Top 10 Best Distortion Pedals On The Market (July 2020)
When looking for the best distortion pedal on the market, it’s best to first understand what a distortion pedal is. The distortion pedal is one of the most commonly used pedal genres on the planet. They come in all shapes and sizes and each one offers something a little different to the next. The best distortion pedals are some of the most important pedals you can have on your pedal board. They are a very personal choice, in respects to which ones you choose to use.
What Is A Distortion Pedal?
A distortion pedal will color your tone and push your amp to give it a unique sound. The characteristics of which will depend on the pedal you use and the components within the pedal itself.
The best distortion pedals usually have 2 control knobs. These are ‘level’ & ‘gain’. These straight forward controls give you what you need to adapt the sound to your liking. However, the main thing to note here is that the higher the gain the dirtier your tone will become. Generating more feedback and harmonics the higher you go.
The best distortion pedals are best used on a clean tone. They can be part of an effects pedal chain but remember the cleaner the tone the better the distortion effect will be.
Choosing the cheapest distortion pedal you can find, just for the sake of having one isn’t a great strategy. Some cheap distortion pedals can sound tinny and lack the warmth and depth of other more premium pedals. We’ve done our best to avoid these tinny amateur pedals and only recommend those that have a nice sound.
Why Do I Need A Distortion Pedal?
You’ve got a guitar, an amp & a decent clean sound. The problem is your amp is missing that sweet distortion sound that will blow your audience away. You might already have a specific type of distortion but you’re missing a 70’s classic tone.
Each distortion pedal has its one unique attributes, component setup & appeal. Someone who wants a more transparent gain boost will choose a completely different pedal than someone who wants to kick in a variety of distortions to make their tone sound entirely different.
Distortion pedals can be used in a number of different ways. They can support an already overdriven channel. Or they can provide 100% of the gain into a completely clean amp. The best distortion pedals on the market can be placed anywhere in the effects pedal chain however they are popular at the start of the chain with many guitarists.
Revv Amplification G3 Overdrive & Distortion Pedal
- ✔ True Bypass Switching
- ✔ Sturdy Metal Chassis
- ✔ Features Bass, Middle, Treble, Volume & Gain Control Knobs
- ✔ Made In Canada
- Voicing based on Revv’s signature “Purple Channel” from the Generator 120 & 100P
- Clear, sustaining, amp-like tone
- Used by premier metal, rock, prog, blues, fusion, country, punk, & pop artists worldwide
- 3 band EQ, 3 aggression modes, volume, & gain
- 9v center negative tip (external power supply only)
- Easy to dial – get good tone quickly
- Blue LED for status confirmation
- Reflective purple, laser-etched, powder coated chassis
- Optimized for analog, digital, & hybrid rigs
- Over 16 revisions & 1 year of R&D
- Top-mounted jacks
The G3 is a powerful distortion pedal made by high-gain amp masters, Revv Amps. This pedal captures their signature aggressive distortion tones in an easy-to-use pedal format and the pedal comes with varying degrees of gain allowing you to go from chunky, thick rhythm tones to searing lead tones that will have you cutting through the mix.
What Revv had to say about the G3 overdrive & distortion pedal
I had been working on a transistor version of the Purple channel in my spare time for quite a while. I mentioned it to the guys one night & they said “What are you doing?! Put it in a pedal!” It sounded great right out of the gate but a lot of additional time went into making the G3 feel right under the fingers with even saturation & nice bloom & attack – not flat & sterile. Testing with different kinds of rigs – making it as versatile as possible. I’m very proud of this because even just in early testing we saw it used in studios, on fly-rig boards with cab modeling direct to front of house, in front of big high gain heads, used with little combos. So much positive feedback from touring artists, producers, & session guys – but we still went through over a 16 revisions to get it just right! So much music is being made around the world on this pedal & I can’t wait to hear even more.
-Dan Trudeau, President & Head Designer
With varying degrees of gain, the pedal allows you to go from thick and chunky rhythm tones, to searing lead tones that will have you cutting through the mix in a heartbeat. However, the aggression toggle switch is where all the magic happens. With blue and red options, this little switch gives you a gain and volume boost to varying levels of intensity.
A strong pedal to add to our list of recommendations. I might be a little pricey but you really do get what you pay for.
