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Boost and Overdrive

12 Degrees of Saturation - An Extreme Application

12 Degrees of SaturationBig Muff Style FuzzBlues Driver Style OverdriveBoost and OverdriveBrown Sound DistortionChase Bliss AudioDiezelDistortionDr ScientistDriveDual-DriveDumble Style OverdriveEmpress EffectsFoxpedalFriedman EffectsFulltone EffectsFuzzFuzz-Drive and FuzzstortionJHS PedalsKlone and Transparent OverdriveMarshall Style DistortionMetal DistortionMI EffectsMooerMulti-DriveOCD Style OverdriveOverdrivePedalboard and Pedal-ChainRat Style FuzzStrymonToneQuestTubescreamer Style OverdriveWamplerXotic Effects+-

Following on from my 12 Degrees of Saturation article a while back and the recent overview of 18 Overdrive, 18 Distortion and 18 Fuzz pedals, here follows the current active arrangement of my choice of those pedals within my pedal chain. As I’ve tried to state throughout my articles - there is no right formula here, I don’t expect people to agree with or approve of my particular choices - you might have quite a different preference for the ideal tone of a Klon, Screamer, Dumble etc. All this is really just to make you aware of all the different options you have. I certainly don’t expect you to have 16 different dirt pedals like I do, but there is a method to that madness. I have a very broad taste in music which needs a correspondingly broad pallet of tones to realise. Moreover I like the ability to be able to quickly stomp between different flavours and textures with minimal effort. At some stage I will likely narrow this down further and slot into a looper switcher for easier maintenance - although I also like the current ability to apply a variety of different boosts up- and downstream.


What the V, C, B etc. stand for:


V : Number of Voicings, MV : Multi-Voice >10
C : Number of Channels
B : Number of Boosts
: Roughly / Approximately Equal to
= : Exactly Equal to


Pedals are listed in order of distortion / saturation - with the lightest / mildest top left and the hardest and most extreme bottom right. For pricing details and further insights please refer to my earlier articles.

1 : ≈ Klon OD : Wampler Tumnus

A somewhat 'tuned' version of a Klon with slightly more body definition and added low-end - I just love its tone for my mildest overdrive - even with just one voice you get a number of tonal options with the interplay of Gain, Volume and Treble. This pedal also layers / stacks incredibly well and lends a really cool textured edge to any of the pedals downstream from it. I am seriously considering getting the Steve Stevens signature J Rocket Rockaway Archer also as a companion pedal to this - so I can alternate them every now and again for slightly different tones and textures. Both these pedals sound exceptional.

2 : ≈ Tube Screamer OD : Foxpedal The City

Currently the smartest regular-sized Tube Screamer clone with a whole raft of voicing options and including a separate Boost footswitch - comprised of Foxpedal's super-clean Ebenezer Boost. Lots of versatility in this pedal where either / both Channels can be used to boost pedals downstream - also stacks very well. I'm not considering adding any more Screamers any time soon as this is practically perfect as is. I also have the OneControl Persian Green which I alternate here occasionally as that has slightly more sparkly higher frequency definition.

3 : ≈ Dumble OD (SO) : Wampler Euphoria

This one bumped my Mad Professor Simble fairly recently - which I also love for this type of tone. The Euphoria has slightly better picking sensitivity, as well as a toggle to select 3 different voicings. The beauty of the Dumble style OD is in its smooth tonal curve with just the tiniest hint of fuzz. This is also a lesson in versatility versus core tone, as probably the best Dumble-esque tone I've produced so far was with the Simble. I don't doubt that I will eventually be able to dial in similar with the Euphoria, but sometimes having additional voicings can cause undue complexities and be a hindrance as much as an enabler.

4 : ≈ Blues Driver OD : Mooer Blues Mood

This is one of my cheapest pedals and is also probably my most used - as reported previously when you up the gain you get a little compression, and some may say this pedal has undue 'colouring' of your tone, while for me it sounds full-throated and glorious. It's based on the Keeley-modded Boss BD-2, and I love its compact form-factor. As an alternative for swapping out here on occasion I have considered the EQD Acapulco Gold, which I may investigate further in due course.

