Best Guitar Distortion Pedals of 2019 – Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

Whether you are an amateur or an experienced guitarist, getting yourself a proper distortion pedal is a wise investment.

Out of all the products for guitar effects, this one seems to be the most important. It is not only ideal for saturating the tone, but also allowing you to replicate the powerful sound of your favorite guitarists.

It is great no matter what genre you are playing, including blues and jazz, rock and roll, and even heavy metal. Bearing this in mind, we have prepared a couple of tips as well as reviews of a few top options, including the budget and premium ones that you might consider suitable for you. Let’s get right to it!

Comparison of the Best Distortion Pedals

PRODUCT DETAILS
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Pro Co RAT2

  • Best guitar distortion pedal overall
  • Three knobs including distortion, filter, and volume for delicate tweaking
  • Primary distortion system that will boost the signal and allow more intense sound
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Electro-Harmonix

  • Featuring a selectable bypass for tweaking the offered effect
  • It comes with a transparent overdrive that is essential for lead guitar players
  • It features boosted power rails that will allow more headroom and a cleaner overall sound
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MXR M75

  • Best guitar distortion pedal for the money
  • Offers three different effects including bass, mid and treble;
  • Comes with a true bypass that will allow more clarity and incredible durability
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Electro-Harmonix

  • Best Distortion Pedal for Metal
  • Including bass, mid and treble control that is switchable with convenient foot control;
  • It allows to be both used as a digital and electric distortion pedal given the 9V battery as well as a power output included
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BOSS DS-1

  • Best Cheap Distortion Pedal
  • Features a sturdy and rugged design to withstand heavy use
  • Offers organic tone that is perfect for classic rock and punk genre
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TC Electronic Dark Matter

  • Best Distortion Pedal for Tube Amp
  • Has a voice switch that will enable you to improve the bass response
  • Comes with a true bypass design to keep the clarity of the tone throughout your performance
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Behringer OD300

  • Best Overdrive Distortion Pedal
  • Comes with a LED on/off indicator as well as a handy itch;
  • You are getting four-control knobs including level, tone, drive, and mode;
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Wampler Sovereign V2

  • Best High Gain Guitar Distortion Pedal
  • Top-mounted jacks that will allow for an easier set-up
  • A compact yet rugged design that can withstand heavy use
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What is a Distortion Pedal?

A distortion pedal is a digital or an electric device that will boost your performance by darkening the sound and also contributing to the overall signal output of your instrument. It usually comes as a clipping item that you will put along with your guitar. 

While it is not a must, especially if you already have a proper distortion pedal, getting ahold of one can go a long way towards your overall performance. Keep in mind that an overdrive pedal is in no way the same as the distortion variety, as it produces milder sound effects and is more common for indie rock, etc. 

What Does a Distortion Pedal Do?

The main three uses are saturating the tone, improving the signal, and last but not least, distorting the sound.

Saturation

As mentioned above, by saturating the tone, you will be able to replicate the sound that you hear in popular guitar songs that are played by pros, and thus, up your performance by at least a few levels. Saturation makes the sound of your guitar richer and more powerful.

Signal

By improving the signal, it will not only become more powerful but also what you play will become more intense and clear.

Distortion

The distortion is an effect that can be provided either by an amp or a pedal and is something that is widely appreciated in heavy metal bands.

How to Choose a Distortion Pedal

In order to select your ideal option, there are a couple of things to consider. These don’t include only the brand and the price, but also how simple is it to use one, as well as the innovative features that may come along.

Simplicity

The first thing that you should look for when buying a distortion pedal is that it is simple to use. What this means is that the set up itself should not take a lot of time, and that tweaking the settings to get the ideal tone will be as simple as using the two featured knobs.

Price

It is a fact that you might be able to find fine distortion pedals for the low price point of $50. Investing enough time into searching and looking for the best value might be worth it when it comes to over dial, signal, and overall distortion effect that the pedal will provide.

Electric or Digital

Last but not least, you should choose between the two types of distortion pedals. The first one usually comes at an affordable price and is suitable for guitar players who are used to classic devices that don’t require any high-tech knowledge. The digital one is somewhat more effective, as it picks up on the sound impurities and distorts them, making for a more powerful and a better-sounding performance!

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Here are the best guitar distortion pedals:

  1. Pro Co RAT2
  2. Electro-Harmonix
  3. MXR M7

Review of Best Distortion Pedals

Investing in a distortion pedal can prove to be quite vital if you are going to play a lot of songs that require intense and boosted sound. No matter how good it might be, you can never recreate the distortion that an electric or digital device allows, which is why getting yourself one is a good choice. Thus, read on to consider the few different models that we have highlighted as the best value offers and products you might be comfortable with!

