12 Best Distortion Pedals (2024)

best distortion pedals

Are you looking to buy a distortion pedal? Whether you’re a seasoned musician or a beginner looking for a new tone, a solid distortion pedal can take your sound to the next level. That said, as one of the most popular effects pedals, it can be difficult to narrow down the best distortion pedals on the market.

This is why I have created this list of the best distortion pedals on the market. After testing and reviewing several pedals, I have narrowed down these 12 products as the top contenders. This list includes a range of models that will suit different playing styles and total preferences. Ready to get rocking? Let’s dive right into the list.

This post may contain some partner links, which means I receive a tiny commission – at no extra cost to you. Don’t worry, this partnership doesn’t affect my recommendations whatsoever. It just helps me keep the lights on.

Best Distortion Pedals 2024

  • Boss DS1 (Best overall)
  • BOSS MT2 (Best for metal)
  • Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 (Best for blues)
  • Donner Distortion Pedal, Dark Mouse Distortion 2 (Best under $50)
  • Fulltone OCD (Most versatile)
  • Pro Co RAT2 (Best for rock)
  • Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini (Best under $100)
  • Jim Dunlop Super Badass (Best for detailed controls)
  • BOSS ML-2 Metal Core Distortion (Best for punk)
  • Mooer Black Secret (Best for portability)
  • JHS Pedals Angry Charlie V3 (Best premium distortion pedal)
  • Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi (Best fuzz pedal)

I earn from qualifying purchases. Don’t worry, this partnership doesn’t affect my recommendations whatsoever. It just helps me keep the lights on.

1. Boss DS-1W (Best Overall)

Sale
Boss DS-1 Distortion Bundle with Power...
  • Classic BOSS Distortion tones for guitar and keyboard
  • Reproduces dynamics of playing, from soft to hard
  • Distortion, Level and Tone control to tailor overall sound as desired
  • BOSS 5-year warranty

Specs

  • Type: Analog
  • Connectors: Input: 1/4″ instrument jack, Output: 1/4″ instrument jack, DC Input: 9V jack (center-negative polarity)
  • Power: 9V Battery (included) and external AC Adapter (not included)
  • Controls: Tone, Level, Distortion
  • Size: 2.9″ (W) x 5.1″ (D) x 2.4″ (H) inches

What’s great?

  • Affordable price point
  • Rugged and durable construction
  • Simple and intuitive controls
  • Offers versatility as both distortion and overdrive

What needs improvement

  • Limited tone control range
  • Utilizes buffered bypass instead of true bypass
  • Not optimal for low to medium gain tones
  • Plastic enclosure – could be of better quality

Sound

Boss DS-1’s gritty, raw distortion delivers a punchy crunch that suits various genres, from classic rock to punk. The DS-1W retains the classic DS-1 tone in standard mode, exuding a subtle warmth reminiscent of its predecessor.

When I cranked up its distortion knob, I heard the trademark buzz-saw distortion, though with there was a bit of excessive fizz and thin mids.

Finally, thanks to its “custom” mode, you get a 6dB gain boost, a more focused midrange, and heightened touch response, elevating the pedal’s sonic capabilities to new heights.

Durability

Built like a tank, the Boss DS-1W has a rugged construction, making it a reliable companion for gigging musicians and bedroom players alike. Its sturdy enclosure can withstand the demands of regular use and transportation. I can say with certainty that this pedal should last years if not decades!

It also comes with a 5-year warranty. So whether it’s being tossed in a gig bag or stomped on during a lively performance, the DS-1W stands up to the rigors of the road with resilience and reliability.

User-friendliness

With its simple layout featuring three knobs for tone, level, and distortion, the Boss DS-1W is incredibly user-friendly. Its intuitive design makes it easy for players of all skill levels to dial in their desired tone quickly and efficiently.

Price

Boss DS-1W’s price of around a hundred dollars is quite justified. This is a solid investment for a guitarist who wants one of the most timeless distortion pedals at a fair price point.

