Pedals & Processors Guide – Overdrive & Distortion

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Pedals & Processors Guide – Overdrive & Distortion

Words by Sam McNiece, Mixdown Staff

Our effects picks for overdrive and distortion

Whether you’re a fervent pedal-head on the hunt for some niche op-amp overdrive to add to your copious inventory or you’re a first-time buyer on the lookout for that special stompbox to get you started on your effects endeavours, Mixdown’s Pedals and Processors guide for 2022 is our picks for the best units to keep an eye out for this year.

Last, but certainly not least, we have overdrive and distortion.

Limetone Audio Jackal

Distributor: Gsus4

Features: A 4-Stage FET based distortion pedal from relative newcomers Limetone Audio. This high-gain unit is capable of bringing heavy and destructive tones to your audio signal as well as some more subtle sonic characteristics. Onboard this pedal is a three-band EQ with pre and post-drive gain controls for sculpting your overdriven guitar sound to taste. In addition to these classic controls there’s a bite switch that adds some attack to the transients, and the plexi switch which creates a reduction in distortion when activated, which is great for quickly changing to a cleaner tone.

Trim controls inside the unit are available for balance, presence, and resonance plus a variac switch to add even more distortion to your audio signal, if you think you need more. This low-noise unit will add plenty of sustain and bite while not taking away your picking nuances which is great for shredding solos as well as chugging rhythms. Utilising the middle EQ band adds more tone shaping parameters than the usual two-band approach on pedals which can help you fade into the background or cut through the mix.

The Bottom Line: An excellent high-gain FET distortion pedal with plenty of flexibility to fit into pretty much any pedalboard.

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Fender Hammertone Overdrive

Distributor: Fender

Features: Push your guitar sound right upfront with the new Hammertone Overdrive pedal from Fender. On the front of the unit, you’ll find knobs for tone, level, and gain as most distortion/overdrive pedals have, but this particular model allows you to sculpt your tone further with a pre-mid boost. This does exactly what it says on the tin, by boosting the mid range frequencies of your signal before the drive circuit which allows you to push your guitar sound to the front and centre of the mix.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s a hidden trim pot on the inside of the unit which allows for more tonal shaping by altering the high frequency character of the input signal, allowing you to tame screeching frequencies before they hit your amp. Pair all this with true-bypass switching, a hearty construction, and the Fender quality you’d expect, you’ll be able to add this to your signal chain anywhere you please.

The Bottom Line: This affordable and compact stompbox is capable of adding tones from subtle harmonics to dirty crunch courtesy of the unique Fender-designed analog overdrive circuit.

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EarthQuaker Devices Special Cranker

Distributor: Yamaha

Features: Are you tired of all your distortion pedals immediately defaulting to 11? EarthQuaker Devices’ Special Cranker might be the pedal for you, with exceptional clarity through both overdrive diodes and the ability to seem almost bypassed adding just a touch of sheen to your sound while at more extreme settings pushing into crunchy over biassed drive goodness.

There are three simple controls on the Special Cranker, level, tone and ‘more’ plus a switch for choosing between a softer germanium diode or a silicon one which presents a brighter sound. Tone functions as a high end roll off and high boost combo knob depending on how bright you prefer your driven sounds and the aptly titled ‘more’ knob adds gain to the signal producing more drive to the signal. Best of all, this pedal performs extremely well at high gain settings without adding mud to the low end or blurring your mid range frequency content so your tone stays pure.

The Bottom Line: This all-discrete analog overdrive pedal can add juicy harmonics to your audio signal without pushing it into heavy distortion, although it can also do that too.

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Fender Hammertone Distortion

Distributor: Fender

Features: Add waves of gain and grit with the Hammertone Distortion pedal from Fender. Fender went the extra mile for this new addition to their pedal line by designing an original distortion circuit to generate a low-noise and high-powered stompbox fit for rock and roll shredding for everything from home use to the stage. Level and Gain controls allow you to tweak this distortion circuit to your liking from subtle overdrive to crunchy distorted audio destruction!

This distortion pedal doubles as an active EQ pedal with Treble and Bass (high and low) controls to boost or attenuate by 15dB in easy reach, with front panel controls and a mid boost/cut on the inside of the unit. There’s also a low-pass filter control inside the unit to tailor this distortion pedal to your unique flavour by reducing some of the nasty high end frequencies. As with the rest of the Hammertone line, this pedal features top mounted input and output jacks for a slim design profile and easy implementation into your pedal board.

The Bottom Line: No guitarist should be without a distortion pedal and this affordable offering from Fender should more than feed your appetite for destruction.

Find out more.

Read our full guide in Mixdown Mag #321.