Top 10 Overdrive Pedals for Great Metal Sound in 2021

Dave Mostert
Written by
Last update:

By definition, overdrive pedals are used to gain a little something extra from your clean and clear sound by getting a little more saturation out of your guitar.

Overdrive pedals can be used in so many different genres of music, and since the 80s they have become a staple part of guitar tone. Overdrives are toggled on a footswitch, which can often be the only logical way to activate it during live performance.

Overdrive pedals come in a range of shapes, sizes, features, and price tags. In this article, we’re going to dive deep and seek out the best overdrive pedals on the planet.

Note that I have not taken into account boutique overdrive pedals, such as the VFE Pedals Tremoverb, the Wampler Pedals Black '65 Overdrive, and the Catalinbread Motivator. With that exception, I’ve tried to cover them all, and the VFE and Wampler pedals are some of my all-time favorites.

The article will also have a little bias toward pedals with a footswitch, as most guitarists are opting for these designs instead of stompboxes.

So, what makes an overdrive pedal good? In the right hands, the right overdrive pedal can take your guitar's sound to the next level. Let’s dive into it.

NameCategoryProduct
Greer Amplification Lightspeed Organic Overdrive Guitar PedalBest OverallGreer Amplification Lightspeed Organic Overdrive Guitar Pedal
Nady TS-30 Tube Sound Overdrive PedalBudget PickNady TS-30 Tube Sound Overdrive Pedal
MXR EVH5150 OverdriveUpgrade PickMXR EVH5150 Overdrive

1. Greer Amplification Lightspeed Organic Overdrive Guitar Pedal

Our rating: 10 / 10

Greer Amplification Lightspeed Organic Overdrive Guitar Pedal

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Amazing overdrive
  • Excellent adjustment range
  • Reasonably priced

For those who love great metal sounds and want an overdrive pedal with an organic tone in line with the tone of an overdriven tube amp, the Lightspeed is an excellent choice.

The Greer Lightspeed organic overdrive has a unique circuit that delivers a tone of organic overdrive – warm and full with a touch of gain. A lot of overdrive pedals that claim to provide this kind of tone don’t actually succeed – they produce a brittle or digital-sounding tone. However, in this case, you’ll probably notice that the overdriven tone is reminiscent of your tube amp tone.

Compared to some other overdrive pedals like the Ibanez Tube Screamer, the Greer organic overdrive pedal has a much fuller tone and works particularly well with medium and high output humbucker pickups or active pups. It’s ideal for those who want a reasonable amount of gain without feeling boxed in by an amp model or getting lost in a mix. It also has a tightness and depth to the tone that you won’t find in similar pedals.

2. Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal

Our rating: 9 / 10

Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Strong, warm overdrive with plenty of sustain
  • Edge and gain control for different styles of distortion
  • True bypass switch
  • All-analog circuitry; not a digital modeling pedal
  • Comes with a standard 9V adapter
  • Made in California, USA
  • The controls are big and the layout is easy to understand
  • A very unique, cool-looking pedal to just have on your pedalboard
  • Build time is very fast once you’ve ordered it
  • Pretty much any kind of distortion you want … it’s like having a signature model pedal

3. MXR EVH5150 Overdrive

Our rating: 8 / 10

MXR EVH5150 Overdrive

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Provides smooth gain
  • Bass and treble controls
  • Good price
  • Small and handy for easy portability
  • EVH endorsement

Cons:

  • Not suited for high-gain metal
  • Pedal is too heavy to be used on a pedalboard
  • Only two knobs (gain and level)
  • Battery input is not excepted by most guitarists
  • Not suitable for low-gain metal tones.

When it comes to overdrive pedals, the EVH5150 is one of our favorites. It’s also endorsed by Eddie Van Halen himself. Actually the EVH5150 is an updated version of the 5150 III, which was known to be one of the most aggressive overdrive pedals around.

It comes with a knob for gain, and another for level. This is used for dialing up a wide variety of different tones from light distortion to classic rock to metal. There’s also a knob on the side that controls the bass and treble levels.

The pedal also does pretty well with sustain and feedback as well.

