I'm not experienced with pedals or effects so im a bit confused. What is the difference between distortion, overdrive, and boost? Mainly talking about sound but also how it functions as well.
Basically, gain.
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In order of most gain (usually): Distortion, overdrive, boost. Now, gain can mean two things: amount of distortion or amount of volume. Most boost pedals are clean boosts, so "Gain" reflects a volume increase (they don't cause distortion or change your tone like overdrive and distortion pedals do).

Usually boosts have a level knob, then maybe some tone function. Overdrives and distortions have at least two knobs, level and gain (referring to how distorted the signal is), then (more often than not) knobs for tone.

D'you happen to need one of these for your setup?
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Last edited by Maidenheadsteve at Jul 24, 2014,
I don't "need" one, but I want one. I built a bazz fuss kit so I figured that I could build another.
distortions and overdrives have clipping diodes in them for sure, people do draw precise distinctions between them but these distinctions are not universal and there is much debate between these camps as to what the legitimate distinctions are. the one thing it seems people agree about is that an overdrive pedal generally provides less gain than a distortion pedal.

boost are pretty much an opamp or transistor in a box. no clipping diodes so generally significantly less gain characteristics.

Quote by Fret Frier
I don't "need" one, but I want one. I built a bazz fuss kit so I figured that I could build another.

awesome. i have built a number of pedals too.

if you want a pretty good distortion pedal, then try a rat proco style distortion pedal (options are kinda limited since you are building from a kit, and the proco is generally readily available). it has been one of my favorites so far.
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Last edited by gumbilicious at Jul 24, 2014,
^ +1

basic definition is that a boost just ups your signal level and (in theory) the actual pedal shouldn't distort, just make your signal bigger, which will either make your amp louder if the amp is totally clean, or make it distort more if it's already distorted. (I said "in theory" because some boosts will indeed distort themselves at higher settings.)

an overdrive is designed to sound like an overdriven amp by itself i.e. the pedal will produce overdrive (as gumbi says, often has clipping diodes or other components designed to clip the signal, since distortion is clipping). at lower gain settings and higher level settings most overdrive pedals can also be used as boost pedals (or at least, "pseudo-boost" pedals). most would say overdrives have softer clipping than distortion pedals.

a distortion is designed to sound like a distorted amp. again, like overdrives, normally have diodes (or similar) to distort the signal within the pedal. Again, like with ods, at lower distortion settings and higher level settings may also be used as pseudo-boosts (though often don't go as clean as overdrive pedals at low distortion settings, not always though). most would say distortions have harder clipping than overdrive pedals.

as gumbi rightly said there's a lot of overlap though and it's pretty much a massive grey area or minefield. Which is not to say the definitions are meaningless, either, most guitar players will instinctively know what each pedal is (or whether it blurs the lines).
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I think of it as degree of clipping -

Boost>>OD>> distortion>>fuzz = no clipping>>>>>>>quasi square wave, with no distinct boundaries between them.

There are a lot of nuances in addition to this, like type of diodes used, whether the clipping is assymetric, degree of touch/input sensitivity and lots of other stuff beyond my technical ken. So it comes down to personal preferences and doing a bit of research on what to look for in technical specs and desxcriptions.