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 second part of the list (in alphabetical order) :
(read part 2 here)

Hungry Robot HR [lg+hg]

Hungry Robot is a company based in the US. The Hungry Robot was the first drive pedal the company made, available in two options – the low gain and high gain. The lg+hg is the combination of both overdrives in one enclosure. Each side has a volume, gain, and overall tone knob. The lg is the low gain side, and hg is the high gain side. The lg+hg version combines both versions in a singular housing. The high gain side (on the right, red LED) is first in the chain, and the low gain side (on the left, yellow LED) is second. Both channels can be operated independently with its own footswitch.

The low gain side has an amp-like breakup to it. It can go from a low to mid-gain overdrive. The high gain side can add more saturation, sustain and bite to your tone. The low gain side has fat overdrive tones for slight breakup to crunchy rhythm tones. The high gain side has a thick, fuzzy and wooly drive tone.

There are 12(!) dip-switches inside the housing (6 for each side). They can be used to select different clipping modes and change treble or bass boost/cut options. Each side can be tweaked, and Mr. Hungry Robot claims that the dipswitches help you tweak the pedal to match your rig and playing style.

The Hungry Robot is the only pedal in this list of this size that has two circuits built-in. For people looking for a compact dual overdrive with flexibility, this is a good option.

Good – Size, versatile, tweakability, looks
Not good – Dip-switches are inside the pedal, features may confuse some users.

Made in – USA
Powered by – 9v 28mA
Battery powered – No
Bypass – True
Price – $219
Contact – Hungry Robot

Jetter Altair IV

The Altair IV is the newest dual overdrive pedal made by Brad Jetter of Jetter Gear. It is a straightforward, versatile, organic low-to-medium gain to high gain dual channel pedal, with a smooth overdrive sound. The layout is simple – there is a volume and gain on each side, and instead of a regular tone knob, there is a contour knob which acts as a tone control.

The right side (greed LED) is warm and open sounding, which can be used as a boost or low-gain overdrive. The left side (blue LED) is designed between the companies GS 124 and GS 167 and has more gain. Both channels can be used separately or stacked together for heavier gain tones for rhythm or lead playing. The pedal has been designed to sound musical and usable on any setting.

Good – Simple and straightforward, smooth overdrive sound
Not good – No EQ to shape the sound

Made in – USA
Powered by – 9v
Battery – No
Bypass – True
Price – $269
Contact – Jetter Gear

JHS Double Barrel V4 and Sweet Tea V3

 

JHS pedals in the US, run by Josh Heath Scott, makes two dual overdrive units – the Double Barrel and the Sweet Tea. The white Double Barrel is their low-to-medium gain dual overdrive, while the brown Sweet Tea is their medium-to-high gain dual overdrive.

The Double Barrel is the low-to-medium gain unit. It can do tones from boosted transparent overdrive to stacked medium gain overdrive. On the right (green) side, it has the Moonshine V2 circuit, with a vol, drive, tone and clean blend control. The left (blue) side their open and natural Morning Glory overdrive circuit, with also a vol, drive and tone control.

The Sweet Tea is their higher-gain dual overdrive. It can do tones from mild overdrive, all the way to medium-to-high gain distortion. The right (green) side has the Moonshine circuit. The left (red) side has their Angry Charlie V3 high-gain circuit, with a vol, drive, and 3-band EQ with bass, mids and treble.

The Moonshine circuit on both the Double Barrel and Sweet Tea features a 2-way “Proof” switch to choose between low gain, open sounding (up position), and saturated high-gain (down position) modes. The Morning Glory has a toggle switch to engage a bright cut. The Angry Charlie does not have any toggles to modify the sound, but the circuit has a full 3-band EQ to shape the overall high-end frequency of the tone. Both units also feature a pedal order 2-way toggle switch which lets you select which pedal comes first in the chain.

