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28 of the Best Compact Overdrive Pedals - 2020 Ultimate Selection

Analog.ManAnasoundsBlues Breaker Style OverdriveBlues Driver Style OverdriveBoostBoost and OverdriveBossCrowther AudioCustom TonesDemon PedalsDumble Style OverdriveFoxpedalFulltone EffectsGreer AmpsHamstead SoundworksJ RockettJackson AudioJHS PedalsJRADKlone and Transparent OverdriveMatthews EffectsMenatoneMythos PedalsOCD Style OverdriveOverdrivePaul CochraneSnouse Electric CompanyThorpyFXTimmyTrue North PedalsTsakalis Audio WorksTubescreamer Style OverdriveWampler+-
2020GPX28CompactOverdrives700.jpg

I periodically do these category round-ups, typically triggered by a pedal launch or two, as is the case in this instance. This is my own preferred Overdrive selection - intentionally as broad as possible - with actually 12 categories of overdrives, but could still be an even longer listing, and I’ve had to make some very difficult choices for the final selection even though it is relatively numerous at 28 strong. I would have liked to have included one from my so called ’Harmonic Overdrive’ category - which includes in my own collection the Bogner Wessex, Greer Amps Southland and Spaceman Aphelion.

 

So here are the 12 Overdrive Category Types covered:

  • Blues Breaker (5) : Analog.Man Prince of Tone, Jackson Audio Golden Boy, Snouse BlackBox Overdrive 2, Tsakalis Six, Wampler Pantheon
  • Blues Driver (1) : Boss BD-2 Blues Driver
  • Dumble (4) : Demon Pedals Kondo-Shifuku, J Rockett Melody, Menatone Dumbstruck, Wampler Euphoria
  • HotCake (1) : Crowther Audio HotCake V2
  • Klone (6) : Foxpedal Kingdom Combo V2, Greer Amps Lightspeed, J Rockett Rockaway Archer, Matthews Effects Architect V3, ThorpyFX Peacekeeper, Wampler Tumnus Deluxe
  • OCD (2) : Fulltone OCD V2, Hamstead Soundworks Odyssey
  • ODR-1 (1) : Mythos Pedals Erlking
  • Red Snapper (1) : Menatone Vertical Fish Factory (+Blue Collar)
  • Timmy (3)* : Paul Cochrane Timmy, Jackson Audio Broken Arrow*, Tsakalis Six
  • TrainWreck Express (1) : Custom Tones Ethos TWE-1
  • Tube Screamer (4) : Anasounds Cerberus, Foxpedal The City V2, Jackson Audio Broken Arrow, JHS Bonsai
  • Tweed (1) : True North Tweed Drive

Some obviously have more options and alternatives than others - and this is what I believe to be the best of the best in each of these particular categories - while there are several additional alternatives of course available too.

 

I have 21 of these in my collection to date - with my Menatone Vertical Fish Factory currently shipping out of the US and due to land here some time in April. The new Hot Cake V2 with the additional toggle-switches was just announced last month, and I await further instructions from Brad Jackson as to when the Joey Landreth Signature Golden Boy is due to be launched - evidently somewhat delayed considering these current circumstances.

 

So the 7 pedal I have still to land are the Analog.Man Prince of Tone (I already have the King of Tone), the new Hot Cake V2, Jackson Audio Golden Boy, J Rockett Mark Lettieri Melody and Steve Stevens Rockaway, also the Menatone Dumbstruck and the discontinued Mythos Erlking. I will probably get the updated BlackBox 2 also at some stage - I have the 3-toggle version, while the latest edition has 4!

 

In my opinion all of these are exceptional pedals and 4 here are pretty much permanent in my pedal-chain - the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver Keeley Freak Fuzz Modded Edition, Demon Pedals Kondo-Shifuku, Jackson Audio Broken Arrow, and ThorpyFX Peacekeeper.

 

Here follows a little more detail about each pedal, listed alphabetically :


Analog.Man Prince of Tone Overdrive - $148

The funny thing here is that I always intended to get this over the larger King of Tone, but then I had the opportunity to acquire the latter in its really cool JHS 4-Star Modded edition - which now means this one is much less of a priority. I often have both the King of Tone and Wampler Pantheon in my chain - both Blues Breaker derivations - so I don't necessarily need this one, although I really would like to add one at some stage. It is a touch higher gain than the King of Tone overall - and has the really useful 3-way toggle-switch to change between Boost, OD and Distortion modes - which I already have with the JHS Mod on the King of Tone x 2. This pedal is hand-made in China with the same key components that go into its bigger brother - possibly the Snouse BlackBox 2 and Wampler Pantheon offer a little more tone-shaping - but this one is also most definitely worthy of consideration.