Overall thoughts

I have ranked the DS-1W pedal as the best overall because it preserves the essence of the original circuit while refining its rough edges. It offers players an opportunity to rediscover the iconic DS-1W in a fresh, revitalized light. 

I recommend the Boss DS-1W for its blend of tradition and innovation.

2. BOSS MT-2 (Best distortion pedal for metal)

Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Guitar...
  • Innovative dual-stage gain circuit produces thick and tight distortion...
  • Easy to achieve massive, satisfying sounds at any volume level
  • Iconic high-gain distortion pedal
  • Its thick, saturated sound is perfectly suited for metal styles and is...

Specs

  • Type: Analog distortion pedal
  • Connectors: Input: 1/4″ instrument jack, Output: 1/4″ instrument jack, and DC Input: 9V jack (center-negative polarity)
  • Power: 9V Battery (included) and external AC Adapter (not included)
  • Controls: Level, Low, High, Mid, Distortion
  • Size: 6″ (W) x 3.8″ (D) x 2.7″ (H)

What’s great?

  • Powerful and aggressive distortion is ideal for metal genres
  • Versatile EQ controls for shaping your tone
  • Rugged and durable construction typical of Boss pedals
  • Solid aesthetics and appearance, which will go well with your guitar accessories

What needs improvement

  • The tone may be too harsh or scooped for some players
  • Not as versatile as other distortion pedals

Sound

From searing high-gain leads to crushing rhythm tones, the MT-2 delivers with precision and power. Its dual-stage gain circuitry allows for nuanced control over the distortion character, enabling users to dial in anything from tight, articulate crunch to thick, saturated saturation.

While certainly not the most versatile sound, the MT-2 is my top distortion pedal pick for metal guitarists.

I paired it with complementary effects like the JHS Hall or Octave Reverb, and that gave me a good cinematic sound. 

Durability

Housed within Boss’s signature rugged metal casing, the MT-2 is extremely sturdy, a trait mirrored by its iconic step-pedal design.

User-friendliness

Its intuitive interface, featuring responsive level, equalizer, and distortion controls, lets you sculpt your desired tones with ease.

Price

The Boss Metal Zone 2 is Priced competitively at around $100 new, though you can also find it used for around $60 to $70. This is a steal for a distortion pedal of this caliber.

Overall thoughts

With its formidable sound, rock-solid durability, user-friendly interface, and affordable price point, the MT-2 embodies everything a guitarist could desire in a distortion pedal. Whether you’re shredding on stage, laying down tracks in the studio, or simply jamming at home, the MT-2 delivers decent results. 

3. Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 (Best for blues)

Ibanez TS808 Overdrive Pedal
  • Overdrive, Tone and Level controls
  • Delivers that warm, natural tube overdrive sound previously...
  • Zine die cast construction and rugged rubber stopper assures...
  • LED indicator shows status of effect and battery condition.

Specs

  • Type: Analog
  • Connectors: Input (1/4″ jack), Output (1/4″ jack)
  • Power: AC Adapter (9V DC, center negative polarity)
  • Controls: Overdrive, Tone, Level
  • Size: 6” (W) x 3” (D) x 2” (H) inches

What’s great?

  • Excels at producing the warm, vintage, clean, and creamy overdrive tones beloved by blues guitarists
  • Vintage pedal lovers will enjoy the cool and classic TS808’s aesthetics 

What needs improvement

  • Those seeking extreme distortion or pristine clean tones may find its sonic palette somewhat limited
  • Compared to some other overdrive pedals, the TS808 can be relatively expensive

Sound

The Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 delivers a classic overdrive sound that is perfect for blues music. Its smooth, transparent overdrive enhances your guitar’s natural tone, adding warmth and sustenance without overwhelming the original signal.

I am happy with its creamy, midrange-heavy distortion tones reminiscent of vintage tube amplifiers. While it may not offer the extreme distortion variations of other pedals, this distortion pedal has a focused sound and responsive controls, makinge it a versatile choice for blues players seeking authentic tones.

