14 Transparent Overdrives: Keeping Tone without Coloration

transparent overdrives
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Updated March 2021
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14 Pedals

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Transparent overdrive pedals retain the tone of your guitar and amp by not drastically altering the EQ of your tone. This is usually done by avoiding too much compression in order to keep all the frequencies of your guitar and amplifier.

These pedals try to avoid tone coloration while pushing the amplifier.

WHY THIS ONE? BUYING OPTIONS
JHS Morning Glory V4JHS Morning Glory V4

Based on a Marshall Bluesbreaker circuit, the JHS Morning Glory is perpetually recommended as an excellent transparent overdrive. The V4 allows you to use an external footswitch to select the gain structure remotely.

Available new on

SWEETWATER

Available new on

AMAZON

Available used on

REVERB
EarthQuaker Devices WestwoodEarthQuaker Devices Westwood

EarthQuaker Devices takes transparency to the extreme with the "translucent" Westwood drive. This pedal comes with a very helpful 20dB boost and cut option via two knobs to tweak the EQ.

Available new on

SWEETWATER

Available new on

AMAZON

Available used on

REVERB
DOD / SHOE Looking GlassDOD / SHOE Looking Glass

The Looking Glass is a collaboration from DOD and SHOE. It's a smooth overdrive that excels at subtly enhancing your amps tone while remaining crystal clear.

Available new on

SWEETWATER

Available new on

AMAZON

Available used on

REVERB
Paul Cochrane Timmy Transparent OverdrivePaul Cochrane Timmy Transparent Overdrive

Paul Cochrane's Timmy is eternally praised by transparent tone chasers. The top end sounds amazing, and this pedal is much sought after for a reason. MXR recently partnered with Paul to release a more accessible version.

Available used on

REVERB
Wampler Tumnus DeluxeWampler Tumnus Deluxe

Easily one of the most referenced Klon inspired drives, the Wampler Tumnus is always recommended for those seeking the Centaur tone, and this Deluxe version features expanded EQ shaping capabilities.

Available new on

SWEETWATER

Available new on

AMAZON

Available used on

REVERB
Crazy Tube Circuits Stardust BlackfaceCrazy Tube Circuits Stardust Blackface

These pedals attempt to sound like a cranked Fender black face style amp, so it retains that clarity and adds some lovely aggression to your signal.

Available new on

AMAZON

Available used on

REVERB
Pettyjohn Electronics Chime MKII Overdrive Guitar PedalPettyjohn Electronics Chime MKII Overdrive Guitar Pedal

The Pettyjohn Chime was made to "sweeten your signal with the touch sensitivity of vintage English amps on the edge of break up."

Available new on

AMAZON

Available used on

REVERB
Klon CentaurKlon Centaur

Legendary, and nearly impossible to get, the Klon Centaur is without question one of the most popular transparent overdrives on the planet. It is often credited for starting the transparent craze.

Available used on

REVERB
Mad Professor Sweet Honey OverdriveMad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive

The Sweet Honey overdrive from Mad Professor is a low gain drive that works really well for blues and rock due to its dynamics.

Available new on

AMAZON

Available used on

REVERB
Analog Man King of Tone OverdriveAnalog Man King of Tone Overdrive

There is a 3 year waiting list for this dual overdrive pedal, and they sell for far more than their manfacturer price on the secondary market. For good reason, as this overdrives works well with virtually every amp.

Available used on

REVERB
Jackson Audio Joey Landreth Golden BoyJackson Audio Joey Landreth Golden Boy

Mutiple clipping options and a 3 band EQ make this pedal extremelt versatile. It also has a built-in boost.

Available new on

SWEETWATER

Available new on

AMAZON

Available used on

REVERB
Greer Amps Lightspeed Organic OverdriveGreer Amps Lightspeed Organic Overdrive

Greer calls the Lightspeed an organic overdrive, which is pretty telling. It is sensitive to your picking dynamics and sounds amazing.

Available new on

AMAZON

Available used on

REVERB
Emerson Custom EM-Drive Mach 2 Transparent Overdrive PedalEmerson Custom EM-Drive Mach 2 Transparent Overdrive Pedal

This low to medium gain pedal from Emerson utilizes premium components and works well as a boost to mid gain drive.

Available new on

SWEETWATER

Available used on

REVERB
Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive DriveFulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive

Less transparent than some of the others on this list, the OCD still leaves a lot of your amp's flavor when in Low Peak mode and many guitarists dial the gain down and use it as a boost.

Available new on

SWEETWATER

Available new on

AMAZON

Available used on

REVERB

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About the authors
Michael Pierce

Michael bought his first guitar, a Fender California Series Stratocaster in Candy Apple Red, in 1998. He likes rock of all types, from classic to punk to metal. Michael co-founded Equipboard to satisfy his curiosity around what gear his guitar heroes use. Read more


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