The Top 10 Blues-Approved Overdrive/Distortion Pedals
The origin of guitar distortion goes back to the earliest electrified blues guitarists.
They didn’t care that their primitive tube amps were breaking up and distorting, as long as they were loud. Soon, blues guitarists grew quite fond of those nasty, gnarly distorted tones, and they sought to replicate them by any means necessary.
Enter the overdrive pedal. Designed to push an amp to the brink, the overdrive pedal allows players to summon singing sustain, compelling crunch, and glorious grit at any volume level, giving guitarists the bite and balls they need for genuine blues-approved tone.
While a handful of purists prefer to plug a guitar straight into an amp, most blues guitarists these days have a handful of overdrive, distortion and even fuzz boxes in their rigs.
Thanks to the proliferation of boutique pedal builders over the past 20 years, there are easily more than a thousand distortion devices available to help guitarists find their signature blues sound.
The following pedals are the top 10 classics and modern marvels that get our mojo working when we spank that plank and crank up the volume.
10. Way Huge Pork Loin
By blending modern soft-clipping BiFET overdrive and classic clean “British” preamp tone pathways, the Pork Loin allows players to dial in raw, raunchy tones that never lose bottom-end clarity or definition. The Pork Loin plays a massive role in Joe Bonamassa’s bigger-than-life modern blues sound.
9. Klon Centaur
The Klon Centaur’s legendary clean boost transforms a guitar’s natural tone the same way a livestock farmer turns a piglet into a prize-winning porker—by making it bigger, fatter, juicier, meatier and more muscular.
Centaur designer Bill Finnegan discontinued production several years ago, driving prices for used Klons well above $1,000, but he’s trying to bring a similar pedal to the market again with the same hand-selected parts, attention to detail and signature sound that the numerous “klones” have failed to match.
8. PaulC Audio Tim
Thanks to its impressive tonal range and expressive touch sensitivity, the Tim is a favorite of tube amp aficionados who don’t want to sacrifice the dynamic response of their favorite amps but need more gain and tonal-shaping capabilities. With the EQ controls set at 12 o’clock, it provides some of the most transparent clean boost and overdrive tones available.
7. Fulltone Full-Drive 2
Fulltone makes an impressive variety of incredible overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals, including the OCD, PlimSoul and Fat-Boost FB-3, but when it comes to the blues, most guitarists choose the Fulltone Full-Drive 2.
With separate overdrive and boost footswitches and mini toggle switches for selecting clean boost, midrange emphasis, MOSFET clipping and more, the Full-Drive 2 is a versatile overdrive pedal that makes it easy to dial in your own signature blues tones.