30 Essential New Dirt Boxes: From Fuzz and Distortion to Boost and Overdrive

December 2, 2015

  • It’s insane how many of these wonder boxes are released each year. We can’t keep up! We’re more than happy to go where no other guitar or gear magazine is crazy enough to tread by doing these massive pedal roundups annually—because, hey, our readers are the winners, right? But the frustrating part is that there are so many pedals we weren’t able to include here due to manufacturers’ release dates not making our deadline, our needing to limit research and acquisition time in order to make our print date, or pure exhaustion on the part of the reviewers. Don’t worry, though, we’ll catch up with the pedals that didn’t make these pages with gear reviews throughout the rest of the year. Got any suggestions? Email them to me at mmolenda@musicplayer.com, with the subject line, “Pedals.”

    Obviously, the staff needs a lot of help to make these annuals happen, and, for 2015, we enlisted the following additional contributors: Michael Ross, Jude Gold, Jimmy Leslie, Dave Hunter, Paul “TFO” Allen, Sam Haun, Joyce Kuo, Bryan Turner, and Robert Alan Witmeyer. Thanks to all.

    The pedals were tested with myriad guitars and amps, as all the players brought their own gear to the pedal party. Suffice to say, all manner of humbucker and single-coil guitars and tube combos and half-stacks were in the mix. (The GP office “benchmark amp” was a Mesa/Boogie Mini Mark Five:25 head and a Boogie 1x12 cabinet.) All the prices listed are street prices, unless otherwise noted.


    Abominable Electronics Hellmouth
    $125
    An impressive take on the Tube Screamer, this devilish monster features a switch that toggles between the TS9 and 808 versions of that classic distortion, and adds another switch for increased gain. There are a variety of mid-rich tones here that don’t deprive you of precious low end. With my amp cranked, I was able to get plenty of growl and bite, while the LED eyes of the beast lit up at every strike of my pick, growing brighter with added aggression. The fun factor with this pedal is that it makes you want to explore your dynamic range with a creature who shares your enthusiasm. —Joyce Kuo
    AbominableElectronics.com



    Amptweaker FatMetal
    $199
    Designed to be a warmer-sounding version of the previous TightMetal pedal, the FatMetal delivers gobs of thick distortion (especially with the Black switch activated), and has a switchable noise gate, as well as a Thrash switch that re-voices the Mid control for heavier tones. The pedal’s thick, tactile distortion is a blast to play with, and, thanks to the massive sustain it delivers (even through my Fender Deluxe Reverb set clean), the FatMetal is a great choice for hard rock, metal, and other styles where ballsy, dynamic grind is the call. And with its bodacious output, the FatMetal is guaranteed to cut through—no matter how loud your band is pounding. Features include a bypassable noise gate, an FX loop that can bring in outboard effects when the pedal is on, and a SideTrak loop that activates other outboard effects when the pedal is switched off. For all it does, this over-achiever of a stompbox receives an Editors’ Pick Award. —Art Thompson
    Amptweaker.com



    Analog Man Sunbender MK1.5
    $265
    Based on the 1966 Sola Sound Tonebender MKI1.5 circuit, and featuring a pair of new-old-stock British-made Mullard germanium transistors, the Sunbender MK1.5 has been updated for more volume and also gets a variable Bias control. Powered by battery only, the MK1.5 delivers an impressive range of fuzz textures. With Bias turned up, I could get excellent dirty-clean tones at very low settings of the Fuzz control, while turning the Fuzz up to halfway and beyond unleashed progressively more sustain for heavier rhythms and solos. Lower Bias settings make the Fuzz softer and more classic sounding (though not as loud). The MK1.5’s dynamic response allowed me to leave it on and morph between crunch and lead tones by altering my picking attack and/or guitar volume, and the muscular output—especially with Bias up—ensured a strong signal was always hitting the front of my amp. Well done! analogman.com —Art Thompson
    Buyanalogman.com



