High Gain Drives: Friedman Smallbox vs BE OD Deluxe vs MXR 5150

Jarick

Shredder
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Found myself with a few higher gain drive pedals and thought I'd write up a quick little comparison.

Best way I have liked these pedals is into the Fractal Axe FX 3 using a JCM 800 amp model set for just a little breakup and compression. Then the drives really kick the amp into higher gain. But I did also try the pedals into a Line 6 Catalyst 60 combo set kind of similar, although I prefer the sound and feel of the Fractal.

There's some overlap in the Friedman pedals while the MXR is quite different. The BE OD Deluxe starts out at medium gain and goes all the way to over the top high gain. The Smallbox can go from medium low gain up to medium high gain. The Deluxe has a "tight" control that cuts low end going into the drive circuit which changes the feel of the pedal, where the Smallbox seems more like the BE with the tight control off. Otherwise both pedals have the same controls (BMT with presence, volume, and gain).

Of course the BE OD Deluxe is a two channel pedal where the Smallbox is a single channel. I think the Smallbox is a little easier to dial into a sweet spot for a good hard rock tone that can cover 70's, 80's, and 90's rock. Where the BE OD Deluxe can get pretty close for the 80's and 90's stuff but can also get a little more modern with the tight control all the way up. Both pedals clean up pretty well and seem fairly forgiving of what they are running into, either cleaner amp or more dirty, and brighter or darker. I think the presence knob is the key here.

The MXR 5150 is very different and to me kind of disappointing. I think it's more of a preamp style pedal as it is very picky about what it runs into. It's very high gain and doesn't really work with the gain below what I would consider medium-high (at 9:00). It sounds like there's a bright cap in the circuit which makes it sound pretty aggressive in the highs, and then stacking that into an amp with a bright cap results in really thin/bright/harsh distortion. It also makes a doppler pitch bend effect with the gain up. If you run into a dark cleaner amp it sounds a lot better and gives a more modern sound with a little more scooped mids and aggressive attack with higher gain.

The 5150 has a boost knob which doesn't seem to do much to me other than boost the gain a bit. It didn't seem to tighten the lows too much and since the pedal already has too much gain, I kept it off. But it also has a built in gate which works really well to keep the noise away. It can cut the dynamics of course when up too high but that's like any gain pedal.

Both Friedman pedals have a little bit of a lower midrange boost happening. It's not like a TS style pedal and seems more like a signature Friedman kind of sound. Works well for chunky rhythm and playing single notes too. But when you A/B against the 5150 you can't help but hear it. On the flip side the 5150 seems to always have a bit of a dip in the mids and a boost in the treble, even with that knob turned down.

Personally I'll return the MXR 5150 pedal as it's not very versatile. I really like the Smallbox and will likely use that as my higher gain drive alongside the MXR Sugar Drive for lower gain/boost stuff. The BE OD Deluxe is also very cool but I'll probably sell it as it overlaps with the Smallbox. I could actually see using the single pedal version if I did more modern high gain stuff alongside the Smallbox, as the tight control is a great feature.
 
I've gotten a "few" pedals on the way. Briefly tried the newly arrived SD1 and DemonFX Dualgun and really enjoyed both into the FM3. I also have a Walrus Eons, Rams Head Fuzz, and Tumnus on the way to give a spin. I think the tumnus might go back but wanted to see how a physical pedals compared to the klon in the FAS unit. Maybe we should create a pedal review thread :unsure:
 
I've gotten a "few" pedals on the way. Briefly tried the newly arrived SD1 and DemonFX Dualgun and really enjoyed both into the FM3. I also have a Walrus Eons, Rams Head Fuzz, and Tumnus on the way to give a spin. I think the tumnus might go back but wanted to see how a physical pedals compared to the klon in the FAS unit. Maybe we should create a pedal review thread :unsure:

I had a Tumnus Deluxe and it was a beast as a boost for high gain amps. (Level, no gain) It also did mid gain relatively well though, and I’m not a pedal distortion type of dude. You might be surprised with it. (I consider it part of the OD Holy Quartet: Tube Screamer, SD1, OCD, Tumnus Deluxe)
 
I had a Tumnus Deluxe and it was a beast as a boost for high gain amps. (Level, no gain) It also did mid gain relatively well though, and I’m not a pedal distortion type of dude. You might be surprised with it. (I consider it part of the OD Holy Quartet: Tube Screamer, SD1, OCD, Tumnus Deluxe)
Well now I'm more excited to give it a spin! This is just the smaller non deluxe version but I'm sure it's similar enough
 
I've gotten a "few" pedals on the way. Briefly tried the newly arrived SD1 and DemonFX Dualgun and really enjoyed both into the FM3. I also have a Walrus Eons, Rams Head Fuzz, and Tumnus on the way to give a spin. I think the tumnus might go back but wanted to see how a physical pedals compared to the klon in the FAS unit. Maybe we should create a pedal review thread :unsure:

I had a few other OD pedals and recently sold them. I found they are all so picky about amps. Of course now I have more pedals.

Right now I have the ace of tone which is a tube screamer and blues breaker in one, plus an MXR sugar drive (klon), and the high gain pedals.

