Best Distortion Pedals: Top 14 Picks + Amazing Reviews!

Best Distortion Pedals


Arguably a very powerful pedal on any rock guitar player’s effects board is the great distortion pedal. Not all distortion pedals are equal after all, which is why we’ve reviewed the very best distortion pedal for you to select from. Learn and rock on.

So why is a distortion pedal an important addition to your pedalboard? Distortion is probably the most generally used effect on guitars, for the easy purpose that it grabs attention.

There’s a time and place for clear, understated guitar playing, however, once you want to actually have interaction with the crowd and emphasize a riff, nothing achieves this better than a distortion pedal.

And when distortion pedals are mixed with different commonly used effects similar to wah, reverb, or delay, the outcomes may be mind-blowing.

Distortion pedals are available in a wide range of packages with contrasting capabilities. This list covers all bases so you’ll be able to determine the right choice to provide your required tones. You’ll be cutting through the mix very quickly.

We just want to let you know that we’ll list these best distortion pedal reviews in no particular order. They’ll be randomized as we don’t wish to sort them from best to worst.

Listed below are our Top 14 Best Distortion Pedals for 2023:

1. Earthquaker Devices Acapulco Gold v2

In the case of distortion pedals, they don’t come less complicated than the Acapulco Gold by stompbox trailblazers and EarthQuaker Devices. This gilded pedal is designed to provide the sound of a Marshall-style amplifier being pushed to breaking level – the sound of rock n roll.

This pedal suits the bill for those who like this considerably particular maxed-out tube amp sound. No question, that is pure pushed amp rock and roll distortion. The bottom end is simply too massive and unruly for metalheads, and the dimed amp sound is one thing that may be a specialized sound since adjusting the Acapulco Gold is restricted by your guitar’s knobs.

That limits the Acapulco Golds’ versatility in comparison with a few of the different distortions right here, however, for those who just like the sound of this product, this can be a very attainable approach to get an incredible tone.

The one big knob controls the pedal’s output volume, leaving the tone-shaping up to you and your guitar. To attain bluesy breakup, merely turn the volume down on your guitar, and to soften faces turn it up to the max.

Whereas this might not be the most versatile pedal when in comparison with the likes of the Wampler Sovereign Distortion with its switches and mid control, there’s one thing to be stated a few simple pedal that nails the sound it is going for.

Earthquaker Devices Acapulco Gold v2

  • Power Amp Style Distortion Pedal
  • Based on the power amp distortion of the Sunn Amp Vintage Model T
  • 1 unlabeled output volume control
  • Bypass footswitch

2. JHS Morning Glory V4

One of JHS’ best creations, the Morning Glory V4 takes distortion and overdrive to new heights. In comparison with the earlier model, this pedal is able to produce two times extra headroom. The tone produced by the V4 is crisp and hot.

Due to its utterly clear drive, it provides a grainy crunch to your guitar without boosting the midrange frequencies as is the case with many stompbox distortions and overdrive pedals. Don’t be fooled by the simplistic 3-knob design of this pedal, the variation you possibly can create by adjusting the volume, drive, and tone controls are fairly extensive.

There are additionally built-in gain controls that can be utilized to shortly change your tone. When activated, it provides extra crunch and bite to your output. That is notably helpful in the event you’re playing a show and really feel that your guitar isn’t projecting properly enough. You may merely flick on the boost switch and all of a sudden you will have extra power at your disposal.

Along with the three controls, there’s a real bypass footswitch and a blue LED on/off light. You additionally get two outputs which make it possible to make use of this pedal as a signal splitter, so you possibly can send your clear sign to one amp whereas the FX channel is performed out of another.

At $200 it’s on the expensive side, however, you won’t be upset with the array of warm distorted tones and overdriven tones that this pedal can provide.

JHS Morning Glory V4

  • Controls for volume, drive, tone and gain switch
  • Based on the power amp distortion of the Sunn Amp Vintage Model T
  • True bypass
  • Very transparent tone

3. Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal

In addition to its dual gain engines (A and B), the Pugilist also boasts a mix knob for a mix of each – which makes it one of the crucial versatile distortions on the pedal market. Particularly contemplating that each engine has its personal adjustable gain and tone controls, it could possibly operate nearly like three totally different channels at once.