    Bigfoot Engineering King Fuzz
    $263
    Rhys Stubbs formed Bigfoot in 2009, after working as an audio designer for Britain’s Vortexion—a studio-gear maker favored by the late sonic iconoclast Joe Meek. Some of the Meek mystique must have rubbed off, because these vibey, English-made pedals—all with buffered bypass (to best accommodate different pickup varieties and retain high-frequency content when inactive)—are ferociously unafraid of making one hell of a magnificent racket. The King Fuzz is a good soldier for the cause, because it serves up a roaring, sustaining blast of buzz when the Gain is cranked up. However, the King’s dynamic sensitivity to pick attack, guitar volume, and its own knob settings makes it capable of so much more than just inspired rage. This rowdy royal can also deliver demented grit, smooth distortion, fractured fizz, AC30-esque chime, and a lot of timbres in between. One box. Two knobs. Super versatile. Wow. —Michael Molenda
    BigfootEngineering.com



    Big Joe Empire
    $249
    A comprehensive distortion box that Big Joe developed with Nashville guitarist Paul “TFO” Allen, the Empire has two preamp sections that can be combined via footswitch for near unlimited gain, boost, and EQ options. There’s a ton to take in here, but, for this review, I set it up for two flavors of distortion by configuring Preamp A with Drive set around three o’ clock, Output at two o’ clock, and the Body, Attack, and Presence knobs up a little more than halfway. I also had Preamp A’s Firm/Sponge switch on “Firm” for a slightly tighter response through my Fender Deluxe Reverb. This gave me a good OD range—from dirty clean to stoutly grinding—with my G&L ASAT Classic equipped with a Duncan Pearly Gates Esquire pickup in the bridge. Then, to activate a more nuclear OD tone via the “B” footswitch, I set Preamp B’s Gain at two o’clock, Output at 11 o’ clock, Tone at one o’ clock, and its Firm/Sponge switch to “Sponge.” With Preamp A driving into B (you can reverse the order if desired), the distortion instantly became louder, gutsier, and more sustaining. Using the Empire’s two channels is almost like switching between lower- and higher-gain amplifiers, as the pedal is touch-responsive and tube-like. Obviously, there are myriad ways to configure the Empire to suit your needs, and this advanced distorter also includes a Buffer/True Bypass switch and a global Level control. —Art Thompson
    BigJoeStompboxCompany.com



    Carl Martin Dual Injection
    $139
    Designed to give players the option of putting a clean boost just about anywhere in the signal path, the Dual Injection has footswitchable Boost 1 and Boost 2 circuits (each with its own Level control), as well as a switch that puts the boosts in series or parallel. In Serial mode, you can use Boost 1 in a conventional manner to increase the signal level (up to 12dB) in order to drive an amp or OD pedal harder, switch to Boost 2 for a different gain level, and get a third gain option by using both boost channels together. Another scenario would be to run the Dual Injection in Parallel, and use Boost 1 to hit the front end of an amp or pedal, and Boost 2 (which has a separate input and output) to restore level at the end of chain of pedals. As the Dual Injection is true-bypass, you’d likely keep Boost 2 on full-time to maintain a buffered output. Placed in an amp’s effects loop, Boost 2 could also be used to push the output tubes harder, or give some lift to a level-challenged modulation or delay effect. Lots of possibilities here thanks to the Dual Injection’s connectivity options and series or parallel operation. —Art Thompson
    CarlMartin.com



    Catalinbread Galileo
    $159
    I have been an obsessive fan of Brian May ever since I heard my first Queen record, so you can imagine my delight when I was introduced to the Galileo pedal, which claims to offer “Queen in a Box.” Galileo combines a Rangemaster-style treble booster with Vox AC30-style preamp circuitry, and the result is a majestic array of May-approved overdrive effects, as well as providing chime and sparkle when I turn my guitar volume down for a cleaner sound. It also does a fantastic job of honoring May’s distinctively dynamic playing style, as it is wonderfully responsive to pick attack. I use Galileo with an AC30, my own Red Special guitar, and a sixpence as a pick (like May), and I can create luxurious harmonics with a lively top end. Everything this pedal does is reminiscent of the grandeur that keeps Queen’s legendary sound timeless. Magnifico! —Joyce Kuo
    Catalinbread.com



