Overdrive everything: overdrive, distortion, fuzz, etc

So, I like overdrive/distortion/saturation/etc, and I’m kind of new to the hardware game. I’ve played guitar/bass my entire life, so I understand single-channel insert FX, and I’ve messed around with Ableton Live for years, so again, I understand inserts and FX send buses. However, now I’ve got some hardware including a mixer (with 2 sends), and I kind of want to dirty up my signal.

If I just wanted to dirty up a single channel, then yeah, I get how I’d just stick the effect in that chain, but how do I dirty up everything? My own logic tells me to just put an overdrive pedal (or whatever) on my master out(s), but first of all pedals are generally mono, but also I lose the ability to headphone monitor (which is usually how I jam) without more hardware (to amplify the signal for my headphones).

I’m trying not to justify buying an Analog Heat, I swear. :innocent:

edit: ideally this is something that’s easily portable for live performances/etc, also.


What ever you do, perhaps wait until OTO Machines Boum is released? It’s their compression effect, but they are usually stereo and I have heard good things about the way you can overdrive their units for saturation.

Or use a hardware box as a send and return, so you don’t need to sling it across the master? Just send everything to that effect.

The Roland Torcido can be picked up pretty cheap if you find it in stock.


Here’s what I’d like to do if I wanted to add stereo distortion to my rig : dedicate a little Eurorack case with appropriate modules (pairs of distortion modules, at least two multiples and two mono mixers), and connect the case to the mixing desk’s master insert bus.

But in the end I’d probably buy something like Analog Heat, based on price and convenience…

Wowzers! That thing looks incredible!

I guess I should have mentioned that ideally it’s something that’s easily portable. :smiley:

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As an update: Looks like there’s info and pre-orders about the OTO Boum now.


Looks pretty sweet!

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I have a Torcido in my rack. It feels nice to use and I like the sound of it. I actually use it more than I expected I would.

I think I paid £100 for it.

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So, no love yet for the Eleketron Analog Heat? I’d be curious to hear if anyone’s been using it for such purpose with success as I’ll admit it’s one of the few pieces of hardware gear I’m interested in (although the price tag is a beat rough but… yeah, in an idealized world, I’m interested)

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Distortion is a complex subject, almost like a specific form of harmony from being able to control the spectral profile of an instrument. Of course, rock groups using distortion pedals were making hybrid instruments with fixed waveshapers.

But I digress. I actually never found a form of distortion that I really liked for synthesizers, and exploring this more deeply, I think this can be related to the concept of synthesis at it’s lowest level. Why not bring the concept of waveshaping into an instrument at it’s deepest level? A brilliant example for this is the Reaktor ensemble, The Weedwacker, which uses a totally novel form of nonlinear waveshaping where the output of a VCO is hard clipped then fed back to pulse width, giving some truly strange chaotic harmonics.

So in that nature, I would say to resist the marketing hype around these “warming” devices, stacked in front of linear sound generators, and instead work with devices that already allow and facilitate exploration in the wider sonic regions of interest.

Another angle is of course to push the devices you already have further, I remember hearing “no input” sets from people using nothing more than a simple project mixer ( the crappier the better). Feedback will generate far more interesting regions than any simple clipping device. Modulate everything…


I bought an Analog Heat a month or so back and have used it extensively since. I wanted a kind of deeper sonic palette and move away from the more common effects (I listened a lot to Athur Russel’s World of Echoes when I decided it might be something like a distortion unit or guitar amp I needed in my songwriting/sound shaping process). The Heat eventually became more of an extension of the synth (I use it exclusively with a Blofeld for an album project), adding not only grit but warmth, tone, attack and so on. Adding the filter, lfo and envelope follower to that have let me create sounds, especially progressions in sounds, that I couldn’t anticipate in my wildest dreams. I do recommend this unit but also digging into it with open eyes/ears.


The Strymon Deco is excellent too, though it doesn’t do anywhere near as much as the Heat.


I use one at the end of chain (Eurorack -> Meris Polymoon -> Meris Mercury7 -> RE-20 -> Elektron Heat).

