Overdrive everything: overdrive, distortion, fuzz


Running an output through a 4-track can make some nice overdrive sounds. If you want to go the pedal route, Mid-Fi Electronics sells the Demo Tape Fuzz.

I bought a ProCo DB4A at Goodwill for super cheap, but have yet to try it on any eurorack. Four I/O makes for easy stereo setup, and dementionally, it could sit right under your 104hp case.

I also have a Bellari MP105 tube preamp that cost next to nothing. You can buy them super cheap (I think I paid $25 for mine), because as far as mic preamps go, they are very noisy. For warming up/overdriving instruments, they are very nice. It essentially just runs you signal through a 12AX7, so switching out the tube with a different brand or something vintage can provide subtle changes to the output. Since they can be found for cheap, a stereo setup is pretty easy.


I sometimes run my whole mix thru the EHX 2ube


I made a DIY demo tape fuzz a couple of years ago and its definitely my go to fuzz but also great for fat subtle overdrive on lower settings with dual tone controls and great range on the trim/fuzz control. Not sure how my DIY compares to the manufacturers version though. Whilst on pedals, I highly rate the Fairfield Circuitry Barbershop for dynamic subtle saturation overdrive. I have the v2 with the high cut switch which I prefer. I have a hard time deciding between these two… so I end up often running things through the Supa - Puss analog delay which has a gain control and gets nice and dirty but with delay which is ok by me…


Is that him playing the Wurlitzer in the demo? If so he’s a fantastic player…


Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s him. In addition to being talented he’s also one of the nicest people ever : great support, etc. Hope you’ll like the Mini… Using very low gain but high bias gets some really nice sounds, and it can even work as a boost/EQ when desired.


OK, we have a Reverb and a Delay thread.
I think we need a distortion thread.
I certainly need advice…

I love very subtle distortion. I love when one note sounds clean but two notes (especially when adjacent to each other) break up. I also love unsubtle distortion. I tend to prefer fuzz boxes almost turned off to Tube Screamer type things.

First, I should share the devices I use.

On guitar, my favourite is Way Huge Piercing Moose Octifuzz, fuzz almost at minimum. It gives an almost ringmod sound, inharmonic but lovely to my ears.

For versatility and all around coolness I use Empress Multidrive into my old rackmount SanAmp for most of my guitars in the attic, these days. Sansamp is all analogue and distorts in odd but often pleasing ways.

When I used to play Keyboards in a band I put my old Nord Lead through a Fulltone Ultimate Octave. Tone, fuzz and octave to taste.

What I’m looking for now -

For subtle, mostly, I’m about to purchase an OTO BOUM. It can also do nasty, and it compresses. I tried Elektron Analog Heat, and it was fine, but I have a knee jerk antipathy to Elektron gear, maybe because I was an early adopter… I think I’ll prefer BOUM.

I’m looking for other, hopefully cool and cheap, pedals and tabletop devices to subtly distort synths and pianos, without losing bottom end (preferably).

Care to share your distortion preferences and experiences?


Given your stated preference for fuzz type sounds, you might get lots from exploring DIY options. Fuzz circuits tend to be incredibly simple, which makes them easy to build and tweak. (There are also, e.g., some neat but simple circuits adapting parts of 60’s preamps for clipping purposes.)

Happy to point to web resources if that interests you.


It’s early and I have a baby on my lap so I can write something more detailed later but my favorite dirt pedal is by far the smallsound/bigsound Mini. Wonderful on synths as well as guitars. I have two and one is dedicated to my small synths board (typically for a Reface YC). Goes from subtle or crackly overdrive to fuzz.



The Mini is the most character-ful overdrive I’ve played. There’s magic in that bias knob.


i had been searching for a perfect clean-to-gentle-breakup pedal forever and finally found the fairfield modele B, which is amazing. i print tons of stuff thru it, great for any time a tube screamer is too much.


Barbershop is awesome :+1:

All the Fairfield stuff is fantastic, and pretty much all of it features jfet preamps at some point in the signal path that can be overdriven.

Another one I like is the catalinbread formula no 5. It’s a jfet emulation of a tweed deluxe (which are useful at pretty much every setting). Turn everything to full and you have a nice fuzz box (just ask Neil young :smile:).


Great to hear. I love their pedals. Must try!


Many thanks… Ordered!


I like the fulltone ocd. I think it fits your description and responds well to the dynamics of your playing. It can be very subtle with soft playing and really kick up the dirt when you dig in. Much like a tube amp.

For over the top, my favorite thing to do it stack a zvex super duper 2 in 1 before a fuzz. The fuzz ends up sounding like a crumbling mess in the best way.


maybe a dumb question: do you tend to track through it when recording or use it as a send/run individual tracks through when mixing, or something different?


also recomend the fairfield compressor. its got some lovely fet crunch at higher gain levels


there’s more discussion of distorted things here too…



My son just let me borrow his Henretta Engineering Purple Octopus Octave pedal, and it sounds wonderful on Preen2 FM sounds. Note - I’m running clean and effected in parallel and mixing in the dirt. That seems to work well with keys, for me.


not dumb! and both. sometimes i know i’ll want it on a juno part or whatever, so i’ll track it in. other times i’ll be feeling that a mix feels too itb or stale and then i’ll reamp a handful of parts thru it. especially nice (as is the tube screamer) as a parallel print on the drum bus - just reamp the L&R channels one at a time and then blend it into the dry mix.


Dying battery simulator with guitar pedals

Analog style bit crush/sample and hold