The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time

15th Mar 2011 | 16:39

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Vox Ice 9
£117

Issue 336 of Guitarist magazine was a bumper celebration of all things stompbox, with the team compiling a list of the 101 best guitar effects pedals ever produced. Whether for innovation, influence, sound, sheer popularity, or all of the above, each and every unit that made the cut is a tone-shaping tool worthy of a place on a pro pedalboard.

Here, we've gathered all of the overdrives, distortions and fuzzboxes into one place and the resulting rundown is a compendium of the 42 greatest vintage and modern dirtboxes on the planet. Whether you want to coax your amplifier into break-up, or obliterate your signal with crushing square wave fuzz, there's something here for everyone.

First up is Satch's latest signature drive pedal, the Ice 9 from Vox:


"A bit of Tube Screamer and a bit of DS-1, refined and in a dual-mode single box. The More function adds a 14dB signal boost and the whole result is great with the majority of good valve amps."


FAMOUS USERS: Joe Satriani


LISTEN:


Read the review


BUY:
Vox Ice 9 currently available from Thomann | Absolute Music | Andertons Music Co.

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Tanabe Dumkudo
£230

"A vibrant overdrive pedal that’s in the vein of Dumble Overdrive amp tones. With four dials and three modes (Green is ‘Dumble’), it suits blues to hard rock styles."


FAMOUS USERS:
Henry Kaiser, Paul Jackson Jr, Dave Kilminster

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Frantone Peachfuzz
$334 (three-knob version)

"Hand-made in New York City with bright enamelled cases and a true boutique ethos, this is – for a change – not a Fuzz Face clone. Filthy fuzz: more, more, more!"


FAMOUS USERS:
None that we know of

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Analogman Sun Face
$185

"Effectively a high-quality Fuzz Face clone with several choices of transistors – germanium or silicon – plus other options. A certain Pink Floyd man has been known to use one."


FAMOUS USERS:
David Gilmour, John Mayer

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Kingsley Jester
$375

"This Canadian-made, point-to-point wired valve overdrive pedal is loved for the way it interacts with quality valve amps to create a multi-channel monster."


FAMOUS USERS: Jay Beuttner

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Greg Fryer Treble Booster Touring
£114.99

"A modern spin on the germanium Rangemaster, this is the missing ingredient required to obtain classic Queen tones, assuming you also use a Red Special and a maxed-out Vox AC30."


FAMOUS USERS:
Brian May, James Dean Bradfield

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Blackstone Mosfet Overdrive
£199

"Two modes of Brown (lighter) and Red (heavier) drive from a four-stage gain circuit. This has excellent response to picking dynamics, but needs to be first in the signal chain to get the best tones."


FAMOUS USERS: Billy Gibbons, Dan Spitz

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Durham Electronics Sex Drive
$247

"Designed for Charlie Sexton, this clean booster offers blooming bass and plenty of presence if you want it, with three compression settings."


FAMOUS USERS: Er, Mr Sexton!

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Lovetone Brown Source
£150+ (used)

"Lovetone – big pedals to trip over. The Brown Sauce was its classic overdrive and so fits many genres with its swathes of edgy gain."


FAMOUS USERS:
Gary Moore, J Mascis, Metallica

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Effector 13/Devi Ever Truly Beautiful Disaster
£275.50

"This is so good, we thought it was broken when we first plugged it in. It wasn’t. Oscillating fuzz plus a feedback loop equals truly epic noisemongery."


FAMOUS USERS:
My Bloody Valentine, Silversun Pickups

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Visual Sound Route 66
£165 (version 2)

"Two-in-one: a compressor that’s in Dyna Comp/Ross territory, plus a beefed-up JRC4558D-driven Tube Screamer overdrive section. Makes a lot of sense, right?"


FAMOUS USERS: Kings Of Leon, Vince Gill, Jonny Lang

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Providence Sonic Drive SDR
£199

"A lot of pedals claim natural overdrive that beefs up the source guitar without obliterating its character. Well this one delivers just that, with plenty of touch-sensitivity and super audio integrity."


