The 5 Best Distortion Pedals for Metal — Reviews 2024

best metal distortion pedal, best distortion pedal for metal

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Distortion pedals among metal guitarists may be one of the most controversial pieces of gear. While some think they destroy the sound of their amp, others swear by their use. One thing is for sure: a distortion pedal can become one of the most personal pieces in your setup.

Every good metal guitarist plays one of the top amp heads; the uniqueness of your sound comes from your choice of effects pedals. A distortion pedal can deliver high-gain tones your amp won’t allow, or complement your amplified sound, blending the two pieces of equipment into a truly personal tone. If nothing else, a distortion pedal can be a nice, low-cost backup for concerts when you experience backline problems.

The distortion pedal you choose will depend a lot on personal taste and the other equipment in your set-up, but there are a few distortion pedals on the market that unify the sound characteristics most desired in metal music. The distortion pedals listed below will give you a gritty, aggressive sound and add versatility to your tone, can be easily adjusted, and are durable enough to withstand life on the road.

These are our recommendations for the 5 best distortion pedals for metal on the market:

Jim Dunlop Fullbore Metal Distortion Pedal

This pedal is all metal, from the name to the look to—most importantly—the sound. Its outsides are made of raw metal. The aggressive distortion of this pedal will cut through your bandmates like a steel blade—metaphorically speaking, that is. A total of six knobs and two switches allow you to personalize your tone, and it includes a three-band parametric EQ and an optional gate. With a sweet price and endless reliability, this pedal is the go-to-option if you are searching for a high quality pedal selling for a song. This just might be the best metal distortion pedal if you’re on a budget.

MXR Fullbore Metal

Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Distortion Pedal

Priced slightly higher than the previous pedal, the OCD offers you something a tad more uniqueness within the realms of metal gear. That may be because the OCD was not exclusively designed for metal guitarists but as a versatile drive pedal for any heavier style of playing. Three knobs and a simple high pass/low pass switch give you adequate adjustment options, and the tone that’s produced by this sturdy cream-colored box is heavenly. Whether you need a filthy crunch for that palm-muted intro, smooth overdrive to make your solo stand out or high-gain distortion to heat up the audience, the OCD will effortlessly deliver all of them.

Guitar overdrive FULLTONE OCD V1 (Obsessive Compulsive Drive)

Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff Distortion Pedal

A contender for best metal distortion pedal for those who don’t want to spend a lot of dough is the Metal Muff from Electro-Harmonix. The extra layer of bite you get from activating the Top Boost pushes this pedal into beast mode, unleashing seriously powerful distortion. It’s not just about the fuzz, though; you also want control. The Metal Muff has a three-band EQ and a distortion knob to tailor the sound to your needs. Turn the distortion low for more subtle color or crank it up for heavy metal crunch. The sound stays focused even when you max the gain and doesn’t neglect the low end, either, giving you true metal tone throughout your range.

EHX Metal Muff Top Boost Distortion Guitar Pedal Review - GearUP on TMNtv !

Behringer Ultra Metal UM300 Distortion Pedal

Here’s another possibility for the best metal distortion pedal on a budget. The UM300 from Behringer gives you an extreme heavy metal style of distortion for the right price. The thick, tube-style distortion you get out of this compact stompbox is especially impressive for the price. The interface is simple but gives you the basic controls you need to shape your sound, including a 3-band EQ along with distortion and level adjustments. It even offers features you won’t find on more expensive distortion pedals, like a midrange cut/boost of up to 15 dB for bulking up your tone. The exterior is designed for the gigging musician, with LED indicators and a rugged casing.

ULTRA METAL UM300 Heavy Metal Distortion Effects Pedal

Wampler Dracarys High Gain Distortion Pedal

If you play high-tempo styles like thrash metal or Djent you need a distortion that can give you massive gain without sacrificing the clarity of quick attacks. With separate controls for volume and gain and a 3-band EQ right on the pedal, the Dracarys lets you tailor the effect with a precision few other distortion pedals can offer. The difference in sound when you flip the gain switch makes the Dracarys even more versatile. The Open setting gives you more of an amp distortion while the Tight setting adds compression for a punchier distortion. The pedal comes with a few suggested pre-sets to get you started. With all the options, you’ll probably need to spend some time with this pedal finding the best settings for your set-up. Once you get there, though, you’ll be blown away by its power and versatility. If supreme quality is key, this may be your choice of the best distortion pedal for metal.

Wampler Dracarys Guitar Distortion Pedal

The Right Tone – The Holy Grail of Metal Distortion Pedal Selection

There are a lot of good distortion pedals on the market; the key is finding the right one to complement the rest of your gear and give your tone a unique edge. Unless you’re on a budget, price should be the least important factor in your decision. True quality and awesome sound can be found at all price levels. Don’t dismiss inexpensive pedals on the assumption they’re not as good, and—if you have the money—don’t assume a pedal over a certain mark is over-priced. As was said above, it’s all about finding the right pedal for your personal sound.

Most pedals will rely on transistors to create the distortion, a cheaper technology that may deliver less consistent results. Most low-budget pedals feature low-quality transistors, which is why you will want to make sure your pedal uses reliable technology. Generally, transistor-based pedals offer a great selection of gear in the budget and medium price range.

Transistor-based pedals offer a nice contrast to your tube-driven amp, enriching your sound with that sharp metal tone that is so highly desired but that only a few tube-driven amps can produce. If what you are looking for is the full warmth and filth only tubes can provide, there is no way around a genuine tube-driven pedal.

After Purchase – Get Your Metal Distortion Pedal Ready to Go

Once you’ve made your purchase and the mailman brought you an early Christmas with the package, you and your pedal will spend precious hours together to find your tone. It is a good idea to get a sheet layout of the pedal’s potentiometers and switches so you can keep track of the exact setup for your favorite sounds.

Likewise, having your camera at your fingertips while trying new stuff can be a good option to never lose a great tone you may have found. Make sure you also note the settings of your amp or you may not be able to reproduce the exact sound. It can take several hours of playing and experimenting to find that one sound you are most satisfied with on a daily basis.

Remember the average pedal will only give you two sound options once you’re on stage, so spend the time in the practice room getting to know your new pedal. It will reward you in the end with the perfect edge your sound has been needing—which, in the end, is what finding the best metal distortion pedal is all about. Good luck!

  • Micah Johnson started playing music in high school, when he taught himself the bass to join his friend’s band. He added guitar and drums during his twenties playing in local clubs, and along the way, he picked up unique, hands-on experience from hand drums to studio mixers. On Song Simian, he aims to share this knowledge from 20+ years playing and recording music. When not in gearhead mode, he enjoys photography and travel.

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