The distortion tones, features, and construct high quality of the Pugilist had us in disbelief of how far Fender has come with effect pedals. The Pugilist has a well-designed gold anodized aluminum chassis and encompasses a magnetically latched 9V battery door that’s spring-loaded so you’ll be able to reach the battery without even taking the pedal off your board.

The cleverest design characteristic is the management knobs are illuminated with blue LEDs, giving the pedal an easy-to-read sapphire glow, which might be switched off if it is not your thing. All this consideration to element and the golden Fender amp-style jewel indicator light mix to make a stunning minimalist pedal.

As you’d anticipate, the A channel is a milder, extra rhythmic sort of distortion, whereas B brings extra saturation and sustain for leads. And, in fact, operating each together gives no end to the amount of gain you’ll be able to dial in.

Housed in a sublime brushed gold casing, right here’s one for the thrill-seekers, and beginner guitarists in search of an affordable pedal. Do not forget to take a look at our best electric guitars for beginners too.

Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal - Best Distortion Pedals

  • Controls: Tone A, Drive A, Tone B, Drive B, Blend (A / B), Output Level
  • Blend / Series toggle
  • Bass Boost Toggle (On / Off)
  • Bypass footswitch

4. Wampler Dracarys

Enjoy highly effective sound shaping with the onboard 3-band EQ, whereas a gain switches arms you with two versatile kinds of distortion. For those who’re a fan of Wampler’s Triple Wreck distortion pedal but wish it had an extra trendy voice, you will love the up-to-date high-gain sound of the Dracarys.

One thing that actually stood out after we ran the Dracarys through its paces was its versatility. Wampler not only provided the Dracarys with a Triple Wreck-style three-band EQ to sculpt your tone but additionally included a gain switch that gives two various kinds of distortion.

Set the switch to the Open position, and revel in an aggressive tone with minimal compression. Flip it to the Tight position, and experience a robust sound with pure tube-like compression. We additionally discovered that the Tight position reveals a superb lower-gain tone.

Insert a Wampler guitar effects pedal in your signal chain, and you may immediately be impressed by its superb tone. Their handbuilt pedals are of top-notch high quality and are acknowledged by guitarists in all places. From the aggressive crunch of the Leviathan Fuzz to the plush reverb of the Faux Spring Reverb, it is easy to find the right ingredient for your tonal recipe.

With Wampler’s Signature Pedal Collection, you may also obtain the tones of Wampler artists such as Brent Mason and Brad Paisley. For those who’re searching for that particular effect out of your guitar pedalboard, take a look at Wampler pedals.

Wampler Dracarys

  • Perfect for modern metal sounds
  • Two distortion modes for maximum versatility
  • Controls: Gain, Volume, Bass, Mid & Treble
  • Switch: Open / Tight

5. TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion

This compact stompbox will change the way in which you understand music and distortion specifically and take you to an exquisite world of artistry. The options of TC Electronic Dark Matter will convince you with each word we are saying.

This tiny pedal will match each pedalboard, irrespective of how crowded it’s. And as soon as it finds its area, it’s going to make sure that you won’t ever need to take it out of there. It’s outfitted with an all-analog circuitry that brings back the texture of the good old days.

The management part features Gain as its first encoder. This little fella modifies the quantity of gain added to your sound. It emits tight distortion at lower settings however opens up at increased settings to accommodate your leads. Next, we have Level, which sets the quantity of the output and retains every little thing even. On the bottom row, you’ll encounter a two-band equalizer with Bass and Treble knobs.

The former lets you create either punchy or tight low-end by messing around with bass response, whereas the latter lets you both cut through the mix or stay comfortable and subtle by altering the high-end spectrum.

Between these controls, you will note a two-way toggle. In the up position, you might be exposed to classic sounds, whereas the lower position accentuates the bass much more and creates that modern touch.

TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion

  • Control: Gain, level, bass, treble
  • 2 Different voice settings
  • Power supply: 9 V DC power supply or 9 V battery
  • True Bypass

6. BOSS DS-1

Merely put, the BOSS DS-1 distortion pedal is a modern classic. For the better part of 30 years, you’ve got heard this orange box put via its paces on numerous top rock recordings – from Kurt Cobain’s “Nevermind”-era grunge to the famed distorted tones of Steve Vai. From the first distortion pedal Boss ever created, they didn’t disappoint!

The DS-1 is reasonably priced, it is unimaginable sounding, and it is a rock pedalboard staple – the right first distortion stompbox and one which could be your last. Whether or not you pair it together with your guitar’s single-coil or humbucking pickups, count on rich, dynamic-laden tone with the BOSS DS-1.

Because of the DS-1’s introduction in 1978, guitarists all over the place have been snatching it up, placing it in their signal chain, and utilizing it to attain their signature distorted rock tones. It is nice for all flavors of rock – everything from experimental to indie to trendy to heavier grunge-infused genres. That versatility, mixed with its nice worth, makes the DS-1 the right choice for a primary versatile distortion pedal – it is a strong investment towards confirmed tone.

The BOSS DS-1 options three knobs that may take it in quite a few totally different tonal directions. There is a tone knob, a level knob, and a distortion knob. By cranking every up or down, you possibly can pull out a spread of various tones – from delicate bite to wealthy crunch to all-out fuzz.

The midrange on the DS-1 is scooped, which supplies it a definite tonal taste, which many players favor. Need a sonic reference? Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – all that recognizable guitar tone came from this pedal.


  • Faithfully reproduces all the subtle nuances of the dynamics at any volume
  • Controls: Level, Distortion & Tone
  • Connections: Input and output
  • Current consumption: 4 mA

7. Keeley Filaments

Keeley pedals are world-renowned for their sound and construct high quality. Nonetheless, the one tone that remained elusive from their lineup was a high-gain amp-like distortion — till now. The Filaments distortion pedal fills that area of interest fantastically.

A full complement of EQ controls ensures you are capable of dialing the pedal no matter what amplifier you are utilizing. And due to the care Robert Keeley places into designing every one of his pedals, the Filaments react and really feel like including a high-gain channel to your favorite clear tube amp.

Even when you’re working on a 10-inch speaker, the bass and body controls give you the low-end bass response you want. Working through a 4×12 already? Simply dial back the Body management to maintain the sound tight and targeted.

The Boost and Crunch switches provide you with two completely different ranges of gain and compression to get an edge that is excellent for your tone. The Presence control works with the Bright control to provide any guitar or pickup mixture the authority to face up and shout. And lastly, the Treble control provides you with that added variety of highs to make your amp sing.

Keeley is well-known for its high-end tone and sturdiness. The eye to element in stompbox tone, tube amp constructing expertise, and “tough as nails” construct high quality ensures this new Filaments pedal will dominate the high-gain pedalboard. Isn’t it time you had a high gain tones pedal that provides you with all the pieces you want for the road?

Keeley Filaments

  • High Gain overdrive / distortion
  • Emulates the sound of high-gain tube amplifiers
  • Level, Presence, Gain, Bass Body and Treble controls
  • Boost toggle switch for more gain

8. MXR M75 Super Badass ’75

In terms of normal design sensibility, MXR stompboxes haven’t been modified a lot for the reason that the first one rolled off the line in 1972. That’s in all probability got a lot to do with the truth that MXR’s signature carapace is, for many players, a supercross of sturdy armor and compact footprint.

Super Badass controls are, for essentially the most part, standard fare for a distortion, however, the extremely tweakable EQ is a wonderful addition and does a lot to distinguish the M75 from the distortion hordes. The separate bass, mid, and treble knobs are highly effective and allow control over a really extensive frequency spectrum.

The Super Badass and its EQ all however obliterate this hurdle, and whereas the pedal was named with heavy distortion consumers in thoughts, there’s an overdriven tone for almost every style hiding inside.

