While there can be nothing more glorious than a fantastic tube amp that’s cranked up to the point of rich, tube saturation, and breakup, there also is the downside of getting the police called on you in the middle of the night because you have to crank your amp up so loud to get there.

Gain pedals can be the answer to that very problem! Actually, ‘gain’ may be too much of a general term. There is a distinct difference between distortion overdrive and fuzz effects. Distortion can take you from ‘aggressive’ to ‘melt your face off metal type’ tones. Overdrive tends to land smack in the middle of classic rock territory. Fuzz can take you back to the ’60s in a heartbeat.

Gain pedals – Distortion, Overdrive, and Fuzz

Regardless of which type you are looking for, we’ve taken a look at some of the best gain pedals around. We check out classic and legendary, more modern models that earn their reputations.

The Fulltone OCD Overdrive

The Fulltone OCD Overdrive

The Fulltone OCD Overdrive

Introduction

Out of the countless gain pedals on the market today. There are a few who have certainly made a name for themselves. The Fulltone OCD Overdrive is one of those models. And it must be said, for a good reason. It is a ’boutique’ pedal that performs precisely and if not better) than advertised. The good news is, it isn’t so boutique that it will wear a hole in your wallet…

Features

The Fulltone OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Drive) is a simple pedal. It gives you that warm, classic overdrive tone with a minimum of fussing around about it. It is a single-sized pedal housed in a rugged all-metal enclosure. That makes it an excellent choice for gigging musicians, who may be a little harder on their effects.

The OCD features a unique bypass selector, Enhanced Bypass or True Bypass. It gives a robust signal with a minimum of ‘coloring’ of your tone when it’s off. Furthermore, it minimizes signal degradation to provide you with the best tone possible.

Unlike some other boutique pedals, the OCD doesn’t have any fancy graphics on the case. At first glance, it appears to be pretty dull. Don’t let the simple looks deceive you, though. The truth will be evident the minute you plug it in and start tweaking it to your taste.

Controls

The OCD controls are deceptively simple and advanced enough to keep it a step above other pedals in the same class. What does that mean? It means less time getting the tones you want and more time playing and enjoying it!

The three essential knobs (Volume, Drive, and Tone) are relatively self-explanatory. However, what sets the OCD apart is the ‘HP/LP mini-toggle switch—standing for High Peak or Low Peak. This switch offers you two distinct modes ranging from more of a clean boost to a rich and warm overdrive that also ‘feels’ just as good as it sounds.

Performance

If you’re looking for a pedal that will take you into molten metal territory, then the OCD isn’t the pedal for you. It was intended to provide more of a classic ‘overdrive’ tone. It’s effortless to get that thick and sustain-filled sound without crossing the line into full-out distortion territory.

The unique circuit design performs precisely as intended, with a touch sensitivity level to be experienced to be believed from edge-of-breakup to more aggressive classic rock sounds. The OCD may well be exactly the pedal you are looking for.

The Fulltone OCD Overdrive is one of those rare gear pieces that truly brings it all to the table. Simple controls, exceptional performance, and advanced analog circuitry. All at a price point that puts in firm competition with some of the more mainstream models on the market.

The Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal

Distortion pedal

Distortion pedal

Introduction

Out of the countless guitar gear manufacturers that have ever existed. One name quickly comes to mind when the conversation turns to effects pedals, Boss. They have designed some of the most iconic effects ever released in pedal form over the years (from the 1970s). The DS-1 Distortion pedal ranks as one of their most popular.

Features

If there’s one thing about Boss pedals, you typically know one when you see one. For the most part, they share a package design that is just about as recognizable as the Boss’ name itself. The DS-1 is a prime example, featuring a fully analog circuit design housed in a durable metal enclosure. It has been time-tested for durability and reliability.

Its single-sized package won’t take up too much valuable space on your pedalboard. Furthermore, it can be powered by either a 9V battery or a 9VDC power supply, which may be a better and more reliable option. The last thing you want is a battery to go out on you at a gig or recording session.

Controls

Three knobs – that’s it. Level (volume), Tone (overall EQ shaping), and Distortion (gain level). Sure, pedals have much more elaborate control configurations, but sometimes you do not need things to be all that complicated. Just about the only other thing the DS-1 offers is a battery check indicator – other than that, it’s about as simple as you can get.

A legendary distortion pedal with tones and performance which are worthy of the Boss nameplate

Performance

The DS-1 offers the legendary performance that has made Boss one of the most popular brands. Sure, you can set the knobs at a lower level and get some resemblance of an overdriven tone, but by far, that is not what the DS-1 was intended to do. Distortion pedals are, by design, meant to be much more aggressive than overdrives, and this model certainly does not disappoint in that regard.

From edgy punk sounds to higher gain rock and early metal sounds, the DS-1 has it all under the hood. Some distortion pedals can tend to sound a bit harsh, but here you’ll find a rich spectrum of harmonics and overtones that have made this classic Boss pedal a perennial fan favorite for going on almost 50 years.

Conclusion

The Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal combines exceptional performance and reliability, all at a price that even the most budget-conscious guitarist will find highly reasonable. It is an excellent example of all that the right distortion pedal can – and should – offer, regardless of the style of music that it’s being used for.