The 5 Best Distortion Pedals for Guitarists in 2023

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Best Distortion Pedals

Distortion pedals are an essential tool for guitarists who want to add a crunchy, distorted edge to their sound. These pedals work by amplifying the guitar’s signal and then clipping the waveform to create the distinctive distorted sound that we all know and love. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out, a good distortion pedal can take your playing to the next level.

When it comes to choosing the best distortion pedal, there are a few critical things to consider. Firstly, you’ll want to think about the type of distortion you’re looking for. Do you want a classic, vintage sound like the one heard on early rock records, or are you after something more modern and aggressive? Different pedals offer different types of distortion, so it’s essential to choose one that suits your playing style.

Another important factor to consider is the build quality of the pedal. A well-built distortion pedal should be sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of live performance, with solid construction and high-quality components.

After researching and testing pretty much every pedal I could find, I’ve identified the top five distortion pedals on the market in 2023. Whether you’re a blues player looking for a warm, tube-like distortion or a metalhead searching for something heavy and aggressive, there’s sure to be a pedal on this list that will suit your needs.

Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal
Top Choice!
Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Guitar Pedal
Donner Distortion Guitar Pedal, Morpher Distortion 3 Modes Natural, Tight,...
MXR Fullbore Metal Distortion
Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal
Product
Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal
Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Guitar Pedal
Donner Distortion Guitar Pedal, Morpher Distortion 3 Modes Natural, Tight,…
MXR Fullbore Metal Distortion
Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal
Reviews
Stars
Price
$62.99
$99.99
$39.99
$119.99
$74.88
Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime
Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal
Product
Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal
Reviews
Stars
Price
$62.99
Amazon Prime
Top Choice!
Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Guitar Pedal
Product
Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Guitar Pedal
Reviews
Stars
Price
$99.99
Donner Distortion Guitar Pedal, Morpher Distortion 3 Modes Natural, Tight,...
Product
Donner Distortion Guitar Pedal, Morpher Distortion 3 Modes Natural, Tight,…
Reviews
Stars
Price
$39.99
Amazon Prime
MXR Fullbore Metal Distortion
Product
MXR Fullbore Metal Distortion
Reviews
Stars
Price
$119.99
Amazon Prime
Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal
Product
Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal
Reviews
Stars
Price
$74.88
Amazon Prime

Best Distortion Pedals

As a musician and guitar player, I know how important it is to have the right tools to create the perfect sound. Distortion pedals are an essential part of any guitarist’s arsenal, providing that gritty, raw guitar tone that can take your music to the next level. After testing and researching various distortion pedals, I have compiled a list of the best distortion pedals available on Amazon. These pedals are sure to enhance your sound and take your guitar playing to new heights.

Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Guitar Pedal MultiColored

Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Guitar Pedal MultiColored

If you’re looking for a high-gain distortion pedal that can deliver thick and tight distortion sounds with smooth, singing sustain, then the Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Guitar Pedal MultiColored is definitely worth considering.

The multi-colored design adds an aesthetic appeal to the pedal as well. However, it is important to note that the MT-2 has a distinct tone that may not be suitable for all musical styles, so it is recommended to try it out and see if it fits your specific sound preferences before making a purchase.

Pros

  • The pedal is easy to use.
  • Produces a thick, saturated sound. 
  • The pedal is built to last.
  • Great Value!

Cons

  • The pedal can be noisy at high gain levels
  • The pedal can be a bit finicky to dial in
  • The pedal doesn’t come with a power supply

I recently had the chance to try out the Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Guitar Pedal MultiColored, and I was impressed with its performance. The pedal is incredibly versatile, and it’s capable of producing a wide range of distortion sounds, from classic metal tones to modern high-gain sounds.

One of the things I really like about the pedal is how easy it is to use. The controls are straightforward and intuitive, and it’s easy to dial in the perfect tone. I also appreciate how responsive the pedal is – it’s incredibly dynamic, and it responds well to changes in playing style and guitar volume.

Another thing I like about the Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Guitar Pedal MultiColored is how well-built it is. The pedal feels solid and sturdy, and it’s clear that it’s designed to withstand heavy use. I also appreciate the fact that it’s relatively compact and lightweight, making it easy to transport and set up.

Overall, I think the Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Guitar Pedal MultiColored is an excellent choice for anyone who is looking for a high-quality distortion pedal that can deliver a wide range of tones. While it may take some experimentation to dial in the perfect tone, once you find it, you’ll be blown away by the pedal’s performance.

BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal

BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal

If you’re looking for a classic rock and metal sound, then the BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal is the perfect addition to your rig.  if you are looking to add some serious crunch and dirt to your guitar tone. This iconic pedal has been a staple on countless pedalboards for over 40 years and for good reason.

