Fulltone was an American company dedicated to manufacturing guitar effect pedals, responsible for many highly-regarded stompboxes such as the Plimsoul, the Soul-Bender, the ’69 Fuzz and the Obsessive Compulsive Drive, or OCD. It was founded in 1991 by Michael Fuller and it closed its doors recently, in 2022. In this Fulltone OCD Review and Guide, I will personally walk you through all the features and properties that have made the OCD one of the most popular overdrive pedals in the music business. It is advertised as a Transparent OD/Distortion, and it can be used in a myriad of ways.
I have always enjoyed using mine as a boost by turning the Volume up and the Drive down, but it can do so much more than that. Depending on the context and the other pedals I have available, I can choose to do different things with the OCD, which is one thing I love about it. I have had a Version 2.0 for a longer time than any other version of this pedal, so any personal remarks will be mostly related to that one specifically.
In the end, I will also let you know what other drive pedals I’d recommend using as an alternative to the Fulltone OCD, in case you are considering going for something else.
Bottom Line Up Front
The Fulltone OCD has reached an immense level of popularity since its original release and it is easy to understand why. While many overdrive and distortion pedals sound boxy and unnatural, this one has an amazing level of touch sensitivity, resembling an actual amplifier. It is extremely versatile, allowing you to use it as a clean boost to push your amp into overdrive, as a mid-gain crunch pedal, or to stack with other gain stages, which is one of my favorite things to do with it.
The most recent version includes an internal switch that toggles between true bypass and “enhanced bypass”, as well as an improved design that eliminates any popping or clack sounds when engaging, disengaging and using the pedal, which is great for whoever is recording and performing live with this pedal.
It is built to be very sturdy, durable and reliable. Before having my OCD Version 2, I owned a different version that took years of rehearsals and gigs without having me worried for a second. I doubt I’ll be tired of this pedal anytime soon. Its warm, dynamic and full sound is the perfect addition to anyone’s pedalboard. Other interesting features include the possibility of running it at anywhere between 9V-18V and the HP/LP switch.
Fulltone OCD Overview: Main Features
Let’s take a closer look at the Fulltone OCD’s main features to understand what makes this such a special piece of gear for so many guitarists worldwide.
Main Controls – Volume, Drive, Tone
The OCD’s main controls are not anything out of the ordinary and they and easy to use to craft pleasant tones.
Volume controls how loud your signal is. This pedal has about 25dB of gain, which is more than enough to give your signal a serious kick. It makes the OCD a great pedal to use as a clean boost, for example.
The Tone knob only affects the high frequencies. I like keeping mine between 1 and 3 o’clock, depending on how bright my current guitar and amplifier are.
Drive controls the amount of overdrive/distortion your signal has. The Fulltone OCD has considerably more gain than some overdrives like the Ibanez TS-9 and the Electro-Harmonix Soul Food, which makes it an even more versatile pedal. When I am not using mine as a clean boost, I like to stack it with another overdrive to get a more saturated sound. The Analogman King of Tone and the JHS Morning Glory work great with the OCD, for example.
The HP/LP switch is located directly above the OCD’s LED, between the volume and Drive knobs. HP stands for High Peak and LP stands for Low Peak. The first provides a higher range of distortion from the Drive knob, an overall louder signal, and a slight mid bump that get you into a British style amplifier ballpark.
Low Peak is the most transparent mode, which lets your guitar’s tone come through naturally with the least coloration possible. This is my favorite setting for when my objective is to use the Fulltone OCD as a clean boost on my pedalboard.
Class A Wired JFET Input Section
This feature can only be observed in the Fulltone OCD Version 2.0. The addition of a Class A 2N5457 JFET input section raises the input impedance from 330K to 1 mega ohms. Fulltone claims that this change grants the pedal more dynamics and also makes it better with both single coil and humbucker-equipped guitars.
Bypass Switch (Version 2.0 Only)
The Version 2.0 of the Fulltone OCD includes a bypass switch located in the interior of the pedal that lets the user choose to have the pedal in True Bypass or in “Enhanced Bypass. True Bypass is something that is often discussed in the guitar community. If your pedals feature true bypass switching, it means that they won’t color your tone when they are switched off.
However, with modern pedalboards sometimes having a large number of pedals, there is a significant loss of high frequencies, and the Enhanced Bypass mode aims to eliminate this issue. Its design also ensures that there are no audible pops or clicks when you engage or disengage your Fulltone OCD.
Speaking of engaging it, you should also know that the OCD features the Fulltone-designed 3PDT, a high-quality switch that will endure years of abuse without letting you down.
