Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Guitar Pedals - Overdrive Thoughts

I recently decided that the MXR Distortion didn't quite suit my Ibanez guitar - I'd probably advise those playing more punky or possibly on strats to use the MXR.

Anyways, in my quest for a replacement, I embarked upon the 'fun' of investigating new guitar pedals. Such was the information that flowed into my head, I though I'd share some of it with the world...

Boss BD2 - This is a great little blues pedal with quite a raw tone. It's a classic and a favourite of many. If you add in the Keeley mod then you have yourself a beautiful overdrive. A slightly cheaper mod is the excellent Monte Allums mod kit for $20. Or look on the web for other schematics like one of which many like.

Boss OD3 - For many people this is the secret in the Boss arsenal. It's a pedal few people seem to know, but those who have it rave about it. This is no tubescreamer clone, it is something different. In fact it's nearly the pedal I went for to replace the MXR Distortion! This has a smoother (more natural?) sound than the more crunchy BD2, has a good bass response unlike the tubescreamer type pedals (as you'd expect with their boosted mids) and a phenomenal sustain. It's capable of a good number of sounds from its 3 pedals. Many people think it should have been named the BD3.

Visual Sound Jekyll and Hyde - an amazing pedal (meaty beast) combining both overdrive and distortion. If you have lots of space on your pedal board, this would be a great investment. Visual Sound pedals are beautifully made and this is no exception. The overdrive is quite tubescreamer-esque. The distortion goes all the way to metal. Great combo pedal.

Voodoo Labs Sparkle Drive - another great classic pedal. This time, it combines a gain and a clean tone knobs to produce a fairly unique sound. The overdrive circuit is like the classic 808 sound. The clean channel acts like a boost channel and in this way you're able to mix the drive with the clean. This one just got away after I placed a bid on one via ebay!

Digitech Hardwire CM-2 - this pedal is another one that got away. Needing a pedal for the weekend at church, I placed an order via my local store (who also had the cheapest price). However, they didn't have any in stock so that was that. This pedal actually features two settings - a 'classic' and a 'modified' toggle switch. The pedal is based on an 808 circuit. The classic sounds more transparent and the modified gives more low end. A great review of this is on youtube via the excellent burgerman66 who shows off the pedal to its strengths (great playing too!) My personal view of the CM-2 is that it's a great pedal, although can be a bit 'harsh' sounding in my view. I compared closely with Fulltone via the pedal comparimator and just found it a bit too harsh in tone for my liking. Probably sings a bit more on SG type guitars more than strats, but it's your call. What I do like about this pedal is the bang for buck and range of sounds possible with it.

Vox Ice9 Overdrive - another pedal I looked at. Good thing is the boost switch it has - the 'more' switch. Great sounding pedal but just didn't do enough to convince me, despite the different sound from the Germanium diodes. You also have a toggle switch between 'vintage' and 'modern'.

Electro-Harmonix Germanium Big Muff - the Big Muff is a fuzz pedal classic. The Germanium has 4 individual Germanium Transistors and really has a totally different sound to the tubescreamer clones. I was tempted by this as there is an overdrive and a distortion sound - with the distortion verging on a fuzz sound. What ultimately put me off was the 'digital' sound I'd experienced on other EHX pedals.

Visual Sound Garagetone Drivetrain - Visual Sound's new 'budget' pedals which are priced around £69. These are a very solid overdrive with a solid sound. I just felt that these didn't quite match my needs. But an excellent pedal and build.

So out of all these pedals, what would I advise? It depends on what pedals you have, whether you need an overdrive or simply a boost. If you've got a tubsescreamer type pedal, then definitely get the Boss OD3. Otherwise, the Boss BD2 or the Hardwire CM-2. These will give you quality at great prices.

UPDATE - 5 September 2011... Have also been looking at the Fulltone OCD which has more gain (closer to distortion) but has great harmonics and a fair amount of sustain. Some pedals just lose all tone and get muddied together, but the OCD doesn't do that. Very tempting, especially with some of the excellent OCD clones that are out there (thorp671981 on ebay, or if you're up for building your own).

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