    Crazy Tube Circuits Vyagra
    $195 
    Even young guitarists need a little performance enhancement every now and then, and the Vyagra comes to the rescue in a number of ways. The right channel offers plenty of transparent clean boost, and the left channel provides multiple methods of modifying the tone. With the Sensitivity off, I was able to dial in everything from cocked wah to scooped-metal tones. Dialing the Sensitivity up turned Vyagra into one of the best-sounding envelope filters I have played, while plugging in an expression pedal gave me an extremely adjustable wah. I could add extra boost to any of these left-channel sounds by adding the right channel, or, with an interior adjustment, make the right footswitch a master that engages both boost and filtering sides simultaneously. Vyagra offers three versatile signal modifiers in a small package for the price of one pedal. —Michael Ross
    CrazyTubeCircuits.com



    Daredevil Knuckle Duster
    $150
    The Knuckleduster yields gobs of clean boost, ripping overdrive, and killer distortion. And, let’s face it, that much tonal variety is just plain fun to play with. In tamer settings, with the Pre control set left of 12 o’clock, it subtly enhances your tone, making everything you play sound a little bit better. Twist the Pre control a little more towards the 3 o’clock to 5 o’clock positions, and things start to get wilder. As the ’duster heats up, a hint of natural compression is added to the mix, which evens out your pick attack without tanking low-end girth—essentially flattering any player who uses it. —Sam Haun
    DaredevilPedals.com



    Diamond Nine Zero Two
    $TBD
    If you’re into mysteries about unique pedal names, here’s a spoiler alert about the Nine Zero Two—it’s the area code for Diamond in Nova Scotia. However, there’s not even a hint of mystery about the organic, natural, and dynamic amp overdrive tones produced by this pedal. You get a fat roar that can get even chunkier when you knock back the Tone knob, and guitar-volume and pick-attack changes are tracked with excellent sensitivity. This is a fabulous three-knob rock box. —Michael Molenda
    DiamondPedals.com




  • Earthquaker Fuzz Master General
    $175
    Earthquaker has developed its own take on the circa-1968 Ace Tone Fuzz Master FM-2 Professional Fuzz Machine. This is an octave fuzz with spitting grit and some serious octave effects. Level and Fuzz knobs act as expected, while Tone emulates the original by cutting lows as it’s turned up. The Tone control interacted in interesting ways with the octave to create everything from smooth flute-like sounds to more reedy, oboe-style tonalities. The 3-position mini-toggle offered still more variation, with wooly germanium on the left, and sagging but focused silicon on the right. The much louder, no-diode clipping setting in the middle was perfect for adding a pristine octave to an overdriven amp. With all the eccentric fuzz fun of the Ace Tone and none of the vintage headaches, the Fuzz Master General provides aggressive, but musical overtones, as well as bite that will cut through the densest rhythm guitars or keyboards. —Michael Ross
    EarthquakerDevices.com



    Fulltone Full-Drive 3
    $144
    In this latest evolution of the Full-Drive series, the FD3 gets a separate Boost channel that can be used on its own or along with the overdrive side. The FD3 also has a switch that positions the Boost before or after the OD side, allowing for more distortion (boost into OD) or more output (OD into boost). The Boost channel’s Dynamics control brings online a germanium-diode limiter that works like a compressor to smooth the feel, enhance sustain, and reduce transient spikes that can cause harshness. Expanding the overdrive options, the FD3 has a 3-position switch that toggles between ’90s (classic FD2 symmetrical clipping), Wide ASYM (wide asymmetrical clipping), and Comp-Cut (an aggressive boost mode that uses op-amp overdrive with no diode clipping). The FD3 is easy to configure for a wide range of tones. The thick, mids-forward response of ’90s mode make single-coils sound buttery smooth, and the Boost-into-OD configuration gives tremendous sustain when activated. Wide ASYM mode works great with humbuckers as it brings on more lows and highs, and has a very amp-like distortion and dynamic feel. For cleaner playing, using the Boost by itself with the Dynamics knob around 2 o’clock sounds excellent, yielding a sweet, mildly sustaining tone with enhanced touch responsiveness. So many ways to roll with this great-sounding pedal, and it’s 15-percent smaller than the FD2 to boot! —Art Thompson
    Fulltone.com



