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Understand Guitar Overdrive Pedals [Gain, Clipping, Headroom, EQ & All That]

Published 26 Jun 2020

Welcome to the show. So you’re confused about overdrive pedals? Yep, us too. It used to be that there was but a modest handful of predominantly yellow, green and black boxes from which to select your overdriver. It was easy, and pretty cheap. Now there are hundreds and hundreds of pedals at all prices, all claiming to be the ‘best’ version of this, that or the other. Where do you start?
Let’s break it down. Today we’re talking about the ‘normal’, ubiquitous overdrive pedal: those that use an opamp and clipping circuit in the style of Tube Screamers, Rats, Bluesbreakers, Boss ODs, Klons etc etc etc… Yes, there are other ways to do it, but this is by far the most prevalent.
We talk about gain, clipping types – hard and soft clipping, asymmetric/symmetric – EQ and headroom as the broad topics of discussion. Our hope is that if you can stay awake until the end of the video, you’ll have a better understanding of what’s going on and, crucially, be in a better place to choose an OD pedal that will work for you.

PLEASE NOTE: Our diagrams are merely simplistic representations to help the discussion. They are NOT any kind of circuit diagram.

Enjoy the episode.

Pedals & stuff in this episode…

• TheGigRig Three2One

• Sonic Research ST-200 Tuner (link for the ST 300 Mini)

• Klon Centaur Professional Overdrive
No longer available new

• Boss SD-1w Super Overdrive
UK & Europe:

• Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer (Keeley mod)
No longer available

• ProCo RAT 2 Classic Distortion
UK & Europe:

• Boss BD-2w Blues Driver
UK & Europe:

• Walrus Audio Ages
UK & Europe:

• Hamstead Odyssey Intergalactic Driver
UK & Europe:

• MI Effects Super Blues Pro

• Massive Secret BoostODFuzz
Prototype - not available

• Dunlop EP103 Echoplex
UK & Europe:

• MXR Ten Band EQ
UK & Europe:

• Boss EQ-200
UK & Europe:

• TheGigRig G2

* Why do we have preferred retailer links? Find out here:

Interesting bits and go-to sections…
- Intro playing: 00:00
- What are we doing today? 02:00
- Today’s amps: 03:40
- Boss SD-1w: 04:40
- Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer: 05:50
- Klon Centaur: 06:32
- ProCo Rat 2: 08:25
- Boss BD-2w: 09:40
- BD-2, Rat, TS808, SD1, Klon compared: 10:35
- What happens in a normal OD pedal?: 11:55
- What is gain?: 15:50
- How is overdrive created?: 19:15
- Hard and soft clipping: 21:45
- MI Effects Super Blues Pro: 23:40
- Symmetrical/asymmetrical clipping: 24:30
- Different types of clipping: 28:45
- Summary so far, on to EQ: 38:15
- 1KHz mid boost: 42:00
- The Tube Screamer mid hump: 48:25
- EQ – thump, nose, bite, air: 54:10
- Hamstead Odyssey and EQ placement: 55:00
- Walrus Ages: 1:04:12
- What is headroom: 1:12:45
- Slew rate and dynamics: 1:14:45
- Voltage & headroom: 1:20:30

Guitars in this episode:
• 1965 Fender Telecaster – no specific video yet
• Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster – Mick’s video at
• Gibson Memphis 1958 ES-335 - Mick’s video at

Amps in this episode
• Marshall 1987x with Zilla Custon 212 / Celestion Alnico Ruby speakers
UK & Europe:
USA That Pedal Shop:

• Vox AC15 C1 with Celestion Greenback speaker
UK & Europe:
USA That Pedal Shop:

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