difference between overdrive and distortion?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by MCBTunes, Jan 18, 2005.

  1. is there one?
  2. Heckxx


    Nov 2, 2004
    Libertyville, IL
    i always wondered about that too...
  3. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    The difference is minimal and the two are often used interchangably, but distortion tends to be thicker and more, well, distorted than overdrive, which is more natural, emulating an amp pushed beyond its limits.
  4. mikeboth

    mikeboth The last thing you'll ever see

    Jun 14, 2002
    Tallinn, Estonia
    Operator: prophecysound systems
    Both result from clipping of the input signal; in general I feel most people think overdrive has slightly less clipping (and hence is 'less' distorted), whilst distortion has more clipping (and hence has MORE 'distortion').

    Then people ask "so what's a fuzz pedal do then?" and .... :D ... I feel 'fuzz' can be considered equivalen to distortion (in terms of gain), but has a higher harmonic content (hence the 'raspy' or 'fuzzy' result).

  5. SirPoonga


    Jan 18, 2005
    Isn't also part of the difference how the sound is produced? From my wanders throught he DIY stompbox sites it seems overdrive effects tend to use an audio amp IC while distortions use transisistors. Though I think an audio amp is just a series of transistors.

    I've made a Ruby Amp (based on the LM386 audio amp IC at radioshack) for my base. Depend on the resitor values going across pins 1 and 8 determines how easy the circuit overdrives. I've also breadboarded an octave fuzz using an opamp and transformer from RS.
  6. .357


    Jan 16, 2005
    In the guitar world, where distortion effects are a big part of everyday life, it's generally accepted that the level of distortion in pedals or amp sections begins with overdrive (least amount), then moves up to distortion, then fuzz (most). Overdrive is the least exaggerated, most "musical" sound, whereas fuzz massively distorts the original signal.

    Examples of a warm overdriven guitar sound can be heard in a lot of electric blues, a la Stevie Ray Vaughan. Heavy distortion is what you hear in your typical metal band, a la heavy Metallica riffs. Fuzz is that outrageously raspy, buzzsaw guitar tone you hear in a lot of Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana songs.
  7. mikeboth

    mikeboth The last thing you'll ever see

    Jun 14, 2002
    Tallinn, Estonia
    Operator: prophecysound systems
    No, the amount of distortion is independent of the active device used; some people find it easy to work with transistors and some find it easier to work with opamps. Opamps are just a bunch of transistors + some passive elements anyway! And there are a range of methods for producing distortion - by modifying the biasing (operating voltage) of the device, by clipping the signal using diodes, and so on.

  8. RyanHelms


    Sep 20, 2003
    Cleveland, OH
    All the tech talk you can handle.

    And some opinions, too...