6 Best Bluesbreaker Style Pedals for a Great Blues Overdrive

Author: Liam Plowman | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

The Fender Bluesbreaker is one of the most popular amplifiers ever made, and for good reason.

It’s tonally versatile while remaining incredibly easy and simple to set up, a true classic British amp.

This has prompted many companies to make Bluesbreaker-inspired pedals that aim to condense their iconic tone into the pedal format.

So today I’m taking an in-depth look at 6 of the best Bluesbreaker style pedals on the market so you can be as informed as possible about which one is going to work best for you.

Best Bluesbreaker-inspired Pedals

1. Wampler Pantheon Overdrive Pedal

The Pantheon Overdrive Pedal is Wampler's most popular overdrive pedal and is really their attempt at bagging an entire Bluesbreaker preamp into pedal form.

It has a full analog circuit with all the tonal shaping options you could ever want. 

You can easily make this the core of your entire rig, effectively turning any clean amplifier into a bluesbreaker by using the Pantheon as the only source of gain.

There is a typical 3-band EQ and gain controls as you’d expect, but Wampler has gone a step further by adding 3 individual gain stages which can take the distortion from grit, to driven, to full-on lead distortion.

I found the 3 gain stages were voiced perfectly for that classic British sound and it can easily emulate bluesbreaker style tones.

Further adding to this they have also introduced a 3-stage selectable overdrive voice. 

It was hard to tell what exactly this was doing to the tone, but all of the overdrive voicings sounded pleasant and very musical in how they saturated the sound.

The only downside with all these selectable voicings and distortion types is that you have only one simple on-off footswitch. 

This means you can only ever access a single tone at any one time without manually adjusting the knobs to a different sound.

Wampler addressed this with their 2-channel Dual Pantheon, but this comes at a significant cost increase just to gain access to a second channel and controls the single-channel version already has.

Overall, if you’re picky about your sound but you only need that 1 perfect tone, then this could be the perfect pedal for you.

But if you’re after multiple voicings or the ability to switch to different tones on the fly, the Pantheon may be too limited in its capabilities.

2. MXR Duke of Tone Overdrive Pedal

While this pedal was technically based on the very popular Prince of Tone pedal from Analog Man, the design premise and distortion voicing are still very much that of a bluesbreaker.

The MXR Duke of Tone is a mini pedal that offers a no-fuss approach to achieving your ideal overdriven tone.

It has a simple volume and drive knob, and a single rotary tone knob which acts as more of an EQ sweep than a sculpting tool like how a 3-band EQ would.

This means the pedal is designed to work less as a pre-amp or tonal center of your rig and more as a way to push an already great amplified sound to the next level.

What it does have going for it are 3 fantastically voiced distortion models called overdrive, boost, and distortion.

This will give you full flexibility when deciding between how much drive you want from your amp and how much you want coming from the pedal.

So by leaning more into your amp distortion or pedal distortion you can achieve wildly different sounding tones. 

I highly encourage you to play with this balance between amp and pedal distortion as there is a ton of versatility to be found there.

A very handy feature is that you can also run it with an 18v power supply which provides additional headroom and clarity, ideal for big cab setups where you need to retain that crisp top end.

3. J. Rockett Audio Designs Blue Note OD

The Blue Note OD from J. Rockett Audio, despite its understated appearance, offers one of the best blues/overdrive tones around.

This is in large part due to the fat switch which I had a ton of fun really cranking up. 

It provides a healthy bass boost, but also does something cool to the midrange where it’s able to warm up and thicken your tone without having the bass become unwieldy.

While this is marketed as a blues-style overdrive, the Blue Note OD has a hot switch that can be used to dirty the tone up a lot. 

I could easily find myself using this for rock or even metal with how nice the saturation sounds.

The pedal just has a single tone knob and is really meant to boost or augment the sound of your amplifier. 

I wouldn’t rely on this too heavily for tone sculpting and treat it more as if it’s adding something extra to what your amp is already doing.

But its lack of additional controls is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it's exceptionally easy to treat this as a set-and-forget pedal.

But should you be looking to truly dial in your favorite bluesbreaker sounds you’ll need to use your amp EQ or another pedal to help you out a bit as the features here are a bit too limited.

4. Jackson Audio Golden Boy Overdrive Pedal

This is one of my favorite Bluesbreaker style pedals which will make you feel like you have a real amp right there on your pedalboard.

While admittedly this is pricey in comparison to other overdrive pedals, I can assure you what you get for your money is well worth it.

The first thing to mention is the drive button, this gives you access to 4 completely unique drive types.

There is a classic light bluesy drive which they call the screamer sound to the full distortion which is modeled off of the classic vintage British type gain structure.

All 4 of these gain modes sounded exceptional and I could immediately pin them back to the iconic sounds they were trying to emulate.

The Golden Boy Overdrive utilizes the bluesbreaker style circuit specifically, so you will have no trouble getting that style of tone.

But they’ve gone several steps further by adding a 3-band EQ which felt exceptionally responsive. 

The middle band in particular was voiced in a very pleasant spot on the frequency spectrum and even when cranked it never felt particularly honky or boxy as many other mid-boosts often will.

Finally, there is a separate boost knob for an additional stage of gain. This can be toggled on or off by a footswitch giving you far more control on the fly than your average bluesbreaker style pedal.

If that wasn’t enough, these parameters are all midi-controllable! 

So if you are running more of a complicated pedal setup this can seamlessly integrate with your pre-existing switching system.

