Overdrive Shootout the Third

I don’t know how this happens. It’s not like I intend to have 10 overdrive pedals just lying around. They just start coming in the mail. Like magic. It’s so weird.

So I had 10 of them, and figured, let’s toss ‘em in a bag together and watch the ensuing bloodshed. I absolutely love it. For us guitarists, this is like dogfights……except it’s not as illegal.

ShanghaiNoon.jpg picture by rypdal95
(hehe Shanghai Noon. Some definite shootouts in this one. Stupid? Yes. Enjoyable? Absolutely.)

The Players

–SIB Varidrive with ECC81 tube (JJ)
–Xotic RC Booster
–Paul Cochrane Tim (at 12 volts)
–Fulltone OCD v3 (at 12 volts)
–T-Rex Alberta (at 12 volts)
–Skreddy Top Fuel
–Mad Professor Little Green Wonder
–Ibanez TS7 (home modded to something close to 808 specs)
–Sobbat Drivebreaker
–Hermida Mosferatu (at 12 volts)

The Clean Tone (to get an idea of how or why the pedals are reacting the way they are)

–Robert Dixon Prairiewood Les Paul
–Wolfetone Dr. Vintage pickups
–Lava ELC cable
–All the pedals…no buffers…a mix of Lava and EA cables……and yes, 10 pedals in a row without a buffer or bypass loop do suck a lot of tone……but I figure it’ll all balance out, seeing as they are all in the chain……maybe that’s just laziness, but……no, it’s laziness
–Lava ELC cable
–Mike Holland EL84-based head
–65 Amps 2×12 cab
–Celestion Alnico Blue and G12H-30

The Personal Biases

–The Tim, Mosferatu, and Varidrive were all currently on my board, so I’ve had more time to dial them into my rig.
–I’m not a tubescreamer fan.
–The Skreddy and Mad Professor I can sell for a lot, which would be nice.
–Edge uses a Sobbat Drivebreaker, so it automatically has the upper hand going into the shootout. It’s like Val Kilmer in Tombstone……you just know he’s going to win because he’s Val and he’s awesome.
–And again, as has been in my last two overdrive shootouts, it’d be so sweet if the little Ibanez TS7 with the home mod just pummeled everything else.
–The Skreddy is deep purple, and would look really good on my board.

The Shootout:

The Findings

–SIB Varidrive with ECC81 tube (JJ)
Wonderfully saturated, tubey overdrive. Nothing quite sounds like this pedal. But the compression is such that for my needs, it only works for me for solo tone. Which it does incredibly well, but it’s other uses don’t quite do it for me because of the compression thing. Oh, and putting a lower gain, high quality tube in this pedal really, really helps.

–Xotic RC Booster
Whoa. I’ve heard ravings about this pedal for a while, and finally got to try one. It totally exceeded expectations. The most natural clean boost I have heard. Keeps your harmonics, detail, feel, everything. Just boosts, and perhaps adds a touch of its own flavor, which is very warm when eq’d properly.

–Paul Cochrane Tim (at 12 volts)
I’ve already said so much about this pedal in the last shootout. It doesn’t seem to matter what other overdrive it’s up against, it’s just the most natural overdrive ever. Sounds like you turned the gain up on your amp. It takes your tone and overdrives it. I’ll say it again…the Tim will change your life. ;) And definitely run it 12 volts…the added headroom is crucial, in my humble opinion. Also, the knobs are extremely sensitive, which is awesome. Really allows you to dial it in well.

–Fulltone OCD v3 (at 12 volts)
For compressed glassy tone, this thing sounds really good. Version 3 seems to thin out your tone just a bit, though. But the smooth glassiness without sounding metal-ish is a really, really cool sound.

–T-Rex Alberta (at 12 volts)
No.

–Skreddy Top Fuel
Blasted pedal. I absolutely did not intend on keeping this thing. And then I turned it on. Oh sweet mercy. It’s like a fuzz without the fuzz. Just heavy, compressed distortion……but without getting grainy or squished. And doesn’t get unsusably crazy, either. And……not only does it look cool, but it’s also got a blue led. I absolutely love blue led’s.

–Mad Professor Little Green Wonder
Well, I’m not a big tubescreamer guy, but this is the best tubescreamer-type pedal I have ever heard. The mid-hump actually works for this pedal…it doesn’t get thin. On the neck pickup, this thing can really cop some nice, sultry blues tones……if I could pose enough to play the blues. But what a great pedal. For it to impress a non-tubescreamer guy……let’s just say I was very impressed.

–Ibanez TS7 (home modded to something close to 808 specs)
*Sigh* I always have high hopes that a cheap pedal with a home mod can stack up to the boutique stuff. It just doesn’t seem to happen. Not a bad sound……just quite noticeably boxier and less amp-like than most of the others.

–Sobbat Drivebreaker
Just a really, really good straight overdrive. Full, and a great crunchy sound. This would definitely be my main overdrive if not for the Tim.