I would consider the “i/o design” to be really fantastic. The headphone amp powers my Sennheiser HD600s adequately. There are multiple sensitivity levels for dealing with different types of sources (not enough for a guitar directly in I don’t think, but pretty much something for any pedal or module). The volume knob also controls the signal level on the line outputs so for live use, you can get away without having a mixer but still have control over master volume (and just pass the line signal to the soundboard).

The first three settings (boost/saturation/enhancement) are great as an end of chain processor and what I tend towards (unless I’m looking for a more aggressive, effected sound, which there are quite a few cool settings for that too). The envelope follower/lfo (which can get pretty slow with the speed “attenuator” param) is easy enough to patch to a few destinations to give things a little bit of movement. There is also a filter panning param you can modulate with the lfo for some interesting spatial effects (but this can be a little aggressive for a full mix). The filters are clean, but do feel “musical”.

I tried it out over the first few months I had it, but I’m not using Overbridge right now. It was pretty buggy in my environment. The overbridge interface is okay. The biggest annoyance is it is very confusing to figure out how to save presets and very easy to lose whatever settings you have (as well as just the general vibe that it feels like it is held together by duct tape and may crash at any point). The USB interface feature is poor. Latency is very high (like 60ms), and even using a large buffer I would still lose samples (and this sample loosing is accompanied by some very aggressive and glitchy stuff.)

The Smallsound/Bigsound Mini is probably my favourite overdrive/distortion/fuzz pedal ever, and that’s partly because in my experience it works as well with guitar and bass as with synths and organs.

Brian (Mr Smallsound/Bigsound) plays keyboards in a band (cymbals eat guitars) and I think that has an influence on the design of his pedals.

Anyway, I also have a Buzzz (wonderful and polyvalent fuzz) but that one is typically a bit less subtle whereas the Mini can go from slight overdrive to weird bias artifacts to full-on fuzz and that’s why I have two of them. One for guitar/bass, and one for synths.

I also try to have as many potential overdrives/etc. in my 7U/84 HP modular, currently 5 modules can do this but I plan to increase that number :).

You could try a cheap stereo mic pre? Running line level into the low level mic preamp input and cranking the gain will get some decent dirt.

Something with an output attenuator can then tame the signal. Mic pres with output transformers that can be driven sound great in my experience (transformer saturation has a unique ‘warm’ sound to it).

E.g. A couple of these would do the job very nicely:



Yeah, I’m super on the fence about Boum vs Analog Heat. They’re a little different, obviously, but they both seem to have their pros and cons just feature-wise, without even considering the audio quality.


I’ll just say that Boum is lovely. I’m not necessarily much of a distortion guy, but the boost distortion model has these subtle harmonics when you drive it hard and the hi-cut filter sounds so musical. I’m in love with it.

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agggh… Tell me more! :slight_smile:

anything in particular you want to know? still just getting familiar (and haven’t used a hardware compressor before).

I think mostly I just want to hear the different distortion models and/or just have someone tell me “shut up and buy one”. :wink:

I mean, I think you’ll like it a lot. Denis has done a fantastic job with everything he’s done.

I’ll see if I can put together a little demo. it may have to wait for a bit until my norns shows up.

overdrive everything is definitely a method I can get behind! hardware wise I have a russian big muff that I love, particularly because of how easy it is to modify. running it at the very end of a pedal chain, or piping the main output of my euro system through it is a ton of fun. in addition to the muff, I’ve modified just about every pedal I own to have some sort of distortion or feedback loop.

if I need to make a mixdown a bit more interesting, I’ll track it down to tape really hot - not enough to make it a mess, but just enough that some distortion occurs, and that nice tape compression comes into play. my 4track does this a bit better than my 1/4" machine. if I want to make things just abjectly terrible, I’ll track everything onto the lowest-quality cassette I can find, running on my trusty phillips shoebox recorder with mic input.

I don’t really use software distortion all that often (I can’t justify it with so much tape staring me in the face), but I recently discovered the tanh~ object in max and it’s easily the nicest sounding overdrive I’ve ever heard from software. I still have a soft spot for degrade~ though.