for overdrive pretty much everywhere. I use it before my Chemical Burn or a Big Muff if I want insane fuzz action, or after a fuzz to smooth out the mids and get a searing smooth lead tone (I’m a big fan of Gilmour). A lot of modulation effects sound very different, in good ways, depending on the overdrive placement. I encourage experimentation rather than following some bullshit tone dogma.
Grant Wilson – BIG EAR n.y.c: The only time an overdrive pedal is ever used incorrectly… is when you're at a show, and the band is playing, and the song is building, and then the chorus comes in, and the guitar player kicks on his overdrive, and Poof, he's gone! Where'd the guitar player go?! His volume was set too low! I see it a lot, usually during the first song. BANDS, TAKE PHOTOS OF YOUR PEDAL SETTINGS!
Mark – Black Arts Toneworks: Wrong? Well, if it makes the rest of the chain sound bad when its on. I am really reluctant to say wrong, because tones are so subjective, and as part of an artists palette, even bad tones can be good. We wont name names, but we all know someone who sounds shitty, but it works in the context of their music.
Kevin Jolly – Electro Harmonix: I don’t know if I want to say they are used wrong. Coming from a retail background, there can be a misunderstanding that overdrive pedals are supposed to be this over the top distortion. I’ve had people come in trying out overdrives because they heard that was what their favorite player was using. Little did they understand that they were using it to boost their signal and hit the preamp harder. I think the only thing you can really do wrong with a pedal is not be familiar with its capabilities and not experiment. Some people will set up gear of different varieties in the same ways and don’t understand that every circumstance, be it spatial or component wise, will affect your tone. If you tweak something on your pedal board, maybe you’ll have to smooth out the edge with your amps EQ. You have to admit what you know and don’t know and keep approaching situations fresh.
Josh Alley – Epigaze Audio: Never. It’s hard to use an overdrive pedal wrong. Obviously there are preferred places in a chain that players normally use, but don’t feel like you have to do it the “correct” way. Overdrives can be magic in an effects loop as a booster, or mixed in with your other effects in non-traditional places.
Jay Woods – Option 5: That's tricky. Traditionally, an overdrive goes nearer to the guitar than the amp. I would say there are a ton of possibilities.
Nick Greer – Greer Amplification: I don’t know that there is a “wrong” way to use an overdrive pedal. The reality is that different people seek different sounds, and positioning them in the signal path, in different locations, can achieve different tones. Personally, I suggest running them in order from lightest overdrive to the most aggressive overdrive, straight into the front end of the amplifier.
Aaron Coleman – Heavy Lid Effects: “If someone tells you your art (music) is good, they are right. If someone tells you your art (music) is bad, they are right. If someone tells you your art (music) is wrong, they are wrong”. There is no right and wrong in art. There are typical usages and orders, but nothing right or wrong. For overdrives I don't see a point in putting them in the effects loop. Pushing the preamp section usually sounds good with OD.
Eric Jung – Hungry Robot Pedals: I don't think that they are ever really used wrong. All pedals, including overdrives, are a tool to create the sonic creations that are in your head. If you want to put an overdrive after in a “wrong” place when it comes to typical pedal chain order go ahead, as long as it accomplishes the sound you want. A couple caveats to the subject of when overdrives are used wrong. Number one, if you are using a buffer make sure you try each overdrive before and after the buffer. Buffers are sometimes thought of as an always positive utility on your board. The truth is that buffers can at times drastically change, or even ruin the sound of an overdrive. Lots of overdrives sound their best with a high impedance signal and were most likely prototyped by the builder without a buffer. A buffer changes the impedance of your signal and therefore changes how the overdrive sounds. Number two, there seems to be a trend in the pedal world of having an “always-on” tone shaping overdrive. Consider taking some time getting better aquatinted with your amp and finding its sweet-spot or even finding a different amp before spending $150-$200 on an overdrive to compensate for your dissatisfaction with your amp.
Featured Overdrive Pedals
Roundtable Question 3
What is Overdrive Stacking?
Colt Westbrook & Jason – Walrus Audio: Overdrive stacking is a simple technique of stringing together 2 or more overdrives in series, to build a unique tone based on the interactions of each overdrive in the chain. Many times guys will run one overdrive for their rhythm tone, and engage a second to push into lead tone territory. I also have a buddy that loves the sound of two particular overdrives stacked so much, that he runs them both on in a single bypass loop, and treats the two pedals as if they were one.
