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Best distortion pedals 2018 – [Buyer’s Guide]Last Updated January 1, 2020
Best distortion pedals of 2018
I want to find something that’s designed well (both for aesthetic purposes and efficiency). We’ve narrowed down our options based on the customer feedback (read positive reviews), functionality, material and size. In other words, we’ve put all fundamentals into consideration to come up with a comprehensive list that suits various needs. Based on customer reviews and my own experience with the cowboy method I’ve found the best 3 distortion pedals on the market. Not all distortion pedals are created equal though.
Test Results and Ratings
Why did this distortion pedals win the first place?
I really enjoy the design. It is compact, comfortable and reliable. And it looks amazing! I am very happy with the purchase. It is definitely worth its money. The product is top-notch! The product is very strong. Its material is stable and doesn’t crack. I also liked the delivery service that was fast and quick to react. It was delivered on the third day.
Why did this distortion pedals come in second place?
I like this product. For such a low price, I didn’t even hope it to be any better. It’s decently made. The material is pretty strong and easy to wash if needed. The design quality is top notch and the color is nice. Managers explained me all the details about the product range, price, and delivery.
Why did this distortion pedals take third place?
I liked the design. We’ve been using it for 2 months and it still looks like brand new. This price is appropriate since the product is very well built. It doesn’t squeaks nor bents. Looks great in my apartment. I hope that the good reputation of the manufacturer will guarantee a long-term work.
distortion pedals Buyer’s Guide
Pro Co RATDistortion Pedal
It’s half fuzz and half distortion, offering a really interesting mix between the two that you just won’t be able to find in any other pedal in the market. We’ve also found that the Pro Co RATdoes a great job of nailing that “kind of clean and kind of not” stage of distortion, making it a great option for those of you who wish to employ a more subtle drive.
To cover the basics, this pedal is spartan, extremely easy to dial in, and the thing is built like a tank. Seriously, it looks like it could get crushed under a car tire and survive just fine. You get knobs – Distortion, Filter, and Volume – and a footswitch. It’s hard to get more basic than that.
Think of Your Rig as a System
Even in the simplest rigs, there are a lot of considerations. Your fingers, your speaker(s), your power supply, your tubes, your cables — every piece of your gear, put together, makes up a system and every part of the equation matters.
For our purposes, you need to know, for example, that some drive pedals work better with some amplifiers than others. Guitar volume knob cleanup varies from pedal to pedal, and some pedals coax your mind and fingers to work in different ways than others. Running dirt pedals into a dirty amp is very different than running the same pedals into a clean amp. The list of variables goes on and on.
Since your gear creates a system, it’s important that every piece serves the whole. Each of us tends to have a few favorite pieces of gear, which is fine, but the danger is that we end up trying to force everything else to work within the already-set parameters of our favorites pieces and settings. The secret to stacking pedals successfully is to learn what each pedal will bring to the mix and to find ways to help the pedals complement each other.
Dial Your Gear with Your Ears — Not Your Eyes
The key to a perfect drive stack is to pay attention to your EQ. Each new drive will shape the EQ and most drives also increase compression.
Headroom, with each new pedal, will likely decrease. A setting that works well on its own might not be the best setting when stacked.
If you are stacking a given pedal often, you might find that you need to find a new setting that works well both in tandem and standalone. So mess with the knobs. Stacking dimed drives often results in tubby, indistinct tone. Start low, and then add gain — listen to how the EQ and the compression shifts. Try adding gain with only one pedal at a time and don’t be afraid to defy conventional arrangements by switching your pedal order around. You will be surprised by how much your tone is altered by each small change. With a little systematic and thoughtful experimentation, you will be able to hone in on new tonal aspects to create inspiring tones.
Guitar Effects Pedals
After you’ve been playing guitar for a while it may occur to you that many of those awesome sounds you hear in recordings by your favorite guitarists are coming from something more than their guitar and amp. Those guys are using guitar effects, in many cases pedals and stomp boxes that alter their sound and impact their tone.
It is clear that learning how to properly choose and utilize guitar effects pedals can make a big difference in your sound. However, as a beginner it may not be so clear what each effect does, or even what it is supposed to sound like.
In this article you will learn the basics of guitar effects pedals so you will be better prepared to choose the right analog stomp boxes and digital effects to complement your sound. I’m not going to spend too much time on the science of how effects boxes do what they do. But I will do my best to explain, in plain English, the basics of each effect.
I’ll also present examples of different types of pedals, where possible, from some of the best guitar effects companies in the business. The point is to give you a taste of what’s out there, and a good idea of what each kind of pedal can do for your sound.
Distortion and Overdrive
Overdrive pedals are intended to mimic the sweet sound of an overdriven tube amp. They are generally more subtle, warmer and a bit richer in sound. Overdrive pedals typically don’t produce the kind of heavy distortion needed in hard rock and heavy metal, but they are fantastic for blues, country, rock and anything else where you need warm, textured distortion. A good example of a quality overdrive pedal is the Ibanez Tube Screamer.
Distortion pedals take things a step further. They often feature multiple gain stages, and most are intended to get that thick, meaty distortion guitarists love for heavier forms of rock. Some pedals take this to the extreme.
I could generalize and say distortion pedals are harsher than overdrive pedals, but truthfully there are some good ones out there than can complement your tone in a very positive way. An example of a popular distortion pedal is the Boss DS-Distortion.
Many newbie guitarists seek out distortion effects because they don’t like the distortion sound that comes with their amp. Analog distortion and overdrive pedals can help, but it is important to realize they are not magic bullets. Even the best distortion pedal is still at the mercy of the amp you are playing through, and the same pedal will react far differently whether played through a 100-watt tube head or a 40-watt solid-state combo.
What this means is, when choosing a distortion or overdrive pedal, it is wise to spend some time doing research so you know you are getting exactly what you want.
Tremolo and Vibrato
When it comes to whammy bars the words tremolo and vibrato are used interchangeably. We’ll give that a pass because it’s standard in the guitar world, but it is important to understand that they are not at all the same effect.
The key difference is this: Tremolo describes a change or wavering in volume, where vibrato describes a change in pitch. Therefore, the whammy bar on your guitar is more accurately described as a vibrato bar, not a tremolo.
Tremolo and vibrato are in many ways the granddaddies of guitar effects. They can be heard prominently in early rock, surf rock, rockabilly, country and blues. These effects even came standard on many amps back in the day, most notably classic Fenders.
Wahs and Envelope Filters
The Dunlop Cry Baby is a classic example of a great wah pedal. This pedal adds a ton of texture and nuance to guitar solos, and can also be used to create some very funky ‘70s-ish effects. A wah is essentially a controllable frequency filter. By manipulating the pedal you can change your tone from treble to bass and anywhere in between. This control is part of what makes the wah effect so popular.
An envelope filter is similar to a wah, except the changing of the frequency is controlled via the input from your instrument rather than by a pedal. This means you can control the sound by how hard you pick, for example.
The Dunlop Cry Baby is a must-have guitar effect pedal, but the Original version is a pretty hefty hunk of gear. The new Mini Cry Baby makes toting a great wah to gigs and rehearsals easier than ever.
