If you have ever listened to music, you probably know that there are different guitar effects that musicians use in their music. When you first start to play the guitar, you will most likely play the scales and the songs that you are learning without adding any effects, but as you begin to perfect your skill, you are going to want to be able to create the same effects as your favorite musicians. One of the most common pedal effects that you will find, especially in metal and heavy rock music, is distortion.
In this guide, we are going to look at several distortion pedals that you can consider, and we will also look at some questions that you may have so that you can find the best distortion pedal for your needs.
Best Distortion Pedal - Comparison Table
MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion – Best Distortion Pedal for True Bypass — $
If you are looking for a distortion pedal that is designed for optimal sound options, then the MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion Pedal is an excellent option for you to consider. You can achieve anything from a crunchy distorted effect that sounds great in rock or metal to a warm saturated effect that works well with blues.
The pedal itself can be a bit noisy, which means that your music may have a muddier sound than you are used to creating.
This is a pedal that has a true bypass button that you can easily stomp to get the sound that you are looking for on stage. This improves the clarity of the tones that you can create, and since it is 100 percent analog, you can easily create a warm sound in your music that your fans will love.
- This pedal has great EQ.
- This pedal is a great value.
- It has an amazing range.
- It creates a muddy sound at certain settings.
- It does not accommodate all metal sounds.
This is a versatile pedal that is great for creating distortion, so if you play a variety of music, this will cover all of the bases.
Caline Red Devil Guitar Effects Pedal Heavy Metal Distortion True Bypass CP-30 – Best Distortion Pedal for a Beginner — $
If you are looking for a distortion pedal that is going to look great on your pedalboard, then this bright Red Devil is a great option for you, especially if you have a heavy metal band. The five-knob design on the pedal makes it easy to control the tone to create music that ranges from heavy metal to classic rock.
The sound that this pedal creates can be faint, especially if you have a long chain of pedals connected to your guitar. It will work for playing at home, but the distortion may be too low on stage.
The small footprint of this pedal is ideal for a smaller stage, and even though it has a compact design, it is durable and able to produce anything from an overdrive effect to high gain.
- The tones are not too harsh.
- It has a small, lightweight design.
- Multiple stylish designs are available.
- The LEDs are rather bright.
- This pedal does not have a micro SD slot.
This is a great compact distortion pedal that will work well for a beginner. It is easy to use, and it has a true bypass to help you get the sounds that you want.
THANK YOU Distortion and Sustain Effect Pedal by Deadbeat Sound – Best Distortion Pedal for an Adjustable Tone — $
The next distortion pedal that we are going to review, which was manufactured by Deadbeat Sound, is a pedal that is designed to sustain and distort your tones. There are three knobs that you can use to create a unique tone as well as a true bypass switch.
The size of this pedal makes it difficult to use with some pedalboards, especially if you have limited space on stage.
If you are looking for clear highs, this pedal can give you the effects that you want without a lot of extra feedback. It can also give you a gritty fuzz effect with ease, so if you need to adjust your tone while on stage, you can do so easily with this model.
- It is easy to adjust your tone using this pedal.
- You can create a wide range of sounds with this unit.
- This pedal does not fit well in all pedalboards.
Whether you are looking for distortion with fuzz from the 70s or something a bit more modern, this is a pedal that can create the sound you want. In fact, it is so versatile that you can easily change the volume or the tone on stage between sets.
MXR EVH5150 Overdrive – Best Distortion Pedal for Overdriven Tones — $$
The MXR EVH5150 is a pedal that was designed to help create the sounds of Eddie Van Halen, but it is also a versatile option that can create a wide range of tones using the bass, mid, and treble knobs found on the pedal.
If you are not looking to crank up the volume, you are not going to get the tones that you are looking for using this pedal.
The boost switch that is located on this pedal is designed to pump up the gain, which will make your music sound warm and rich instead of just louder. In fact, when you use this switch, the volume that you are playing at will remain the same.
- This is a very responsive pedal.
- It sounds great with modern rock.
- The gate feature is great for versatility.
- The boost button does not seem to have much effect.
- This pedal has a higher price point.
This is a pedal that is very versatile, so even if you are looking to recreate the sound of Eddie Van Halen, you will have a wide variety of options to choose from. If you are looking to create overdrive, this pedal will rock your socks off.
Donner Morpher Distortion Pedal Solo Effect Guitar Pedal True Bypass – Best Distortion Pedal for Crunchy Solos — $
This pedal is designed to focus on mid-range tones mostly, so if you are looking to add distortion to your mids, this compact pedal may be an ideal option to consider, especially if you want to do solos in this range.
The power adaptor is not included with this pedal, so you will need to purchase one separately to keep it charged. In addition, batteries cannot be used, so this purchase is mandatory.
