Introduction

So, two distortion/overdrive/dirt pedals in one box? Why would you want that? Or why would you use more than one overdrive or gain pedal in your signal chain? Well, players often like to stack (stack = connect in series) more than one gain pedals for their own reasons. Some players like to start with a basic clean tone on their amp (with or without slight breakup), and then use pedals to add different levels of gain onto the signal. Others may use some breakup from the amp, and use a boost and/or an overdrive to further push the amp into grittier territories. And there are also those who use drive pedals to add multiple channels to a single channel amp.

Gain staging is important to get the right amount of signal into the front-end of your amp. There are various ways to go about it. For instance, a clean boost into a driven amp can be used to get a volume boost and more sustain for solos or chorus sections of songs. A compressor pedal can be used to achieve the same effect. You could use a Tubescreamer type overdrive to add saturation to an already compressed amp. Or you can use a distortion pedal like the Suhr Riot to get a higher gain tone from a clean amp.

How a dual overdrive can be used in such situations – a. it removes the need to have two separate units on your board, and b. the different circuits of a dual overdrive can lead to a complex gain tone when cascaded (i.e. connected in series). Also, because both circuits are in the same box, it also eliminates the need for an extra patch cable and power supply or battery. Some pedals even include separate inputs and outputs for each side of the pedal for flexibility.

Now, there are numerous overdrive/distortion pedals out there with a built-in boost circuit. These pedals usually have one main drive pedal side, and an additional boost circuit. This guide is not about that. We chose to write only about pedals that have two discrete drive circuits. Pedals with just a boost circuit were not included in this list.

Here’s the first part of the list (in alphabetical order) :

Analogman King Of Tone

The King of Tone (KoT) is the ‘king’ of dual overdrives. It is considered by many to be one of the best guitar FX units in the world. The KoT is a hand-wired, dual overdrive/distortion unit, made by ‘Analog’ Mike Piera himself – one pedal at a time. This unit is nearly always in demand – it has a wait list, which can extend up to a year. But if you can look beyond the hype, you will notice that the KoT is special. It is not only two overdrives in the same box, it is a clean boost+another drive. Or it can be setup as two overdrives depending on your needs.

Many overdrive pedals on the market are based on modified circuits of the Ibanez Tubescreamer. The King of Tone is based on a Marshall Bluesbreaker circuit. Each side is an independent overdrive, with its own footswitch and 3 knobs, one each for level, drive and tone. There is a red side (right), and a yellow side (left). Inside the pedal casing, there are treble cut tone trim pot controls for each side of the pedal.

There is also 4 position dip-switch inside. Each pair of switches can be used to modify the way the pedal works. Switches 1-2 work for the red side, and 3-4 work for the yellow side. With all switches in the ‘off’ position, you have 2 clean boosts. With switch 1 in the ‘on’ position, you change the red side into the overdrive mode, and with switch 2 in the ‘on’ position you change it into the distortion mode. The same applies for the yellow mode with switches 3-4. You can choose between a clean boost setting, an OD setting and distortion setting for each side of the pedal. This way you can get a clean boost into an OD, OD into distortion, or distortion into distortion, or the opposite. Quite a few options to work with. Both sides have a treble trim pot inside of the unit to alter the high-end frequency.

The pedal also has a number of mods available. For instance, you can choose to have a high-gain mod on each or both sides of the pedal, which increases the amount of gain and volume. You can also get a separate in-out for each side of the pedal. These mods can be asked for while placing your order and have a minor surcharge.

You might think that such a unit has a high price tag. But it is actually $250. Not the cheapest pedal on the list, but not the dearest either. The waiting list is what may be a problem for many. There is presently (as of 2017) a wait list of 12-14 months. But that’s not reason enough to dissuade discerning players from getting this high-quality box.

Good – Excellent, high quality tone times two
Not good – Wait list, no 3-band EQ

Made in – USA
Powered by – 9v
Battery – Yes
Bypass – True
Price – $250
Contact – AnalogMan

Blackstar HT / LT Dual

Blackstar is a British manufacturer of amps and pedals. The company makes two variants of overdrive/distortion pedals – the HT, and the LT.

