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Best Distortion Pedal 2023: 10+ High-Gain Ways To Get Chugging!

Is it worth getting a distortion pedal? Which distortion pedal is best?

For around-about 75% of guitarists, finding the best distortion pedal is a ‘must’.

Because let’s face it, when it comes down to the majority of Rock, Metal & even Funk music, a clean guitar sound (absent of distortion) just sounds a bit… bland. Suppose you could even say ‘generic’, as by taking distortion away, you’re sacrificing all of that deep crunch & rasp, which most of us associate with hardcore rockstars. Most likely why some of the most iconic guitarists are known for their relationships with their distortion pedals… Hendrix, Mayer, Gilmour – the list goes on!

What’s more, crank up a tube amp, & distortion turns your tone into something else altogether. A loud punchy blanket of sound that really comes alive in concert!! So whether you plan on using a standalone distortion pedal or teaming it with other effects pedals to sculpt a more individual tone, you can’t deny distortion should at the very least be on your radar. Question is though, is it really worth getting a distortion pedal? Or are there better guitar effects pedals out there? Read on to find out.

After something specific about the best distortion pedals? Or just curious about what are the best-selling distortion pedals? Use the menu below to get all the info you need SUPER fast…

a variety of distortion pedals

NOTE: Curious about more than just distortion pedals? Be sure to check out our Reviews Of The Best Guitar Pedals EVER + the Best Compression/ Volume Pedals too.

Prepare yourself!

Putting a finger on the best distortion pedal is a bit of a minefield. We say so because these days, there’s SO much choice! Audio-makers from all over the world, be they household names like Boss or more backstreet niche companies like xxx, are all out to up your gain capabilities & give you what they think is the best distortion pedal out there.

All of which means that while tracking down the perfect pedal can be a bit of a bore, there’s a solid chance that it’s out there. Encouraging!! The real task just boils down to finding it. So, we’ll say no more & get straight into it – here’s our rundown of the best distortion pedals for sale today…

1: Boss DS-1 distortion pedal

2: Wampler Pinnacle Deluxe V2 distortion pedal

review of the best distortion pedals

3: Behringer HD300 heavy distortion pedal

4: Dunlop Fuzz Face FFM2 Jimi Hendrix distortion

5: TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion effects pedal

6: Boss MT-2W Waza Metal Zone distortion

professional guitarist using distortion to boost his tone

7: Fender Pugilist distortion guitar pedal

8: EarthQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold V2

9: Pro Co You Dirty Rat distortion effects pedal

10: Walrus Audio (LM308) Iron Horse V2 distortion pedal

distortion pedal hooked up to Fender strat & an amp

Not everyone buys a distortion pedal to master the chug, but for those who do, it’s a ‘must-know’ capability before buying. Believe us, we’re quite the chugging fanatics ourselves. Exactly why wehn we came across this pedal, we just had to give it a special mention.

Aside from having notoriously high gain, you can also get chugging pretty quickly once you’ve hooked it up. Hence why (in our opinion) it’s pretty much perfect; ticks all the boxes. So say hello to our pick for the best distortion pedal for chugging…

11: Wampler Dracarys high gain distortion pedal

Okay – so not everyone reading up on distortion pedals is going to be a certified distortion nerd (guilty as charged). For some of you, this whole distortion lark may be completely new & talk of chugging have looking all bemused. And that’s exactly why we couldn’t leave this blog without sharing our beginner’s pick.

That distortion pedal which isn’t perhaps the most technically capable, but is a great place for any newbie to start, particularly if they’re on a tight budget. If this is you, then don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Read on to discover what we deem to be the best distortion pedal for beginners…

12: Donner Dark Horizon Crunch distortion pedal

Enjoy this review of the best distortion pedal & keen for more? Don’t miss out on all our latest Reviews Of Guitar Pedals, as well as our other Reviews Of Music Production Tech. Recently, we also did a rundown of the Best Wah Pedals + another on the Best Looper Pedals, which may also be a good read.

guitarist who uses distortion jumping around the stage

Or, if you’re here purely to learn more about distortion pedals, keep reading & we’ll answer even more of your burning questions…

Each distortion has a different tone and characteristics, like chorus, delay, or reverb pedals. The style of tune you wish to play will determine which distortion is best for you. The most practical raw element in heavy metal is distortion. 

The perfect distortion pedal provides a deep, dripping warping with a closed and steady bass end, according to players of many metal guitars. You’ll need a ton of gain if you’re playing at the extremities of metal. 

Still, you’ll also enjoy tone-shaping environments, like a variable mid-control. To make sure you can dial in the precise sound, you ought to be attended over the thundering bass and piercing drums. You could want a better open-sounding warping for the less severe musical genres, including punk and hard rock.

Tracking down the best selling distortion pedals is actually quite a task. Why?

Because there’s that darn many of them that to call one the bestseller would be a bit like picking your favourite child. Harsh to say the least. In which case, here’s a quick rundown of some of the most well-known contenders…

  • Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal. 
  • TC Electronic Grand Magus. 
  • Earthquaker devises Acapulco Gold.
  • JHS 3 Series Distortion.
  • MXR M116 Fullbore Distortion.