Compression is somewhat of a utilitarian effect, though I suppose some players see it as a key part of their sound. Essentially, compression is used to even out your sound. In recording situations this means helping instruments blend together by smoothing out the peaks and valleys inherent in the overall frequency spectrum. Louder sounds, like the crack of snare drum or a shout from a vocalist, become smoother, softer and woven into the overall mix.
So why would you want to make your guitar sound smoother and softer? You might not, but there are some smart ways to use compression for guitar and especially bass.
For example, bass guitar frequencies are on the relatively low end of the tonal spectrum. However, plucking a bass string can create a sudden, short burst of high and mid-frequency sounds. You need your bass amp to be loud enough to make those low-frequency sounds strong and audible in the mix, but you don’t want to flatten your band mates or blow out your speakers by sudden pops of high-frequency sounds.
The solution is to use compression, which many bass amps feature as an onboard effect. While the issue isn’t nearly as pronounced with guitar frequencies, you can use the effect to the same end.
Choosing Your Effects
There are a gazillion different effects pedals out there, and new ones are released every year. Legendary guitar players get their sound in part by the concoction of effects units they employ. They found their way by trial and error, and you will have to do the same.
Your first step should be to think about what you’d really like to add to your sound. If you like the clean tones you get from your amp but can do without the buzzy onboard distortion, consider adding an overdrive or distortion pedal to your rig. If you’d prefer to experiment with chorus, a phaser or a pitch shifter, start there. There are no wrong answers when it comes to effects, and the units you choose and how you decide to use them are part of the creativity of playing guitar.
Don’t feel like you have to spend a fortune either. While there are some very pricey boutique pedals on the market that get outstanding reviews, there are also affordable pedals that will do the job just fine. Consider brands like Boss, DOD and MXR for some great pedals at affordable prices. If you end up with a pedal you don’t like as much as you thought you would, you can always trade it in and get something different.
Good luck on your quest to explore the world of guitar effects pedals. As a beginner you have a lot to learn, but hopefully this article got you started off right.
Overdrive vs Distortion Pedal
One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to effects pedals, is “what is the difference between overdrive and distortion?”. In truth, they are quite similar, and the line is often blurred when people are describing the sound that they hear. Lots of guitarists themselves won’t even be able to distinguish between them in the middle of the mix, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t differences.
In addition, this becomes more complicated when some pedals are marketed as overdrive pedals, some are marketed as distortion pedals, and many even mention both. Hopefully we’ll be able to clear up some of the confusion.
It helps to first give a bit of background to these effects and where they came from, some of which we’ve actually spoken about already. Originally, distortion was seen as a bad thing. It happened when amps were given more than they could deal with (over driven), or if the amp was damaged. Eventually however, this sound became fashionable.
In order to replicate it consistently, guitarists would therefore intentionally over drive their amps to get that bite. That sound is, as you would expect, now known as overdrive, and can be achieved naturally in the same way, or it can be done artificially with a pedal, just as explained with a distortion pedal above.
Once overdrive had become popular however, guitarists wanted more. They wanted distortion. So they took overdrive methods and made them more aggressive. This was done by clipping the sine waves more aggressively using effects, and ultimately pedals. Overdrive pedals will clip softly, or smoothly. This is visualised as a narrowed wave that is still curved at the top. Distortion however will simply shear off the top of the curve into a (mostly) flat shape.
So ultimately, overdrive pedals are not as harsh as distortion pedals; aiming to replicate the natural sound, whereas distortion pedals are more artificial and aggressive. There are however many overlaps and different sounds, so hard and fast rules are few in number.
As to which is better will depend entirely on your preferred kind of music. In general, overdrive will be used by more vintage and less aggressive styles, whereas distortion is the staple of metal, and more modern music. This is by no means a rule however – there are lots of exceptions.
It’s best to start with the most obvious pedal, one you’ve probably heard of already. Distortion! The term “distortion pedal” is actually used quite a bit as an umbrella term to refer to different types of pedals.
Although it’s not really wrong to do this (they all distort the signal of the guitar) I’m going to be a little bit more specific and split the group up into types – distortion, overdrive and fuzz (these second two are discussed below).
Distortion is can be quit a heavy, obvious effect which provides a good amount of sustain & crunch to your sound. Because it heavily distorts the sound, it can sometimes hide the actual tone of the guitar.
However you can still hear the original tone of your guitar and amp in there somewhere. It just makes everything sound much more aggressive.
An overdrive pedal still distorts your sound, and gives it an extra punch, but it’s great at keeping more of the sound of your amplifier & guitar intact. So it sounds a little bit more natural.
It drives or “pushes” your amplifier more subtly than a distortion pedal so it doesn’t sound too heavy or overpowering. Yet it still gives you that beefy, thicker sound.
It’s often used in classic rock and blues but is a versatile pedal which is on the pedal board of millions of guitarists around the world.
Fuzz is the most extreme of the distortion effects and kind of sounds like it’s pushing your amplifier to breaking point. It provides a bass heavy and noisy guitar tone and means that it’s very hard to hear any of your original guitar tone.
However it’s still a very diverse pedal depending on how you use it. It can be used to create very heavy attacking sounds, or add more of a discrete buzz which isn’t too overpowering.
The different pedals are differentiated by the amount of the distortion / saturation they provide. Overdrive has the least, fuzz has the most, and distortion is somewhere in the middle.
Delay is another effect which does what it says on the tin. It delays your signal by a varying amount and then plays it back. This creates a doubling effect. The pedal will let you define how long the delay is.
The chours effect sounds like hundreds of different guitarists playing what you are, but very slightly out of time. The effect also creates a mild wobble type noise.
Overall the sound sound rich, full and thick because of the chorus effect.
It can be used effectively both as a subtle effect or a more obvious experimental effect.
Flanger is very similar to chorus, however it can provide a little bit more of an obvious effect.
It’s got more of a wooshing sound which goes up in pitch and then down again. People often say it sounds like a plane flying past.
Unlike the chorus effect it doesn’t sound like there are hundreds of guitarists copying your sound, but still can thicken your tone up.
Again the phaser pedal is similar to the flanger and chorus effects. It creates a sweeping sound by creating peaks and troughs in your guitar tone. You can alter the height of these peaks and troughs by manipulating the controls on the pedal.
The phaser also adds a similar, but not as obvious, effect to the guitar tone as the chorus. So it sounds like there are a few guitarists playing the same as you.
Tremolo sounds like your volume is being turned up and down very quickly after you play a note. However the sounds gets blended together nicely so it doesn’t sound too obvious or out of place. Essentially it proves a nice wobble sound.
The controls on the pedal control how big this volume change is, and how quickly it occurs. It’s not too far away from the phaser, flanger and chorus pedals, but still sounds unique when compared to them.
As a beginner you’re probably anxious to try out all of the different effects above and then some. A very costly endeavour to undertake, and where to start!? If you’re taking your first tentative steps into the world of guitar effects then a much more money efficient option is a multi-fx unit. These will generally contain the majority of the effects listed above, enabling you to sample each one and find out which you like the best. As a bonus, multi-fx units will often contain other useful features such as a built-in metronome and tuner. You can absolutely use one of these units in place of an amp while you learn the ropes, all you need is a pair of headphones.
