Hard & Heavy – The Top 7 Best Distortion Pedals

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Updated 27/3/19

Trying to find the best distortion pedal for your sound? Well look no further, as we offer up 7 of the best distortion pedals ever made so you can enjoy everything from smooth, creamy crunch to bone destroying heavy metal goodness

best distortion pedals

When you’re searching for the ultimate distortion tone (aren’t we all?) there are quite literally hundreds of effects pedals out there to choose from. However, there are only a few distortion pedals that are consistently relied upon by guitarists time and time again to deliver everything from soft, “just breaking” distorted tones all the way to “oh no, make it stop my ears are going to explode” distortion.

Distortion definitely has its place in music and with the right pedal you can turn a fairly average tune into a living, breathing entity that absolutely screams or really bring out the best in your guitar solos.

However, the choice is not an easy one to make. So today, we're going to look at our top 7 best distortion pedals spanning a wide range of sounds and playing styles so you have a better idea of where to start on your journey to distortion Valhalla!

Top 7 Best Distortion Pedals That Really Rock!

1. Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal

Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal

We have to start with a classic and probably one of the most important distortion pedals of all time. The BOSS DS-1 distortion has appeared on pedal boards across a wide range of genres and is consistently found in gear guides thanks to its versatility, fantastic range of distortion tones and its typical BOSS reliability.

Since it was first produced in 1978, the likes of Kurt Cobain, Joe Satriani, Steve Via, Glenn Frey, Doug Aldrich and many more artists have counted the BOSS DS-1 as their go-to distortion pedal, most probably thanks to the fact you can dial in smooth and subtle gain tones ideal for adding a little jump to your sound all the way to huge, heavy rock riffage found on the likes of Nirvana’s ‘Breed’ & ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. There’s not a lot this pedal cannot do!

So important is this pedal, that BOSS released a 40th anniversary edition which was a repainted version of the original orange unit, but identical in sound. Unfortunately, the anniversary edition is no longer available, but the original unit is here to stay. Check out the sound of one of the best distortion pedals of all time below:

Best distortion pedal for:

  • Blues
  • Rock
  • Indie

2. MXR M104 Distortion Plus Guitar Effects Pedal

MXR M104 Distortion Plus Guitar Effects Pedal

Next up, we’ve got the MXR M104 Distortion Plus Pedal. This smaller sized guitar pedal is built like a tank and ready for a lifetime of (ab)use thanks to its fantastic construction and high-quality parts. However, it’s the sound within the pedal that we’re actually interested in!

If you’re a fan of Randy Rhodes and that classic early 80s hard rock tone, you’ll adore the awesome distorted tones on offer within this pedal. Widely relied upon by guitarists all over the world, the MXR M104 Distortion + works beautifully with amplifiers both new and vintage, offering up everything from a slight tone enhancement to all-out grit and hard rocking distortion.

It’s super-simple to use with a single Output and Distortion knob so you can dial in your tone quickly and easily. Set the output knob high and the distortion low to max out your amplifiers drive sound, or crank the distortion to bust out some seriously hard rocking tones that will really boost your signal and add a new dynamic to your playing thanks to the Germanium powered clipping.

Best distortion pedal for:

  • Hard Rock
  • 80s Metal
  • If you like riffs!

3. BOSS MT-2 Metal Zone Pedal

BOSS MT-2 Metal Zone Pedal

Let’s be honest: if you’re a lover of heavy metal and you haven’t got a BOSS MT-2 Metal Zone Pedal, do you even Metal Bro? Seriously, this is one of the all-time greatest heavy metal distortion pedals to ever grace a pedal board and can handle everything from high-gain Southern Rock to Industrial Metal to the blackest of Black Metal and everything in-between. It’s extremely versatile, allowing you to dial in your ideal metal tone thanks to a 3-band EQ – cut the mids and boost the highs to create a biting distortion or bring up the lows to add extra thickness to your bone-crunching riffs. The dual-gain circuit ensures your pedal is able to produce the meanest, loudest and heaviest distortion possible.

From fat riffs to stand-out solos and high-gain lead lines – the BOSS Metal Zone can handle it all with ease. This is hands down the best distortion pedal for metal, money can buy.

Best distortion pedal for:

  • Heavy Metal
  • Death/Black Metal
  • Southern High Gain Rock
  • If you want to destroy the windows in your house!

4. Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi USA NYC Fuzz Pedal

Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi USA NYC Fuzz Pedal

Not many pedals can claim that they’ve left a lasting legacy on the music scene, but the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi USA NYC Fuzz Pedal is one of the most influential guitar pedals ever created. This pedal is responsible for shaping the 90s grunge sound and has appeared on albums from Mudhoney, Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Jr and many more. Yes, it says “fuzz” on the pedal, and although you do get some iconic fuzz sounds out of it, the thick and crunchy tones within allow you to enjoy some lush, thick distortion sounds too.

A Volume, Tone and Sustain knob provide all the control you need. Boost the volume and bring the tone down to enjoy a boosted signal with a little extra edge or crank the sustain and the gain to enjoy huge solos that ring out for days. Every guitarist should have this pedal on their board, as it’s definitely one of the best distortion pedals you could ever hope to play.

Best distortion pedal for:

  • Grunge
  • Rock
  • Stoner Rock
  • Doom
  • Indie

5. Revv G3 Distortion Pedal

Revv G3 Distortion Pedal

Next up we have one of the hidden gems in the world of guitar pedals, which has received rave reviews from the likes of the world’s top players like Ola Englund. The Revv G3 Distortion Pedal is based on Revv’s signature ‘Purple Channel’ from their Generator amplifiers offering up hard-hitting boutique distortion that delivers a far tighter, clearer sound than expected from a ‘boutique’ pedal. You have exceptional control over your tone thanks to a versatile 3-band EQ that allows you to sculpt your sound for a variety of amplifiers.

We also think this is one of the best distortion pedals as you have 3 aggression modes; Red, Blue and Off. This allows you to enjoy the existing tones within the pedal (Off) or push it harder thanks to the Red and Blue channels. You can enjoy tight low ends, and present highs, or completely muddy it up for some dark fuzz driven distortion tones – the choice is yours. A beautifully designed heavy metal distortion pedal!

Best distortion pedal for:

  • Metal
  • Rock
  • Did we say Metal?

6. Stone Deaf Warp Drive High Gain Parametric Filter

Stone Deaf Warp Drive High Gain Parametric Filter

Since Stone Deaf pedals exploded on to the scene, their boutique sound sensibilities coupled with modern reliability and control have taken the music world by storm. As far as distortion pedals go, this is one serious piece of kit offering up a load of high gain distortion sounds.

The hand made Stone Deaf Warp Drive High Gain Parametric Filter can deliver everything from Sabbath styled doom-laden tones, the high-gain sounds of 90s metal all the way to the thick modern stylings of the metal we hear from the likes of Mastodon. There’s so much this can do, which is the major reason it makes our best distortion pedals list.

This pedal roars like a lion when you crank it, offering huge dynamics and superb articulation that will force your lead lines to stand out. The built-in noise gate allows you to tame higher-gain settings without affecting tone, whilst the 5-position bandwidth selector which sets the Q factor of the boost or cut, ranges from needle thin to fat bandwidths so you can add thickness to your chords and throw some serious weight into your riffs. This works extremely well with the characteristics of your guitar too as you can actually dial in certain frequencies and boost or cut your tone depending on your preference.

Best distortion pedal for:

  • Blues
  • Metal
  • Hard Rock

7. Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal

Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal

It’s been a long time coming, but Fender have finally returned to the world of effects pedals, launching a full range at NAMM 2018. To our delight, the team at Fender have crafted the Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal which we highly expect to become a classic and one of the best distortion pedals guitarists can get their hands on.

Within this amazing looking chassis, you have dual gain engines, each with their own Tone and Gain controls as well as a Series/Blend switch which allows you to run each gain unit together or before/after each other. On top of that, the Bass Boost switch fattens up your tone when you want to add extra weight to your chords, lead lines or riffs. This is all the classic tonality of your beloved Fender amplifiers rammed into a hard wearing and very sleek looking pedal.

LED backlit controls allow you to see your settings even in the darkest venues and the "patent applied for", magnetically latched 9V battery door allows you to change your battery quickly and easily. However  you have the option of a 9V adapter connection should you want to reduce weight.

Best distortion pedal for:

  • All types of music!
  • Rock
  • 60s style distortion fans
  • Blues
  • Country

Shop a full range of distortion pedals over at PMT Online today or call in to your local PMT store to try a selection out for yourself.

best distortion pedals

Want more? Watch our best distortion pedals video below...

Fender Full Moon Distortion Pedal

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Blackstar LT Distortion Pedal

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Stone Deaf PDF-2 Parametric Distortion Filter

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Stone Deaf Trashy Blonde Parametric Amp Filter

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Stone Deaf Fig Fumb Parametric Fuzz With Noise Gate

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Stone Deaf Warp Drive High Gain Parametric Filter

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TOURTECH Patch Cable 10cm

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