FAMOUS USERS: Tomoyasu Hotei, Ramon Goose


LISTEN:
(Settings quoted as per a clock face; 9 means 9 o’ clock)

Reference tone:

Level 2, Tone 2, Drive 1, fat switch out:

Level 2, Tone 2, Drive 5, fat switch in:


BUY
: Providence Sonic Drive SDR currently available from Andertons Music Co. | GuitarGuitar

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Ethos Overdrive
$395

"If price isn’t an issue, the Ethos is arguably the best and most versatile Dumble chasing pedal available. With clean and drive channels, it’ll do Robben, Larry, Santana…"


FAMOUS USERS: Thaddeus Hogarth, Henry Kaiser, Tomo Fujita

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
T-Rex Alberta
£155

"A slick variant on the vintage Tube Screamer sound, this overdrive shares that classic pedal’s simplicity. Note separation is outstanding, as is the creamy crunch, and it cleans up nicely throughout the tonal range thanks to a smooth mid-boost. A cleaner alternative for blues-rockers in love with their little green boxes."


FAMOUS USERS: Carlos Santana, Michael Angelo Batio

BUY: T-Rex Alberta currently available from Thomann | Andertons Music Co.

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Wampler Ecstasy Overdrive
£169

"The raison d’etre here is to try to squeeze two amps into one little pedal: a Bogner Ecstasy and a Dumble Overdrive Special. That’s some task, but the results just might surprise you!"


FAMOUS USERS: Brent Mason, Johnny Hiland

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Boss DN-2 Dyna Drive
£99

"This pedal is as much about dynamics as it is drive –helping a moderately crunchy amp tone become highly responsive to your picking attack."


FAMOUS USERS: None that we know of… yet

BUY: Boss DN-2 Dyna Drive currently available from Thomann | Absolute Music | GuitarGuitar | Andertons Music Co. | SoundsLive

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Crowther Audio Hot Cake
£165

"This overdrive begins as aclean-ish boost, goes through medium fat drive and on to a brilliantly squashy, harmonically packed powerhouse reminiscent of Billy Gibbons’ full-on ‘patent pending’ tone. Unique."


FAMOUS USERS:
Neil Finn, Stephen Malkmus, Noel Gallagher

Read the review

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Boss FZ-2 Hyper Fuzz
£50+ (used)

"If ever a pedal was made to mix gloopy, old-school fuzzes with modern functionality, this is it. Two modes plus a vicious gain boost function cover most bases."


FAMOUS USERS: James Dean Bradfield, Stephen Carpenter

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Marshall Shredmaster
£65+ (used)

"A discontinued pedal that was exceedingly satisfying to use due to its contour control, which allowed drastic shifts in the EQ spectrum that gave gloriously scooped tones. This pedal was an essential part of Radiohead's Bends-era sound."


FAMOUS USERS:
Jonny Greenwood, Gaz Coombes, Alex James

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Seymour Duncan SFX-01 Pickup Booster
£89.95

"Seymour Duncan’s debut pedal offers flat-EQ gain and is distinguished by a Resonance switch that, if engaged, enables single-coils to take on the tonal characteristics of a fatter humbucker."


FAMOUS USERS: Peter Stroud, Michael Landau, Phil Campbell

BUY: Seymour Duncan SFX-01 Pickup Booster currently available from Thomann | SoundsLive

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Providence SOV-2
£199

"The SOV-2 is among the leading dynamic overdrives around. From slight crunch to singing lead, it’s killer. Rob Harris used it on new Jamiroquai songs Goodbye To My Dancer and Hurtin'."


FAMOUS USERS: Robben Ford, Matt Schofield, Rob Harris

BUY: Providence SOV-2 currently available from GuitarGuitar | Andertons Music Co.

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Carl Martin Hot Drive 'N' Boost
£159

"This long-standing pedal in the Danish range offers valve-like crunch to distortion, plus a 20dB clean boost. Great for expanding a single-channel amp to three sounds."


FAMOUS USERS: Joe Bonamassa

Read the review

BUY: Carl Martin Hot Drive 'N' Boost currently available from Andertons Music Co.

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Blackstar HT-Dual
£159

"A high-voltage, valve-driven, two-channel ‘amp expander’ and more. Channel one offers clean or crunch modes; channel two goes from crunch to scream. The ISF control moves from Brit to USA character and you have a usable speaker-emulated output too. It’s also part of Guitarist’s guitar-test rig."


FAMOUS USERS:
Gus G, Gil Norton (producer), Steve Conte, Jay Mehler

Read the review

BUY: Blackstar HT-Dual currently available from Thomann | Absolute Music | Andertons Music Co.

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive
£119

"TS-808-style overdrive and a clean boost with the ability to balance the two sounds to taste: how useful is that? There’s a reason why this is one of our favourite stompers."


