Lyrics by James Callanan
Distribution EGM | RRP $279
Since their widespread introduction in the 1970s, overdrive pedals (and effects pedals in general) have evolved with developments in available technology – often incorporating multiple channels, gain stages and multiband EQs into sets of more in smaller ones. However, with the ‘OD808X Overdrive Extreme’, Maxon, with a modified version of their trusty OD808 Overdrive, stuck to a more simplistic and timeless approach, resulting in an overdrive that simply works.
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The OD808X is elegantly housed in a lightweight yet sturdy aluminum chassis, which features a clever door on the underside so the 9V battery can be replaced without unscrewing the entire backplate. The potentiometers and switch are both tactile and precision-tuned, ensuring that the OD808X delivers the reliability you expect from a Japanese-made product such as this. Although the red LED is small, its brightness ensures that it can be properly seen even in bright conditions.
Although minimalist in its feature set, the success of the OD808X is a product of its quality components. It features a low impedance buffered electronic bypass, which aims to reduce the level of signal loss when the pedal is disengaged. It should be noted that this pedal does not feature true-bypass, however, no significant reduction in tone or signal level was noticed when the pedal was bypassed. Bearing many similarities to the legendary OD808 released in 1979, the Extreme OD808X shares much of the same circuitry, but with some key tweaks to the internals, and as such a simultaneous increase in versatility.
While the OD808X shares the same three controls (Level, Tone and Drive) as its predecessor, the range of each of these parameters has been increased, as the “Extreme” label suggests. The updated model offers +5dB increased output over the original, in addition to an extended tonal range and harsher clipping pattern; it all contributes to an effect that has more drive in the tank, more versatility and more level to cut through the mix.
The flavor of the drive itself is quite organic in nature – adding saturation and drive to the sound, while letting the natural characteristic of the amplifier shine through. The pedal had a nice presence that made individual notes clearly audible in chords, but the treble levels never increased abruptly. In terms of frequency response, this pedal was fairly balanced across the spectrum, with controlled lows, a slightly boosted mid range (as is the case with a tubescreamer type pedal) and highs that sang without being too bright. .
Overall, engaging the effect did not drastically change the frequency response to the dry sound. The OD808X was found to accentuate the natural harmonics produced by the guitar, without ever getting too dark or muddy. Even when playing open chords on the neck pickup of a semi-hollow guitar, the Extreme Overdrive never got out of control, maintaining an articulate overdrive sound, without building up low frequencies to an unpleasant level.
One thing that stood out when using the OD808X was that no matter the position of the Drive or Tone dials, the sound was always brilliant. While it could be argued that the tone control could have a wider range – especially in the lower frequencies – it’s comforting as a player to know that it’s seemingly impossible to get bad overdrive sound. with this pedal. This feature contributes to the many possible musical uses of the OD808X, which plays a role in the multiple levels of drive it offers – from mild crunch to high gain.
Acting as a drive source to a clean amplifier channel, the Maxon Overdrive Extreme does a superb job of delivering a highly musical sound – sound that would fool many listeners into thinking they were listening to a classic tube amplifier. With the effect engaged and the drive increased, the sweet harmonics add liveliness to the previously sterile sound, and the pedal does an outstanding job of responding to playing dynamics – cleaning up nicely when the guitar’s volume knob is turned down. . As a result, the OD808X can absolutely be used in a “set and forget” fashion, with the amount of bite dictated by the guitarist’s hands.
Another use case the OD808X excels at is boosting an already driven or crunchy amplifier. When activated, this pedal increases the sustain and overdrive of the guitar signal, while being transparent enough to hint at the amplifier’s underlying characteristics. By stacking the OD808X’s drive with the driven sound of a tube amplifier, the result was a smooth, creamy interlaced sound with no observable jerk from the juxtaposed drive sounds.
In the context of a band setting, the OD808X was clearly audible in the rhythm section, but refrained from hitting ice-pick treble levels. Additionally, the overdrive was well complemented by various modulation and time-based effects; with the addition of a subtle flanger and long delay for a fantastic lead sound. Although not packed with features, the OD808X is damn good at what it does, making it a perfect choice for a myriad of guitarists and their respective uses.
The OD808X is truly a plug-and-play package, delivering great sound with minimal dialing in to achieve this feat. This pedal is an excellent choice for guitarists looking for their first high-quality overdrive, as well as seasoned veterans. With its superb overdrive sound, it’s not hard to imagine Maxon’s Overdrive Extreme becoming a mainstay on the pedalboards of countless guitarists.
Visit MaxonFX for more information. For local inquiries, go to EGM Distribution.