Each unit features 100 effects and amp models, of which can be used simultaneously. They have a built-in drum machine (metronome) featuring almost 70 different patterns for you to practice along with at your own speed. An accurate tuner ensures you are always playing at perfect pitch. Another awesome feature is the built-in looper, which allows you to record up to 30 seconds of high quality audio. A headphone jack allows for quiet practice. Unbelievably at this price, both units also include a well-lit LCD screen for easy navigation of the menu system. An auxilliary input on the back allows you to connect a music source, to allow you to jam to your favorite songs.
Both units can be powered with 4xAA batteries. Alternatively they can be powered with a standard 9V PSU (such as this one), or USB mini cable (such as this one).
Check out this excellent overview and demo video from our friends over at GuitarWorld magazine.
Both units include 70 different high quality effects, amp and cab emulators, and the ability to chain of them together in any order. Other key features include a built-in tuner, drum machine, looper with up to 80 seconds of recording. Three large LCD displays with corresponding footswitches and knobs makes it easy to view and edit multiple effects at a glance.
Computer Based Effects
The term overdrive refers to when a tube amp is driven past its range to supply a clean tone. This is something we as guitar players have come to love and seek out. A common question is “what is the difference between overdrive, distortion, and fuzz as the terms have become interchangeable?” The short answer is not a lot, just one is more extreme as we go down the line.
The Ibanez Tube Screamer is the industry standard for overdrive pedals. Kicked into legendary status by the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan. The Tube Screamer TS80was first released in the late 70’s and now catches a small fortune on the vintage market but fortunately there are reissues and many boutique clones out there. The Tube Screamer is not the only overdrive circuit of course, there are many excellent options, it is just clearly the most famous. What makes the TS so cool is the way it interacts with an already overdriven amplifier. It can add a nice amount of gain, sustain, and tonal shaping options. They do provide a bit of a boost in the mid frequencies that many people love as it helps to cut through a band. The list of TS users is extensive but Stevie Ray is the most notable.
Many distortion pedals can also be used as overdrive pedals simply by reducing the gain, so once again we see how these terms are a little loose. In high gain amps like a Mesa rectifier the amp is taking advantage of gain staging, many pedals do this as well. Gain staging is simply putting one overdriven tone into another and cascading them to produce even more gain or distortion. So in a Mesa, one preamp tube is being run into another to bump up the level of distortion, there can be any number of gain stages. We can also do this by stacking pedals as well, as we will see in the gain staging pedal chain section. Dialing in a good distorted tone can take some time and slight EQ changes can make a big difference.
You can hear one all over Led Zeppelin’s debut record and all over Jeff Beck’s trademark “Heart Full of Soul” intro riff from the Yardbirds. He also used it extensively on the Jeff Beck Group sessions. Of course the most famous fuzz pedal is the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face. This pedal was favored by Jimi Hendrix and set the benchmark for fuzz tones that we are still chasing to this day.
As a lover of fuzz pedals myself I have both kinds and find uses for them, they sound different and excellent. Other famous fuzz users are Eric Johnson, David Gilmour, Joe Bonamassa, and Stevie Ray Vaughan to name a few. When shopping for a fuzz, try to play as many as you can next to each other, even of the same model. Due to the transistor values the same model pedal can sound and feel very different from pedal to pedal.
Digital Delay Pedal
In the late 70’s digital technology boomed and made its way into the guitar community. It first entered in the form as rack units which were expensive and relatively large. As costs came down and the technology shrank, digital delay pedals were introduced into the market by Boss in 198with the Boss DD-Since then as technology advanced, delay pedals now offer many features in a very small box such as tape echo, analog, reverse delay, modulated delay, and loopers.
The main difference between analog and digital delays is delay time and note clarity. Digital delays can produce multi second delay times whereas the Deluxe Memory Man offered a delay time of 550ms. Digital delay units also introduced the tap tempo function which is extremely useful when using delay as a rhythmic tool. There are many excellent companies producing excellent delay units, certainly a ground breaker was the Line DLwhich is still popular today. Although I love the sound of a true analog delay, the latest offerings from companies like TC Electronics and Strymon offer so many options and analog emulation options it makes it a tough sell to stick with analog delays.
Chorus pedals can provide a nice subtle doubling effect to the guitar or an extreme “watery” effect when maximized. Famous tunes that use chorus is “Come As You Are” (1991) by Nirvana, and “Brass in Pocket” (1979) by The Pretenders. But basically almost any clean guitar sound in the 80’s had some chorus on it! Certain effects are timeless such as overdrive, reverb and delay. Other effects like chorus can evoke certain time periods such as the 80’s so that is something to keep in mind when using an effect.
Chorus is a classic effect that creates an illusion of more guitars playing at the same time. It can open up a wide expanse of previously unexplored sonic territory in your music. As an effect, chorus can cover from beefing up your guitars tone to drastically changing the voice of your guitar. The most popular example of chorus effect is the opening riff of Kurt Cobain’s Come as As You Are from Nirvana.
The most classic way to alter your guitar sound is by using a distortion pedal. A distortion pedal is now almost a practical requirement for every guitarist who can play anything from pop to metal. Most of the guitar brands have a distortion pedal to their name owing its popularity among the masses. These effects are in use by guitarists since the 1960’s with the Pro Co Rat (RAT) and Tube Screamer, from Ibanez being the most sought after when it comes to classic distortion.
A looper pedal is actually a tool that helps guitarists to record a signal from their guitar and play it over and over again to create their own backing tracks on the fly. For modern guitarists it makes practising more fun by adding a new dimension and reducing their dependence on other musicians. The loopers are not new to the music scene but had taken a back seat for some time and have now returned to their past glory in recent times.
The volume pedal is the simplest pedals of all. It is basically an external volume knob that you work with your foot. They are used to provide swelling and captivating sound effects when combined with other effect pedals in the rig. A volume pedal needs to be transparent, ie, they do not introduce any of their character to the sound, should have no tone loss, better be passive, have superior build quality, have tuner output and should be adjustable. Boss FV series pedals and Ernie Ball VP are the most popular volume pedals in the market now.
The function of a delay pedal is to play back the notes that you have played. Though it looks very simple, a great and versatile delay can make every soundscape you wish to explore. The effect is used in almost every genre due to which the pedal market is flooded with delay pedals from every conceivable brand making musical instruments however, the MXR carbon copy and Boss DD models lead the pack. Also, there is a raging debate among the music community about the analog and digital delays.
A compressor pedal adds character and distinction to your sound while elevating it and rounds out your acoustic or electric guitar tones in a very subtle manner. Though it does not add a great effect to your music, you will surely miss it when it is not around. It adds an element of control to your playing level – it will bring the quieter parts up and the louder parts down. For a guitar, it can give a more consistent volume output level and increase the sustain by raising the level of decaying notes.
Wah Wah pedals
The Wah pedals are the secret weapons used by guitarists from Jimi Hendrix to Kirk Hammet to bring the extra flavour in their solos. The pedal is popular because it has found a common use in every style of play ranging from classic rock to metal. A dedicated wah pedal will provide you with the most possible variations of sound possible giving you the most enjoyment. The Dunlop orginal cry baby wah is the most widely used and popular pedal that was used to create some of the most timeless sounds in rock music.
