The Best Cheap Overdrive Pedals - Under $50 & $100

The Highest Rated Overdrive Pedals Under $100

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Overdrive pedals act as an additional gain stage between your guitar and the input stage of your amplifier. It' functions like an additional tube and you can vary the amount of drive from that stage. Some circuits like the often imitated AND duplicated Tube Screamer have a slight bass cut and mid boost that makes your tone stand out.

It's not just for blues folks too. Many modern high gain sounds are achieved by using an overdrive pedal in front of a high gain amp. They kicked off off a high gain revolution during the late 90s and early 2000s when people started using Tube Screamers in front of roaring Peavey 5150/6505 or Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier amplifiers to achieve new levels of articulation. This opened up genres like technical metal and progressive metal.

We set our price limit to $150 to focus on a great price to performance ratio. Our recommendations are categorized further into three price ranges to help in your selection.

Without further ado, here are The Best Overdrive Pedals Under $50 & $100.

The Best Cheap Overdrive Pedals - 2022.10

Author & Contributors

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

Best Overdrive Pedals Under $50

Behringer TO800

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 2600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$21
Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive Pedal
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Overdrive Pedal Under $50.

Cons

  • Flimsy enclosure
  • Battery compartment hard to open without tools

Pros

  • Distinct TS midrange hump great for blues
  • Surprisingly quiet pedal
  • Affordable

The Behringer TO800 is what is now commonly referred to in the pedal community as a YATS or "Yet Another Tube Screamer". However, the TO800 may predate the term since it was released in the early 2000's when boutique pedal makers were few and far between. Aside from homemade clones of the TS circuit, the TO800 was the most accessible Tube Screamer style pedal in terms of affordability back then (at least in my neck of the woods).

Similar to the original green pedal, the TO800 has just 3 controls: Drive, Tone and Level. Drive can range from a nice boost with a mid-bump and lean low end (perfect for boosting a high gain amp), to a warm sounding vintage lead sound all the way. It won't be doing heavier styles on its own, but a TS style pedal is a go-to for a lot of high gain metal as a tone-shaping gain stage to tighten up the low frequencies.

It's interesting how a circuit designed to replicate vintage tones is also responsible for some of the heaviest, most crushing metal tones. For metalheads-in-training, the TO800 is still a great value pedal for tightening up amplifiers. The circuitry and components are surprisingly quiet compared to early DIY Tube Screamer clones I had back in the day.

Behringer TO800 Main Shot
The Behringer pedal form factor is reminiscent of BOSS pedals but constructed in plastic.

One thing that is a consistent con for me for this pedal lineup is the plastic enclosure. I remember breaking my Behringer DM100 one gig with one (albeit forceful) stomp during a metal gig. For just a little more, modern affordable pedals are in the market housed in metal or aluminum enclosures.

In the end, there isn't much to say about this little pedal that already has been said for the design it's based after. Purists will say that it sounds different but when you're just starting out, broad strokes are of more value in forming your impression of gear than the finer details. If you're going for absolute value or want to give the circuit a try without investing too much, the TO800 is (still) a great value. If you're already well-afflicted with "Gear Acquisition Syndrome", then the TO800 might not be for you.

Specifications

  • Controls: Drive, Tone, Level
  • Analog
  • Buffered Bypass
  • 9-Volt Adapter/Battery

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Gearank Raphael Pulgar 88/100
Sound On Sound Wonks 88/100
Agufish Music Editor 92/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

TC Electronic Cinders

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$70
TC Electronic Cinders Overdrive Pedal

Cons

  • Footswitch reliability is a common problem with TC Electronics pedals

Pros

  • Great "BD" tone on a budget
  • All-metal enclosure
  • Slightly warmer tone reflects the BOSS Waza version

The TC Electronic Cinders is a spin off a familiar blue pedal from BOSS known for its clear sounding breakup characteristic. Compared to the mid hump of TS-based designs, the "BD" inspired sound of the TC Electronic Cinders helps achieve a more "glassy" tone for single coils without over-accentuating the icepick trebles.

It has a basic set of controls for Tone, Drive and Volume and that's all it needs. The rest is up to your guitar. I found the tone to be slightly warmer than the BOSS BD-1 when I tried it (expect an extended review later), but over all very similar once you nudge the TC Electronic Cinders' tone knob to 1 o'clock. It's around here that the two pedals sound nearly 1:1.

The interesting thing is, BOSS' own Waza version of the BD-1 sounds a bit warmer than the stock BD-1. Those that have plinkier sounding strats or teles that want a bit of that Waza warmth will be at home with the Cinders.

One con I might have to note is the footswitch. I don't know how long it will hold up but from previous experience with TC Electronic pedals, it's usually the first part to go.

Looking for a BD type overdrive on a budget? Check out the TC Electronic CInders.