The HT Dual is modelled after the HT amp line. HT stands for hybrid-technology. The HT pedal is a versatile unit that can deliver a variety of tones with the aid of its ISF control. The ISF, or Infinite Shape Feature controls the character of the type of drive you are going for. On the extreme right (clockwise), it does a Brit-type crunch and fat distortion tone, and on the left (anti-clockwise) it does an American-type clean and overdrive tone. Both sides can be blended if needed.

The HT has 2 channels, Ch1 (green) and Ch2 (red). The former can be used for a clean boost/overdrive, while the latter can be used for high gain sounds. The pedal also has a shared 3-band EQ, along with an independent gain and level control for each channel, and a master ISF control. The circuit has a 12AX7 tube to add valve warmth and character. A small push button can be used to select between a clean and crunch mode for channel 1. An interesting feature of this box is that it has a speaker emulated 1/4” output. This can be used to run directly to your recording interface or to a PA on stage.

The LT line is the cheaper, solid-state based alternative to the HT. Even though the LT units don’t have a valve in their circuit, the company claims the clipping circuit delivers a valve-like tone and response. The LT Dual is a straight-forward dual overdrive with two channels. Each side has an independent footswitch, level, and control and a shared tone control for each channel. An overall ISF control changes the character from American sounding tones (on the anti-clockwise left) to British tones (on the clockwise right).

Ch1 (green, left) is the lower gain of the two, going from clean, to low-to-medium gain. Ch2 (red, right) is the higher gain side which does a mid-gain crunch for rhythm to high gain tone for lead/solo sounds.

Good – Versatile and tweakable (HT), Cheap dual overdrive (LT)
Not good – Large size of the HT, Cheap construction of the LT, fizzy tones

Made in – China (HT/LT)
Powered by – 22V 1.1A (HT) / 9v (LT)
Battery – Yes for LT
Bypass – N/A
Price – $299 (HT) / $99 (LT)
Contact – Blackstar Amplification

Carl Martin AC-Tone / Plexitone

Danish equipment manufacturer Carl Martin makes high-quality guitar effects of all kinds. Particularly known for their compressors and overdrive boxes, the two multi-overdrive units, AC-Tone and Plexitone, are versatile takes on the Vox AC and Marshall Plexi-type amps respectively.

Both pedal units are laid out in a similar manner to each other. The housing is somewhat large size, with 5 knobs and 3 footswitches on each unit. There is an effect bypass on/off switch, a channel selection footswitch, and a clean boost. There is a master level for each channel. The dedicated boost on the unit is a clean boost with a level control and toggle footswitch to switch it on/off. Boosts on both units are up to 20dB.

The Plexitone has a dual channel layout, with a crunch channel and a high gain channel. Gain on each channel can be set independently. The AC-Tone has two gain controls, which can be controlled independently as well. The ‘select’ footswitch can be used to toggle between the 2 channels on both units. While the Plexitone has dual channels, the AC-Tone just has gain level 1 and level 2. The Plexitone has a tone control, whilst the AC-Tone has a cut, which is inspired by the tone cut knob on Vox amps.

The Plexitone has tones reminiscent of old Marshall Plexi amplifiers and can do warm overdrive on the verge of breakup to heavily distorted modern high-gain tones. The AC-Tone can do warm to medium gain tones which sound like a Vox AC series amp cranked to 11.

Both pedals also have an in-built 12v power supply, which Carl Martin claims increases headroom and reduces noise/interference.

Good – Versatile, sounds like an amp-in-a-box, built-in clean power supply.
Not good – Both channels are independent and cannot be stacked, size, built-in power supply.

Made in – Denmark
Powered by – 12V power supply
Battery – No
Bypass – True
Price – $250 each
Contact – Carl Martin

Carl Martin Greg Howe’s Lick Box

Greg Howe is an instrumental rock and jazz-fusion guitar player of repute. Howe has been a long-term Plexitone user and asked the Carl Martin company if they could make an effects box that could emulate his signature sound and tones. The company ended up make a signature model FX unit to enable Howe to get the tones he needed.

The Lick Box is essentially three pedals in one. It has a boost channel, a crunch channel, and a high-gain channel. Each channel can be toggled on/off with its own footswitch. The boost side is a 12db boost that is also used on many other Carl Martin FX units. The crunch channel is an open and dynamic mid-gain overdrive with a level, gain and tone control knobs. The high gain channel is good for solos or heavier rhythm sounds and this channel also has a level, gain and tone control knobs.