Multi effects pedals
Often touted as the do-it-all effect, the effect can cover all tonal bases for recordings and live performances. It is an efficient way for guitar players to keep their pedal set up under control by having an entire effects pedal board in one self-contained unit. The quality of multi effects pedals has increased tremendously over the years since they were first introduced, as a result of which its usage has improved to the point that even critics are finding less and less things to complain about.
There are many more pedals such as boost pedals, fuzz pedals, Octavia pedal, tremolo pedal, flanger pedal, univibe pedal, phase shifter pedal but they are not as widely used as those listed above.
Guitar effects pedals being as popular as the guitars themselves have attracted lot of brands to make effects. Boss, Fender, Dunlop, Electro-Harmonix, Ibanez, Wampler, MXR, TC Electronic, DigiTech, Xotic Effects, Line6, Morley are some noteworthy brands in the effects pedal market.
Ibanez TSTube Screamer
The TSTube Screamer overdrive pedal from Ibanez is the most popular and most copied overdrive pedals. This is a reissue of the original Ibanez TSTube Screamer distortion pedal that is one of the most imitated classis pedals ever made. It has been used by many famous guitarists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan to create their signatures sound. It has three controls, tone, drive and level controls and is used in genres as diverse as country, blues and metal. The warm overdrive sound and tonal integrity along with portability led to the rapid rise in popularity of this pedal and made it one of the best distortion pedals ever.
TC Electronic Ditto Looper Pedal
The Ditto looper pedal from TC Electronic is an outstanding and popular looper that owes its popularity to being a simple and affordable pedal. It has a distinction of being the only looper designed by guitarists for guitarists. It offers minutes of loop time with unlimited edits. This is a true bypass mono pedal with just one control knob for volume adjustments. The Ditto’s superior sound quality can be attributed to its 24-bit uncompressed high quality audio. This exquisite guitar loop pedal also features a undo/redo functionality and analog dry-though design. Overall the Ditto is concise and basic yet highly effective and that makes it the best of the best loop pedal for guitars.
Xotic Effects SP compressor pedal
Xotic is a small California based company that manufactures guitars, bass and effects. The Xotic SP compressor is a boutique pedal that is counted among the best compressor pedals. It is built expending the same OTA (Operational transconductance amplifier) technology that is used by the Ross compressor, considered as the best ever compressor. It has a compact design and superb tone quality featuring a wide variety of compressor tones from subtle to modern to vintage and more. It has two knobs to control volume, upto +15db of boost and blend for that perfect balance between dry and compressor signal. There is a three way switch to toggle between, low, mid and high signal. It is a simple to use, great sounding and versatile boutique pedal that is a best buy for the price.
Zoom G3X Multi effects pedal
Zoom G3X is ranked as one of the best guitar multi effects pedal because besides being a multi effect pedal it is also an amplifier simulator, tuner, fully functional looper, USB audio interface and a built-in expression pedal. It provides 11great sounding guitar effects and amp / speaker models with three stompbox-styles each with its own dedicated foot switch. The G3X has three LCD screens each with its own footswitch and control knob, form a large graphical interface that makes it easy to edit effects. With the G3X, you can use up to effects and amp models simultaneously, arranged in any order.
Preset is an important feature present in most modern guitar pedals. A preset allows configuring overall sound setup. A few of them come with some good presets so you do not need to bother about creating your own. Also, you can tweak the existing presets or create an entirely new one and store them.
Distortion is usually one of the first effects guitarists add to their arsenal, as a good distortion pedal can open up tones that are time-consuming to set up or impossible to achieve on your amp. Although the terms distortion and overdrive can and are often used synonymously, it’s best to think of distortion as a more extreme effect. Distortion pedals usually offer more gain than overdrive pedals, so they’re perfect for metal and hard rock.
The Evolution Of Distortion Pedals
When you start browsing the internet to search for the best distortion pedal for tube amp, you might get overwhelmed with the huge selection of results. Because of the sheer number of assortment, selecting one or two can become confusing. Well, you don’t have a choice but to browse for reviews and look for the one that you like.
Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive
Fulltone has manufactured a lot of good products on their line, and one of their greatest creation is the Obsessive Compulsive Drive more commonly known as OCD. It comes in white with three knobs, one flip switch; red led light indicator and a compact finish.
The sound of OCD is another great distortion pedal that gives you more control over your tone. Aside from its volume and drive pedal, Fulltone had decided to add another knob to shape your tone.
The volume pedal determines how loud your mix would be, and the drive pedal gives you that distortion. The tone knob, of course, gives you the ability to dial a dark and a bright sound.Setting the drive knob to zero position gives you a clean drive which is sweet and, I think, very appropriate for blues and the likes. The subtlety of the clean drive just brings a great taste to it.
Fulltone incorporated a flip switch that lets you select from Low Peak mode (LP) and High Peak mode (HP). The LP mode gives you more accent on the high frequencies and gives you more treble which is good for blues and solos.
The bigger the pedal surface area, or platform, the better the relationship between the cleat and the pedal will be. This helps keep the pedal as comfortable during the fifth hour of a ride as it is during the first, while also providing the most efficient power transfer.
Q factor adjustment
The Q factor is the distance between the centreline of the pedals, laterally. Not all pelvic widths are the same! To produce maximum power, the knee needs to track in a vertical line as this is both most efficient and reduces the risk of knee pain. Look for cleats with good lateral adjustment or, even better, use pedals that are available with different axle lengths.
A cleat and pedal system with a zero-degree or ‘fixed’ float will lock your feet rigidly in place. However, most riders will prefer to have a little wiggle room. Measured in degrees, float is the amount that your heel can move side-to-side before disengaging from the pedal.
A good range and adjustment of rotation
Riders with biomechanical imbalances and lower-limb issues may need a more precise set-up and require more rotation. Speedplay pedals are the perfect choice for this, allowing 15° of rotation right down to zero. Time pedals also allow a large degree of float.
This not only protects your knees against potential damage, but means there’s less chance of you accidentally unclipping.
Time RXS Speed
French brand Time has a great reputation for producing some of the best pedals around for sensitive knees thanks to the available float and action of the spring mechanism.
For this round-up, we’ve included the extremely cost-effective RXS Speed – previously the headliner for Time and still sufficiently good that it remains worthy of consideration.
Using a steel axle and composite body gives a very respectable weight of 246g – an 11g lighter carbon-bodied version is an extra £40 – while a brass connection on the cleat means they’re more durable if you walk on them than many rival systems.
Being the previous generation means they’re not quite as supportive as the current crop, however.
Crank Bros Egg Beater 1
Designed to take a beating, the Egg Beaters are primarily designed for off-road use but thanks to their simple functionality, they make for a great system that we’d suggest for those starting out or crossing over from the dirt.
Any of the four contact points will allow you to clip-in, so getting in couldn’t be much easier – the release angle is from 1degrees.
The predominately steel construction makes for a tough and long-lasting pedal yet they only have a list weight of 286g.
If the Egg Beater seems a little too minimal for you then the Candy range offers the same system but with a small platform around it and starts at £74.99.
Wellgo is one of those brands you’ve probably heard of but aren’t sure in what context.
A significant manufacturer, it mostly supplies budget pedals to bike manufacturers but also makes some worthy clipless versions too.
