What is the Best Distortion Pedal in 2023?

Distortion pedals are a great way to make playing the guitar even more fun. They add a different sonic texture or a different color to the current tone you’re using. In this article, you’ll be reading about some of the best distortion pedals that are available on a good budget.

See our complete series where we compare the best guitar pedals for the money.

The Top 5 Best Distortion Pedals We Discuss In This Article:

How to Choose a Distortion Pedal

There are a number of ways to go about looking for new gear such as overdrive products online. You may want to first evaluate your own personal tastes. See, different styles of music require different levels of gain. Do you love to play crunchy heavy metal riffs? You’ll want something that has a lot of bite to it with high gain capabilities. Or perhaps you just want a slight touch for some leads you want to lay down during your next jazz ensemble performance. It’s important to be self-aware of your play style or the types of music you expect to play in order to gauge what kind of equipment is available. While they all serve the same function of distorting your instrument’s tone, many of them will be tweaked to have different tones or overdrive capabilities. Context is always key.

Then, of course, you’ll want to try some out. If you’re buying online, however, maybe it’s best you go onto a site such as YouTube where you can hear different examples of people playing through the product. In addition to playing, they’ll usually tell you what styles it is exceptional for while talking about the pros and cons of each. There are a lot of DIY people on YouTube with their own independent channel such as this where the player will demonstrate the different ways to play through the product.

This is an excellent variation of the old advice known as “try before you buy”, without you having to go and try the products at the store. Of course, it always helps to do that as well. There’s nothing like gauging how you like a piece of equipment by playing it and getting the “feel” of it as you play through one with an instrument of your choice. It’s a very intuitive process that pays off in the long run.

Why Use distortion anyway?

A piece of equipment like this is one of the most common products in the world of electric stringed instruments. It can add a different dynamic to the context of the music you’re playing. If you’re playing a lead part that requires more volume and more “bite” to the tone, then they great for that. It creates separation from the band or backing track and allows the guitar using the overdrive features to stand out. It’s also a great way to add context and color to the right musical setting. That’s what makes the guitar such a beautiful instrument. It’s either great on its own without any effects or you can use effects such as gain to add a different sonic texture to the song to make it more appropriate in that setting. Are you going to use a non-distorted sound while playing a heavy blues or rock song? It wouldn’t work. It doesn’t have the same type of emotional impact that a sound with more gain would have. That’s why having some of the best distortion pedals at your disposal is such a huge advantage.

What to look Out for

There are a number of different things that go into looking for the best distortion pedal for you. What kinds of knobs can be found on this product? There are usually a few key essential ones that can always be found on them. The first and most obvious one should be a gain knob. This control just how much distortion you want coming from your item. Some people want it higher, others want it lower for a quick boost. It all depends on how you use it. There is also a tone knob which is implying how much tone you want to use from the product itself. It can seriously modify your amp’s sound, or just add to the quick boost as mentioned earlier.

Using your distortion pedal

One of the most common ways to use them is to add gain to an instrument’s tone in order to play leads. How much gain you want can be adjusted on the device or the amp. Many amps will come with a naturally distorted channel, but may not provide the tone needed for the solo, which is where this kind of equipment comes in. It can distort a clean channel or be used to augment the primary distorted channel on the amp. These are done for the purposes of a lead.

The best distortion pedals in 2019

Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal

This is a common piece of equipment found in many musicians’ pedal boards. It’s one of the classic overdrive devices that can be used in a number of different styles. In that sense, it’s a great supplement for those looking to get an extra boost in their playing for leads or for playing accompanying parts in songs where the amplifier may need some gain added. It doesn’t take too much to maintain either when it comes to supplying power. In order to keep the product charged, you’ll either need a power strip or a 9-volt battery to ensure you get the maximum performance from it. The only real issues that come with this is the lack of low end found in its capabilities. If you play a genre that may require a lot of gain or low-end frequencies, this may not be your first choice. The DS-1 is known more for its high-treble sound. If you play music that has a lot of open sounding chords and small leads here and there, or even riffs in the style of blues, then this is absolutely right for you. Just don’t expect there to be any rich low end for those that need it.



Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer

This is another classic that has been used extensively among rock and blues legends alike. The Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer is ideal for leads. There are also a number of different knobs that you can use to adjust the tone settings to your liking. With settings such as drive and level, you can influence how loud and distorted you want the tone to project. With the right amount of tweaking, you can find a sound that best suits whatever it is you’re looking for. The really special part about this item, however, is the tone knob. The tone knob can influence the overall timbre of the amp. It can influence it to the point where it can match tones that come exclusively from tube amps. If you’re using a solid state, the Tube Screamer will contribute greatly to making it sound the closest it can get to a tube amp. Overall, the tone is very organic, even when influencing solid state amplifiers. The only true downside is that while it may be easy to control from a tone standpoint, the level of gain is hard to navigate around, even with the drive and level settings. While that may work in some situations, you may want to add a noise gate or compressor just to take the unnecessary edge off.



Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi w/Tone Wicker

Remember the grunge movement of the 90’s with bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, etc? This pedal was an enormous staple for their sound. With the Big Muff, you’re using something that takes the idea of high gain to the next level. If you’re looking to make chunky, enormous sounding riffs with a lot of distortion and feedback, this is the go-to pedal. While the most obvious quality of this product is the extensive amount of noise that it’s known for, there are knobs that can help the player adjust the tone to their liking. There are three that can be found at the bottom of the device. There is the volume knob, which is responsible for the overall output of the product. Then there’s the tone knob. This is where this piece of gear get’s interesting, as it can adjust the higher and lower frequencies that it is capable of producing. You can adjust it to its highest point for scream-like pitches, or too low end, for a bigger wall of noise. Finally, the sustain knob is meant for adjusting the overall drive of the product and the sustain of the notes that come from playing through it. More sustain can also mean greater feedback. What makes this so great is also what some may see as a downfall. You can use it for that grungy, wall of sound-like tone, but that is about as far as you’ll get with it.



TC Electronic MojoMojo Overdrive

This pedal has a nice, warm tone that is excellent for leads, especially in the jazz-fusion setting. A very compact piece of gear, it is very easy to transport and carry around from gig to gig (or studio to studio). The biggest feature of this, however, is the fact that it has true bypass. When something has true bypass, it means that it has bypassed the amp’s settings and can completely make its way through the signal chain without the amplifier’s tone coloring the products’.

With it’s bypass, it becomes even easier to tweak the equipment’s overall tone using the tone knobs that it provides. Like an amplifier, this item has knobs that adjust the treble and bass properties while including a tone knob for color purposes. It also has a drive knob for adjusting the overall gain over the device.

It also has a voice switch that can either thicken the sound, or make it sound thinner. This could work well especially if you’re trying to augment the basic sound of the instrument like the thickness of a Les Paul or the thin, punchy tone of a Stratocaster or Telecaster The only downside is that the while the control and bypass are excellent, this piece of gear does not provide the sustain you may want from many other distortion pedals.



Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive

This device is very similar to the tube screamer. It has a tube amp-like tone about it and it is very easy to adjust the settings on it using the knobs that are featured on it. There are also switches that can emphasize on higher or lower gain settings. The product is also very easy to use when you roll back on your instrument’s volume knob. It still possesses a vast amount of tonal and dynamic control, even when you reduce your instrument’s setting. That would likely be the best quality of the OCD Drive. If you’re looking for a more crunchier sound, this product may not be for you. It is also occasionally hard to replace the batteries, seeing as it has four screws. They are very small and must be dealt with carefully when replacing the battery.



So What Is The Best Distortion Pedal?

Overall, the best product of the ones mentioned would have to go to the Ibanez Tube Screamer. You get something that can give you an extra boost or a completely different level of gain for your guitar tone. The knobs make it super easy to make your tone as customizable as you want and the way that this product can almost transform your solid state amp into a tube amp is an excellent feature. It is also easier to control the tone and feedback compared to some of the other items mentioned.

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