JHS Sweet Tea V3 Overdrive & Distortion Pedal
- ✔ Two Pedals In One
- ✔ Choose Which Direction The Circuit Flows
- ✔ A Versatile Overdrive & Distortion Pedal
- ✔ Made In The USA
- 2 Overdrive circuits from the Moonshine V2 and Angry Charlie V3
- Both circuits can be used separately or together
- Sequence switchable in signal chain
- True bypass
- JHS Moonshine Section Controls for Volume, Drive Tone and Clean
- Angry Charlie Section Controls for Volume, Drive, Bass, Mid and Treble
- Toggle switch to select the order of overdrive circuits in the signal chain
- 2-Way toggle switch to select between 2 levels of drive saturation
- Status LEDs
- Metal housing
- Dimensions (L x W x H): 110 x 125 x 50 mm
- Weight: 360 g
- Made in USA
The Sweet Tea V3 is our ‘Everything Medium-to-High gain 2-in-1’ and it covers all the bases from light breakup, blues, rock, heavy grind and more. The Sweet Tea V3 is for anyone who wants a versatile overdrive/distortion that covers all the bases you need plus more. You’ll find medium-to-high gain tones and the ability to stack for the perfect way to melt faces.
The Sweet Tea V3 features our classic order switching toggle so that you can choose which circuit is first in the chain for the perfect stacking tones you’ve been searching for. With these tones combined or used separately, the Sweet Tea V3 is a gallon-and-a-half of overdrive that goes down easy on a summer night.
On the left side is our newest version of the Angry Charlie which is the Angry Charlie V3, one of our most popular pedals of the last few years. High gain JCM 800 type ‘Brown’ sound tone that we believe is the most accurate Marshall tone ever put in a stomp box. It has volume, drive, and the full bass, mid, treble tone stack like you’d find on the amp. With the full tone stack and the amazingly accurate amp tones in this circuit you’ll be begging for more.
The right side is our brand new Moonshine V2 which is a highly unique and massively tweaked version of the most famous overdrive ever created housed in a little green enclosure. The Moonshine V2 has the classic mid-heavy tones that you’d expect but with more gain, volume, and tones available than you ever thought possible. The Moonshine V2 has the same core tone as the Moonshine Version 1 but we have added a new ‘Clean’ knob to blend in the perfect amount of clean signal with your overdrive signal.
BOSS DS-1X Special Edition Distortion Pedal
- ✔ Special Edition Pedal
- ✔ Perfect Sound Over The Entire Fretboard
- ✔ Real Time Processing Adapts To Your Playing Style
- ✔ Features True Bypass Switching
- Special edition BOSS distortion pedal with next-generation sound, feel, and tonal response
- All-new design provides a superior playing experience that’s unattainable with analog distortion pedals
- Powerful real-time processing adapts to your playing to provide ideal distortion tones in every register
- Enjoy perfect sounds over the entire fretboard, from tight, crisp tones on the low strings to fat, singing tones on the highest notes
- High-clarity distortion sound that’s never muddy or boomy, even when playing two or more notes at the same time
- Ultra-responsive to volume changes and picking dynamics
- Very low noise, even with high-gain settings
- Drive, High, and Low knobs offer a wide range of sound shaping not found in typical stompbox pedals
- Striking appearance with exclusive chrome knobs and control plate, plus vintage silver knob for battery compartment access
- Features BOSS’ innovative Multi-Dimensional Processing (MDP), realized with proprietary technology and custom DSP
The DS-1X launches the famous BOSS distortion into a modern era of expression, delivering an unmatched level of performance for guitarists with an ear for tone. This next-generation stomp combines over 35 years of innovation in pedal design with the most advanced technologies, bringing you a completely new tonal experience that’s only possible with the legendary expertise of BOSS. Prepare to be amazed—the inspiring and ultra-responsive DS-1X will change your thinking about distortion pedals forever.
The DS-1X completely redefines the distortion stomp, kicking it into a new universe of dynamic response and clarity. Powered by BOSS’ MDP technology, this amazing pedal delivers distortion that sounds perfect no matter where you play on the neck, even at the highest gain settings. You’ll enjoy tight response on the low strings and fat, singing tones on the highest notes, plus exceptional definition when playing two or more notes at a time. At every setting, the sound is never muddy or boomy, while the smooth, natural presence ensures that you always cut through without harshness or nasal overtones. With the DS-1X, your distortion tone feels and sounds “dialed in” the instant you turn it on, providing a rich, satisfying playing experience that’s both effortless and inspiring.
We love the DS-1, if you want something a little bit special, get the DS-1X while you can.
EarthQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold V2 Distortion Pedal
- ✔ Simple - Can't Get Much Simpler Than Volume & A Foot Switch
- ✔ Warning - Described As "Very Loud"
- ✔ Hand Built In Akron, Ohio, USA
- ✔ Beautiful Design
- Measures; 4.75″ x 2.50″ x. 2.25″ with knob
- Current Draw; 18mA
- Input Impedance; 50K Ohm
- Output Impedance; <10K Ohm
- Power; Standard 9V DC Power Supply w/ 2.1mm Negative Center Barrel
The Acapulco Gold is a dirt-simple distortion device modeled after the sound of a cranked vintage Model T amplifier, bringing the openness, clarity, and crunch that only a dimed tube amp can provide, at a fraction of the size, and without expensive maintenance costs! We also decided to keep the controls of the Acapulco Gold as simple as possible. The footswitch turns the pedal on and off, and the giant knob controls the output volume. That’s it. The rest is at your fingertips.
The big knob sets the output level, sometimes known as Volume. With your guitar’s volume all the way up, the Acapulco Gold roars like a wide-open Model T on the verge of explosion. At just-barely-backed-off, the Gold becomes a raunchy overdrive. At minimum guitar volume settings, the Acapulco Gold delivers a hazy, Nashville-sounding spank to your tone.
The Acapulco Gold is a dirt-simple power amp distortion device that’s based on the vibe of a cranked Sunn Model T. You know what’s awesome? Vintage Sunn Amplifiers. You know what else is awesome? Simplicity. One button, one knob. How loud would you like it? Just move the knob. This is the spirit of rock and roll. Quit turning knobs and play that guitar like you mean it.
Don’t let the single big knob fool you—a rainbow of dark and dirty fuzz-like tones with massive bass and singing sustain exist within the Acapulco Gold, and dialing in the sounds you want couldn’t be any easier. Get yours today!
BOSS Limited Edition 40th Anniversary DS-1 Distortion Pedal
- ✔ Limited Edition Black Model
- ✔ Features Tone, Level & Distortion Control Knobs
- ✔ Go To Pedal For Anyone Looking For A Classic Tone
- ✔ Made To Last Strong Metal Chassis
- Legendary distortion used by guitarists everywhere since 1978
- Classic tones for all types of music
- Hard-edged attack remains clear even at maximum distortion settings, ideal for heavy rhythms and cutting solos
- Works great as a booster at low distortion settings
- Unique tone control offers a wide range of sound shaping
- Doesn’t mask the unique sound characteristics of different guitars, pickups, and styles
- Turning down the guitar’s volume cleans up the tone without introducing muddiness
- BOSS five-year warranty
For 40 years, the Boss DS-1 has appeared on pedal boards, in studios and on records drenching songs in lush distortion. It is instantly recognisable pedal used by everyone from beginners to absolute professionals. The Boss DS-1 is still to this day relied upon by guitarists in need of a versatile pedal that can provide smooth, creamy crunch, hard edge distortion and everything in between, all with low noise. This has fuelled the signature sounds of guitar legends all over the world and is still an extremely popular pedal in the music world.
The DS-1 Distortion is a true icon in the world of guitar effects. Introduced in 1978, BOSS’s first distortion pedal defined a bold new sound, delivering hard-edged attack and smooth sustain that’s been a staple of players for generations. The DS-1 is the top-selling BOSS compact pedal ever, and its original, unchanged design continues to inspire the creation of great music everywhere. The classic DS-1 tone is behind the signature sounds of numerous rock legends, and is ready to fuel your own signature sound today.
Before the DS-1, most distortion pedals produced harsh, buzzy tones and muddy sound at high gain settings. In 1978, BOSS engineers changed all that by developing a unique distortion circuit for the DS-1 that produces tight, hard-edged gain with rich harmonics while retaining the unique characteristics of different guitars and playing techniques. Hard rock, metal, and punk styles began to flourish in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and the DS-1’s tone had a defining influence on these genres. That trend has endured through multiple generations, and players around the world continue to seek out the classic DS-1 sound.
Unlike typical tone controls that only cut highs, the DS-1’s tone circuit features an innovative design that offers far more range. Turning the knob clockwise increases highs and decreases lows, while going counter-clockwise has the opposite effect. This lets you dial in everything from tight, cutting rhythm sounds to smooth, fat lead voices. The tone control is particularly effective for maintaining low-end definition when using the DS-1 as a booster with vintage-style amps, which often sound muddy when driven with other distortion pedals.