Durability

The pedal looks fine and pleasing to the eye, but I have some complaints. Each time I pressed the switch, it activated only about half the time. Hence, you must pay attention and ensure a proper step for reliable engagement.

Further, I also read some reviews about some parts getting damaged after a few months. I haven’t used the pedal for that long, so I can’t comment on that but thought it’s important to mention those reviews here. 

User-friendliness

Featuring intuitive controls and a straightforward layout, the Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 is easy to use for guitarists of all skill levels. The overdrive, tone, and level knobs offer precise control over your tone, allowing you to dial in the perfect sound with ease.

Price

While it may not be the cheapest option on the market, its reputation for authentic blues tones and durable construction make it a worthwhile investment for serious musicians. 

Whether you’re a blues purist or a tone aficionado, the TS808 delivers professional-grade performance at a reasonable price point. 

Overall thoughts

In summary, the Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 is a time-tested classic that remains a favorite among blues guitarists for good reason. Its warm, creamy overdrive tones and responsive controls make it a versatile tool for shaping your sound. Just be mindful about which dealer you order it from.

For another excellent overdrive pedal with a tube amp sound, check out my review of the Boss OS-2.

4. Donner Dark Mouse Distortion 2 (Best distortion pedal under $50)

Sale
Donner Dark Mouse Distortion Pedal for...
  • ◼️[Classic Mouse Distortion] Dark Mouse distortion pedal is made...
  • ◼️[2 Practical Modes] Classic:Produce a classic, warm distortion...
  • ◼️[Durable and Solid Construction] A well made durable and whole...
  • ◼️[True bypass] The true bypass design delivers a transparent...

Specs

  • Type: Analog
  • Connectors: Input (1/4″ jack), Output (1/4″ jack)
  • Power: AC adapter (9V DC, center negative polarity)
  • Controls: Level, Filter, Distortion
  • Size: 1.7″ (W) x 3.7″ (D) x  2″ (H)

What’s great?

  • Priced under $50, the Dark Mouse Distortion 2 is perfect for guitarists on a budget
  • With its analog circuitry, this pedal delivers rich, organic distortion tones that rival more expensive options
  • I am a fan of the pedal’s small footprint, making it ideal for crowded pedalboards or setups with limited space

What needs improvement

  • Notably, the pedal does not support battery power and is reliant on external power sources
  • It can sound thin and bright at times

Sound

As a musician who prefers minimalism, I like Dark Mouse Distortion 2’s simplicity, with three dials and a toggle switch that offers a broad range of overdriven and distorted tones without overwhelming complexity. 

The toggle switch lets you choose between warm, traditional, or modern metal tonal characters, providing versatility in tone shaping. 

But don’t let the simplicity of this pedal fool you. It still boasts a wide variety of tones, from warm blues overdrive to aggressive industrial metal distortion. Additionally, the pedal operates quietly, free from hiss or buzz, ensuring clean and clear sound reproduction. 

However, be cautious with the tone settings, particularly on the high end, as it can produce edgy and bright tones. Also, some of you may find its tone to be nasally or metallic, so I suggest you listen to its samples before buying.

Durability

Crafted from sturdy aluminum alloy, this pedal boasts exceptional durability. Clear indicator lights provide visibility of the pedal’s operational status, ensuring easy monitoring during use.

User-friendliness

The controls, including level, tone, and distortion knobs, offer smooth operation and precise adjustments, allowing users to fine-tune their sound with ease. Its on/off switching mechanism operates quietly, ensuring seamless transitions during performances.

Additionally, its compact size makes it easy to incorporate into pedalboard setups and convenient to transport for rehearsals and jams.

Price

Priced at just $39, the return on investment of this pedal is unmatched.

