Best Distortion Pedal – Take Your Gain to the Next Level

Without a decent distortion effect, you’re pretty limited when it comes to the kinds of music you can play. Obvious examples would be heavy metal and rock, but even blues can benefit from a bit of filth in the tone to give it a gruffer edge.

If you’re reading this you’re probably looking to purchase a distortion pedal. And for good reason, there are few sounds in all of music more iconic than the roar of a distorted guitar. But as you’ve probably realised there’s a bewildering number of distortion effects pedals to choose from.

In this article we’ve written a comprehensive guide to buying a distortion pedal so you know exactly which one is right for your style of music and guitar rig.

boss distortion pedal

If you’re in a rush, here’s the products we review further down this article. If you’re new to distortion pedals, I recommend you read the whole thing to make sure you get the best distortion pedal for you.

AT A GLANCE: WHICH IS THE BEST DISTORTION PEDAL ON THE MARKET?

PREVIEW PRODUCT FEATURES  
BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal
Boss DS-1
  • Low price
  • Can be used in most genres of heavy music
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Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Guitar Pedal
Boss MT-2 Metal Zone
  • Metal Zone
  • Simple to use
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Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal
RAT 2
  • Great distortion tone
  • Versatile
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Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi Guitar Effects Pedal
The Big Muff π – Electro-Harmonix
  • High-quality distortion tone
  • Simple controls
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MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion
MXR M75 Super Badass
  • Great tone
  • Durable
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Wampler Sovereign V2 Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal
Wampler Sovereign
  • Sounds great on different amps
  • Portable
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TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal Bundle 960720001
TC Electronic Dark Matter
  • Most affordable distortions
  • Versatile
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EarthQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold V2 Power Amp Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal
Earth Quaker Devices Acapulco Gold V2
  • Unique tone
  • Easiest to use
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Maxon Nine Series ST-9 Pro+ Super Tube Pro+ Guitar Distortion Effects Pedal
Maxon Nine Series ST-9 Pro+
  • Great tone
  • ‘Low Boost’ switch
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Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal
Fender Pugilist Distortion
  • All-round distortion pedal
  • Plenty of tone control
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Walrus Audio Iron Horse LM308 V2 Distortion Pedal
Walrus Audio Iron Horse LM308 V2 Distortion Pedal
  • Great fuzz tone
  • Simple tone control
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Bogner Uberschall Overdrive OD Distortion Guitar Pedal 2 FREE 6ï¾” Patch Cables
Bogner Uberschall Distortion Pedal
  • Realistic amplifier distortion
  • Versatile
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Still with us? Awesome! We’re now going to cover the essentials of distortion pedals: what they are, their history, the ‘types’ of distortion pedal, the benefits of using distortion, then finally some buying advice and reviews of our favorite pedals on the market.

What is Distortion and How Did It Come About?

As we’ve already said, distortion is the heart and soul of every hard rock and metal riff and is essential for meaty riffs and screaming solos, but where did it all begin?

Although you may not believe it, 1950’s Blues guitarists actually first discovered and used distortion, to empathise the soulfulness and grit of their music. Originally, distortion was the accidental result of amplifier tubes dislodging or speaker cones becoming damaged, so of course, nobody expected this to sound good. For so long sound technicians had worked hard to deliberately avoid distortion, hoping to achieve clear, smooth guitar tones.

In the 1950’s distortion was pioneered by Junior Barnard, who played with Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Barnard created his own humbucker pickups that would enhance his loud, aggressive playing style. This in turn led to his amp producing an overdrive effect.

After amplifier distortion was such a hit during the 50’s, more convenient, portable distortion pedals were designed during the 1960s. Distortion pedals differ from amp distortion, in that they are used with a clean amp setting, with the gain provided by the unit itself. Early 1960’s distortion pedals became known as Fuzz pedals. Jimi Hendrix was one of the first guitarists to use a fuzz to establish his tone, then with time their technology evolved becoming more diverse and extreme, attempting to mimic amplifier overdrive distortion. The Kinks also used slashed speaker cone to produce their classic, retro guitar tone.