You can customize the sounds that you get from this pedal quite a bit, and if you want your performance to match, the LED lights can change to let you know which mode you are using.
- It has a very solid construction.
- This pedal is easy to adjust on stage.
- It is a very compact pedal that will easily fit in your pedalboard.
- You need a nine-volt battery adapter to use the pedal.
- It does not have a lot of options for bass and treble sounds.
Whether you are a new guitarist or a professional, you will find that the sounds that you can get from this pedal are great. It offers classic distortion, but you can also get so much more with three little buttons on this pedal. It is also a compact model that is ideal when you have limited space.
MXR M133 Micro Amp – Best Distortion Pedal for Gain — $
The MXR M133 Micro Amp is a small pedal that is designed to add gain to your sound with ease. It only has one knob to control and a true bypass switch as well. The pedal does need a nine-volt battery to function properly.
This is not a very versatile pedal, so if you are looking to create more than a bit of a gain effect, you may not be looking at the right pedal for your needs.
This pedal is designed to amplify the sounds that your instrument naturally creates, so it can have a dirty sound because you push the distortion or the overdrive effect, or it can have a clean sound that magnifies the highs and the lows as you play them. It even sounds great on a bass guitar.
- The compact size of this pedal is convenient for on-stage performances.
- It can create a tremendous clean boost effect.
- This is not a very versatile pedal.
This is a pedal that is great for amplifying tones that already exist. You may not be able to color tones as much as you’d like with this pedal, but it can bring out some amazing tones without a lot of adjustments. This makes it a great pedal to consider if you want to add gain to your solos.
Donner Multi Guitar Effect Pedal – Best Distortion Pedal for Multiple Effects — $
This Donner effects pedal is an excellent option for any guitarist who is looking for multiple effects on the same pedal. This one includes distortion, delay, and chorus, so you will be able to change your sound during your set without any issue.
This pedal does not come with a power source, so when you are ready to use the pedal, you will need to make sure that you have one ready to use.
Each of the modes on this pedal is designed with three knobs that you can use to easily adjust the tone of your music. There is a true bypass on each one as well as a LED light to let you know which mode is currently activated.
- This is a very versatile pedal.
- It has a solid construction and a wide range of tones to select from.
- The delay is not as considerable as it could be, and the distortion is a little muddy.
The distortion that you get from this pedalboard is a bit harsh, but if you are looking for an option that will cover a few different effects, then this model is a solid option that is easy to take with you on the road.
Rockett Audio Designs Tour Series The Dude Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal – Best Distortion Pedal for a Classic Rock Sound — $$
The final distortion pedal that we are going to review is from the J. Rockett Audio Designs Tour Series. It can create anything from a clean, classic sound to a sound with high gain and a bit of fuzz. There are four knobs that you can use in combination with the true bypass switch, which is located on the pedal.
The effects are difficult to hear when the volume is below a certain level. This will not affect your sound when you are at a gig, but it will most likely affect your practice sessions.
This is a very versatile pedal that can give you a muddy overdrive, a clean sounding boost, or anything in between. It enhances the sound of your music without overdoing it.
- This pedal has a very solid construction.
- This pedal produces great highs and lows.
- The pedal does not have the loudest effects.
If you are looking for a pedal effect that will enhance your highs and your lows, then this is a great option. It has a solid construction, and it is very easy to switch between tones any time that you need.
What is a Distortion Pedal?
Do you know that fuzz sound that you hear in music? Well, that is distortion. Many guitarists like to add a bit of crunchiness to their sound in certain genres of music. This allows you to turn a clean sound into something that is more colorful and unique to your specific music. In effect, a distortion pedal blends the notes so that they are more difficult to hear alone in the music, which adds character to the song that makes it more memorable with your fans.
Is Digital or Analog Best?
Both of these types of pedals are used by musicians in multiple genres, and both can work for you. The main difference between the two is the way that the distortion effect is achieved. This can change the overall tone of the music that you are creating, so it is crucial that you know which type of distortion pedal works best for your sound.
If you prefer a warmer sound, then you are going to like an analog effect better, but if you are looking for a brighter sound that has a bit of bite, then a digital pedal is going to be the best option for you.
What is the Difference Between a Distortion Pedal and a Multi-Effects Pedal?
Well, simply put, a distortion pedal is only going to give you a distorted effect, while a multi-effect pedal will have more than a few effects that you can choose from when you are performing. One is not going to be better than the other; it is merely a matter of what you need for your setup.