FAMOUS USERS: Chino Moreno

BUY: Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive currently available from Thomann | GuitarGuitar | Andertons Music Co.

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Tech 21 Sansamp
£259 (reissue Sansamp Classic 20)

"Amp simulation in a stompbox – before digital modelling, this was the way to get valve amp sound without the need for a valve amp.They’re still widely used."


FAMOUS USERS: Kurt Cobain

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Zvex Fuzz Factory
£175

"An unruly brat of a germanium transistor-based fuzzbox, with five knobs to create sonic mayhem. Muse’s Matt Bellamy has one built into his guitar…"


FAMOUS USERS: Matt Bellamy, J Mascis, John Frusciante

LISTEN:


Read the review


BUY
: Zvex Fuzz Factory available from GuitarGuitar

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive
£49

"Before boutique pedals came along, you might have got this to drive your valve amps to fatter, thicker distortion. Early versions employed the JRC4558D chip of TS-808 fame, though the pedal is less midrange-focused and has more edge to it. It also maintains your guitar’s inherent character to a good degree."


FAMOUS USERS:
Edward Van Halen, Zakk Wylde

BUY: Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive available from Thomann | Absolute Music | GuitarGuitar | Andertons Music Co. | SoundsLive

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Fulltone OCD
£149

"Obsessive, compulsive drive – most people who hear the harmonic richness of this box tend to agree. Tired of your Tube Screamer? Want something more refined? Try this now."


FAMOUS USERS:
Michael Landau, Keith Urban

BUY: Fulltone OCD currently available from Thomann | GuitarGuitar | Andertons Music Co.

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Fulltone Full-Drive II Mosfet
£179

"This takes everything that’s great about a TS-808 Tube Screamer, refines it, and then adds extra functionality. Cutting clean boost to saturated, compressing drive, with an additional boost mode too: exceptional."


FAMOUS USERS:
Robin Trower


LISTEN:
(Settings quoted as per a clock face; 9 means 9 o’ clock)

Reference tone:

Volume 12, Tone 11, Overdrive 12, Comp Cut/Standard modes:

Volume 11, Tone 1, Overdrive 3, Vintage Cut/Mosfet modes:


BUY
: Fulltone Full-Drive II Mosfet currently available from Thomann | GuitarGuitar | Andertons Music Co.

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Boss BD-2 Blues Driver
£89

"Takes the spirit of the much loved OD-1 and SD-1, but adds gain, edge and bite to emulate a heavily distorted valve amplifier. Responds well to picking dynamics too."


FAMOUS USERS: Top players tend to go for the Keeley-modded version


LISTEN: (Settings quoted as per a clock face; 9 means 9 o’ clock)

Reference tone:

Level 1, Tone 12, Gain 9:

Level 11, Tone 12, Gain 2:


BUY
: Boss BD-2 Blues Driver currently available from Thomann | GuitarGuitar | Andertons Music Co. | SoundsLive

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
MXR Micro Amp
£105

"Sometimes you don’t want tone-changing drive or distortion, you just want a relatively linear kick into the amp to help it on its way. Use this for straight solo boosts or in your effects loop to help weak pedals."


FAMOUS USERS: John Frusciante, Paul Gilbert, The Strokes

BUY: MXR Micro Amp available from Thomann | Absolute Music | GuitarGuitar

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Pro Co RAT 2
£89 (Rat 2 reissue)

"Drivey, edgy, fuzzy, unique. A couple of silicon diodes make this an unruly beast that’ll kick any valve amp into life. Massively popular in the 1980s, and for good reason."


FAMOUS USERS: Jeff Beck, Joe Walsh, Thurston Moore, Dave Grohl


LISTEN: (Settings quoted as per a clock face; 9 means 9 o’ clock)

Reference tone:

Distortion 1, Filter 1, Volume 1:

Distortion 5, Filter 9, Volume 3:


Read the review


BUY
: Pro Co RAT 2 currently available from Thomann | Absolute Music | GuitarGuitar | Andertons Music Co.

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Dallas Rangemaster Treble Boost
£199 (reissue)

"An amp-top box with transistor circuitry to excite certain frequencies and get your amp really singing - exactly what it did for two of our heroes’ AC30s."


FAMOUS USERS: Brian May, Rory Gallagher

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Marshall Guv'nor
£50-£70 (used)

"Featured famously on the sleeve of Gary Moore’s Still Got The Blues, this sought after overdrive was a laudable stab at producing a warmer TS-9-style pedal, and it still sounds great."


