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Best Distortion Pedals 2024

MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion

MXR Super Badass Distortion
  • Highly responsive full spectrum distortion
  • Bass, Mid & Treble controls
  • 100% Analog

If you’re going to call a pedal Super Badass, it better provide some truly jaw-dropping tones. Thankfully, it works in this case, with enough distortion to suit most rock and metal types, as well as further adaptability thanks to a three-band EQ that can sweep from throaty overdrives to scooped and metallic delights. It’s a superb all-rounder for just about every kind of gain seeker, with amazing touch sensitivity and low noise levels and a classic silver design.

MXR is one of the most well-known brands of distortion pedals, with legends such as Randy Rhoads and Zakk Wylde using their products. They’re still one of the best distortion pedal manufacturers, and the Super Badass Distortion is proof of that. MXR’s M75 Super Badass Distortion is one of the company’s best-sounding distortion pedals. The distortion has a huge range, it’s simple to adjust, and it’s a great deal for the money.

With a 3 band EQ and a very dynamic and touch-sensitive circuit, this high gain distortion pedal can range from warm overdrive to current metal killer distortion. The Super Badass Distortion is our top pick for the best high-gain distortion pedal due to its features, adaptability, sound, and pricing. The knobs are straightforward: the OUTPUT knob regulates volume, while the DISTORTION knob handles the hard lifting. BASS, MID, and TREBLE are the three EQ knobs that let you shape your tone. True Bypass is included, and the pedal is a tough and stylish little thing with a shiny silver finish.

The MXR M75 is a savage pedal with an enormous range, as its name suggests. Its 3-band EQ is the icing on the cake. You’ll appreciate the tone-sculpting choices provided by the M75’s EQ if you want a dirt box that can do it all, or if you constantly switch pickup types and amps. MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion is the Best Distortion Pedal in 2023.

EarthQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold V2 Power Amp Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal

The Acapulco Gold EarthQuaker Devices is intriguing. That can be deduced from a single glance. The physical element of this sounding pedal, in addition to some gorgeous artwork, puts its individuality on display from the moment you first lay eyes on it. The pedal consists of a footswitch, a bright white LED indicator, some lovely black and gold artwork, and a single large honking knob. What’s strange is that it all makes sense.

The EarthQuaker Acapulco Gold is a small dirt-delivering device with a single unlabeled volume knob that sounds like a cranked-up Sunn Model T amp, and it delivers on eq controls. The darker and deliciously looser the tone becomes the higher you crank that enormous volume lever. Consider the Melvins; consider the drone/doom bands Earth and Sunn O))) for their gloomy, loose, yet massively heavy, detuned guitar sound.

The Acapulco Gold V2 was designed for guitarists and guitar players looking for a unique distortion pedal. It was intended as a power amp distortion effect to sound like a fully cranked Sun Model T amplifier with a harmonically rich tube tone by EatrhQuaker gadgets. This pedal is one-of-a-kind in terms of sound, appearance, and general feel, and was designed for folks who want to do things differently.

Keeley Electronics Filaments High Gain Distortion Effects Pedal

Keeley Filaments High Gain Distortion, Black...
  • Level and Gain set the stage for rich layers of high gain tube-amp...
  • Bass and Body give you the punch and authority of a gain monster no matter...
  • The Boost and Crunch switches give you two different levels of gain and...

Filaments by Keeley Electronics is billed as a “high-gain” pedal. To be honest, it performs admirably with high gain tones. We just think calling this a high-gain distortion pigeonholes what is a versatile drive that also sounds great at lower gain levels.

This high-gain distortion box falls into the “amp in a box” genre and was designed specifically for current metal. It has controls for Bass, Body, Treble, and Presence, as well as switches for Boost, Bright, and Crunch, giving you a lot of tonal freedom. The Filaments will fix your amp’s troubles if it has a fine clean sound but its high-gain options aren’t to your liking.

Because you have seven EQ shaping options at your disposal, adjusting the tone is quite simple. The controls are properly put out and simple to operate. There are knobs for PRESENCE, BASS, BODY, and treble frequencies, as well as toggle switches for BOOST, BRIGHT (for “more shine”), and CRUNCH adjustments (chugging rhythm versus searing solo tones).

