Dead Sea
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#1
Can someone tell me if I am even remotely close with my understanding of these two things? Over drive will boost your guitar signal, pushing your tube amp harder, creating more natural gain from the amp, and a distortion pedal will give you lots of....distortion?

So would that mean having high output pickups is equivalent to using a overdrive pedal?

eh?
GABarrie
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#2
Nope,

It's all a little loose in the descriptions but the basics are as such, please note this is all VERY basic and generalised. Overdrive and distortion are basically the same thing - clipping, overdrive is normally used to describe soft clipping, distortion hard clipping. Distortion is much harsher and noticeable while overdrive is more subtle and smooth.

Overdrive pedals are actually designed to implement clipping, but many people keep the gain down low (minimal clipping) and the level all the way up for a strong signal boost into the amp. Distortion pedals are more often used for their intended purpose to introduce clipping into the signal. Overdrive pedals are perfectly capable of providing an effect on the signal and being turned down to not provide the signal boost.
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kurdtkobaign
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#4
Still wondering? Look up "John Mayers 'Im going to find another you' live" on youtube. a perfect example of a soft overdrive while using his volume control. A distortion pedal is going to be harsh and crisp. A great example of a distortion pedal would be say, "Smells like teen spirit" from nirvana. An OD pedal can be used alone, or as a boost to an amp. Generally, a straight distortion pedal is for just that- stand alone distortion. It all comes down to the amp you're running through.
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#5
Most people use overdrive pedals to push the front of their amp so that the amp creates its own overdrive, where as most distortion pedals are used to where they create a distorted sound and pump it into a clean amp.

Generally the Overdrive pedal though it colours the sound you're still hearing the sound of the amp you're using, with a Distortion pedal you're typically just hearing the sound of the pedal.

Though often enough many Overdrive pedals do create their own sounds if you want them to, think of them as smoother and lower gain distortions. Hard to compare them to pickups, a high output pickup isnt "that" high output, but I guess if you compare a really low output pickup and a really high output one there is a good comparison to be made.
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Dead Sea
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#6
OK, lets say I have a tube amp (orange rockerverb) and im looking for a tight metal tone with some low output pickups. Would a overdrive pedal be of any benefit?
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#7
While a Rockerverb should be able to do metal on it's own, an overdrive pedal will benefit you greatly. I'd suggest a TubeScreamer-type overdrive. TS-9 or OD-808, I prefer the 808. But you'd use it with (over)drive at 0, balance/volume at max and tone where you find it suits best.

It'll tighten up the low end and push the amp a bit.
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#8
Quote by Dead Sea
OK, lets say I have a tube amp (orange rockerverb) and im looking for a tight metal tone with some low output pickups. Would a overdrive pedal be of any benefit?

Dead sea,
As an owner of an Orange Rockerverb 50 combo (avatar 2x12 extension cab), the orange itself has MORE than enough gain/saturation to cover any needs (in my opinion). Im using "low output" pickups in my guitar as well, it can do it all, but only in its particular voice. I use an 808 OD for leads, but ONLY for leads. But this is just me. If youre looking for a tight metal tone I would suggest an amp that does this solo without the need of any pedals to boost/enhance the tone. Chose an amp that suits your primary needs WITHOUT the need of pedals. I spent $2700 on my custom Orange because it fits me personally. Amp tone comes first and foremost. Pedals come last.
I hope this makes sense. Im really tipsy so I hope it does.
Wolfie60
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#10
i agree the amp sound / tone comes first and adding pedals effects etc as least important

you make a nice amp sound nicer with pedals, but a crappy sounding amp will always sound crappy even if you stick a heap of pedals in front etc
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#11
Quote by kurdtkobaign
Dead sea,
As an owner of an Orange Rockerverb 50 combo (avatar 2x12 extension cab), the orange itself has MORE than enough gain/saturation to cover any needs (in my opinion). Im using "low output" pickups in my guitar as well, it can do it all, but only in its particular voice. I use an 808 OD for leads, but ONLY for leads. But this is just me. If youre looking for a tight metal tone I would suggest an amp that does this solo without the need of any pedals to boost/enhance the tone. Chose an amp that suits your primary needs WITHOUT the need of pedals. I spent $2700 on my custom Orange because it fits me personally. Amp tone comes first and foremost. Pedals come last.
I hope this makes sense. Im really tipsy so I hope it does.


As helpful as the direction of this post is, asides from the seriously limited number of amps which can produce a "tight metal tone" without the use of pedals, there has always been a misconception on these boards to do with the understanding of a "tight metal tone" and high gain amps. The majority of popular high gain heads do have way more gain on tap than necessary, however, there gets a point when the gain is pretty meaningless. Cranking the gain past 6 on most high gain amps just reaches this area of noise and muddiness, and very few amps naturally produce a tight sound without any kind of boost.