Overall, the BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal is a reliable and versatile addition to any guitarist’s rig. With its wide range of distortion tones, solid construction, and affordable price, it’s no wonder why this pedal has become an industry standard. 

Pros

  • The DS-1 is a time-proven mainstay of rock and metal tone.
  • The three knobs allow for practically every rock sound you’ve ever heard.
  • The pedal is very affordable and built to last.
  • Budget Friendly.

Cons

  • The pedal can be noisy at high gain levels.
  • The tone controls can be a bit limited for some players.
  • The orange color may not be appealing to everyone.

The BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal was my first distortion pedal and it might be the one I’ve used most over the years I’ve been playing.

The pedal is very easy to use, with just three knobs that allow for a wide range of distortion tones. The Level knob controls the overall volume, the Tone knob shapes the tone of the distortion, and the Distortion knob adjusts the amount of gain.

One thing to keep in mind is that the pedal can be a bit noisy at high gain levels, so it’s not the best choice if you’re looking for a super-clean sound. However, if you’re after a classic rock or metal tone, then the DS-1 is definitely worth considering.

The pedal is also very affordable, which makes it a great choice for players on a budget. And, like all BOSS pedals, it’s built to last, so you can be sure it will stand up to years of use and abuse.

Overall, I would definitely recommend the BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal to anyone looking for a classic rock or metal sound. It’s easy to use, affordable, and built to last. Just be aware that it can be a bit noisy at high gain levels, and the tone controls may not be versatile enough for some players.

Donner Morpher Distortion Pedal

Donner Morpher Distortion Pedal

If you’re looking for a high-gain distortion pedal with a wide dynamic range and suitable for both shredding and riffing, the Donner Morpher Distortion Pedal is one of the best distortion pedals out there.

It offers a wide range of distortion tones, from subtle crunch to heavy metal, making it versatile for various musical genres. The pedal is built with high-quality components, providing a solid and durable construction that can withstand rigorous use. Additionally, it has a true bypass feature that ensures the original signal remains unaltered when the pedal is not engaged.

Pros

  • The Morpher sounds like a crossover between MI Crunch Box and Suhr Riot, making it great for hair metal, glam metal, and pop metal.
  • With three distortion modes, the Morpher is designed for richer playability and high definition.
  • The well-made durable and whole aluminum-alloy design

Cons

  • The package does not include a power adapter.
  • The Morpher’s true bypass design may not be suitable for those looking for a more colored tone.
  • The Morpher can be noisy at higher gain levels.

My testing for this article was the first time I’d used the Donner Morpher Distortion Pedal. The first thing that jumped out at me was the versatile sound and solid construction. The pedal’s three distortion modes allow for a wide range of tones, from natural to tight to classic crunch. The Morpher’s high-gain distortion sound is perfect for those looking to play hair metal, glam metal, or pop metal.

The Morpher’s durable aluminum-alloy design ensures that it can withstand heavy use, and the indicator lights clearly show the working state of the pedal. Additionally, the Morpher’s true bypass design delivers a transparent tone, with no popping, buzzing, or electric noise.

However, the Morpher’s true bypass design may not be suitable for those looking for a more colored tone. Additionally, the package does not include a power adapter, which may be an inconvenience for some users. Finally, some users have reported that the Morpher can be noisy at higher gain levels.

Overall, I would recommend the Donner Morpher Distortion Pedal to anyone looking for a versatile high-gain distortion pedal with a wide dynamic range. It’s solid construction and rich playability make it a great choice for shredding and riffing.

MXR Fullbore Metal Distortion 

MXR Fullbore Metal Distortion

I highly recommend the MXR Fullbore Metal Distortion pedal as a tube screamer, bass boost, overdrive pedal, and is easily the top choice for metal. 

It offers a wide range of distortion sounds, from a thick and saturated overdrive to more extreme and abrasive distortion. The pedal features controls for gain, volume, treble, mid, and bass, allowing guitarists to dial in their desired tone with precision. It also includes a noise gate switch that helps to eliminate any unwanted background noise.

Pros

  • Super High-gain distortion 
  • Built-in noise gate reduces unwanted noise and feedback
  • Scoop toggle to boost mid-range 
  • A Metal Guitarist’s Dream.

Cons

  • Not a pedal for all genres.
  • More expensive than many options

The MXR Fullbore Metal Distortion pedal is a popular choice among guitar players, particularly those who enjoy playing heavier styles of music like metal or hard rock.

The pedal is known for its powerful and high-gain distortion sound, making it perfect for creating heavy, aggressive tones. It has a wide range of controls, including gain, volume, and a 3-band EQ (bass, mid, treble) that allow you to shape your tone to your liking.

The built-in noise gate helps to reduce unwanted noise and feedback, which can be particularly useful when playing at high-gain settings. Additionally, it has a handy scoop toggle switch that boosts the mid-range frequencies, giving you that classic “scooped” metal sound.