Overall thoughts

While certainly not the best distortion pedal for recording artists looking for full-bodied and customizable distortion tones, the Donner Dark Mouse Distortion 2 is a fantastic choice for budget-conscious and minimalist guitarists. Its analog circuitry delivers rich and organic sounds, while its compact size and durable construction make it ideal for gigging and rehearsal use.

5. Fulltone OCD (Most versatile distortion pedal)

Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive...
  • Compulsive Drive Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal

Specs

  • Type: Analog
  • Connectors: Input (1/4″ jack), Output (1/4″ jack)
  • Power: AC adapter (9V DC, center negative polarity)
  • Controls: Volume, Drive, High Pass/Low Pass, Tone
  • Size: 5.1” (W) x 3.3” (D) x 2.4” (H) inches

What’s great?

  • Versatile tone range suitable for various music genres and setups
  • Smooth operation and high-quality components for reliable performance
  • Offers both HP and LP modes for different tonal characteristics

What needs improvement

  • Can sound abrasive as a standalone overdrive, requiring additional pedal pairing for the optimal tone
  • The toggle switch may produce excessive brightness and output in HP mode
  • The price point is high compared to other pedals on the list

Sound

I loved the OCD’s wide tonal range, offering everything from overdrive and aggressive distortion. Moreover, you can use its filter knobs to tailor its sound better. I also found it decently responsible for adjustments in guitar volume, tone settings, and picking dynamics. 

The LP set offers a smooth, warm distortion reminiscent of a VOX AC15 or AC30, while the pedal retains its British character with added crunch and clarity.

Finally, OCD v2’s input impedance increases from 330K to 1 mega ohm, improving interaction with guitar pickups and a more dynamic range.

Durability

The construction is top-notch, featuring a sturdy metal casing and a durable switch that feels reliable. Having owned and tested various Fulltone pedals over the years, I’ve never encountered any issues.

User-friendliness

I personally like its red LED, which avoids the harshness of blue LEDs, and its efficient performance on a 9V battery for simplicity. The relocation of input jacks to the pedal’s center may impact the pedalboard layout, presenting advantages and disadvantages depending on the setup.

Overall, with a straightforward interface and simple design, it’s quite easy to use.

Price

While this effects pedal may have a higher price point than others on this list, its exceptional sound quality, durability, and user-friendliness justify its value, making it a worthwhile investment. If you are looking for an all-in-one distortion pedal that you can use in various genres, this is your best bet.

Overall thoughts

I find the OCD to be quite transparent, with a practical drive control and a tone knob. Coupled with a quality EQ pedal, it is a versatile choice that will help you achieve your desired crunch tone with varying distortion levels.

6. Pro Co RAT2 (Best distortion pedal for rock)

Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal
  • Used as a primary distortion, it excels at arena rock rhythm tones and...
  • Nails that sweet spot where a tube amp goes from sparkly clean to warm...
  • Use the RAT 2 as a boost for solos and get the extra kick you need

Specs

  • Type: Analog
  • Connectors: Input (1/4″ jack), Output (1/4″ jack)
  • Power: 9 Volts Alkaline battery
  • Controls: Distortion, Filter, Volume
  • Size: 3.3″ (W) x 4.5″ (D) x 4.8″ (H)

What’s great?

  • Versatile tones from bluesy grit to roaring sludge
  • Suitable for standalone distortion or boosting overdriven amps
  • Filter knob offers unique tone shaping without sacrificing bass
  • Excellent price point

What needs improvement

  • The pedal’s distinctive distortion sound may appeal to only some players’ preferences.
  • Not the most aesthetically appealing distortion pedal

Sound

I found the Pro Co RAT2 sound resonating with rich tones that beautifully blend with the guitar’s character. It seamlessly enhances the performance of tube half stacks and budget practice amps alike, delivering distortion reminiscent of classic rock from the 70s. 

Moreover, it is decently silent, with minimal hum. And switching ensures no loss or increase in overall volume. From powerful distortion to smooth overdrive, it offers versatility across different musical styles.