The R09is an unashamed clone of the Look Keo. With a chromoly axle running on sealed needle roller bearings and an alloy body, it offers a great budget option for those starting out into the world of clipless, or for a winter bike that’s expected to take a beating – yet they still only weigh 326g.
Three cleat options give either nine, six or zero degrees of float; the red version (six degrees) are supplied as standard.
Shimano SPD A520
Big plastic wedges aren’t for every rider yet clipless connections make sense.
If this sounds like you then the Shimano SPD A520 are probably your thing.
Based around the small metal SPD cleat used by mountain bikers, the A520 is a distinctly road-oriented design.
At 318g and quite minimal in construction, the outer cage helps stabilise the connection between shoe and pedal, but allows the use of SPD shoes where the cleat is recessed into the sole, so does away with the horse sound effects whilst walking.
Single-sided and with adjustable tension, A520 is ideal if you expect to have to walk further than from your front door to you shed and back.
The essential six
Having 30 or 40 pedals all linked up on the floor might be fine for Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tuffnel, but for us lesser guitarists it’s just too much. Also, with around 40 pedals to choose from, newer players may find the array dizzying. To help, we’ve selected what we feel are a sensible six of BOSS’s best. Line up these six in front of you and you’ll likely have all the guitar tones and effects you’ll ever need.
Everyone needs a little distortion at some time, and the DS-is a great basic pedal. Very smooth, giving you bluesy color on the low end and radical grunge distortion at the upper end. It sustains quite well, can boost volume when needed and it works well when combined with flangers or phasers. The controls are simple and easy to use: Level, Distortion, and Tone. Overall, it delivers a well-defined distortion, not fuzzy, so the nuances of your dynamics don’t get lost, even when you have the distortion knob cranked. Another strong point, it doesn’t eat batteries. This is a basic distortion pedal and not overly extreme.
If you go for really rasty and nasty distortion, the MT-Metal Zone starts where the DS-leaves off. I’m not the only one who thinks this is a great pedal. It’s a best seller. If you play metal or extreme grunge, the Metal Zone is an essential pedal to have in your kit.
Even the nastiest metal master can get the urge to play something sweet. That’s why a chorus is a must-have effect. The BOSS Super Chorus is a really good one. Lots of top pros, who can afford any chorus unit they desire, have used this unpretentious pedal for years. It’s relatively quiet, has a practical range to its depth and speed controls, and gets a rich, sweet sound. It also has a tone control, which can be helpful.
Delay is another must-have: slapback for solos, longer delay effects, and echos-they’re things that make the music more dramatic when used right. We could have chosen the DD-3, a more basic unit but still quite effective. We chose the more sophisticated DD-because it does all the DD-can do, and adds some neat stuff the DD-can’t do. It’s easy to use for the simple stuff like slapback, but it also lets you experiment with more out-there delay effects. It has a delay range from one millisecond to 6.seconds and the stereo output gives you the potential for spatial exploration! The Analog Delay mode gives you the vintage DM-sound appreciated by old-school BOSS-ophiles.
This one was an easy choice. There are so many times when only compression will give you the sustain you need, and let you get a big, thick tone without blowing the lid off the place. The CS-is easy to use, either as a simple limiter or to give you incredible sustain without distortion. It has an attack volume control, which you can adjust if you want to get more drive and pick dynamics. Like many of the BOSS pedals, it includes a tone knob for EQ tweaking.
This was a harder choice. We could have gone for a more traditional stomp like the previous five we’ve covered so far. We wanted, however, to include at least one pedal that was deep and different. The MO-fits that description nicely. BOSS uses Roland technology called Multi-Dimensional Processing that monitors and optimizes the sound in real time. While the tech behind MDP is a little deep to get into right now, the MO-stompbox offers an impressive quality and variety of of sounds you to wring out of your guitar ahead of your amp. It adds meat to your tone by harmonically enriching your signal. The Detune knob opens up a world of modulation effects giving this stomp a lot of versatility.
Well, these are some of our picks. You might have other ideas, depending on your style of play. But feel free to disagree or modify our choices in any way you like. BOSS gives you a bunch of other pedals to choose from, and Musician’s Friend has great prices on them all.
Where to Start
From beginners to seasoned professionals, most guitar players will experiment with effects at some point in their musical journey. While learning to play your instrument well should be a top priority, messing around with effects can be a fun way to engage with your instrument and start learning its sound possibilities without a lot of hard practice. There’s a huge variety of stompboxes out there, many with very low price tags that make great gifts and can add a new dimension of fun for beginning players.
Many modern guitar amps also are equipped with multi-effects sections that encourage experimentation. There are also dozens of multi-effects pedals out there that are very affordably priced and offer a complete suite of effects. Most of these amp and effects processors feature presets created by engineers and pro guitarists to sound good at the touch of a button. Many allow you to create your own unique sounds then store them for instant recall. If you’re a typical player, you’ll adopt and abandon dozens of different effects boxes and presets over your playing career as your style and musical tastes evolve and change.
From subtle warmth to all-out crunch, the BOSS DS-serves up the precise helping of distortion you dial in.
With such a vast array of effects available, it can be hard to know where to start. One good way is to find out which effects your favorite players use. Artist interviews can be a great source of such information. Additionally, most players are happy to discuss their gear with fellow musicians. Talk to other guitar players you know, or chat up the guitarists or bassists at the local club before or after their sets.
If you’re ready to dive in, there’s a vast selection of affordable multi-effects pedals to choose from. Or if you’d prefer to try just one or two dedicated stompboxes, distortion and chorus pedals are a great place to start.
The top-selling BOSS CH-Super Chorus gets props for its clean, classic sound and stereo capabilities.
Musicians Friend also offers video and audio clips demonstrating many of the effects we sell. Just click on the Audio or Video tabs and links on product pages to get a better idea of what each effect can do and how well it will fit into your music.
EQ or equalization effects work by boosting or cutting specified frequency bands within the sound signal. From treble or high-end sounds such as the sizzling sounds of a riveted cymbal to low-end sources such as the thump of a bass drum or bass guitar, EQ effects don’t change the pitch but rather alter the timbre or quality of the sound. Depending on the application, EQ control can be quite precise or very simple.
Most guitars and basses have one or more tone knobs, which offer a simple form of EQ control. Using these tone knobs adds or cuts the treble frequencies of the instrument’s signal. Most guitar and bass amps also have some tone control available, usually in the form of a 3-band EQ section, allowing you to control bass, mid, and treble frequencies with independent knobs. These knobs boost or cut frequencies when you turn them up or down. Some amps and effects offer more precise control of equalization as we’ll see next.
Refining the Sound
For more control and fine tuning of your sound, you may want to use a parametric or graphic EQ. A parametric EQ allows you to adjust the width of the frequency band that’s being altered and the shape of the curve—how abruptly the boosted or cut area changes to the unmodified area. A graphic EQ divides the frequency ranges into a number of narrow bands which can each be boosted or lowered by sliders, thus giving you a visual or “graphic” representation of how the EQ is being affected. The more bands there are, the more precise your adjustments can be.
