Overdrive, it’s the sound of rock and roll!
Most people probably don’t realise they’re hearing overdriven guitars but they are everywhere.
Overdrive pedals either drive and amplify into clipping or simulate that effect within the pedal. An overdriven tube amp adds raunch and sustain to your sound.
One type of overdrive pedal that has gained popularity in recent years is the transparent drive.
These are designed to preserve the natural sound of your guitar and amp while adding a subtle overdrive.
Unlike traditional overdrive pedals, which often have a sound of their own, adding color and distortion, transparent overdrive pedals are designed to be, well, transparent! They allow your guitar and amp’s natural tone to shine through.
The key to transparent overdrive pedals is the gain staging. The gain applied is subtle and some of the filters equally subtle to remove some of the nasties that are inherent in high gain circuitry.
One advantage of transparent overdrive pedals is that they are highly versatile. Add subtle warmth to clean tones, or to push your amp into natural overdrive. Also be used to boost solos or to add sustain to lead lines.
Being transparent, they can be used with a wide range of amps and guitars, without drastically altering your tone.
However, take care about using this type of pedal with a traditional solid-state amp as these do not always produce the smooth sound required when overdriven.
Equally at home in country or rock bands, use the controls used to drive the amp relatively heavily, or just give the sound a bit of a lift.
The most famous pedal that started off the current levels of high interest in transparent drives was the Klon Centaur.
Designed by Bill Finnegan and quickly gaining a reputation for its clear, dynamic, and responsive tone, the Centaur is known for its ability to add a subtle overdrive to a clean guitar signal, as well as for its ability to stack with other pedals and boost the tone of an already distorted signal.
The Klon Centaur features three knobs: Gain, Treble, and Output. The Gain knob controls the amount of overdrive, while the Treble knob allows the player to adjust the amount of high-end frequency response. The Output knob controls the overall volume level of the pedal.
Original pedals are highly sought after by guitarists and collectors, and they often sell for thousands of dollars on the used market. Despite this, there have been many attempts to recreate the sound of the Klon with varying degrees of success.
One popular alternative is the Soul Food by Electro-Harmonix. The Soul Food is often compared to the Centaur for its ability to add a subtle crunch to a clean signal without coloring the tone too much. It also features a treble control that can be used to shape the high-end response, similar to the Centaur’s treble knob.
The Fulltone OCD is another overdrive pedal that is often compared to the Klon. The OCD is also known for its dynamic response and rangey gain tones, all controlable with a high peak/low peak switch.
While it is not a direct “Klon Clone”, the OCD is a versatile overdrive that can be used in many difference situations.
Unfortunately, the OCD is also no longer available. There are of course many other transparent overdrive pedals that fit the bill.
They are highly versatile, and can be used in a wide range of musical contexts.
If you’re a fan of blues and classic rock, or just looking to add some warmth to your sound, a transparent overdrive pedal may be just what you need to take your playing to the next level.
We have heard people say, “it just makes me sound better”.