Aditya Nandwana – Animal Factory Amps: Now we’re getting into my zone…
More often than not, overdrives are designed to be lower-gain devices, with a focus on volume boost and mild clipping/saturation. Stacking overdrives essentially means that you have two overdrive effects in series.
This could mean two individual pedals, or two separately switchable circuits in one pedal enclosure. The beauty of this method lies in the versatility of sounds you can get out of the circuit. From screaming leads, to creamy/crunchy distortion, to a boosted drive sound, you’re limited only by your imagination, Furthermore, if the overdrives clip in an asymmetrical manner, you can get some very interesting textures from them – I find stacked overdrives far closer to amp-like distortion than a lot of distortion pedals.
Let’s take an example. You have two overdrives – Tube Screamer, Bluesbreaker, whatever in a chain. Your guitar goes to Pedal A, which goes to pedal B, which goes to the amp, which is run crystal clean. You set Pedal B’s gain to a mild crunch, the volume to unity gain (when bypassed) and tone to taste. Pedal A can be set to lowish gain, high treble and high output volume.
With this simple pedal combination, you can use Pedal A to boost the amp into crunch, or use Pedal B for a mildly driven sound, then slam it with Pedal A for a lot more gain and presence, yet limited to a manageable volume.
I’m a huge fan of stacked overdrives. There are a lot of sounds you can get out of them.
Brad Fee – Mojo Hand FX: Stacking refers to using two or more pedals in conjunction to get higher gain tones, or shape the EQ differently, etc.
Jamie – EarthQuaker Devices: Placing several overdrive pedals in a row to combine their sounds to achieve new tones. It’s a pretty common practice with guitar players, most players usually have at least 2 or 3 different types of dirt on their board to mix and match. I personally use 3 overdrives and 4 fuzz pedals that I combine for different effects.
Grant Wilson – BIG EAR n.y.c: Overdrive stacking is basically just running multiple overdrive pedals in a chain and then engaging them simultaneously. You don't have to stack drives to get a great tone, just a different one. With two pedals, you can have three tones!
Philippe Herndon – Caroline Guitar Company: Overdrive “stacking” is usually just running overdrive pedals into each other in series. You get a multiplication of gain as if you were using multiple gain stages in an amp, plus some further EQ shaping based on the frequency response, voicing and impedances of each pedal. It can be really cool if you are using different types of overdrives, so that individually and combined you get a variety of tones, but if you use duplicative styles of overdrive, you generally just get this kind of squishy, double filtered thing.
Kevin Jolly – Electro Harmonix: Although I can’t say that I know the clinical definition, I have to say it is one of my favorite things to do. The way I see it, some OD pedals can be better at certain things than others. My board has 4 ODs on it currently and this is because certain flavors can complement others nicely. I tend to use a transparent OD to boost my whole signal and a mid bump to focus the tone and make it cut. Together, it is just far more rich and the attack its ridiculously pronounced. Another way I’ve stacked in the past is to have two similar ODs, one set to a lower gain and one to a higher gain, and feed one into the other so I would have a 3-tiered OD stack for a light rhythm/crunch rhythm/lead set up. It’s really all about expanding the sonic capabilities. Some ODs aren’t great with the gain cranked but when they are pushed in the front, they sing, much like some amps.
Joe Anastasio – Lone Wolf Audio: Overdrive Stacking is the art form of running a high gain pedal into the high gain channel of your amp… or a low gain overdrive into a balls to the wall fuzz pedal to kill your pre amp tubes. Most of my favorite tones border on destruction.
Jay Woods – Option 5: When two or more overdrive or distortion pedals are placed one in front of the other. I've used this method a lot! I prefer a tube screamer type overdrive before an overdrive meant to sound like an amp. It simulates what players started in the 80's with putting a tube screamer in front of an overdriven Marshall amp for gain galore! Fuzz pedals are also fun before an amp like OD because it rounds out the harshness a bit.
Mark – Black Arts Toneworks: Using two or more pedals in series to achieve tones that neither pedal can achieve without the other(s). I find alot of good sounds doing this.