I have experience with Orange Rockerverbs and although they do have quite a lot of gain, the reality is that it is not a tight sounding amp just on its own. You can dial the bass down, crank the mids, but the fact is that without a boost any Orange amp is not going to get you a tight metal tone, regardless of the pickups you have in your guitar.

In modern metal music boost pedals are incredibly important as far as cutting through the mix and tightening up an amp. An example of amps which truly do not need a boost would be higher end Engl amps or Mark series Mesa amps. They have a naturally compressed voicing and this does replicate a secondary (and often overlooked) function of overdrive pedals - compression. This is where overdrive pedals really differ from distortion pedals in front of high gain amps.

Overdrive pedals when used as to boost a high gain amp not only boost the signal, but they have a tendency to boost the mids, cut out some of the unnecessary low end (especially if you are playing down-tuned guitars) and compress the signal. This is why you sound so much better soloing with a boost pedal on. It isn't that there is more gain, but that there is compression helping your very light fretting hand ring out the notes in your solos while you play very fast. The same goes for rhythm playing with an overdrive to boost - your sound is tightened up because you have taken away what is unnecessary (low end) and accentuated what is crucial for your tone to sound tight (mids and compression, and a lower gain setting on your amp!).

Distortion pedals are more popularly used on the clean channels of amps, especially on high gain amps. Running a distortion pedal into a lead channel of a high gain amp isn't likely to get you any kind of "tight" tone. You will likely create more noise and the severe clipping will muddy up your already high gain sound. However, some higher quality distortion pedals when used in front of a clean channel can get a very simple and usable tone, different from that which the amp produces naturally. Some players can really benefit from this variety.

And the output of your pickups is not going to replace the use of a boost pedal. You probably won't notice much of a difference between output of pickups until you are playing into a properly dial'd in quality amp. This is why most people advise for beginners to buy a new amp before upgrading the pickups in their guitar, because most of the time the real problem is the amp/or the pedals used in front of the amp.
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#12
They're both just marketing terms. Neither one actually means anything. The real term for what they both do is 'clipping.'
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Toppscore
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#13
Overdrive pushes/boosts the signal/power to the amp ~ before the amp.
"Amp generated" distortion (NOT "pedal distortion") is a clipped signal
generated by internal amplifier electronics.

Is this description too far off base, or accurate? Thanks
Last edited by Toppscore at Mar 28, 2013,
Toppscore
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#15
Quote by SimplyBen
^ Massively wrong.


I changed it from "pedal distortion" to
distortion generated by the amp itself without a pedal.

Please massively correct. Thanks.
Last edited by Toppscore at Mar 28, 2013,
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#16
Quote by Toppscore
Please massively correct. Thanks.


See posts by bowen and tubetime.
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tas38
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#17
It's kinda like asking what's the difference between whole milk and skim milk. A distortion pedal just has more clipping. I'm not sure where the invisible line is between OD and distortion, but it's really just the amount of clipping. Now, a lot of people talk about using an overdrive with the level at 10, gain at 0. At this point it's not really acting like an overdrive, but a boost. It isn't clipping the signal, just making louder. In a tube screamer's case it's also boosting the mids and cutting bass.
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coldandhomeless
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#18
i agree with alot of u guys about the tubescreamer. but i found a secret weapon for getting metal tones out of a less than metal voiced amp. a boss enhancer in the loop will take your orange head and dimebag the fukkinshitoutofit!
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#19
Quote by coldandhomeless
i agree with alot of u guys about the tubescreamer. but i found a secret weapon for getting metal tones out of a less than metal voiced amp. a boss enhancer in the loop will take your orange head and dimebag the fukkinshitoutofit!


Or you could put a tubescreamer out front and not ruin the sound of your lovely Orange by "dimebagging" it.
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#20
Quote by tas38
It's kinda like asking what's the difference between whole milk and skim milk.


that's a good way to put it

it is semantics to a certain extent, but at the same time if you know you hate skimmed milk, getting a whole bunch of recommendations for skimmed milk when you want whole is pretty silly. Ditto with pedals. if someone wants a low gain overdrive and someone recommends they buy a metal zone because "it's all just clipping", then that's a bit silly IMO.
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gerraguitar
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#21
Quote by Dave_Mc


it is semantics to a certain extent, but at the same time if you know you hate skimmed milk, getting a whole bunch of recommendations for skimmed milk when you want whole is pretty silly. Ditto with pedals. if someone wants a low gain overdrive and someone recommends they buy a metal zone because "it's all just clipping", then that's a bit silly IMO.


