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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

On Using an Overdrive to Boost Your Amp

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There are two basic flavors of overdrive commonly used to boost the front of a tube amp: your basic Tubescreamer, and your SD-1 (asymmetrical variant). The TS tends to smoothen your gain out, while the SD-1 tends to give your gain more grit. That's the basic gist of the difference.

On the TS side, you have your Maxon and Ibanez Tubescreamers, which are the originals. But nowadays there are other derivatives that do the job a lot better, IMO.

MXR GT-OD - most basic; 3 knobs like a regular TS.
Digitech Bad Monkey - basic, but has a knob to control bass frequency, which puts it way above a normal TS.
Hardwire CM-2 - Basically a higher quality Bad Monkey. Feels better, sturdier, sounds richer/more harmonic. Nice pedal.
Way Huge Green Rhino - lots of tone shaping options, this is a very popular pedal, lots of options to dial in exactly what you need.

On the SD-1 side, there's:
MXR M77 - Basically just a higher quality SD-1 with more tone shaping controls. They sound very very similar when used as a boost. I own both and did A/B comparisons to choose which to use. The MXR won the spot on my board.
Fulltone Fulldrive 2 MOSFET - Very nice pedal with some unusual tone shaping features, like changing the gain structure a little, etc.. Has a regular OD side, as well as a boost side. AFAIK there aren't any single pedals with just the OD side, but that side is your SD-1 variant. I haven't tried this one personally yet, so I cant' say much about it.

And that's just some mass produced stuff. When you enter the boutique range, there are tons and tons of pedals out there. Most of them sound great, you can wade through them for a while. And then after that, there's people here who can build you your very own TS to be exactly what you want. And it could be one of a kind. The TS is one of the most basic pedals out there, and there really are a lot of alternatives to Maxon and Ibanez.

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