    Greenchild Tribus Drive
    $279 direct
    The versatile Tribus Drive offered me the opportunity to leave my pedalboard home for a weekly jam session, and just bring this well-built combo of a MOSFET distortion, an overdrive, and a clean boost. Super-bright LEDs tell you which effect is active—red for distortion, green for overdrive, and blue for boost. The illumination is great when playing on sun-drenched outdoor stages, but may be blinding in a dark club or rehearsal space. The footswitches are completely silent, so a “color check” may be necessary to confirm your choice was kicked on. The overdrive section yields crunchy grind with lots of available bite. The MOSFET distortion is rough and gritty, with sweet harmonic content and a thick tone. I don’t think the boost has met a band mix it couldn’t cut through—my solos jumped right out of my amp. Very cool. It’s easy to get great sounds out of the Tribus Drive, but, unfortunately, you can’t use any of the effects simultaneously, and I couldn’t help wishing I could have boosted that sweet MOSFET distortion for a few of my solos. —Sam Haun
    Greenchild.us



    Greer Amps Southland Harmonic Overdrive
    $190
    The Southland excels at rich, full tone, and it adds a pleasing thickness to your overall sound. This little magic box is a “set-it-and-forget-it” kind of pedal. It literally sounded good in every setting I tried, and the Volume, Drive, and Range controls complemented each other very well. Just for kicks, I plugged it into one of my 5-watt amps and—Pow!—that simple, single-control amp was breathing fire. With the Drive control dimed, the Southland really helps notes sustain while still maintaining my guitar’s natural timbre—a nice trick. My only complaint with the pedal is that my face was sore because of all the smiling I did while testing it. —Sam Haun
    GreerAmps.com



    J. Rockett Audio Designs Animal
    $199
    This “plexi in a pedal” isn’t the first down the pike, but, to my ears, it’s among the most successful. Tube-amp-like transparency is the key here—through which the character and dynamics of your guitar always shine—albeit with lashings of juicy, toothsome, EL34-style overdrive. The Animal gave me everything from thick yet springy SRV-esque goodness to grinding ZZ Top to singing Kossoff tones, with a broad palette of shades in between. With the Snarl switch engaged, it also delivered a classic-to-contemporary modded-plexi lead tone that sang and sustained. Also impressive was the pedal’s openness. It eschews the hyped compression that many drive pedals deliver, giving just enough to yield that accurate cranked-plexi pick attack. I found it necessary to back off the Tone as I advanced Gain to ease the high-end aggression, but this Animal is entirely worthy of domestication. —Dave Hunter
    RockettPedals.com



    Jacques Electric Sheep Discrete Overdrive
    $325
    Every once in a while, an overdrive pedal comes along that’s similar, yet unlike anything one has tested before. The Electric Sheep is that kind of pedal. Featuring all discrete circuitry—no op-amps were used in the design—it yields a very sweet overdrive that’s so reminiscent of a good tube amp that I was hard pressed to detect any significant difference. Imagine a stunningly versatile pedal, with dynamic musicality in all settings, and just a whiff of compression when pushed hard. How the Electric Sheep managed to sound so open and full of harmonic depth, yet was still capable of evening out picking inconsistencies is almost beyond comprehension. And it accomplished all this cool stuff while maintaining whisper-quiet operation—even with the Gain dimed. I was also blown away by the taper of the controls, which is so smooth there are no discernible jumps in volume, tone, or gain when manipulated—just a perfectly even increase or decrease. A 70/80 control changes the gain structure from a softer, almost glassy overdrive to an edgier, grittier distortion, and an HB/SC control optimizes the pedal for use with humbuckers or single-coils. It’s expensive, yes, but if any pedal in this roundup deserves an Editors’ Pick Award, it’s the Electric Sheep. —Sam Haun
    JacquesPedals.com



