Mixdown’s Pedal Special: Drive, Distortion & Fuzz

Mixdown’s Pedal Special: Drive, Distortion & Fuzz

Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer

Effect: Overdrive | Distributor: Australis Music | Expect To Pay: $319

 

 

Recommended For: Everyone. C’mon, it’s the most legendary overdrive pedal in history.

 

Versatility: From blues players wanting a little bit of grit through to metal shredlords wanting to tighten up their high gain amp, there’s a reason that the TS808 has been a staple for every kind of player for decades now.

 

Usability: The TS808 is a very ‘what you see is what you get’ pedal. With Overdrive, Tone and Level controls on the pedal, it’s simple and effective. It doesn’t take long to find the desired sweet spot you’re looking for.

 

Construction: Having owned a few of TS808’s in my 20+ years of playing guitar, I’m yet to find one that can’t handle an absolute beating. Sure, they might get scuffed from years of use, but I’ve never seen or heard of what biting the dust.

 

Overall: It’s simple really. If you want the classic and revered Overdrive pedal used by the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayer, Jerry Cantrell and Gary Moore, then you’ve found it. After all, if it’s good enough for them then it’s good enough for you.

By Nicholas Simonsen

 

Teisco Boost

Effect: Overdrive | Distributor: BandLab Technologies | Expect To Pay: $199

 

 

Recommended For: If you’re chasing a unit that provides both spanky clean boosts and gritty, crunchy drive tones, you’ve found it right here.

 

Versatility: I tend to find that overdrive pedals are only as versatile as the player is, but it’d be a disservice lumping the Teisco Boost into that category. In addition to Volume and Gain controls, there’s three switchable EQ modes on offer: normal, flat and treble, while a 9V-24V control allows you to change the voltage for extra headroom. Whether you’re chasing a bit of oomph to make your clean licks pop or a surge of grit to elevate your power chords into the high end of the mix, the Teisco Boost has got you covered.

 

Usability: FET boosts are viable for any playing style, and the Teisco Boost is perfect example of exactly what this effect can add to your board. The pedal can provide a healthy dose of up to 30dB of boost, which can be coloured using the EQ modes, so it should be suitable for everything you need it for without being too much. It’s also got an inbuilt buffer, which is a very thoughtful touch.

 

Construction: The Teisco guitars of yesteryear were known and loved for their kooky, left-field designs. Although it’s pretty hard to break the blueprint of what a stompbox should be, I thought the aesthetic of the Teisco boost was awesome, particularly the Japanese characters and red-patterned paint job that adorn the face of the unit.

 

Overall: If you’ve tried out all the big pedal brands and just want to inject some sauce into your playing, the Teisco Boost will be right up your alley. It’s easy-to-use and extremely versatile, and it sounds killer to boot – can’t get much better than that.

By Will Brewster

 

 

Teisco Fuzz

Effect: Fuzz | Distributor: BandLab Technologies | Expect To Pay: $199

 

 

Recommended For: Guitarists chasing that scuzzy, ear-splitting fuzz tone perfect for woozy blues or psychedelic styles.

 

Versatility: If you need a silicon fuzz with a twist, it’s worth taking the Teisco Fuzz for a test drive. With the tone rolled off and the Gain knob sitting around the two o’clock spot, you’ll achieve a rich, sweeping tone with lashings of sustain that cries out for Hendrix licks, while flicking the Octave Up switch on and cranking the Tone knob gives you a gnarly squeal reminiscent of Jack White’s lead tone. It absolutely screams with humbuckers, too, and holds its own even when subjected to the heaviest of doom metal tones.

 

Usability: Fuzz pedals aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and only a select few players can tame their wild tones into a practical context, but the Teisco Fuzz definitely surprised me. While it’s certainly a loud unit to mess with, I found this vintage-voiced unit to be pretty easy to manage, and the inclusion of the Octave Up toggle really elevates the Teisco Fuzz far above its competitors.

 

Construction: These new Teisco pedals are made in Singapore, and they really do boast quite a formidable build quality. I wasn’t a huge fan of the placement of the DC power input, but it’s easy to forgive this quirk when you take into account how compact and lightweight the Fuzz is. Also, the graphic design is sick.