5 : = OCD OD : Fulltone OCD

It's kind of telling that this the original (well mine is a V1.7 actually), but I mean it's the the unadulterated core model versus a modded version or clone. Mine is permanently set to HP mode - which gives you a little more grunt. What I love about this one is that it's a very textured overdrive with some very special frequency handling in the higher frequencies - has a lovely organic kind of electric crackle to it. I have long intended to get the Fulltone Plimsoul as a companion to this - so I can swap out and alternate - the latter has a little more gain / distortion on tap, and not quite as full-bodied a tone - this will happen one of these months no doubt. As it is, the OCD is an absolute classic and has a very distinctive voice.

6 : ≈ Lightly Driven Marshall Distortion : Empress Multidrive

As reported previously, you have 3 separate voicings you can stack in parallel and then assign to 2 different channels but also with a tonne of filters and frequency adjustment options. I use the Fuzz voicing in a supporting role here - for added body and texture to the Overdrive and Distortion. The Distortion has a lovely kind of smoothed-out Marshall sound to it, with just a touch of fuzz audible. Sounds great for playing Yes's 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' - of course with a touch of flanger added too for good measure. I really love both the Empress drive workstations - you get amazing tones out of them and they're both fun and easy to dial in. I have no intention of swapping these out with anything, nor do I have anything currently in mind to alternate - of course time will tell.

7 : ≈ Lightly Driven Brown Sound Distortion : Strymon Riverside

This pedal has a number of uses actually - the right channel is another of my boosts - here really just to warm the tone up with a smidge of gain and a little extra EQ; the attached Strymon mini switch can then volume boost by a good 6dB or so in addition. While the left hand channel is set to a cranked mid-scooped Brown Sound. Not to high on the gain and not too raucous, but plenty authentic enough - with lovely even bass response. This is another pedal I'm not really considering alternating or swapping out, but conceivably I could slot in a Wampler Pinnacle Deluxe here - which would similarly give me the Brown Sound and a useful extra boost.

8 : ≈ Heavy Brown Sound Distortion : MI Audio Super Crunch Box V2

In lots of people's opinions this is the best 'Marshall in a Pedal' and in its latest incarnation the most versatile ever - you have twin 3-way mode toggles for different degrees of headroom, openness, saturation and compression. It sounds glorious and really full-throated - you can really get any kind of Marshall sound out of this. It bumped my Mad Professor 1 which is also pretty cool but does not sound quite as full -hroated as the Super Crunch, nor does it have all the different vocing options. Alternatives here would be the Wampler Pinnacle Deluxe (again) and the signature MXR EVH 5150 of course. I intend to get both of those eventually just to alternate / compare and contrast.

9 : = Multi-Fuzz : Chase Bliss Brothers

I actually acquired the Dual Drive Strymon Sunset before I got this one, they are really very similar in their make-up and have almost identical functionality overall, albeit arrived through slightly different arrangement. The Chase Bliss pedals as always are a miracle of electronic engineering - to squeeze so much into a regular-size enclosure. I use the two pedals for quite different things, and quite different to how I use the Fuzz voicing on the Multidrive. On the Brothers pedal Fuzz takes centre-stage - you get a lovely JFET vintage-voiced Fuzz on one side and a more modern IC-circuit Fuzz on the other. Here I use the Drive and Boost voicings as auxiliaries to tune and enhance the Fuzzes, while most of the time I just use it as a 2-voice Fuzz pedal - giving me 2 different Fuzz options. There's nothing really comparable to this, especially at this form factor, so this pedal is pretty safe in my chain for now.

10 : ≈ Multi-Muff Fuzz : JHS Muffuletta

I originally had the mini EWS Little Fuzzy Drive in this slot for my main Fuzz tone, but that was well before I acquired the 'Brothers'. This slot is now occupied by the 6-in-One 'Muff' pedal which is the JHS Muffuletta - cloning 5 of EHX's classic Muff voicings - Civil War, Russian, Pi, Triangle, Ram's Head, and adding a unique heavier JHS Muff voicing of their own. I tend to use Civil War, Triangle and JHS modes the most - a truly excellent pedal if you like that more drive / distortion side of Fuzz.

11: ≈ Pro Co Rat Fuzz-Distortion : Dr Scientist Frazz Dazzler

I really love the core Pro Co Rat Fuzz-Distortion kind of tone, and this pedal takes that soundstage to its furthest extreme. Sounds like you're caught up in a violent electrical storm - with lovely crackly and sputtery fuzz tuned up to the max. Great sounding pedal, but possibly an acquired taste for some. Has two channels really as the Gain addition on the left channel can alter the tone quite significantly.