EQ can make a tremendous difference in the sound of your instrument. This becomes especially important when playing in a band setting. Your guitar might sound great played alone, but within the sound mix of a full band may need some tweaking. Depending on which instruments are involved, you will need to adjust EQ to help your guitar fit into the overall sound the rest of the band. Using an EQ effects processor can help you dial that sound in more easily and precisely than depending on just your guitar and amp’s EQ controls.
The Wah Pedal
One other effect that depends on EQ modulation is the wah pedal. As you rock forward on the pedal, the sound becomes more trebly. As you rock back, the treble range is muted. In the middle positions, a wah produces a nasal, midrange-heavy tone that is interesting and useful in its own right. Since you can change the wah’s tone constantly while you’re playing, it’s a very dynamic and expressive effect that can become an integral part of your playing. Jimi Hendrix was one of the first guitarists to exploit the wah’s capabilities.
There are a broad range of wah-wah pedals available, each with its own distinctive flavor.
Dunlop’s Original Cry Baby produces the wah effects you’ve heard on countless records.
A variation of the wah pedal is the auto wah. Not to be confused with a city in Canada, auto-wah effects do the same things a wah does, but without the foot treadle. Usually, you can adjust the attack time (how fast the tone shifts toward the treble) and the depth of the cycle. Some auto-wahs also let you set a constant up and down motion that’s not triggered by the note. You’ll find auto-wahs included in many multi-effects processors. One of the newer developments in this area is the Talking Pedal from Electro-Harmonix. While eliminating the moving parts of traditional wahs, it produces amazing male-vocal and vowel-sound effects that harmonize with your guitar’s notes. A fuzz circuit lets you dial in more growl and grit.
Overdrive and Distortion Effects
Originally, distortion of the guitar signal happened accidentally when tube amps were turned up too loud. While distortion was first considered undesirable, players soon came to recognize that a distorted signal increased the amount of sustain they could get out of each note. This essential discovery created a fundamental shift in guitar soloing styles to include extended notes such as those produced by a wind instrument or organ. Used on rhythm guitar parts, distortion thickens up the signal and allows for a much heavier, chunkier sound.
The Ibanez TSTube Screamer adds overdrive warmth to chilly sounding solid-state amps.
Tube amp distortion is created when tubes are overdriven by receiving more juice than they can handle, thus causing the signal break up. Tube-driven amplifiers are still in demand by seasoned players because of the warm, musical tones they create, and some distortion-type effects use actual tubes to replicate that sound. But most distortion effects are produced either through analog solid-state circuitry or digitally.
Pitch shift effects, which includes harmony and octave pedals, are a lot of fun, and add depth and flavor to a guitar player’s sound. The effect works by taking the fundamental note being played on the guitar, and adding another note either above or below the original. Simply adding more notes will often produce odd, off-key notes if you’re not careful. Most modern pitch-shifting effects use advanced technology to make sure the added notes work harmoniously with the original.
The Whammy pedal is truly one-of-a-kind. It gets its name from the slang term for a tremolo arm on a guitar, which allows a player to control the pitch of the strings while playing. In much the same way, The Whammy pedal allows a player to perform radical pitch-shifting in real time by rocking the foot treadle back and forth, sweeping between the intervals set on the pedal. This pedal is a lot of fun and allows guitarists to create the dive-bomb sounds that are associated with JImi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, and Joe Satriani.
By and large, time-based effects split the guitar output into two identical signals and momentarily hold one back while allowing the other to play in real time. The two signals are mixed back into one at the output. Usually you can control the length of the delay and the amount of the signal that is affected versus the part that stays “dry” (unaffected). This latter control—found on most effects—is usually called the level control.
Warm-sounding all-analog circuitry, cavernous delay times up to 600ms and lots of control tweakability make the MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay a big favorite with fans of old-school delay sounds.
Reverb is a more subtle form of delay that replicates the natural echo effect of various spaces, such as small, medium, or large rooms or concert halls. Many amplifiers have built-in reverb effects, but a lot of guitar players like having a separate reverb pedal for an increased range of programmable options. Some modern reverb stompboxes emulate the sound of vintage reverb devices that used reverberating springs or plates to achieve their effects. Reverb is great tool to add color to a very clean tone, but can quickly make a heavily distorted tone sound muddy.
Echo (also sometimes called long delay) is a natural effect as well, but it is only encountered in large open spaces such as canyons or stadiums. It sounds like when you emit a loud, sharp yelp and a second later you hear the yelp come bouncing faintly back to you from a far wall. This is a particularly fun effect to play around with by yourself. If you set the delay of the echo long enough, you can play against the notes you just played and harmonize with yourself while the rate sets up a kind of beat.
Echo controls usually let you determine the level, the period between playbacks, and the decay—the rate at which succeeding notes become quieter and quieter until they fade out altogether. The period (or time) parameter is often controlled by a single button you push repeatedly in time with the music. This is called tap delay and keeps your echo effect from clashing with the music’s time signature.
Advanced processing gives the BOSS TE-Tera Echo awesomely spacious echo and ambiance effects.
A looper allows you to record a musical passage or phrase then play that passage back repeatedly. You can then record more loops and layer them, one on top of the other. Most recording and playback functions are foot controlled, and once you’ve created suitable backing tracks, you can can then play over the repeated passages in real time, creating exciting one-man-band sounds never possible before. Many of the more advanced models include built-in rhythms, custom effects, inputs for vocal mics and other instruments, plus MIDI and USB capabilities so that you can use the looper as part of your digital song-creation and recording processes.
While a good looper provides phenomenal musical potential, especially for solo performance, and most are simple to use, looping can be challenging for the novice to master. Experienced musicians will have an easier time creating with them, either in realtime performance or songwriting.
With huge loop storage and location options, you can create amazing layered performances with the DigiTech JamMan Solo XT.
While most effects pedals can drastically alter your sound, there are some that add more subtle elements to your signal to create a more pleasing sound. They may not be as exciting or fun to play with, but they can be the difference between pretty good and truly great sounds. As your collection of effects grows and opportunities to play with bands increase, some of these will become important additions to your rig.
Gain is the strength of the electronic signal carrying your sound. A standalone gain booster is essentially just a preamp, and can be an effective way to overdrive the preamp section of your amp, creating easier musical-sounding breakup and increasing the amp’s power. A gain booster in a stomp box lets you instantly boost your sound level for solos without altering your fundamental tone.
Many stomp boxes for other effects also include gain controls that instantly bump up your signal when you activate the effect. Watch these controls closely and beware of stompbox gain buildup, which can hit your amp’s preamp section with more juice than it can handle resulting in unpleasant distortion.
A volume pedal does the same thing a volume knob on a guitar, but it allows you to control the volume with your foot. It is not a boost, it just allows you to sweep between zero output and the full output capacity of your instrument. Many guitarists use a volume pedal, also sometimes referred to as an expression pedal, to create pedal steel-like swells, where a note or chord is played, then the volume is slowly and smoothly raised. Volume pedals can also be used as a boost effect, by simply playing at less than full volume, then stepping on the pedal to go to full volume momentarily when you need the extra boost. Volume pedals can make a standard electric guitar sound like a pedal steel when used with a well-practiced foot technique.They can also be an important pedal to have in your toolbox when playing in a band with multiple guitars.
The minimum volume control on the Morley Volume Plus creates smooth transitions from lead to rhythm and the pedal lets you produce lush violin-like swells.
