You can never have too much rock ‘n roll. Using distortion pedals drastically changes (in a good way) how your solos sound. Distortion pedals are heaven-sent for musicians that want complex and rich sound with intense overtones, creating an overall killer sound.
Most of the well-known artists and legendary musicians use distortion to improve their solos. If you’re in a Metallica or Slipknot concert, best believe you’ll be seeing a distortion pedal or two.
Planning to achieve a heavy metal vibe the easiest way? Below are the 7 best distortion pedals this 2019.
7 Best Distortion Pedals Reviewed 2023
- Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal
- Boss DS-1 Distortion Bundle
- MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion
- Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Guitar Distortion Effects Pedal
- TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion Effect Pedal
- MXR M104 Distortion +
- Digitech DOD-GUNSLINGER MOSFET Distortion Pedal
With its history and iconic status, the line of RAT distortion pedals has become a standard to other models.
Possessing the classic RAT distortion tones but more revolutionary features Pro Co released a newer face to the collection–RAT2. The RAT2 displays with a convenient on/off LED, easy-access battery compartment, and carrying over true bypass switching and that signature Filter control.
Flaunting its versatility, the RAT2 covers a lot of ground from heightened overdrive to full-on intense fuzz distortion. Even though its primary use is to produce distortion, the RAT2 does a great job in producing rhythm tones, soaring leads, and sparkly clean to warm overdrives. Craft your tone like no other with the RAT2.
- Offers intense distortion
- Useful filter control
- The fuzzy sound may not be for everyone
- Problematic battery housing
Achieve a grungy mood for your tracks the smoothest way possible with the Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal. Controls like Tone, Level, and Distortion are what you’ll find on the surface of the pedal. Whatever your setting is, the pedal maintains its tight, compressed and bold voice.
Known to have a great deal of high compression, the DS-1 fills your performance with more gain and more sound. With modifications of each of the three knobs, you’ll get a range of different tones—proving that the DS-1 is perfect for all flavors of rock. Both easy to use and affordable, the DS-1 is a great pedal for beginners to start with.
- Classic distortion sounds
- Not a huge amount of output level
- Not much high gain
It features a three-band EQ which would make a very noticeable difference one you start tweaking the tone. Get your imperfect techniques sorted out with just a tweak of the EQ.
The M75 Super Badass gives some overdrive goodness to full-on hyped up distortion. It displays an easy and straightforward design with the distortion, bass, mid, and treble controls to fix your tone.
- High-quality build
- Three-band EQ
- Ranges from very gentle to very harsh distortion
- Noticeable noise due to loud signal
- Does not have the best low gain sounds
Electro-Harmonix is a household name when it comes to all things distortion and overdrives. That’s why the Nano Big Muff Distortion Effects Pedal would really handle your solos and techniques very well by giving it the extra kick it needs.
Ranging from a gentle overdrive to a very crunchy distortion, the Nano Big Muff is a force to be reckoned with.
It features three controls enclosed by a heavy duty construction. The pedal offers a lot of range and large amounts of gain. The Nano Big Muff is also loved by a number of beginners which goes to say that it’s very easy to use and has a simple layout.
- Compact size does not take up much space
- Simple controls and easy to use
- Good quality build
- Limited creative control
- Can produce a lot of background noise
Shape your technique by covering it up with mild to crunchy distortion tones using the TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion Effect Pedal. This pedal offers low compression and the smoothest tonal break-up. It was meant to belong between a strong overdrive and light distortion.
Featuring two active EQ controls, Gain, and Level knob, the Dark Matter is very easy to work with. Each tweak of the knob and control will lead you to another level of intense. Adjust to the dirt level of your liking, play with the “Voice” switch, and you’re well into crunchy modern rock territory.
- Easy battery access
- Warm distortion
- Useful parameter control
- Limited gain
- Two voice options don’t have much noticeable distinction
Giving you one of the realest distorted tones ever, the MXR M104 Distortion+ is one pedal you must not miss out. Despite it being made out of germanium, which is apparently known to be the primary material for fuzz pedals, the M104 gives a very interesting range of tones.
In fact, this even made it go from giving your solos a heavy overdrive to muzzy distortions.
It has two knobs to control the output gain and distortion levels separately. The pedal also has footswitch toggles to further tune up the tone. Wanting to add a classic retro touch and vintage sounding distortion to your techniques? The MXR M104 has got you covered.
- High-quality and rugged build
- Vintage sounding distortion
- Clean dry signal
- Not very versatile
- Nothing more than a distortion pedal
Giving you a tube-inspired distortion all from a compact little box, the DOD Gunslinger MOSFET Distortion Pedal is rich in both dynamics and harmonics.
The pedal reacts to your playing dynamics, making louder notes grittier while keeping lighter ones more intact. Thanks to the 2-band EQ, you can modify your solos and sound to your liking.
This pedalboard-friendly and compact pedal features the usual gain and level controls, but you can also adjust the lower and higher frequencies separately with two other smaller knobs. You also have the liberty to run it at 9 or 18 volts, depending on the volume you want or power supply you have.
- High-quality build
- Rich but clean
- Dynamic tone
- Nice sustain for solos
- Limited sound options
- Lower-gain tones could be better
Factors to Consider When Buying a Distortion Pedal
To achieve that pleasing crunch to your tone, you don’t just go up straight to your local store. The safest thing to do first is to know the basics in buying a distortion pedal. Below are some of the factors to consider.
There are many types of distortion according to its sound. “Distortion” usually means harmonic distortion, which is the addition of overtones to a signal caused by clipping in an electrical circuit.
It is commonly referred to as an arrangement of multiple overdrives running on different filters to produce an intense tone suitable for rock and metal.
The type of distortion you need might depend on how you use it and what type of music you’re usually playing. According to Music Radar, there are 9 common types of distortion and each vary on how they are used.
Gain-Staging and Frequency Effects
Reach your tone’s full potential by picking the best distortion which has gain-staging effects. This lets your tone have clean gain boosts up to fuzzy distorts. Distortion pedals that have gain-staging effects are guaranteed to provide harmonically complex sounds.
Aside from gains, you should also consider a pedal that has filtering effects. This includes wah-wah effects, equalizers, and pitch shifters, among others.
While gain-staging effects produce harmonic complexities to your solos, a good filter effect can neutralize it with frequency effects. Since we’re talking about distortions, things will more likely be messy. GuitarLessons states that pedals with adjustable filters or equalizers allows you to control and sculpt your tone to your liking.
Possessing the classic RAT distortion tones but more revolutionary features Pro Co released a newer face to the collection—RAT2. Boost your performances with its soaring leads and rock rhythm tones.
The Pro Co RAT2 will definitely tick all the right boxes with its versatility and outstanding features. Even though its primary use is to produce distortion, the RAT2 does a great job in producing rhythm tones, soaring leads, and sparkly clean to warm overdrives.