When you have a pedal, you can connect it to other pedals that you need for your music as well, so you are not limiting your options. One of the main benefits that using a pedal gives you is that when you want to purchase a higher-end pedal, you can easily swap it out and plug in the new one. You can make your pedalboard as complex or as simple as you want. On the other hand, having multiple pedals on stage with you can take up a lot of space.
Multi-effect pedals are easy to set up, and they have presets that you can use when you are just learning to use a pedal, but they also have major disadvantages that you will need to consider. One of the biggest reasons that you may not want to consider a multi-effects pedal is that the effects are all connected, so if something goes wrong, you will not have any effects to use. This may not be a big issue when you are jamming at home, but when you are in the middle of a gig, and you don’t have another pedal, you are playing clean music for the rest of your songs. If you have separate pedals, then you can at least still have the majority of the effects. In fact, you may even be able to pull a bit of distortion from your amp.
In addition, if your distortion is a bit harsher than you intended, you will not be able to lower it as easily as you would with a single pedal. Have you ever heard the term “jack of all trades, but master of none?” Well, it’s true here; a single pedal is designed to create a wide range of distorted effects, and while a multi-effects pedal can create distortion, it will not be as varied.
Are There Different Levels of Distortion?
Yes, there are different levels of distortion that you can introduce into your music with a pedal, so you will need to find the level of distortion that works for your music and make sure that the pedal that you select reaches that range. Some of the more common types of distortion include:
- Saturation – This what many think of when they hear the word distortion. It is when the signal that is being sent from the guitar to the amp overloads the circuit, which clips the sound waves that you hear.
- Fuzz – Fuzz is what you hear when the sound waves clip. This is the sound that a low-grade speaker may create, but it is also an intentional sound created by great musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Jethro Tull.
- Tube Distortion – This is a warm sound with a bit of a crunch that is more common in rock music. This form of distortion can also be heard in blues music.
- Tape Distortion – This type of distortion is more of a warm flat sound. A great song that features this type of sound is “Go Now!” by the Moody Blues.
How do You Connect a Distortion Pedal to an Amp?
Connecting a distortion pedal to an amp is fairly simple. Before you connect anything, make sure that the amp is completely turned off so that nothing gets damaged as you connect the components. The guitar is going to connect to the input jack on the pedal, and the output jack on the pedal is going to connect to the input jack on your amp. Once everything is properly connected, turn on the amp and start jamming.
Can a Distortion Pedal be Used with a Bass Guitar?
Yes, you can connect any instrument that can be connected to an amp to a pedal, but the question that you are going to need to ask yourself is whether or not you want a distortion effect on the bass. It could be an excellent sound for some songs that you may enjoy playing, but it is not going to sound great with all basslines, especially if it is a heavy bass sound that enhances the song. Too much distortion on your bass is going to make your music sound muddy, so you will have to decide whether this is a sound that you want for your band or not.
What are the Best Distortion Pedal Brands?
There are quite a few brands that stand out in the music industry when it comes to pedal effects, but remember that the brand is not going to be the determining factor of which pedal is best for your set up. Before you make a purchase, there are a few worth considering:
As you can see, there are quite a few options that you can consider to add a bit of distortion to your guitar, but the option that gives you the best value is a distortion pedal. In this guide, we have reviewed eight different pedals that may fit your needs, but if we were to select one that stands out above the rest, it would be the MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion. It is highly responsive as a pedal, and it can distort a full range of lows, mids, and highs, which means that it will work well with most of the music that you will play.
- Best Distortion Pedal - Comparison Table
- MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion – Best Distortion Pedal for True Bypass — $
- Caline Red Devil Guitar Effects Pedal Heavy Metal Distortion True Bypass CP-30 – Best Distortion Pedal for a Beginner — $
- THANK YOU Distortion and Sustain Effect Pedal by Deadbeat Sound – Best Distortion Pedal for an Adjustable Tone — $
- MXR EVH5150 Overdrive – Best Distortion Pedal for Overdriven Tones — $$
- Donner Morpher Distortion Pedal Solo Effect Guitar Pedal True Bypass – Best Distortion Pedal for Crunchy Solos — $
- MXR M133 Micro Amp – Best Distortion Pedal for Gain — $
- Donner Multi Guitar Effect Pedal – Best Distortion Pedal for Multiple Effects — $
- Rockett Audio Designs Tour Series The Dude Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal – Best Distortion Pedal for a Classic Rock Sound — $$
- Buyer’s Guide
- What is a Distortion Pedal?
- Is Digital or Analog Best?
- What is the Difference Between a Distortion Pedal and a Multi-Effects Pedal?
- Are There Different Levels of Distortion?
- How do You Connect a Distortion Pedal to an Amp?
- Can a Distortion Pedal be Used with a Bass Guitar?
- What are the Best Distortion Pedal Brands?
- Final Thoughts