Honestly most of them sound good into the Fractal. I wish I had a little 5 watt jcm 800 combo or something.

I may try and do a video later tonight or tomorrow if I can figure it out.
 
Well now I'm more excited to give it a spin! This is just the smaller non deluxe version but I'm sure it's similar enough

I think the only difference is the deluxe has the full BMT stack versus a tone control, and the MOAR gain switch. I’m sure it will have all the core mojo. I loved the pedal.
 
I’ve wanted to try the BE OD for some time, it’s just at some point, collecting OD pedals becomes a sickness. :ROFLMAO:

Everything I’ve heard is great for it though.
 
I'll take "None Of The Above For $1,000, Alex."





:LOL:

Have dipped my toes in those high-gain pedal water so many times. Many pedals repeatedly,
because the argument "You didn't use it right?" :idk

Outside of Fuzz, Boosts and ODs meant to drive the input of an amp harder, or EOB and Transparent ODs
meant for low to medium gain, I have come to conclude that drive pedals in the max gain territory are just
an huge miss. For me.

I hope @paisleywookiee is proud of me fore this post---even if I am being a Poo-Brain. :poop:
 
It's great we have so many options, though. :beer

High-gain pedals certainly sound superior to what we used to have available
to us. For me that transistor-i-ness becomes more apparent the more gain
there is in a pedal. Great thing when you want it in a Fuzz or Muff, but not
so much when trying to replicate/approximate amp tones.
 
Funny thing after a month, I think I prefer the 5150. The Smallbox sounds a little mellow and boxy where the OD Deluxe is really noisy. I still don’t use the gain past about 9:30 but it sounds good for that specific 5150 blue channel sound.

I’ve got a little MXR board at this point, outside of the tuner (Polytune mini). Ordered a used analog chorus to cap it off. Fun all analog board!
 
I have the Friedman BE-OD Deluxe, two Dirty Shirleys (give me a Dirty Shirley Deluxe/Twin Sister pedal already, Dave!), and a Small Box. I'm not exactly disappointed or underwhelmed in the Small Box, but I expected something a bit different. I find the switch on the Small Box pretty useless until the gain is 3:00+.

For 60s/70s and higher gain versions thereof, I much prefer the Dirty Shirley pedal. My only complaint about the Dirty Shirley (aside from wanting a Deluxe/Twin Sister version) is that the tight switch is a two way rather than a three way as on the BE-OD Deluxe. I have the BE-OD Deluxe and two Dirty Shirleys on my drive board. I have a low gain (stock) DS, higher gain (12:30 or so on the gain trim pot) DS, as well as the BE-OD. I turned the high gain channel down a bit to 10:30-11:00 on the gain trim pot, as the stock setting was a bit much and kind of muddy. Rolling back the gain trim pot really opened it up, while keeping it very nice for high gain.

My drive board also has Bogner Ecstasy pedals (Red/Blue, mini and original), Revv (G2, G2, G3, and G4), Tech 21 (3 British, 1 Blonde), and the Friedmans. I run them in "sections," so it is sort of like having several amps on my board going into my Two Notes Cab M+.
 
Funny thing after a month, I think I prefer the 5150. I still don’t use the gain past about 9:30 but it sounds good for that specific 5150 blue channel sound.
This was my problem with my 5153 6L6, I need lower gain with the guitar's volume turned down, something with dynamics, sometimes, and that blue channel ain't it, even at lower gain settings.
 
This was my problem with my 5153 6L6, I need lower gain with the guitar's volume turned down, something with dynamics, sometimes, and that blue channel ain't it, even at lower gain settings.

The other funny thing is, when I set the Klon how I want it, it's only a little less gain than where I like the 5150. Obviously different EQ and less compressed. But I tried to run it as a "clean boost" for a while then said eff it and just cranked up the gain.
 
IME a lot of high gain pedals deliver the sound but not the feel, Suhr Riot and Friedman BE OD for instance. Out of the ones you mention only the 5150 is close to the feel this amount of gain should have.
One that gets overlooked these days is the Wampler Pinnacel. This delivers vintage Marshall OD in a huge range of usable gain settings AND the feel to go with each.
 
The 5150 pedal does this if you can;

IME it can do a pretty decent classic rock and Marshall blues tone but that is it. Not modern metal tones but that is not what it is for.
 
The BE-OD was the first high gain pedal that really worked for me as an alternative to amp distortion. It’s a great option when you want a small board with a few pedals that you know you get your sound into almost any amp.

That said, I got the JHS AT+ a few months ago, and man that pedal rocks! Having the extra boost really pushes it over the edge and gives it a ton of versatility in a compact package. It can also get that singing sustain note bloom that I can usually only get from my Mark when it’s turned up to stage volume. I haven’t used my BE-OD at all since I got it.
 
I dont know why I would need external pedal when any drive in the Helix or Fractal can work ??
Hence why i went the DM route is because everything is in there
but thats me
 
I dont know why I would need external pedal when any drive in the Helix or Fractal can work ??
Hence why i went the DM route is because everything is in there
but thats me

I have a small pedalboard I run into the front of an amp. Sometimes I run into the modeler though.
 
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