Our 8 Favorite Best Tube Overdrive/Distortion Pedals

I have to admit that I can be kind of a “tube snob” at times – especially when looking for either a great distortion or overdrive tone. Since tube amps can sometimes be a bit out of someone’s budget, the next best thing might be to get a pedal that has tubes in it to get its tone. These are eight of our favorites on the market today:

1. Blackstar HT-DIST

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The Blackstar HT-DIST Tube Distortion Pedal is a machine to reckon with. This pedal has been designed to compete with some of the best high-gain valve amps, and therefore, it is more than able to dish out powerful tones from mild mannered ones. Here is a review of this fire-breathing beast.

Ease of Use

The HT-DISTX does not require a degree in rocket science to use. Its layout is simple and straightforward, and therefore, quite easy to use. This pedal has six control knobs. Among these controls is ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) that allows you to get any tone that you want, Bass, Middle, and Treble knobs, Level, which controls the output, and Gain, which controls the amount of driver or distortion. The pedal has two outputs; a speaker emulated output and a standard output.


The sound that this pedal produces is another thing that impressed me a lot. This pedal’s ISF true to its name is infinite. It produces an aggressive middle end and a tight bottom end when played. Also, this pedal is packed with so much variation in sound than any other distortion pedal of its kind. Whether you want bone crushing and eye bleeding death metal distortion, or you want a smooth blues overdrive, you can get it all here. I also loved the fact that the HT-DISTX is a true bypass pedal.

Durability and Reliability

This pedal’s casing is made of metal that is strong enough and can withstand tremendous amounts of wear and tear. It also does not overheat, therefore, it is a pedal worth a guitarist’s time.

Sometimes, I am required to play music genres that put a lot of stress on the distortion pedal. The Blackstar HT-DIST Tube Distortion Pedal has proved powerful, reliable, and durable, and I simply love it.

2. Electro-Harmonix Tube Zipper Envelope Filter/Distortion

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Just about every serious guitar player in the world has an Electro-Harmonix in their pedal library. The company helps make guitar, basses and keys create just about any sound. On top of that, they make some of the highest quality, most affordable, and durable effects pedals in the music industry. The Electro-Harmonix Tube Zipper Envelope Filter/Distortion Pedal is no exception to this general rule.

I was excited to give this pedal a try. EH is widely known to make some of the best envelope filters in the world. They also make some great distortion pedals. I was interested to see what kind of sonic limits I could reach when the company combined these two things into one pedal. Understanding the quality of filters and tubes that Electro-Harmonix uses is another reason I was gripped with excitement to play this pedal.

Tonal Opportunities

There so many tonal options on this pedal it is hard to know where to get started. Like EH’s other pedals, this envelope filter gave my telecaster some very funky auto wahs without becoming to gainey or creating feedback. Sometimes envelope filters can make a sound kind of sharp. The analog filters helped warm it up. The sound is extremely funky, must be why legendary funk musician George Clinton uses it all the time.

The pedal has 6 different knobs to adjust the gain, overdrive, tone, and frequency that the pedal addresses. It also has a true bypass function that prevents it from clogging up your signal when it isn’t on. The Electro-Harmonix Tube Zipper Envelope Filter/Distortion Pedal comes with a 9V adapter included.

3. Hughes & Kettner Tube Factor Classic All Tube Booster Overdrive

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The Tube Factor is a pedal that has been designed to bring out the subtle nuances of the player’s style and the individual character of the guitar. This pedal accomplishes this through the use of 290 volts, which is higher than the standard pedal uses and new technology employed in the preamp stage of this device. I got a chance to use the Hughes & Kettner Tube Factor Classic All Tube Booster Overdrive Effects Pedal and here is its review.

Ease of Use

The Tube Factor is a fairly easy pedal to use. It has two buttons used for switching channels and only three knobs. These knobs are packed with effects that pleased me a lot.


The Tube Factor is one of the most transparent pedals that I have heard the opportunity of using. In fact, I can say that it is much better than most one-tube overdrives and transistors of its class available today. For clean playing and blues, its transparent 1 channel does the trick. You can also tweak this pedal from absolute clean to give you a distorted crunch. However, the distortion is somehow stiff when played with some devices, something that is easily solved by using the Maxon compressor. This pedal produces very thick lows, crispy, and mild sounds that are very distinct and delicious.

Reliability & Durability

The pedal’s casing is built of metal that can take hard stomping and it is generally well-built.

The Hughes & Kettner Tube Factor Classic All Tube Booster Overdrive Effects Pedal is a brilliant device that can help your tube amp produce mild and thick sounds. I did enjoy using it, therefore, I can recommend it to other guitarists.

4. Vox TG1V8DS Tone Garage V8

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Vox has long been known as one of the most trusted names in the music industry. Many famous guitar players have used Vox amps and pedals in their rigs for years. The Vox TG1V8DS Tone Garage V8 Distortion pedal gives guitar players the tube overdrive that they are looking for while trying to attain a vintage rock sound in the studio or on stage.

When I ran my Les Paul through the pedal the first thing that I loved about the pedal was the high-gain distortion that it put out. If you are looking for chunky chords that cut through the mix and fill out your bands sound this is the perfect pedal for your board. The Vox TG1V8DS Tone Garage V8 Distortion pedal gives players a ton of different options in distortion tones.

The four knobs at the top of the pedal helped me get the exact distortion tone that I wanted out of my guitar rig. I avoided the distortion becoming too overpowering using the volume port. The bass knob helped me beef up the distortion. It really added a lot of body in my sound. The gain knob obviously decides how much gain you have in your distortion while the tone knob helped me develop the character of the distortion.

This pedal is very durable. It is built to withstand just about anything that is thrown at it. It is completely true bypass. This means that it won’t add to your signal at all while it is not in use.

5. Maxon RTD800 Real Tube Overdrive

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One thing about being a guitarist is that you get to sample different devices for producing music. I recently got the opportunity to try out the Maxon RTD800 Real Tube Overdrive, and here is what I can say about it.

The Maxon RTD800 is a powerful tube drive that features Distortion circuits and an Independent Overdrive that are combined with a dual triode tube to offer a wide variety of thick tones. This pedal is capable of producing full-on gated metal distortion to traditional tube overdrive tones. Considering that all these is packed in a single package, the Maxon RTD800 is truly a remarkable piece of equipment.

This tube has been designed to produce powerful tones and at the same time extend its life. For instance, when you apply power to the pedal, the tube is heated at a very low voltage by an In-Rush Current Control circuit. The low voltage reduces the amount of wear on the tube, therefore, drastically extending its life.

A unique feature that I noticed with this pedal is that it places the tube after the Distortion and OverDrive circuits, as a result, this makes the tube more suitable for recreating an authentic tube-amp tone. Also, the tone controls of this pedal are completely independent with no overlap of frequency, this allows for a great degree of options in terms of tone. This tube also has a variable VCA Noise Reduction circuit that checks the tone, therefore, keeping it clean and tight. Also, its manufacturers were thoughtful enough to include a foot-switchable boost function.

I was greatly impressed by the thoughtful features that Maxon included in this pedal. If you are looking for a pedal, you should try the Maxon-RTD800-Real-Tube-Overdrive.

6. BK Butler Tube Driver

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The BK Butler Tube Driver is a pedal that any guitarist especially one who has been around longer than the dot-com era will not think twice playing with. This pedal does not only produce a powerful sound, but it is also packed with a ton of useful features and effects that will not fail to impress. I had the opportunity to use it and here is its review.

Ease of Use

The Butler is a tube-driven pedal that has a Tube Drive, Hi, Low, and Out Level notched-knobs. Being notched, this means that it is easy to recover any lost settings with this pedal’s knobs. Boosting or cutting Hi, Low, or Tube Drive in this pedal will have an overall impact on the level of the output volume courtesy of the fact that all four knobs work in concert. The Tube Drive knob controls overall distortion, the Low knob boosts lows and adds a lot of extra gains, and the Hi knob boosts highs. Adjustments on the pedal and also on the guitar will give you anything from a liquid sustaining lead tone to a crunchy rhythm, and any other tone that you can imagine. I loved the fact that this pedal is packed with many distortion sounds. However, as we all know, not all tones sound the best. Therefore, to get the best sound, I layered the Butler Tube Drive on top of my amp’s distortion and I loved the feedback.


The Tube Drive is a distortion pedal but you will be surprised to hear that it is not noisy. Yes, it adds some background sound, but this is nothing when compared to other distortion pedals I have used. It also produces pinch harmonics that are not sharp or grating, but that sound brilliant.

The BK Butler Tube Driver sounds fantastic and original. Therefore, I would advise any guitarist to use it.

7. Radial Tonebone Classic

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There is a current trend in music. Players and producers are starting to revert from digital trends to give their rock music a more vintage sound. Many do this using analog recording techniques and gear. The Radial Tonebone Classic Tube Distortion Pedal fits perfectly into this current musical style trend.

The Radial pedal is designed to give guitar players the vintage rock overdrive and distortion pedal that they are searching for at a great price. It does this by utilizing tube technology. When I plugged the pedal in, the first thing that I noticed was the bevy of options that it gave me when it came to tone.

The pedal has a multitude of different knobs where you can shape the tone of the distortion. Players can also determine how much wet and dry signal they are using. The 3-position tone shaping is one of my favorite things about it.

A unique thing about the Radial Tonebone Classic Tube Distortion Pedal is that it has two channels. Guitarists have the ability to set up two different distortion sounds and toggle back and forth between them using this pedal. The option is ideal for a player that wants to have a distortion sound for rhythm and a more cutting sound for when they are playing lead.

The Tonebone reduces noise in the signal chain by being true bypass. It comes with a 9V power adapter included. The distortion pedal is also extremely durable thanks to its 14-gauge steel construction. The Tonebone is definitely road-ready.

8. Maxon T0D9 True Tube Overdrive

Honestly, before I bought my Maxon T0D9 True Tube Overdrive, I have never used nor owned an overdrive pedal that uses vacuum tubes. I tend to lean more on the familiar so I stuck with OD pedals that use diodes or multiple transistor stages. I have to say, however, that this pedal is an unforgettable experience, simply because the vacuum tube inside creates a different, but awesome sounding overdrive. The guitar tone it produces is powerful and it gets me the energy and boost I need. This OD pedal has controls for drive, tone, level, and tube. Playing with it, I discovered that the overdrive can range from subtle to full sonic awesomeness! I mostly play along the track of metal and classic rock, and this pedal syncs perfectly for those genres. I also tried using it in bypass and I am surprised that the guitar tone sounded very clean. The volume knob also responds well when I try to tweak it to get a cleaner tone; the entire pedal is high on the responsiveness category if you ask me. Truly, the range that this pedal can provide is a journey waiting to be explored and discovered!

My advice for those looking out to try the Maxon T0D9 True Tube Overdrive, it is best partnered with a solid-state amplifier for that tube-amp perfection. Also, any good OD pedal works best when partnered with the proper guitar tone and amplifier. Since this is my first tube-based pedal, I understand why there is a hype. Overall, I am satisfied with this purchase and it is a good addition to the OD pedals I own.

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