The Electric: Overdrive Overkill

In this series I try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music. This week we’ll talk about the different types of overdrives, and why you may be wasting money on your rig.

Note: Any opinions or gear recommendations I give are my own based on my own experience. No company pays me to endorse them. But I can be bought! 😉

So if any guitar, amp, or pedal maker wants to send me there stuff they can contact me HERE 


I’ve written about Overdrive pedals in worship many times in the past. HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE for example. My point today isn’t to talk about how to use them or which one is the best. My point is today is to talk about a common mistake that many guitarists (both worship and otherwise) make in selecting and purchasing the overdrive pedals in their rig and how this can end up costing you needless dollars.


I’ve written at greater length about this HERE, but the short story is that while a distortion your guitar’s signal to the amplifier, an overdrive pedal is designed to push or drive your signal. The idea is that if you have a tube amp that is already pushed to the edge, the OD with send it over that edge or in other words “make your tubes scream.” (see what I did there? 😉 )


Probably the most well known Overdrive pedal out there is the Ibanez TS-808 or “tube screamer”. It’s the classic green box that’s found it’s way on to rigs for rock, metal, blues, and country. What do Brad Paisley, U2, and Metallica all have in common? They all use some form of the Ibanez tube screamer. There are other overdrive circuits out there, but the 808 is the grand daddy of ’em all.

The problem with the 808 circuit is that it’s been so copied over the years that many guitarists will have two, or three, or even four pedals on their board and not realize that they are all 808 designs. As Josh from JHS pedals puts it like this: “a typical email…will start: “My board has a “Fulldrive” and a “TS-9” on it but I’m looking for something a little more real or open for my style. I’m thinking about getting a “Sparkle Drive” or maybe an “Route 66” because I hear they are pretty sweet.” There is a big issue with this email- the player has no clue that ALL of the pedals that he mentioned are based on the Tubescreamer design.”

What he’s say is that if you have any combination of  DigiTech Bad Monkey, Boss OD-1, Fulltone Fulldrive 2, Ibanez TS9, TRex Alberta, Visual Sounds Route 66 or 808, Voodoo labs sparkle drive, etc. You basically have 2 or 3 versions of the same basic pedal.


This doesn’t mean that the Tube Screamer circuit is bad or evil. I have a Fulltone Plimsoul (stage 1 side) and Xotic AC Booster on my board which are both basically TS’s. But they are both very different pedals and I have both set up very differently. If you have a Fulldrive 2 and a TS9 in your rig then good for you, you’ve got some great sounding pedals. So please don’t take this as a knock on every TS style overdrive ever made.


The point is to know what you’re getting so you manage your resources well. On forums, blogs, and youtube I see a lot of worship rigs that have “repeat pedals”. Two or three TS pedals, or two delays that are basically the same pedal (Nova and DD7, etc). Knowing what you have and what you need can keep you from wasting money. God has given us all resources to steward. For guitarists, we spend a certain amount of those resources on gear so we can use our God-given creative gifts and to serve the church in music. But if you’ve just dropped a few hundred dollars on overdrive pedals and now you’re looking for a new one for a different sound, not realizing that it’s al the same circuit, then you are by definition, wasting resources. Truthfully, I’ve been guilty of this over the years. That’s why I continue to read blogs and articles to better understand the tools of the trade.


Honestly, I’m good if you’re good. If you have a TS style overdrive and you’re happy with it, then I’ve got no problems. But if you want something different to compliment or counterbalance it, then just avoid buying more of the same.


Paul Cochrane Tim or Timmy

Analogman King of Tone or Prince of Tone (I personally use, love and endorse the KoT).

JHS Morning Glory

Marshall Blues Breaker (Note: The Xotic BB is supposed to be based on this pedal, but some claim it’s a TS circuit, if you know the answer then let me know)

Wampler ’57 Tweed or ’65 Blackface overdrives (designed to sound like natural amp OD’s)

Catlinbread RAH, Dirty Little Secret, etc (I’m not sure if these are based on TS circuits or not, but they aren’t designed to sound like, but rather to sound like classic tube amp overdrive tones, so I’m including them in this list)


Any thoughts, ideas or questions then feel free to leave a comment below.





15 thoughts on “The Electric: Overdrive Overkill

  1. Pingback: Gear Review: Analogman King of Tone | Real World Worship Leading

  2. Mikey Vickery-Brown

    So I have an Ibanez TS9 and a Fulltone OCD pedal and I am looking for another overdrive pedal just to have something that sounds a bit different/ original, would you recommend the timmy? or something else?

    God Bless

    1. Hey Mikey,

      So you’ve got two different circuits already. The TS9 is a tube screamer and the Fulltone OCD is more like a ProCo Rat. A “transparent” circuit like the Timmy might be cool. or you could go the other way and get something dirtier like a Plimsoul or JHS Superbolt.

      Personally, i’m really enjoying the Klone (Klon Centaur Circuit) that i just got from Matthews Effects. and it would stack really well with the pedals you already have.

