Best Distortion Pedals

best distortion pedals

Best Distortion Pedals

Distortion pedals are arguably the most popular guitar pedals on the planet, and should be a part of any guitarists gear. That’s why we spent countless hours testing numerous pedals and  wrote this guide to the best distortion pedals.

Below you can find some of our favorite picks such as the budget-friendly “Best Buy” and our high-quality “Best of the Best” models. Because music is important to you, and because you’ll be spending a large amount of time using and practicing with your pedal of choice it’s critical you get the right advice. So take some time to digest the information below.

For a quick overview, below is our list of the best distortion pedals. For more in-depth information, scroll below.

Key Features to Look for in the Best Distortion Pedals

Cost is always an important factor when searching for the best distortion pedals, or the best of any equipment for that matter. The pedals we’ve laid out below are the best distortion pedals for varying cost brackets. If you’re a beginner go with our “Best Buy” pedal, which measures cost vs. quality. If you’re searching for a more advanced pedal, our “Best of the Best” demonstrates the highest quality pedal without budget in mind. 
Versatility is always important for any guitar pedal. Before buying, consider what genre of music you want to focus on. Some distortion pedals are sound-specific, others have a broad range and versatility. Be sure to pick the pedal that gives you the tools to get as close to your desired sound as possible.

Best Distortion Pedals

Best Buy Award

It should come as no surprise that BOSS not only made this list, but gained our Best Buy Award for the BOSS DS-1.

This pedal has been around for awhile, and has been used by popular guitarists: Kurt Cobain, Joe Satriani, Mike Stern, Steve Vai, and Doug Aldrich. At a fantastic price point (about $50), the sound and clarity of the DS-1 is a classic, and reliable one. In terms of tone, it definitely leans bright, which can be desirable (or not desirable) depending on the musician. You’re not going to get a heavy metal distortion out of this, but that isn’t the goal of the DS-1.

For its price vs. quality, you can find no better than the BOSS DS-1.

MXR Super Badass Distortion

best distortion pedals


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Best Of The Best

“Super Badass” is an appropriate name for the MXR Super Badass Distortion.

If versatility is your aim, then the search is over. The Super Badass boasts incredible distortion range, all the way from classic blues to heavy metal – you’re covered. True bypass, touch sensitive response, and 100% analog, make for an extremely reliable and top notch pedal.

Because of its versatility, and pure quality, the MXR Super Badass wins our Best Of The Best award.

TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion 

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Calling all Metal-heads!

TC Electronic’s Dark Matter is a beautiful guitar pedal that can push the boundaries of distortion.

This pedal gets all the things right that I feel the BOSS MT-2 Metal Zone got wrong. I know I’ll probably get a lot of flack for saying that, but I thoroughly believe it. The Dark Matter stays clean and crisp even at the very boundaries of distortion, and is actually quite versatile in its own right.

But come on, this is a metal pedal, and boy does it excel.

ProCo RAT2 Distortion

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The ProCo RAT2 is a unique, minimalist pedal, that has actually become quite popular through the years.

Used by David Gilmore, Dave Grohl, James Hetfield, Thurston Moore, Nels Cline, and many more – the RAT2 delivers a uniquely niche sound. Somewhere between distortion and not, this pedal is perfect for the guitarist who is trying to find that sweet middle ground of distortion.

Once you hear the RAT2 in action it’s easy to see why it’s one of the best distortion pedals around.



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