Final thoughts, Filaments are genuine bypass and can draw power from 9 or 18 volts (sounding louder at 18). It does not, however, have the potential to run on a battery, so keep that in mind. Although it creates subtle metal tones well, calling this a high-gain drive is overly restrictive. Its tone shaping possibilities provide it a level of versatility that makes it a tempting choice for any genre. Overall, this is one of the most adaptable current drives, with a spectrum that will please anyone looking for substantial distortion.

Mesa Boogie Throttle Box Distortion Pedal

Mesa Boogie is one of the most well-known and well-respected names in guitar amplification. This high-gain distortion pedal can produce shrieking tones for metal and beyond, as well as organic and warm overdrive and distortion for blues and classic rock. The Throttle Box is a versatile and great-sounding unit in classic Mesa Boogie tradition.

The Mid-cut adjustment on the Throttle Box scoops away the midrange to give you the classic Boogie V amp sound that many guitarists utilise to create powerful guitar tones. Additionally, this unit has a signal boost option of up to 20dB, allowing you to add even more strength anytime you need it.

This pedal was designed with users of high gain distortion in mind. Its selectable low- and high-gain settings, distinct tone and mid-cut controls, and additional signal boost via the master level control, on the other hand, provide you a lot of flexibility for different styles and situations.

This tube screamer is produced in the United States in a tough housing that can withstand the rigours of live performances. It is powered by a single 9V battery or a 9V power supply that can be purchased separately (sold separately). This is an excellent alternative for professional guitarists looking for a long-lasting and adaptable distortion pedal.

Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal

Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal
  • Dual gain engines
  • Discrete tone controls per channel
  • Led backlit knobs

This option is available in the Fender Pugilist, which is a single stompbox with two distinct gain stages, each with its own Gain (duh!) and Tone knobs. With a Series/Blend (read: parallel) switch, a Blend control, a Level control, and a Bass Boost switch, you have a lot of control over your doubled dirt, ranging from subtle grit to a threatening, modern-metal punch. The Pugilist’s quick and simple battery replacement feature makes it a roadie’s greatest buddy, and the LED-backlit knobs are a godsend on dark stages.

The Pugilist’s distortion tones, functionality, and build quality left us in awe of how far Fender has progressed with effect pedals. The Pugilist boasts a well-designed gold anodized aluminium chassis with a magnetically closed 9V battery door that is spring loaded, allowing you to reach the battery without taking your foot off the pedal. The most brilliant design element, though, is that the control knobs are lighted by blue LEDs, giving the pedal an easy to read sapphire glow that can be turned off if you don’t like it. The golden Fender amp-style jewel indicator light, together with all of this attention to detail, results in a stunning minimalist pedal.

The A channel, as expected, is a milder, more rhythmic distortion, whilst the B channel provides greater saturation and sustain for leads. And, of course, combining the two allows you to dial in an infinite amount of gain. Here’s one for thrill-seekers and beginner guitarists searching for a cheap pedal, housed in an attractive brushed gold case. Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal is the Best Distortion Pedals in 2023.

Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal

Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal
  • Used as a primary distortion, it excels at arena rock rhythm tones and...
  • Nails that sweet spot where a tube amp goes from sparkly clean to warm...
  • Use the RAT 2 as a boost for solos and get the extra kick you need

The Pro Co RAT2 has always had a particular place in the hearts of guitarists. The first RAT was released in 1978, and it was an instant hit. Despite the fact that it was one of the first specialised distortion pedals, the RAT2 is still one of the best.

The RAT2’s thick chewy tone sounds very full with lots of bottom end while remaining balanced enough to allow the upper registers sing. It’s basically half fuzz and half distortion, and it’s a really cool mix of the two. Refer to Blur’s amazing Song 2, which was made with a RAT2, to understand exactly what we’re talking about.

Kurt Cobain was increasingly reliant on his Boss DS pedals, but for Nevermind’s hardest tune, Territorial Pissings, the Nirvana vocalist was looking for something more violent. To release some of their career’s highest levels of gain, he used a combination of his Pro Co Rat distortion going right into the Neve desk and his mic’d amp.