      1. Mikey Vickery-Brown

        Hi Adam, thanks.

        I thought they were different circuits as they do sound very different. Yeah, a transparent circuits seem pretty good and I am torn between the Timmy of the JHS Morning Glory, they both seem pretty good.

        Thanks again for your advice!
        God Bless


  3. Pingback: Fall Q&A. Effects Pedals. Acoustic Worship, and Three Headed Delays. | Real World Worship Leading

  4. chumbox

    Sorry just read this, bit late to the game. Just letting you know the Morning Glory and the Blues Breaker are very similar circuits and even though the Xotic BB has some Blues Breaker similarities it is quite different. Great post.

    1. Hey David, great point! The tube screamer is not the only circuit to be copied multiple times 🙂

      The analog man king of tone is also blues breaker circuit. Funny enough, the Xotic BB, while he claims to be a blues breaker, is actually a tube screamer. At least that’s what I’ve been told by multiple people. I actually don’t care if someone has three tube screamer is on the board or two blues Breakers or three klones. As long as they know what they’ve got. It’s the guys you have a full drive to, JHS moonshine, and TS9 and they say “they want something different” that gets me 🙂

  5. John

    Hey David! Awesome post, I currently have a soul food and a timmy. I use the soul food for more of a boost and tone boost and the timmy as a main od… Wondering if I should go for the poT or a superbolt. Thoughts?

  6. Hunter

    Hi Adam!
    I know I am way late here, but I would really like your input here on my overdrive section. I currently run: Prince of Tone > OCD > EP Booster. I love the PoT, it is always on, but I am thinking about replacing the other two drives. I have been looking at replacing them with an 808 and a timmy, but I would love your advice. Have you heard anything about the Foxpedal Kingdom? Is it pretty similar to the Timmy? Thank you in advance for your input!

    1. Hi Hunter,

      sorry it took so long to respond. you essentially have two low gain pedals (the POT and EP) and one med-gain pedal (the OCD). You’d be replacing one medium and low gain pedal with one low gain (the timmy) and one low-medium gain pedal (either the 808 or the Kingdom.)

      personally, I’m a fan of the Pot at the OD setting, so if you ran a chain like: POT (set to od), 808 (low gain setting) and the Kingdom as a boost, that’s pretty sweet. It all comes down to personal preference. I’m not the biggest blues breaker fan, which is the circuit the POT is based on, but I like the Klon circuit (which the Kingdom is a heavily modified version). But these days I’m more about having the right combination of gain settings than circuits.

      Hope that helps!

  7. Jeff

    As I tend to like medium to milder sounding overdrives that are versatile I have really grown to love the J Rockett Archer which is a actually a Klon Centaur “clone.” It’s quite transparent, plays nice with other pedals and sounds great as a clean boost or milder over drive. At higher gain settings it can get crunchier and give a very nice “bite.” It can get very loud and remains clear and never harsh, and it’s built like a tank.
    I also really like the Wampler Black 65 which would give you the overdriven sound of a Blackface Fender such as a Deluxe Reverb or a Twin Reverb. The tone controls on this pedal are quite versatile and can really fatten up single coil pickups and help tame the treble in single coils.
    Some other great and versatile OD pedals to consider are the Love Pedal Kalamazoo, Love Pedal Eternity (Klon and Tube Screamer clones respectively) Jetter GS 124(Dumble clone)
    and the Wampler Tumnus(Wampler’s take on the Klon). The J Rockett Blue Note is also another variation of the Tube Screamer but with more gain on hand. I also really like the Prince Of Tone, and especially the Boost setting. A lot of what you’re going for tone wise, will of course, also depend on your amps settings or the amps themselves. Hope this might help.

    1. Hey Jeff,

      thanks for commenting. There’s a lot of good stuff, and even more since I wrote this post 3 years ago. I like the Archer a lot too. I had an Archer Ikon for a long time until the Wampler Tumnus kicked it off my board.

      You’re absolutely right about amps though. The Tumnus (or any mid-boosting pedal) loves a 60’s Fender Blackface amp because of their mid-scooped EQ. But it’s a lot tricker with a 50’s Fender Tweed sound were the mids are a lot more pronounced.

  8. Josh

    The Nova and DD7 are not basically the same delay. One of these has variable modulation and delay coloration, plus 9 scrollable presets slots with a manual mode. The other one doesn’t have these things. No disrespect to the main idea, but these are very different in tonal variety and features.

    1. Hi Josh,

      thanks for commenting! I probably should have said “Nova and DD20” but for the purposes of what I’m talking about, it’s the same thing. is the DD7 or the Nova better sounding? not which one has more options or the features/size you want, but which one sounds better? at the end of the day they are both great digital delays, but if someone is looking for a multi-head tape delay are either of them the best way to go?

      the same is true with gain pedals (my main point 😉 ) that guys will go from Morning Glory, to KOT, to Messner to EM-Drive and they’re all low gain transparent drives.

      Thanks again for commenting!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s