Specifications

  • Controls: Tone, Drive, Volume
  • Analog
  • True Bypass
  • 9-Volt Adapter/Battery

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
THE JHS SHOW Editor 92/100
Equipboard eli_caporale 100/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Best Overdrive Pedals Under $100

Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 4200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$63
Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive Pedal

Cons

  • Controls might be too simple for tweaking
  • Noise floor higher than many boutique offerings

Pros

  • Adds muscle to vintage amplifiers
  • Good standalone drive tone for blues and indie
  • Rugged Boss housing

The earliest experience I have of the Boss SD-1 was when my guitar teacher was playing through his Marshall stack. I was amazed at the sheer volume and gain from his JCM 800 back then. Then he tells me "If you liked that, then check this out!" as he takes out a small yellow pedal from a cabinet and sets it up. When he kicked it on, I was beyond floored at the thick, angry sounding tone from his already roaring JCM.

That's when I tried to get my own SD-1 and when I tried it, I was disappointed. Not because of the pedal but I realized that he wasn't using the SD-1's gain to achieve that tone. He was using it to push the JCM's preamp harder. I regrettably sold my first SD-1 because I didn't know better but I found myself wanting to try one again now that I have a tube amp with me.

Compared to many boutique offerings today that are more or less variations of the TS style circuit, the SD-1 by Boss is its own animal. As a light overdrive going into a clean amp, it has slightly less midrange hump versus Tube Screamer type pedals with a bit more grit. For those looking for a standalone overdrive pedal, the SD-1 is a good choice.

As with my experience, it shines the best when paired with a good Marshall amplifier or any "British" flavored tone. Even practice amps get a good kick from it.

One con of the SD-1 that more expensive pedals address is the noise floor. It isn't distracting or unusable but it's the only reason why more expensive pedals have an edge over it. It also lacks the versatility of many boutique pedals that offer controls for many parameters.

Still, if simplicity and long-term durability along with affordability are your priorities, the SD-1 is a perennial favorite that is sure to floor you (and your tube amp) the way it did when I first heard it on that JCM.

Specifications

  • Controls: Level, Tone, Drive
  • Analog
  • Buffered Bypass
  • 9-Volt Adapter/Battery
  • Used by: The Edge, Jonny Greenwood, Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde, John 5

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Pedal Authority Editor 93/100
YouTube PMTVUK 98/100
Equipboard moogbadger 80/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Ibanez TS Mini Overdrive Pedal

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 1450+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$80
Ibanez TS Mini Tube Screamer Overdrive Pedal
At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Overdrive Pedal Under $100 along with the EarthQuaker Devices Plumes.

Cons

  • Smaller moving parts might lead to reliability issues down the line

Pros

  • Classic TS tone
  • Small enclosure perfect for "fly rig" setups
  • More affordable than other TS variants

The Ibanez TS Mini is a streamlined and compact version of the popular Tube Screamer. As such, it is also a more affordable and accessible alternative.

At its core is the same Tube Screamer tone that's responsible for shaping the sound of countless popular guitarists, but since this one is smaller, it doesn't take much precious pedalboard real estate, making it an easy addition for any setup.

Many guitarists are now building compact fly rigs with small footprint pedals. The original TS9/TS808 are small, but not as compact as the smallest pedal enclosures today. The TS Mini fills that role (no pun intended) by cramming in everything that makes the TS series famous into a small enclosure. It still has the signature midrange hump and slight bass reduction as the originals. Nitpicking at the tone, you might find some differences but they're marginal and the signature Tube Screamer sound is still there, only in a smaller package.

One tradeoff for the smaller enclosure size is the use of smaller, less durable parts like the enclosure, switches, knobs, and potentiometers. This shouldn't be a problem for the light-footed but hard stomping rockers might prefer something more durable like the originals. A compromise of size for peace of mind.

The Ibanez TS Mini gives you the iconic Tube Screamer tone without using too much money or space. If you're building a compact "fly rig" pedalboard, the TS Mini is a must-have.

Specifications

  • Controls: Tone, Level, Overdrive
  • Analog
  • Hardwire Bypass
  • 9-Volt Adapter/Battery
  • Used by: Stevie Ray Vaughn, Gary Moore, John Mayer, Carlos Santana, Eric Johnson

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Premier Guitar Joe Charupakorn 97.5/100
Sound On Sound Paul White 90/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

EarthQuaker Devices Plumes

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 950+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$99
At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Overdrive Pedal Under $100 along with the Ibanez TS Mini.

Cons

  • Early models had reliability issues

Pros

  • Three distinct sounding modes
  • JFET design augments classic TS circuit
  • High quality components
  • Relatively affordable for a boutique pedal

Before you dismiss the EarthQuaker Devices (or EQD for brevity) as a "YATS" (Yet Another Tube Screamer), do know that instead of the classic TS JRC4558 IC and BJT transistor buffers, the Plumes uses JFETs for lower noise and a bit more sparkle on the treble. This addresses one of the downsides of the basic TS tone where the midrange bump gives an impression of a muted high end.

Also differing from the classic TS circuit, it features a selectable clipping mode with 3 options:

Mode 1 is an LED clipping mode which brings British flavor overdrive tonalities with a slightly higher gain. It's similar to how pedals like the boutique classic MI Electronics Crunch Box does its clipping.