Durability

The Proco RAT2’s is built very sturdy. In fact, I have used my RAT for 8+ years without ever having to fix or replace it!

User-friendliness

With just three knobs, which I must acknowledge are quite smooth and sturdy, the pedal is user-friendly. Further, its linear control makes it easy to dial in the perfect tone.

Price

At just $79, this pedal is one of the best at this price point. This distortion pedal stands out as it is a popular choice for professionals and is still affordable.

Overall thoughts

RAT2’s versatile guitar tones and consistent performance at a decent price make it a worthy investment for rock musicians seeking a classic distortion sound.

7. Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini (Best distortion pedal under $100)

Specs

  • Type: Analog
  • Connectors: Input (1/4″ jack), Output (1/4″ jack)
  • Power: 9V Battery
  • Controls: DC In, Tone, Level, Overdrive
  • Size:  2.99″ (W) x 4.02″ (D) x 5.98″ (H)

What’s great?

  • Compact version of the standard Tube Screamer, ideal for pedalboards with limited space
  • Responsive to picking dynamics and guitar volume adjustments, allowing for dynamic expression
  • Smooth, warm overdrive that complements various guitar and amp setups

What needs improvement

  • Limited control options compared to the larger Tube Screamer model
  • Small size may make it difficult to manipulate controls on stage

Sound

Many users describe it as an improvement over their previous Tube Screamer, praising its killer tone and impressive accuracy in replicating the iconic 808 sound.

Personally, I like how it tightens the low end and adds bite to metal tones. Just be careful about the colors it adds to the sound.

When paired with a clean amp, the Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini produces smooth, bluesy tones that transcend genre boundaries. Additionally, when used with an already overdriven or distorted amp, it enhances the amp’s natural overdrive in a pleasing manner.

Beyond just increasing gain, it enriches harmonics and responsiveness, resulting in an indescribable enhancement that suits various styles from rock to metal, both in lead and rhythm playing.

Durability

Like the standard Tube Screamer, the Tube Screamer Mini’s metal housing is quite durable and will endure the rigors of regular use.

User-friendliness

This tube screamer edition has all the qualities of the tube screamer, and it also fits in your pocket. With just 3-4 controls, this pedal is quite easy to use.

Price

You can own a Tube Screamer at a $70 price point! What else can I say? 

Overall thoughts

I am impressed by the sound fidelity, build, craftsmanship, and affordability of this guitar effect device. This is just my opinion, but I hear it surpassing my previous Tube Screamer in sound quality, delivering exceptional midrange crunch. Moreover, its compact size allows for convenient portability, fitting snugly even in my pocket.

8. Jim Dunlop Super Badass (Best for Detailed Controls)

MXR Super Badass Distortion
  • Highly responsive full spectrum distortion
  • Bass, Mid & Treble controls
  • 100% Analog
  • True bypass

Specs

  • Type: Analog
  • Connectors: Mono in, mono out (1/4″ input, 1/4″ output)
  • Power: 9V AC adapter or battery
  • Controls: Output, Distortion, Bass, Midrange, Treble
  • Size: 4.5″ (W) x 6″ (D) x 3″ (H)

What’s great?

  • Offers a wide range of tones, from classic rock to heavy metal, making it suitable for various musical styles
  • Crafted from sturdy metal, this pedal is built to withstand the demands of live performances and studio sessions

What needs improvement

  • I found issues with the volume knob being overly sensitive, making it challenging to find the right balance

Sound

The Super Badass Distortion delivers a rich, dynamic distortion with plenty of gain on tap. Its EQ controls allow for precise shaping of your tone, from scooped mids to cutting highs, making it suitable for a wide range of playing styles.

Whether you’re after crunchy classic rock tones or searing metal distortion, this pedal has you covered.

Durability

Super Badass Distortion is constructed from high-quality metal that can withstand the rigors of the road. Its robust design ensures years of reliable performance, making it a staple on any guitarist’s pedalboard.