FAMOUS USERS: Gary Moore, Joey Santiago (Pixies)

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Sola Sound Tone Bender
£199 (JMI reissue)

"This early Brit germanium fuzz was taken up by many mid-sixties players including that world-changing triumvirate of Englishmen, notably Beck on The Yardbirds’ Heart Full Of Soul."


FAMOUS USERS:
Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton


LISTEN:


Read the review

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Klon Centaur Professional Overdrive
£500+ (used)

"There’s a good reason the Centaur is called the Dumble of distortion pedals. Packing fat midrange boost effects and amazing transparency, the Klon is magic when used with simple 6L6-powered amps. John Mayer, Jim Campilongo and many other ‘feel’ players swear by it.

"It’s now out of production, but designer Bill Finnegan has hinted at a replacement soon. Original models fetch some frankly crazy prices second-hand."


FAMOUS USERS:
John Mayer, Matt Schofield


LISTEN: (Settings quoted as per a clock face; 9 means 9 o’ clock)

Reference tone:

Gain 9, Treble 12, Output 3:

Gain 3, Treble 1, Output 11:

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Octavia/o/er
£195 (Dunlop JH-OC1 Octavio)

"Roger Mayer invented the fuzzy, octave-up pedal immortalised in Hendrix’s Purple Haze solo, then Tychobrahe made it widely available in the 1970s. There are lots of new versions, not least from Mayer himself."


FAMOUS USERS: Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan

Read the review

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi
£48 (reissue)

"Four silicon transistors provide a smooth fuzz sound with plenty of sustain and a tone knob for a wide tonal range. Ernie Isley’s liquid lead on The Isley Brothers' (Who's) That Lady and Jack White's huge intro riff on Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground are just two great examples of what it can do."


FAMOUS USERS: Ernie Isley, David Gilmour, Jack White


LISTEN:


Read the review


BUY:
Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi currently available from Thomann | Andertons Music Co. | SoundsLive

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face
£195 (Jimi Hendrix JHF-1 Fuzz Face)

"Four resistors, three capacitors and two AC128 or NKT275 NPN germanium transistors – hello glorious square-wave fuzz. Shortly later came PNP silicon-loaded Fuzz Faces and then, as now, they were widely modded, cloned and updated. Wildly inconsistent, but Hendrix wouldn’t be the same without one."


FAMOUS USERS: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Johnson


LISTEN:


Read the review


BUY
: Currently available from Thomann

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Boss DS-1 Distortion
£49

"1978 brought a harder-clipped, edgier Boss pedal in the DS-1, reflecting the trends of higher gain rock and metal. But this isn’t ‘metal’ in the modern sense – it retains character of the source guitar. Hear it all over Vai’s Passion And Warfare and any Nevermind-era Nirvana live recordings."


FAMOUS USERS: Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Kurt Cobain


LISTEN: (Settings quoted as per a clock face; 9 means 9 o’ clock)

Reference tone:

Tone 1, Level 1, Distortion 1:

Tone 3, Level 2, Distortion 5:


BUY
: Boss DS-1 Distortion currently available from Thomann | Absolute Music | GuitarGuitar| SoundsLive

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Maestro FZ-1 Fuzztone
£250+ (used)

"The daddy of all stompboxes: the first commercially produced transistor-based guitar effect pedal and also the first fuzz box. First made in 1962, it took until 1965 to catch on when Keef used one on Satisfaction – and the world of guitar tone was changed forever. The FZ-1 used three germanium transistors to amplify and clip the guitar’s signal creating fuzz, glorious fuzz…"


FAMOUS USERS:
Keith Richards, everyone in the '60s!

The 42 best overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals of all time
Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer
£205

"Used widely in genres as diverse as country, blues and shred, this stomper has been on more records, and used in more concerts, than perhaps any other overdrive or distortion pedal.

"The ‘best’ Tube Screamers use the now-fabled JRC4558D IC chip, which drives a rich midrange with smooth clipping characteristics. Most players love it sat in front of a quality valve amplifier. The TS-808 has since spawned endless clones and modded versions."


FAMOUS USERS: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Brad Paisley… absolutely everyone!


LISTEN: (Settings quoted as per a clock face; 9 means 9 o’ clock)

Reference tone:

Overdrive 9, Tone 12, Volume 3:

Overdrive 1, Tone 12, Volume 11


BUY
: Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer currently available from Thomann | GuitarGuitar | Andertons Music Co.


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