DC Power Options
Another great aspect of the Fulltone OCD is the fact that you can power it with different voltages to explore an even wider array of sounds that you can get from it.
You can power it with a 9V battery, but you can also use something like a dedicated power supply that has 9V and 18V outlets. The OCD can be powered on any voltage between 9V and 18V, and I suggest that you experiment as much as possible to find the sweet spot where you think it sounds best to your ears.
With an MXR Iso Brick, I can also use one of the two outlets that allow me to feed it any voltage between 6V and 12V. Powering it with less than 9V replicates the effect of an almost-dead battery inside the pedal.
My favorite is running it at 18V, since I find it to be much more dynamic, responding to my picking much like a real amplifier would. This kind of feeling while playing is what makes players want to keep this pedal on their pedalboards for a very long time. If your power supply doesn’t have an 18V outlet, you can also use a Y DC cable that uses up two 9V slots and combines them.
Complete Specifications of the Fulltone OCD
You can check the complete specifications of the Fulltone OCD below:
- Effect Type: Overdrive/Distortion
- Circuit: Analog
- Input: 1 x 1/4″ Mono
- Output: 1 x 1/4″ Mono
- Input Impedance: 1 megaohm
- Output Impedance: 10K ohm
- Controls: Volume, Drive, Tone
- Switches: HP/LP
- Power Supply: 9V/12V/18V DC center negative, not included
- Battery: 9V DC
- Dimensions: 2.5″ x 2.1″ x 4.5″
Fulltone OCD Versions – What’s Different Between Them?
The Fulltone OCD was originally released in 2004, and since then, there were many different versions that featured tweaks in the circuit and other changes that give each one its unique character. Logically, some of these versions are more coveted than others in the second-hand market, so expect to see several variations in their price tags when you browse them online.
There is a total of 9 versions:
The first version of the Fulltone OCD was the one that put it on the map for thousands of players who quickly realized that it was a reliable and quality pedal.
Its main characteristics were its sensitivity, dynamics and a tone knob capable of producing bold lows, clear highs and a neutral mid-range. Some of the Version 1.1 pedals feature white pots instead of black ones.
Version 1.2 is one of the most coveted versions in the second hand market, which means that its price is higher than most other versions.
The most significant differences were changing the Volume pot from 100K to 500K and the Drive pot from 500K to 1M.
In terms of sound, it has fewer highs and lows than the first version, but a more pronounced mid-range.
Version 1.3 came about after Fulltone decided to replace the Tone capacitor from 0.1u to 0.047u and the Tone pot from 25K to 10K.
Sound-wise, this version has more sustain, an even more intense mid-range, and an overall higher level of control over your tone using just one knob.
The 1.4 is one of the most common versions of the OCD, alongside the 1.7 and 2.0. Technical changes on this one include a germanium diode added to the clipping section, a logarithmic volume pot, and a lower bass response. It also introduced a capacitor with a “C2” marking.
Visually, it features a red LED instead of a blue one.
Version 1.5 and Version 1.6
The reason why these two are together is that they are identical, but if you open them up, you can see “1.5” and “1.6” inside.
The output level pot was replaced from a 500K to a 100K. It also has a jumper in place of the germanium diode that was added to the Version 1.4. The C2 capacitor is absent in these versions.
The 1.7 is one of the OCD’s most widespread versions, but it does not feature very substantial differences from the aforementioned 1.6. The germanium diode is not jumpered in this version. A large number of these pedals were built on 1.4 circuit boards, but later they started building them on a new board that was correctly labeled as 1.7.
Fulltone acknowledges the 2.0 as the latest version, and it was released with several adjustments and improvements on the earlier editions of the OCD.
The input impedance was changed from 330K to 1 mega ohms through the addition of a Class A configured 2N5457 JFET input section. This changes the overall tone and gives the pedal a more dynamic feel.
A new internal switch allows you to toggle between true bypass and Fulltone’s “Enhanced Bypass”, which adds a buffer to the pedal, changing how it interacts with the rest of your signal chain regardless of being on or off.
Aesthetically, this pedal is easy to recognize. Apart from the slightly smaller logo, it is the only version in which Fulltone printed “Built in the USA” just below the footswitch, and both jacks are now centered on the sides of the pedal, whereas previously they were closer to the bottom side.
There are also a couple of limited editions of this pedal that feature a red or black finish. These were made specifically for Chicago Music Exchange.