    JHS Pedals Twin Twelve Channel Drive
    $199
    Thanks to its popularity with pickers like Beck, Jack White, and others, a 1963 Silvertone 1484 amp head now sees eBay bidding begin at $400. Fortunately, JHS has captured the striking character of this rediscovered classic in the Twin Twelve. Even with the Drive down, it transformed the neutral cleans of a boutique Little Walter to the grind of a catalog-ordered beginner’s amp—in the best way. Cranking the Bass knob creates the tuba-like lows of a Howllin’ Wolf single, and rolling the Bass back and turning up the Treble increases articulation for more complex riffing. And, unlike the Silvertone, I could turn down the pedal’s Volume knob and maintain my chosen grit at any level. If you want the vintage tone and dynamics of a 1484, but don’t want the expense, upkeep, and weight of an additional amp, the Twin Twelve is a must have. —Michael Ross
    JHSPedals.com



    Keeley Katana Blues Drive
    $199
    The Katana Blues Drive is designed to sound like a Fender Super breaking up, which is nice, but it does even more. The active tone controls subtly sweep bass and treble exactly where they should, resulting in a transparency that lets the character of both amp and guitar shine through, and a dynamic response to both fingers and guitar-volume manipulations that recalls a fine boutique amp. Robert Keeley has long been the go-to guy for players who want the sound and performance of their overdrive pedals improved, so it is little wonder that he has come up with a unique circuit that doesnt sound like a pedal, but a good amp. —Michael Ross
    RobertKeeley.com



    Koch Superlead
    $349
    This tank of a pedal packs a ton of features, tones, and routing options that could make it the hub of your gigging and recording world. With a single 12AX7 tube, the Superlead gives you a pristine Clean channel, an Overdrive channel that goes from mild to super distorted, and a Gain Boost that pours on even more grind and level. The ¼” out has a level switch so you can run it into a power amp, an effects return, or an amp’s front end. The XLR out has beautiful speaker emulation, so you can record direct or send it to the P.A. and rehearse or perform with no amp at all. It comes with pre and post effects loops, and you can even power your stompboxes from it. Wow! —Matt Blackett
    Koch-Amps.com



    One Control Anodized Brown Distortion
    $130
    Designed by Swedish pedalmaker Bjorn Juhl Forstarker of BJF Electronics, and manufactured by Japan’s One Control (most known for its switching devices), these mini pedals are
    sleek, shiny, lightweight, colorful, good sounding, true bypass, and powerable by a 9-volt battery (quite a feat given the small space) or a power adaptor. The Brown delivers a strong, focused distortion that’s “brown,” but never gooey, fuzzy, or overbearing. Even with the Gain knob all the way up, notes sizzle with articulation and precision. The tone cleans up nicely, too—just like a tube amp. In fact, at an Allman Brothers tribute gig, the Brown brilliantly captured Warren Haynes’ massive lead tone on “Soulshine.” —Jimmy Leslie
    One-Control.com




  • McCaffrey Audio Reactor Boost Compressor
    $169 direct
    Ryan McCaffrey says right on his site that he has never been a big compressor guy. Neither have I, for some of the same reasons he cites: I feel they rob level and squish things too much. The Reactor does neither of those things. It packs an incredible amount of boost with the Level Knob, adds sweet sustain with the Fusion knob, and allows you to tailor the low-end response with the 3-way Critical Mass mini-toggle. It never squashed my tone, and it could be a great-sounding and effective way to boost a solo, drive an amp’s front end, or provide tone enhancement. If you want what a Dyna Comp does, this pedal isn’t for you. If you think you don’t like compressors, you need to try this thing! —Matt Blackett
    McCaffreyAudio.com