4. Tom'sline Engineering Overdrive Effect Pedal

Our rating: 8 / 10

Tom'sline Engineering Overdrive Effect Pedal

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Made of high-quality stainless steel
  • Perfect as distortion pedal or overdrive pedal
  • Holds the bottom end really well

5. Danelectro D-2 Fab Overdrive Effects Pedal

Our rating: 7 / 10

Danelectro D-2 Fab Overdrive Effects Pedal

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Easy installation
  • Affordable price
  • Comes in two versions – one with boost, and one without
  • The overdrive pedal is great for blues, pink floyd, and smooth jazz
  • The distortion pedal can be used to give you a grunge or alternative rock sound
  • An ultra-cool look
  • An incredibly fun pedal to play with
  • Offers sharp high end and fat lows
  • Has 3 different response modes
  • Features an LED light

Cons:

  • The box used to ship the product is fragile
  • Usability could be improved

One of the things that has remained constant through the decades has been the quest for excellent tone. In the 60s, tone chasers were happy to find decent overdrive pedals, but today the market is much more saturated. It can be tough to find a good overdrive pedal when there are so many available options. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the best overdrive pedals for you. It contains five high performing pedals that will enhance your tone. These pedals are hardcore, durable, and up for the challenge.

6. Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube-Sound Overdrive Instrument Effects Pedal,Lime Green

Our rating: 6 / 10

Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube-Sound Overdrive Instrument Effects Pedal,Lime Green

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Compact size
  • Has a great sound for this price range
  • It doesn’t require a power supply since you can plug in the guitar cables into it for power
  • Works perfectly well with electric guitars
  • Easy to use

The Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube-Sound Overdrive guitar effect pedal is great if you are just starting out with playing the guitar.

As a beginner, you probably have no idea what you would want or what type of sound you would want to create. You don’t really have to look any further.

This is a basic overdrive pedal that is very easy to use. It is also the most affordable on this list. It offers a decent sound that is perfect for beginners who are in no rush to make professional sounding recordings or give live shows.

7. TC Electronic MojoMojo Overdrive Pedal

Our rating: 6 / 10

TC Electronic MojoMojo Overdrive Pedal

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • The MojoMojo may be one of the best overdrive pedals for metal
  • A great choice for those who want a killer crunch effect for their overdrive tones
  • BBE pops, choruses, filters, and flangers without sacrificing clarity

Cons:

  • Some users complain about difficulties in understanding how to use the pedal
  • It can be difficult to save your settings, especially if you’re not aware of what you’re doing

This is a fairly affordable overdrive pedal, considering that it is made by a reputable brand like TC Electronic.

The MojoMojo comes in a uniquely shaped body, but inside it delivers a classic sound that’s perfect for several styles such as blues, rock, country, and metal. It’s a pedal that is suited for both newer guitar players and more advanced players.

With the MojoMojo, you get a lot of options to play with. You can control the drive, tone, and volume of the sound with its knobs. There’s also a switch for controlling a wide range of gain capabilities. The pedal can be considered one of the best overdrive pedals from TC Electronic, since it comes with BBE sound enhancement technology.

8. Maxon RTD800 Real Tube Ovedrive/Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal

Our rating: 6 / 10

Maxon RTD800 Real Tube Ovedrive/Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Real tube amp sounds
  • Durable with metal casing
  • Maybe the best overdrive pedal available for the money
  • Available in two models, one with single-button functionality and the other with two easy-to-access footswitches

We think that the Maxon RTD800 Real Tube OV-drive/Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal would make a great addition to your pedalboard if you play rock, classic rock, rockabilly, heavy rock, or metal.

The Maxon RTD800 has been designed for live performances and offers the versatility you need to create a classic overdrive sound for electric guitar, bass, and strummed instruments. It can even accommodate acoustic guitars through the effect output.

As you can see, this is a very versatile pedal with a professional sound quality. And the fact that it comes with real tubes makes it worth the extra money.

9. Maxon RTO700 Real Tube Series II Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal

Our rating: 6 / 10

Maxon RTO700 Real Tube Series II Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Tube-amp simulation for guitar
  • Sounds great right out of the box
  • Great for both lead and rhythm guitar
  • Features dual circuitry for a wide range of tonal options
  • Made in the USA
  • Features True-Bypass
  • 7 tonal settings
  • Solid metal housing
  • Superb value for money
  • Maxon’s customer service is top notch

Cons:

  • The blue light may annoy some users
  • Overall output is rather low

The Maxon RTO700 is one of the best overdrive pedals available in the market. There’s plenty of choice in this category and a lot of the product choices are pretty similar. But the Maxon really sets itself apart thanks to its myriad of tonal options, along with a very intriguing design.