Mode 2 is a pure clean boost without clipping. Perfect for using it to push the front end of your tube amplifier without much coloration.

Mode 3 is the classic asymmetrical clipping design similar to the original Tube Screamer without the mid hump because of the use of JFETs. It's a great tone for just a bit more sparkle over the standard TS tone.

All in all, there aren't any major flaws to point out with the Plumes. Early units had some reliability issues that have since been fixed. If you plan on getting one, it's best to go brand new to get the latest revision.

I know everyone's tired of seeing the words "Tube Screamer" but the Plumes doesn't just add a twist to the nomenclature, it brings with it a totally new set of tones building on what was already good with the TS. These refinements total to a versatile and custom tuned sounding piece of gear at a price that most intermediate musicians can afford.

Specifications

  • Controls: Drive, Level, Gain, Clipping mode toggle
  • Analog
  • True Bypass
  • 9-Volt Adapter/Battery
  • Used by: Mick Thompson (Slipknot), Mike Stringer (Spiritbox), ishiwatari Makiko (The Peggies)

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Guitar Richard Purvis 90/100
Premier Guitar Dave Hunter 92.5/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Things to Consider When Buying an Overdrive Pedal

If you’re not very experienced with overdrive pedals, or you just want to brush up on your background knowledge before putting any money down, check out the sections below!

Controls

The controls on your overdrive pedal will generally fall into three main categories: Gain, Volume, and Equalization.

Gain (also referred to as Drive or Overdrive) controls the amount of overdrive present in your signal, with lower levels adding subtle grit to the tone, while higher settings apply more overdrive saturation.

Volume controls the level of the signal, or how loud it is.

Equalization controls, often referred to as tone, control a section of the frequency spectrum. A control simply labelled: tone, generally changes both low and high-end frequencies. Some pedals come with controls that only effect certain parts of the spectrum, like the mids or high-end (these controls are also generally labeled as the frequency they control).

Ease of Use

Overdrive pedals may not seem complicated at first glance, but believe it or not they can be a bit hard to work with depending on your gear and the controls on your pedal. Some pedals have so many controls that it can be hard to dial in a good sound, or the controls they do have can be counterintuitive. Conversely, there are also pedals that only have three controls. In fact, some of the most highly regarded pedals ever only have three controls.

You may be asking: If some of the greatest overdrives of all time only have three controls, why should I bother with more getting more controls? Well, it depends on the tone you want and what you want to have control over. If you want to carefully sculpt your tone, a more feature rich pedal might be right up your alley. The only tradeoff is that it will take longer to dial in that tone. Whereas with a simpler pedal, it’s more of a plug and play situation. Pedals without a ton of controls may be less versatile, but they’re also easier to get a good tone out of when compared to a pedal with more controls (case in point for those of you who’ve read up on different pedals, the Boss Metal Zone).

Expensive vs. Affordable

When looking at gear, many of us assume that more expensive pedals are always going to be better than their cheaper counterparts. In practice this doesn’t always turn out to be the case. Now, we’re not saying that people who buy expensive pedals are all a bunch of cork sniffers, because that’s not that case. More expensive pedals can have a range of benefits including versatility and durability.

Expensive pedals generally come with more controls, or are engineered with a high-level of quality towards a specific purpose. They can cover more ground sonically, and they’re built with (as a general rule) higher grade components. They also have a tendency to isolate noise better, so you don’t get as much electrical interference.

However, cheaper pedals can still offer the sound you are looking for, they just may not be as versatile or be built with the same quality components. A good example would be the original Ibanez Tube Screamer. It was affordable when first released, and it went on to grace the rigs of some of the best guitarists in the world.

Best Overdrive Pedal Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2018 and the current edition was published on October 18, 2022.

Since there are many multi-effects, distortion and fuzz pedals that can also be used as an overdrive pedal - we decided to narrow down our scope to those that are designed primarily (properly labeled) for adding overdrive effect to electric guitars. Being readily available from a major American retailer was also a selection criterion. And for this 2022 edition, we further limited our search to pedals with a maximum street price of $100. We ended up with a short list of 11 overdrive pedals which you can see the list in our Music Gear Database. We then collated over 13,000 review and rating sources which we processed with the Gearank Algorithm to produce rating scores out of 100 for each pedal. Finally, we divided our recommendations based on price, including sub $50 and sub $100 and recommended the highest rated in each price category. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

I don't usually use overdrives since I prefer getting my saturation from my amp. For recording sessions where I need to step up the gain, I typically reach for boosts or overdrives. I use a modified DIY Tube Screamer clone to push my amplifier into higher gain territory. If I had to get a pedal only from this list, I'd pick a Boss SD-1. I had early experience with it when I was starting out and I want it in my lineup for times where I need that Zakk Wylde-esque Marshall distortion.

Contributors

Mason Hoberg: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: By Gearank.com using photographs of the Boss SD-1, Ibanez TS Mini, and EarthQuaker Devices Plumes.

The videos above have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers except for the additional Behringer TO800 photograph which was taken by the author.

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