Best Overall:
Pro Co RAT2

Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal

PROS

  • Effective filter knob
  • Sturdy and compact distortion pedal
  • Very reasonably priced for what you get
  • Doesn’t require a lot of effort to produce optimal sound
  • Ideal for beginners and those looking to get a long-term distortion pedal

CONS

  • Light hum when not in use
  • Customer service is unattentive

What Recent Buyers Report

From what we can see, the best thing about this distortion pedal is that it offers a fine crunch right out of the box. Once you set the filter to 80-90%, you will be getting an ideal distortion level that will support both lead guitar and bass. Additionally, it allows low-frequency distortion, which is not so common for the low-end pedals.

Why it Stands Out to Us

What we love about this product is that while it is on the affordable side, it is user-friendly, and thus a good choice for anyone interested in the effects of a proper distortion pedal. While it is a bit higher than some of its competitors, getting used to it and tweaking the three-knobs will not take a lot of effort.

Who Will Use This Most

Not only is this distortion pedal a great choice for lead/solo guitarists, but also bass players due to the powerful filter effect. Additionally, whether you are an amateur or a guitar player with a few years of experience, using this distortion pedal will be quite an enjoyment. Not only does this distortion pedal come at a fine price, but it is also a great alternative for any pricey distortion amp, and thus an ideal choice for those on a tighter budget!

Bottom Line

If you are a solo guitarist and you are looking for a distortion pedal that can boost your lead by finding the middle spot between clean and overdrive effect, then this pedal is for you. It is probably the best value model on the market. Coming from a reliable American brand, featuring a few different knobs and a simple set up, it is everything that you will need!

Runner-up:
Electro-Harmonix

Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Distortion/Fuzz/Overdrive Pedal

PROS

  • Very responsive to each note played
  • Customer service is fast and attentive
  • Offers a clean boost great for solo guitarists
  • Incredibly affordable considering its rugged design
  • Comes with a big muff that is ideal for powerful and distorted sound effect

CONS

  • Clipping tone can make it sound tinny
  • Lacks bass, so it can’t be used by bass guitarists

What Recent Buyers Report

Talking about distortion pedals that offer a clean boost and a great overall performance, it seems that this Electro product is among the best there is. Additionally, it does great when it comes to pre-amping tubes and allowing that natural distortion sound that is common for high-end amplifiers.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We love the fact that apart from the smooth and reliable performance that this pedal offers, it is easy to set-up and adjust, offering a sturdier yet lower design than the product mentioned above. Yes, it is not for bass players, but it remains a worthy choice. From a trusted manufacturer, and featuring a compact and simple design, it is something you will have great use out of!

Who Will Use This Most

As mentioned above, this is a product that is ideal for lead and solo guitarists. Offering the optimal clean boost, it does lack a bit of crunch, and a filter effect wouldn’t hurt. Still, looking at the overall performance, it is a great choice for beginners and experienced guitar players.

Bottom Line

While not as reliable or simple-to-use as the product mentioned above, this pedal still offers a transparent and dependable overdrive, as well as several effects, including treble and distortion, to support your performance. If you are looking for a rugged and natural distortion pedal, the Electro-Harmonix product is the best you can get. It is a great standalone pedal that will allow your natural guitar tone to shine while still focusing on proper distortion and warm overload.

Best for the Money:
MXR M75

MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion

PROS

  • Great tube creamer
  • Clear sound with nice timbre
  • Simple to use and program to your preferences
  • Versatile, enabling you to enjoy this distortion pedal whether you are playing rock from the 70s or engaging in modern genres
  • Offers a natural and warm distortion that will be ideal for 70s sound while still including the treble and bass effect for a more powerful and distorted sound

CONS

  • Volume knob is too sensitive
  • Doesn’t come with adequate cables

What Recent Buyers Report

From what we can see, the main thing that buyers love about this product is the natural and clean distortion sound that it allows. Not only that, but while it is great for classic rock and roll, the tube screamer tone that it can output is fantastic! Also, setting the effects by using the given knob controls is quite simple.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We love the True Bypass feature! While the customer service may not be that reliable, you can still get years out of this distortion pedal due to its high-quality build; a fantastic benefit, especially considering the overall price of the product.