Crank the distortion level too much, nonetheless, and things get oversaturated – it is nice for molten leads, but not a lot for complicated chords. On the opposite side of the coin, the low-gain settings are very usable – sure, the Super Badass won’t knock the Tube Screamer off your ‘board, but it surely additionally highlights this distortion pedal’s versatility.

Add in partiality to every single coil and humbuckers, plus true bypass and strong construct high quality, and MXR now has a Best Buy Badass on its palms.

MXR M75 Super Badass ’75

  • Controls: output distortion, bass, mid, treble
  • Status LED
  • Sturdy metal housing
  • True bypass

9. Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion

The MT-2 has a brilliant high gain distortion pedal, which makes for one of the extreme sounding pedals on the market. And that is where the polarization begins. Many customers complain that this gain is simply too extreme; virtually uncontrollable. Certainly, simply notching up the Distortion dial a fraction makes this pedal roar. It really seems like this can be a pedal that goes to 11.

That is what each metal-shredding guitarist needs though: Gain and even more gain. The MT-2 is proof that you could undoubtedly have too much of a thing, although. It takes a good amount of tweaking to tame the gain beast, which if overdone, feels like your amplifier is playing through a layer of mud.

A typical tip amongst Boss Metal Zone enthusiasts is to not overdo the gain knob. As a common rule, hold it between the 9 and 12 o’clock position. Something over that and issues can swiftly get loopy. However, when you dial it in to that magic spot, it unleashes a sound that even Metallica can be envious of.

The actual benefit of this pedal is its capability to customize the EQ over 4 totally different spectrums. Each EQ control knob is the signature Boss twin function control. The left side management knob controls the usual excessive and low frequencies, a standard function on most overdrive and distortion pedals.

Nonetheless, what actually makes the MT-2 shine is the right-side controls. The middle and center freq controls take the sound choices to the next stage. It could take a little bit of time and experimentation to actually hone in on the sound you’re pleased with, but when you get the hang of it, the choices are countless.

Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion

  • Specially developed for hard rock and heavy metal
  • 3-Band EQ with parametric mid control
  • Controls: Level, high, low, middle, middle freq, dist
  • Extremely low-noise

10. Pro Co RAT 2

There aren’t many grime boxes that may match the RAT for flexibility, its hard-clipping distortion has been a pedalboard staple for 4 decades and counting. The Pro Co RAT 2 is the fashionable iteration of this basic pedal.

Whether or not you employ it to sizzling rod your British high-gain head, send your on-the-brink American-style combo into sweet overdrive, or inject your clean high-headroom amp with heavy-duty, fuzz-like grunge, the RAT 2 yields the filthy, harmonic and wealthy saturation that has graced a thousand influential songs.

This distortion pedal boasts the identical 3-knob format as its classic counterparts, together with a rugged on/off footswitch, a classy “A” status LED, and eye-grabbing glow-in-the-dark graphics. Rock, blues, punk, jazz, and extra, there is a purpose that the RAT is among the most coveted distortion pedals on the market.

The RAT 2 contains the identical intuitive top-panel controls as its forerunners: Distortion, Filter, and Volume. You employ the Distortion knob to dial within the whole amount of saturation. At its minimal setting, this management acts as a fuel-injected dirty boost; at most, it delivers harmonic-laden fuzz tones.

The Filter knob provides you with numerous sonic flexibility. Turn the management counterclockwise for mix-piercing tones with a lot of clarity; twist it clockwise to roll off your highs for a warm, cranked amp-like tone. The Volume knob adjusts your whole output level. You may run the RAT 2 at unity gain for a little bit of added grit or crank it to punish the front end of your amp.

Pro Co RAT 2

  • Legendary distortion pedal
  • Used on thousands of recordings in the last three decades
  • Controls: distortion – filter – volume
  • Footswitch: effects bypass

11. TC Electronic Grand Magus

Overflowing with natural amp-like distortion tones, pure tube compression, and a decent but wealthy tonal character, Grand Magus Distortion is the sound of Rock N Roll. Now put all of that in a compact steel enclosure with true bypass, and served to you at a value that’ll make your endorphin-levels shoot through the roof, and you bought a shiny one-way ticket to rock heaven!