A pair of silicon diodes provide the Rat’s signature forceful clipping, resulting in an aggressive yet smooth distortion with a hint of fuzz. Over the years, players as diverse as Thom Yorke, Robert Fripp, and James Hetfield have all used the rodent to great effect.

The Proco Rat 2 was produced in 1988, and while the 1985 Whiteface RAT Reissue uses the original’s LM308 op amp to achieve the holy grail of Rat tones, the Rat 2 comes close on a budget. You might also be interested in our list of the best fuzz pedals.

KHDK Dark Blood Distortion Effects Pedal

KHDK Dark Blood KHDK's Evil Pedal, Dark Blood,...
  • Gain controls the gain of the circuit. A lower setting creates a...
  • The tone of the KHDK Dark Blood distortion effects pedal is tube-like and...
  • Its unique power is its distinctly amp-like sound

Do you want to be Kirk Hammett and ride the lightning? Then you’ll be happy to learn that the Metallica lead guitarist’s distinctive distortion pedal is a beast. It has an integrated gate that reduces noise to a minimal, as well as a Doom knob that cranks up your low-end to earthquake-inducing levels.

The flamboyant lead guitarist of Metallica knows his way around a distorted metal tone, and the Dark Blood is one of the best distortion pedals thanks to a hefty tone patterned after a high-gain American tube amp style. The gain is thick and tight, with lots of bass response thanks to the “doom” control, which intuitively modifies your low-end.

The Hi/Lo switch makes it simple to transition between rhythm and lead tones, with extra high-end and sustain for solos. A treble control can be used to adjust the gain, which covers a wide range of sounds. Most importantly, it’s reasonably priced, and the black and red finish will look great on any pedalboard. For Metallica fans, this is without a doubt the best distortion pedal.

TC Electronic Eyemaster Metal Distortion

  • Bone-crushing metal distortion Pedal
  • Highly responsive 2-knob interface
  • Roll in huge amounts of gain to take your tone over the top

Tthe Eyemaster is openly emulating the dimed Boss HM-1 Heavy Metal with equally dimed Peavey Bandit for that classic Swedish death metal sound. This pedal is indestructible and was designed and made in Denmark, but it comes with a three-year warranty just in case.

For death metal ugliness and dark, raw fuzz intensity, turn it all the way up. There’s only gain and level to fiddle with, but don’t worry, TC Electronic took care of the tone. You followed the left path, so they know why you’re here.

Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal

Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal
  • Disttion Effects Pedal f Guitar
  • Keyboard with Disttion
  • Tone Controls

The Boss DS 1 has a simple set-up: volume, tone, and distortion, plus a rubber-topped foot-pedal for on/off switching. When dimmed, the pedal is glad to give a little crunch and some extra oomph, but it maintains the integrity of your guitar tone.

The Boss DS-1 is the granddaddy of distortion pedals, with a 30-year production history and a design that has been used by Kurt Cobain and Steve Vai. On the DS-1, you’ll discover knobs for tone, volume, and distortion. The pedal maintains its tight, compressed, and strong voice no matter where you place it. Even though it’s only in the world of rock, it’s still capable of a little variety. It’s just a matter of changing the tone and distortion knobs to get Nirvana’s grunge powerchords or Steve Vai’s silky licks.

The DS-1 is also a good choice for newcomers who are just getting their feet wet in the world of pedals. It’s not just because it’s inexpensive. In terms of sound, the DS-1 is well-known – almost legendary – for its extreme compression, which masks technique flaws with higher gain, resulting in less detail but ultimately more sound. It could, for better or worse, make you feel a lot better about your tone, especially if you’re just getting started.

There’s a lot of flexibility here. The tone knob on the DS-1 can really alter your highs, which is ideal for pinch harmonics. Reduce the volume to deepen your rhythm tone or fatten single coil pickups. What’s not to appreciate about all this tone for under $50? Just because it’s cheap and predates the Sony Walkman doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.