From its modest three-knob interface, many different sound colors can be coaxed from the DS-1. Its pioneering two-stage circuit incorporates both transistor and op-amp gain stages. This approach is critical to the DS-1’s characteristic low-frequency fullness, which is loved by guitarists that play heavy music genres. The distortion knob offers an extremely wide range, from a mild boost for driving amps and pedals to full-throttle gain for monster rock riffs.
The 40th anniversary model was released in 2017 and very few are still available on the market. It’s worth a look as you might not get a second chance!
Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal
- ✔ Dual Gain Engines
- ✔ LED Backlit Knobs
- ✔ Beautiful Gold Color
- ✔ Magnetic Battery Door
- Dual gain engines
- Discrete tone controls per channel
- LED backlit knobs
- Fender Amp Jewel LED
- Magnetically latched hinged 9V battery door
- Lightweight durable anodized aluminum construction
Fiery sounding and flexible, The pugilist distortion is ready to add some heavyweight gain to your rig. This original design features dual gain engines-with independent tone controls for each-letting you select multiple variations of distortion, ensuring this pedal will play well with any rig. Series/blend switch lets you stack channels for thick, cascading distortion, while the bass boost switch fattens up your tone. The blend control mixes the two channels to get the best of both worlds, crafting a sound just for you.
- Dual gain engines-with independent tone controls for each-make it easy for you to dial in your sound. A Series/Blend switch lets you stack engines for brutal tone.
- The Pugilist Distortion’s Blend control mixes your dry and effected signals to taste, bringing out your pick attack to create complex, articulate tone with lively transients.
- The versatile per-channel tone controls not only let you shape your sound exactly, they also make it easy to use this pedal with any amp-even one with a Bright switch.
- LED-illuminated knobs show your control settings at a glance-even on dark stages.
- The exclusive, ‘patent applied for’, magnetically latched 9V battery door makes it quick and easy to swap batteries.
- Every Fender effects pedal is crafted from lightweight, durable anodized aluminum-they’ll easily withstand the rigors of touring.
Beyond its wide-ranging overdrive and distortion, every aspect of the Fender Pugilist Distortion pedal is tailored for live performers. LED-backlit knobs show you your settings at a glance, even on a dark stage. Battery changes are fast and easy thanks to the innovative battery compartment design.
So what’s the verdict? Fender’s new line of effects impresses for each pedal’s utilitarian functionality, distinct sounds, useful and innovative new features (particularly the magnetized battery compartment door) and most of all for their exceptionally affordable prices.
Dunlop FFM3 Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face Mini Distortion/Fuzz Pedal
- ✔ Features Volume & Fuzz Control Knobs
- ✔ Legendary Fuzz Face Tones
- ✔ Exact Same Circuit As The Classic Jhf1 Hendrix Fuzz Face
- ✔ Small Size - Should Fit On Even The Most Crowded Pedalboards
- Exact replica of the original circuit of JHF1 Hendrix Fuzz Face
- Legendary Fuzz Face sounds
- Pedalboard friendly dimensions
- Controls for volume and fuzz
- Bright status LED
- 6.3 mm Jack inputs and output
- Easily accessible battery compartment
- 9V battery or the optionally available AC adapter
- Made in U.S.A.
The Fuzz Face is one of the most iconic pedals of all time, and its enclosure – inspired by the base of a mic stand – has hardly changed since its introduction in 1966.
The Fuzz Face Mini pedal line features legendary Fuzz Face tones in smaller, more pedalboard-friendly housings with several modern appointments: a bright status LED, an AC power jack and a convenient battery door. As with the original models, Fuzz Face Minis feature true bypass switching.
The FFM3 Jimi Hendrix features the same circuit as the full-sized JHF1, which features matched BC108 silicon transistors, designed to cover a range of Jimi fuzz tones, and uses a modern, compact printed circuit board approach for its construction. So FFM3 Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face Mini Distortion has the same circuit as the JHF1 in smaller housing, delivering the thick, smooth Fuzz Face tone that Jimi Hendrix made famous in a pedalboard-friendly size. Sounds good to us. If Hendrix is your jam, you really need to check out this mini fuzz/distortion pedal.
Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Pedal
- ✔ Solid, Strong Build Quality
- ✔ Amazing Metal Distortion Sound
- ✔ Hugely Popular Pedal
- ✔ True Bypass
- The pedal for a proper metal sound
- Sustainer/EQ/Overdrive pedal in pedal form
- Level, EQ low/high and distortion adjustable
- Compact, highly robust construction
- Battery and mains operation possible
- Incredible-sounding distortion pedal with unique dual-gain circuitry
- Provides super-long sustain and heavy mids and lows like a stack of overdriven amps
- Three-band EQ with semi-parametric Mid control offers a wide range of extreme distortion textures
- A must-have pedal for any hard rock or metal guitarist
- BOSS 5-year warranty
One of the most popular pedals in Boss’s arsenal the Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Pedal is a must-have for any serious metal or hard rock player. With distortion resembling the guttural growl of Cerberus this pedal offers roaring distortion with massive mids and lows and ultra- saturated sound.
Metal Zone Foot Pedal The BOSS Metal Zone is another distortion pedal for guitarists who need the sound of a stack turned up to max volume. 2 Gain levels guarantee sufficient distortion and sustain until the last day; its rich bass and powerful mids can make noise like a 4×12 and the 3-band tone control, including quasi-parametric mid control, ensures plenty of flexibility. What more could the disciples of heavy metal need?
To keep up with the most severe metal playing the Boss Metal Zone MT-2 Pedal has been built to last with an aluminium die cast body and sturdy control knobs; backed by a 5-year warranty (when you register the pedal with Boss). The pedals compact design and light weight make it the perfect pedal for carrying between gigs.
MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion Pedal
- ✔ 100% Analog
- ✔ True Bypass Switching
- ✔ Features Output, Distortion, Bass, Mid & Treble Control Knobs
- ✔ Beautiful Silver Metal Finish
- Highly responsive full spectrum distortion
- Bass, Mid & Treble controls
- 100% Analog
- Status LED
- True bypass
- Sturdy metal housing
After guitarists play MXR’s new Super Badass Distortion, they’ll find it hard to think of any other words to describe this phenomenal pedal. It may be the best distortion pedal ever in the company’s long and illustrious history.
The Super Badass Distortion puts decades of 100% analog distortion at your feet. With its highly responsive Distortion control, the Super Badass covers a full spectrum, from early ’70s low gain overdrive to modern “scooped” metal distortion and every shade of dirt in between. Once you’ve dialed in your desired amount of crunch, you can use the Bass, Mid, and Treble controls to finely sculpt your sound. The Super Badass Distortion features true bypass switching and comes ready for the road with the sturdy housing and durable components that MXR is known for.
With its versatile EQ section and responsive, dynamic gain circuit, the MXR Super Badass is possibly the best distortion pedal that MXR has ever offered.
BOSS MD-2 Mega Distortion Pedal
- ✔ Dual-Stage Distortion Circuit
- ✔ Ideal For That Metal Sound
- ✔ Strong Metal Casing
- ✔ BOSS 5 Year Warranty
- Produces extreme, low-end distortion for modern metal and hard rock
- Gain Boost circuit creates huge distortion and sustain regardless of level
- New Bottom control for bottom-heavy distortion matched to 7-string guitars
- Tone control adjusts balance between high and low frequencies
- BOSS 5-year warrant
The MD-2 Mega distortion takes the bottom-heavy distortion sounds heard in today’s new-school metal and pushes it to the extreme. The secret is a special dual-stage distortion circuit with an added gain boost-plus new Bottom and Tone controls–for crushing distortion with massive low end. Take your distortion into the future with the MD-2.
The Boss MD-2 Mega Distortion Pedal takes the principles of usual distortion by clipping the inputs signal and adding inharmonic overtones to create the classic warm grit that you would expect. Building on this the Boss MD2 Mega Distortion Pedal offers a dual-stage distortion circuit; adding a Gain Boost control knob to give you extra crushing distortion and incredible sustain, similar to the way distortion was first achieved by over-driving a tube amp. The inclusion of Bottom and Tone controls make it easy to put extra emphasis on the low-end and adjust the balance between high and low frequencies. The sound that the Boss MD-2 is capable of offering makes it the perfect piece of kit for modern metal and hard rock.
This pedal is great for rock and metal and has plenty of good tones. Take a look for yourself.
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- Revv Amplification G3 Overdrive & Distortion Pedal
- JHS Sweet Tea V3 Overdrive & Distortion Pedal
- BOSS DS-1X Special Edition Distortion Pedal
- EarthQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold V2 Distortion Pedal
- BOSS Limited Edition 40th Anniversary DS-1 Distortion Pedal
- Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal
- Dunlop FFM3 Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face Mini Distortion/Fuzz Pedal
- Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Pedal
- MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion
- BOSS MD-2 Mega Distortion Pedal