Review: Maxon OD808X Overdrive Extreme Pedal — Video


Way back in 1979, Maxon developed the first 808 overdrive pedal (which was marketed in the United States as the Ibanez Tube Screamer).

Over the past 20 years, the 808 has become one of the most widely coveted, copied and modified pedal circuits of all time. As great as the original 808 pedal is, there are many who feel that it could be improved, especially players with more modern tastes in tone.

Who better to improve the 808 than the folks at Maxon themselves? The new Maxon OD808X is faithful in spirit to the original green overdrive, but it offers increased output, wider frequency response and much more aggressive gain characteristics to satisfy the needs of today’s players.

FEATURES Maxon’s choice of a bright fire-engine-red paint job immediately informs players that this is no classic throwback overdrive pedal. The OD808X offers the same three-knob control configuration as the original 808 (here they’re called drive, tone and level), but the performance is notably different. Like the earliest 808s, it also has standard clicking footswitch and is housed in a small “Bud”-style box (the same size as an MXR Phase 90). A red LED illuminates when the effect is engaged, and the pedal can be powered by a nine-volt battery or with a nine-volt adapter. The bypass-switching features a low-impedance buffered circuit that maintains signal strength when using long cables.

PERFORMANCE With an additional 5dB of output, the OD808X ventures beyond classic overdrive territory and into full-on high-gain distortion. However, the pedal still is dynamic and responsive, just like the original 808, and the signal cleans up when you turn down the guitar’s volume knob. The additional output is notable, but most guitarists will notice (and love) the pedal’s wider frequency range. While the classic 808 boosted midrange, the OD808X delivers much crisper treble and tight, full bass. You can still dial in a midrange boost with the tone control, but doing so on this version preserves a wider frequency range that’s more appropriate for modern guitar tones and maintains individual note definition much better.

To my ears, the OD808X provides a much more natural overall sound than the original. Whereas the old 808 often imposed its own personality on a guitar’s tone (and, admittedly, it’s quite a nice personality), the OD808X provides a better complement to the inherent and unique personality of your guitar and amp rig.


The Drive control provides an additional 5dB of gain compared to the classic 808 circuit, providing more aggressive distortion tones.

The tone control dials in tones ranging from huge-but-tight bass to crisp but-not-shrill treble with outstanding definition and clarity.

THE BOTTOM LINE Maxon has finally delivered an 808 pedal that satisfies the needs of modern players who demand higher output gain and wider frequency response.

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Chris Gill, Video by Paul Riario

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.