–Hermida Mosferatu (at 12 volts)
This is the big brother to the Zendrive. More gain on tap. Just a beautiful, beautiful pedal. It’s like a higher gain Tim. Very transparent and lets your amp’s tone shine through, while still being high gain. And almost no compression. Just raw, amp overdrive, bordering on distortion. Really thick, harmonic, and clear. Cuts through the mix like no other pedal…well, maybe the high gain setting on the Varidrive. Also, the voice knob, as in the Zendrive, is a genius option to get the pedal tuned to your amp. And again, you really need the 12 volts.

The Keepers

–SIB Varidrive
I absolutely have to have it for anti-solos and drives.

–Paul Cochrane Tim
My main overdrive. The more ‘boost-ish’ circuit just lets my guitar and amp do the bulk of the tone work.

–Hermida Mosferatu
My high gain overdrive, and also my go-to pedal when things just aren’t working. It always sounds incredible. Again, the more ‘boost-ish’ circuit is fabulous for letting your tone get through.

–Skreddy Top Fuel
Totally did not plan on adding this pedal. But it’s really, really nice to have a high gain, compressed pedal for those times when the worship leader wants a more modernish voiced distortion. And it sounds crazy good, too.

–Ibanez TS7
I don’t use it, but again, my father showed me how to mod pedals using this pedal, so its got sentimental value. It’s nice to have a backup overdrive just in case, too.

The Not So Much Keepers

Xotic RC Booster
Loved it, but I have no need of a clean boost right now.

Fulltone OCD
Sounded great, but the Skreddy Top Fule does what it does, only better; in my humble opinion, of course. ;)

T-Rex Alberta
I have no idea what went wrong with this pedal. They’re Replica delay is one of the best pedals I’ve heard. This one…well…was not.

Mad Professor Little Green Wonder
If I had need of a tubescreamer, I don’t think I’d play anything but this one. But I don’t right now.

Sobbat Drivebreaker
Again, sounded great, the Tim just did the same thing a little bit better in my rig.

So there ya go. Hopefully this is helpful in finding that right pedal in your rig. Mmmm……legal shootouts.

Splendid.
Karl.

23 thoughts on “Overdrive Shootout the Third

  1. good stuff! after seeing all your stuff lying on the floor like that, i can really really say, you are a gear junkie! and it’s meant to be a complement ;)

    btw, i can’t remember if you had another guitar, but i would like to hear the shoot-out using single-coil pups if you can. thx!

    love the varidrive, drive breaker & mosferatu.

  2. Dan–thanks…glad it can be of some help. Ya, money is always the issue. I couldn’t even keep half of these pedals. haha

    Rhoy–ha! Ya, I love gear. And you make an excellent point. I totally should have done another video with singles…I don’t know why I don’t think about that sometimes. The next demo video I do, I’ll use my strat.

  3. nice, I just got the Mosferatu and will be doing a review on my blog in a few weeks once I get used to its nuances. I really like that you take a mix of ODs we know and some which are “unknown” and give the baseline in comparison.

    I think the OCD is now on my list after finally hearing it and playing it. Man, I need a board with a row of just the dirt pedals. Dirt pedals are the most fun to try out!

  4. Sweet! I’m trying not to think about gear though. See if I can go a few months without wanting something…

    oh, I hear T-rex is coming out with a new OD next year, a TS with a boost.

  5. Larry–you just got a Mos? Sweet! It is an amazing drive pedal…just…wow, I can’t say enough good about it. The OCD is good too, but version 4 sounds a lot better than the version 3 in the shootout.

    Mike–haha Ya, that happens to me about every two months, and then stuff just starts to come in the mail. It’s terrible being a gear junky. ha And good times on the T-Rex.

  6. All hail the Great Mosferatu!
    I got mine a few weeks ago and it’s amazing. I kept reading on The Gear Page about running a Zendrive in front of it.
    So I did.

    Whuuuuuaaaaoooooooow!!!

    I have long looked for that Michael Schenker “armed & ready” sound and I think I just found it. It cuts through so rich and full, then switch to the neck pick up for leads… *droooool*

  7. Eric–If you want the Sobbat Drivebreaker, let me know. It sounds great and if I had more room on my board, I’d keep it…and it’s one of Edge’s overdrives. What are you using for drive right now?

    GuitarToma–yes!! Man, I love the Mosferatu so much…it’s great to hear another fan. I love that you say it cuts through, because that’s exactly my favorite part of it, too–it can cut through without the volume ebing overpowering. I seriously think the secret is that the voice knob lets you really taylor it to the rest of your rig.

    Now stacking a Zen before it……my hat is off to your tone, bro. When money is no longer an issue (hehe, right), I might just have to try that. :)

  8. Hey Karl,

    Couple questions about the Skreddy Top Fuel and the Mosferatu. I need a pedal that can sound good with a nice chunk when you do palm muting power chords on the top E string. I love my zendrive but at it’s highest gain setting it’s not quite saturated enough to make that sound good. It’s not something I do a lot, but I have a couple songs that we do, that I need to be able to do that.

