Top 10 Best Distortion Pedals Under $100 (September 2020)
When looking for the best distortion pedal under $100, 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 under $100 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 under $100 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 under $100 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 Under $100?
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 under $100 can be placed anywhere in the effects pedal chain however they are popular at the start of the chain with many guitarists.
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 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.
Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal
- ✔ Features Distortion, Filter & Volume Controls
- ✔ Military-Spec Glass-Epoxy Circuit Board
- ✔ Five Year Limited Warranty
- ✔ Glow In The Dark Graphics
- Legendary distortion pedal
- Used on thousands of recordings in the last three decades
- Very versatile as a distortion for arena-rock rhythm tones and soaring leads, as a crunch channel for loud amps, or as a boost for solos, and you can still maintain your amplifier’s sound at the same time
- Controls: distortion – filter – volume
- LED: effect on
The RAT2 will be your go-to distortion pedal for every gig, whether it’s rock, blues, punk, or jazz. This is the standard that all other distortion devices are measured against. Heard on thousands of recordings, it has helped define the sound of the past three decade’s most influential bands.
The beauty of the RAT2 lies in its versatility. Used as a primary distortion, it excels at arena rock rhythm tones and soaring leads. Do you have a powerful amp with too much headroom for the gig? Let the RAT2 be your dirty channel. Maybe you already love your amp’s distortion. Use the RAT2 as a boost for solos and get the extra kick you need.
The RAT2 features the legendary RAT filter control. Turn it to the right to roll off brittle high-end frequencies. Having trouble cutting through the mix? Turn it to the left and allow the natural brightness of your instrument to shine through.
Distortion dials in the perfect amount of gain – from mild overdrive to full out fuzzy assault, and the volume control lets you dial it in just perfectly against your bypassed clean tone.
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.
Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Pi Fuzz Pedal
- ✔ True Bypass Technology
- ✔ Compact Small Sized Chassis
- ✔ Crushing Distortion
- ✔ Singing Sustain With Attitude
- Controller for volume, sustain and tone
- Dimensions (WxDxH): 70 x 115 x 57 mm
- Power supply with 9 V battery or 9 V DC power supply
The Electroharmonix Big muff is a classic overdrive pedal that has captured the hearts and minds of many a guitarist. EHX took the Big Muff Pi circuit and simply shrunk it without changing its rich, creamy, violin-like sustain and sound. The Nano Big Muff Pi works and sounds identical in every way to our classic NYC Big Muff Pi.
The Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi has to be one of the all-time iconic pedals, the nano has the same DNA and hits the mark. This perfectly captures the classic sound of the original Big Muff Pi. It has the convenient red indicator light, small size and clean sounding connections to make it even better. If you want that classic Floyd/Gilmour sound, this is the best way to get it on your pedalboard. Get a piece of the pi for yourself!
MXR M78 Custom Badass '78 Distortion Pedal
- ✔ Analog Distortion Pedal
- ✔ Sturdy Metal Chassis
- ✔ True Bypass Switching
- ✔ Made In The USA
- Analog distortion pedal for electric guitar
- Controls for output, tone and distortion
- Selector switch for crunch mode
- 2 Status LED
- Robust metal housing
- Operation with 9V battery or Dunlop ECB-003 AC adapter (optional)
- Made in the USA
The MXR Custom Badass ’78 Distortion is a factory-modded pedal that roars with huge amp stack tones and old school tube amp-like distortion.
MXR took a classic distortion circuit and hot-rodded it to the next level for over-the-top soaring leads and rich, saturated rhythms. With only three knobs, dialing in Badass tone is a cinch. The CRUNCH button allows you to choose between two different modes of diode and LED clipping, boosting the harmonic content of the distortion.
The ’78 Distortion’s wide open amp-like sound sounds great whether it’s in front of a clean amp, a slightly dirty amp, or a full on overdriven amp. Under the hood, this high performance machine features top notch circuitry and hardware meant for a lifetime of use.
If you’ve got an ear for incredible distortion tones, then the MXR Custom Badass ’78 Distortion pedal is for you!
TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion Pedal
- ✔ Feature Gain, Level, Bass and Treble Control Knobs
- ✔ True Bypass Switching
- ✔ Nice Color Scheme
- ✔ Great Pedal For 'Metal' Players
- Phenomenal distortion pedal with an extreme dynamic range gives you highly musical distortion covering a wide soundspectrum
- Vintage-voiced distortion from analog circuits offers a full sound with lively response that can be instantly adjusted to a huge range of tones
- Two-band EQ with active bass and treble knobs lets you really shape your sound
- Voicing switch allows you to toggle between extra bass for a more modern sound or filling your tone with retro vibes
- True bypass allows for optimum clarity and zero high-end loss when the pedal is off
- Four-knob interface for extensive tonal tweaking while remaining highly intuitive to let you focus on playing
Dark Matter is the kind of pedal that you wanna go play for half an hour and end up spending half a day with. It’s musical, covers a super-wide range of sounds but stays true to its base, an all analog-drive circuit that reminisces plexi sounds with both a classic and modern edge.