Custom Shop Germanium Version
This limited edition OCD can be easily distinguished from the others by its aquamarine color and the “Ge” printed below the pedal’s name, which stands for germanium. The main feature of this pedal is the addition of two germanium diodes in the clipping section.
This version is known for having a wider dynamic range, clarity, longer sustain and feeling even more like a real amplifier.
Other Pedals to Check Out as Alternatives to the Fulltone OCD
Looking for a new overdrive or distortion pedal can get quite overwhelming pretty fast. A quick browsing section through your favorite music stores will have you looking at dozens of overdrives, some of them similar, others completely different from what you’re used to seeing… It really helps if you know what kind of sound and features you wish to have, which is why I have compiled a small list that contains my favorite pedals that you can check out if you’re looking for an alternative to the Fulltone OCD.
Bear in mind: some of these pedals aim to be in the ballpark of what the Fulltone OCD offers. Others like the Catalinbread pedal you’ll see have a different approach that you might enjoy depending on how you were planning to use an OCD, which is why I included it.
MXR M78 Custom Badass ’78 Distortion
This pedal, like the OCD, somewhat dwells in the Marshall territory, and it also has a fair amount of gain. The Crunch switch on the upper left corner allows you to get an even dirtier tone.
I prefer to use this pedal if I’m going for a saturated sound rather than a clean boost. Even though it can still do that, the Fulltone OCD does that job better. This one is considerably cheaper though, so it ultimately comes down to what you intend on doing with the pedal once you incorporate it into your signal chain.
Like all MXR products, the build quality is notable, and you can expect the M78 custom Badass ’78 Distortion to last a long time even if you use it on a daily basis.
You can generally find this pedal being sold for a price of around $90.
Electro-Harmonix Soul Food
Even though the Electro-Harmonix Soul Food doesn’t have nearly as much gain as the Fulltone OCD, I decided to include it in this list because it is one of the best examples of an affordable overdrive that excels at being used as a clean boost. The Soul Food is an extremely dynamic and responsive pedal and it also allows you to select between true bypass and buffered bypass, similarly to the OCD Version 2 with its “Enhanced Bypass” mode.
If you are looking for a significant amount of gain, this is not the pedal for you, but if you are craving a transparent overdrive with a lot of headroom, don’t sleep on the Soul Food. It is one of my all-time favorite pedals around the $100 price range.
You can generally find it for around $100 at most music stores.
BOSS SD-1W Super Overdrive Waza Craft
The original BOSS SD-1 was released back in 1981, and it has been used by countless guitarists ever since. With the SD-1W, BOSS revamped this legendary stompbox with an all-analog discrete amplifier circuit that features exceptional dynamics. Play softly, and the pedal will sound gentler. Dig in, and you will notice a big change in volume, compression and in the interaction between the pedal and your amplifier.
The switch found between the main knobs allows you to toggle between the Standard mode, which focuses on the classic SD-1 sound, and the Custom mode, which introduces more gain and a wider tonal palette.
It is excellent to push tube amps into overdrive, stack with other gain pedals, or to get a classic crunch tone that will perform notably in any blues or rock context. Like all BOSS pedals, it comes with a 5 year warranty, should anything unexpected happen during this time period.
You can usually find the BOSS SD-1W Super Overdrive Waza Craft for a price of around $170.
Mad Professor Royal Blue Overdrive
The Royal Blue Overdrive by Mad Professor is a great alternative to the Fulltone OCD. It doesn’t have features such as the HP/LP switch or the possibility of toggling between true bypass and buffered bypass, but it is a notably transparent overdrive with a Drive knob that lets you go anywhere from a clean boost up to distortion territory.
My favorite aspect of the Royal Blue Overdrive is how it lets you control how saturated your sound is through your picking dynamics and your guitar’s volume knob, much like people usually use a Fuzz Face pedal. When you have this degree of control, it is much easier to dial in a good tone and forget about your pedals for most of the performance, since you can access almost any sound by adjusting your picking hand and the volume knob on your instrument.
You can find the Mad Professor Royal Blue Overdrive being sold for a price of around $170.
Walrus Audio Warhorn Overdrive
Walrus Audio makes some of my favorite pedals, and the Warhorn definitely deserves to be talked about. This is an overdrive that doesn’t color your tone significantly, and it is capable of covering a lot of ground, from a clean boost to a saturated lead sound.
It also features a switch that toggles between symmetric and asymmetric clipping, which gives you more compression or a more open sound. Both are great, it really comes down to context and personal preference.
The Bass and Treble controls allow you carefully tailor your tone to your needs and the rest of your equipment. It works great with single coils, P90s and humbuckers!