Anasounds Cerberus Custom Overdrive - £199

This is a really nicely tweakable neutral and rather smooth overdrive with 3 handy clipping options. The core tone is sort of Tube-Screamer-esque / MOSFET style overdrive but without the pronounced mid hump - you get a much more even EQ profile which you then ramp up in degrees with the clipping dial - going from Soft LED Clipping, through Hard Clipping with 4 to 5 Low Threshold Silicon Diodes, and on to Hard Clipping with 2 High Threshold Silicon Diodes. There are a further 2 internal switches for tone range and compression, as well as 2 trim-pots that impact core voicing and intensity. I've seen some reviewers say this is like the Prince of Tone - in terms of flexibility and versatility yes - but this does not feel exactly like a Blues Breaker voicing - more it's own thing for me. All in all just a fantastically tasteful dynamic drive pedal - with all the customisation options you might need.


Boss BD-2 Blues Driver Keeley Freak Fuzz Mod - c£200 lightly used via Reverb.com

As I've related several times on this site, my very first 'Blues Driver' was actually the mini Mooer Blues Mood which I still love - in fact a clone of the Keeley Phat-modded Blues Driver. The 'Freak Fuzz' Mod is a rather rarer beast and contains both the Phat Mod toggle switch, as well as the Two Germanium AC188 Transistors and Square Wave Fuzz switch to activate that circuit. The Phat mod upgrades a number of the Boss components, adds in asymmetrical clipping and adjusts the tonal profile significantly with much richer low-end frequency content and somewhat tamed higher frequencies. Even at stock settings with both switches off - the pedal sounds significantly different and better in my opinion to the original, not that the original was any sort of slouch either - in fact I recommend all Boss variants of the Blues Driver - which include standard version, Waza Craft Edition, and JHS Angry Driver collaboration. The Freak Fuzz Mod pedal though is a really special kind of drive, and it's unlikely it will ever leave my pedal-chain - it's just one of my all-time favourite drive tones - beautifully rich and harmonic. (Note that I could not find a decent demo of a Keeley Freak Fuzz Mod Edition - so I went with a more typical Phat Mod demo instead).


Crowther Audio HotCake V2 / 2020 Edition - £175

The Hot Cake / HotCake has always been its own distinct Overdrive type - often seen as a key contender against the sort of OCD tonality. I'm actually lucky I haven't acquired this sooner, as the newest edition released just after NAMM / February as far as I can see - offers up a couple more options over its predecessor. These are namely XLF (More Bass) and +Cream (More Smoothness) toggle switches - with everything else remaining as before. In fact the famed 'Blueberry' variant of the pedal is covered off by the +Cream switch - so you're getting 2 varieties in one here. This pedal is that new that it hasn't yet trickled through to UK dealers - all those are still stocking the older version. I have always intended to get one of these - and if circumstance were normal, I would likely have sprung for this already. But within the wake of Covid-19 - I need to see how well my finances hold out before I start considering further acquisitions. Note that older version featured in demo too.


Custom Tones Ethos TWE-1 PreAmp - $225

This was actually the first ever waiting-list pedal I ordered - right at the start of 2018 I believe, and it took until that April to arrive - which was kind of per expectations - and was actually totally worth the wait. For the longest time this pedal was pride of place in the slot currently occupied by the Demon Kondo Shifuku D-Style Drive - but they are both favourites and are somewhat in rotation, while the Kondo is enjoying a rather extended time in the spotlight still. The TWE-1 is based on the cult classic Trainwreck Express amp, and imparts a really impressive range of amp-like tones through some slightly unusual controls. We have essentially 5 different tone-shaping controls which interact cleverly to give you the full scope of what you need - a Hi Cut dial, and then 3-way Cab toggle for low-frequency response, Hi/Lo Presence switch, Modern/Traditional Voice switch and 3-way 'Brite' high frequency boost options. I thought I would miss the lack of Mids control here - but the various different controls when used together give you sufficient tone-shaping abilities to pretty much achieve every tone - and the scope and range of tones available here is vast. This is a wonderfully richly harmonic pedal - just like I like my drives to be. I always felt it was perfect for that Coheed and Cambria sort of tone - or at least my approximation of it. Which is actually in the slightly higher gain register. This is a really great variety of 'Crunch' pedal, and it's a shame really that it doesn't get more of a rotation my my pedal-chain - I will have to tag it in again soon!