Who Will Use This Most

This distortion pedal a great choice for lead/solo guitarists due to the natural distortion. It will also suit bass players as it comes with a good tube screamer tone as well as the bass and treble effects. Once again, it is suitable for amateurs and those who are familiar with what a distortion pedal is.

Who Will Use This Most

This particular distortion pedal is perfect when we consider the value compared to the price and distortion effects that are offered. Overall, it is a great choice for anyone who wants to get good distortion performance that is not hard to set up and may allow years of good use!

Best Distortion Pedal for Metal:
Electro-Harmonix Metal

Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff Distortion with Top Boost Guitar Effects Pedal

PROS

  • Big muff and high input impedance
  • Buffered bypass allows even more control
  • Easy-to-switch using the foot control feature
  • Includes a top boost knob that will support frequencies that are between 3.5 and 4.3 kHz
  • Comes with a variety of different knob controls including top boost, treble, bass, mid, distortion, and volume

CONS

  • Unreliable battery life
  • Not as sturdy as similar products

What Recent Buyers Report

Looking at what recent customers have to say, the main highlight is the big muff, as well as the high impedance distortion that you will get out of this pedal. Not only that, but it is highlighted by that crunchy tone, which is essential for the metal genre and bass players. Talking about distortion pedals that are suitable for heavy metal and alternative rock performances, this product is among the best choices you can make. Still coming at a fair price, it is highlighted by a big muff and a high input impedance.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The main reason why we consider this distortion pedal to be a worthy choice is due to the buffered bypass and the featured knob controls. They will allow you versatility and all the power you need in case your favorite genre is metal. Also, while the battery life is unreliable, the alternative power output will allow you to continue rocking on.

Who Will Use This Most

As we have suggested above, this distortion pedal is for metalheads only! Why? Because it does distort the natural tone and thus is not suitable for genres such as 70s rock or anything similar. Additionally, apart from being great support if you are a lead guitar player, it is also cool for bass enthusiasts as well.

Bottom Line

Given the price and the overall performance that this pedal allows, it is certainly a worthy investment! Coming with a couple of innovative and powerful features, including the buffered bypass and top boost control (allowing 3.5 to 4.3 kHz frequencies), it is a pedal that you can be proud of during that important performance.

Best Cheap Distortion Pedal:
BOSS DS-1

BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal

PROS

  • Fine tube screamer
  • Affordable for most people
  • Natural tone that sounds great
  • Straightforward and easy to use
  • Sturdy and robust; great for gigging

CONS

  • Lacks muff, making it less versatile than others
  • Not for bass guitar players, as it lacks bass
  • Lacks crunch, which is vital for distortion

What Recent Buyers Report

If what you are looking for is an affordable distortion pedal that will highlight the natural tone of your guitar, then this one is a good choice. As buyers suggest, it is incredibly easy to use and allows the warm and clean distortion that any classic rock player will enjoy. On the other hand, it is in no way suitable for a bass or metal performance.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The main reason we noticed this pedal is the rugged and sturdy build that it offers. While at a very affordable price, you will still get to have hours of fun with this product, as it features level, tone, and distortion control. As one of the least expensive options on the market, it is highlighted by a great build and a performance that will allow the natural tone of your guitar to shine.

Who Will Use This Most

This distortion pedal is in no way suitable for metalheads. On the other hand, it is a perfect choice for fans of punk and classic rock from the 70s and 80s. Additionally, due to its rugged, convenient, and simple-to-use design, it is a beginner-friendly choice. If you are on a tight budget, but you don’t want to miss out on the potential benefits of a proper distortion pedal, fear not. The BOSS brand has got you covered!

Bottom Line

Looking at the price and the natural tone distortion that this pedal allows, it is an ideal choice for people who don’t want a lot of crunch in their performance. Thus, if the highlight of your performance is playing rock and roll, this could easily be the pedal you should go for.

Best Distortion Pedal for Tube Amp:
TC Electronic Dark Matter

TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion Effect Pedal

PROS

  • Good bass response
  • Very reasonably priced
  • True bypass gives you excellent clarity
  • Full control over the sound of the pedal
  • Zero tone loss, no matter how you adjust the settings

CONS

  • Not as robust as could be
  • Lacks crunch and can sound a bit muddy in certain frequency ranges

What Recent Buyers Report

Looking at recent feedback left by customers, there is not much to say against this product considering its price and overall performance. It is suitable for numerous music genres, given the reliable bass, gain, treble, and level control that it offers. While it lacks a bit of the crunch, it will support both the natural tone distortion, as well as the tube screamer tone that is common for heavy metal genres.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We like this product for the full control that you are getting of the distortion performance. Also, the fact that the featured True Bypass will ensure the clarity of your guitar tone stays present. It is not the sturdiest product there is, but apart from that, there is not much we can say against it.