A compressor affects the dynamics of your guitar or bass signal. By making very quiet signals louder and loud signals quieter, it “compresses” the dynamic range of the signal. This can be very helpful for keeping your quieter passages from getting lost in the rest of the music, and your louder passages from drowning everything else out.
Compressor pedals add a softening effect too, by reducing the front edge of notes and amplifying their tails. This increases sustain by bumping up the signal as the note fades out. Most compressors allow you to control both the thresholds (upper and lower limits) and the knee (the speed with which the signal is raised or lowered). The big appeal for guitarists is the compressor’s ability to simulate the natural compression that tube amps generate when driven at medium to high levels. A good compressor can help thicken up the sound of your guitar and add extra punch to your performance.
The MXR M-10Dyna Comp Compresser adds percussive attack, sustain and smoothes out dynamics using a dead-simple control interface to shape its 100%-analog output.
A limiter is basically the upper end of a compressor. It allows you to control the maximum loudness of a signal by cutting it back when it crosses a preset threshold. This allows you to avoid abrupt, loud signals or damaged equipment and ears.
The Carl Martin Compressor/Limiter has the kind of sophisticated control and audio quality usually found in rack-mounted gear—all housed in a rugged stompbox format.
A noise gate is a very handy device that gets rid of hums and hisses that may become apparent when you’re plugged in but not playing your instrument. Basically a limiter in reverse, the noise gate simply cuts out sounds below a preset level. As long as you’re making music your sound is full on; but as soon as you stop playing, all the noise generated by your effects chain, vintage amp, and/or house wiring is silenced.
The BOSS NS-eliminates noise and hum without messing with your tone.
Bass Guitar Effects
As with guitarists, bass players have a vast selection of effects to choose from. They’re designed specifically to take into account bass dynamics and the challenges that face bassists in crafting a signature sound and sonically meshing with the rest of the band.
The Electro-Harmonix Crying Bass pedal produces wah and fuzz effects that go from smooth funk to rude growls.
You’ll find a full slate of dedicated bass stompbox effects as well as many multi-effects pedals and processors. Like their guitar-friendly cousins, bass effects offer most of the same tone shaping capabilities, including chorus, reverbs, delays, phasers, and tremolos. Because of the bass’s unique sound dynamics that reach deep into the lower frequencies, many bass effects are focused around compression and limiters that help keep a lid on destructive subsonic sound waves that can damage gear. Typically, many guitar effects are not optimal when used with a bass.
Recommended Signal Chain Order
The order shown below is accepted by many pro guitarists and guitar techs as the best way to get a pleasing sound out of your different effects. But this is just a starting point—signal chains are a topic of endless debate, and arriving at the right sequence may involve lots of experimentation.
Guitar wizard Steve Vai offers his solutions to perfect pedal order.
Multi-Effects Pedals and Processors
Multi-effects units are exactly what the name implies—single units that offer many different effects and allow those effects to be used singly or in combinations simultaneously. Most will offer just about all the effect types discussed in this guide and many more. Typically they include dozens if not hundreds of effects presets—combinations of effects and effect parameters designed to achieve specific sounds with the touch of button or footswitch. Most also allow you to also save your presets for instant recall.
With over 100 revered stompbox sounds, the floor-based M1from Line puts a powerful and versatile tone toolbox at your feet.
Multi-effects pedals and processors come in three basic formats: floor-based units equipped with foot-operated pedals and switches, tabletop units with knobs and switches, and rack-mounted units. Most tabletop and rack-mount units offer foot control options in addition to the knobs, switches, and menus accessible from their control panels. Pedals and footswitches are often user-assignable so that you can instantly engage various effects settings and other presets with a single toe tap.
Jam-packed with amp, cab and effects models plus over 300 effects presets, the Line POD offers near endless fodder to tweak your guitar sound.
Beyond effects, some processors offer dozens of other capabilities including recording tools, rhythm track generators, plus sound models based on vintage amps, speaker cabinets, microphones, mic preamps, and much more. Many also have MIDI and USB connectors in addition to XLR and ¼” inputs and outputs, and are designed to work seamlessly with computer and iOS-based recording software and apps.
The Rocktron Xpression rack multi-effects processor has 12killer guitar and bass effects that range from classic to cutting-edge.
With its iOS app and Bluetooth connectivity, the Zoom MS100BT Multistomp offers near limitless effects possibilities.
Often, multi-effects pedals and processors can be more cost-effective than purchasing multiple stompboxes. They also avoid the potential noise and tone-degrading impact of chaining numerous individual pedals together. That said, many guitarists prefer the way certain dedicated pedals sound or operate, and will collect many single-effect stompboxes along the way. If you are looking at purchasing multiple effect units but don’t have any favorites, purchasing a multi-effects processor can be a money-saving alternative.
Advanced multi-effects processors can involve significant learning curves. Their hundreds of sounds and functions may entail diving deep into multi-layered menus to get at what you want. The best units offer intuitive and ergonomic user interfaces that keep the most common functions easily accessible via dedicated knobs and switches. Reading user and pro reviews can help you identify which models offer the greatest ease of use.
Way Huge Green Rhino
Ibanez Tube Screamer
As we close in on our top three pedals, it should be noted that it’s come to splitting hairs between the greats to choose a winner. It almost feels like it should be higher on the list, but our number three spot goes to the Ibanez Tube Screamer, including the TSand its legendary former self, the TS80Ibanez’s one hit wonder among pedals has been giving guitarists and the bassists the warm mid-range heavy sound of a cranked tube rig all inside a tiny green box since the late ‘70s, making it the single oldest pedal on our list.
As a bass pedal, the Tube Screamer’s strength lies in its ability to provide a comfortable mellow distortion without sounding half-hearted like other bass drivers might at too low of a setting. So add a little growl, or crank the gain and go wild – with the Ibanez Tube Screamer, the choice is all yours.
The Fulltone OCD has quickly gained a widely reputable status for its phenomenal quality as a tube distortion. Handcrafted by Fulltone in California since the ‘90s, this pedal borders on boutique status among pedal aficionados. Although it’s one of the more expensive pedals on this list, the OCD is undoubtedly a bargain in the world of high quality pedals. It features a volume/tone/drive layout and a switch at the top of the casing that offers a high-mid gain boost.
Pro Co Rat
The reigning king among distortion pedals, the Pro Co Rat is an absolute weapon in the hands of any musician looking to rock hard. Its unmistakable bark has made it an easy choice for anyone looking for a true distortion pedal, with a distinct biting attack that backs off into a growling sustain. In fact, the common criticism of the Rat is that it simply supplies too much distortion to be used reasonably on a bass, but logically so, it’s argued by Rat enthusiasts that it sounds best on a bass with the distortion at a low setting (and your mids scooped).
The Rat also features a handy low-pass filter for getting rid of unpleasant high frequencies, and making your bass sit well in the mix. Even toned down, the Rat supplies the famously menacing growl a truly hard rocking band needs, as heard on records from Massachusetts hardcore legends Converge. Cooler yet, the Rat has been released in many versions over the years that each have their own characteristic distortion tones.