User-friendliness

Despite its powerful sound and comprehensive EQ controls, the Super Badass Distortion is surprisingly easy to use. Its intuitive layout makes it simple to dial in your desired tone. 

Price

Priced at about $150, the Jim Dunlop Super Badass Distortion is slightly more expensive than your average distortion pedal. But it still offers a fine value for money. While it may not be the cheapest option on the market, its versatility, build quality, and reliability make it a worthwhile investment. 

Overall thoughts

Super Badass Distortion is a reliable pedal with exceptional tone and build quality. Whether you’re shredding solos or riffing through power chords, this pedal has the versatility and durability to handle whatever you throw at it.

9. BOSS ML-2 Metal Core Distortion (Best for Punk)

Boss ML-2 Metal Core Distortion Pedal
  • Disttion Guitar Pedal with Low High Settings Metal Construction
  • Ultra-heavy distortion with sharp-edged attack for crushing metal...
  • Road-tough BOSS metal construction
  • HIGH control for screaming, metallic tone

Specs

  • Type: Analog
  • Connectors: Input (1/4″ jack), Output (1/4″ jack)
  • Power: 9V Battery operated – 2 AA batteries required
  • Controls: (What controls are there?)
  • Size: 5.9” (W) x 3.8” (D) x 2.65” (H) inches

What’s great?

  • Produces heavy, high-gain distortion suitable for metal and punk genres
  • Offers a wide range of tones, from tight and punchy to saturated and aggressive
  • Solid build quality ensures durability, ideal for gigging and touring
  • True bypass switching preserves the integrity of the guitar’s signal when the effect is bypassed

What needs improvement

  • May not suit players seeking a versatile distortion pedal for various music styles or more subtler tones
  • Can introduce unwanted noise at extreme distortion settings, especially with single-coil pickups

Sound

The BOSS ML-2 Metal Core Distortion delivers a heavy, high-gain sound tailored for metal enthusiasts. I would use it for various applications spanning from tight, defined tones to saturated, aggressive distortion, catering to various subgenres within metal.

However, achieving subtle or moderate distortion levels may prove challenging with this high-gain pedal.

Durability

ML-2 boasts BOSS’s renowned durability and is built for touring musicians. Its sturdy construction provides peace of mind for musicians who are on the road.

User-friendliness

I like the pedal’s responsive controls for tone shaping and customization, enabling a user-friendly operation. However, beginners might find navigating the extensive range of distortion options overwhelming. Additionally, the pedal’s noise level at extreme distortion settings may pose challenges.

Price

While the ML-2 commands a higher price point compared to entry-level distortion pedals, its quality construction and versatile tonal capabilities justify the investment for serious metal players seeking professional-grade gear. Hence, I think the $100 price point is justified. 

Overall thoughts

The BOSS ML-2 Metal Core Distortion has a classic 90s punk sound that stands as a solid choice for metal and punk guitarists craving intense, aggressive tones. Its robust build, diverse sound palette, and user-friendly interface make it a reliable companion for stage and studio use.

10. Mooer Black Secret (Best for Portability)

Mooer Black Secret, distortion micro...
  • 2 working modes: vintage/turbo
  • Vintage: a warm, smooth, vintage distortion sound
  • Turbo: more than twice the maximum output of the vintage Mode, more...
  • Full metal shell

Specs

  • Type: Analog
  • Connectors: Input (1/4″ jack), Output (1/4″ jack)
  • Power: 9V Battery
  • Controls: Filter, DC In, Distortion, Level
  • Size: 1.75″ (W) x 4.25″ (D) x 2.25″ (H)

What’s great?

  • Two working modes, Vintage and Turbo, offer versatility in distortion tones
  • Very small and exquisite design, saving space on pedalboards
  • Affordable price compared to other distortion pedals in the market

What needs improvement

  • May not compete with the sound quality of higher-end distortion pedals
  • Lack of durability compared to premium brands like the original Pro-Co RAT pedal
  • Turbo mode may decrease the amount of distortion, impacting the overall sound quality

Sound

I like the crisp, dynamic distortion sound with even string response, making it suitable for various musical genres, from indie rock to heavy metal. 

