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Boost and Overdrive

6 Potent Pairings - Superbly Articulate Compact Overdrive and Distortion Pedal Pairs

Aleks K ProductionBlues Driver Style OverdriveBoostBoost and OverdriveBrown Sound DistortionDistortionDriveFriedman EffectsJHS PedalsKlone and Transparent OverdriveMarshall Style DistortionMetal DistortionOverdriveREVV AmplificationThorpyFXWampler+-
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In doing my 2019 pedal-chain planning I realised I had recently just completed a few notable duos of pedals - in fact the right-hand side of the above visual is fully mine with the REVV G4 the latest addition. There’s something of a theme here with the red pedal or red-accented pedal typically being the gainier half of the pair, and I could have done a similar exercise for Wampler with the Pantheon and the Pinnacle, but felt that the Tumnus and Pantheon were the two best / most versatile and capable of Brian Wampler’s pedals.


There’s a degree of pattern here of left-hand Plexi and right-hand JCM800 - with notable exceptions. I have still to complete my ThorpyFX Trifecta - in fact I really want Thorpy’s The Dane and Peacemaker as well as the pictured Gunshot (have) and Warthog (will have) - I also need to try to part-exchange my Fallout Cloud for the smaller Mini/V2 version.


For JHS you have the choice of getting the also red Andy Timmons @+ Signature Edition with Boost, in place of the Angry Charlie, although that is definitely the official pairing here.


Finally, I have heard excellent demos of Aleks K Prodocution’s leading pedals - the Maple Leaf Royal Drive and Red Scorpion Mega Distortion - and fully intend to acquire both fairly soon - albeit you have to go direct to the maker, as these are no longer listed on The Maple Leaf is notably one of Devin Townsend’s signature drive pedals and you may have heard it on one of the featured That Pedal Show episodes.


Of course I’m a fan of symmetry and duality, and am likely to acquire most of these eventually, one way or another. I can’t see anything shaking the REVVs from my pedal-chain for a while, and the Pantheon is pretty much a perennial favourite already. I do rotate the Tumnus Deluxe in every now and again, albeit I’m still really loving the diminutive Decibelics Golden Horse - so that’s taking precedent at the moment.


The Warthog is probably the next acquisition here, followed by the Maple Leaf and then Red Scorpion. For the JHS pairing I would most likely rather have the Andy Timmons signature @+ in place of the Angry Charlie, and I would go for the also boost-assisted Zvex Vertical Box of Rock in place of the Charlie Brown!


Note that while the Tumnus and Pantheon are eminently stackable, the others on this page are for either/or deployment - simply a higher or lower degree of saturation. In my own pedal-chain I have a number of different boosts that I use in combination up- and downstream, and I really enjoy stacking the two channels of my King of Tone at the moment.


Aleks K Maple Leaf Royal Drive ($279/£220) + Aleks K Red Scorpion Mega Distortion V2 ($259/£205) (

Canadian Guitar, Pickup and Pedal-maker Aleks K is not that well-known to most, but I have come across these pedals in particular pedals every now and again - most notably in a relatively recent That Pedal Show episode where the Maple Leaf Royal Drive was used as one of Devin Townsend's signature drives - and very sweet it is too - beautifully singing and saturated and combining two different drive circuits with 2-band EQ and Auxiliary High dial for adding more high end distortion into the mix - a sort of 'Sizzle' knob, and not too different to the Presence knob on the MI Effects Super Crunch Box. The Red Scorpion is much more conventional - with classic 3-band EQ, and a Tone-shift toggle switch for precisely crafted thick and richly harmonic distortion. I really like this pair of pedals and will aim to acquire both over the next 12 months.


