The 10 Best Distortion Pedals To Consider – Reviews And Recommendations

The-Best-DistortionPedalLast Updated Mar-29-2017. Are you looking to invigorate your sound with some wild and dirty distortion, and your guitar’s amplifier just isn’t doing enough for you? If you’re an avid fan of various rock iterations all the way up to heavy metal, or anything in-between, then you are going to like this.

We’re carefully prepared some of the top distortion pedals on the market, ranging from new modernized iterations to classic remakes. The list is rich with variety and types of effects, take your pick and if you’re practicing at home, use them with moderation or you’ll anger some of your neighbors.

Top 10 Best Distortion Effect Pedals:

Image
Distortion Pedal
Summary
Rating
Electro Harmonix Nano Big Muff
Electro Harmonix Nano Big Muff
Classic Big Muff Pi tone packed into a smaller, more flexible design.
4.9 Stars
Total of 4.9/5
MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion
MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion
Fully analog distortion that brings an impressive range of tones and gain.
4.8 Stars
Total of 4.8/5
Wampler Plextortion 300
Wampler Plextortion
Wampler's take on the legendary Plexi tone packed in a versatile platform.
4.7 Stars
Total of 4.7/5
Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal
Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal
RAT2 is another classic stompbox that brings impressive performance and abundant flexibility.
4.7 Stars
Total of 4.7/5
MXR M104 Distortion +
MXR M104 Distortion +
Very light distortion that caters to Rock, but brings high quality tone.
4.7 Stars
Total of 4.7/5
Boss DS1 300
Boss DS1
Quintessential distortion pedal used both by legendary guitar players and the masses.
4.6 Stars
Total of 4.6/5
EarthQuaker Devices Hoof Fuzz Guitar Distortion Effects Pedal 300
Earth Quaker Devices Hoof
Handmade design that brings one of the most refined distortions available today.
4.6 Stars
Total of 4.6/5
Electro-Harmonix SOULFOOD 300
Electro-Harmonix SoulFood
One of the best and only Klon Centaur clones on the market.
4.6 Stars
Total of 4.6/5
Xotic Effects SL Drive 300
Xotic Effects SL Drive
More refined affordable dist box that brings great performance and limited versatility.

4.6 Stars
Total of 4.6/5
Behringer Super Fuzz SF300
Behringer Super Fuzz SF300
Affordable fuzzy distortion that brings quality you rarely find in this price-range.
4.5 Stars
Total of 4.5/5

Electro Harmonix Nano Big Muff

Electro-Harmonix-Nano-Big-Muff--300x300

Features:4.9 Stars
Controls:4.8 Stars
Performance:5 Stars
Value:5 Stars
Average:4.9 Stars

When it comes to distortions and overdrives in general, there were certain pedals which had a massive impact on the industry. One of the is definitely the Big Muff Pi from Electro-Harmonix. It was that good that a lot of modern stompboxes are based on its legendary circuitry. Yet, the original is still holding up. Nano Big Muff is a compact version of the original design, but it’s every bit as potent and capable. The pedal features three controls, a very sleek looking enclosure, and brings a thunderstorm.

If you are looking for large amounts of gain, this bad boy delivers that in abundance. With that said, the gain is not raw and chaotic. On the contrary, it is very controllable and easy to work with. The pedal offers a lot of range, which is something you have to appreciate. Once you plug it into your signal chain, you can go anywhere from a very saturated dirty distortion to a more contained one with a turn of a knob.


MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion

MXR-M75-Super-Badass-Distortion-300x300

Features:4.6 Stars
Controls:4.8 Stars
Performance:4.9 Stars
Value:4.9 Stars
Average:4.8 Stars

MXR’s ability to produce refined pedals didn’t end even when they were acquired by Dunlop. M75 Super Badass is a great example of this policy. The name is appropriate, to say the least. To put it in simple terms, you get a very hot distortion pedal that can deliver vast amounts of gain on demand, but there’s one important feature.

This thing comes with a three-band EQ. That maybe doesn’t sound all that important, but once you start tweaking the tone, you realize just how much it means to have this feature. Speaking of tone, Super Badass is all over the place. You can dial in a great rock tone full of slight overdrive goodness, or you can go all out and saturate that signal with a very crisp distortion. The choice is yours. One great thing about this pedal is the fact that you’ll never feel like your tone is shallow or too muddy. All it takes is a tweak of the EQ to get any imperfection sorted out.


