Best Distortion Pedals for a Great Sounding Guitar 

 June 9, 2021

By  Zen Chung

Many guitarists need some distortion every now and then. The best distortion pedals will saturate your tone and drive your guitar signal more than a standard overdrive pedal does. It is one of the most popular types of guitar pedals, and the effect has a great tone that is predominant in different genres of music.

Depending on the distortion pedal you use, you can create a nice wall for crushing the rhythm parts, get a buttery smooth feel with endless sustain, or sometimes it could only be a mess. The pedal guide below will help you find the best distortion pedal that matches your needs as a guitarist.


5 Best Distortion Pedals

1. BOSS DS-1 Distortion Guitar Pedal, Single Mode

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The BOSS DS-1 Distortion Guitar Pedal is the most popular distortion pedal among electric guitar players. It is used by some important rock acts in history on some world's most influential albums. Its distortion features a smooth increase, and its EQ controls come in handy when dialing the frequency response that is preferred by many.

All the controls are simple and include tone, level, and distortion. The tone knob is used to adjust the treble where turning it clockwise cuts bass while counterclockwise is for higher frequencies. Its level knob adjusts volume, and the distortion knob controls the gain and sustain.

It has a relatively bright-sounding distortion and can also do hard rock and crunch as well. This distortion pedal features eight suggested settings in the manual as a great way to get great tones for different genres. It has an amazing classic rock distortion tone, will last a lifetime, and is also extremely affordable.


  • Budget-friendly
  • Great for modern metal tone
  • Quite durable
  • Easy to use
  • Great value for money
  • Excellent wiring
  • Works well with delay, equalizer, compression, and a noise gate


  • Not very versatile

2. Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal

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If you're in search of a punchy tone or a thick, compressed rhythm, then the Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal is a great choice. Although it is not the best at high gain settings, it can also be used as a lower gain boost. It never gets too woofy or bassy when fully engaged and doesn't reach the shrill ear-bleeding treble of other pedals.

The distortion will still cut through at low levels and begin to chop the signal into fuzz territory as you get to its max. As you increase the distortion and volume, the tonal quality will still remain the same. It is an ideal pedal for solos, lead licks, and open chords and requires a 9V power supply.

As one of the best distortion pedals, it features a filter control that you can roll on or off the high gain frequencies to match your taste. It is also a true bypass and comes in handy when you want to use multiple pedals. This pedal is capable of everything from light overdrive to a heavy level of distortion.


  • The full sounding bottom end
  • Versatile pedal
  • Works well in low, medium, and high gain settings
  • Little effort is required
  • Exceptional bass
  • Decent fuzz


  • A power adapter may need to be bought separately.
  • Some may not like the fuzzy distortion.

3. Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal

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The Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal is stacked up with all the important features you need. It features a well-designed gold adonized aluminum chassis and a magnetic battery access compartment located at the pedal's front. It has dual gain engines, which can be independently controlled using the tone and gain knob.

The blue LEDs that illuminate the knob settings look great and make it simple to adjust the parameters but can also be switched off if it's not your thing. It also has the golden Fender amp jewel indicator pedal to enhance its beauty and usability. This distortion pedal also features two individually voiced distortion circuits with separate gain and tone control that one can blend for rich textures.

It has a cool dual-distortion circuit design, where every circuit provides the individual tone and gain controls. The blend knob allows users to achieve a rich and layered distortion. The Pugilist distortion has excelled in producing great high gain distortion effects with complex layers that are easy to dial to perfection.


  • Light distortion to hard rock
  • Versatile
  • Impressive design
  • Great for a rock focused powerhouse
  • Two gain engines
  • LED-backlit knobs
  • Blend control
  • Magnetic battery door


  • No drip
  • The lighting on the pedal may be too much

4. MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion

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While most distortion pedals only come with a few knobs to tweak, making it difficult to control the tone, the MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion is a popular option if you're looking to achieve more control over the EQ of the distortion pedal. It is a true bypass power and analog distortion pedal that is able to cover anything from a pounding hard rock to a sweet overdrive.

It features EQ knobs that include bass, mid and treble knobs that offer you great control required for dialing the right sounding distortion. The different frequency ranges can match a wide range of styles of music. You won't get a lot of wrong combinations during tweaking, which means you choose from great sounds with varying textures instead of finding a usable sound.

The knobs are quite easy to use, and they include; distortion knobs that do the heavy lifting and the output knob to control the volume. Its distortion includes an incredible range that is simple to dial in, requires a 9v power supply, and it also offers an incredible value for money. If you frequently switch the amps and pickup types, then you will love the tone sculpting feature this model offers you.


  • Three-band EQ
  • Versatile analog distortion
  • Low noise
  • Great output
  • Highly responsive
  • Great value for money
  • Easy to use


  • It May get too loud quickly when you tweak the output.

5. EarthQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold Power Amp Distortion Effects Pedal

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The EarthQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold Power Amp Distortion Effects Pedal boasts beautiful artwork, and the form factor of this pedal is quite unique. It features a white LED indicator, beautiful black and gold artwork, a big honking knob, and a footswitch.

It has been designed to simplify the distortion options you have and redirect the focus to only plugging in and playing the guitar. This pedal is a power amp distortion pedal that features pure-driven amp rock and roll distortions. It has an amazing tone and is quite popular with stoner and doom rockers for its saturated crunch.

The pedal is quite loud such that when the guitar's volume knob is turned, you can't go far before the widows start shaking. However, compared to other distortion pedals, this one limits its versatility. This is because it lacks EQs and tone-shaping features that come in handy in the customization of the tone.


  • Loud
  • Easy to use
  • Amazing tone
  • Powerful fuzz pedal
  • Affordable
  • Quite unique design
  • A single giant knob


  • Not Versatile
  • It may be extremely noisy if not careful

Factors to Consider Before Buying the Best Distortion Pedal

1. Tone

The tone indicates how much you like the sounding of the pedal. During the evaluation of the tone, you should have in mind the other important variables in your signal chain that may affect your tone, for example, amp, room, guitar, and a plethora.

Always compare the options, take a break and revisit the options before you commit to buying one. Distortion is not a clean effect, and it is compressed and messy, which means it can a bit challenging to determine the differences.

2. Bypass

While looking for a pedal, you might come across three important terms; True bypass, Buffered bypass, and hardwired bypass. They describe what will happen to the guitar signal when the pedal is not being used.

a). True Bypass Power

This is where the guitar signal passes through a pedal unaffected and makes it seem like the signal was s only passing through a cable. Most guitarists prefer this kind of bypass because it is known to make the tone more transparent.

However, this isn't always the outcome because the main effect of a true bypass is that it will shorten the distance the signal travels to reach your amp. This helps your signal to maintain a high-end response since as the distance from the amp to your guitar increases, you will start to lose the high-end frequencies. However, the true bypass power may not do much to improve the tone.

b). Buffered Bypass

In a buffered bypass, the signal will still pass through the pedal and its circuitry, but it is boosted. This is done to help strengthen the signal, which in turn preserves the signal more than a true bypass pedal does. They come in handy if you're using lots of pedals or a large signal chain.

c). Hardwire Bypass

A hardwire bypass means that the signal will pass through its circuitry, but it is not boosted. This can make you lose some high-end response, especially when using multiple hardwire bypass pedals.

3. Versatility and Usability

The best distortion pedals should emphasize two main things: versatility and usability. When it comes to a pedal with great usability, you get less control to alter the tone but will have a great tone with every setting. Pedals that emphasize versatility often have more controls but may need customization to achieve the best possible tone.

Whichever distortion pedal you choose depends on what you're looking to achieve. If you're hoping for a plug-in and play pedal, chances are, you might be frustrated with a distortion that has a lot of controls and requires a lot of tweaking. On the other hand, if you prefer to have more control over the tone, then the most versatile distortion pedals will work best for you.

4. Quality

You don't want to buy a distortion pedal that will last only a few days or produce a terrible tone. For this reason, you need to check the reputation and reviews of each pedal before buying one. Check if there are issues with the build quality as well as the tone. The best distortion pedals should have an amazing build quality in terms of the material and construction and a great distortion sound.

5. Cost

Distortion pedals come in a wide range of prices, but you won't have to break the bank to get a good distortion pedal. Luckily, you can always find one that is within your budget. Set a reasonable budget depending on what you want.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Distortion Pedals

1. What is the best distortion pedal?

The best distortion pedals may differ from one person to another depending on what you're looking to achieve. However, our recommendation would be the BOSS Distortion Guitar Pedal, Single Mode (DS-1). This is because it features a smooth increase distortion, and its EQ controls come in handy when dialing the frequency response that is preferred by many.

2. Can I Use a Guitar Distortion Pedal for Bass?

Yes. However, it is recommended not to because the frequency range of a bass guitar is different from that of an electric one. Pedal manufacturers consider this when manufacturing the pedals. We highly recommend getting the best distortion pedals for bass, with a bass boost switch, rather than engaging in some trial and error to find distortion pedals that will work best with bass.

3. Should one get a distortion or overdrive pedal?

If you're looking for a straight-up rock or metalhead that your amp isn't giving you, and you also need the high gain sounds, you should consider getting a distortion pedal. If you want even more high gain tones, you need to get both distortion and overdrive pedals. When the overdrive and distortion pedals are stacked up, you can get some great results; however, this will only be the case if they are done correctly. 

Zen Chung

I'm Zen Chung, a piano and violin teacher based out of Plano, Texas. I started this blog because my students (and their parents) kept asking about the best musical instruments to buy online. Look no further I'm here to save the day! 

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