Best Guitar Pedals For Metal – 2020 Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

| Last Updated: December 29, 2020

At first sight (or sound?) metal might seem quite straightforward – all you need to rock is a good distortion, right? In fact, you might have noticed by now that it does not hold true at all. 

We need some planning ahead and some really good gear to tweak in order to get that goosebump-inducing metal sound. 

Keep reading to find out more about the best pedals for metal and how they can tighten and thicken your tones. 

Comparison Chart of the Best Metal Guitar Pedals

  • Noise gate control – subtle gating versus hard stop
  • High versatility with controls for volume, tone, and gain
  • Easy to adjust the attack through the far, normal or tight switch
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  • Fine-tuning abilities
  • All the punch you need without tone coloration
  • From tight rhythms to glassy tones and anything in between
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  • Best metal guitar pedal for the money
  • Can be used as a powerful booster for up to 30 decibels
  • Get the perfect crunch through the high/low peak switch
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  • Very sensitive to changes in volume
  • Noise reduced to a minimum even with high gain
  • Unique range of adjustments with drive, high and low controls
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  • Unique unit with great features to be explored
  • No emulation – Bonsai is an exact replica of all nine pedals in one casing
  • Nine variations including classic, rare vintage and other hard to find Screamers
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Are Pedals Important While Playing Metal?

Having a good metal tone is all about the distortion effect. Here we have an oozing debate – on the one hand, some swear that a good distortion is entirely through the effect pedals. On the other hand, some are thoroughly convinced that all you need is good quality amp distortion and a pedal of any kind is unnecessary. 

The main aspect is that distortion is a personal subject. What might sound like the perfect metal sound for some will not be appreciated by others. We recommend that you try both versions before settling down for good, and you might be surprised! At least give a good read through our article before making a decision, though.

Since you’re here, we’ll assume you are on our side and believe that effect pedals can shape that metal sound to your liking. However, keep in mind that the truth might be somewhere in the middle – maybe both pedal and amp can be huge tone-shapers. In fact, we did include an option to highlight your amp’s true distortion qualities. To find which one it is, have a look in the sections below!

Why Did These Pedals Make Our List?

There are numerous pedals on the market suitable for metal players. Here is how we made our list:

Quality of Sound

The prerequisite for being considered a potential candidate for our top-notch list is the quality of the sound. We steer away from pedals that muddy your tone and go for those options that provide high quality, even when you crank the gain all the way up. We also enjoy a good pedal with true bypass, so there’s no distress when the pedal is disengaged. 


Versatility is more of a broad term – they are versatile in that they can be used with anything from classic rock to hardcore and metal, but of course, they have to be the best for metal to make it to our list. To spike your curiosity so far, we have one pedal that is the most versatile one you have likely ever seen! 

Value for Money

Lastly, we need some value for the money. All units need to be affordable or offer some top-notch professional features for a higher price range, otherwise, they are not the perfect candidates for our list. 

Review of the Best Metal Guitar Pedals

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best metal guitar pedals that can help your sound become just what you want it to be.

Amptweaker TightMetal JR Distortion Pedal


  • Tone quality is absolutely exquisite
  • True bypass and plenty of controls
  • Best metal pedal and highly versatile
  • Can be used with 9V battery for a heavy, compressed sound
  • Can be used with 19V battery for a less distorted, open sound


  • Quite pricey
  • Tones are quite restricted compared to other models

What Recent Buyers Report

If you are focused on quality, the TightMetal JR Amptweaker meets all your demands. When it comes to tone, there is probably no other pedal that can outrun this beauty. It works well with lead guitar styles because of little lean on the emphasis on the higher frequencies compared to the low ends.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This exquisite pedal is a must-have for any metal player. With a high-gain fury, this unit makes use of integrated controls for tone, volume, and gain to deliver the clearest, best-sounding tones you can dream of. On top of that, it has a slider switch to change between thrash, normal, and smooth EQ.

Who Will Use This Most

If you love your crunch and want a full bottom end, give yourself an early Christmas present and check out this beauty. Low-end preservation is probably the best thing about this Jr., and the distortion is a little bit on the grindy side.

