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Boost and overdrive pedals were originally designed to push tube amps of the day into full-blown saturation, that just cranking the amps to full volume couldn't achieve - this was before high-gain amps existed and many amps were only capable of achieving crunch tones without help from boost or overdrive pedals.
There are many different 'flavours' of boost and overdrive these days: the more subtle designs add a touch of hair or grit, ideal for bluesy breakup, while others have more punch for a heavier or more harmonically rich sound. Some, such as the famed Klon Centaur, are renowned for their transparency, while others such as the Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster deliberately boost particular frequencies.
Distortion pedals provide a new tonal palette for your amp, hard-clipping the input signal to achieve distorted sounds. Many guitarists use a distortion with a clean amp setting.
Distortion pedals span a huge range of sounds, from classic rock tones through to modern metal, plus everything in between.
Fuzz pedals first appeared in the 1960s and soon became popular thanks to links with guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards and Pete Townshend.
From the first few pedals, including the Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz Tone and the Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face, a multitude of fuzz pedals now exists - some are accurate replicas of these illustrious forebears while others are completely new designs.