It is also worth mentioning that Walrus Audio provides one of the best customer service experiences that I have ever seen. Their pedals come with a lifetime warranty, and even if you are not in the United States of America (where their headquarters are) they can still service your gear without leaving you without it for a long time.
I have had some issues with a Walrus Audio Monument V2 in the past and not only they were extremely kind, but I also only paid for shipping the pedal to their repair facility in Europe. This kind of experience is part of what makes me recommend Walrus Audio so readily to anyone.
The Walrus Audio Warhorn can generally be found for a price in the $200 range.
Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret
Just like I stated in the introduction to this section, the Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret isn’t inspired by the OCD, nor I would use it as a clean boost as I use mine. However, this amp-in-a-box pedal is capable of producing amazing Marshall tones resembling those of the legendary Marshall Super Lead and the Super Bass models.
One aspect that these pedals do share is the touch sensitivity that so many guitarists crave in their overdrive and distortion pedals. It also cleans up exceptionally well as you roll down your guitar’s volume, allowing you to go from a slightly overdriven, almost clean sound, to a blazing lead tone without having to engage or disengage any pedals.
Catalinbread describes this as a “foundation” pedal, something that you have on all the time, ideally on top of a very clean amp with a lot of headroom, and then you can stack other drive pedals on top of it to achieve even heavier distortion tones. You can also use an 18V power supply to change the feel and headroom of the Dirty Little Secret.
If you enjoy this concept but feel like this one might have too much gain for you, there are other amp-in-a-box pedals made by Catalinbread that aim to nail other less saturated tones, such as the Catalinbread RAH, inspired by Jimmy Page’s tones during Led Zeppelin’s epic Royal Albert Hall concert in 1970.
The Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret is generally sold for a price of around $180.
JHS Pedals Angry Charlie V3
The JHS Angry Charlie is yet another amp-in-a-box pedal that attempts to emulate the tones of the Marshall JCM800. It has a volume knob, drive knob, and a 3-band EQ.
Even though the JCM800 is known for heavy crunch tones, this pedal does the breakup overdrive sound effortlessly, and it also responds very well to your picking dynamics and to your guitar’s volume knob.
There is a similar version of this pedal that was developed in collaboration with Andy Timmons, “The @”. That one is also a very interesting option, although it is a bit more expensive.
You can find the JHS Angry Charlie V3 for a price of around $200.
The Wampler Pantheon was developed with the original Marshall BluesBreaker in mind, one of the most sought-after overdrive pedals among collectors.
My favorite aspect about this pedal is its touch sensitivity, and the fact that you have a lot of control over your tone. You can control bass, treble, presence, and there are a couple of switches that toggle between 3 types of overdrive voicings and 3 levels of gain.
Stacking this pedal with other overdrives is extremely fun, and if you want to increase the headroom, you can run it at 18V instead of 9V.
The Wampler Pantheon can be found for a price of around $200.
Joyo JF-02 Ultimate Drive
Joyo is known for making very affordable pedals that perform well for their price. If you are on a tight budget, you should consider the Joyo JF-02 Ultimate Drive as an alternative to the Fulltone OCD.
The Joyo’s circuit designed is based on the OCD, but it is significantly cheaper. Like the OCD, it features Level, Gain and Tone knobs, and a High/Low switch that works similarly to the HP/LP switch on the Fulltone.
The range of the Gain knob is pretty wide, and you can get anything from an edge-of-breakup tone to a saturated distortion sound.
The Ultimate Drive can be powered by a 9V battery or by an AC adapter, and it also features true bypass switching to avoid coloring your tone while it is switched off.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About the Fulltone OCD
Question: Does the Fulltone OCD have a lot of gain?
Answer: The Fulltone OCD has a fair amount of gain. If you compare it with an Ibanez TS-9 for example, it definitely achieves a more distorted tone. You could potentially use the OCD as your distortion pedal, but I also like to stack it with another drive to get an even more saturated tone from the combination of the two pedals. The OCD can also do low gain tones with no effort, just dial down the Drive knob and adjust the Volume to taste. If you increase the Volume significantly, you can push tube amps until they start to break up, something that many guitarists appreciate.
Question: Is the Fulltone OCD a noisy pedal?
Answer: The Fulltone OCD is not a particularly noisy pedal. I have had other overdrives that introduced more noise into my overall sound, but the OCD is pretty tame. Also, bear in mind that having more or less noise also depends heavily on other factors such as your power supply, cables, and even the electrical installations of where you are playing.
Question: Can you power the Fulltone OCD using 9V batteries?