Each channel was voiced to Howe’s specs, but were also voiced to work together when stacked. The unit also has a new feature which the company designed where a regular 9v DC input is converted to run at 12v through a DC/DC converter circuit, which adds headroom and reduces noise.

Good – Versatile, has 3 FX units in one.
Not good – Large size of the box, no 3-band EQ.

Made in – Denmark
Powered by – 9v
Battery – N/A
Bypass – True
Price – $266
Contact – Carl Martin

Chase Bliss Audio Brothers Analog Gainstage

Chase Bliss Audio is a US-based pedal maker who make effect pedals that have an analog sound but with a digital brain. Designed in collaboration with the boutique amplifier company Resonant Electronic, the ‘Brothers’ Analog Gainstage is the company’s first overdrive/distortion offering. Incredibly versatile and tweakable, this pedal has many knobs, toggles and switches built-in for all kinds of boost, drive and fuzz tonal options.

The Brothers has two sides to it – side A which has a JFET circuit (on the left), and side B which has an IC circuit (on the right). Each side has a gain control knob, a tone control and a 3-way toggle switch to choose between ‘boost’, ‘drive’ and ‘fuzz’ mode.

A ‘mix’ blend knob allows you to blend between the two channels. If the 3-way stack control is set to parallel, the knob allows you to blend between the two channels. If the toggle is set to either A>B or B>A, the knob controls the volume of the first channel cascading into the second channel.

The A side was designed by the Resonant Brothers, while side B was designed by Chase Bliss audio. The company claims that the unit can be routed in 33 different ways. Each side can be controlled using MIDI to access presets using the Chase Bliss Faves stomp switch.

Chase Bliss have managed to fit in a number of features into this compact enclosure. One is using the stomp bypass footswitches as momentary switches. This can be toggled using the dip-switch inside the unit. The dip-switches at the back of the unit

For further reading consult the instructional manual.

Good – Chock-full of features, incredibly versatile
Not good – Price

Made in USA – Yes
Powered by – 9v (60mA)
Battery – N/A
Bypass – True or Bypass (through an internal switch)
Price – $349
Contact – Chase Bliss

Earthquaker Devices Gray Channel


The EQD Gray Channel is a take on the vintage DOD 250 overdrive from the 1980s. The one made in the 80s (not the recent reissue) had a gray coloured housing. Even though it was a classic, it had some issues – it did not have true-bypass, nor a status LED. DOD reissued the pedal in 2013 and improved upon the original design. But as of 2016, the 250 has been discontinued again and replaced with the Looking Glass overdrive.

Earthquaker Devices launched their take on the 250 at NAMM 2016. While trying to improve upon the shortcomings of the original 250, they added a few interesting tweaks and mods. As usual, the effect bypass switch can be used to turn the effect on/off and has a bright blue LED. There are two sides to the unit, and each side of the pedal can be toggled with the channel footswitch.

The Red channel on the right side, and the Green channel on the left side are the two drives on the unit. Both sides have a gain level and a volume level knob. Each side also has a 3-way toggle switch to choose between the various clipping options available. The Green (left) side lets you choose between a silicon and germanium clipping option. While the red (right side) has a LED (loud+clean), MOSFET (compressed) clipping option. The N mode or no clipping on both sides offer loud and clean tone examples.

The paint job is inspired by the original DOD250 from the 80s, hence the name.

Good – Tunable vintage styled dual overdrive
Not good – Size, cannot stack channels

Made in – USA
Powered by – 9v
Battery – Yes
Bypass – True
Price – $195
Contact – Earthquaker Devices

Earthquaker Devices Hoof Reaper

Earthquaker Devices (EQD) makes the Hoof Reaper, a combination of 2 notable fuzzes made by the company. The Hoof is EQD’s germanium-silicon hybrid muff-style fuzz, which is based on a green Russian era Big Muff. The Tone Reaper is based on a “3 knob” Tone Bender, a silicon-germanium hybrid capable of doing a multitude of Bender era tones.

The Hoof (left side) and the Reaper (right side) were put together in one enclosure to make a single unit. Each side has a Tone knob, a Fuzz level knob and an output level knob. The Hoof side also has a shift knob, that can be used to alter the frequency response of the tone knob. Each unit has its own bypass switch to toggle the unit on and off. The unit also has a straight-forward octave switch in the middle, which introduces an octave up effect into the chain.

