OverdriveThe overdrive effect was created to help replicate the sound of a tube amplifier that has been pushed or “driven” to a dirty, crunchy, distortion.  To get the original overdrive effect, a tube amplifier would need to have its volume raised to a high level.  This was difficult to do on large tube amplifiers in small venues without straining ears.  Manufacturers created the overdrive effect to get the same distorted, driven sound at lower volumes.

Overdrive effects function like tube amps, the lower the volume the less the distortion.  When increasing volume or a harder pick attack the overdrive breakup is more pronounced.

The biggest difference between an overdrive effect and a distortion effect is that distortion is not effected by volume.  The distortion amount of breakup sound remains constant independent of volume.  An overdrive effect will increase the breakup sound with added volume and get more crunchy or dirty.

Simplest Definition:  Overdrive is the sound of a cranked amp.


Video Explanations:

Video: Effects 101: Overdrive

Video: What Are Different Kinds of Overdrive?

Video: Boost Into Overdrive or Overdrive Into Boost – Gain Stacking Tips


Effect Pedal Examples:

Boss OD-1 Overdrive

Overdrive Knob:  Turn clockwise to increase the amount of overdrive.

Level Knob:  Works as a volume control.  Clockwise increases volume.



EarthQuaker Devices Talons High Gain Overdrive

Treble, Mids, and Bass:  EQ controls for highs, middles and low frequencies.

Presence Knob:  Adjusts the amount of overdrive from mids to highs.

Gain Knob:  Controls the amount of overdrive available pre-amp.

Level Knob:  Controls the overall volume of the pedal.


Analog Alien Bucket Seat Overdrive

Output Knob:  Controls the direct output level (Volume).

Tone Knob:  Dial in the right amount of treble or bass depending on the guitar you use and its pickups.

Gain Knob:  Controls the amount of gain you send to the circuit.


Common Internal Components:

JRC4558D IC Op-Amp Chip

NJM4558 by New Japan Radio Company

RC4559 by Texas Instruments

NJM4556 by Japan Radio Company

TLC272 by Texas Instruments.


Written Articles:

Fender Article: An overview of Overdrive, Distortion and Fuzz

Article: Gilmourish Overdrive and Distortion


Fifty Favorite Effect Pedals for Sale:


Categories: Effect Types