Bottom Line

Overall, this Jr. is an excellent asset for any metal lover. You will find it quite tweakable, although some complain that the sounds are a bit of a niche. We recommend you try it out if you are a bassist who lovies a crunch with a bit of an evil streak.

Horizon Devices Precision Drive Modern Overdrive Pedal Electric Guitar


  • Outstanding grit and tightening
  • Perfect for Djent or similar genres
  • Has a noise gate and a powerful boost
  • Noise-reduction abilities and tight tones
  • Does control not only the cut in the mix to perfect but also perfectly fine-tunes the sounds


  • High price range
  • Design is not so attractive

What Recent Buyers Report

This distortion pedal has exceptionally precise abilities. With the drive, bright, attack, and volume, you can tune your sounds to perfection and make them sound just the way you want them to. The volume knob is a neat feature – a six on this pedal is worth more than a ten on classic ones.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This Horizon Precision has an integrated noise gate that controls noise reduction and the attack knob controls the punch to the finest qualities. This unit is popular for its precise ability to keep the low-ends from the signal, and you can easily reduce the mud at low-ends.

Who Will Use This Most

If you’re in need of an extra-precise pedal, you’re in the right place. This distortion pedal might be just the perfect one for metal, especially for Djent and similar genres. This unit is specially designed for metal lovers who enjoy overdrive and high-precision, clean low ends.

Bottom Line

Overall, this distortion pedal is one of the most precise you will ever come across. It offers a wide range of attack levels, which enables you to find the perfect punch without having to compromise on sound quality. Thus, if you love Djent-like sounds, this is a pedal you have to check out!

Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal


  • Pristine sounds and beautiful crunches
  • Perfect pedal for a crowded effect chain
  • Enhances the natural crunch from you amp tubes
  • Can be used as a highly powerful booster of 30 decibels
  • Will not muddy the sounds, maintaining their high-quality
  • Has controls for drive and tone and true bypass for tonal integrity


  • Power input is on the side, instead of on the top
  • Might need 12V or even 18V to make use of its full potential

What Recent Buyers Report

An overdrive pedal is an essential part of any metal player’s effect chain. What is more, it is so versatile and flexible that it can be easily used with anything from classic rock to hardcore and metal, and everything in-between. It has a simplistic three-knob design, which is convenient and easy to use.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Fulltone OCD is one of the most flexible and versatile units you will probably ever see on the market. You can use it as a booster, or emphasize the natural crunch of the amp tubes, or get a gritty feel. Whatever it is, the Fulltone OCD will handle it without any trouble.

Who Will Use This Most

This pedal is great for classic rock, modern hardcore, metal, and anything in-between. It is ideal for on-stage use because it has a design based around three simple knobs – this can be quite useful when you have to change your tones between songs quickly.

Bottom Line

All in all, this pedal is not for the faint of heart. It is one of the best distortion pedals on the market today and will give you crystal-clear clarity and guitar definition. Give it a chance if you are a serious musician looking for the best tube amp distortion!

Boss DS-1X Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal includes Free Wireless Earbuds - Stereo Bluetooth In-ear and 1 Year Everything Music Extended Warranty


  • Extremely high clarity and guitar definition
  • Sensitive with volume change and dynamics
  • Highly versatile, best used for both lead and rhythm
  • Beginner-friendly and easy to use right out of the box
  • A high degree of sound-shaping, not usually found in typical pedals


  • High price range
  • Creates a ‘thin’ sound at high notes

What Recent Buyers Report

This is an easy-to-use and understand guitar pedal. Both the design and controls are simplistic, with knobs for gain, level, and distortion. This is a great benefit if you are not the type who wants to fiddle around with your new pedal for hours to put things together.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This BOSS pedal contains MDP technology, which means you can choose amazing-quality tones, regardless of your chosen register. In addition to this, the distortion is crystal-clear and the sound will never be boomy or muddy, even if you play two or more notes simultaneously.

Who Will Use This Most

This is a simple, yet astonishing, distortion pedal with simple controls that can be easily used by both lead and rhythm players of all levels. You can either go for fuzzy, deep sounds for rhythm or adjust it for a breathtaking solo tune. The sound might get thinner at high notes, depending on your setup.

Bottom Line

All in all, if you often change between leads and rhythm or want to experience them both, this distortion pedal can offer you this perfect combo. Although a bit on the expensive side, this unit is a keeper if you want a middle ground to help you boost your performance to a new level.