Demon Pedals Kondo Shifuku D-Style Drive - €279

I truly love a certain tone of the Dumble ODS amp - that lovely fuzz-edged drive sound it generates - I find that just wonderful. To date I have acquired 4 Dumble-style pedals, and this is the first one now that matches my exact requirements - the very tone I was looking for - that lovely saturated fuzzy-drive. I've seen other reviewers complain about the number of switching modes and the trickiness of dialling in a tone - but I was very quickly able to get to the tone I wanted - and there is so much range in this pedal - it's just fantastic - and I consider it the most versatile in this compact format area - while my other 3 Dumble-style pedals - The Barefoot FX Model Hs, Mad Professor Simble, and Wampler Euphoria are all excellent in their own way - the Kondo just gives you a little bit more of what you like - well, certainly for me that is (all switches set to down)!


Foxpedal The City V2 - $239

Foxpedal has suffered somewhat since the withdrawal of its previous figurehead Todd Billow - and the new team is still working to re-establish the dealer network - for now you need to buy direct. The City V2 though remains as one of my favourite of the versatile compact Tube Screamers - I could have thrown in the hat of the new Ibanez/Vemuram TSV808 collaboration - but that is twice the price - and I need it to come down a level really to be viable. In any case The City - with its combination of dual footswitches, including independent clean boost, 5 dials and 3 toggle-switches is just about the most versatile of these Tube Screamer types. The Wampler Clarksdale and Seymour Duncan 805 do give you 3-band EQ, but overall The City has slightly more flavour. Of course if you want the ultimate Tube Screamer you would go for the rather larger triple-footswitch EarthQuaker Devices Palisades or the newer Jackson Audio Broken Arrow, while I will likely also make do with the still incredibly versatile PLBR Effects Floral Green in medium enclosure which does much of what the Palisades delivers at half that size.


Foxpedal Kingdom Combo V2 - $239

I got this one in a hurry back in the day when I feared Foxpedal was going to go out of commission. It is essentially a Klone pedal with its own distinct character and independent boost footswitch. There are two voicing toggles at the top - the left one labelled OD is soft-clipping on/off, while the right-hand 'Clip' is the same sort of thing for hard-clipping. You then have the classic Volume, Tone and Gain dials, and two separate dials for the Boost - Boost Level and Focus. The Focus dial brings to mind the fairly ThorpyFX Dane and Heavy Water pedals which has a similar thing where you adjust the EQ character of the Boost - by shifting the frequency emphasis. So even though you don't have 3-band EQ - the combination of Tone dial and Boost Focus gives you some clever tone-shaping options. Overall this pedal's core voicing is slightly darker than say either of my Tumni or Golden Horse - but it's still a pleasant tone - and very versatile within that combination of controls - although it's probably easier to dial things in on the 3-band Tumnus Deluxe. (Note demo is of the older medium enclosure version - where surprisingly there are still no demos of the newer model!).


Fulltone OCD V2 - £129

This was one of the earliest overdrives I really got stuck into, and as a result I now have 3 different variants of the same - my earliest V1.7, then Candy Apple Red V2, and finally the most recent Ge Germanium Diode version - which probably has had the most rotation of late - while I like all 3. The OCD has an HP/LP switch or High Peak / Low Peak - in effect Hi/Lo gain settings - I operate mine mostly in Hi mode with the drive around 1 to 2 o'clock. I still consider this an exceptional drive pedal, but it gets less in on the rotation since I acquired the Hamstead Odyssey. The OCD though is simpler to use and quicker to dial in - so will probably have a different appeal - and it's slightly less money too! Actually, with the Ge version I find I am using both HP and LP modes - with possibly a preference for the LP setting - which is different to the other two.


