Hard & Heavy – The Top 7 Best Distortion Pedals

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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. Ernie Ball Expression Overdrive Pedal

Ernie Ball Expression Overdrive Pedal

Although the Ernie Ball Expression Overdrive Pedal is fairly new to the world, we feel it qualifies as one of the best distortion pedals on the market today. This pedal gives you dynamic, real-time control over your distortion thanks to the signature Ernie Ball foot sweeping action which allows you to go from a clean and unaffected signal, to a subtle boost with added grit, or push over the edge to a lush overdriven and distorted tone with a lean of the foot.

This pedal gives you effortless control over your sound and provides you with the option of tapering your distortion smoothly and at will. Your signal will change throughout the entire range of motion meaning you have a huge amount of tonal options to play with and a sonic palette that other pedals are unable to match.

A beautifully designed sealed aircraft aluminium chassis protects all the inner workings of your pedals from years of use without taking up too much room and the PVC coated Kevlar pull cord will last a lifetime.

Check out Sam’s review below and see how beautiful this pedal really sounds.

Best distortion pedal for:

  • Blues
  • Shoegaze
  • Rock
  • Country

6. EarthQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold V2

Ernie Ball Expression Overdrive Pedal

Since EarthQuaker pedals exploded on to the scene, their boutique sound sensibilities coupled with modern reliability and control have taken the music world by storm. With a huge plethora of distortion pedals to choose from offering a world of tone sculpting options, it’s refreshing when you see a pedal that takes all the hard work out for you!

The EarthQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold V2 has only one knob on the face plate and an on/off switch – simple! The distortion within this pedal is always on and you just use the knob as a volume control. If you want more volume, simply turn the knob clockwise and feel the room start to shake. Want a softer, less intrusive distortion, just dial it back via the volume pot on your guitar. It’s that easy – and one of the major reasons 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, add thickness to your chords and throw some serious weight into your riffs. However, when the song calls for a more overdriven and subtle gain sound, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the softer side of the Acapulco Gold V2 that works beautifully with the dynamics of your playing and the characteristics of your guitar.

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

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