Find Your Perfect Tone With the Best Distortion Pedal

The natural sound of your guitar may be terrific, but you can expand the range of sounds and effects you can make simply by using a distortion pedal. The fuzzy and gritty tones of the best distortion pedal models have greatly influenced the very sound of rock music itself.

Trying to change the effects of your guitar has long been of interest to the legends of guitar and rock. Les Paul tried to add effects with multi-tracks and echoes. However, now you can just use a distortion pedal to change your sound as you record or as you play. All the greats, including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Keith Richards, have used this. With your own distortion pedal, you can emulate the legends and create your own distinctive sound.

Factors to Consider

Picking the “right” or “best” distortion pedal isn’t always easy. That’s because there are many different models to choose from, and the price can vary a lot. You should try to get a pedal that matches your budget as well as your ability.

So how do you pick the right one for you? Here are some factors that you should consider:

  • If you’re a true rock guitar aficionado and you have a large budget, then you can buy expensive distortion pedals and perhaps even start your own collection. But for newbies, you really should limit your first purchases to models that cost less than $100. You can even find lots of classic models that cost no more than $50. Just keep in mind that these affordable models come with basic controls and often old (or classic) technology.
  • There are actually basic designs to choose from. There’s the fuzz pedal that offers a very heavy sound, the high-gain pedal that creates a harsher tone by boosting the signal gain to overwhelm the amplifier, and the valve-distortion pedal that’s loved by soloists and blues guitarists because of the round sound it makes. The truth is that you have even more advanced options for the effects you can make. Such options include the wah-wah, chorus, delay or reverb, talk box, phrase looping, compressor, or even the multi-effect pedal that gives you more than one sound effect.
  • Analog versus digital. The classic distortion pedals that were popular before and during the early 1980s are all analog. These are still popular today, because they’re more faithful in replicating the flavor of the sound made by the legendary rock musicians of yesteryear. Because there’s no conversion to digital, the signal is purer, as nothing is lost. Still, today you have lots of digital options, and they can be very precise as well as quite versatile.
  • Basically, each distortion pedal comes with its own sound, just like some guitar models sound different from one another. So a distortion pedal can help you sound like early Nirvana, mimic the glam of hair metal, or replicate the raw power of 1970s heavy metal.
  • Some have your basic three-knob controls, so you can set the distortion, tone, and level. Others have two knobs instead of a single Tone knob, so you can set the bass and treble separately. Other models even have a switch for different modes that offer very different sounds that you can then adjust with the other control knobs.</li>
  • Most of the time, your options are either a 9V battery or an adapter. Some units offer a choice, while others force you to either use the battery or the adapter.
  • The best ones are often compact, as we don’t all have a large space for our pedal boards. These make them easy to bring along for live performances if you want.
  • Most of the time, you have rather sturdy casings for your distortion pedals. However, it really does help if you can refrain from being excessive in your stomping.

With these factors in mind, let’s take a closer look at some worthy units to get whether you’re a newbie or a guitar vet.


BOSS DS-1 Distortion Pedal