This is a true tube-amp simulation, so you can really make it sound like you’ve got a tube amp at your disposal. It boasts a 7-band EQ and 7 different sound effects that you can use to shape your tone. Considering the price, the Maxon is a very intriguing option for beginning guitarists and more seasoned players alike.

10. Nady TS-30 Tube Sound Overdrive Pedal

Our rating: 5 / 10

Nady TS-30 Tube Sound Overdrive Pedal

Check Price on Amazon

Pros:

  • Tone and Level controls for fine tuning your sound
  • All-metal casing for durability
  • 9V battery or use optional AC adapter
  • Built-in input and output jacks
  • An affordable option for anyone who wants to have tube-like overdrive in their music

Go through this section, and you will know why this Nady product is our top pick. It is an economical choice that does not compromise quality. It is lightweight and has a small footprint. It also has tone and level controls, so you can fine tune your tone.

The Nady TS-30 is an overdrive pedal that is great for any kind of sound, whether it is rock, country, blues, jazz, or heavy metal. It has a solid, all-metal casing, so you don’t have to worry about it breaking. It also has a 9V battery or an AC adapter, so you can choose how you want to power the pedal.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best overdrive pedal for metal?

The overdrive pedal gives guitarists the ability to take their distortion from a moderately punk sound, to a full-on gravely metal sound. This is done by increasing the signal. With an overdrive pedal, you can easily achieve output from a soft blues distortion to a distinctive metal distortion. An overdrive is also an alternative to using a distortion pedal if you want to keep a low-gain (but not clean) sound most of the time but also dabble in crunchy distortion.

But what is the best overdrive pedal?

A good overdrive should be able to give you a wide range of tone, from bluesy to metal. You want it to give you clear distortion without altering your original sound too much. The tone quality should remain clear and responsive, as opposed to muddy, raw, or thin. The pedal should also have a nice range of gain– enough to distort your sound but not enough that it is useless for low-gain settings.

How do I choose an overdrive pedal?

Choosing an overdrive pedal can be tough, but if you know what you are looking for, it should be a pretty straightforward process.

First question when choosing an overdrive pedal is the sound.

How do you want your guitar amp to distort? Since overdrive pedals come in so many different flavors, the list of questions you’ll want to ask yourself grows. Are you that guy who wants every note to have a body with a bit of crunch? Or do you want something nice and fat that you can really dig into with some bluesy licks? Maybe you want something you can use on your Strat, but could also help clean things up on your Les Paul.

Haters gonna hate, but everything isn’t for everyone.

It is crucial to keep in mind that each model has its own tone, and that no single pedal is the best choice for every situation.

What pedals should every guitarist have?

In our humble opinion, every guitarist should have a Tremolo pedal, an Overdrive pedal, and a Distortion stomp box. Here is why:

Tremolo pedal: this is one of the first pedals and is a very good way of adding a bit of movement or texture to your playing

Overdrive pedal: it can be used as a clean boost, or it can be used to drive your power amp and create some crunch. It is a very versatile player.

Distortion pedal: this is used to create a crunch and distortion sound. It can also be used as a boost or a clean boost.

Add to this the fact that these pedals are relatively inexpensive and they should be on every guitarist's pedalboard.

Should I get a distortion or overdrive pedal?

The short answer is: it depends.

Distortion pedals provide the original, overdriven sound for guitar players, but they do more than that. They can also shape the tone of the playerʼs instrument by boosting or cutting volume in certain ranges.

On the downside, pedals donʼt sound exactly like a tube amp. Additionally, pedals vary from one another in tone and intensity of the effect.

Overdrive pedals contain the same effect as their distortion counterparts, but without the extra versatility.

Some players may also find it a challenge to maintain temperature-regulated environments, which can affect the overdrive pedals performance.

Ultimately, this answer depends on your goals and preferences. Many use both and many can tell you the difference between overdrive pedals and distortion pedals.

Conclusion

Looking at the trend of the music industry, metal music seems to be coming alive again for a period in the early 2020s. And with that in mind, whether you are just getting into the metal world or you just want to stay updated with the newest trend, this article will help you a lot in selecting the best overdrive pedal for your metal music style.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Greer Amplification Lightspeed Organic Overdrive Guitar PedalBest OverallGreer Amplification Lightspeed Organic Overdrive Guitar Pedal
Nady TS-30 Tube Sound Overdrive PedalBudget PickNady TS-30 Tube Sound Overdrive Pedal
MXR EVH5150 OverdriveUpgrade PickMXR EVH5150 Overdrive