 

Overall: This thing is so much fun! The Teisco Fuzz absolutely nails that ‘60s velcro fuzz sound, pairs well with other pedals and switching on the Octave Up toggle will send you into an oscillating, silicon-scorched bliss that’ll almost certainly drop your jaw to the floor. Your parents will hate it, but who cares?

By Will Brewster

 

Maxon OD808 Overdrive

Effect: Overdrive | Distributor: EGM Distribution | Expect To Pay: $285

 

 

Recommended For: Guitarists looking for anything from a subtle mid boost to a medium-gain overdrive, without overly colouring their tone.

 

Versatility: The OD808 is an excellent choice for a wide range of genres: blues, rock, R&B, jazz, soul, you name it. One of its main calling cards is its usability across all control settings – from a slight kick in the midrange to a warm and creamy overdrive. This makes an especially potent combination with Fender amplifiers, which typically have a slightly scooped mid EQ.

 

Usability: This pedal features the holy trinity of control layouts: overdrive, balance (volume/level), and tone. Rotating the overdrive knob clockwise offers more singing sustain and tube-like grit, which can be easily tamed or further inflamed with the tone control.

 

Construction: The OD 808 has a no-nonsense aesthetic about it, a sentiment reflected in its solid build quality. With its solid metal body and robust footswitches, jacks and knobs, it’s clear that this pedal was made to survive through the rowdiest of gigs. Furthermore, the OD808 features the vintage-correct JRC4558 IC chip, ensuring its tonal flavours are as accurate as the tube screamers from years past.

 

Overall: There’s a metric ton of different overdrive pedals today, but none reflect reliability and acclamation as successfully as this iconic green box. The Maxon OD808 was the very first revision of the now widely copied tube screamer, with all the looks and components to match. Countless guitarists have the tube screamer firmly nailed to their board, and it’s really not difficult to see (and hear) why.

​By Eddy Lim 

 

Truetone Jekyll & Hyde V3

Effect: Overdrive | Distributor: EGM Distribution | Expect To Pay: $399

 

 

Recommended For: Players wanting a highly tweakable one-stop shop for their overdrive and distortion needs.

 

Versatility: The Jekyll & Hyde is a twin pedal that includes both an overdrive and distortion channel with dedicated inputs and outputs for each side of the pedal. This makes it perfect for those using loopers or MIDI switchers as well as those wanting to cover a lot of sonic ground with one pedal.

 

Usability: Each channel has their own controls for Drive, Volume and Tone, with additional switching for Brightness and an A-B switch to change from an open distortion tone to a more saturated sound. The pedal gives you so much room to tweak and hone in on the exact tone you’re searching for.

 

Construction: The Jekyll & Hyde features a custom designer ‘Forever’ footswitch, which supposedly can take up to ten million hits. I doubt that anyone will live long enough to step on the stompbox that long, so it’s safe to say that it’s built to last.

 

Overall: Compact, robust and packed to the brim with killer tone. The latest version of the Jekyll & Hyde is an absolute winner.

By Nicholas Simonsen

 

 

Fender Compugilist

Effect: Distortion/Compressor | Distributor: Fender Music Australia | RRP: $299

 

 

Recommended For: Rock, punk, blues and funk players, and anyone in between.

 

Versatility: The Compugilist is part compressor, and part Pugilist, which is Fender’s original take on a distortion pedal. Both sides operate independently, which allows individual activation at will. The Pugilist portion even offers a handy bass boost toggle switch, which is perfect for thickening up a bridge pickup in solos.

 

Usability: Controls on both halves are more or less bog-standard; they’re fool-proof and easily tweaked at a moment’s notice. Apart from offering squishy, dynamic compression, the compressor portion can even function as a clean boost of sorts when set correctly. These malleable properties are mirrored in the Pugilist half, which can cover a mild overdrive to gritty distortion. While the Compugilist takes away the dual-voice capabilities of the original Pugilist, it’s still able to achieve some gnarly tones on higher gain settings.