The Hoof Reaper isn’t a dual overdrive per se, but can be used as a fuzzy sounding overdrive with a variety of fuzz tones available.

Good – Two killer fuzzes and an octave up effect in the same housing
Not good – Price

Made in – USA
Powered by – 9V (6mA)
Battery powered – Yes
Bypass – True
Price – $295
Contact – Earthquaker Devices

Earthquaker Devices Palisades

Proguitarshop.com calls this the, “Victorinox of overdrive pedals”. And for good reason – it looks like it can do so much. The Palisades is EQD’s take on a TS808 circuit. But the American company did not want to make just a clone of the famed circuit. So they made this. Channel A is the lower gain side, while channel B is the higher gain side. Each side has its own gain control knob. There is a master tone, and master volume control to fine tune your sound.

The Activate switch switches the pedal on/off. The middle footswitch toggles channel B on/off. The boost switches the volume boost on/off, the level of which can be tweaked with the boost level knob. A 2-way toggle switch can be used to select between normal/bright mode, and to switch the input buffer on/off.

There are 2 rotary switches on each side of the unit. The ‘voice’ controls the overall flavor of the unit and ‘bandwidth’ can be used to fine-tune and tweak the sound. Each setting affects every aspect of the pedal. Position 1 is the thinnest, with low-gain, while 6 has the fattest sound. The ‘voice’ changes the clipping diodes, which affects the character of the distortion. 1 is no diodes (open and least distorted), 2 is LED clipping (light clipping), 3 MOSFET clipping (light gain OD), 4 Asymmetrical silicon clipping (tighter light gain clipping), 5 Symmetrical silicon clipping (tighter distorted tone, and 6 Schottky clipping (fuzzy tone).

Good – Does so much
Not good – May seem complicated to some users

Made in – USA
Powered by – 9v
Battery – Yes
Bypass – True
Price – $250
Contact – Earthquaker Devices

Electro-Harmonix Germanium 4 Big Muff

New York-based Electro-Harmonix doesn’t do many multi-FX units, but when they do, they are usually whacky and off-beat. The Germanium Big Muff is two overdrive/distortions in one box but with a fuzzy character. The Big Muff name might make it seem like it is a classic muff-style unit out of place on this, but it is a versatile box that can do overdrive, distortion and fuzz tones.

The name ‘Germanium 4’ refers to the 4 germanium transistors in the circuit. Both sides have two germanium transistors each and bias controls pots to control. The Bias control can be used to change the character of both the distortion and overdrive. On the anti-clockwise setting, it will be a compressed and the least dynamic side. The the clockwise setting is aggressive and gritty.

The overdrive can do everything from a dynamic vintage-style to mid-gain drive tones. The overdrive side also has a tone knob, which the distortion side doesn’t. Instead, the distortion side has a voltage knob. The voltage knob adjusts the amount of voltage supplied to the distortion. Fully clockwise, it will do full voltage output, and anti-clockwise, it will simulate a dying battery. The distortion goes further, with heavy gain and fuzz tones available.

Good – Excellent distortion and overdrive tones that verge on fuzz, price
Not good – Size

Made in – USA
Powered by – 9v
Battery powered – Yes
Bypass – True
Price – $99
Contact – Electro-Harmonix

Empress Heavy / Multidrive

The Multidrive, made by the Canadian company Empress, is the only triple overdrive in this list of dual overdrives. It attempts to solve the problem of multiple drive units on a pedal board. Not just that, it takes the concept of a multi drive further. Empress intended to recreate the effect you get when you mic multiple amplifiers during a recording session. Multiple amps are miced to get a blend of different tones together for rich and complex sound.

In addition to the Multidrive is versatile and can be tweaked. The base of the tone is a 3-band EQ section with low, mid and highs control knobs with a master output level knob. You can then add a dirt circuit on top of that base tone. The three circuits in this unit are: a Brit-style distortion, a vintage germanium overdrive and a classic fuzz. The volume knob on each channel acts as a blend control.

Each unit’s circuit has a 3-way toggle that can select between a low pass or high pass filter selection toggle, and the distortion circuit has a second toggle switch that can be used to select between crunch, mild, and lead modes. The master bypass section has a mid frequency 3-way selection toggle switch which can be used to choose between 250hz(middle), 500hz (left), and 2khz (right). If you open up the pedal, you can set 2 presets.