12 : = Hard Rock Dual Drive Distortion : Strymon Sunset

Even though there is the ability to use the 2 channels of the Sunset separately and stack them, I tend to go mostly with the harder types of clipping here for a kind of core Hard Rock sound - kind of like Rabea's in the above video. This pedal is hugely versatile and you can dial in all kinds of different types of sounds here from very mild Overdrive even to a kind of flavour of Fuzz. I like this as my Hard Rock voicing though, and to get a suitably full-bodied and complex tone I need both channels in parallel / stacked routing.

13 : ≈ Mid Plexi Distortion : Xotic SL Drive (Alchemy Audio Mod)

It's already quite evident that I like Marshall-style tones, and this is the 4th voicing for my tonal pallet. The Alchemy Audio mod puts all the dip-switch voicing options as toggles onto the side of the pedal - so you can very quickly sculpt your core tone here - switching from 'Super Lead' to 'Super Bass' mode, and piling on the Mids and High Frequencies or cutting them. This gives me a slightly darker voicing of the Marshall Plexi sound which suits a number of tracks I play.

14 : ≈ Heavy Plexi Distortion : Friedman BE-OD

Strictly speaking this is not an exact match for a Marshall profile as I have the 'Tight' dial tuned up quite high - which removes quite a bit of the Marshall character, but gives you a much more percussive sound essential for the kind of Djent style of playing - or just more modern distortion. There are a few other Heavy pedals I have long had in my sights - the Dr Scientist Elements and Keeley Filaments - that I may well acquire as companion pedals here for rotation purposes, that's not say I don't love the Friedman - I really do, and it's a keeper regardless.

15 : = Heavy Metal Distortion : Empress Heavy

I forget if this is my most recent addition or the Super Crunch Box - both are fantastic additions to the chain though. The Empress Heavy is the perfect Heavy Metal tone - you can go super-saturated and fat, or more percussive and punchy with mid-frequency boost - i.e. vintage vs modern metal tones. Does not quite go as Heavy as you might like, but for its place in my chain - it is absolutely perfect. I briefly had the Wampler Dracarys in this slot - which I still like, but I kind of prefer the Empress Heavy for now - it has quite a bit more versatility and range than the Dracarys.

16: = Extreme Diezel Distortion : Diezel VH4-2

This is the only pedal I don't yet have as such - meaning I have the previous / current incarnation of this pedal which is just a single channel one - made to replicate the fantastic 'Channel 3' of Diezel's awesome VH4 Amp. The newer version (as pictured) should be hitting UK distribution in September and adds the 'Channel 4' too from that legendary amp for an even gainier output. This is the upper extreme of my distortion noise profile - the Diezel has an amazing 'Feedback' dial which feeds some of the signal back through the pedal for an incredible texture. I am also looking at the Rock Fabrik Mind Abuse which kind of goes one more extreme than this one - which should do fine as the upper echelon of my distortion range.


With all the different voicings and options provided by the above selection - you get a phenomenal smorgasbord of tone - which you can quickly and effortlessly switch between. Not to say that there aren't certain issues with having such an extended chain - where of course clean isolated power is essential as are the very best patch cables - for which I recommend the amazing EBS Premium Gold Flats. As with all elements of the ToneQuest this is just a snapshot of where I am at right now - undoubtedly there will be changes in the future, and it will be interesting to see what has changed in a year's time. For the first time though I feel I truly have all the flavours at my disposal that I really need. I guess the bigger task will be narrowing down some of these options to a more practical number. We'll see where that ends up too. I have long been waiting for a proper mostly analogue style Multi-Drive pedal with presets and obviously amazing Marshall-like tones - so I can slim down some of my options. All the Overdrives have such unique textures and frequency profiles that pedals like the Elektron Analog Drive - which does have presets and various clone modes, doesn't get you quite close enough. And pedals like the BYOC Crown Jewel - probably could get you close enough, but that one is fiddly and lacks presets. Perhaps it's an impossible task to expect someone to be able to achieve this - I had hoped the Elektron would be the magic bullet, but it did not get close enough for me to want to sacrifice any of my hard-gotten existing tone. As ever this is a question of suitability and practicalities. One thing is for sure is that we are living through the golden age of pedals, so chances are that someone may just crack it eventually - it's just a question of when, how much, and how large. I always felt that the Elektron Analog Drive was too large and kind of got in the way of my other pedals - so size and versatility will always remain a key concern for me. The Diezel VH4 is really right on the edge of being too large - it may be that I sacrifice that for the Mind Abuse eventually, but as with everything else we will just have to wait and see!

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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