So how does distortion pedals actually work? Well, they boost the guitar’s pickup signal so that the top and bottom of the sound wave “clips” that creates that distorted we know and love. In technical terms, distortion pedals take an input signal from the guitar and change it to the sound we hear, using circuitry containing transistors and diodes. Although this leads to the signal being modified, when used correctly the distorted signal really beefs up your tone.

The 3 Types of Distortion

In guitar distortion pedals, there are three types of distortion: Fuzz, overdrive and straight distortion – which all work by adding gain to the guitar tone. Overdrives will add a controlled power to your sound, whereas distortion is more intense, less controllable and more extreme. Fuzz distortion is slightly warmer and muddy sounding than the latter.

Fuzz Distortion

Fuzz pedals first appeared in the mid-1960s and were used to thicken the overall guitar tone. Jimi Hendrix loved the fuzz sound as it provided him with a warm, wild, bassy, slightly undefined guitar tone.

Overdrive Distortion

Overdrive pedals basically try to replicate the sound of an overdriven tube amp. A famous example of this pedal is the “Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer” used by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Overdrive preserves some clean guitar tone, but​ also mixes in extra crunch and volume – which is great if you’re looking to boost your guitar solo during a live set!

Distortion

Distortion pedals produce the most aggressive tone out of the three types we’ve mentioned so far, and are generally designed to dramatically change your guitar’s signal, so that it outputs a heavy, chunky metal sound.

Benefits of Using Distortion Pedals

So why use a distortion pedal? Here are three good reasons…

An Alternative to Tube Amp Distortion

Many professional guitarists use tube amplification rather than distortion pedals to get their distorted sound. Amps that produce high gain distortion with next to no effort also cost a fortune. Distortion pedals on the other hand are sold at a fraction of the price, and allow you to get the tone you want without emptying your bank account.

Hard Clipping

A distortion pedal’s hard clipping circuity helps guitarists achieve larger gain ranges for really extreme tones. Hard clipping also helps to compress the guitar sound, resulting in increased sustain and feedback at high volumes, this is great if you’re going to be playing live.

Extra Channel for Your Amp

Distortion pedals often incorporate three-band EQs – this essentially acts as an additional channel for your amp for increased tone control. Distortion pedals are also able to produce high gain tones at low volumes – something that can be difficult even with low-wattage valve amps.

Distortion Pedals Controls

So what are the controls you typically find on a distortion pedal?

Tone

Tone dials let you control the amount of bass and treble coming through your mix. Different genres of music have very distinct guitar tones. Metal will need a very high gain distortion with enough mids and treble to pierce your ears. Whereas a classic rock sound will favour a crunchy gain, and blues works best with warmer, fuzz or overdrive distortion.

Level

The Level dial will let you control the volume of the distortion coming through your mix. This should usually be matched with any other pedals in your loop or can be set higher, for use as a boost when the pedal’s turned on

Gain

Gain controls exactly how much distortion you have in the overall sound. At lower levels you can recreate some more bluesy classic rock tones, whereas set to high the gain, you’ll get a more heavy metal sound coming through your amp.

Middle

Middle control lets you change the mid-range frequencies that cut through your mix. On a high range setting this can really help your tone shine through if you’re playing with others in a band, whereas on a lower setting, it can help you to produce warm rhythm tones.

Buying Guide – Things to Consider When Purchasing a Distortion Pedal

The clipping responsible for the distortion pedal’s overall tone is completely artificial, therefore each make and model of pedal will have a slightly different sound quality… For this reason it’s worth trying out the pedal in store if possible or if not, at least having a listen to some live clips to get a feel for the overall sound it can produce.

Digital vs. Analog?

Analog distortion tends to sound more warm, thick and natural in comparison to digital distortion, which produces a harsher, more cutting tone. Some modern distortion pedals actually do a pretty good job of recreating classic analog distortion tones, and can cost a little less too.

What Type of Guitar Do You Use?