I agree with it being semantics. Not to start an even deeper discussion but I might just be off with my interpretation, but how about some of those pedals that can "do" both. You know how some say when you turn down a Rat's gain it can act OD-like. Whether or not it's true isn't really the point, I realize when you turn the gain down on a distortion pedal it does not turn into an OD, I think I've heard people say the same about the Dist +. I don't know shit about the whole clipping thing, is it clipping less when they turn down? Or are they not as frequent? I don't know, maybe I'm confusing myself. One of the reasons why I tend to stay clear of tech stuff, it just doesn't compute.
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Last edited by gerraguitar at Mar 29, 2013,
tubetime86
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#22
Quote by tas38
It's kinda like asking what's the difference between whole milk and skim milk.

As far as I know, it's not even that defined. I don't know a lot about milk, but I believe you can 'analyze' milk and determine if it is skim or whole based on the fat content... How would you 'analyze' a pedal to determine if it is an overdrive or distortion? Simply listening isn't good enough, that's too subjective to be concrete. I've heard people allude to a circuit design difference between the two, but from what I understand there are exceptions to that rule on both sides. Until someone proves different I still say they are purely marketing terms.

Sure there are 'high gain' and 'low gain' drive pedals (using 'drive' to encompass the whole category here, the fact that I have to say that just goes to show how bad the terminology is) but most have 'gain' (another misnomer) knobs so what happens when you take a 'distortion' pedal and turn down the 'gain?' Is it now an overdrive? The Rat is a perfect example. I think it does the full range, and does it well.

At the end of the day guitarists just need to understand that we've bastardized most of the technical terms that apply to our gear. There are countless examples, several of which are above, and it all just proves that the terminology used by guitarists is completely driven by the marketing departments at major companies like Roland.
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#23
Quote by gerraguitar
I agree with it being semantics. Not to start an even deeper discussion but I might just be off with my interpretation, but how about some of those pedals that can "do" both. You know how some say when you turn down a Rat's gain it can act OD-like. Whether or not it's true isn't really the point, I realize when you turn the gain down on a distortion pedal it does not turn into an OD, I think I've heard people say the same about the Dist +. I don't know shit about the whole clipping thing, is it clipping less when they turn down? Or are they not as frequent? I don't know, maybe I'm confusing myself. One of the reasons why I tend to stay clear of tech stuff, it just doesn't compute.


i'm not that great on the technical side of it either, but generally (and as tubetime says, there are exceptions on both sides... a lot of exceptions) ods use clipping diodes or leds in the feedback loop of the op-amp, whereas distortions use clipping diodes to ground after an op-amp gain stage. that tends to lead to a smoother overdrive in the feedback clippers and an edgier distortion in the to-ground clipped circuits. It also seems to tend to make overdrives more compressed and distortions more open/crunchier.

Now, of course, as i said, there are absolutely tons of exceptions. What you use to clip affects the amount of clipping and the compression (LEDs are more open/crunchier, i think because they need higher voltages to make them clip), the exact layout of the clipping affects how it sounds (symmetrical and asymmetrical clipping etc. ), you can also adjust the circuit to affect the amount of clipping (you could make a soft-clipping to-ground clipper, for example, without too much bother), not to mention a whole bunch of ODs and distortions don't even use clipping diodes, they use jfets and the like.

but... the couple of most famous circuits (and the most copied ones) tend to follow those rules.

you can turn down a distortion pedal and get something that sounds a bit like an overdrive, sure. But normally most od pedals will do that type of tone better. Ditto vice-versa.

Quote by tubetime86
(a) As far as I know, it's not even that defined. I don't know a lot about milk, but I believe you can 'analyze' milk and determine if it is skim or whole based on the fat content... (b) How would you 'analyze' a pedal to determine if it is an overdrive or distortion? Simply listening isn't good enough, that's too subjective to be concrete. (c) I've heard people allude to a circuit design difference between the two, but from what I understand there are exceptions to that rule on both sides. Until someone proves different I still say they are purely marketing terms.

(d) Sure there are 'high gain' and 'low gain' drive pedals (using 'drive' to encompass the whole category here, the fact that I have to say that just goes to show how bad the terminology is) but most have 'gain' (another misnomer) knobs so what happens when you take a 'distortion' pedal and turn down the 'gain?' Is it now an overdrive? The Rat is a perfect example. I think it does the full range, and does it well.

(e) At the end of the day guitarists just need to understand that we've bastardized most of the technical terms that apply to our gear. There are countless examples, several of which are above, and it all just proves that the terminology used by guitarists is completely driven by the marketing departments at major companies like Roland.


(a) yep, IIRC semi-skimmed is about 2% fat while whole is about double that (and skimmed has almost all the fat removed). However... like a lot of scientific terminology, it was made up by humans and (at least partly) subjective. EDIT: subjective is the wrong word... arbitrary would be better.

Just taking chemistry as an example (since that's what I know... sorta... badly ) there's a definition for, say, organic chemistry versus inorganic chemistry, to make it easier to learn and categorise etc. etc. etc. Is there any actual objective difference other than the almost arbitrary one decided on by chemists? Not really. It's all chemistry.