Greer Lightspeed Overdrive - £199

This is considered to be a great alternative to the Klone style pedals - not exactly the same circuit as such, but near enough in that same sort of territory - where I typically include it within that category. This was Peter Honoré's favourite drive pedal before he had his signature ThorpyFX The Dane. It's just a lovely natural / transparent / neutral drive with a gorgeously unaffected saturation. It is one of the many understudies I have for my Klone slot - where the mini Decibelics Golden Horse is currently pride of place. A very simple pedal to deploy with a classic 3-knob control layout labelled Loudness, Drive and Frequency - just different names for Volume, Gain and Tone. This is several players's secret weapon and it's typically seen as a replacement for rather than addition to a Klone pedal - you very rarely see both on the same board! In this instance I was tempted to list the Greer Southland Harmonic Overdrive in its place - as I've probably played that more of late, but I decided to go with the generally more loved variety.


Hamstead Odyssey Intergalactic Driver - £219

This ended up being rotated in - in place of the Fulltone OCD much by chance and happenstance. I watched the pedal's introduction on That Pedal Show and sprung for one instantly - but hadn't put any thought what my preferred tones would be or where it would go in my pedal-chain. It just so happened that the first really pleasing tones I came across were very much along the lines of a lovely textured sort of OCD-style crunch. This pedal has 5 somewhat odd tone-shaping controls - and then 3 further tone-shaping toggle switches which impact gain structure, clipping and EQ order placement. You have a sort of 2-band Baxandall Bass and Treble controls - with a separate Tone control for the Gain stage. Part of me wonders if we wouldn't be better off with 3-band EQ as I place a lot of importance on the middle frequencies - yet I believe this circuit needs to be this way to produce its sort of fuzz voicing at the right settings. As it is though you get some very interesting interactions between the controls and the pedal really works very well with the interplay of those different knobs and switches - although there is a learning curve to figure out how to get the very best out of this pedal (actually some similarities in tone-control to the ThorpyFX Peacekeeper). It also features the very best type of footswitch - the entirely contactless Optical OptiKick footswitch courtesy of Dan Steinhardt's TheGigRig. So a fantastic pedal - which is a touch quirky though but with tonnes of tones onboard. You might also consider Hamstead's more recent Subspace Intergalactic Driver which was primarily designed for Bass around the same circuit, but with the addition of a Blend knob. The Subspace has slightly more emphasis on lower frequencies - so if that's what you're looking for you will likely prefer it. I like the Odyssey enough for the Subspace only to be 'nice-to-have' status - while I might get it at some stage if I spot it at a decent price - right not it's at the slightly dearer £249 level.


Jackson Audio Broken Arrow + Boost V2 (with Midi) - $220

I've really waxed lyrical about the many exceptional qualities of this particular pedal - which is extensively a Tube Screamer type, but a lot more really - with 3-Band EQ, Gain-Cycling (q.v.) and 4 modes on each of the 2 footswitches. The Left Footswitch allows you to step through 4 clipping modes starting off with a classic TS808 mode, then a sort of DS-1 style, then Timmy style and finally Plexi style. On the other footswitch you step through Bright / Treble Boost, Mid Boost, Tailored Boost with slight Bass-cut, and Full-range Boost. If you step through both footswitches simultaneously you are able to step up the gain level in 25% increments based on what is set on the Gain knob. What you have here therefore is the most immediately changeable Tube-Screamer type on the market and easily my favourite TS808 style overdrive to date. I frequently change settings on-the-fly - because I can! Needs to be tried to be believed - Jackson Audio is just way ahead of the curve when it come to pedal playback immediacy and versatility over playback control - improved even further in the most recent update which makes full use of Midi connectivity.


Jackson Audio Golden Boy Joey Landreth Signature Overdrive + Boost - $299 (TBC)

Seems like Joey and I were the ones that really got the most out of the Broken Arrow - yet his preference, and mine probably too is more towards the slightly warmer and more evenly frequency-balanced Blues Breaker style circuit. So Jackson Audio have essentially taken the Broken Arrow format and created a Blues Breaker variant exactly to Joey's preferences - with all the other features fully intact - 4 clipping modes and the same 4 boost modes as detailed above. It's not yet 100% clear on what the Golden Boy clipping modes will be, but I'm led to believe they are the following :

  • Amber - 2 x Symmetrical Red LED Clipping
  • Green - 2 x Symmetrical Silicon Diode Clipping
  • Magenta - 3 x Asymmetrical Silicon Diode Clipping
  • Blue - High Headroom 4 x Symmetrical Silicon Diodes

Because of the current Covid-19 lockdown, we're not entirely clear either when the Golden Boy will be officially released. It was due at the end of this month, but it looks like it's been postponed at least by a few weeks. I will update the blog further as and when more pertinent information comes through.