Nick Greer – Greer Amplification: Overdrive stacking is an amazing and versatile tool that many musicians use. Placing two overdrives in series with one another can allow for different tonal combinations. Personally, I like to stack our Lightspeed and Southland together, with the Lightspeed first. This allows you to push the Southland harder, by dialing the Lightspeed’s gain and volume controls in. The use of two overdrives also allows tonal variations based on the positioning of the tone control of each pedals.
Eric Jung – Hungry Robot Pedals: Overdrive stacking is when you take multiple overdrive pedals and turn them on at the same time. You can get a lot more saturated, higher gain tones when using multple overdrives. Having 3 overdrives on your board gives you 7 different possible combinations outside of your clean tone. You can mix and match very easily in a live setting.
Aaron Coleman – Heavy Lid Effects: A way to create a ton of noise! ha. Usually it's 2-3 low gain drives on top of each other to create a medium/high gain. But, usually it just amplifies the noise of each OD before it. I don't like stacking. I think it's much better to find an OD that cleans up well with the guitar volume and create your levels of drive by rolling on or off the guitar's volume.
Josh Alley – Epigaze Audio: Stacking has become fairly popular. Basically using two or more drive pedals at the same time to achieve the sound you are looking for, and most players start with low “transparent” gain and add more gain as they add/stack more pedals. The best use I have heard of it so far is for a rhythm and lead tone. I’ve seen players with three or four drives on at the same time… whatever floats your boat I guess, ha. Personally I don’t stack. If I want a cleaner tone then I’ll roll back on the guitar volume, and at most I may push it a bit before or after with a clean boost.
Featured Overdrive Pedals
Roundtable Question 4
It be nice if all overdrive pedals played great on every amp. But the truth is certain amps love overdrives more than others. Tubes versus solid-state for example. In the realm of amps which amps really do well with overdrive pedals? Be it brands, models, or tube configurations.
Mojo Hand FX: I personally like to use clean-ish Fender style amps, just on the verge of break-up, as a pedal platform. For me that's the best situation to hear what the pedal is actually doing. Of course there are always exceptions, like the coveted Rangemaster, which sounds terrible with Fender amps but amazing with Marshall amps.
Philippe Herndon – Caroline Guitar Company: Depends what you want the overdrive to do. If you're looking for more power and the full color of the pedal to affect the tone, you'll want a cleaner amp with more headroom and power. But if you're looking for the pedal to goose an amp that's already crunching, you'll want a lower wattage amp that can start to give you power amp distortion at lower volumes.
All of this gets compounded by our current state of music. It used to be that you needed that power for venues, getting over a loud drummer, or louder types of music. Now I have friends who can't give away their 85 watt Twins, while the prices of Princetons and Deluxes keeps going higher and higher.
Seemingly every 80s hard rock or metal player was running a TS-style pedal into a cranked JCM-800. It's instantly that brownish George Lynch/Skid Row sound. That same pedal into a Hot Rod Deville is what Wendy Melvoin used when she tracked Sheryl Crow's “My Favorite Mistake”, a riff you'll hear countless times a trades shows whenever a vendor wants to show how rich or dynamic their pedal or amp is at mild gain settings. Those two very different approaches show how differently the same pedal behaves into different amps for different purposes.
Jamie – EarthQuaker Devices : I think this is subjective. I personally don’t really like the way pretty much all modern high gain amps sound with any dirt added to the front end. My personal favorite amps for pedals are musicman (solid state front end!) and fender bassman or deluxe reverb. All of them are pretty neutral, slightly scooped mids and don’t accentuate the harsh frequencies. I also think it’s important to play as loud as humanly possibly to get the best tones out of dirt. A lot of people would disagree with that but bedroom players aren’t getting all they can from their gear at low volume. You need the volume for the guitar, amp and pedals to all interact in the environment, that’s how you get the most interesting and spontaneous tones.
Colt Westbrook & Jason – Walrus Audio: I like the sound of a tube amp with fantastic headroom. Without it, your signal gets compressed and much less expressive. The taller the top, the more personality your tone has. It’s more dynamic and functions the way it was intended to function.
