I love overdrives and part of the reason is there’s just so many of them and so many companies making so many flavors of overdrives with their own tweaks.
Here are my personal top 10 favorites:
MXR Timmy ($130)
one of my all time favorite light gain to medium gain ‘transparent’ overdrives, this is a mass produced version of Paul Cochrane’s famous Timmy pedal. It’s just so versatile and doesn’t color your tone at all, fits with nearly any type of rig. An alternative is the Greer Lightspeed which is more expensive but has that same transparent quality with more upper high end sparkle to it, but not as versatile.
Vemuram Jan Ray ($400)
Another ‘transparent’ type of overdrive for light to medium gain, also well beloved and highly praised by those who have it, only problem being that it’s on the pricey side for a boutique pedal.
Nobels ODR-1 ($130)
This is another light to medium gain overdrive pedal, a bit more colored than the Timmy and Greer but not as colored as a TubeScreamer. It’s very versatile and great as a medium-gain pedal. Also check out the Wampler Belle as an alternative too.
Snouse Blackbox Overdrive 2 ($150)
This is my favorite ‘bluesbreaker’ type pedal. It’s a close approximation of the original Marshall Bluesbreaker pedal. In fact I prefer it to the Bluesbreaker pedal. And also preferred it to the JHS Morning Glory and the MXR Duke of Tone / Analogman Prince of Tone which are two other popular bluesbreaker inspired pedals. It’s somewhat transparent but adds a low end girth to the tone and can get pretty high gain if you decide to go there.
Wampler Tumnus Deluxe ($200)
This is my pick for favorite Klon type pedal. It’s a close approximation of a Klon Centaur except with a 3 band EQ. There’s also the Keeley Oxblood, MXR Sugar Drive, EHX Soul Food, J Rockett Archer and many many other clones out there. But I like this one, and it’s a very nice medium gain pedal with that characteristic clean blend that K-type pedals have.
Maxon TOD-9 ($250)
My pick for a tubescreamer style pedal, by the original maker of the Tubescreamer – Maxon! Maxon made the original pedals for Ibanez. This is a version of their OD9 that adds a vacuum tube gain stage as well. I preferred this one to the Nu Tube Screamer in a shootout, btw. There’s also countless tubescreamer type pedals out there – Keeley Red Dirt, JHS Moonshine, Wampler Clarksdale and Moxie, Earthquaker Plumes etc but I prefer this one. You want that signature midrange push? Well there it is on here with some extra gain and sag / compression from the tubes!
G-Town Holy Grail ($150)
This is my favorite ‘D-style’ pedal or Dumble in a box type pedal. It’s just so versatile. Essentially it sounds like a souped up Tubescreamer but it’s very rich and creamy sounding. I prefer this pedal to some of the other D-style pedals out there like the MXR Shinjuku, Amplified Nation Big Bloom, Shinn Dumbloid, Hermida Zendrive etc
Keeley Super Phat Mod ($150)
Basically this is a modified Boss BD-2 Blues Driver, and called a ‘full range overdrive’ because it can be anywhere from low gain to near fuzz level in terms of gain. I prefer this to both the Boss BD-2W and the Fulltone OCD and it’s definitely a versatile pedal to have in any situation.
Wampler Euphoria ($200)
I don’t know why this pedal isn’t more popular but it should be. It’s on the ‘transparent’ side of things, but it also beefs up your tone quite a bit and it’s quite versatile. It can be either smooth and creamy like a D-style pedal or add medium gain to your tone like a Timmy. It’s one of the most versatile pedals along with the Timmy and the Keeley Phat Mod.
RambleFX Marvel Drive ($200)
Unfortunately this pedal is out of production because the founder of RambleFX passed away in 2021, but it still is my favorite Marshall Plexi in a box type pedal. I preferred it to the Lovepedals Purple Plexi, Wampler Plexi-Drive, Keeley El Rey Dorado, JHS Charlie Brown, Xotic SL Drive etc and the appearance of the pedal is the best out of all of them as well! Really looks like a Plexi in a box!