JHS Bonsai Multi-Drive - £219

AKA 9 different Tube Screamer circuits in one. Using a smartly multi-branched analog circuit with a digital switching control layer - courtesy of Jon Cusack of Cusack Music and Mojo Hand FX. This is pretty much every Tube Screamer you need in one box - covering classic and modded versions of TS808 and TS9, Metal Screamer and TS10 and including some unusual stepping stones like the Boss OD-1 and Exar OD-1. My favourite mode tends to be either the Exar or the JSH Modded TS9 - I use this pedal when I want to play around with different styles of Tube Screamer. If I want to play around with Tone-Shaping on the Tube Screamer style Platform I use either the Jackson Audio Broken Arrow, BYOC Overdrive 2 or Foxpedal The City V2 - all of which give you much greater individual ranges of tones. I still feel that the JHS Bonsai is a fantastic pedal though and I recommended it as the very best TS808 40th anniversary memorabilia versus the really far too pricey Ibanez Vemuram and Maxon Keeley collaborations!


J Rockett Melody Mark Lettieri Signature 6-Band EQ Overdrive - £199

I didn't figure this one out right at the start - but it's essentially J Rockett's well-loved The Dude Dumble-style circuit, but with 6-band EQ in place of the Treble and Deep controls. When I was hunting around for Dumble style circuits - The Dude figured high on my wishlist, but I went a different direction in the end - I've always wanted that circuit in the collection at some stage, and this would be my ideal format for it!


J Rockett Rockaway Archer Steve Stevens Signature 6-Band EQ Overdrive - £249

So in the same way the Melody is a 6-Band treatment of The Dude circuit, then the Rockaway is a 6-Band variant of J Rockett's celebrated Archer Klone. You may have read that Steve Stevens is one of my favourite guitarists, and with his signature Knaggs Guitar and signature Friedman Amp you're already on an expensive rig when you further finesse it with a Klone style pedal. I like how Steve uses it more as a proper Overdrive too - where far too many people just use Klones and Tube Screamers as boosts rather than their own flavour. In Steve's rig this pedal sounds particularly immense - probably with good reasons, and I've no idea what other high-level studio gear is in his signal path - but this is one overdrive I've long been after. Prices are beginning to come down a bit now too, so I might just scoop this one up at some time in the near-ish post-Covid-19 future!


Matthews Effects The Architect V3 Overdrive + Boost - £189

This is actually the most recent addition to my own 9-strong Klon/Klone arsenal - having continually kept forgetting that the Matthews Architect was a Klone - I often mistook it for a TS808 derivative for some reason. In any case - with the recent fanfare of the Matthews Effects face-lift and range re-launch - this was the pedal that really caught my attention. 3-Band EQ, and with different clipping on both the Overdrive and Boost elements - a very formidable and feature-rich pedal - let down somewhat by the huge output drop when you switch to Germanium mode. I would have tried to have done some circuit magic there - either lowering the output of the other modes with resistors, or trying to boost up the germanium stage with further gain-components. It's a great sounding pedal nevertheless obviously with huge amounts of range on-tap - someone really needs to sort out the volume loss on the Germanium mode - otherwise it just becomes unusable in most switching scenarios.


Menatone Dumbstruck Overdrive - $189

I know Brian Mena / Menatone best for his 'Top Boost In a Can' (Vox), 'Red Snapper' / 'Fish Factory' and 'The King of Britains' pedals. I must admit I occasionally forget and overlook his also excellent 6-pot Dumbstruck D-style pedal - which has been in the frame a few times. With all of the Dumble-style pedals I already have now, I really don't need another, but if I did spring for one more - it would likely be this one - oh and of course the J Rockett Melody! The control differs slightly from the others here which follow the amp topology and naming more closely while the Dumbstruck in some ways features more generically logical controls and delivers fantastic range just by slightly different means. If you go onto the Menatone website now it says V2 forthcoming - so hopefully a another dual-footswitch variant in line with the recent updates.