Your guitar can greatly affect the overall sound that a distortion pedal produces. For example, if your guitar uses single coil pickups that’s great… but distortion isn’t really it’s forte. Some would argue against this but most would agree that humbuckers are the way forward when it comes to distortion.

To add to the confusion, the type of humbucker matters as well! For example, a set of active humbuckers will channel a higher quality gain signal, which makes them best suited for heavy metal genres. The best way to approach this is to figure out what kind music you want to play, and then buy both a guitar and distortion pedal to suit.

Some distortion pedals are actually designed to work around your guitar’s pickup, by adding or removing high- and low-end tones. It might be worth keeping an eye out for these types of pedal if you can’t afford to buy a different guitar or to change it’s pickups.

What Amp Do You Use?

Amplifiers will greatly affect your distortion’s tone. For example, a solid state combo amp, will never be able to fully recreate the sound produced by artists that use expensive tube amp heads with a stack of cabinet speakers. The settings such as treble, middle and bass on your amplifier will also affect the pedal tone, so consider having a play around with those too, if you want a dark bassy distortion tone rather than a trebly one with lots of high end.

Product Round-up & Mini Reviews – Best Distortion Pedal

Boss DS-1

BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal

The Boss DS-1 is a classic distortion pedal and has remained an extremely popular choice since it was first made in 1978. Considering the DS-1 is pretty low cost in comparison to other distortion pedals out there, it’s been used by some very famous guitarists including Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page, Kurt Cobain, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai.

This pedal is capable of working in most genres of rock and metal however, it’s best suited for grunge or hard rock, rather than blues or more extreme metal. The coolest thing about this pedal has to be it’s simplicity.. Even if this is your first FX pedal, you’ll be able to work out the three controls: Level, Distortion & Tone. Level controls the pedal’s volume, distortion controls the level of distortion and tone controls the bass and treble cutting through the mix.

Thanks to it’s affordability and ease of use, this pedal is a great option for first time distortion users or those shopping on a budget.. Additionally, you’ll be able to play gigs with the DS-1 as it’s built like a small tank, just remember the battery or power supply!

PROS

  • Price – This pedal is sold at a very good price for the distortion tone it produces, other pedals are way more expensive and may not offer much higher quality.
  • Versatile – The DS-1 can be used in most genres of heavy music – from blues to grunge to heavy metal

CONS

  • Can sound tinny – You should try and use your amp’s tone controls rather than those offered by the DS-1, as on a high setting, the tone sounds a bit sharp and unpleasant.
  • Not the best for heavier genres – If you’re wanting to play extreme metal like thrash, doom or death metal the DS-1 may not quite provide the really high distortion settings you need

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Boss MT-2 Metal Zone

Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Guitar Pedal

If you don’t think the Boss DS-1 is metal enough for your style, look no further, the MT-2 Metal Zone really takes gain to the extreme. In particular, this pedal will let you recreate tones similar to those used by Metallica, Slayer and Pantera.

So of course, the best feature of the Metal Zone is it’s ability to add really high levels of gain to your sound but, more importantly it also offers all the control you need to set the tone right! The Metal Zone achieves this control thanks to it’s two EQ dials which affect the level of middle, bass and treble coming through the mix.

In all honesty, these pedals won’t work for you if you need a general-purpose distortion, say for blues and classic rock tones. But as long as you want a really thrash metal sound you won’t be disappointed.

The Metal Zone is suitable for guitarists of any skill level, but works especially well if you’re a heavy metal fan, shopping on a mid-range budget. Once again thanks to it’s sturdy Boss shell, it’ll withstand being stomped on and carted to gigs with ease.

PROS

  • Metal tone – The Metal Zone will recreate thrash and heavy metal type guitar tones really well at high volumes
  • Simple to use – This pedal only has four tone controls, so will not confuse even novice guitarists

CONS

  • At low volumes the Metal Zone can sound rather thin, hence why it’s best suited for loud aggressive styles of playing
  • Not so versatile – This pedal isn’t really cut out for playing other styles of rock n roll or blues as it’s gain setting works in a sort of all or nothing response

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RAT 2

Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal

The Pro Co Rat 2 has been pretty popular since the 80s, thanks to it being used by guitarists like Joe Perry, Jeff Beck, Kurt Cobain and James Hetfield for it’s fantastic all-round distortion tone.