No pedal embodies rock aggression and revelry just like the TC Electronic Grand Magus. The Grand Magus distortion pedal was created to bridge the gaps between conventional overdrive, distortion, and fuzz stomps.

Run its gain past noon right into a barely dirty amp, and you have the punch, energy, and raw ferocity to raise common chord progressions to rock ‘n’ roll nirvana. Roll back the gain, and you have a pleasant TS-style front end to gussy up blues leads and toughen up metal rhythms.

The Tone management runs from throaty and articulate to blisteringly crisp, nearly like a treble booster. Plus, in relation to constructing high quality, the TC Electronic Grand Magus is built for battle. It is steel housing and true bypass switching assists maximize your tone on each side of its brawny sustain.

The Grand Magus might be powered from a typical 9-volt internal battery in addition to your favorite customary 9v power supply. Whether or not you play rock, doom, or psychedelia, the TC Grand Magus pedal packs the authority and flexibility to earn an everlasting spot on your board.

TC Electronic Grand Magus

  • Organic tube-like distortion
  • Tight bottom-end and natural tube sag
  • Rich midst with smooth and creamy highs
  • “Built-like-a-tank” metal chassis

12. Fulltone OCD

The Fulltone OCD provides you with an identical sound that you’d get by driving a tube amplifier into warm distortion. It gives a full sound, wealthy in harmonics, that responds effectively to your touch and playing dynamics. You get the definition without harshness. Whether or not you’d like some clean saturation or wild distortion, the Fulltone OCD covers what you want.

Moreover, the Fulltone OCD has two modes known as Low-Peak and High-Peak. LP is a clear overdrive that doubles as a clear increase, whereas HP is an extra excessive effect that colors your tone, making it just like the traditional British amp sound.

You’ll be able to switch between true bypass and the signature Enhanced Bypass with an inside switch. Whereas true bypass maintains signal integrity, there are downsides like signal loss in the pedal chain, and a loud noise whenever you toggle the effect. Some producers use buffered bypass to counter this, however, that additionally squashes the dynamic vary and cheapens the sound.

As for tone shaping controls, you get the traditional trio of dials. The tone knob enables you to filter out harsh overtones to taste, and the Drive knob sets the level of distortion. The volume, well you know what this does. The HP-LP switch in between them toggles between the 2 sound profiles, and the diode next to it’s a power light.

All in all, the Fulltone OCD is an amazing pedal with great specs. Everything about it’s high-quality, with the potential exception of the graphic design on the tough-as-nails chassis. There are many other distortion pedals on the list, but each one is unique to itself – Fulltone is no exception.

Fulltone OCD

  • Very dynamic
  • Reacts strongly to the volume control of the guitar
  • Controls: Volume, Tone, Drive
  • Foot switch: On / Off

13. Walrus Audio Iron Horse V2

You might have noticed that the in/out jack sockets at the moment are up top instead of on the sides, which is nice news for pedalboard crammers; however, the massive distinction is over there on the left, where there was a three-way toggle switch for choosing totally different clipping modes.

The other three controls are self-explanatory, however, we should always in all probability point out that tone is a typical ‘turn it up for extra treble’ job reasonably than the reverse-wired filter you’ll discover on most Rats.

The familiar sound is definitely there, with a gain vary that goes from discreetly crunchy to searingly saturated, however, this pedal has a smoother midrange than lots of the type, with a touch less presence and likewise much less flattening of the guitar’s pure low-end bloom.

Slam it over to the silicon side and this horse actually breaks right into a gallop: now the mids are virtually scooped out, the additional saturation and compression taking the pedal dangerously near all-out fuzz territory.

There’s only one drawback: the LED clipping is a lot bigger and louder than the silicon and it completely dominates the mix control. Many of the significant mixings of the 2 sounds occur in a small window between 8 and 10 o’clock, and you must regulate the amount to compensate for each twist. You might nicely conclude that a three-way toggle switch – sure, a bit just like the one on the Iron Horse V2 – would have made extra sense.

