Overdrive

The easiest way to distinguish an overdrive pedal from other effects in the gain group is to think about the way it is used. In contrast to a distortion or a fuzz, which are somewhat more independent, the overdrive is meant to work in tandem with the guitar amp to drive the signal over the edge. The pedal becomes an organic part of the natural tone of the guitar and amp combination used. Overdrives produce a mild clipping on the signal peaks, while leaving the rest of the signal’s waveform linear, much in the same way tube amp overdrive works.

You can also find overdrive effects producing unsymmetrical clipping, which is similar to the effect unmatched output valves can have in a tube amp. This results in the positive and negative halves of the signal’s waveform getting different amounts (or types) of overdrive, which will give you a fatter sound with more grind and an added dose of dissonance.

Your classic overdrive tone is always a combination of the pedal effect and the inherent tone and character of your amp. The pedal does a little bit of clipping and fattening, but its main objective is to push the signal level, so that the amp starts to overdrive, too. A traditional overdrive pedal usually doesn’t sound that great when played on its own, because it needs to interact with the amplifier.

The new class of so-called foundation overdrives is different, though. This new type of overdrive takes over the role of the guitar amp in shaping and recreating the overdrive tones of different amplifier models, for example classic amps from the UK or the States. These pedals can be used as stand-alone effects, because they form the complete sound of an overdriven amp, making them a welcome addition to more traditional pedals.

READ MORE ABOUT OVERDRIVES IN OUR BACKSTAGE BLOG

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