The best thing about the RAT 2 has to be the versatility of distortion tone it provides for it’s mid-range price. This pedal sounds great in heavy metal styles of guitar as well as classic rock and grunge, and can be used to enhance both rhythm and lead guitar parts.

Another great aspect of this pedal, is that it is really easy to control, and includes just three standard tone dials. The Filter control is basically just a re-named tone dial, which lets you add bass and treble to the overall mix. You can also use the RAT 2 with bass guitars if you like!

Overall this pedal will suit any player looking for versatility in guitar of bass distortion tone, on a mid-range budget. The RAT 2 will not disappoint you tone-wise when used in any style of rock or metal music.

PROS

  • Great distortion tone – This pedal has remained popular for decades for a reason.. it has extremely high quality distortion tone that is easy to tweak
  • Versatile – The RAT 2 will sound great not matter what style of rock or metal you play, thanks to it’s well designed circuitry

CONS

  • Power supply – Please be aware that the RAT’s AC connection is not a standard 9v connection so you’ll need to purchase the relevant adapter is to use a standard power supply.
  • Weight – This pedal is slightly heavier than both the previously mentioned Boss units, which may not be a problem if you’re only carrying one pedal around, but may weigh you down if you have several already!

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The Big Muff π – Electro-Harmonix

Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi Guitar Effects Pedal

If you’re after a kind of vintage, fat sounding fuzz distortion the Big Muff Pi is definitely your best friend. This pedal is designed to mimic retro tones used by Hendrix, Santana and Pink Floyd but, also works fantastically when used in very heavy stoner rock riffs too!

Once again, the Big Muff is really simple to use, featuring two standard volume and tone control dials as well as an extra Sustain control. The Sustain dial is probably the coolest thing about this pedal, as it lets your rich, meaty notes ring out for longer.

So, while you may not get tons of control with this pedal, the Big Muff will bring you a warm, creamy fuzz type distortion with a certain scope for sculpting your rich, growling tone!

This pedal is the king of heavy blues and stoner doom genres and is simple enough for all abilities of guitarist to use…So if you’re set on that kind of tone, at this mid-range price you can’t really lose out!

PROS

  • Rich tone – The Big Muff Pi produces a high-quality distortion tone, best suited to those looking for a dark, warm heavy sound
  • Simple controls – This pedal is all controlled by three tone dials, so you won’t be left scratching you head for hours trying to figure out how to use it

CONS

  • Size – Funnily enough, the Big Muff is rather large – so look up it’s measurements before you buy it to make sure it’ll fit on your pedal board
  • Not so versatile – Compared to say the RAT 2 we previously mentioned, this pedal is not as versatile in creating sharper thrash metal tones – It’s designed for dirtier, low end heavy riffing

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MXR M75 Super Badass

MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion

MXR’s Super Badass is pretty aptly named, in that it produces some really great distortion tones. This pedal can recreate early ’70s low gain overdrive, to modern scooped distortion used in heavy metal, and plenty of others in between.

The best thing after it’s tone has to be the Super Badass’s highly tweakable EQ settings. It’s distortion, bass, middle and treble controls enable the guitarist to define their sound with ease.

Additionally, the Super Badass pedal uses true bypass circuitry, so it will never drain your tone, and comes encased in a really tough metal shell, to withstand heavy use and plenty of gigs!

Due to this pedal being slightly more expensive than the previous distortion units we’ve mentioned, and due to it having five tone controls in total – The Super Badass may be more suitable for guitarists with some previous experience with tones, looking for a really durable pedal to use live.