5. Mooer Blues Crab

Many of the pedals I have covered are quite substantial in both their feature set and tonal range.

But for those on a budget, is there a way to get that classic Bluesbreaker tone without breaking the bank?

Absolutely, and there’s no better company to do this than Mooer.

Mooer has made a series of small, affordable micro pedals each of which emulate a particular model of popular amplifier.

The Blues Crab, while not able to utilize the exact bluesbreaker circuit, does a very commendable job of emulating the iconic bluesbreaker tone.

All it uses is a single gain knob, plus a simple level and tone control.

Once you’ve found the sound you like you’ll most likely just leave it there and keep it on all the time as there’s very little scope for tone shaping here.

But it’s also useful to keep on standby as an extra boost for a particular lead or solo where you just need that bit of extra juice.

Even though this is a budget pedal, there are a few things about it that make it a worthy addition to even a professional player's rig.

Firstly it has a full metal shell and feels very solidly built, you’re not going to damage it by stomping on the switch too hard. 

Although because of its small size and lightweight, my connector cables did yank it around the pedalboard a bit. 

You may want to consider sticking it down with some double-sided tape or velcro so it doesn’t get kicked around too much.

It also has a true bypass switch which makes this fantastic as a boost to an already dirtied-up tone as it won't color the tone when it’s turned off.

6. TC Electronic Cinders Overdrive Pedal

While many pedals like to present themselves a little more ambiguously to appeal to as large of a consumer base as possible, the Cinders Overdrive makes its intentions immediately clear with its beautiful vintage aesthetic.

The goal of the TCE Cinders Overdrive is to emulate the sound of a cranked vintage British tube amplifier as quickly and as simply as possible.

While there are not many bells and whistles to help you fine-tune your sound, when you factor in how affordable the pedal is this is a must-have for anyone who’s a fan of the classic bluesbreaker tone.

Despite its simplicity, it uses a fully analog circuit to give you an authentic driven sound you’d usually only find on more expensive pieces of equipment.

Then to top it off it has a true bypass so it can also function great as a boost if you didn’t want it on all the time.

The pedal features a simple drive, volume, and tone sweep control. The drive spans a decent range allowing you to go from more of a screamer kind of tone to a really gritted-up crunch sound.

Although I did find when the drive was pushed too hard the low end started to become very muddy, almost like a fuzz had been engaged. 

So this pedal is perhaps better suited for those looking for low to medium-gain sounds.

An overall beautiful budget pedal that produces a truly authentic vintage blues tone.

Choosing the Right Bluesbreaker Clone

It is incredible how many great drive pedals are on the market now, but it does make narrowing down the right one for your specific needs challenging.

While every pedal I’ve listed here today will fundamentally produce a great blues tone reminiscent of the Bluesbreaker, there are a few things worth considering when deciding which one will be right for you.

Distortion Types

The bluesbreaker is an extremely versatile amplifier that’s capable of achieving glassy cleans to gnarly and harmonically rich driven tones.

You should think about what your distortion needs are and whether you need a pedal that can accommodate multiple types of high-gain sound, or if you need something static that you can just flick on as a quick boost.

If you need an all-encompassing bluesbreaker clone with multiple gain staged and switchable boosts, the Jackson Audio Golden Boy is going to serve you very well.

If you need a single ‘set and forget’ pedal then the TCE Cinders Overdrive is unmatched in its simplicity and affordability.

While the Mooer is somewhat comparable to the Cinders OD, its small chassis and knobs make it feel a bit too much like a toy for my liking.

Tonal Sculpting Options

Most bluesbreaker style pedals will have the ability to adjust the frequencies of your tone, but the way they do it is very different and should be an important consideration for anyone who likes their sound voiced a specific way.

On cheaper pedals, they will commonly utilize a tone sweep knob. 

This acts as a broad EQ that will usually roll off the bass and accent the highs the more you turn it, but this may differ from pedal to pedal.

My preferred type of EQ is the 3-band style where you will have individual knobs for bass, middle, and treble. 

This gives you far more control over your sound and also gives you a degree of adaptability if you find yourself in a situation where you’re forced to use a piece of equipment like a cabinet that contains far too much of a particular frequency.

Having the ability to cut that specific frequency band as needed can really save you some headaches down the road.

For that reason, I highly recommend the Wampler Pantheon Overdrive as it uses a big fat 3-band EQ that’s easily visible under low light.

True Bypass

The final consideration is whether the pedal has a true bypass feature.

This is especially important if you will leave the pedal off most of the time and then kick it in just as a boost for leads.

When a pedal doesn’t have true bypass it means that your signal is always passing through that pedal, even when it’s switched off. 

As a result, your tone is ‘colored’ by the pedal no matter what you do, not ideal!

True bypass, as the name might suggest, completely bypasses the pedal when it’s turned off so your tone is kept pure until that pedal is kicked in.

I consider this a vital feature if I won't keep a pedal on all of the time.

Tools of the Trade

Whether you need a bluesbreaker clone as a full-blown pre-amp sitting at the heart of your entire setup, or you need a boost to give a particular part that extra bit of hair, there is something out there for you.

All of these pedals fundamentally sound great, so your buying decision should come down to which features you need, and how you wish to use the pedal in your setup.

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About Liam Plowman

Liam is a British musician who specializes in all things guitar, audio, and gear. He was trained as a guitar technician at the Oxford Guitar Gallery and currently teaches at multiple music schools across the UK. Key skillset includes purchasing unnecessary guitar equipment and accumulating far too many plugins.

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