Classic vs Modern Gain
Depending on the style of music that you’ll be playing, you’ll have to consider how much gain you actually need. Classic distortion units will be good for subtle to crunch tones, while modern ones will have enough gain for violin like lead tones and down-tuned riffs. There are some pedals with wide gain range, but they may require experience and time to get the sound just right.
Blackstar HT-DIST Tube Distortion
There’s just no replacing the natural feel and tone of genuine tube, so it’s not surprising that the Blackstar HT-DIST is quite popular, with its cascaded ECC8(also known as 12AX7) triode stages and true high voltage (300V) circuitry.
Wampler Sovereign Distortion
Wampler is relatively new, but they’ve established themselves as one of the authorities when it comes to making quality modern high-gain pedals. Case in point is the Sovereign, which have satisfied a long list of rock and metal guitarists.
Pro Co Rat Distortion
TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion
For its price, this distortion pedal allows for impressive flexibility, while keeping the quality of both sound and build quite high. With artist users that include Andy Summers, Vernon Reid, Gary Lucas and more, this affordable pedal is highly recommended.
THE IMPORTANCE OF DYNAMICS
That is the main reason why overdrive and distortion pedals with an incorporated boost circuit triggered by a second footswitch have become quite popular over the past few years: the (normally clean) boost circuit placed before or after the OD/Distortion allows for an extra push in volume during solos or loud choruses without losing the guitar’s original tone.
Also, having the two effects embedded in one pedal allows for optimized stacking of the two gain stages, or extra creative routing pre/post options just a switch away.
PICK YOUR OD FLAVOR
Of course, every guitarist has different tastes when it comes to overdrive, but there are so many great options out there that no matter what sound you’re going for, in all likelihood you will be able to find a pedal that can come close to the sound in your head (and if you don’t, maybe you should look into building your own pedals, that’s how boutique manufacturers are born!).
How to Choose the Correct Distortion Pedal
Ordinary distortion pedals are either AC or battery powered. Battery powered pedals are not the best as far as the choice of distortion pedals is concerned. Trust me, you may think that your pedal is going to last all night long because you put a new battery in it, but actually it will not. You will need to change the battery at some point even if it is after a couple of hours. If you are going to use your pedal for several hours nonstop, choose one that has an AC adapter. With that, you will not have to fret about replacing your battery after every or hours of playing the guitar. Even though the pedal may cost you a little more, but you are going to save a lot of money in the long run, especially on battery replacement.
Some distortion pedals offer true-bypass circuitry whereas others offer buffered circuitry. While each type of circuitry has its own advantages and disadvantages, the former is preferable to the latter. It eliminates the equipment’s electronic circuit when the effect is switched off, allowing the signal produced by the guitar to pass through the pedal without affecting its tone. It is a benefit hardly seen in other types of circuitries. If someone offers you a distortion pedal with circuitry other than true-bypass, please don’t take it because you will definitely regret it.
When selecting the right distortion pedal, the first thing you should pay attention to is the design. Look for a pedal with a proper design, featuring easy-to-see and hard-to-mistakenly-step-on control knobs. You don’t want to disrupt your carefully dialed settings every time you let your guard down with your foot on the pedal. The design should be able to accommodate your weight and your foot’s natural movement.
Phrase Loopers require a bit of playing experience beyond rank beginner status. They let you record a phrase or passage of music, play it back on command, and play along with it. Using the better units, you can record more and longer passages and record layers of performance on top of them. See our Phrase Looper Pedal Buyers Guide.
Anyone with a stereos system is familiar with EQ. EQ boosts or removes certain frequencies and at extreme settings can create unusual effects, such as extra deep bass or an emphasized midrange. Tone controls are the most familiar EQ filters, but you can get very creative with an equalizer and this is where the EQ Pedal comes in. EQ Pedals can also be used to boost your signal by moving up all the faders and hitting the button, but watch out, it will be quite a boost and could damage your speakers. See our EQ Pedal Buyers Guide.
Another cheaply price pedal which comes on a high impact plastic housing and has a lot of cool features that guitarist can use in any situation. It has multi-gain circuitry to give a super-thick tube-like distortion plus endless sustain for a much bigger sound.
The UM300 has a input and output jack, a dedicated distortion switch, level knob and a nice band EQ (high, mid and low) for sound shaping to put you on the sweet spot moreover adding versatility to have an array of distortion sound to produce.
Donner Morpher Distortion Pedal
Among the many good mini distortion pedal in the market today the Dooner Morpher arguably out of is going to be included on guitarist top list of mini distortion pedal to have on a pedalboard. It has a high degree distortion sound for rock, hard rock and metal where in some guitarist opinion it is a clone of the Suhr Riot Clone Distortion Pedal for the similarities on the distortion sound it produce but for a way less price.
The pedal itself is well built using aluminium alloy for casing complimented by a ferrari red color finish. It has the usual pedal switch, LED indicator if the pedal is On/Off, gain, tone and level knob for tone control, a toggle switch for changing the pedal from normal, classic and tight for changing the outcome of the distortion sound as well. It runs only using a 9v power supply and bought separately.
To sum it all up given what this pedal can do, it is highly recommended and you can be sure that your money is well spent on a distortion pedal that you needed for your tone and pedalboard.
Nux Metal Core Distortion Pedal
The Metal Core exhibits types of metallic voice. One is for classic rock tunes and the other a fat distortion sound for metal controlled by a toggle switch that also has the Tone lock feature which freezes the setting you made on the pedal when the toggle switch is set in middle position.
There is a built-in band EQ (bass and treble) for tone shaping that goes well with the other controls namely gain, and level. An indicator LED light for the effect status On/Off. The true bypass design gives you more control over the pedal and minimizes loss of tone.
TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion Effect Pedal
As on how this distortion pedal would sound its is best describe by TC Electronics itself. Coming from them, the pedal is designed to sound like a crank tube amp as much as possible to get a wide range of drive sound from low to lots of crunch.
It feature knobs, a gain knob to control the amount of distortion, level knob lets you match the distortion sound with the clean signal and also work for boosting your amp. Independent bass and treble knob to shape the bass and treble frequency especially when your in a high gain were the sound gets muddy if too much. In the center of the knobs is where you can find the toggle switch to control the voice of the pedal from classic to modern distortion sound.
The pedal features a bypass and runs on a 9v battery or using it with a power supply. Hard metal casing in all black compliment all of this things. When they made the Dark Matter Distortion Pedal they also work on a overdrive pedal the TC Electronics Mojomojo Overdrive Pedal for combo that when chained together they compliments each other beautifully giving you a clean sound, overdriven, a distortion sound and when combined together a great lead sound.
MXR M6Prime Distortion Pedal
A distortion knob for the crunch that uses a low-noise op amps, so you don’t get any extra noise when the gain levels soars. The output knob for the effects volume and while the tone is use to shape a warm articulate voicing.
It runs on a 9v battery or using it with a power adaptor. LED light for battery check On/Off as well, Input/Output jack port, heavy duty foot switch and metal housing with a primer type color where it gets the prime for it name completes the whole pedal.
First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.
Most important, have fun and choose your distortion pedals wisely! Good luck!
So, TOP3 of distortion pedals
- №1 — Donner Morpher Distortion Pedal Solo Effect Guitar Pedal True Bypass
- №2 — Distortion Guitar Pedal
- №3 — BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal