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bass overdrive vs distortion vs fuzz pedal?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by rylie, Aug 13, 2019.

  1. rylie


    Sep 25, 2017
    dream into action
    I tend to use tone-shaping pedals over color-added pedals. I've never used a "dirt" pedal. But now I'm thinking about it. Considering a dirt pedal, not to get nasty or death metal, but more of an old-school bite/grit. So, without direct experience, I see the "dirt" pedal options as a bottomless pit of choices. Can someone explain the audible difference between overdrive/distortion/fuzz for bass? The next step is specific brand/model pedal recommendations for bass bite/grit. My rig is Fender P & J through GK amp/speakers. Thanks
    Turbo Sparky and Bassmike62 like this.
  2. And I

    And I Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2009
    Witchtown, MA
    old-school bite/grit = overdrive. i've got a solidgoldFX beta that i use for this purpose and love. i've also heard people say great stuff about the Way Huge Pork Loin.

    dr doofie likes this.
  3. Adamixoye

    Adamixoye A PT Pro is cool for worship, right?

    Apr 9, 2012
    Occasional Beta Tester for Confusion Studios, Singular Sound, and Source Audio
    There is a lot that has been written on OD/distortion/fuzz but one simple way to think of it would be:
    OD: rock
    Distortion: metal
    Fuzz: psychedelic

    That's an oversimplification but it might help.
    Charlzm, Abe-of-Bass, GMC and 7 others like this.
  4. Old school bite and grit = overdrive.

    But, then again, no all pedals are labeled correctly. For example, a Boss ODB-3 bass overdrive sounds more like a distortion then an overdrive to me.

    Now that we sorted out that you’re more in the overdrive category, what wouldn’t hurt is to know your budget because sky is the limit when it comes to pedal prices... and some might have to fit in grocery bills along with gear purchases...
  5. Bassmike62

    Bassmike62 Punch'n Ooomph !! Supporting Member

    I go for that tone as well and having good results with the Tech21 VT Bass.
    You nailed it for the bottomless pit though...
    BillMason likes this.
  6. tommyeadg


    Jan 10, 2017
    The Fairfield Barbershop ended my search for a transparant, subtle and vintage sounding OD. Same ballpark as the aforementioned Beta
  7. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    The short answer is how close your signal comes to being made to resemble a square wave through clipping determines the classification.

    Overdrive is the mildest and most natural sounding and is characterized mainly by soft clipping your signal.

    Distortion is in the middle of the spectrum of dirt and is characterized by a sharper sound quality due to hard clipping your signal.

    Fuzz is at the top of the hierarchy. With fuzz your signal is processed in such a way that it becomes a buzzy sound very similar to a basic square wave.

    This video will talk about the above in more detail with audio examples of each:

  8. What is said of Pandora's Box, Do Not Open! Venturing in the the Realms of Dirt is just as filled with Mystery, Danger, Treasures, Trash, Myths, Lies, Heroes and Villains - Charlatans and and Fools. You have been warned!

    Dirt is never so simple because the more you learn the more you hear the more you hear and the more you want to hear and the more you want to hear and try and hear and try. It will never end until you wind up back at the beginning and start all over again.... This weeks fuzz box will be next weeks trash box but next year it will be all the rage and twice as expensive and even harder to find and then there will be twenty three new dirt boxes tom try by then and the list will get longer and suddenly you are looking for the box for the one you bought in September that you sold to the guy in Colorado for a great price but he has to have the box or he wants a refund and you need the money to pay the phone bill so you can stay on Talk Bass to find out which one to get next.

    Save yourself the madness don't open the box, or buy a Source Audio Aftershock. The Aftershock offers you excellent models of all the most popular as well as most difficult to find dirt pedals from mildest overdrive, thru fuzz to distortion as well as hard synth types and the tools to modify those to suit whatever need you may have for your music.

    *not employed by Source Audio, promise.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2019
    BillMason, B-Lo, D2EVV and 8 others like this.
  9. Marketing. The difference is marketing.
    DrMole likes this.
  10. It's all distortion. Lighter distortion is called overdrive, extreme distortion is called fuzz. In the middle is just called distortion. Fuzz pedals generally have, or are capable of having, a distinctive synthy square wave sound like a giant bumble bee.
    zon6c-f, Inconnu and Evil_Druid like this.
  11. Cazman


    May 9, 2003
    I’ll 2nd the SGFX Beta. Goes from mild OD to Fuzz-like when gain is dimed. Freakin love this pedal.
  12. Evil_Druid


    May 9, 2016
    San Diego
    For me it really depends on "tightness" of your bass tone. I like to use an overdrive for tighter sections that need more dynamics, but if I need more gain then I would go with a distortion like a RAT or a Dist+, and then if you need even more than that I would go fuzz, because it usually has the most gain on tap and the loosest tone as well. The way my board looks rn is OCD into RAT into a Big Muff, but I'm thinking of getting a better power supply so I can more feasibly use my Dizzy Tone also. I realized lately that I'm a huge fan of the Muff tone, but I also need to have a more up-front and biting fuzz if I'm going to be running them at all. YMMV, there are a lot of cases where I think a lone OD or a dist would be best, but nothing can fuzz like an actual fuzz if you're playing heavier music
  13. The problem is there are no hard and fast rules. The Distortion + functions perfectly well as a light overdrive. The RAT, less so, but that's because it's the same circuit modded for more distortion, with an added low pass filter. It blurs the lines between distortion and fuzz, especially when you turn the low pass filter off. The Big Muff blurs things even further because it's marketed as a "distortion/sustainer", but it clearly has fuzz and distortion elements.

    One thing we can look to is where and how the distortion is created. The earliest fuzz pedals used a transistor or two or three in line to generate the distortion. Most did not have a tone control, just level and gain controls. They're raw and unfiltered. What we think of as distortion pedals typically uses an op-amp with diodes (not transistors) in-line, with some kind of tone controls. An overdrive typically takes those diodes and puts them into the op-amp's feedback loop, and has tone controls as well.

    Course, then you get interlopers like the Way Huge Red Llama that uses a CMOS to generate the distortion. It's technically a fuzz, but it doesn't use transistors, and it sounds like a fuzz/distortion hybrid, but it's marketed as an overdrive. So I would look less to whether a pedal is labeled as an overdrive, distortion, or fuzz; and more to how it creates the distorted tone, and see how that matches up with what I want to hear.
  14. HCF

    HCF Of course, YMMV Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2008
    The Netherlands
    I second the Aftershock. It's a great pedal and at the very least it'll enable you to discover what kind of distortion works best for you.
    Robertron and GMC like this.
  15. Evil_Druid


    May 9, 2016
    San Diego
    Whatever ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  16. HCF

    HCF Of course, YMMV Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2008
    The Netherlands
    It might indeed not be perfect (I would love it if the app showed me which presets are loaded on the pedal), but it's definitely a lot cheaper than buying an OCD (or clone), tube screamer (or clone), RAT (or... Well, you get it) and a Muff and Fuzz face to discover the sounds you're after.

    And everything is of accompanied with the postscript that YMMV, especially as I'm using mine only with an EUB and bow
    monsterthompson likes this.
  17. Lowbrow

    Lowbrow Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2008
    Pittsburgh PA!
    You want overdrive.
    Get it with the Darkglass Vintage Microtubes (VMT).
    It’s been around for awhile and while initially very expensive there have been several subsequent versions and ‘advancements,’ and you should be able to source the original used at a decent price.
    There’s one up on TB classifieds at $140, which is just about right.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2019
    MoeTown1986 likes this.
  18. Here is my documented gig experience with various dirt pedals: Muse Bass Sound

    My aim was to get an agreeable Muse sound; but the article might help you nevertheless.
  19. FrenchBassQC

    FrenchBassQC Supporting Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    Gatineau QC CA
    I am also fairly new to dirt pedals. For overdrive, I use the Terraformer from Broughton Audio and I also use the Oxide fuzz pedal from Iron Ether. I do not have a distortion pedal but when both pedals are used together, it sounds pretty distorted...
    Chris Y likes this.
  20. Turbo Sparky

    Turbo Sparky Supporting Member

    May 14, 2018
    South Eastern U.S.
    Another commentor put it simply; OD Rock/Hard Rock, Dist more metalish, and Fuzz more psycho.

    I have a MXR DI+Dist and a recently added Broughton Audio TerraFormer.
    Each have their own character etc., but the Broughton has DEFINITELY relegated the MXR to a pedalboarded DI.
    The TerraFormer IMO can give two unique and distinct tonal effects and general grittiness without changing any of it's settings by simply choosing to use either fingers or a pick while playing.
    The MXR while tank tough, like the TF, it's tone IMO remains towards a thinner less dynamic "gzz gzz gzzzz" regardless of playing technique. I wouldn't call the MXR "grit" by any stretch of the imagination.
    The TerraFormer IMO can give one a palette ranging from gentle sandy-ness, to something just below something from Cliff Burton ranges like on the "Orion" track.
    BTW, the soundclip for the TF by Broughton doesn't do it justice, but is a decent baseline for hearing a slightly rough/grit tone.
    Stingray 4HH and 4H
    GK1001RBii and either Barefaced 610 or 2 GK Neo 212s.
    Good luck.

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