Overall, the MXR Fullbore Metal Distortion pedal is a versatile and reliable option for players looking to achieve crushing metal tones. 

Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal

ProCo RAT2 Distortion Pedal

If you’re looking for a versatile distortion pedal that can handle arena rock rhythm tones, soaring leads, and can add heavy distortion to solos, then the ProCo RAT 2 Distortion Pedal is a great choice.

Overall, the ProCo RAT 2 Distortion Pedal is a reliable and versatile choice for guitarists seeking an excellent distortion pedal. Its range of tones, simplicity, transparency, and compatibility with different setups make it a popular choice among many musicians. 

Pros

  • Excels at arena rock rhythm tones and soaring leads
  • Nails the sweet spot where a tube amp goes from sparkly clean to warm overdrive
  • Can be used as a boost for solos to get the extra kick you need

Cons

  • Some users experienced issues with the design of the pedal’s bottom
  • Doesn’t sound like the original RAT pedal from the past
  • May not be the best fit for those looking for a more modern distortion sound

As someone who has used the Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal, I can confidently say that this is a great option for those looking for a versatile distortion pedal that can handle a range of tones. The pedal excels at arena rock rhythm tones and soaring leads, making it a great choice for those who want to rock out on stage or in the studio.

One of the best things about the RAT2 is that it nails the sweet spot where a tube amp goes from sparkly clean to warm overdrive. This means that you can get a warm, rich distortion sound that is perfect for a range of musical styles.

Another great feature of the RAT2 is that it can be used as a boost for solos to get the extra kick you need. This is perfect for those who want to stand out during a solo or want to add extra energy to their playing.

While some users have experienced issues with the design of the pedal’s bottom, this is a minor issue that doesn’t affect the overall performance of the pedal. Additionally, some users have noted that the RAT2 doesn’t sound like the original RAT pedal from the past. However, this is a matter of personal preference and doesn’t detract from the quality of the pedal.

Overall, if you’re looking for a versatile and reliable distortion pedal, the Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal is a great choice.

Distortion Pedal Buying Guide

When it comes to buying a distortion pedal for your electric guitar, there are a few key factors to consider. Just like all guitar equipment, not all pedals are for all players. Some guitarists are exclusively metal players, while others range from blues to hard rock. Some people want a few versatile pedals, while others have a huge pedal board.

Here are some things I used when writing this guide to the best distortion pedals for guitarists.

Tone

One of the most important things to consider when choosing a distortion pedal is the tone. Different pedals will produce different sounds, so it’s important to choose one that matches the style of music you play. Some pedals are designed for heavy metal, while others are better suited for blues or rock.

Gain

Gain is another important factor to consider. This refers to the amount of distortion the pedal delivers. Some pedals have a high gain, which is ideal for heavy metal and hard rock, while others have a lower gain, which is better for harmonic, blues, and classic rock.

Controls

Most distortion pedals come with a range of controls that allow you to adjust the sound to your liking. Look for pedals with controls for tone, gain, and volume. Some pedals also come with additional controls, such as a mid-range boost or a built-in noise gate.

True Bypass

True bypass is a feature that allows you to bypass the pedal’s circuitry when it’s not in use. This can help to preserve the tone of your guitar when the pedal is turned off.

Size

Finally, consider the size of the pedal. Some distortion pedals are quite large and may take up a lot of space on your pedalboard. Others are more compact and easier to transport. Consider your needs and the amount of space you have available when choosing a pedal.

By considering these factors, you can choose a distortion pedal that will help you to achieve the perfect sound for your music.

Amp

The amp you use does affect your pedal selection. Yes, the amp you use can definitely affect the pedal selection. Different amps have different tonal characteristics, so certain pedals may work better or worse with a particular amp. For example, if you have a bright and clean amp, you may want to use different pedals than if you have a darker and more saturated amp.

The amp’s power and headroom can also influence how certain pedals will sound, particularly with overdrive and distortion pedals. Ultimately, it is important to consider the amp’s characteristics and how it will interact with the pedals you plan to use. 

Price

While it’s unfortunate, price is often a factor when making purchasing decisions. It’s not uncommon for many people to prioritize finding products or services that fit within their budget, especially during difficult economic times. However, it’s important to consider other factors as well, such as quality, value for money, and overall satisfaction with the purchase.

Sometimes paying a slightly higher price can lead to a better, longer-lasting product or a more enjoyable experience. Ultimately, striking a balance between price and other important factors is key when making informed purchasing decisions. 

In this guide, I’ve done my best to select quality, high-value products in a range of different price points!

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Edward Bell Author

A ukulele player pretty much from birth, Edward has gone on to play banjo, lead guitar, and bass for a number of bands and solo projects! Edward loves talking, teaching and writing about music!

Last update on 2024-02-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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