    Outlaw Effects Five O’Clock Fuzz
    $49
    Another good deal from Outlaw, the Five O’Clock Fuzz is adept at producing some vibey and flashy 1969 Led Zeppelin tones. It delivers an articulate, vocal-like distortion with a sprinkling of compression and good sustain that can be made a bit ratty (if you so desire) by cranking the Tone knob. The blistering and the bizarre isn’t spoken here, but this is a fine fuzz for those seeking the sound of ’70s-style blues-rock rave-ups.  —Michael Molenda
    OutlawGuitarEffects.com



    Plush Jersey Lightning
    $199
    The Jersey Lightning is a triple-threat treble booster with three high-frequency options. It’s based on the classic Rangemaster, so it has a nice, vintage-style punch no matter which treble boost you select. There’s enough gain to slam your amp’s front end, of course, but it can also provide more subtle enhancement—which was my favorite application. I dialed in enough flavor to add some AC30-style chime to my Marshall, and all kinds of twang and sparkle with clean and slightly overdriven amp sounds. For more raging tones, this lightning can strike to ensure your parts are audible over even the densest band mixes. The Jersey Lightning is a simple, yet extremely versatile pedal that provides a surprising amount of tonal options.  —Bryan Turner
    FuchsAudioTechnology.com



    Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive
    $140
    This beautiful seafoam-green box’s name is a clever take on the vaunted 808 Tube Screamer (805 is the area code for Santa Barbara, where Seymour Duncan is located). Sonically, it is unabashedly in the TS camp, but with some useful and musical additions. The quality of the overdrive is superb, with great detail, smooth distortion, and gorgeous transparency. It’s never gritty or harsh, and it can produce great clean tones at low Gain settings, and Carlos-style singing sustain when cranked. The most obvious improvement over many drive boxes is the 805’s 3-band EQ. Some players love the low-end rolloff and midrange hump that accompanies their favorite OD, but many don’t. Well, the 805’s beautifully voiced EQ (with excellent center frequencies) will please both camps. I got my favorite tones with the Bass knob at 3 o’clock and the Mid and Treble knobs right around high noon. Whether in front of a clean amp or a dirty one, this is a home run of an OD pedal. —Matt Blackett
    SeymourDuncan.com



    Tech 21 OMG Richie Kotzen
    $189
    Developing this pedal with Kotzen took some time according to Tech 21, but given the OMG’s tonal performance and excellent touch sensitivity, the R&D was well spent. Replicating the distortion tone and dynamic response of an overdriven tube amp isn’t exactly black magic nowadays, but the OMG brings a cool twist to the recipe in the form of a Girth knob, which Tech 21 describes as a “specialized wide-band midrange control that’s designed to enhance the ‘bulk’ of the guitar sound.” Configured post-effect, Girth sounds like it also increases drive when turned up, though the company states it doesn’t actually do that. At any rate, it’s very effective for giving Marshall-like mass to the distortion, and it made it so easy to dial in a killer single-coil bridge-pickup tone. The Drive knob itself has a ton of range, and will deliver sustain for days at high settings. Still, there’s always good touch responsiveness when you lighten up on the pick, or roll down the guitar volume. The massive output potential of the Level control also makes the OMG very suitable as a booster when using a lower Drive setting. The OMG also has a separately footswitchable Boost control that lets you kick in any amount of volume increase needed to get notes feeding back, or to make a solo jump out of the mix. Bottom line: Great tones and flexible EQ make the OMG a pedal to audition if you’re searching for a new OD box. —Art Thompson 
    Tech21NYC.com