This distortion pedal has 2 main modes: Vintage and Turbo. Vintage mode provides a warm, smooth vintage distortion sound, while Turbo mode delivers more than twice the maximum output for a powerful distortion.

Durability

While the pedal boasts a sturdy build and small footprint, concerns about its long-term reliability have been raised by some users online, who report early failures after minimal use.

I found the pedal to be reasonably durable, but it definitely falls short compared to some of the other “tanks” on this list.

User-friendliness

The compact design and intuitive controls make the Black Secret easy to use and integrate into pedalboard setups. 

Price

Priced competitively at about $80, compared to similar distortion pedals, the Black Secret offers value for budget-conscious musicians seeking versatile distortion tones.

Overall thoughts

I love how compact Black Secret is and how it sounds, especially at the high end. I love its crisp and clear sound and its Vintage and Turbo distortion types, which give it a versatile tone.

11. JHS Pedals Angry Charlie V3 (Best premium distortion pedal)

JHS Pedals JHS Angry Charlie V3...
  • Convincingly and accurately breathes JCM800-like tones into any rig
  • Sports a 3-band tone stack to help nail warm yet searing tones and...
  • Go from bluesy Hendrix-like breakup to high-gain Brit tones with a...
  • Drive and Volume control interact the same as a master volume amp head

Specs

  • Type: Analog
  • Connectors: 1/4″ input, 1/4″ output
  • Power: 9V battery and AC adapter
  • Controls: Volume, Drive, Bass, Middle, and Treble
  • Size: 6″ (W) x 3″ (D) x 3″ (H)

What’s great?

  • With its 3-band EQ, players can easily dial in warm, searing tones or creamy, vintage breakup
  • Convincingly reproduces the iconic JCM800 tones, making it a favorite among guitarists across genres

What needs improvement

  • High price point

Sound

The Angry Charlie V3 successfully delivers a wide range of distortion tones, from bluesy breakup to high-gain British crunch. Its dynamic response and Marshall-style tone stack offer players unparalleled versatility for crafting their ideal sound.

Durability

Built in the USA with high-quality components, the Angry Charlie V3 is robust and reliable, ready to withstand the demands of gigging and studio use.

User-friendliness

I was surprised to see that despite its powerful capabilities, the Angry Charlie V3 is user-friendly, allowing both novice and experienced players to dial in their desired tones easily. The intuitive controls make it simple to achieve the perfect sound without extensive tweaking.

Price

Undoubtedly, Angry Charlie V3 is a solid pedal, but you can also find competitive pedals at a lower price point. If you are looking for a premium pedal with the best sound possible, this is a great choice. That said, it is likely out of budget for many musicians.

Overall thoughts

The JHS Pedals Angry Charlie V3 is a top-tier distortion pedal that faithfully captures the essence of classic Marshall amplifiers. Its versatile tone-shaping capabilities and rugged construction impressed me, delivering premium British overdrive.

Despite its premium price, the Angry Charlie V3 offers good-quality sonic flexibility and reliability, making it a standout choice for players seeking authentic high-gain tones.

12. Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi Fuzz Pedal (Best fuzz pedal)

Electro-Harmonix Green Russian Big Muff...
  • Revered by guitarists and bassists
  • Vintage-correct army green chassis
  • Controls for Tone, Sustain and Volume
  • Compact and pedalboard friendly

Specs

  • Type: Analog
  • Connectors: 1/4″ input, 1/4″ output
  • Power: 9V AC adapter or battery
  • Controls: Tone, Sustain, Volume
  • Size: 3″ (W) x 8″ (D) x 10″ (H)

What’s great?

