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The Best Overdrive Pedals for Solid-State Amps (2023)

Guitar amplifiers are one of the very rare products where vacuum tubes still find their use. However, they’re usually pretty expensive and somewhat impractical, thus the solid-state amps come into play.

While what’s better or worse comes down to personal preferences, solid-state amps do come with certain traits that are undesirable. They sound too “sterile,” “thin,” and aren’t as nearly as dynamically responsive. On the other hand, some may prefer this kind of tone. It’s not uncommon since solid-state amps have a much cleaner tone. Plus, they’re cheaper.

Although overdrives are usually associated with pushing tube-driven amps over the edge, they can also come in handy with solid-state amps. Their soft clipping and smoother tone can help you get some of that tube-like vibe.

Our Top Picks

  • Ibanez TS9DX Turbo Tube ScreamerA more versatile version of the classic TS9 with 3 additional modes for more depth and punch.
  • Boss BD-2 Blues DriverSimple to use with the classic 3-knob layout, the BD-2 can get that “creaminess,” along with some serious harmonically-rich saturation.
  • Behringer VT999 Vintage Tube MonsterA budget-friendly, tube-driven pedal giving you the warmth and dynamic response of a tube amp.
  • Wampler Tumnus If you don’t feel like messing with tubes at all but still want some dynamic response, Wampler Tumnus is one of the pedals to try.
  • Fulltone OCDAn incredibly versatile pedal. The “high peak” setting really works well for solid-state amps.

In this guide, we’ll answer some questions you may have about overdrive pedals for solid-state amps and take a closer look at our picks.

What To Look for in an Overdrive Pedal for Solid-State Amps

Before I get into any of the details, let’s first get one thing out of the way. Many factors impact the tone of an amp or a pedal. Even though solid-state amps are “flatter” or more “sterile” than tube amps, each model will have its specific sonic traits. And pretty much the same goes for overdrive pedals unless we’re talking about some super-specific “clones” of other famous dirt boxes.

With this out of the way, I also want to point out that there’s a personal component to dialing in the perfect tone. So it’s challenging to set a very strict set of rules. Nonetheless, there are a few things to bear in mind.

From my experience, it’s always a better idea to go with something that’s smoother-sounding. An overdrive pedal that has that “icepick” twist to the tone is probably not the best idea. The tone would feel too “sharp” and unpleasant.

With that in mind, I’d highly recommend something that sounds a bit smoother and darker. Since solid-state amps tend to be too sterile and thin, you need to add some weight to the tone, for lack of a better word.

In some cases, you’d want to add some dynamic response to your tone equation. There are overdrive pedals that can help you do that, even with a solid-state amp. You could look for a tube-equipped one but there are other options as well.

The Best Overdrive Pedals for Solid-State Amps

1. Ibanez TS9DX Turbo Tube Screamer

Ibanez’s TS9 is the obvious choice. However, the TS9DX variant makes things more versatile with three additional modes — plus (or “+”), hot, and turbo. They all add their different twist to the tone. But most importantly, you’ll get more depth and punch in the bottom ends.

Ibanez TS9DX Turbo Tube Screamer

Ultimately, you have a fuller-sounding guitar tone on a solid-state amplifier. And some of the settings work really well with single-coil pickups, making them sound thicker. Just roll off the tone knob by 10 to 20 percent, set it on the “plus” mode, and crank up the gain a little.

Other than the mode switch, you get the regular volume, drive, and tone. While you’d definitely get more sonic options running it through a tube amp, due to their specific response, TS9DX is still versatile even on a solid-state amp. It’s easily one of the most underrated pedals on the market these days.

2. Boss BD-2 Blues Driver

Sure, most overdrive pedals (and some would argue all) are inspired by the Tube Screamer. However, Boss’ BD-2 Blues Driver still has its specific twist that not many other overdrives can truly replicate.

And, of course, it’s all packed within the famous rugged Boss casing. On top of all that, the pedal keeps things very simple with the standard 3-knob layout. Of course, there’s also the new variant, BD-2W, featuring the “custom voicing” mode.

Boss BD-2 Blues Driver Guitar Effects Pedal

But overall, BD-2 brings a new dimension to your tone if you’re playing it through a solid-state amp. There’s some of that “creaminess,” along with some serious harmonically-rich saturation. If you push the gain knob higher, you’ll also get it closer to a fuzz-like tone. But at lower-gain settings, you get some dynamic response as well.