    Tone Bakery Creme Double
    $199
    File this one under “Simple idea, elegantly rendered.” The Creme Double is basically two Tone Bakery Creme Brulee boost circuits in one pedal. What makes the concoction work really well is that the original Creme Brulee was one kick-ass boost, and having two is, well, heavenly. With Gain, Treble, and Level controls for each of the A and B sections, I could craft a ballsy clean boost on one channel, and a raging overdrive with bitchin’ sustain on the other. Or, I could dial in two raucous drive signals and combine them for a stacked sound that could announce the zombie apocalypse. On a lighter note, I could use section A as a nice little clean boost, and if the band starts cranking up the volume onstage, I could launch my “secret weapon”—another clean boost on section B—to lift my guitar well over the cacophony. So many options... —Michael Molenda
    Tonebakery.com



    T-Rex Diva Drive
    $199
    This medium-gain overdriver has a tube-like sound and dynamic response, and it benefits from a Mix control that blends in a clean signal to add punch and clarity to the distortion. Through a Fender Deluxe Reverb and a Mesa/Boogie Mark Five: 25’s clean channel, the Diva Drive with its JRC4558 IC chip excelled for dirty clean playing and medium-gain solos. It’s also the kind of pedal you can leave on and simply nudge toward more or less grind by adjusting your picking attack and/or the guitar’s volume knob. One of the handy features of this pedal is a 3-way Low Range voicing switch that’s useful for fattening up bridge-position single-coils or enhancing the bottom-end response in ways not possible with, say, a Tube Screamer. —Art Thompson
    T-Rex-Effects.com



    Visual Sound Route 66 V3 Series
    $179
    More than a repackaging of the V2, the third version of this compressor/overdrive combo offers an overdrive side now based on the Reverend/GarageTone Drivetrain pedal, with added Clean Mix and Voice controls. I’m a fan of the touch-sensitive, amp-like sound of the Drivetrain, and the choice of a tighter or softer voice here raises the tone to another level. With Tone switched off, the Compression side sounds transparent, but the Tone control proved handy for thinning-out funk rhythms, or damping highs when pushing the drive side. Clean Mix knobs on both sides lets me retain attack, or, set to full dry, use either side as a clean boost. With separate inputs and outputs for each effect, the V3 can serve as two independent pedals in a loop device or MIDI switcher. Using a patch cord, I could reverse the order of effects, letting me temper the peaks of the overdrive with the compressor. If you use compression and overdrive, you can save a bunch of board space and cash by employing this terrific-sounding pedal. [Editor’s note: Visual Sound has now changed its name to Truetone. We used the “old” name here to avoid initial confusion.] —Michael Ross
    Truetone.com



    Wampler Clarksdale Delta OverDrive
    $199
    Some overdrive/distortion pedals sound and feel like pedals, and some sound and feel like amps. I’ve always felt that Wampler was really good at the latter, and the Clarksdale is no exception. It’s another entry in the “Tube Screamer on steroids” sweepstakes, and it excels at slightly dirty tones that sound clean on arpeggios and chunky on power chords. Inching the Gain knob up brings on a sweet, singing saturation—super dynamic and inspiringly tactile. The EQ is nicely voiced and the Smooth/Lift switch gives you even more tonal options, but I liked to leave it in the ballsier Lift position. The Clarksdale sounds great in front of a squeaky clean amp, and it sent a crunchy Boogie channel into endless sustain. It also paired well with other dirt boxes—both in front and behind—for some EBow-like feedback. —Matt Blackett
    WamplerPedals.com



    Z.Vex Double Rock!
    $369
    Created for J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., the Double Rock! comprises of two Z.Vex Box of Rock distortion circuits paired with two Z.Vex Super Hard On Booster circuits, and the combination delivers an absurd amount of tonal options. You can start by using the Subs switch to select a transparent overdrive (setting #1), Cobain-approved grunge (#2), or beefy crunch (#3). Then, set one side of the pedal for light overdrive, and the other for butt-rock crunch. Feeling crazy? Kick in both distortions at once for spongy compression and tons of sustain (as well as added noise). And this is just one example of the infinite power this dual bad boy can throw down. —Alan Whitmeyer
     
     
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