Walrus Audio Iron Horse LM308 V2

Walrus Audio Iron Horse V2 LM308 Distortion Guitar...
  • A return to the classic distortion: thick, punchy, riffy and rowdy
  • Updated level control makes it easier to dial in unity gain
  • Updated tone control allows more Treble to be dialed in if desired

The Iron Horse V2 features a new level control and a more dynamic tone control, making it easier to dial in unity gain (when the pedal’s output level is the same as when it isn’t in the signal chain). For more nuanced low-gain tones, the distortion circuit has been adjusted as well.

The three-way toggle switch switches between clipping diodes, allowing you to switch between somewhat compressed, more compressed, and completely open distorted tones in one of the best pedals on the market.

JHS Angry Charlie V3

JHS Pedals JHS Angry Charlie V3 Distortion Guitar...
  • Convincingly and accurately breathes JCM800-like tones into any rig
  • Sports a 3-band tone stack to help nail warm yet searing tones and...
  • Go from bluesy Hendrix-like breakup to high-gain Brit tones with a twist of...

The JHS Angry Charlie began as a Marshall-in-a-box attempt, namely a JCM 800 from the 1980s. That implies you’ll receive a lot of chunky mids and a lot of gain. JHS truly made this pedal sound excellent at a light crunch setting to searing solos thanks to the wide EQ choices.

The pedal is powered by a 9V negative center battery and draws 11 mA. Volume, which is a master output control, mode switch, Drive, and a tone stack featuring Bass, Middle, and Treble are among the controls. The EQ has a wide frequency range and is flat at 12 o’clock, allowing you to decrease or boost each band relative to the others. The EQ is also quite sensitive, so even minor adjustments result in a significant sonic shift, allowing this pedal to cover a lot of ground. In fact, this distortion pedal’s EQ is one of the greatest we’ve seen. We were impressed by how JHS voiced this distortion, which made it difficult to generate a terrible sound in our testing despite the vast range.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a distortion pedal?

In contrast to soft clipping found in overdrive pedals, distortion pedals often use strong clipping. Distortion pedals have a harsher edge to their tone as a result of this. In comparison to overdrive pedals, they usually provide more gain, saturation, aggression, and sustain. There are, however, usually exceptions.

Indeed, many guitarists are still split on the distinction between distortion and overdrive pedals. Distortion pedals come in a wide range of styles. The Danelectro Roebuck, for example, has a more natural appearance. The MXR Fullbore distortion, on the other hand, changes the tone of your amp more and sounds harsh. Above all, don’t allow convention dictate which pedals you should or shouldn’t use. Allow your ears to be the final arbiter.

How to choose the best Distortion Pedal?

The first step in selecting a distortion pedal is to think about the type of music you want to play. Because distortion is such a broad phrase that encompasses everything from mild overdrive to brutally harsh tones, it’s crucial to make sure your pedal is appropriate for your playing style or preferred genre.

While all of the pedals on this list are distortion pedals, some are better suited for classic rock distortion and others for strong death metal tones. To cut a long story short, figure out how you’ll use the pedal. How much do you enjoy the sound of that specific pedal? Remember that there are other variables in your signal chain while analyzing tone. Your instrument, amp, environment, and a slew of other things can all have an impact on your tone.

When comparing pedal tones, take a breather in between testing them out and reconsider your options before committing. It’d be like tasting red wines or smelling perfumes if you lined up a dozen distortion pedals side by side and listened to them all at the same time; your senses would quickly tire and the tones would blend together. Because distortion is a muddy and compacted effect, it’s difficult to tell the difference between a metal tone with the mids scooped and a scaled down rock tone unless you’re comparing the two.

Try to find out what each pedal’s reputation is. Have there been any issues with the builds so far? Are there any probable omissions on the part of the manufacturer? Is this a genuine bypass or a buffered bypass? What about the materials and construction quality?

Consider the tone range that may be achieved with the pedal. Perhaps you require a distortion pedal that is solely for metal. Perhaps you require a single multi-purpose pedal that can handle everything from overdrive to severe gain. Perhaps the three knobs on a RAT are insufficient to shape what you require. Think about what kind of music you (and/or your band) like to play before choosing a pedal.