Who Will Use This Most

This is ideal for solo/lead guitar players. Still, given the voice switch that allows better response, bass players will find it quite handy as well. If you are looking to get an incredibly versatile distortion pedal at an affordable price, then the TC Electronic Dark Matter will work great.

Bottom Line

Not only is it highlighted by the handy voice switch that makes it suitable for bass players, but also by four-knob control that will allow you to get the most out of the offered distortion! Overall, while it certainly is not the most reliable distortion pedal there is, and that is mostly due to its flimsy design, the performance is still good and worth the price.

Best Overdrive Distortion Pedal:
Behringer OD300

Behringer OD300 2-Mode Overdrive/Distortion Instrument Effects Pedal

PROS

  • Clarity and tone are brilliant
  • Great distortion control and quality
  • Good battery life; lasts quite a while
  • Overdrive and distortion are on-point
  • Reliable and sturdy; ideal for performances

CONS

  • Lacks an adapter
  • Lacks a power supply

What Recent Buyers Report

The main thing that we will highlight here is the incredible control you can get from this pedal. The best thing about it is that you can combine overdrive and distortion for an amazing sound boost when it comes to classic rock and punk genres.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We love the innovations in distortion pedals, and that certainly is something that Behringer offers with a reliable design and a combined overdrive/distortion performance. Also, good battery life is a cool feature as well.

Who Will Use This Most

This is perfect for people who are always on the go and don’t have a suitable power supply that they can plug the distortion pedal into. Also, it is great for classic rock lead guitar players, as it offers a warm and natural overdrive and distortion that will boost your overall performance.

Bottom Line

You can’t go wrong buying from a reliable brand such as Behringer, so long as you are okay with the fact that it doesn’t allow much crunch. It is the perfect choice if you are looking for a combination of an overdrive and distortion effect. Good design and great control make it a superb choice for lead guitar players!

Best High Gain Distortion Pedal:
Wampler Sovereign V2

Wampler Sovereign V2 Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal

PROS

  • Great control over functions
  • Rugged and innovative design
  • Overdrive and distortion are crisp
  • Easy-to-use for beginners and pros
  • Versatile enough to be used for multiple genres

CONS

  • Somewhat expensive for what you are getting
  • Quite sensitive, so can sound messy when playing

What Recent Buyers Report

At the end of our list of the best guitar distortion pedals, we will present you with a product that offers the most gain out of all the products mentioned above. Thus, if you are into pedals that will provide incredible crunch, muff, and boost the sound, this one is an ideal choice!

Why it Stands Out to Us

This sturdy pedal is incredibly reliable, and can offer you years of exceptional performance as long as you don’t put it under heavy conditions. The main thing we love is the versatile distortion performance. Still, it may not be ideal for beginners due to the high sensitivity that this pedal is highlighted by.

Who Will Use This Most

Frankly, this distortion pedal is a great choice for both lead and bass guitar players. On the other hand, you might want to start with a more affordable pedal if you are a beginner, and then slowly move to this one later on.

Bottom Line

A somewhat pricier choice that is still incredible for anyone who wants to enjoy high-gain and a powerful overall distortion that suits almost any music genre!

Pros and Cons of Distortion Pedals

Much like with any other product, there are both advantages and disadvantages to investing in one. 

Pros:

  • You will get an opportunity to enjoy a cleaner and more natural tone of your guitar, especially if you go for distortion guitars that allow overdrive effect as well.
  • You will also be able to make your heavy metal performance more powerful with the distortion pedals that offer high-gain, crunch, and muff.
  • Additionally, a pedal is great for covering impurities that are common for beginner players.

Cons:

The main disadvantage of using such a device is that if it is too sensitive, things may get out of control, and the distortion effect will hum the sound instead of boosting it. Thus, be sure to invest in pedals that are somewhat simple-to-use (especially if you are a newbie) and don’t allow too much sensitivity.

Conclusion

Investing in a guitar distortion pedal can go a long way for any guitar player, including lead and bass guitarists. As long as you consider the features mentioned above, including the price, reliability, simplicity, and control that the distortion pedal offers, you should be on the right path to get the ideal unit for you and your desired sound. So what are you waiting for? Do some further research and rock on!