    Question 2, does that have anything to do with compression of a OD box? I don’t really understand compression in that context. You said the mos was not compressed and the Top Fuel was highly compressed.

    thanks!!
    Ryan

  9. Hey Ryan,

    You’re absolutely right. The has to do with the pedal’s compression. The Top Fuel, as a very compressed sounding pedal, does very, very well for the chunky ‘heavy but clean’ sound that’s needing sometimes when chugging on the low E. The Mos will do a good job with that, too, but not as well. It will be much more open sounding, and less ‘chuga’ sounding, if that makes any sense. hehe :)

  10. I’m guessing either will be better than the zendrive for that, correct?

    I’m just leaning towards the mos because i love the zen. But maybe i should check out the top fuel to get a little variety.

    thanks again for the info.

  11. Ya, that’s exactly why I got the Mos. I loved the Zendrive, but it shone most for blues stuff, and I know I was mis-using it a bit for distortion sounds. If Hermida didn’t have the Mosferatu, I’d probably still have the Zen. But since he did, I went for it.

    And I ended up selling my Top Fuel, as I don’t have nearly the use for it as I do the Mosferatu. Someday, when money is a little more plentiful than it is now, I’ll get the Top Fuel again. But for right now, I found the Mos to be more versatile for more sounds that I needed. But if you really want the best ‘chugga’ sounds and don’t want to compromise a single bit, the Top Fuel seems to sound best for the heavier stuff, in my humble opinion. :)

  12. Karl, I was wondering if you could discuss the interaction of pedals and the various types of buffering they use, or don’t use. The question involves the RC Booster, Boss OD3 overdrive and Tech 21 Liverpool

    This morning I experimented with part of my signal chain. Before I had the RC Booster first, always on, then the Boss OD3, rarely on followed by the Tech 21 Liverpool and Boss DD7 delay.

    Today I put my Boss Compressor back first in the chain because I missed the way it controls my volume when strumming freely — probably a crutch but I missed that. 2nd item now is the OD-3 with volume way down and drive way up. Next is the RC Booster set for a fairly clean volume boost — the gain knob on that doesn’t seem to do a whole lot anyway. And I’m going to run the RC only as needed now rather than always on. Last is the Liverpool, set pretty clean as before, followed by the Boss DD7 delay.

    So far it’s a definite improvement — I’ve read that unity volume on the OD3 is about 9 o’clock and I never ran it that low so the drive was never up much — thus it didn’t seem to be doing much of anything in front of the liverpool. Now I definitely hear the buzz/crunch of the OD3 making it’s way through. I’m now also wondering if having the RC between the OD3 and the Liverpool has an impact, even with the RC off. I’m not sure how buffering varies between these three products ( Boss, Xotic, Tech21 ).

    Previous chain:
    Carvin AE185 guitar ( blend of acoustic bridge pickup with humbuckers ) or 74 Strat with Gold Lace Sensors>RCBooster>Boss OD-3 >Tech 21 Liverpool>Boss DD-7>direct box>PA

  13. Sounds good, bro! The RC is true bypass, which means the only tone shaping it’s doing when off has to do with the amount of cable running to and from it. So you should be okay there using it as an as-needed solo boost or general boost. I don’t think the Tech 21 is actual true bypass, but that shouldn’t matter if you’re using it as an always on amp modeler. Now, your three Boss pedals do have buffers, but it might help you having the buffer on the them. I don’t know…some people adore what Boss buffers do to their tone, and others hate it. So if I were you, I’d see if you can get a true bypass looper, and put your pedals in it to see if you like the tone better with or without it.

    But if you’re diggin’ it right now, you should be fine. Comp–>OD3–>RC–>DD7–>Liverpool looks good. Only things I would say would be to, again if you can, try out a bypass looper; and secondly, if you’re using the Liverpool as more of an amp modeler (and speaker modeler, as they’re supposed to do that, too), you might want to experiment with putting it as the end of your chain, after the delay, almost as if it were an amp. Be careful, because it may sound absolutely terrible, but it just might sound really good, too. :)

  14. Thanks Karl. Well it’s evolved again heh heh.
    For now:
    RC Booster always on>Compressor>OD3>DD7>Liverpool. Not bad.

    I’ve read the Crowther Hotcake works well with AC30′s so time to poke around and see if anyone’s using that with the Liverpool.
    Have a great weekend. I’m heading to Alaska for ten days on Thursday, time get experience cool weather for a bit. :-)

  15. Nice, brother! I might suggest moving the RC back to in front of the OD3, but that’s totally up to your ears. I’m not listening to it. haha But it looks like it sounds awesome! :)

  16. Hey Karl,

    Another great video. That made me GAS for a mosferatu pretty badly. I read that your not a big TS fan, understandably for the mid hump. I’ve been running a Smart People Factory Green Line into a OCDv4. The green line is the most transparent ts i’ve heard. If you ever get the chance you should try one out.

    Ben

  17. Way cool! I might have to try it out. Ya, as it stands now, the Mad professor ts clone in this video, is the best ts type pedal I’ve tried. The Factory Green is intriguing me! :) And the Mosferatu is pretty lovely. ;)

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