PROS

  • Great tone – The Super Badass is nearly as diverse as distortion can get. This pedal creates blues, hard rock and metal equally well!
  • Durable – It’s solid metal casing makes this pedal pretty tough – It’ll definitely withstand going on tour and being stomped on a lot

CONS

  • Slightly more complex than some pedals – Some of the distortions we mentioned earlier only have three control settings, therefore this pedal may take some extra time for complete novices to work out
  • Hot output – This pedal is very loud compared to others, and due to the output dial being small, it can be hard to fine tune it to match up with your other gear exactly

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Wampler Sovereign

Wampler Sovereign V2 Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal

Wampler’s Sovereign distortion pedal is slightly more expensive than the pedals we’ve already mentioned however, for your buck you get a very versatile, usable pedal with a pretty decent classic rock distortion tone.

The best thing about the Sovereign is that it is built to sound great with different amplifiers – It achieves great flexibility thanks to it’s two extra tone switches, the Boost/ Gain switch and the Modern/ Vintage switch. The Boost setting gives you some extra sustain and volume, which is great for lead playing, whilst the Modern-Vintage switch allows you to adjust the brightness of your distortion. So, depending on what sort of amp you’re using, you’ll be able to adjust the pedal’s setting so that your riffs cut through and sound powerful.

Thanks to it’s small, compact design the Sovereign can fit onto any pedal board with ease and will fit into your gig bag with out taking up all the room. Because this pedal has more tone variation to get your head around, it’s best suited to more experienced players, looking for plenty of control in their classic rock sounding distortion.

PROS

  • Sounds great on different amps – Thanks to all the tone switches and dials present here, the Sovereign will allow you to achieve a great distortion tone on practically any type of amplifier
  • Portable – This pedal is nice and compact, making it easy to transport to rehearsals and live shows

CONS

  • Quiet – If you don’t have the pedal set on Boost mode, it can be slightly quiet compared to other pedals you may have in your loop
  • Not so great for extreme metal – The Sovereign produces really nice classic rock and blues distortion however, it’s not quite as intense or cutting as say the Super Badass or the Metal Zone

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TC Electronic Dark Matter

TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal Bundle 960720001

Compared to the distortion pedals we’ve reviewed so far, TC’s Dark Matter pedal offers a pretty decent amount of tone and distortion quality for a much lower price. This pedal works better when recreating extreme metal and bluesy distortion rather than darker fuzz tones.

The best thing about the Dark Matter pedal has to be it’s active treble and bass tone controls. These are really sensitive and work well at noticeably boosting these effects. There’s also a ‘Voice’ switch, which basically lets the distortion cut through your band’s mix more easily. The Voice setting works by adding some more middle and treble to the distortion tone.

Overall, thanks to it’s low price but great tone, the TC’s Dark Matter is a great option for beginners looking to explore metal and blues genres, or for those guitarists that like plenty of mids in their mix – maybe for a thrash or death metal style

PROS

  • Price – The Dark Matter pedal is one of the most affordable distortions on the market, some more expensive pedals don’t actually offer much greater tone and control for the money
  • Versatile – Excluding retro fuzz tones, this pedal can create heavy metal and blues distortion tones pretty well

CONS

  • Not great for Fuzz – This pedal’s clipping doesn’t allow it to recreate fuzz tones well, maybe go for the Big Muff Pi, if you’re really set on getting that particular distortion tone
  • Hum – The Dark Matter pedal has a slight hum when it’s on but not in use.. but this isn’t a huge issue if you’re quick at stomping it off

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Earth Quaker Devices Acapulco Gold V2

EarthQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold V2 Power Amp Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal

Earthquaker’s Acapulco Gold pedal is more expensive in comparison to most of the distortion units we’ve already mentioned, but it is pretty much king of the heavy, stoner rock sound and by far the easiest to use out of everything we’ve included so far.

This pedal is actually based on the tone produced by a distorting Model T amplifier and it’s best feature has to be it’s incredibly loud, rich growling distortion tone. It’ll most likely be hard for you to find a pedal that does fuzzy, stoner doom more convincingly! And… even better still.. is the fact that all this power is controlled by one single effects dial – nobody could be fooled by this pedal!

The single tone dial controls the level of distortion in your mix, so you can go from having a warm, crunchy blues tone to having completely dirty, dark doominess booming out from your amplifier. Because the tone dial is so large, it also allows you to fine tune the exact level of distortion you need really well!

