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

Gear & Tech Reviews

Best Distortion Pedals for Guitar: Top 5 (You'll Sound Killer) - 2021 -

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.

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Best guitar distortion fx effects pedals for beginners

It can get confusing.

Should you go for a fuzz pedal, overdrive pedal, gain pedal, 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 totally 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 in 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…

1. Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi Distortion

Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi Distortion Pedal

The Big Muff is one of those distortion pedals all guitar players into their gear have heard of. It’s legendary sound is associated with artists ranging from Smashing Pumpkins to Pink Floyd to Hendrix.

With a nod to its iconic 70’s brother the Big Muff Pi, the Big Muff Pi reissue is simplicity personified with just 3 controls;  Sustain, Tone and Volume.

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 just works.

If you're on the fence about getting this, for the goodness sake, 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: Can sound over processed & spluttery if not handled properly. Just remember, getting the best distortion sound also depends on your amp settings, pickups, tone etc. 

Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Demo

2. Boss DS-1 Distortion

Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal

The DS-1 is a guitar players pedal board staple for a reason. This modern classic delivers harmonic distortion that obligingly boosts powerful drive and distortion through a multitude of different amps.

Joe Satriani, ACDC, Guns n Rose, Gary Moore,  ZZ Top..the list goes on of proud users of the Boss DS-1. And because it's Boss, it goes without saying the build quality of this distortion stompbox is second to none. No plastic casing here chief.

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, you beginners will find it perfect to play some killer easy guitar riffs with.

It doesn't make sense not to grab one of these for yourself.

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: Can sound like a wasp breaking wind in a tin can if you don't watch your settings 

Boss DS-1 Demo

3. Jim Dunlop MXR Distortion

The MXR distortion pedal isn't bothered with fuss. Two controls, one for distortion level, the other for output. Wham-bam thankyou maam. 

Perfect for screaming saturated rock solos and equally spot on for crunchy warm chord chops. Tweak the balance between the output and distortion and you can 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 really 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 Rhodes 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


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?)

Jim Dunlop MXR Demo

4. Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Distortion

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 amazing sound?

Yup. It does.

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

The tone of the pedal fits with jazz & blues, but yet when driven gives you that bit of filth any rocker would be proud of.

Put this little guy after your boost/overdrive pedal on your pedal board and listen to your guitar sound go from mild-mannered gain to high throughly 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
  • 9V power supply included (wohoo!)


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 depends also on your amp and guitar settings. So go fiddle.

EH Soulfood Demo

5. Marshall GV-2 Guv'nor Plus

Marshall GV-2 Guv'nor Distortion

First class build quality, first class powerful distortion sound. The Guv'nor Plus is an updated and improved version of the classic Guv'nor distortion fx pedal made famous in the 80's and 90's.

Easily achieve a huge distortion sound and tone from your guitar to suit your taste using the Gain, Bass, Deep, Treble, Mid, & Volume controls.

This little pedal sounds like a huge Marshall stack, but for a fraction of the price. Who's not going to love that?

You get bluesy sounding vintage valve amp tones all the way through to JCM800 like classic rock tones. Your lead and rhythm playing will never sound so huge once you plug this fella in and let rip.


Best Bits

  • Warm punchy analoge tone
  • Deep bass control
  • True bypass mode
  • Rugged build
  • Classic Marshall sound


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

You'll love: The unmistakable Marshall tones and the fact it's built like a tank.

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

Marshall GV-2 Demo

Bonus Suggestion

Mudhoney II Dual Distortion

T-Rex Mudhoney Duel Distortion Pedal

For those of you gigging guitar players and true gear lovers, we couldn't do a review of distortion pedals without bringing the outstanding Mudhoney II Dual Distortion pedal from T-rex to your attention.

This pedal sounds powerful, huge and gutsy thanks to its dual independent channels. Each channel has their own Level, Gain, Tone, and Boost controls to deliver stunning tube-style overdrive, to face-meltingly high gain distortion.


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

The T-Rex Mudhoney II Dual Distortion is one of my personal distortion pedals of choice I have used touring the world with, so it would be rude not to share it with 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 the fraction of the price it'd cost if you went out and brought a new amp. Result.

Now you've got not just 5, but 6 awesome distortion pedals to choose from. You're welcome.