The Empress Heavy is the company’s take on the ultimate distortion unit for high-gain tones. The Heavy has two independent channels that are identical and laid out in a similar manner. Channel ‘Heavy’ (on the left, orange LED) is the “thick n’ punchy” channel. Channel ‘Heavier’ (on the right, red LED) is the “tight n’ brutal” channel.

The unit has two bypass switches for each channel. An master high and low knob can be used to shape the overall tone.

Each side of the unit has a gain control, a mid control, a ‘weight’ control which can shape the low end, and an overall output knob. Each side also has mid frequency selection and a noise gate 3-way toggle switches. The mid frequency can be used to pick between 250hz(middle), 500hz (left), and 2khz (right) and the noise gate can be changed from a natural or aggressive or turned off altogether.

Good – A variety of tone shaping options (Multidrive), tweakable distortion (Heavy)
Not good – Can’t use 3 channels stacked together, fuzzy drive sound and no option to change stacking order (Multidrive)

Made in – USA
Powered by – 9v
Battery – Yes
Bypass – True
Price – $299 each
Contact – Empress Effects

Egnater Goldsmith / Silversmith

 

The Goldsmith and Silversmith are dual-channel overdrive/distortion units made by American amplifier (and now pedal) manufacturer Egnater. The Goldsmith is a low-to-medium gain overdrive, and the Silversmith is a medium-to-high gain overdrive/distortion. Both units are split into two sections – a primary overdrive/distortion section, and a boost section which can also be used as an overdrive. Both pedals can be toggled on/off with individual footswitches.

The boost side (on the right) on both pedals has a boost level knob, drive amount and a color knob which acts like a tone control. A 2-position toggle switch called ‘tight’ can be engaged to tighten up the low end on the boost side of each pedal. On the drive side (on the left), both pedals have a volume, gain and tone control in common, with a voicing control on the Goldsmith or contour knob on the Silversmith knob to further tweak the sound. The Goldsmith has a voicing knob, and the Silversmith a contour knob. A 2-position switch can be used with the voicing/contour control on each pedal to fine tune the sound.

A patch cable can be used to patch the output of the boost and the input of the drive section. Alternatively both sides of the pedal can be used to place them in different places in your chain. A path switch can be used to change the stacking order of both pedals. The unit also has a small LED on the top left of the pedal to alert you of low battery levels. The Egnater pedals are made of heavy duty Zinc and are housed in a compact enclosure.

Good – Compact size, tweakability, price, battery meter.
Not good – No in-built patch switch in the circuit

Made in – USA
Powered by – 9v
Battery – Yes
Bypass – True
Price – $199 each
Contact – Egnater Amplifcation

Conclusion

Pedals which have the feature to stack both sides of the unit and change the stacking order are useful in their own way. A toggle-switch which can allow you to select the order can help in creating tones that useful and versatile for most situations. Say you have two sides on your unit; Side 1 which is a mild boost/overdrive, and side 2 which is a medium or high-gain drive/distortion. In situation A, where you can stack side 1 into side 2 (ie, drive [2] after the boost [1]), you can use the and then use the boost to add more gain and saturation and sustain into the overdrive. In situation B where you can stack side 2 into side 1 (i.e. boost after the drive), you will get an overall volume increase of your overdriven or distortion sound.

Having separate outputs for each side of the pedal can be advantageous too. You can run side 1 of the pedal at one point in your chain, and run side 2 at another. If you are using a pedal switching system, both sides can be patched into separate inputs on the switcher to allow for a more versatile and useful setup.

Not all pedals in this list have these features, and that’s ok. Different units solve different purposes (at different price points). Also, tone quality of each pedal is subjective, and something that may work for you may not for someone else.

This is also not a definitive guide by any means. There are just too many pedal manufacturers in the world. Many of them are obscure and difficult for me to find. I could not possibly find all manufacturers that make dual overdrives in the world that easily, but if you can suggest worthy additions to this list, then please leave your suggestions in the comment section below.

What did you think of this post? Do you have a favorite dual overdrive from this list? Or was there a unit I left out? Please comment in the comments section below.

Advertisements

Have a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s