 

Construction: Fender’s range of pedals have a distinctly modern look to them, and the Compugilist’s facade is no exception. In addition to its alluring brushed burnt gold enclosure, this pedal also features nifty LED lights illuminating each control knob, ensuring you’ll never lose track of your settings on a dark stage.

 

Overall: Overdrive and compression are two effects almost every guitarist needs in their life. There are a variety of ways to utilise the pair – be it for a ripping solo section or simply to thicken a rhythm tone, it’s difficult to produce a bad sound with the Compugilist.

​By Eddy Lim 

 

Fender MTG Tube Distortion

Effect: Distortion | Distributor: Fender Music Australia  | RRP: $399

 

 

Recommended For: Players on the hunt for searing, LA-style hot rod distortion that bites off more than it can chew.

 

Versatility: Having two distinct drive/distortion circuits in your signal chain is a worthy asset no matter what you’re playing, but the MTG is going to be a winner with alternative and heavy players. However, the extent of tone shaping offered by the three-band EQ and tight control really lets you tap into a lot of famous gain sounds, and the boost sends them soaring into roaring, cascading fury.

 

Usability: Distortion needs not to be a convoluted effect. With the MTG, Fender have stuck to the tried and true, and they’ve made a pedal that rips as a result. It’s easy to get the tone you’re hearing in your head, and although you can’t use the boost function as as a traditional clean bump, the MTG still puts a lot on your late.

 

Construction: Fender are really going for a boutique approach with these new pedals, and I’m totally here for it. Aside from the appearance, however, it’s inside the MTG what counts the most – this pedal was actually designed with famed amplifier designer Bruce Egnater, and contains a real new-old stock US made military-grade 6205 preamp tube inside to fuel its raunchy tones.

 

Overall: Although I feel like being able to engage the boost function independently would have been useful, it’s cool to see Fender tap into this newer, heavier style of distortion. There’s some big tones on tap with the MTG Tube Distortion – go check it out.

By Will Brewster

 

Fender Smolder

Effect: Overdrive | Distributor: Fender Music Australia | RRP: $299

 

 

Recommended For: Acoustic players looking to add some zing into their set.

 

Versatility: This beautiful pedal is voiced specifically for acoustic guitars armed with Piezo pickups. It tightens up unwanted flabbiness and low end of the piezo system to convert your guitar’s output to sound more like a traditional magnetic pickup. The Smolder’s internals feature a series of high-quality circuits, including preamp simulation, distortion, and a mic’d up cabinet – and according to Fender, makes your acoustic sound like an electric guitar running through a Deluxe Reverb.

 

Usability: As per usual, Fender’s knack for comprehensive controls is present on this pedal, along with two welcome additions. The pickup comp knob allows you to tame the inherent brightness of piezo pickups, while the blend control allows you to easily dial in your preferred balance of wet/dry signal.

 

Construction: Like all of Fender’s modern effects pedals, the Smolder is housed in a tough aluminium enclosure, coloured in a classy dark brown with glowing blue LED lights situated on the controls. And best of all, it’s topped off with a glorious topaz jewel light.

 

Overall: Traditionally, overdrive and acoustic guitars don’t play well together. However, the Smolder Acoustic Overdrive seeks to remedy this unwieldy combination through sheer ingenuity and practicality. An absolute must-have for the discerning acoustic guitarist.

​By Eddy Lim 

 

Fender The Trapper

Effect: Fuzz | Distributor: Fender Music Australia | RRP: $349

 

 

Recommended For: All types of rock, punk, grunge, metal, and even avant-garde/experimental guitarists.

 

Versatility: The Trapper is perhaps Fender’s most interesting stompbox to date. It packs two independently switchable fuzz voices, but with a twist. One voice features a toggle-able octave setting, while the other is based around an interactive noise gate, which has the potential to introduce all sorts of weird and wacky sonic artefacts if so desired.

 

Usability: As you would imagine, the voicing tied to the octave toggle switch handles like a fairly traditional fuzz pedal. Depending on how you set the global tone and contour knobs, this voicing can range from a smooth and buttery growl to a piercing shriek that instantly cuts through the mix. Switch over to the other side, however, and you’re in for a ride. Depending on your own playing dynamics and your guitar’s volume settings, you can achieve thick, woolly distortion with infinite sustain, or a glitchy, sputtering fuzz that expresses borderline synthesizer qualities.