Yes – it really is worth it!

The distortion pedal is a bare essential for electric guitarists & allows you to access the full range of tones that you’re probably used to hearing in the music you love. A distortion pedal is more aggressive than an overdrive since it fully warps your tone to produce a new sound. 

Unlike an overdrive, which only pushes your amp or attempts to replicate that sought cranked sound, distortion looks to create a new sound by modifying your existing signal. A distortion pedal will add a ton of extra dirt and grit to your tone &, depending on the setting you select, can produce some serious rocking crunch or full-on, earth-shattering, doom-laden distortion by saturating and seizing control of your signal.

Kurt did use a Proco Rat distortion pedal for his song Territorial Pissings on Nevermind. Another extremely well-liked distortion handle with a standout sound is this one. It gained much traction during the grunge era thanks to its bushy distortion. 

Interesting is the fact that Krist Novoselic’s primary distortion pedal was the Proco Rat. You might desire to get one up to get some beautiful hazy bass tones if you also play bass. Kurt favoured the Proco Rat over the BOSS DS-1 and DS-2, but that’s not to say you’ll think the same. Due to how it warps & changes your tone, distortion pedals do create a very ‘individual’ effect, so you may be getting ahead of yourself by calling either of these pedals to be the ‘best’ distortion pedal out there.

Fact is, you may discover that some songs sound better with the DS-2 and others with the Proco Rat. Like most things in music, it’s completely subjective & pretty much all comes back to personal preference.

The Boss DS-1 Distortion is one of the most straightforward and well-known pedals ever. The DS-1 has been used by artists ranging from Kurt Cobain to Steve Vai and is most renowned for its punchy, classic rock-style distortion. 

With only three specific configurable parameters—”tone,” “level,” and “dist”—you may fine-tune a dynamic spectrum of gain sounds. The treble/bass ratio and output parameters are typically controlled by “tone” and “level,” while “dist” controls the amount of gain. Little else needs to be said; sometimes, the most straightforward circuits work the best! 

Boss pedals are built like tanks; they seldom ever fail you, and we have more trust in them than any other pedal to consistently deliver.

Kurt Cobain used Endino’s Fender Twin Reverb and a Boss DS-1 Distortion for the album instead of his previous Randall solid-state head and 4×12 cab. As straightforward as it was successful, anyone can fairly recreate this set-up because the inexpensive Boss mostly caused Kurt’s distortion sound. 

The debut album by Nirvana, “Bleach,” which was famously recorded by Jack Endino for about $600, together with Mudhoney’s “Superfuzz & Big Muff,” contributed to the definition of the “Grunge” sound. It continues to be an influence for many guitarists that prefer gritty, straightforward rock music more than 27 years later!

Yes, Jimi Hendrix always had a soft spot for Vox wah pedals, BUT he also had a slight love affair with distortion too.

One of the most iconic distorted sounds that the performer is associated with is Fuzz Face. A distortion pedal by Dunlop that was behind pretty much Jimi’s entire sound throughout his career. Unlike other distortion pedals, the Fuzz Face is known for its rocky fuzzed-up way of distorting tones & pretty much gives you free reign over the level of static in your sound

So should you be hunting for the best distortion pedal to sound like Jimi Hendrix, then the Fuzz Face is pretty much the way to go. It’s all the grunge you need.

Nobody can tell you how to choose a distortion pedal, just as they can’t definitively tell you what the best ice cream flavour is, or the best shade of green to paint your living room. However, we do have a few tips…

  • Go for a quality brand – Now we’re not saying that quality brands are the be all & end all when it comes to choosing a distortion pedal – in the past we’ve comes across some really good cheap pedals, however brand can often be a good indicator of build quality & also give you a better idea of what type of musician a distortion pedal is targeted at. Speaking of which…
  • Understand your music – Understanding your music is a must when hunting down to right pedal, as distortion pretty much adds its own flavour to all instruments/ styles of music. Only then can you narrow down your options & truly find the best distortion pedal for you.
  • Versatility – Some pedals are just distortion, whereas others give you distortion + a whole bunch of other effects. In other words, if you’re after multiple effects, then certain pedals may work out as better value. Something worth baring in mind!

The Boss DS-1 Distortion is one of the most straightforward and well-known pedals ever. The DS-1 has been used by artists ranging from Kurt Cobain to Steve Vai and is most renowned for its punchy, classic rock-style distortion. 

With only three specific configurable parameters—”tone,” “level,” and “dist”—you may fine-tune a dynamic spectrum of gain sounds. The treble/bass ratio and output parameters are typically controlled by “tone” and “level,” while “dist” controls the amount of gain. Little else needs to be said; sometimes, the most straightforward circuits work the best! 

Boss pedals are built like tanks; they seldom ever fail you, and we have more trust in them than any other pedal to consistently deliver.