The Top 10 Blues-Approved Overdrive/Distortion Pedals
6. Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer
Thanks to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s use of an Ibanez Tube Screamer (he replaced the TS-808 with a TS-9 and TS-10 later in his career), this pedal has gone on to become the best-selling and most copied overdrive pedal of all time.
The Tube Screamer’s output boost and signature midrange hump, along with a characteristic warmth that the TS-808’s successors lack, make it ideal for playing fat, aggressive solos that destroy everything else in its path.
5. Electro-Harmonix Big Muff π
Most staunch traditionalists think that the raunchy fuzz tones of a Big Muff π are a little too furry and furious for the blues, but that hasn’t stopped a new generation of blues-inspired players from using one. The Big Muff is a key element of 21st century blues as envisioned by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and Jack White of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather.
4. Dallas-Arbiter Rangemaster Treble Booster
Eric Clapton’s alleged use of a Dallas-Arbiter Rangemaster Treble Booster on John Mayall’s legendary Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton album remains the source of much controversy, but the Rangemaster was also a key element of Rory Gallagher’s late-Sixties rig that similarly redefined blues guitar tone during the British blues revival, thanks to its marvelous midrange and gritty germanium transistor grind.
Numerous clones are available today, including the Analog Man Beano Boost and Keeley Java Boost.
3. Boss BD-2 Blues Driver
Not since the late Seventies, when the Ibanez Tube Screamer and Boss OD-1 made their debut, has a mass-produced overdrive pedal won over the great unwashed and cork-sniffing tone snobs alike. The BD-2 delivers a wide variety of overdrive tones, from creamy to crunchy, with personality that ranges from retro smooth to modern blues-rock raunch.
2. Blackstone Appliances MOSFET Overdrive
This pedal’s nameplate and crinkle finish may have the retro-cool vibe of a Thirties toaster, but underneath the hood lies a modern circuit that uses small-signal MOSFETs and an unconventional input stage to cook up distortion and overdrive with rich harmonic overtones that will melt your face off like a million-watt microwave.
“It’s heavy stuff, not the sound of a popcorn machine,” says Billy Gibbons, who used the Blackstone in tasteful excess on several new ZZ Top tunes.
Blackstone photo by William Baeck, williambaeck.com
1. Analog Man King of Tone
With a two-year waiting list, the Analog Man King of Tone is one of the most sought-after overdrive pedals, and for a very good reason: it provides a clean boost that preserves a guitar’s tone, making it sound bigger, badder and more bodacious, with just the right amount of natural-sounding distortion.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Gary Clark Jr. and Buddy Miller are just a handful of the pros who have discovered that the King of Tone truly rules.