Menatone The Fish Factory Vertical - Red Snapper + Blue Collar Overdrives - $259

This is one of 3 brand new Menatone pedals I acquired back near the start of this month along with the new Vertical format of The King of Britains and Top Boost in a Can. I've long been intending to get the 4-knob Red Snapper, at one stage I was considering the PTP handwired edition - but also announced my intention to rather get the Fish Factory combination - which includes the slightly higher gain Blue Collar too - if ever released in Vertical edition. So you get dual 4-knob overdrives, the Red Snapper has controls for Volume, Gain, Hi-Cut and Bite, while the Blue Collar has Level, Drive, Tone and Presence. You have a toggle-switch to set which comes first, and individual channel switches were you can also stack obviously. The Red Snapper is one of the great unsung Neutral Overdrives and sometime unfairly falls under the radar - hopefully this version of it is going to give it its justified success.


Mythos Pedals Erlking Overdrive - discontinued - £199 when new

The Erlking goes one better than the original Nobels ODR-1 which it is based on - adding a Bass control dial to the original trio of Gain, Level and Tone - allowing you to more easily tune the pedal to your rig. Think of this as a modern update to the Nobels, which has largely been considered as a really decent alternative to the Tubescreamer - it's a slightly different circuit, but with significant degrees of overlap. Nashville guitarists love the Nobels, and you might consider this one step up from that. Funnily enough the most recent version of the ODR-1 has a bass-cut switch on it, and another clone - the Vemuram Shanks ODS-1 is getting a lot of hype at the moment - it has the classic 3 knobs, but also 2 externally accessible trim-pots for Bass and Saturation - while it does retail for £379. If money was no object perhaps I would be enticed by the brass enclosure of the ODS-1, but my current choice is for sure the Mythos Erlking. I had the opportunity to get one the other day, but since I'm on Covid-19 lockdown finances currently I had to let it pass me by!


Snouse Electric Co BlackBox Overdrive 2 Stage Pro Mod - $159

Kind of like my story about the ThorpyFX Fallout Cloud - I kind of bought this one at the wrong time too - as within a year of acquisition there was a slightly better model released. The latest release is the Stage Pro Mod with 4 side-mounted toggle switches. My version is the External Switch Mod - which has one switch less - which grates rather - as I'm a sucker for versatility and variety. I know I need to get the updated pedal at some stage and it's a very fair price for what is on offer. I have a number of Blues Breaker style pedals also including the King of Tone, VFE Blues King and Wampler Pantheon. I consider the 4 best Blues Breakers in compact format to be this BlackBox OD2, the Blues King, the Prince of Tone and the Pantheon as mentioned - with the BlackBox and Pantheon pretty much at level pegging for top slot - both have a huge range onboard and although they come by their tone-shaping via different means - they are largely capable of achieving the same sort of range - with quite a bit more variety than say the Prince of Tone which of course still sounds excellent. I've already deemed it necessary to get the Stage Pro update at some stage - which is likely to happen sometime before the Prince of Tone acquisition, but still not for a while with all the evolving new NAMM pedal priorities in place. Note that it's quite heartening to see Wales' Prince of Tone - Chris Buck sporting one of the latest Stage Pro Mod versions on a recent pedalboard - we all know that he's very precise when it comes to his tone-shaping and pedal selection - so that is a significant feather in the cap for the BlackBox.


ThorpyFX Peacekeeper Low Gain Overdrive - £195

I'm a huge Thorpy fan (who isn't?), and while this wasn't one of the first wave of Thorpy's into my pedal-chain it has nonetheless found its way and stayed there! I thought I would be rotating the Wampler Pantheon back onto that slot after a while, but no - the Peacekeeper is really holding its own. This is Adrian's transparent sort of Klone type but not circuit - obviously with a well expanded range into mid-gain. The Peacekeeper's five dials are similarly arranged to that of the Pantheon - with tone-shaping delivered via Bass, Treble and Presence dials. I would love to see some 3-band EQ drives in the range in the future, as I've oft spoken about the key importance of the middle-band frequencies for me - but a lot of pedals do just fine with 2-band or a single tone dial even with an extensive range and dynamic sweep. I've actually been able to find a number of really sweet spots across the dials of the Peacekeeper, and since the Jackson Audio Golden Boy will be going in on the Broken Arrow slot - it looks like that Peacekeeper is pretty much there to stay. It of course works brilliantly in combination with the Heavy Water Dual Boost, and in turn Boosts pedals like the Redbeard Red Mist Distortion quite superbly. I have always stated that the Thorpy Trifecta is the Fallout Cloud, Gunshot and Warthog - which I have and love, but the one that has taken up residence is the more under-the-radar Peacekeeper - which when you add to the Hard Water actually creates a more versatile variant of the Thorpy's Pete Honoré collaboration - The Dane!


