Best Distortion Pedals for Guitar: Top 5 (You’ll Sound Killer)

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Find the best guitar distortion and overdrive FX pedals perfect for metal to classic rock. Cheap and versatile, we’ve found 5 of the best.

It can get confusing when choosing the best guitar distortion pedal.

Should you go for a fuzz pedal, overdrive pedal, gain pedal, or fuzzy-wuzzy-super-drive pedal?

Wonder no more. Get a distortion pedal. Every self-respecting guitar player should have one.

But what’s the difference you may be pondering?

Distortion, as you may know, is a form of audio signal processing. What you may not know though is that unlike fuzz or overdrive effects pedals, distortion pedals saturate your guitar signal, changing it so it’s own mother wouldn’t recognise it.

We figured you’d like some help choosing the best one.

Why did we pick these 5? There’s something for everyone on this list, whether you’re a Classic Rock God or Metal Head – If you’re on a tight budget or if you fancy splashing out.

Let’s dive in…

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Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi Distortion Pedal Best for Guitar

The Big Muff is one of those distortion pedals all guitar players into their gear have heard of. Its legendary sound is associated with artists such as Smashing Pumpkins, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix.

With a nod to its iconic 70’s brother, the Big Muff Pi, this reissue is simplicity personified with just three controls: Sustain, Tone and Volume.

There are no bells and whistles, just pure in-your-face, grunting distortion. Whether you need a distortion pedal for lead, rhythm, guitar, bass or keys, The Big Muff from Electro-Harmonix works.

If you’re on the fence about getting this, get off it right away.

Best Bits

  • Volume control
  • Sustain control
  • Tone control
  • 9-volt battery included
  • Ideal for guitarists and bassist

Power: 9V battery (included) and DC Adaptor (sold separately)

You’ll love: The punchy sound quality.

You might not dig: It can sound over-processed & spluttery if not handled properly. Remember, getting the best distortion sound also depends on your amp settings, pickups, tone etc. 

Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion Guitar Pedal Best

The Boss DS-2 is a pedalboard staple for a reason. This modern classic delivers harmonic distortion that boosts powerful drive and distortion through many different amps.

Joe Satriani, AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, Gary Moore, and ZZ Top are just a few of the many proud users of the Boss DS-2. And because it’s Boss, the build quality of this distortion stompbox is second to none. No plastic casing here.

With simple tone, level, and distortion dials, you’ll find it a breeze to get that heavy distorted sound out of your guitar.

And at such a low price, beginners will find it perfect for playing some killer easy guitar riffs with.

Best Bits

  • Simple tone, level and distortion knobs
  • Robust and reliable build quality
  • Face-melting tone

Power: 9V battery (included) and DC Adaptor (sold separately)

You’ll love: Classic sound with a small price tag.

You might not dig: This fx pedal can easily sound like a wasp breaking wind in a tin can if you don’t watch your settings

Jim Dunlop MXR Distortion

The MXR distortion pedal is no-nonsense. Two controls, one for distortion level and the other for output. Wham-bam, thank you, ma’am.

This FX pedal is perfect for screaming saturated rock solos and crunchy, warm chords.

Tweak the balance between the output and distortion to get chunky, warm distortion tones that are in stark contrast to the brashness of the Big Muff featured at No. 1 on our list.

The MXR shines when you add it over an overdriven signal in your FX pedal chain. You’ll get bite and definition. Think the depth of Randy Rhoads’ guitar sound as he used one of these little gems, and you’re there.

Best Bits

  • Footswitch toggles effect on/bypass
  • Red LED On indicator
  • Output knob & distortion knobs
  • Durable, tough construction
  • Compact footprint

Power: 9V battery (included) or Dunlop ECB-003 AC adapter (sold separately)

You’ll love: Smooth distortion, no overly fuzzy tonality as some pedals have.

You might not dig: No frills basic design (is that really a bad point though we ask?).

Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Distortion

You can’t deny it. It’s a great name, isn’t it? But most importantly, does the Soul Food distortion effects pedal cut it with an amazing sound?

Yup, it does.

Whether you want an aggressive boost for your solo guitar lines or a gutsy mellow drive for your rhythm, the Electro-Harmonix Soul Food distortion pedal serves it up nicely.

The pedal’s tone fits with jazz and blues, yet when driven, it gives you that bit of filth any rocker would be proud of.

Put this little guy after your boost/overdrive pedal on your pedalboard, and listen to your guitar sound go from mild-mannered gain to high, thoroughly rude gain instantly.

Best Bits

  • Wide-ranging drive control gives you everything from clean boost to fully-saturated distortion
  • Higher drive settings boost mid frequencies for richer tone
  • Boosted power rails ensure high headroom and excellent note definition
  • Switchable true bypass or buffered switching

Power: 9V battery or 9V power supply (included)

You’ll love: You can toggle between true bypass or buffered output. Buffered output helps even your signal through your other pedals.

You might not dig: A few users moan about the tone not being as massive as they wanted. We say it also depends on your amp and guitar settings. So go fiddle.

JHS Sweet Tea V3 Overdrive & Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal Best

The JHS Sweet Tea effects pedal gives you distortion and overdrive tones that will make you grin from ear to ear.

Press the left button and you get the Angry Charlie, a high-gain Marshall JCM 800-type “Brown” sound that can handle anything from crunchy chords to soaring single-line melodies.

You have the Moonshine V2 sound on the right side, which has more beef care of the tweakable drive, volume, clean, and tone knobs.

From angry rock overdrive to creamy, gritty blues gain, you’ll be hard-pressed not to be able to get the overdrive sound of your dreams from the Sweet Tea V3 pedal.

Your lead and rhythm playing will never sound so huge once you plug this fella in and let rip.

Best Bits

  • The Sweet Tea V3 toggle
  • The Clean knob allows more signal balancing
  • 3-band EQ
  • Rugged build
  • Classic Marshall sound

Power: 9V DC Adaptor (sold separately)

You’ll love: The unmistakable diverse distortion, crunch and boost tones you can get out of the pedal.

You might not dig: The sad fact you didn’t discover this pedal years ago.

Bonus Suggestion Jekyll & Hyde ⬇

Truetone V3 Jekyll & Hyde Overdrive & Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal Best

For those of you gigging guitar players and true gear lovers, we couldn’t do a review of distortion pedals without bringing the outstanding V3 Jekyll & Hyde Overdrive from True Tone to your attention.

This pedal sounds powerful, vast and gutsy thanks to its dual independent overdrive and distortion channels.

You get the chance to sculpt the perfect dirty sound with Jekyll & Hyde’s controls, including drive, tone, Hi-gain, and 3-band EQ.  

It’s not cheap, but for those of you distortion fanboys & girls out there, you’ll not care much about such pesky little details, will you? 🙂

Summing it Up

Adding a distortion pedal to your gear arsenal is the cleverest way to get new tones you never thought you’d hear from your guitar and amp. 

And at a fraction of the price it’d cost if you went out and brought a new amp. Result.

Now you’ve got not just five but six kicking distortion pedals to choose from. You’re welcome.

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