Due to this pedal being quite specific tone wise, it’s best suited for those that aren’t too fussed about having loads of tone control to play about with, and that specifically want to play doom, sludge or stoner types of metal.

PROS

  • Unique tone – The Acapulco is specifically designed to recreate bass heavy, fuzz tones produced by bands like Sunn, that use a Model T amp distortion
  • Simple – There’s no way you can be confused by one tone control dial here!

CONS

  • Specific – This pedal simply isn’t designed for thrash or death metal, so avoid it if you’re looking for something that suits those music genres
  • Price – Make sure you really want this particular distortion tone before you buy, as the Acapulco is one of the more pricey pedals out there

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Maxon Nine Series ST-9 Pro+

Maxon Nine Series ST-9 Pro+ Super Tube Pro+ Guitar Distortion Effects Pedal

The Maxon ST-9 Pro+ is a recreation of the famous 1980’s Tube Screamer distortion pedal and includes circuitry based on the classic OD-9/OD808 technology. Tube Screamers have been used by famous guitarists such as Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains, as well as Kirk Hammett (Metallica) and Noel Gallagher (Oasis), to name a few.

The ST-9 Pro+ features the standard tone controls common to most distortion pedals, but the best addition to this unit has to be the extra midrange boost dial. This extra boost setting means you can produce a powerful, rich and cutting distortion similar to that produced by a full on stack, tube amplifier.

Another cool addition to this pedal is the ‘Low Boost’ switch, which allows the guitarist to set the ST-9 Pro+ for optimum use with single coils/ humbuckers pickups!

This pedal is pretty diverse in that it can produce a classic rock crunch, right through to thrash and death metal madness. The only gripe is that it’s not so great for fuzz or stoner rock genres, as the tone it produces is very saturated and defined.

Overall the ST-9 Pro + suits guitarists shopping on a higher budget, looking to get the hottest rock n roll or thrashy tones out there!

PROS

  • Great tone – Sounds like a real stack amp and produces amazing classic rock and heavy metal tones, just like the original 1980’s Tube Screamer
  • Low Boost – The switch setting enables this pedal to work around your guitar’s pickups, to get the best distortion tone possible

CONS

  • Eats up batteries – The ST-9 drains batteries really quickly, so you’ll need to get a power supply if you’re going to use this pedal frequently
  • Not great for Fuzz – This pedal is too saturated and bright sounding to recreate vintage fuzz and stoner doom distortion well

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Fender Pugilist Distortion

Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal

The Pugilist distortion pedal by Fender certainly has a lot of decent distortion tone to offer considering it’s mid-range price, it also looks pretty classy with it’s golden metallic finish and elegant Fender logo stamped across it’s front.

This pedal features the usual tone controls expected on a distortion pedal however, there are two lots of them! Yes that’s right, the Pugilist is unique in that it features two distortion channels and a Blend/Series switch, which allows you to combine the two together or to leave them stacked up as a series of distortion effects, for a really beefy tone.

Talking of beefy distortion, this pedal also has a bass boost switch to make your tone really rich and warm, or vice versa. This is really handy if perhaps you’re gonna be using guitars with different pickups, as it can complement their tone.

Thanks to having loads of tone control, the Pugilist is pretty diverse in the distortion it can produce. This pedal is therefore suitable for more experienced players, looking for versatility and also perhaps the option to explore tones via the blend setting. All this control may be a little too much to take in if you’re completely new to distortion pedals

PROS

  • Versatile – The Pugilist is a very good all-round distortion pedal, but sounds especially nice when used in classic rock and blues styles
  • Plenty of tone control – It’s two distortion channels can allow the owner to create a diverse array of tones, and the bass boost option helps to complement different types of guitar too

CONS

  • Jack of all trades – This pedal is pretty good at everything distortion-wise however, it doesn’t really specialise in a particular tone, like say the Big Muff or the Metal Zone
  • Large – The Pugilist is bigger than most distortion pedals, so make sure you have room for it on your pedal board before you buy it!