 

Construction: The crimson finish on this pedal is absolutely stunning. Like all of its brethren, the Trapper is one hundred percent stage-ready with its durable aluminium body and LED-lit control knobs. A handy light near the top even indicates what voice you’ve currently selected.

 

Overall: This pedal is one hell of a riot. While there are only a handful of controls available, don’t let that fool you. Its tonal palette is chaotically diverse and is purely limited by your own creativity.

​By Eddy Lim 

 

Anasounds Ego Driver

Effect: Boost | Distributor: Studio Connections | Expect To Pay: TBC

 

Recommended For: Guitarists looking for a tube screamer-flavoured overdrive with some extra oomph.

 

Versatility: The Ego Driver is Anasounds’ take on the tried and true tube screamer. The French company doesn’t hide it too – they explicitly mention this pedal is based primarily on the Maxon OD808. But what sets this apart from the original is two extra toggle switches, allowing you to choose between two different voicings and clipping modes.

 

Usability: With the gain set to near zero, the Ego Driver is able to produce a relatively clean boost with an inimitable mid hump. It’s a fantastic setting for both a starting point for gain stage stacking, or even as a capstone pedal. The two different voices rotate between two different capacitors: a vintage sounding screamer, or a bass-boosted mode to fill out the low end. The same applies with the clipping mode – you’re able to pick between a modern or vintage sounding diode to suit your needs.

 

Construction: This pedal is finished in an extremely sophisticated white and blue with a stonewashed metallic enclosure. Anasounds have a penchant for producing particularly classy pedals, and the Ego Driver fits nicely within its catalogue. No complaints at all over here.

 

Overall: If you’ve always loved the mid-boosting frequencies of the tube screamer but always wished it just offered a little more flexibility, the Ego Driver is definitely for you.

By Eddy Lim 

 

Anasounds High Voltage

Effect: Overdrive | Distributor: Studio Connections | Expect To Pay: $325

 

 

Recommended For: Those wanted a Plexi drive pedal that looks and sounds gorgeous.

 

Versatility: While the High Voltage might be based on the classic tone of AC/DC guitarists Malcolm and Angus Young, it’s much more than a one trick pony. The addition of a Bass Cut switch on top of the regular controls you’d expect on a drive pedal is invaluable for punching through the mix with leads.

 

Usability: For those pedal nerds who really want to dive in, you can get under the hood of the High Voltage for even more options. You can adjust the voicing and treble cut pots in the pedal. There’s even a control for the brightness of the pedal’s light!

 

Construction: While the High Voltage is beautifully constructed like all of the Anasounds range of pedals. I do often worry about how road worthy and robust the wood top of the pedal is.

 

Overall: The High Voltage is a damn fine pedal both aesthetically and sonically. They’ve taken a classic rock tone and given it some new flair that even the most zealous of purists will enjoy.

By Nicholas Simonsen

 

EarthQuaker Devices Plumes Overdrive

Effect: Overdrive | Distributor: Yamaha Music Australia | Expect To Pay: $325

 

 

Recommended For: Those looking for a simple yet incredibly versatile overdrive pedal.

 

Versatility: Who would’ve thought that the one little switch could open up a world of tonal possibilities. The Plumes features a three-way toggle switch that allows you access to three different clipping modes, giving you plenty of options to play around with.

 

Usability: The Clipping Mode switch aside, the rest of the controls on Plumes are very much what you’d expect from a stock standard overdrive pedal and that’s just dandy to be honest.

 

Construction: Like all of the EarthQuaker pedals I’ve encountered in recent years, Plumes is very well constructed. Special mention to the colour scheme and artwork on this one though, nailed it team.

 

Overall: The team at EarthQuaker have hit this one out of the park if I’m being really honest, good luck finding another overdrive pedal on the market with so many tonal possibilities in this price range. That god damn switch has changed my life.

By Nicholas Simonsen 

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