Friedman Dirty Shirley Overdrive (£149) + Friedman BE-OD Distortion (£177)

These are classically Marshall-voiced Dave Friedman specials based on his respective and same-named well-loved amps. The former is more sort of Plexi territory and the latter is more JCM800 territory. The BE-OD was for a long time pride of place in the pedal-chain until ousted by the REVV G3, while I always intended to get the Dirty Shirley, but have only done so recently as the price has dropped to a more reasonable level. Both these pedals are RRP £199, but have come down in price at most retailers - at least for this time of year. Of course Dave Friedman is a very famous Marshall Amp modifier, and these are his takes on two of the all-time classic British Amps - so as always, it depends on how much you like the ear of said particular pedal-maker - and I feel Dave's is very finely tuned indeed, and certainly to my liking. The recently released BE-OD Deluxe can sort of be seen as a combination pedal of the above, but I feel it is slightly oversized - yes it does have 12 knobs, 2 toggle-switches and 2 footswitches, but I still feel it could have been more moderately sized - I'm still hoping for a V2 BE-OD with the same controls as the the Deluxe - i.e. Tightness dial replaced by Mids dial, and with Tightness controlled by additional 3-way toggle switch instead.


JHS Charlie Brown (£195) + JHS Angry Charlie (£195)

There's no doubting the credentials or tones of these pedals which still largely and pretty much cover the same territory as the Friedman's and Thorpy's duos - also featured here. I would much rather have the Friedman and ThorpyFX equivalents for whatever reason, and I feel that these are a touch overpriced comparatively - but perhaps that's just me. I've already said that I would personally get the Zvex Box of Rocks in place of the Charlie Brown, and JHS's other JCM800 pedal - Andy Timmons' signature @+ - both of those have additional boost footswitches and somehow appeal more. That said, I still like how these JHSs sound and feel.


REVV G3 (£199) + REVV G4 ($229/£199)

REVV have really shaken up the higher-gain pedal sector after launching the most impressive 2018-released high-gain pedal in the guise of the G3 or 3rd/Purple Channel of their Generator 120 Amp. Now it's the turn of the 4th/Red Channel of the same amp - which delivers a more open and thicker tone than the tighter and more mid-pronounced G3. I really like both of these and would use them for slightly different things. Many seem to be either more pro the G3 or G4 - but there should be a place for both for most players - I will certainly be accommodating both of these in my chain. The G3 ousted the BE-OD from that slot, while the G4 will be taking up the former Diezel VH4-2 / Wampler Triple Wreck slot!


ThorpyFX Gunshot Mini (£185) + ThorpyFX Warthog (£185)

I initially and actually relatively recently set out to complete the Thorpy Trifecta - which consists of the Fallout Cloud Fuzz, Gunshot Overdrive and Warthog Distortion. I really should have held out a little longer as Adrian introduced compacted / Mini versions of all his pedals at the end of the year, so now I have a slightly over-sized Fallout Cloud that I wish to part-exchange for its smaller replacement. I also have the Mini Gunshot Overdrive and fully aim to get the Mini Warthog before long. In fact I also really like the look of Thorpy's Peacemaker and The Dane pedals - which are also on my list, but not as high priority.


Wampler Tumnus Deluxe (£189) + Wampler Pantheon (£189)

I'm a big fan of Brian Wampler's pedals, and I feel that he has reached his peak with the Tumnus Deluxe and Pantheon - which are simply two of the very best overdrives you can get your hands on. Both of these have a tonne of versatility on-tap, but also feature that fantastic Wampler touch/feel and sound truly great right along the register - gain, volume and EQ. The best thing about this duo is that they stack wonderfully too - and you can in fact get pretty heavy gainey tones by running the Tumnus on Hot into the Pantheon on its highest gain level - incredibly dynamic too.

Final Thoughts

This article is admittedly a touch of an oddity - based as much on symmetry and duality as on proper sonic rationale. That said, all these pedals are at the top end of the spectrum in terms of quality of build and output - and each has its legions of fans.


These won't universally appeal to all, as there are at least two distinctive categories here. Think of this as another one of those articles which informs you about what it out there and what the alternatives are. You could argue that the Friedman, JHS and Thorpy pairings occupy a similar area but have very slightly different frequency profiles which may draw different fans. I don't feel anyone would be disappointed with any of these - say unlike a Boss DS-1 as these are all very easy to dial in and achieve great tones.


The outlier here is likely Aleks K which is the least well know and which does not specifically have benchmark equivalents - while the others are notable 'inspired' by and evolutions of specific types of pedals. No complex setup is required here, all have plenty of gain and volume on tap - these are all just wonderfully lively and articulate pedals which sound great in pretty much any rig!

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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