It's a bit the same here. Yes, there's a lot of subjectivity, it's been jumped on and hijacked by the marketing brigade, and yes, there are shedloads of exceptions, but that doesn't mean a rough rule-of-thumb to make things easier is a bad idea, either.

As i said already, taking my (admittedly extreme, but still valid) suggestion from earlier, if there truly were no difference and categorising the things were completely useless, any time anyone asked for a low gain od pedal they'd get suggestions for a boss metal zone. That doesn't happen (and when it does, the person suggesting it generally gets jumped on by the regulars), so clearly some form of very basic, rule of thumb categorisation is a good idea.

There was a similar thread over at TGP regarding modern versus vintage amps, and there was the usual (not saying you're as silly as TGP, lol, you're not, and I do agree with 90% of what you're saying fwiw) guff about "you can't categorise it!", but then someone said, "it's a bit like modern art- i know it when i see it". I think that's a bit like the od versus distortion pedal thing. take a certain pedal and most experienced guitarists will instinctively know if it's an od or a distortion.

Much like the pile of sand paradox (or even that "what's a superstrat?" thread a while back), actually trying to determine the specific boundaries probably is silly... but very few pedals fall at those exact boundaries (and the few that do can easily be categorised as "mid-way between an od and a distortion"). But that doesn't mean that the vast majority of pedals which do clearly fall within either camp can't be categorised. Certainly as long as people remember the limits of the categorisation, that it's only a rough rule of thumb.

EDIT: actually, taking chemistry as an example again, I think i've thought of an almost perfect analogy... ionic versus covalent bonding. At school you're taught they're different. In the real world, it's a continuum (much like od versus distortion). Does that mean we shouldn't teach ionic or covalent bonding? In fact, this case is even worse than the od versus distortion debate- there's actually no such thing as pure ionic bonding, all bonding contains some covalent character. Yet we still teach it as a thing, because it's helpful to do so.

(b) i'm guessing a signal generator and an oscilloscope?

(c) there are for sure loads of exceptions, but just because you've found an exception doesn't mean you tear up everything and start again. Granted, if there are more exceptions than rules, maybe, but I'm not sure that's the case. Even if you take no more complex a definition than "sounds like overdrive" or "sounds like distortion", most pedals fit into one or other group.

(d) yep the rat is one of the ones that does all the tones. It sorta does a fuzz tone too when turned up. But I wouldn't call it a fuzz, nor an overdrive.

I said this in the TGP thread I mentioned above (the one about the modern and vintage amps), and I think "potential" is a pretty good definition. Sure, if you turn down a distortion pedal you can often get a sorta poor man's overdrive type of tone, but it's rarely as good as that obtained from a specialist overdrive pedal, plus the distortion pedal has the potential to do a distortion, something which most overdrive pedals don't have.

It's like with cars... if I drive a ferrari around a car park at 5 mph does that mean it's not a sports car any more? Of course not. The potential is there, whether or not that potential is being used.

(e) yep, except I'm not sure I'd say it's totally driven by the marketing... there are terms which are understood by guitarists which might not have any specific scientific definition (or a fuzzy one at best), but that doesn't mean they're meaningless or useless, either.



(sorry for the length )
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Last edited by Dave_Mc at Mar 29, 2013,
tubetime86
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#24
All very well stated, Dave.

I guess I don't propose we throw the terms out the window... But I'm apprehensive about explaining them to new guitar players for fear of them taking them as a rule. In your example of asking for an OD and getting recommendations for a Metal Zone I think the other extreme is asking for an OD and being unwilling to consider the Rat or something similar...

At the end of the day an argument could be made that all music gear is subjective and all that matters is that you like the sound you get... So I guess you're right, we need to leave some distinctions in place, even if they don't always hold true.
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#25


yep it's definitely a balancing act between making sure newer players aren't flailing around in the dark needlessly, and not making people think that they can't experiment. I'm certainly not saying you shouldn't experiment.

I see most music "rules" as guidelines or suggestions, not rules. if it sounds good it is good.
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gerraguitar
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#26
as thorough as you guys are in your explanations, and I do grasp it and understand what they both do and ho they differ and all that...

but I don't know I guess I never really bothered understand the tech part of it, I went on sound which is what a lot of people probably do. I have a good understanding of what they each do, but that's pretty much where it stopped for me at least.

Always good to learn more, to you both
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#27
no worries, there are people who understand it way better than i do, too. I'm better at sounding like i know what i'm talking about than actually knowing what i'm talking about
Quote by classicrocker01
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#28
you technically should be able to do anything with a distortion that you can do with an overdrive in trms of pushing the amp. however, the circuit matters. not many distortion pedals with ever sound like a tubescreamer pushing an amp.

but in short, it is the type of clipping or amount of gain they are imparting on the signal. by definition, overdrive is less.
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