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Walrus Audio Iron Horse LM308 V2 Distortion Pedal

Walrus Audio Iron Horse LM308 V2 Distortion Pedal

The Iron Horse distortion by Walrus is more expensive in comparison to most of the pedals we’ve previously mentioned, but is pretty fierce in it’s tone production, thanks to it’s genuine LM308 IC circuitry based on real Op-Amp clipping.

The Iron Horse is fairly good at producing blues and classic rock tones but, really excels when it comes to stoner rock and heavy doom genres. It’s rich, dark distortion acts as more of a dirty fuzz than a cutting gain distortion you’d use for heavy metal.

All this power is easily controlled by three standard tone dials and there’s a true bypass system to ensure that this pedal won’t drain any of your tone when it’s not in use!  

Overall, this pedal suits guitarists with a bit of extra cash to spend on a dedicated fuzz type distortion. The Iron Horse’s tone is so specific, it won’t really suit genres other than stoner doom or blues.

PROS

  • Great fuzz tone – The Iron Horse produces a beastly, heavy doom distortion, perfect for stoner rock
  • Simple tone control – All this power is controlled by three easy to handle tone dials, so you won’t be left reading the instruction manual for hours trying to figure it out

CONS

  • Price – This pedal is more expensive than several of the other units we’ve mentioned, so make sure this tone is exactly what you need before you buy it
  • Not great for heavy metal – The Iron Horse is specifically designed to replicate stoner doom distortion, so it’s not going to work if you want a really saturated Metallica style guitar tone!

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Bogner Uberschall Distortion Pedal

Bogner Uberschall Overdrive OD Distortion Guitar Pedal 2 FREE 6ï¾” Patch Cables

The Uberschall by Bogner is a very high-quality distortion, but also rather expensive. This pedal is best for recreating those classic rock distortion tones, think in the style of Brian May from Queen, but is capable of diving into the extreme metal realm too!

The Uberschall features all the standard EQ settings you’d expect to find on a distortion pedal, but is unique in that it offers an adjustable gain Boost dial, with a convenient footswitch to turn this effect on or off. This means your solo can be boosted to cut through a loud band, or that you can create roaring heavy metal riffs at the click of a switch!

It’s worth mentioning that the Uberschall’s tone controls are split into separate middle, treble, bass, gain and volume options, so you can really fine tune the exact rock or metal tone you like.

Due to it’s high gain boost and fine tuneable control range, this pedal is best suited to guitarists looking create a realistic amplifier distortion used in rock n roll or extreme metal tones… but saying that you may need a few extra dollars to add to your budget

PROS

  • Realistic amplifier distortion – The Uberschall produces a distortion tone really realistic to sounds produced by a stack of amplifiers you’d hear at a classic rock stadium event
  • Versatile – This pedal’s tone controls can be used to produce bluesy, rock and metal tones, and the boost setting will let your solos rip through any mix

CONS

  • Size – The Uberschall is an extremely large pedal! It may not be able be able to fit on your pedal board or into your gig bag, so it might be worth considering this before you buy one
  • Price – This pedal is high quality, but this comes at a higher price than most distortion pedals out there!

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So, Which Should I Buy?

So hopefully after reading this article, you understand that distortion can be used to create some pretty diverse tones – from classic rock n roll, to gritty blues, to full blown heavy metal roars! With all this tonal diversity and vast array of products out there, comparing distortion pedals can be a difficult task, especially when they all sound really good!

Really, the only thing it’s going to come down to is which one can you afford, and which one suits your style of music the best? Most of these are fairly affordable, and most of them are versatile enough to handle anything that isn’t supposed to summon demons onto the stage.

So instead of deciding which is the best, the decision is up to you based on what kind of sound you’re looking to produce! I would say that it’s best to stick with one of the pedals on this list unless you prefer boutique models, but those tend to be vastly overpriced compared to what you get for the money.

Let us know which is your favourite, and why, in the comments below. You might just help someone else make their mind up!

 

Featured image: Alan Levine / image

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