Hard to imagine now, but there was a time before digital. If you think about it, many of the best distortion sounds stem from that era. Why? Well, it’s the analog circuits, they sound great and got a little more to give when you really punish them – it simply sounds more real, fuller and better. That’s the sound we love: dangerous, on the edge yet thoroughly musical. The sound that begs you to play harder, louder, faster and more.
Distortion is great, but control is key. No one wants the ice-pick to the ears or a mushy bass-laden goo. Dark Matter delivers with bass and treble knobs, perfect for dialing in sounds precisely and lightning fast.
Dark Matter distortion adds extra versatility via a voicing switch that either adds bass for a more modern sound or fills your tone with retro vibes for an old school vintage throwback that oozes classic rock on steroids.
Simply put, the Dark Matter Distortion pedal aims to give you that powerful, super-musical roar of an early plexus – A sound that will satisfy even the pickiest players out there. Well worth considering if you’re looking for that ’80’s metal’ sound.
Mooer Black Secret Distortion Pedal
- ✔ Mode Switch Toggles Between Vintage & Turbo Distortion
- ✔ Vintage - Smooth, Warm Distortion Sound
- ✔ Turbo - Over Twice The Max Output Of Vintage, Monstrous Distortion
- ✔ Small Sized Metal Chassis - Easy To Fit On Your Pedalboard
- 2 Working Modes:Vintage/Turbo
- Vintage: A warm, smooth, vintage distortion sound
- Turbo: More than twice the maximum output of the vintage mode, more powerful distortion sound
- Full metal shell
- Pedalboard friendly
- True bypass
- Requires 9V DC power supply (not included)
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 93.5 x 42 x 52 mm
- Weight: 160 g
The Black Secret Distortion pedal captures the classic “Rat” tone made famous in the ’70s and ’80s. The pedal features two modes: Vintage and Turbo. Both modes are very different with vintage delivering a raspy thinner distortion that doesn’t over power your tone. The Turbo mode on the other hand really thickens up the tone giving you a beefier modern sound.
Like the other micro pedals in the Mooer family, this pedal will fit on any pedal board with ease. Its full metal casing makes it durable and road ready, and like most great effects pedals it has true bypass.
If you like the original RAT pedal then you’ll love this budget distortion pedal. It’s taken it’s inspiration from the RAT tones perfectly. Build quality is good, sound is good, price is good. What more is there to say. Give it a chance, you won’t regret it!
BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal
- ✔ Been Around For Over 40 Years
- ✔ 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.
MXR M69 Prime Distortion Pedal
- ✔ Rich Distortion
- ✔ Features Tone, Output & Distortion controls
- ✔ High Build Quality & Components
- ✔ True Bypass Switching
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- Big, powerful ’80s arena-rock tone
- Raw, punchy sustain
- Highly responsive to playing intensity
- Low-noise op amps
- 100% analog
- Input Impedance: 1 M?
- Output Impedance: 6 k?
- Nominal Input: -22 dBV
- Max Output: -10 dBV
- Signal to Noise*: 85 dB
- Distortion Range: 27 dB @ 500 Hz
- Tone Control: +/- 4 dB @ 100 Hz, +/- 5 dB @ 2 kHz
- Bypass: True Hardwire
- Current Draw: 4.0 mA
- Power Supply: 9 Volts DC
The MXR Prime Distortion conjures up vintage hard-clipping distortion. This pedal’s warm, articulate sound is easy to dial in with a classic Output, Tone, Distortion control setup. The Prime Distortion is highly responsive to the intensity of your attack, cleaning up when you pull back and packing a huge punch when you dig in. We designed this 100% analog distortion with low noise-op amps, so you won’t get any extra noise added to your signal. Like all MXR pedals, the Prime Distortion comes in a heavy-duty housing with durable jacks and switches for a lifetime on the road.
A little more range on each of the Prime Distortion’s controls could have made it a runaway success, but this is still a lot of pedal for not much cash, and could make a worthy addition to your arsenal – even if it’s not the only distortion pedal you own.
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- MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion
- Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Pedal
- Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal
- BOSS MD-2 Mega Distortion Pedal
- Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Pi Fuzz Pedal
- MXR M78 Custom Badass ’78 Distortion Pedal
- TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion Pedal
- Mooer Black Secret Distortion Pedal
- BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal
- MXR M69 Prime Distortion Pedal