What I’d advise with this one, however, is to keep things slightly darker with your tone knob. If you don’t roll off those high-ends, you might get it to sound too sharp in the end.

3. Behringer VT999 Vintage Tube Monster

Behringer is often looked down upon as just another cheap knock-off brand. But they have some seriously awesome stuff to offer that’s surprisingly cheap. And that’s exactly the case with their VT999 overdrive.

Most importantly, we’re looking at a tube-driven pedal. This gives you the warmth and dynamic response of tube amps that you can run through your regular solid-state amp. And honestly, it’s really impressive.

Behringer VT999 Vintage Tube Monster Overdrive Pedal

Now, although it’s really great, don’t think that it will suddenly transform a cheap amp into a tube-driven stack. On the other hand, it offers a hybrid approach where you can use the tone-shaping capabilities of preamps and preamp 12AX7 tubes on your solid-state amp.

In some lower-gain settings, you get that really sweet and warm kind of tone. But if you push it over the limits, it breaks up and sounds dirtier than an average overdrive. Meanwhile, it retains warmth and dynamic response. And as if all that wasn’t enough, it even has a 3-band EQ and a built-in noise gate.

In my opinion, this is not only the best budget-friendly option but is also the best one if you want to add some dynamic response. Never underestimate Behringer.

4. Wampler Tumnus

But in case you don’t feel like messing with tubes at all but still want some dynamic response, Wampler Tumnus is one of the pedals to try. And seriously, this overdrive will upgrade your average solid-state amp.

Sure, it’s slightly more expensive than your usual overdrive, but it is worth every penny. It’s a pedal that allows you to shine. It doesn’t change the tone as much as it enhances it. It will help you and your guitar shine.

Wampler Tumnus V2 Overdrive & Boost Guitar Effects Pedal

One awesome thing about it is that, at lower-gain settings, your dry signal is still getting through. It’s just like you’re getting some sparkle on top. And, what’s more, the pedal responds really well to the controls, making it really versatile, despite only having three knobs.

Wampler Tumnus is one of those pieces of gear that you’ll want to keep for life. It’s a pro-tier pedal and will also work incredibly well with tube amps and some serious digital amp modelers.

5. Fulltone OCD

What’s kind of a bummer with Fulltone OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Drive, is that it’s no longer produced. But if you get your hands on one of these, you’re in for a treat. There are two main versions and several variants in between but they all work like a charm with most amps.

Fulltone OCD v2

The pedal comes with the usual volume, tone, and drive controls. However, you also get the switch for “high peak” and “low peak” modes. The first one gives you a midrange boost and helps you get that “British” kind of tone. The other option doesn’t change your tone as much and is a bit “flatter” in response. The “high peak” setting really works well for solid-state amps.

Then there’s also the internal switch for true and buffered bypass. Overall, it’s an incredibly versatile pedal so don’t get fooled by its simple controls.


Are Solid-State Amps Good with Pedals?

Yes, solid-state amps work pretty well with pedals. In fact, in some cases, they’ll prove to be the perfect “platform” to shape your tone by using additional pedals and effects. This is mostly due to their “flatter” frequency response and large headroom. The tone is much cleaner compared to tube amps, which lets your distortion pedal do more heavy lifting in the tone-shaping process.

Although every model is different, solid-state amps can tend to sound “sharper” and “thinner.” A smoother-sounding overdrive pedal can come in handy and generally, any dirtbox that adds some dynamic response.

Do Tube Screamers Work with Solid-State Amps?

Yes, just like any other overdrive pedal, Tube Screamers work with solid-state amps. Although Tube Screamer, in all of its variants, is famous as a booster for tube-driven amplifiers, it’s a pretty useful tool for solid-state amps as well. It can help you shape your tone and add more character.

And just like with tube amps, you can also use it on a clean or distorted channel. Just bear in mind that distorted channels on solid-state amplifiers can sound too “harsh” or thin. So don’t expect that Tube Screamer in this setting will sound the same as those plugged into tube amps.

Which Guitarists Use Solid-State Amps?

Plenty of famous guitar players used solid-state amps throughout their careers. One of the most popular choices has always been Roland Jazz Chorus which was used by James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Matt Bellamy, Johnny Marr, Kevin Parker, Adam Jones, and Andy Summers, just to name a few. Other big names who used various solid-state amp models include the late Dimebag Darrell of Pantera, Yngwie Malmsteen, David Gilmour, Alan Holdsworth, and many others.