Aditya Nandwana – Animal Factory Amps: As a general rule, tube amplifiers and overdrive pedals go along pretty well. There are exceptions to this with idiosyncratic amp or pedal designs; for example, my Marshall 2061x clone and Red Llama did not get along at all, strangely enough. I’m not fond of the way overdrives clip solid state amps, though. The response and interaction changes completely.
Grant Wilson – BIG EAR n.y.c: As far as overdrive pedals are concerned, to get the most effect out of them, they should be paired with an amp that's on the verge of breakup. Both tube and solid state amps will break up, it really just depends on what you prefer. I will say that the vast majority of people that I encounter prefer tube amps over solid state, but I just think they haven't played a good solid state amp yet.
Joe Anastasio – Lone Wolf Audio: This is actually not totally correct. As a designer of said effects, a lot is done wrong during the design process, causing certain overdrive pedals to not work correctly on every amp. Input and output impedance, tweakability, choice of parts used, biasing, clipping diode selection, etc… Most companies are just trying to crank out as many units as possible with no regard as to how they interact on a myriad of different amps and with a variety of guitars and pickups.
Mark – Black Arts Toneworks: Again, so subjective, but to me certain amps like certain pedals. A JCM800 and a tubescreamer, awesome. JCM800 and a RAT, awesome. Black Face bassman and a tubescreamer, not for me…I tend to like fuzz w cleaner amps, and ODs with dirty amps.
Kevin Jolly – Electro Harmonix: I honestly can’t say that I’m all too familiar with this. I’ve found most Fenders to be pretty friendly. I even used to use a TS-7 into a Marshall solid state and that worked pretty nicely even though the sales person selling it to me told me that it would sound like garbage. I’ve never really had too hard of a time getting a decent tone when using overdrive pedals. I guess I’m just lucky.
Josh Alley – Epigaze Audio: Isn’t that the truth. I think it is very subjective to what kind of music you are playing, and most amps can play nice with pedals but again your style will decide if the combination will be successful. If you are used to playing more alternative rock or something cleaner then running a block letter 5150 clean with an overdrive probably isn’t going to work for you. On the other hand if you a hard rock or metal player with that same 5150 cranked up, then an overdrive is perfect to open up your sound in a mix and add some extra flavor. I’ve had great success with solid state amps in the past, partially because of my heavier style of playing. I think the key to making a solid state setup work great is to stay away from the amps with all of the modeling and built in effects. Those bastards are like poison. Stick with pure solid state with no gimmicks. There are lots of great options available and I would highly suggest Quilter. Quilter amps have blown me away with their rich sound and dynamics. If you want a heavier modern tone then it is always worth looking at Randall; if it was good enough for Dimebag then it’s good enough for me.
Nick Greer – Greer Amplification: Most of your cleaner amps tend to do well with overdrive pedals. That said, there are some great higher gain amps, and low wattage amps that do love overdrive pedals. I’ve seen many amps in both the solid state and tube category that will take an overdrive pedal beautifully, and allow it to shine. As for brands, it really doesn’t seem to be a brand-specific thing, as to which amps will take pedals better. I really like a late 60’s Super Reverb that we have in the shop, and we use that as our test bed for the pedals—if the pedal sounds good with that amp, then it will usually sound amazing with anything else that we plug it into!
Aaron Coleman – Heavy Lid Effects: I don't know what works well with what, but there are a few trends I see. Typically clean fender amps work with almost anything. Low watt amps usually don't sound as good with OD as something in the 35-50w range. Vox amps tend to be a bit more picky about pedals in front of them. And 6L6 amps tend to not be as picky. That's about all I can say about that.
Eric Jung – Hungry Robot Pedals: In my opinion, an amp that has a really good clean tone is the best platform for overdrives. I am personally a 6L6 kind of guy and no matter how many amps I buy, I usually end up coming back to the clean channel on Fender Amps. If you are working with an amp that is already being pushed into tube overdrive, it might not be necessary to have overdrives that are in the mid to high gain categories.
Jay Woods – Option 5: I've always found that amps that focus on a shimmering and really clean sound (tube or SS) tend to not like overdrive pedals. They have too many highs available which causes an ice-pick to the ear harshness, and when treble is rolled back to compensate it just doesn't sound as nice as one would prefer. Example given: A black face Fender sounds amazing with a great OD pedal in front of it as long as the bright switch is off and the bass is rolled back below 5 or 6.