Timmy Overdrive (Paul Cochrane) - c£110

The more compact version of Paul Cochrane's Tim Overdrive is really just known by its Timmy moniker, and its popularity far outpaces that of the original. These pedals appear in batches on Reverb.com and get snapped up within a day or two - no matter the quantity. You get 2-band EQ - Bass and Treble besides Volume and Gain knobs, and a 3-way clipping toggle - where the Middle position is the least compressed symmetrical setting; Down is a more compressed symmetrical setting; while Up is the asymmetrical setting. Most players keep the pedal locked in the most open middle setting - and there's plenty of range up the gain scale well into crunch territory. This is a really well tuned pedal, and occupies roughly similar territory to the Red Snapper, with some overlap of the OCD too to a degree. In any case - probably typically the most affordable of these key overdrive pedals. I have a cool Purple and Black mottled version, and will probably be getting the MXR Mini Timmy too at some stage - purportedly the exact same circuit - but in even more compacted SMD-style format.


True North Tweed Drive - $159

I've been following Sheldon Ems for a while, and I'm so delighted with the rightly justified praise he's been receiving - particularly of late. I thought a fleeting appearance on That Pedal Show might have opened the floodgates for him, but it was Darrell Braun's demo that gave this pedal the righteous push it deserved - and which should keep Sheldon backlogged for a while hopefully. This Fender Tweed style pedal just sounds wonderfully rich and glorious - I like to run it up and down the scale with both Diode and Fat switches active - my preferred settings are still Drive at 2 o'c, Volume at 3 o'c and Tone around 11:30. There are other Tweed pedals available - but none really with the appeal of this one - for me at least!


Tsakalis AudioWorks Six BOD Booster-Overdrive-Distortion - €210

This was one of my key drive picks at Winter NAMM 2019 - and it took me until the end of the year to acquire one - but I just made it within the calendar year! It's another pedal that is in Blues Breaker territory - in fact targeting the Timmy, Blues Breaker and King of Tone with its six modes and 18V/9V Headroom switch. The modes are best described as BS Boost, OD1 Smooth Overdrive, OD2 Creamy Overdrive, DS1 Natural Amp Distortion, DS2 Amp Distortion with Bite and OD1+DS2. There are 4 further control dials - Volume, Gain, Mood (Tone), and High (High Frequencies / Presence). The circuit removes the need for inline capacitors for more dynamics, openness and clarity. This pedal really sounds great - it has an open and even tone and none of that enforce compression you sometimes get at higher gain. More people should really give this one a spin!


Wampler Euphoria Overdrive - £189

This was my second Dumble-style pedal after the Mad Professor Simble - even though I achieved fantastic tones on the Simble it was nowhere near as versatile and wide-ranging as the Euphoria - which though took me a while to understand its Bass dial - essentially you need to start with it fully off. So initially it took a little longer to dial in the perfect tones on the Euphoria, but I soon got used to it, and it became my principal Dumble pedal - I then acquired the Bearfoot FX Model Hs - Hiwatt/Dumble, and then the Custom Tones Ethos TWE-1 which were all on frequent rotation on the same slot. For many players the Euphoria is Brian Wampler's best ever drive pedal, while for me it's his Pantheon and Tumnus. It is most definitely still a very valid and worthy choice for your Dumble Style tones - even though longer term it will likely take 3rd billing after the Demon Kondo Shifuku and future V2 Menatone Dumbstruck - each of those pedals obviously has its advantages - and as always it's as much up to your own rig and how you deploy the pedal - results can always vary, and my favourite favourite may not necessarily match your preferences - which is why I typically try to give you a few options within each reference category.


Wampler Pantheon Overdrive - £189

Brian Wampler's latest drive pedal also happens to be his greatest as far as I'm concerned - as the dual 3-way toggle switches (Gain Level & Overdrive Voice) combined with the five dials give you pretty much unprecedented tones right along the range - from smooth and subtle low gain overdrive to really quite saturated crunch at the top extreme. I like both the toggles to be set in the bottom position, Bass on 10 o'c, Treble at 1 o'c, Presence at 10 o'c, Volume 2 o'c and Gain 2 o'c - sounds sublime. I actually foolishly declared this the Blues Driver to end all Blues Drivers shortly before I acquired my superb JHS 4-Star Modded King of Tone which is one of the most awesome stacking pedals ever - and now I often have both pedals in the chain. I also feel that since Snouse brought out its Stage Pro version - it's bang on the money too - so all these are really valid choices and I actually like all 3 - while I would always accommodate the Pantheon and BlackBox 2 separately. I also feel that the new Tsakalis Six is in on this territory too - I never knew quite how much I loved those Blues Breaker Style tones - but looks like I will likely have more Blues Breakers than Dumbles - which are another favourite variety. In fact I'm pretty much all set to get the Jackson Audio Golden Boy when that finally materialises, and that will take on the mantle of my favourite Blues Breaker.


