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The Best Overdrive Pedals for Beginners (2023)

Now that you’ve learned some of the guitar and music theory basics, it’s time to start buying pedals. Of course, some will start to purchase stuff before they conquer all the basics. While this is not necessarily wrong, know that pedals are just expressive tools and won’t magically make you sound better. That also goes for overdrive pedals.

To beginners, overdrives might not seem that exciting. However, their smooth clipping tone can either enhance a tube-driven amp or help a solid-state amp get a tube-like twist. They’re mostly useful for classic rock, blues, funk, pop, and other genres. But they can also serve as boosts that bring tube-driven amps into really heavy territories.

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No matter which group you belong to, we’ll try and help you find the best possible overdrive for beginner guitar players.

What To Look for in an Overdrive Pedal as a Beginner

Just like with any other piece of gear, if you’re a beginner, first think of the price. Honestly, there’s absolutely no reason to splurge on your rig, even if you’re an intermediate player. Stick to what’s reasonably priced. Or, even better, stick to what’s within the cheapest category.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider some mid or high-priced overdrives. Just bear in mind that you don’t go overboard unless you’re sure that you’ll be keeping this pedal for a very long time.

Another thing to bear in mind is simplicity. I’d advise that you don’t go with anything too complicated. Taking a pedal with only three or four knobs is more than enough. Additionally, you’ll also learn

Lastly, consider what kind of amp you have. Since we’re talking about beginner-oriented stuff, we could safely assume that you’re playing through a solid-state amp. So maybe something that adds a tube-like twist, with at least some dynamic response to it, would be a good idea.

But if you’re playing through a tube-driven amp, most of the overdrives will be good to go. Just bear in mind that you’ll need to learn how your tube amp reacts to overdrive pedals. And that takes time, experience, and practice.

The Best Overdrive Pedals for Beginners

1. Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive

For many years now, Behringer has been making some of the most affordable copies of famous pedals. And it was only in the last few years or so that people are starting to realize that these cheap copies are more than worth the price and are sometimes performing as well as the originals. That’s exactly the case with their TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive.

This is a copy of Ibanez’s old original TS808 Tube Screamer manufactured back in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. These old units can reach up to well over $1,000 on the market. But in the sub-$50 category, Behringer’s TO800 does, as some pros would argue, as good of a job as the original.

Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal

Sure, how the controls respond is not exactly the same and the casing is plastic. But put this in front of any tube-driven amp and you’re in for a treat. And you could also put it in front of a solid-state amp, and, with the right settings, you’ll get some serious tube-like sonic traits. At its price, TO800 is a steal. Additionally, it’s super-easy to use and is a great choice for both beginners and pros.

2. Joyo JF-01 Vintage Overdrive

Joyo is another unrightfully underrated brand in the current pedal market. In their collection of products, we can find the JF-01, also known as the Vintage Overdrive. And before anyone tells you that this isn’t a good pedal, take your time to look more into the demos and you’ll see what it can do with the right settings and when paired with a decent amp.

At first glance, you can see that the pedal comes with the three basic controls for volume, tone, and drive. In a way, it’s another one of the Tube Screamer clones designed to either boost a tube amp into “organic” distortion or to smoothen up a solid-state amp.

JOYO Vintage Overdrive Pedal Classic Tube Screamer Pedal for Electric Guitar Effect - True Bypass (JF-01)

However, what’s really great about JF-01 is that it actually adds a lot of harmonic content to your tone and isn’t as “tight” as some of these Tube Screamer clones tend to be. And, once again, we have a pretty simple overdrive pedal at hand which makes it a great choice for beginners. The best part is that it will serve you well even when you reach more advanced stages of guitar playing.

3. Donner Blues Drive

But if you prefer to keep things as tidy and minimalistic as possible on your pedalboard, Donner’s Blues Drive is worth checking out. Although packed in a mini-sized casing, the circuitry allows for a lot of versatility. Apart from your usual three-knob layout, you can also find a switch for two modes of operation.

One of them, labeled as “warm,” will help you get a smooth and creamy kind of tone. In my opinion, this setting is a great choice for solid-state amps and can even help you smoothen out the sound of other dirt boxes in your chain.

Donner Overdrive Guitar Pedal, Blues Drive Vintage Overdrive Effect Warm/Hot Modes for Pedal Boards Electric Guitar, True Bypass

The other mode, which is labeled as “hot,” helps you push things to a whole new level. This is what you’ll want to use with a tube-driven amp and drive it into some seriously distorted territories if needed.

4. Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive

But if you really want to go with a “safer” choice and choose a well-known brand, Boss offers a pretty simple solution with their SD-1 Super Overdrive. It’s not expensive and it’s one of the Tube Screamer’s biggest competitors.

What’s important to note about this pedal is that it’s slightly sharper-sounding compared to your usual overdrives on the market. In fact, some would even call it “ear-piercing.” This doesn’t make it better or worse, it’s just that kind of overdrive.

Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive Pedal

From my experience, it gets a pretty unique tone when paired with American-style tube amps and when you cut some of the high-end out with its tone knob. It still adds a more piercing twist to the tone but it’s not as sharp as it can get. In my opinion, it’s a better choice for tube amps than solid-state ones.

5. TC Electronic MojoMojo

Lastly, we shouldn’t avoid mentioning TC Electronic and their affordable yet incredibly useful and diverse MojoMojo. This fine little pedal brings a different twist to your average overdrive and keeps the price at a much lower level at the same time.

Instead of a simple tone knob, MojoMojo comes with bass and treble controls, allowing for a more precise tone-shaping. Additionally, there’s a switch for the voicing mode that adds even more options.

What’s incredible about it is that it can go from subtle dirty boosts up to soaring leads when paired with the right amp. Use it to push a tube-driven amp and you’ll even be able to get some harmonically rich distorted tones. MojoMojo does a pretty awesome job at driving tube amps.

TC Electronic MOJOMOJO OVERDRIVE Exceptional Overdrive Pedal with Extra Headroom, Precise Controls and a Voicing Switch

But even if you pair it with a solid-state amp, you’ll get some tube-like characteristics. For instance, you can really smoothen things out and yet add some serious richness to the tone, sometimes even adding a subtle dynamic response.

At its price, it’s more than a great deal. Again, we’re looking at a super-underrated overdrive pedal that does more than its price tag might suggest. No matter the genre that you’re into, if you’re looking for an overdrive, MojoMojo is a safe bet.


What Other Types of Effects Pedals Are Good for Beginners?

It’s always recommended for beginners to keep things fairly simple in their signal chain. While there are no rules set in stone, any effects that have advanced parameter controls, or that are too complicated to control, are not advisable.

Apart from overdrives, or any other distortion pedals, a beginner could also use a simple atmospheric pedal, like reverb or delay. These could help you make your tone less “dry,”, especially for lead parts.

Other than that, if you’re a beginner, you should consider keeping things as simple as possible. Modulation effects, like chorus, phaser, or flanger, could be too much of a distraction. The same goes for a wah pedal.

Do Multi-Effects Pedals Include Overdrive?

Multi-effect pedals, processors, or “floorboards” come with a whole array of effects. This also includes all types of distortion, meaning that they should include overdrives.

These days, multi-effects units come with digital models of actual physical pedals. Some of the classic overdrives, like Ibanez TS808 or TS9, will be featured in one form or another, usually with similar designation names.

Additionally, multi-effects pedals come with amp modeling software. These emulated guitar amps can also create overdriven or distorted tones on their own.

So, in short, yes, multi-effects pedals most often include overdrives, unless we’re looking at a pedal that focuses on some very specific types of effects.