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Nobels ODR Natural Overdrive and Alternatives

Aion ElectronicsBoostBoost and OverdriveEffects Pedal MakersJ RockettJRADMythos PedalsNobelsNordland ElectronicsODR Style OverdriveOverdriveTubescreamer Style OverdriveVemuramWamplerXTS Custom Pedals+-
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It’s about time I did a feature on the Other Green Overdrive - which has long since become a firm favourite of Nashville session players. It’s very much a mostly flat-mids overdrive as such where its overall output profile is quite different to the better known TS808 - with quite a bit more low end present and much less in the way of compression - so a somewhat fatter more open-pored sort of overdrive.

 

Most are fans of the extra low-end body, while several players have wanted more control over that aspect of the output - such that most ODR derivations have some kind of Bass Control or Bass-Cut - including the latest V2 variant / variety of ODR-1 - which has a Bass-Cut switch inside the battery compartment.

 

I’ve long meant to get an example of the Nobels ODR Overdrive - but could never fully settle on which single variant would suit me best - while I’ve come close to acquiring the discontinued Mythos Erlking on at least a couple of occasions. The Nobels circuit remains popular though and has seen recently in new varieties at either end of the scale - courtesy of the Vemuram Shanks ODS-1, and brand new Wampler Belle Overdrive Mini.

 

In this roundup I try to include most of the usual suspects including the Nobels Trio of ODR-1, ODR-S with 3-Band EQ, and ODR-Mini. The purpose of this article is to highlight the similarities and differences between these various overdrive pedals and for me to definitively decide which my likeliest acquisition candidate/s should be :


Nobels ODR-1 Overdrive BC / V2 - $119/£79

As mentioned in the intro, the latest edition of the ODR-1 has an extra control hidden within the battery compartment which functions as a Bass Cut Switch. Otherwise you have the classic 3 knobs of Drive, Spectrum and Level - where Spectrum is a fairly unique Tone control that increases or decreases both Bass and Treble simultaneously while maintaining the mids frequencies. This is a pretty unique profile of flat-mids soft-clipping overdrive which works particularly well for single coil pickups. It's also perfect for those of you who aren't fans of compression and want a sort of Tube Screamer - with extra bass and pretty much no compression. This is the baseline for the Nobels ODR types and a true classic in its own right. In general terms the TS808 is better for humbucker pickups and really tightens up the low end response of an amp, while the ODR-1 is the obvious choice for the more country-style single-coil twang of Nashville.


Nobels ODR-S Overdrive Special IMP edition - discontinued - c£150 equivalent in good condition via Reverb.com/Ebay

The alas now discontinued ODR-S was a natural evolution of the ODR-1 where the Spectrum control was replaced by a full 3-Band EQ - giving you a tonne more tone-shaping options and more versatility to tune the Overdrive towards the Guitar Input and desired Amp Output. The ODR-S came variously in 3 different coloured enclosures - silver, green and the final black IMP version - meaning it came with Integrated Mounting Plates. There's currently a handful of mostly silver enclosure ODR-S's on both Reverb.com and Ebay ranging from around £100 to £150 Equivalent for the ones in better condition. If I decided to go for this variety I would be looking to spend no more than £150 on one of the later black varieties. My understanding is that the underlying circuit here is exactly the same as the ODR-1 - it's just the Tone Stack that is different.


Nobels ODR-Mini Overdrive - $79/£69

This purportedly is voiced somewhere between the ODR-1's stock and Bass-Cut setting - albeit the circuit is somewhat different in the smaller enclosure - and there is no hidden or internal Bass-Cut switch. This means that the ODR-Mini is not quite as suitable/versatile for humbucker style guitars, while single-coil players can save some significant space by going with the smaller version which has exactly the same control knobs as its larger original sibling - or Drive, Level and Spectrum. I've always wondered at the wisdom of leaving the Bass-Cut switch out - especially in light of the brand new Wampler Belle Overdrive Mini - which delivers a little more, admittedly at a higher price level though.


Aion Electronics Andromeda Natural Overdrive - $86 for Kit, circa £115 equivalent for assembled edition

PCB and Kit experts Aion always seem to have a smart take on the classic circuits, and the ODR-1 derived Aion is no exception. Instead of a basic Bass-Cut switch it has a dedicated Depth/Bass control - to go along with the Level, Drive and Spectrum knobs. I can't say I've seen many of these on Reverb.com - but I know that Alchemy Audio make the occasional one - and you could probably contact them if you wanted one. This is a slight enhancement on the original ODR-1 and comes with a very marginal premium.


J Rockett GTO Guthrie Trapp Overdrive V2 - $199/£199

Guthrie Trapp is himself one of the most celebrated Nobels ODR-1 users, so it's not too much of a mystery that his signature GTO Overdrive from J Rockett Pedals is very much based on the ODR-1. The labels are somewhat unusual - Level, Gain, Accent, Warmth - where the latter two are actually more conventional 2-Band EQ controls than they sound - with Accent essentially being Highs, and Warmth the Low End. This is a very decent alternative to an ODR-1 - obviously honed by one of the masters of that craft.