JHS Bonsai 9-Way Screamer Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal


  • Nine Screamer styles in one pedal
  • Old, rare, and/or hard-to-find variations
  • Paradise on earth for Tube Screamer fans
  • Each mode activates components specific to each pedal
  • Does not emulate the models, it is an exact replica of each unit


  • High price range
  • Volume changes between modes

What Recent Buyers Report

The JHS Pedal Bonsai can offer you the various high-quality sounds of Tube screams all in one tiny casing. This pedal truly redefines the meaning of versatility. It is one of the most, if not the most, complex pedal on the market, allowing you to use sounds from the 1970s to the present day.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Well, the most striking feature of the Bonsai is how it manages to replicate nine different screams in one tiny case. It is not a box of modes, it encases nine variations of different pedals by using a simple rotary knob to switch to the desired one, including classic, rare, vintage, and hard-to-find screamers.

Who Will Use This Most

Ideally, if you are a screamer fan, this probably has already gotten you hyped up and checking the price tag by now. If you’re still here, make sure you do check it out, since we are convinced this is one of the most creative pedals you can find on the market and an amazing way to get nine pedals in one.

Bottom Line

If you’re still in doubt about which pedal suits you best, rest assured, this Bonsai puts nine different ones together to convince you to purchase it. You can use it to benefit from the drift, quirks, and individuality of all separate nine pedals, and the price is definitely not for nine units!

Can You Really Find a Quality Pedal That’s Affordable?

A cheap pedal is not necessarily bad just because it is low-priced and common, just as an expensive pedal is not automatically good quality. Just think about it this way – there must be a really good reason why a product is both popular and cheap – and that’s because it is a quality product. 

Going for cheaper models that have been tested by many users does not only give you more insight into the product itself, but also mass-market companies are often more consistent and more reliable than a boutique. 

Aspects to Consider Before Buying

Here’s a short breakdown of the most important aspects you should consider when reading this review:

  • A distortion pedal can give you so much more than the amp – it can define your tones, tighten the bottom end, or can just be used as a booster.

  • A distortion pedal is great for sharpening the tones.

  • A distortion pedal can enhance the distortion given by the amp’s tubes.

  • Some genres, such as death metal cannot be used with amps, they need pedals to get the right tones.

  • Define your budget. Although you can definitely go for a cheaper version, make sure there is a correct ratio between what you can afford and your budget – you will definitely not regret the choice!

All these features can be found in our listed recommendations. Following up on the discussion of amp vs. pedal, our choices are definitely a great addition to your pedal chain – in fact, most of them have many other controls which make them extremely useful, such as boost. Make sure you balance the need for a distortion pedal with your budget, and we are sure you will find the right product to satisfy you!

Cautious Considerations to Keep in Mind

Here is a shortlist of careful considerations to keep in mind:

Distortion Pedal Effects

Distortion pedals are specially created to really distort your sound. In other words, you can either get some serious crunch or earth-shattering distortion, and you get the same effects, even if you play softly or loudly. So, make sure you know what you are getting into when going for one – our recommendations can create some serious grit and heavy tones, perfect for metal players. 

Amps and Pedals

Some people might deter you from making this choice, since there is quite a heated debate on this topic. However, we recommend you try it out for yourself – a distortion pedal can help you if you have a specific genre (such as death metal or any similar ones), or it might make for a poor-quality amp. Some amps are okay with classic rock, for instance, although they cannot handle heavier genres. 

Price/Value Ratio

Lastly, you should consider that, if you are a professional who often performs on stage or gigs, you might want higher-end features for your pedal, just because you will need more flexibility and more control/quality of sounds. For beginners, it is advisable to start from the bottom and try out a few units before settling down. 


Overall, let’s say we settled the uncertainty over the use of distortion pedals and their place in the metal world. All you need now is just to pick the most interesting recommendation from our list and have some fun!


Thalia has spent most of her life loving two things - writing and music. Thalia's passion for music saw her learning to play several instruments throughout her childhood and teen years. This passion also led to her earning two qualifications in Sound Recording Engineering, which she now uses by writing about musical instruments, studio gear, and the processes involved in making and producing music.