Boutique, Mass Produced and Cloned Overdrive Pedals

Maybe you’ve read my recent posts regarding my new Quilter Mini 101 Amp head or how I mounted it on my new Temple pedalboard. I only needed one effect, reverb, because the Quilter 101 doesn’t have it. I began researching pedals and bought a TC Electronic Hall of Fame mini. I already owned a TC Electronic Ditto Looper, a gift. Now I had two effects pedals plus the amp for my pedalboard. The two pedals seemed lonely. So I began researching other pedals. I needed at least one more pedal (I told myself — and my wife).

The last time I remember looking for effects pedals, the typical price seemed to be about $100. There were more expensive pedals but few less expensive. I’ve owned one pedal previously, from the Ibanez Tube Screamer family. I almost never used it. I like a clean sound or the natural overdrive from a tube amp at higher gain. I’ve sold the Tube Screamer and the Princeton Reverb I played it through. I like jazz and blues and don’t need pedals. But, suddenly I have a pedalboard and feel the need to fill it with more pedals so the reverb and looper I have won’t be lonely.

The Quilter Mini 101 can produce acceptable low gain overdriven sounds without pedals. It is designed to emulate a tube amp and does a great job. But most overdrive pedals work best with tube amps so a natural addition to my board would be an overdrive pedal. Based on my experience with the TS pedal, I wanted something different.

Because the land of pedals isn’t a world I’ve paid attention to, I was surprised at the choices available to today’s guitarist. You can buy expensive, hand-wired, custom designed boutique pedals. You can find mass produced, mid-priced pedals from big name companies. You can find pedals from companies specializing in low-cost pedals. And then there are the clones. Almost any popular pedal from the mass-produced and boutique categories has been cloned overseas and sells for much, much less than the pedal it copies.

Honey Bee

I ended up buying a Sweet Baby Overdrive pedal made by Joyo. It is a made-in-China clone of the Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive (SHOD). The SHOD is the authorized, mass-produced version of the BJFE Honey Bee Overdrive. The descriptions of these pedals say the pedal gives a touch sensitive, low gain overdrive so that you can play clean or get overdriven sounds when you dig into the notes. That’s what I like. But the decision to buy this wasn’t easy when there are so many to choose from and none available for trial locally.

The first image is hand-wired Sweet Honey Overdrive which sells for over $300. The middle image is the same thing, mass-produced with circuit boards. It sells for under $200. The last image is of the Sweet Baby Overdrive clone from Joyo which sells for about $30. These and other product images link to Amazon product pages for the item pictured.


Among the contenders were the Boss Blues Driver, a pedal I’ve been tempted to try several times in the past, the Fulltone OCD, the TC Electronics MojoMojo, any of several pedals designed to emulate a Dumble amp, or a Tech 21 Character Series Blonde. All of these have clones available for a fraction of the cost of the originals.

Blues Driver

The Boss Blues Driver pedal has long been a popular low gain overdrive option and alternative to the Tube Screamer. The basic Blues Driver DB-2 pedal is about $100. Boss pedals have taken an opposite approach to the cloning of boutique pedals. Instead, they offer Waza Craft models which are upgrades to their basic models. The Waza Craft Blues Driver is about $140 to $150. There are of course clones. Shown below is the Donner Blues Drive. It costs less than a third of the basic Blues Driver price. Notice that many of the clones are made in a mini-sized housing that allows more pedals to fit on your pedalboard.


OCD

The Fulltone OCD is another pedal that has been described as giving a touch-sensitive experience. The standard version of the pedal is slightly above $100 but probably under $120 if you look. It was a strong contender when I was looking for an overdrive pedal. One of the problems I had in evaluating this and other overdrive pedals were the youtube videos demonstrating the various pedals. You would think this would be helpful. It might be, depending on what you’re looking for in an overdrive sound. But I was looking for subtle, low gain, touch sensitivity. The majority of video demos started with the gain at 12 o’clock and went up from there. They wanted to demonstrate drive, not a subtle enhancement. I didn’t choose the OCD because the videos showed only high gain settings for this pedal.

Joyo specializes in clones and their clone for the OCD is called the Ultimate Drive (model JF-02). It’s in a mini-sized case and costs about $30. The Mosky OCD Overdrive Pedal is another clone and costs a few dollars less than the Joyo.


MojoMojo

The TC Electronic MojoMojo Overdrive pedal is one of the least expensive overdrives available from one of the big name pedal makers. I don’t know whether this was made as an attempt to replicate some boutique effect pedal. It has excellent reviews for a low-gain and versatile pedal. There are no clones of this. Selling for under $50, there’s no reason to buy a clone if there was one.


Dumble emulator

The Dumble is one of the most famous amplifier names for guitarists. Dumbles are expensive collector items. Famous guitarists own them but you and I would be lucky to find one for sale much less be able to afford one. The creamy overdrive of a Dumble amp is the reason there is such a mystique about them. The closest most guitarists will come to a Dumble is if they get to play through a pedal designed to emulate a Dumble. One of the catches to this is, so few people have played through a Dumble, it is difficult to know if a pedal is actually capturing the Dumble sound. For that matter, not all Dumble’s sound the same nor do all guitarists dial in the same sound. Thus, you’re chasing a dream based on a fantasy. Still, one of these pedals might be just what you’re looking for in an overdrive pedal.

Below are The Mojo Hand FX DMBL (with cables) for about $200, The Wampler Euphoria (version 2) costs about the same. A version one model is a bit less. Next is Mooer MOD2 Rumble Drive pedal for about $60. The Rowin Analog Dumbler Guitar Effect Pedal is even less expensive at about $40.


Blonde

The final pedal I considered was from the Tech 21 Character series of Sans-Amp pedals. The Blonde model from this series is designed to emulate Fender amps from tweed through blackface models. Because it is a Sans-Amp, it can be used as a direct out to record or play into a PA or clean amp. It might be a good choice in front of my ZT Lunchbox but the Quilter Mini 101 mimics Fender sounds fairly well on the Tweed and Surf Voice settings. Still, reviewers have said it gives the perfect overdrive boost they are looking for, presuming you like Fender sounds. I do.

The Tech 21 Blonde costs about $170. Again, the clone is from Joyo (Joyo JF-14 American Sound Effects Pedal) and costs under $35.


This just scratches the surface of overdrive pedals and their clones. There are boutique clones of other boutique pedals. There are modified versions of well-known pedals. Even the pedals I have shown have clones I haven’t included. However, you many have to hunt for other clones. The ones I’ve shown are all available at Amazon (at least they were when this was written).

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