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Best of Mini, Compact, Medium and Large OCD Style / Crunchy Overdrive Pedals

Boost and OverdriveEmpress EffectsHamstead SoundworksMooerOCD Style OverdriveT-Rex Effects+-
2018GPX4SizeOCDStyle700-min.jpg

Your immediate reaction to the above visual may well be - where’s the bleedin’ Fulltone OCD in all of this - well that’s all part of the narrative - as follows. When I got into guitar again a few years back, there were all manner of overdrives and drives that were deemed to be essential for any serious electric guitar player - and I took to acquiring and comparing those - which led to my ’12 Degrees of Saturation’ Methodology.

 

Much of this was just experimentation and trial and error - shifting and trialling different dial settings / combinations until a satisfactory output was reached. One of my earliest successes was with a Fulltone OCD which generated this magnificent richly harmonic crunchy overdrive. Textured and characterful but still on the Ovedrive side of Distortion. I grew to love the OCD Crunch flavour and it became a key tone in my pedal-chain for a considerable time.

 

I then got introduce to the Hamstead Odyssey - courtesy of That Pedal show - and was blown away by the myriad capabilities in this compact form factor. I still think they could fit a boost in there somewhere! In any case. I quickly grew enamoured with the Odyssey and one of the first successful tones I achieved with that was very much a pretty full-on OCD-style crunch. I decided that I would sacrifice the OCD for the far more versatile Odyssey (ODC?) which could do a lot more - as well as achieve those essential OCD-style crunch tones - so that is how the ODC became my new OCD!

 

In fact in the above group there is one proper OCD clone - the very usable and useful Mooer Hustle Drive, one very close sound-alike - the richly crunchy T-Rex Møller Drive 2 - but then interestingly we have two chameleon omni-drive / multi-drive pedals - which just happen to be supreme crunch machines. Both the Odyssey and Empress Multidrive can of course to much more than crunch - but those tones are so easily reachable on those pedals it’s as if they were made for that purpose alone. I in fact could achieve all manner of crunch variations on both pedals - both OCD-style and otherwise. But there is no doubting the overlap and overall suitability of all of these. There are of course tonnes of pedals that deliver these tones to differing degrees of faithfulness, and there are for sure a number of other alternatives that you may have a preference for - but you would find it hard to argue that each of these didn’t achieve a very satisfactory degree of crunch.

 

Pedals are listed in order of enclosure size - small to large.


Mooer Hustle Drive - £37

The one proper OCD clone listed here gets you pretty much all the way there - it's near enough just a mini replica of the original with the exact same settings. Sure if you listen really closely there are some very minor differences, but you can't really here those in the mix. You can't really argue at this price - it's a very credible alternative.


Hamstead Odyssey Intergalactic Drive - £219

This is the pedal that ousted the OCD from its home slot - it's just a superbly capable pedal that does though need some getting used to. There is a very interesting interplay between the Gain Tone and the Bass and Treble dials, as well as the C1-C3 clipping modes, x1 - x5 gain modes and Pre and Post or EQ only modes. It has onboard the world's best optical OptoKick footswitch courtesy of Daniel Steinhardt of TheGigRig and ThatPedalShow fame - I really wish more pedals used this great footswitch. In any case the very first thing I wholly unintentionally dialled in was an exceptional OCD-style tone - which kind of decided the fate of both pedals. You instinctively know what to do with 3-band EQ pedals, while with this you need to play around with the dials and switches for a pretty long time before everything 'clicks' as such. From thereon in its a really fun pedal to deploy - but you do need to put in that initial time. I'm always surprised by the numbers of players who don't have the patience to work out the best potential of the slightly more complex pedals. Several super-tweakable pedals get a bad rep as the player just hasn't spent enough time to work out a decent tone - for those players there are pedals like the single-dial EarthQuaker Acapulco Gold!


T-Rex Møller Drive 2 - £130

Most will know by know that I'm generally not that fond of the vertical medium enclosure format, but grant certain exceptions where the sound and feature-set properly justify the larger footprint. Here we do indeed have dual footswtiches, 5 dials and a Bass Boost switch - so the size is largely justifiable, while I still believe it could be fully shrunk down into a compact enclosure. This pedal is your classic crunchy overdrive with a richly harmonic and gorgeously textured crunch available throughout the full arc of the drive - which never goes beyond medium gain. The boost helps you get slightly more saturation and definition - but this pedal sounds pretty great any which way, and although in no way an OCD-alike really - still gets you pretty much into identical territory.


Empress Effects Multidrive - £248

This was for the longest time my favourite all-round drive pedal - which I used right around the range and particularly for crunch and Marshall Plexi style distortion. This pedal is so much fun and so easy to deploy I thought it would hold its pedal-chain slot for life, but alas that slot is now occupied by the Origin Effects RevivalDrive - which really excels at the FenderPlexiVox sorta thing. The way that the Revival Drive works with its companion footswitch - you get to have 3 tones per each of your 2 channels - and it's got those really cool ghost notes for even more musical texture and liveliness. The Multidrive can do so many things well, but it really excels in its crunch delivery - where you can mix up fuzz, overdrive and distortion characteristics for some really exotic and nuanced confections. I still have the multidrive on rotation fairly regularly - so it still has a part to play.


Final Thoughts

There are various degrees and style of crunch, and this OCD-centric one skirts very close to the Marshall Plexi style distortion yet never quite so high gain - as it is mostly anchored to the maximum medium gain delivery. It's funny how the actual genuine OCD pedal has been ousted in my chain - while it's still an exceptional sounding pedal beloved by most. Yet I trust that if most players did the same head-to-head comparison in range and versatility as I did - they would probably back the Odyssey eventually for its far superior utility.

 

You can't really argue with £37 for the OCD style sound - so the Mooer is another excellent proposition, while many of the T-Rex pedals are still cruelly overlooked even though they are tuned to perfection and deliver amazing tones. Interestingly there are around 5 or 6 key iterations of the OCD pedal - and none of those versions sound exactly the same - giving you a significant target to aim for. If you want a cheap compact over a mini - you can get the pretty much equally formidable Joyo Ultimate Drive - which also does an excellent job of replicating the OCD.

 

As far as where my own thoughts sit - I now have plenty of this style of pedal - including the original - that can get me smack bang into the core of that OCD territory - I really don't need to acquire any more versions of the same.

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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