Review: Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive Pedal — Video


The variety of overdrive and distortion pedals on the market these days is truly staggering.

The vast majority is basically good at one or two applications, such as clean boost, blues overdrive, hard rock rhythm crunch, or metal distortion, but pedals that can do all of this (and do it very well) are very rare indeed.

The Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive may be based upon the classic 808 Tube Screamer overdrive, but that’s really just a starting point as it does so much more.

Instead of building an imitation with perhaps a few circuit changes thrown in for good measure, the 805 Overdrive features an entirely different chip (an MC33178) and provides an expertly voiced three-band EQ section that delivers higher levels of saturated gain, lower noise and increased tonal versatility.

FEATURES On the surface, the Duncan 805 Overdrive seems pretty simple and straightforward. It has the usual Level and Drive controls along with three mini pots that individually adjust bass, midrange and treble frequencies at 90Hz (+/- 11dB), 750Hz (+/- 11dB) and 2.1kHz (+/- 12dB) respectively. In addition to the MC33178 chip, the 805’s circuit employs back-to-back stacked glass diodes to generate distortion and provide up to 36dB of gain.

Mono input and output jacks, and a jack for a 9- to 18-volt DC adapter, are located on the front surface instead of the sides. The pedal also includes an easy-access battery compartment on the bottom, a heavy-duty footswitch, bright green on/off LED and true bypass switching.

PERFORMANCE The range of tones and textures that the 805 produces is impressive, particularly for a pedal with such a straightforward, no-nonsense control layout. With the Drive control turned fully counterclockwise and the Level knob cranked up, it produces a dynamic clean boost that’s transparent with the EQ knobs set at 12 o’clock. With the Drive control set from 9 to 12 o’clock the pedal delivers classic overdrive, and beyond that it produces increasing amounts of distortion that go into full-on metal territory.

The EQ controls provide a similarly impressive range and are perfectly dialed in to ideal sweet spots for a variety of rhythm and lead guitar tones. Boosting the midrange produces a vocal-like honk, while cutting it accentuates the bass and treble frequencies without making the tone too thin. Thanks to the streamlined control layout, users can dial in any tone they want in seconds, eliminating the need for today’s usual cluttered array of overdrive and distortion pedals.

MANUFACTURER Seymour Duncan,

The three-band EQ is dialed in to optimum frequencies for shaping a wide variety of desirable lead and rhythm guitar tones.

The Drive control provides up to 36dB of gain to produce everything from transparent clean boost to highly saturated metal distortion.

THE BOTTOM LINE With its versatile three-band EQ section and impressive gain range, the Seymour Duncan 805 Overdrive can handle just about any overdrive or distortion application a guitarist needs.

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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.