Answer: Yes, if you don’t want to use a power supply for any reason, you can also power the Fulltone OCD with a 9V battery. Some guitarists argue that overdrive pedals such as the OCD sound better when powered like this, so you should give it a try and see if your ears notice a pleasant difference. There are also power supplies that allow you to control the voltage of a specific output, such as the MXR Iso Brick. Powering a pedal at less than 9V can emulate the tone of a nearly empty battery, something that some players enjoy.
Question: Can the Fulltone OCD be powered using an 18V power source instead of 9V?
Answer: Yes, if you have a power supply that features an 18V outlet, you can use that one to power your Fulltone OCD. The brand itself says it is totally safe and that you might even enjoy the pedal more if you power it this way. At 18V, you have an increased amount of headroom, and in my experience, it feels closer to a real amplifier in comparison to its sound and feel when powered at 9V. I use an MXR Iso Brick that has two 18V outlets, but there are other solutions such as a Y cable that plugs into two 9V outlets and your pedal.
Question: Is the Fulltone OCD true bypass?
Answer: Yes, the Fulltone OCD is a true bypass pedal, meaning that when it is not being used, it is as if it is removed from your signal chain entirely. This avoids coloring your tone while it’s not engaged, something that a few effects are known for. With the release of the OCD Version 2.0, Fulltone introduced a new feature called “Enhanced Bypass”. This is basically an output buffer that you can switch on or off via a switch located inside the pedal.
Question: What are some good Fulltone OCD alternatives?
Answer: The Fulltone OCD is a highly acclaimed overdrive pedal that has made its way into hundreds, if not thousands of pedalboards around the globe. On the other hand, the effects pedal market of today has got almost endless options for those looking for overdrive and distortion pedals. Here are a few of my favorite picks that I’d recommend to anyone looking for a Fulltone OCD alternative:
• Electro-Harmonix OD Glove
• MXR M77 Custom Modified Badass Overdrive
• Electro-Harmonix Soul Food (if you don’t need a lot of gain)
• Boss SD-1W Super Overdrive Waza Craft
• Mad Professor Royal Blue
• Walrus Audio Warhorn
• Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret (Marshall amp-in-a-box pedal)
• JHS Angry Charlie V3
• Wampler Pantheon
• Fulltone Plimsoul
• DOD Overdrive Preamp 250
• Danelectro Cool Cat Drive
• Joyo JF-02 Ultimate Drive
Question: What is an overdrive pedal?
Answer: The term overdrive refers to the natural breakup and compression that a tube amplifier starts producing when you turn them up to a loud volume.
Overdrive pedals allow players to achieve this kind of sound at a lower volume, often featuring controls such as an EQ section, switches to change the type of overdrive, among others.
There are many types of overdrive pedals, and some color your tone more than others. The Fulltone OCD, for example, is known for being a very transparent overdrive, which makes it great for many applications ranging from using it as a clean boost to a heavily overdriven sound.
Question: Which guitarists use the Fulltone OCD?
Answer: There are many guitarists who have used and still use the Fulltone OCD regularly. Here is a short list of musicians that are known to use this popular overdrive:
• Eric Johnson
• J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr)
• Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top)
• Joe Perry (Aerosmith)
• Keith Urban
• Peter Frampton
• Peter Buch
• Al Di Meola
• Greg Howe
• James Valentine
Closing Considerations About the Fulltone OCD
Put simply, the Fulltone OCD is a pedal that pretty much any guitarist would enjoy having on their pedalboard. Even if you aren’t the kind of person who likes to play with overdrive or distortion, the OCD can also be used as a great clean boost with a Tone control and a couple of other useful features such as “Enhanced Bypass” if you get the OCD Version 2.
Since Fulltone closed its factory, the OCD is a pedal that isn’t being manufactured anymore. Because of this, you can expect to see second-hand prices a bit higher than they were a few years ago. However, if you search for some time, you might be able to find a good deal. If not, keep in mind that there are many great alternatives to the Fulltone OCD, some of which have been discussed previously in this guide.
I love my Fulltone OCD Version 2 and even if it is not constantly on my main pedalboard, I still play it often and it is one of my go-to pedals when I am assembling a smaller board for rehearsals and small gigs where I don’t need to carry around a ton of gear. When you can do so much with just a single pedal, there is no need to take a bunch of them!
- Line6 M5 Pedal Review - April 29, 2023
- Walrus R1 Reverb Pedal Review - March 12, 2023
- Harley Benton J Bass Review: JB-75MN NA Vintage Series - February 21, 2023