Wampler Tumnus Deluxe - £189

The original mini Tumnus was my first Klone pedal - I recall watching That Pedal Show and deciding that the enhanced low-end of the Tumnus was much more to my taste than say the anodyne more neutral tones of the Zendrive. So for my Klones I went from Mini Tumnus to Foxpedal Kingdom Combo, then Tumnus Deluxe, then Greer Amps Lightspeed (I know - not quite the same), and finally the diminutive Decibelics Golden Horse which is my current pure Klone of choice - it does not have the full range of tones that some of these others offer like the ThorpyFX Peacekeeper, but has just a fantastic default character and timbre. By the same token the Tumnus Deluxe is likely the most versatile of the compact Klones alongside the Peacekeeper - while I still wish to properly check out the Rockaway Archer - which may enter the collection at some stage. In general the Golden Horse and Peacekeeper are my current favourites with the Tumnus Deluxe as their chief rotation partner / understudy - depends what sort of thing I'm aiming for. I feel this Trifecta of Wampler - the Tumnus, Euphoria and Pantheon in saturation order are just unsurpassed from one maker - three exceptional overdrives - and I've seen quite a few pro boards with that trifecta in effect - while I often have the Pantheon as a principal, and the other two as understudies - yet frequently rotated into the chain. My tally of Wampler pedals is currently up to 12 if we include the Abasi Pathos - which I do!


Final Thoughts

Anyone that knows me knows that that specific featured Keeley-modded Boss BD-2 Blues Driver is my favourite all-time overdrive - these's just something magical about that pedal for me - the way it cleans up on the volume dial etc. - and that amazing richly textured crunch! If I could only have one - then that would be it.

 

I've been hugely impressed though with the innovations happening with these sorts of pedals of late and the kind of things Jackson Audio, JHS, J Rockett, Matthews Effects, Menatone and ThorpyFX in particular are delivering.

 

The pinnacle of innovation for me really is Jackson Audio's 4-modes per footswitch and Gain-Cycling function - which gives you such immediate versatile control through your pedal's footswitches for ultimate live playback-ability. No one really is up to that level of innovation yet and the two Jackson Audio pedals are certainly worth a look in.

 

I could have included the Loophole Grey Matter here - but see that as more of a distortion really, and just ran out of space to feature more. It's always good to have the discipline of a cut-off point though - while there are of course lots of other valid choices out there too - this is my own specific preferred selection.

 

When the Golden Boy Arrives it will be accompanied by the Keeley Boss BD-2, Demon Kondo-Shifuku (favourite Dumble-style), and of course ThorpyFX Peacekeeper (favourite compact Klone). You could also include the amazing Sinvertek N5 Plus which is actually a distortion rather, but I use it as a relatively low gain overdrive!

 

I'm actually really looking forward to getting in all the new ones listed above - including the Crowther HotCake V2, Jackson Audio Golden Boy and the Menatone Vertical Fish Factory - which has taken the best part of 2 weeks just to get out of the USA! So one is imminent, one is not too far distant, and I will try to get the HotCake in before the end of the year.

 

Obviously I would also really like to get the 2 J Rockett 6-Band EQ overdrives in at some stage - and a copy of the discontinued Mythos Erlking - while the Analog.Man Prince of Tone is somewhat lesser priority as I already have its bigger brother.

 

I of course expect there to be further additions to the list over the year - albeit it's not clear what will happen with Summer NAMM and a variety of forthcoming pedal launches - which will undoubtedly be put back to some degree because of Covid-19.

 

Right now my own finances are on essentials-only Covid-19 lockdown which means no further pedal acquisitions for a while. Although I have made a commitment to Brad Jackson to support his Golden Boy launch whenever that takes place!

 

It's probably best to enjoy what you have for now - please stay safe, and stay well!

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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