Walrus Audio Iron Horse V2

  • High Gain Distortion
  • 2 Continuously mixable clipping styles: Silicon / LED
  • Very dynamic response
  • Controls: Level, Tone, Distortion, SI/LED Blend

14. KHDK Dark Blood Distortion

KHDK has Kirk’s blessings all over their pedals, and the Dark Blood distortion is the corporate’s most aggressive launch yet. The pedal combines solid-state and MOSFET tech and features a treble booster right within the front end of the circuit.

KHDK proclaims the Dark Blood to be a distortion that’s tube-like in nature, and after some experimentation, we discovered that it is greater than lived up to its claims of being a strong alternative to the distorted channel of your amp (or as a second channel in your single-channel amp).

The pedal is straightforward enough to navigate and dial in a snarling distorted tone with its easy 4 essential management knob format, however, the Dark Blood additionally includes an onboard noise gate for taming a few of the background hiss that turns into a problem as soon as the gain is cranked.

Contemplating the large quantity of gain on tap, this gate proves to be extraordinarily helpful. The Dark Blood additionally includes a HI/LO switch that gives two steps of gain with the LO setting meant for rhythm playing, and the HI setting providing extra saturation, sustain, and compression.

With the insane quantity of gain obtainable and it is built-in noise gate, it’s an amazing pedal to add to any metal guitarist’s arsenal.

KHDK Dark Blood Distortion

  • Kirk Hammett Signature Series
  • MOS-FET technology
  • On / Off switch
  • Input and output: 6.3 mm jack

Why do You Need a Distortion Pedal?

You Play Metal or Rock

It’s best to start out off by saying, that for those who’re playing metal or rock, then a distortion pedal will probably be very helpful. When you get a top-quality distortion pedal, then it should allow you to get the genuine tone attribute of this style. It may be a lot simpler than attempting to mess about with your amp to get the proper setting.

You Want Multiple Tones in One Performance

When you’re switching from a clear tone in a verse to a heavier distorted tone within the chorus, or solo and so forth, then having a pedal will probably be an enormous help. The top-of-the-line thing about pedals is that they permit you to change your tone super easily and shortly inside a song without messing along with your amp. That is fairly important for those who’re performing live.

You Want a Heavier Tone

Even for those who don’t play metal or hard rock, then you should still profit from the heavier distorted tone that a pedal will present. It may be useful in several genres of music and completely different kinds of playing. For instance, for those who wish to play covers of melodies in songs, then having this effect will permit you to cut through the opposite instruments. That is also actually useful for those who’re playing lead guitar.

You’ve Bought the Wrong Amp

Lastly, for those who’ve not acquired the proper amp to create a distorted sound, then getting a distortion pedal is loads cheaper than buying a completely new amp to get the proper tone. You may not have the right amp if you would like a really distorted and heavy tone, and also you’ve purchased an all-rounder type amp. Or for those who’ve got a reasonably low-cost amp and don’t want to upgrade to a costlier one yet.


The usual distortion sound cannot come with the simple turn-up on the guitar’s volume knob. You will most definitively need to get a particular pedal, no matter if it is an overdrive pedal, fuzz pedal, or the regular modern distortion pedal. Many pedals might also feature a bass boost switch or treble switch, but you will need to pick one that is to your requirements.

We listed what we thought are the most used distortion pedals and we cannot advocate the perfect distortion pedal, since there are various uses for various players. Many distortion pedals will give you the classic distortion sound, no matter if you are after a digital or analog signal path user.

Based on what we already wrote on various guitar pedals, we are coming to the conclusion that pedals are an important part of every electric guitar player. No matter if you are after a light distortion or heavy metal distortion sounds, many pedal manufacturers have that in the mind – creating multiple pedals for each purpose.

Most distortion pedals will give you the new modern metal tone and on our list, you will be able to find some classic distortion pedals for the vintage distortion sound. In case you have any questions in regards to the topic we covered here, please let us know in the comment section below!

Charles Steinhoff

Charles Steinhoff

Charles is here and I am guitar and ukulele enthusiast. Been playing these instruments for over 10 years now and I decided to share some of my knowledge and expertise with the world in terms of these stringed instruments and it's accessories.

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