Difference Between Overdrive and Distortion

We all are great admirer of guitars’ sounds and the music that it creates.


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A guitarist usually creates many sounds and effects from a guitar. Both terms, overdrive and distortion, are related to the effects that a guitarist creates from the guitar.  

Overdrive vs Distortion  

The difference between overdrive and distortion is that Overdrive leads to a less altered sound which is done by the process called ‚ÄėSoft Clipping‚Äô, whereas Distortion leads to a more altered sound which is done by the process called ‚ÄėHard Clipping‚Äô. Overdrive makes the sound smooth, whereas Distortion makes the sound hard.¬†

Overdrive vs Distortion

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The term overdrive can be defined as the most basic sound effect that a guitarist makes. It is caused when a guitar’s degree of amplification turns out to be at a point where it is not possible to handle the circulatory table.

It leads to distortion of signals which creates a sound effect called overdrive. The term distortion can be defined as the sound effect which is produced by a guitarist by the process of compressing the edges of the sound waves.

It usually happens when a guitarist turns on the volume to the maximum on their amps which leads to the maximum amount of electricity flowing in the circuits.

Comparison Table

Parameters of Comparison  Overdrive Distortion 
Produced By Soft Clipping Hard Clipping 
Level of Distortion Low High 
Alteration of Actual Tone It does not alter the actual tone It leads to the alteration of the actual tone 
Response to Volume Controls It responds to volume controls It does not respond to volume control 
Sound Produced  Soft and Warm Loud 

What is Overdrive?  

The term overdrive is explained as a sound effect of a guitar where the amplification of the sound is at a level where the circulatory system of a guitar is not in control. The electricity circulation turns higher at this point.

It is done by the process called Soft Clipping. Overdrive is pushing the sound harder.

It does not hinder the actual tone. The process of soft clipping leads to the compression of the sound, but the actual transients remain the same.

It leads to a warm and soft sound as a result. Every overdrive has a different effect and is different from one another, but they exaggerate the already existing tone without altering the actual sound produced.

It is often called soft clip distortion. It leads to a smooth sound, but it’s a bit distorted.

It is similar to the tube amp being cracked up. It is a sound effect with the usage of the guitar pedals.

A guitar’s natural sound effect is preserved with overdrive, and it eventually leads to a gentle effect to the already existing sound. The overdrive can be controlled by the guitarist with their attack by handling the volume and tone controls of the guitar and playing aggressively.

Overdrive is a very usual sound that guitarists produce in today’s era. It is observed in very popular bands too.

What is Distortion?

The term distortion is explained as a sound effect that is produced by the compression of the sound waves of the guitar. It is produced by turning up the tone to the maximum level on the guitar amps, which leads to greater circulation of electricity.

It is produced by a process called Hard Clipping.  Distortion leads to multiple effects on the sound produced by a guitar.

It depends on the guitarist’s style and what kind of distortion they produce. It depends upon the individual style of playing the guitar.  

The distortion can be of multiple kinds, such as a fuzz-like effect or a full sound effect, etc. The distortion can be of two kinds.

They are digital distortion and analog distortion. Digital distortion leads to a harsh sound, whereas Analog distortion leads to a classy sound effect which is also used by various bands today.  

Distortion is also produced by the pedals of the guitar. Choosing the right pedal is very essential in producing the sound.

Distortion is usually produced by classy and heavy rock bands. Distortion is an extra version of the sound effect of an overdrive.

Distortion is suitable for the modern amplifiers, which give a signal exceeding the threshold limit. The sound produced by distortion is often aggressive in tone.  

The sound is compressed to a great level in distortion, which leads to alteration of the actual tone being produced. It produces a heavy tone.

It is a great choice for solo rhythms and heavy tones. It is very famous in metal music.  

Main Differences Between Overdrive and Distortion

  1. The process by which overdrive is produced is called ‚ÄėSoft Clipping,‚Äô whereas the process of distortion is done by ‚ÄėHard Clipping.‚Äô¬†¬†
  2. The level of distortion is low when overdrive is produced, whereas the level of distortion is high when distortion is produced by the guitarist.  
  3. Overdrive does not lead to altering the actual tone due to the low level of distortion, whereas Distortion leads to the alteration of actual tone.  
  4. Overdrive responds to the volume controls and can be controlled by the volume and tone controllers, whereas Distortion does not respond to the volume controls.  
  5. Overdrive leads to a warm and soft sound that does not affect the actual tone, whereas Distortion leads to high and loud effects, which disrupt the existing tone.  
Difference Between Overdrive and Distortion


  1. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/0953-8984/28/9/094011/meta
  2. https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/intellect/mms/2018/00000004/00000001/art00007


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