Mythos Pedals Erlking Overdrive - discontinued - $199/£199 when new

I've actually been tracking this discontinued pedal for a while and have so far passed up on two opportunities - obviously had more pressing priorities at the time or the price / condition wasn't quite right for me - possibly the shipping was out of whack. In any case this was my ODR-1 type frontrunner for a good few years now and we'll see what it's status is in the Final Thoughts below. This is another 2-Band EQ style take on the ODR-1 with controls for Gain, Level, Bass and Treble.


ADDITION! : Nordland ODR-C Custom Overdrive - €232

I apologise for having unwittingly initially left out this Nordland ODR-C Custom Overdrive which is developed by the original Nobels ODR-1 circuit designer one Kai Tachibana under his own Nordland brand, and has been in production for about a year now. First made available in the bright green, but now also offered in a black variant. These pedals are made in small batches and get snapped up very quickly indeed each time they get announced.

 

The core circuit and components are identical to the original vintage ODR-1 with some additional smart controls and refinements. And while you should be familiar with the Drive, Level and Spectrum (Tone) controls, there are 3 new controls - one regular-sized knob Mid frequencies control, and two mini-knobs - O.D.C. (Overdrive De-Compress) and of course Lo-cut.

 

The fact that you have control over the degree of compression makes this an even more formidable proposition than the ODR-S variant. It's slightly up the baseline on pricing, but I believe this is now my frontrunner and next likely acquisition target.

 

I've already contacted Kai with a view to doing a proper feature of this pedal on the site at some stage in the near future - obviously pending availability.


Vemuram Shanks ODS-1 - $385/£379

As is usually the way - this Vemuram John Shanks Signature Overdrive is easily the priciest in the lineup - being near enough twice as expensive as everything else. The ODS-1 sports 5 controls actually - Volume, Gain and Tone knobs on the front, and externally accessible trim-pots on the rear for adjusting Bass and Saturation. I often feel that Vemuram would be better off with a few more dials on the front - rather than the one or two extra trim-pots around the back - which are easier to get to than most equivalents, but still something of a pain when everything is cabled and wired up. Tone controls for me are rarely set and forget - I typically need them front-and-centre! There is no doubting the quality and credentials of this pedal - and that beautiful brass enclosure. The price tag though will be a problem for some, and I feel there are other varieties here which are just as good.


Wampler Belle Overdrive Mini - $150/£150

And so to the brand new Wampler Belle Overdrive Mini - which really sparked off this piece to the most significant degree. I had always intended to do more of a focused feature on the Nobels ODR varieties, and the timing just seems right now. This tiny pedal just seems to be perfect - in having all the same core controls - Color (Spectrum), Level, and Gain - and some extra refinements courtesy of a 4th Bass knob, and additional push-button Clipping switch which give you more punch and compression. I'm always bemused when a mini pedal has a greater feature set than its larger siblings - and such is somewhat the case here. Brian is still the reigning 'King of Drive' and he has a great ear for these kinds of tones.


XTS Custom Pedals Imperial Overdrive - $249/£249

The XTS Imperial is another interesting 4-control variety where the 4th control is a 'Dynamic' voicing switch which deliver the classic twangy Nashville tones in the up position, and in the down position you get a faster, more articulate attack. The 3 classic knobs are still at the core here - Volume, Gain and Color (Spectrum). It's about $50 over the typical boutique pricing level for such pedal - but some may find this take on the format more to their liking.


Final Thoughts

There are likely a few more viable varieties out there, but this is as good a selection as any really. If you feel I've missed out on any of the usual suspects do let me know by all means.

 

When the Wampler Belle first materialised I though that it would likely be my lead contender - in terms of versatility and controllability - and upon completing the review my mind has been further made up to pursue the Belle as my first preference here.

 

From the original line-up of Nobels Overdrive - the one that intrigues me the most is the ODR-S - in fact the only one with 3-band EQ here. There's just a couple of the IMP black edition varieties out there in the wild - and I'm not sure those are the right balance of price and condition for me - but we shall see.

 

So I'm definitely getting a Wampler Belle Overdrive Mini - and I will likely try to opportunistically grab a copy of the black ODR-S if and when I encounter the right conditions. I still quite like the Erlking - but that's probably only my equal 3rd preference with the Aion Andromeda - while I'm not quite as keen on the J Rockett GTO, and both the Vemuram ODS-1 and XTS Imperial are just not quite practical enough for a variety of reasons - obviously with price being a factor too.

 

I know there's lots of players who prefer this to the Tube Screamer - but it largely serves a different genre. Definitely its own thing and a classic within the overdrive category - everyone should probably have at least one of these.

 

POSTSCRIPT UPDATE - I unwittingly left out the Nordland ODR-C - I just wasn't aware of it, and it did not come up in any of my research for whatever reason. It is now however my next likely candidate for acquisition above the Wampler Belle Mini and ODR-S. Its combination of original provenance and extended smart controls - makes it the obvious choice for my preferences.

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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