Wampler Plextortion

Wampler Plextortion 300

Features:4.6 Stars
Controls:4.7 Stars
Performance:4.7 Stars
Value:4.6 Stars
Average:4.7 Stars

Wampler’s Plextortion is a unique piece of work, as always manufactured with care and style, meant to cater to distortion lovers as well as those of you who prefer the famously classic “plexi” sound – which was heavily popularized in the 80’s. This pedal features TrueBypass, capacitors/resistors offering immaculate responsiveness, in a simple to use interface that won’t cause troubles for anyone; it shows how the manufacturers think everything through before releasing it upon us.

The controls on this pedal offer Treble, Mids, Bass, Volume and Gain knobs. Vintage and Modern types switching are also featured on this overdrive pedal, offering Lighter/Darker tuning, which can also be witnessed on the Dual Fusion Overdrive. This masterpiece is reminiscent of the Pinnacle, aiding in sound reproduction equal to the likes of Guns’N’Roses, AC/DC and much more. The controls by themselves provide extremely varying refinement choices, which guarantee remarkable end results and a continuously overwhelming feeling.


Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal

_Pro-Co-RAT2-Distortion-Pedal-300x300

Features:4.6 Stars
Controls:4.4 Stars
Performance:4.8 Stars
Value:4.9 Stars
Average:4.7 Stars

Today’s distortion effect market is full of great modern designs, but some vintage ones as well. One of the latter which really withstood the test of time is the Pro Co RAT2. This thing is old school in every way imaginable. The enclosure it comes in is reminiscent of the time when effects pedals were just becoming a thing, and the tone it offers is simply on a level of its own. For these reasons, RAT2 has found its way onto many popular musician’s pedalboards.

One glance at the control panel tells you its a very simple pedal to use. Back when it was designed, simplicity was the name of the game. Even though it gives an impression of a somewhat limited stompbox, RAT2 packs a lot of range in terms of distortion. You can adapt it to a gentle rock sound, or a more sinister metal tone with ease. On top of all that, Pro Co RAT2 is one of the most affordable iconic distortion boxes available today.


MXR M104 Distortion +

MXR-M104-Distortion-300x300

Features:4.5 Stars
Controls:4.3 Stars
Performance:4.9 Stars
Value:5 Stars
Average:4.7 Stars

MXR M104 Distortion+ is a very strange beast. The pedal offers one of the most authentic distorted tones you can get, and it has been doing so for numerous decades. What makes it strange is the fact that it’s a germanium based distortion. Use of germanium is a tell-tale mark of an old school fuzz box, but M104 isn’t really a fuzz pedal. This odd combination results in a very interesting tone which offers a lot of range. In a sense, you can go from a heavier overdrive all the way to a fuzzy distortion tone.

If it didn’t have the sustain it has, this stompbox would probably fall within the fuzz category. In simple terms, it’s not your regular dist box and that makes it pretty interesting. The design is as simple as it can be – with two knobs and a footswitch available to shape the tone. If you are looking for a more vintage sounding distortion, this MXR is definitely one of the better choices available.


Boss DS1

Boss DS1 300

Features:4.5 Stars
Controls:4.5 Stars
Performance:4.8 Stars
Value:4.7 Stars
Average:4.6 Stars

DS-1 is both one of the most popular distortion pedals ever created, and one of the most misunderstood ones. A lot of people expect to just plug it into their signal chain and get that thick distortion. That is not how DS-1 works. Instead of overwhelming your tone with chaotic distortion, like most modern designs do, Boss DS-1 is designed to spice up your clean signal, but also clean up the signal which is already passing through a more aggressive distortion pedal.

Learning how to use the DS-1 is a bit tricky, which is exactly why so many new users get disappointed by it. However, once you figure out all of its intricacies, it will become your favorite thing. DS-1 is the type of pedal which you keep turned on all the time. Bottom line, it’s a very unique pedal that can be found on pedalboards belonging to legends such as Joe Satriani and similar. It is also one of the most affordable distortion pedals you can grab at the moment.


EarthQuaker Devices Hoof

EarthQuaker Devices Hoof Fuzz Guitar Distortion Effects Pedal 300

Features:4.6 Stars
Controls:4.4 Stars
Performance:4.6 Stars
Value:4.7 Stars
Average:4.6 Stars

Hoof is another legendary design which has been around for a while in one form or another. This particular model is perfect for those who are looking to get a bit more than just your standard distortion. What makes Hoof so special is the fact that it can act as a fuzz box as well as a distortion and everything in between. That sounds good on paper, but wait until you plug it in and taste the spectrum of tones you get to dial in. The enclosure is pretty simple and features four knobs for easy tone shaping.

