MXR Zakk Wylde Overdrive Pedal ZW44 Review

Written by Robert Cavuoto

Sometimes when people put their name on a pedal it’s more for the paycheck and less about emulating an aspect of their sound. Luckily this is not the case with the Wylde Overdrive by MXR.

You might be wondering what the difference between distortion and overdrive is. Many people use the phrase interchangeably and sometimes the sound between the two can be very subtle. To the best of my knowledge, overdrive tries to imitate an overdriven tube amp and gives you that warm and bluesy sound, whereas distortion is more aggressive, thick sounding as if taking the Overdrive to “11”.

Since the terms are so interchangeable I was prepared for a very thick distortion like Zakk has with Black Label Society but after the playing with the pedal I came to realize this was a true Overdrive pedal and lent itself more towards Ozzy signature sound. I was pleasantly surprised by this pedal. I have always been a fan of Zakk’s as well as the sound he has created on so many great Ozzy's songs.

With three knobs it’s relatively simple to use with less tweaking and more jamming. There is an Output, Tone, and Gain. The Output works like a volume, Gain is the amount of overdrive and the Tone provides some unique dimension to the pedals over all sound.  You can also do what Zakk does and saw off the knobs so it’s always set to your favorite pre-set without fear or accidently changing it with your foot, but that’s a bit extreme.

This pedal packs a nice punch! The Gain knob offers a nice array of overdrive from the warm blues of a tube amp to the full on mid-gain crunch of a Marshall with the spin of dial.  The Tone knob provides a very smooth transition into different tonal spectrums from the high end treble to a more ridge dull bass.

With the Gain on 9 o’clock and the Tone and Output at high noon, I was able to achieve a classic rock sound similar Randy Rhoads on “Crazy Train”. This setting lends itself perfectly to chords and solos and provided a nice accent to my guitar’s tone. The pedal did not overwhelm my amp or compromise my sound.

I really loved the endless possibilities of overdrives I was able to dial up. This is one of the first pedals that reminded me of my old yellow MXR Distortion Pedal which I owned back in the 80’s which was stolen off the stage during a fight. Later models never really matched that original sound.

If you crank the Gain and Output you have a pedal that will knock down some walls in your house. It will be merciless on your ears. One down side is the pedal has a nosy hiss and I recommend you get a noise suppression or Noise Gate to help temper it.

When jamming with friends the pedal cut through no matter whether I was playing chords, solos, or just picking like on “Diary of a Madman”.  I have always like Zakks’ sound and I really think this pedals gets you there. This has to me one of favorite distortion pedals I have tried in a while. If you are looking to emulate Zakk's sound or create your own unique sound I’m confident it can be achieved with this pedal.



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