  • Adored by guitarists and bassists alike, the Big Muff Pi delivers legendary fuzz tones that evoke the spirit of classic rock
  • With its vintage-correct army green chassis, the Big Muff Pi adds a touch of retro charm to any pedalboard

What needs improvement

  • Big Muff Pi’s controls are limited in terms of tonal shaping options

Sound

Fuzz is a type of distortion that takes things up a level. I fell in love with this pedal’s thick, saturated fuzz, perfect for genres like psychedelia and prog-rock. Its simple controls for Tone, Sustain, and Volume just made me mention this pedal in the list.

This allows for easy dialing in of rich, sustaining distortion, making it a go-to choice for players seeking that signature vintage fuzz sound.

Durability

Crafted with robust materials and housed in a sturdy chassis, the Big Muff Pi is built to withstand the rigors of gigging and touring, ensuring years of reliable performance.

User-friendliness

The Big Muff Pi is simple and easy to use, making it accessible to players of all skill levels. Its straightforward control layout lets you achieve great fuzz tones without extensive tweaking.

I recommend this pedal to both beginners and seasoned pros alike.

Price

With its iconic sound and solid construction at a $100 price, the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi offers sufficient value. It lacks versatility compared to other pedals, but its reliability makes it a worthy investment for any guitarist or bassist seeking classic fuzz tones.

Overall thoughts

While Big Muff Pi’s simplicity may not appeal to everyone, its ability to easily deliver rich, sustaining distortion makes it a staple on countless pedalboards worldwide. I would use it for vintage rock, experimental psychedelia, and similar genres.

How I selected the best distortion pedals

With so many different distortion pedals out there, you may be wondering, “How do you determine which ones are the best?”. When testing the best distortion pedals, I looked at several different qualities, including sound, durability, user-friendliness, and price.

Sound

The first place to start when looking for the best distortion pedals on the market is to analyze the sound. How versatile is the distortion? Can you use it for various genres? Does it sound rich and full-bodied?

It is beyond important for your distortion pedal to sound good. Otherwise, it is essentially garbage! 

Durability

Even if you purchase the best-sounding distortion pedal on the market, it won’t do you much good if it falls apart after just a few months. The build quality and materials of the distortion pedal are also important. The pedal should be able to withstand the regular wear and tear of touring and gigging.


Effects pedals are not the most complicated pieces of equipment, so a good quality product should last you for years.

User-friendliness

A good distortion pedal should be easy to use and adjust for guitarists of all levels. Nobody wants an overly complex effect pedal that’ll take hours just to figure out how to use. When buying the best distortion pedal, simplicity is key.

Price

The final key factor that I considered on my hunt for the top distortion pedals was the price point. There are hundreds of AMAZING products out there, but many of them are far too expensive for the average guitarist. The cost should balance well with the quality of the pedal. Value for money holds more power than you may think.

FAQ

Can you use a guitar distortion pedal for bass?

The short answer is yes, you can use guitar effects pedals for bass. Guitar distortion pedals may sound slightly different on bass, but they won’t damage your equipment. That said, on the flip side, bass pedals specifically cater to bass frequencies, so they will generally sound more natural.

Difference between overdrive and distortion?

Overdrive and distortion are similar effects, but they have a few key differences. Overdrive effects are generally used to replicate the natural sound of a tube amp. On the other hand, distortion completely alters the sound of your instrument, adding an overwhelming amount of sustain and saturation.

What distortion pedal did Kurt Cobain use?

Kurt Cobain primarily used Boss distortion pedals such as the DS-1 and the DS-2. These two effects pedals and Cobain’s other guitar gear were crucial components of Nirvana’s iconic sound.

Wrapping up

Distortion is undoubtedly the most popular effect pedal for guitarists. Choosing the right pedal for your music style and preferences can prove to be a challenge. That said, with this list of the 12 best distortion pedals, you are better equipped and prepared to make your purchase.

Head over to my post on the best guitar cables for some more recommendations.

Last updated 2024-07-20 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API