In terms of reliability, you definitely don’t have to take it easy on EarthQuaker Devices Hoof. It can take whatever you’re capable of dishing out. Overall, this is a great dist box that packs a hot, agile tone which will satisfy a wide variety of tastes. On top of all that, it is priced very reasonably when you take into account the performance it offers.


Electro-Harmonix SOULFOOD

Electro-Harmonix SOULFOOD 300

Features:4.5 Stars
Controls:4.5 Stars
Performance:4.6 Stars
Value:4.9 Stars
Average:4.6 Stars

It’s no secret that Electro-Harmonix offers a wide range of distortion pedals, each with its own benefits. However, one of their more interesting models is the Soulfood. What makes it so interesting is the fact that it was based on the legendary Klon Centaur dist box, which was known as one of the most refined yet aggressive distortion pedals of its time. Klon Centaur is no longer available, which is why a lot of guitar players were excited about the Soulfood.

In terms of appearances, Soulfood comes in a very sturdy, simple enclosure which was designed to withstand the unforgiving conditions associated with serious stage use. The tone you get from Soulfood is very much similar to the Klon Centaur, but a bit more refined. There is a lot of range in this thing, meaning that you can use it as a booster pedal, as a dirty distortion and anything in between. Electro-Harmonix priced this model in a way that makes it attractive no matter what your budget is like.


Xotic Effects SL Drive

Xotic Effects SL Drive 300

Features:4.5 Stars
Controls:4.4 Stars
Performance:4.8 Stars
Value:4.6 Stars
Average:4.6 Stars

Next in our selection with a simpler, yet very effective choice, the SL Drive – falling under the famous Xotic Effects pedal product line, as one of their most affordable pieces. This intuitive work of art shouldn’t fool you, it offers high-end Distortion effects and quality in reproduction, it has helped the likes of Jimmy Page in crafting the feel of their sound. The pedal offers True Bypass and four switches allowing you to go through and select some sounds mimicking vintage releases dating back in the 60’s – The Super Lead and The Super Bass.

The control settings on the front side are pretty standard and offer tuning of Tone, Drive, and Volume. The range of the controls varies in interference with your original sound, ranging from smoother to grainier all the way up to endless aggression, refine it to whatever suits your style of play regardless of genre. A top pick, if you’re starting out, as it provides impressive sound quality at an extremely affordable price tag.


Behringer Super Fuzz SF300

Behringer-Super-Fuzz-SF300-300x300

Features:4.2 Stars
Controls:4.5 Stars
Performance:4.6 Stars
Value:4.5 Stars
Average:4.5 Stars

Lastly, we have one of Behringer’s affordable wonders. Super Fuzz SF300 is an extremely versatile cheap solution for anyone looking to get some dirt on their signal on a budget. This pedal comes with three distortion settings, including straight up fuzz, which gives you great tone shaping options. This is especially true considering the price range we are talking about. Even though it’s primarily a fuzz pedal, Super Fuzz SF300 works great as a distortion pedal.

Sure, the distortion setting does lean towards fuzz in a number of ways, but it still has the trademark features of a true dist box. In all honesty, if you are on a tight budget and you need some variety in your tone, Behringer Super Fuzz SF300 is one of the cheapest and most versatile ways to get that. A lot of guitar players tend to stay away from ‘jack of all trades’ pedals, however in certain cases, these are the best viable solution. This would be one of those rare cases.


The Distortion Effect

Distortion as an effect, adds a specific type and amount of “warmth” or “dirt” to your sound, this is done by squeezing the very sound waves of your instrument. In more common terms it “clips” your signal, the result being the creation of an excessive amount of “overtones”, producing the effect itself – which is most often described as adding a layer of “nasty” and “crunchy” sound enhancement.

Distortion is an effect which resulted in the emergence of other popular pedal effects, such as the Fuzz (click here for the best fuzz pedals) and Overdrive (if you are interested in the best overdrive pedals click here). They were originally found on distortion pedals, providing reduced aggressiveness and generally lighter tone refinement, over time manufacturers started building pedals specific for those effects, because people loved them, resulting in high demand. To this day, Distortion remains one of the essential guitar pedals, emulating distinct classic sounds.

To Sum It All Up

That’s what it’s in store so far when it comes to your Distortion needs. Check out the full reviews at your convenience if you feel like you need to know more about what these pedals offer, one thing’s for sure, though, you can’t go wrong here with whatever your choice ends up being. If you’re left wanting for more, check back again as we’ll update this list continuously over time.

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