The Moonshine V2 (earlier called JHS808) circuit is based on a TS-style circuit, with a mid boosted sound. The Morning Glory is based off a transparent circuit with an open and natural drive sound. The Angry Charlie circuit like a high-gain British-style amplifier.

Good – Versatile, high-quality sound and components
Not good – Price, no individual outputs for each side.

Made in – USA
Powered by – 9v less than 100mA
Battery – No
Bypass – True
Price – $315
Contact – JHS Pedals

Keeley D&M Dual Overdrive

Designed by Robert Keeley for Daniel Steinhardt and Mick Thompson of the That Pedal Show! fame (honk), the D&M dual overdrive is a take on the combination of a transparent overdrive and mid-focussed boost/overdrive

The right side, or Mick’s side with the white knobs, is a take on a TS-style mid-focussed boost. The left side, or Dan’s side with the black knobs, is a take on a transparent overdrive that can do medium gain overdrive to distortion. Both sides have an output level, gain and tone knob each. A 2-way toggle lets you choose between having the boost first or drive first in the signal path.

Stacking the drive (Dan) into the boost (Mick) can be used for a volume boost during louder sections. Stacking the boost (Mick) into the drive (Dan) can be used for more saturation. The unit can be used with a TRS insert cable in the input and output jacks to be used separately.

Both units can be used individually, or stacked together for a combination of tones. The question to ask is – do you like Dan into Mick, or Mick into Dan?

Good – Interesting design, quality
Not good – high price, do they even need a “signature” pedal?

Made in – USA
Powered by – 9v 55mA
Battery – No
Bypass – True
Price – $229
Contact – Robert Keeley

Keeley Tone Workstation

Robert Keeley announced the Workstation line at WNAMM ’16 which includes the Tone Workstation, the Mod Workstation, the Super Mod Workstation and the Delay Workstation. The Workstation line is designed to incorporate famous Keeley pedals into one convenient box. The Tone Workstation is designed to be first in your chain. It can add compression, a clean boost/drive and overdrive to your signal. Comprising of a classic vintage Keeley compressor with blend control, a Katana boost which can double up as a 1962 OD, and a Red Dirt overdrive/distortion.

The compressor is first in the chain on the extreme right. It is a vintage Keeley parallel compressor circuit with a wet/dry blend control and a toggle to select between a treble boost or stock mode. The boost in the middle is a choice of a Katana clean boost or the 1962 overdrive. In the boost mode, only the volume knob is active, allowing you to dial in a clean boost to push the front-end of your amp. The 1962 is Keeley’s British-style amp overdrive based on the Blues Breaker circuit which has a gain, volume and tone control.

The drive section has the Red Dirt, which is Keeley’s take on the TS circuit. It’s a modified circuit which can go from low-to-medium gain sounds, all the way to high-gain super saturated tones. The baked, a mod+ setting adds more gain to the signal.

The Workstation line is a convenient way of having multiple FX in one box on your board. All three channels of the Tone Workstation can be stacked together, which makes it a practical option for someone looking for a powerful yet compact setup.

Good – Interesting design and functionality, quality Keeley circuitry
Not good – Price, no individual outputs for each side of the unit.

Made in – USA
Powered by – 9V 20mA
Battery – No
Bypass – True
Price – $299
Contact – Robert Keeley

ModTone Dirty Duo

Mod Tone is an American company that manufactures its affordable pedal overseas. The Dirty Duo is their newest dual overdrive pedal. It has two sides, Overdrive 1 (left) and Overdrive 2 (right). The layout is simple – both sides have level, gain and tone controls. OD 1 also has a gain boost toggle switch that lets you to add more grit to the sound. Both sides can be engaged independently, or stacked together. The pedal does tones from a slightly boosted bluesy drive, all the way to crunchy, medium-to-high gain distortion.

OD 1 is the higher gain side, and has more drive than OD 2. The tone control on OD1 boosts the mids a little bit with a MOSFET circuit, while OD2 is wide open and dynamic with a TL82 low-noise op-amp. The pedal cleans up well with the volume knob of the guitar. At the price it currently retails for (sub-$100 on Amazon.com), the Dirty Duo is a good choice for players looking to get cheap dual overdrive/distortion unit.

Good – Price, simple to use, compact size.
Not good – Build quality, may sound sterile and fizzy

Made in – China
Powered by – 9v 20mA
Battery – Yes
Bypass – True
Price – $100 approx
Contact – ModTone

MojoHand FX Odessa

The MojoHand Odessa is a dual overdrive which is a combination of the company’s lower gain Magpie overdrive on one side, and the famous Rook overdrive on the other.

The Magpie is a transparent low-gain overdrive with a gain, volume and tone control. A 3-way clipping toggle lets you choose between three sounds: crunch (up position), boost (center), or overdrive (down).

The Rook is the company’s take on the TS-style circuit but with a few tweaks. It features a gain knob, a bass and treble cut or boost knob each, and an output volume control knob. A 3-way clipping toggle lets you choose between three different diodes: LED (up), silicon (down) and no diode (center).

Both channels are independent, and can be used together. The Odessa can do low to medium gain overdrives and with pedals stacked together can do higher gain tones.

Good – Features, simple to use, 3-way toggles on each side
Not good – No stacking order selection toggle

Made in – USA
Bwattery – No
Bypass – True
Price – $229
Contact – MojoHand FX

Pettyjohn PettyDrive V2

The Pettydrive looks and feels the part of a high-end, studio grade custom guitar pedal. The circuit of each channel has been designed to mimic a tube amp on the edge of breakup. It has a host of unique features, and options to tweak your tone.

The Pettydrive has 2 fully independent channels. There are two sides to the box – Iron and Chime. Chime (Ch1, on the right) is the lower gain side, which can be used as a clean boost or a light overdrive. Iron (Ch2, on the left) is the higher gain side, which can be used for thicker medium-to-heavy gain tones.

Both sides have the same knob layout, with a volume, drive, tone and boost on the Chime side and Mix on the Iron side. Both sides also have a 3-way clipping switch (soft, hard and LED) and a 3-way low cut switch (less, more, most low cut). An order toggle switch can be used to select the stacking order of Ch1 and Ch2. There is also an FX insert loop and the E and I toggle switch on the front panel can let you choose between an external and internal insert loop.

The Pettydrive is 100% hand-wired in the US with high quality studio-grade components. The stomp box has a classy look, with large jewel lights functioning as indicator lighting, and a plaque with the name of the pedal and the company.

Good – High quality components, jewel lighting, design and looks
Not good – Price, size, no 3-band EQ.

Made in – USA
Powered by? 9-18v 100mA
Battery – No
Bypass – True
Price – $399
Contact – Pettyjohn Electronics

Strymon Sunset Drive

Stymon is known for its high-end digital delay, reverb and modulation pedals. With the Sunset Drive, Strymon comes up with their own take on the dual overdrive. There are two sides on this unit, A and B. Both sides have a level control, drive control and a tone control knob, but these controls do different things depending on the mode selected. Both sides also have a 3-way toggle to select between clipping modes which gives you 6 total types of drives.

Side A is the lower gain side, and the 3-way toggle can select between Germanium, texas and treble modes. Side B is the heavier gain side and the toggle selects between 2-stage, hard or JFET clipping modes.

Both sides can be used independently or stacked together. A secondary mode enables a noise gate to reduce hum and buzz from guitar pickups. On the back of the pedal, there is an overall bright switch and a stacking order switch.

The Sunset Drive, like others in this list, is a dual overdrive. But the exception with this is that this is a combination of analog and digital technology with its analog JFET input gain stage and a SHARC DSP chip.

Good – Versatile and useful, build quality
Not good – Chip powered drive circuit, may sound digital

Made in – USA
Powered by – 9V 250mA
Battery – No
Bypass – True
Price – $299
Contact – Strymon

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 okay. 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.

(click here to read part 1 of this series)

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.

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