11 Best Distortion Pedals On The Market (Mini, Bass, Rock, Budget & High End)

Best Distortion Pedals

Does your overdrive pedal not offer enough saturation?

Or are you trying to get high gain tones without cranking your amplifier to unbearable, deafening volumes?

Then you need a distortion pedal!

There are more great stomp boxes in 2020 than ever before but picking the best distortion pedal for your budget and style of playing doesn’t have to be a hard decision.

This article will help you pick out the perfect distortion pedal no matter what kind of guitarist you are.

Snapshot: Best Distortion Pedals in 2020

  1. JHS 3 Series DistortionBest Under $100
  2. Boss Waza Metal Zone (MT-2w)
  3. JOYO R03 Uzi Distortion
  4. Rowin PlexionBest Budget Option
  5. Revv Amplification G4Best High-End Option
  6. Source Audio AftershockBest for Bass
  7. Earthquaker Devices Acapulco Gold V2
  8. Suhr Riot MiniBest Mini
  9. Fender Pugilist DistortionBest for Rock
  10. Walrus Audio Iron Horse V2
  11. Boss DS-1 DistortionBest Overall

Shopping for a Great Distortion Pedal

What is the difference between Distortion, Boost, Overdrive, Tube-Amp Distortion, and Fuzz? All of these effects distort (hence the possible confusion) or clip your signal, so why do we differentiate them from one another?

 Clarifying the differences between these effects can help you decide if Distortion is actually the effect that you are looking for.

For the sake of simplicity, every pedal on this list is explicitly described by the manufacturer as a distortion pedal. While some of them may be able to get Overdrive or Fuzz type tones, their core sound is that of a distortion pedal. They are high-gain, hard clipping, effects.

Because Distortion is an old effect, and because there are so many unique sounding distortion pedals to choose from, I chose a wide array of options spanning from classic circuits to pedals suitable for modern metal. There are pedals on this list spanning any genre from Rock to Death Metal.

Distortion is often a simple circuit, and therefore a cheaper effect to manufacture, so I was able to include multiple budget friendly options, as well as mini pedal designs.

Whatever your genre or budget, there is a way to incorporate Distortion into your rig. Without further ado, here are my top picks for the best distortion pedals in 2020.

The Best Distortion Pedals On The Market

1. JHS 3 Series Distortion – Best Under $100

Sale

The 3 Series is JHS’s foray into the budget pedal market, delivering high quality pedals that sounds great and are simple to use while costing under $100. The 3S Distortion is based off an iconic and versatile circuit that makes this a great first distortion purchase for beginners or seasoned vets alike.

Build

Despite its minimalistic presentation, you’ll know which circuit the 3S Distortion is modeled after once you notice the “Filter” control. This is a RAT clone through and through, with high quality components at a price that even a kid mowing their lawn can save up for in no time.

The pedal is of standard size, measuring in at 4 x 3 x 2 inches, features true bypass, and has two voicings that gives this circuit more flexibility than previous RAT style pedals.

Controls

Like all of the 3 Series, the 3S Distortion features three knobs and a single toggle switch. There are controls for Volume (controls Output level), Filter (think of this like a Tone control) and Distort (the fun one… Gain!). Each of these controls are sensitive to every small change and make this an incredibly versatile pedal. For even more flexibility, the toggle switch allows you to switch between two Gain voices.

Sounds

Unlike some distortion pedals that just provide heavy saturation tones, the JHS 3S Distortion can take you everywhere from a light overdrive, to classic distortion, even up to light fuzz tones. The Gain toggle changes how the pedal sounds in a very usable way, with one mode creating a more compressed, saturated tone and the other giving a more open, gnarly sound.

This pedal alone could get you through Pixies style punk, to Eighties heavy metal depending on which amp you pair it with. It also has loads of volume on tap. This is super important, as many distortion pedals don’t get loud enough to cut through a live band situation.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Distortion
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: 9V DC (9mA)
  • Dimensions:    4 x 3 x 2”
  • Features: True Bypass, Gain Toggle, Low Current Draw

High quality, budget friendly RAT clone

Final Thoughts on the JHS 3 Series Distortion

JHS has created a great distortion pedal for a very attainable price point. I would recommend this to anyone who is looking to get their first distortion pedal, or to someone who is interested in a RAT style pedal with high quality build. Josh Scott at JHS even said the RAT would be his desert island distortion pick, so you know he gave special attention to this design.

2. Boss Waza Metal Zone MT-2w Distortion Pedal

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BOSS WAZA Craft Metal Zone Guitar Pedal (MT-2W)
  • Premium WAZA craft pedal with all-analog audio circuitry

Since its introduction in 1991, the original Boss Metal Zone MT-2 has received mixed reviews (even garnering a terrible reputation). While the original circuit may be deserving of its notoriety, the new Waza version has everyone reevaluating its merit in modern guitar playing.

Build

As with all Waza Craft pedals, the MT-2w gives you the original Boss Metal Zone circuit (for those who loved it or hated it) with some minor updates like reduced noise floor, as well as a new Custom voiced mode. This is the side of the pedal that is exciting the metal community. The Waza Craft MT-2w features upgraded buffers and enhanced components for a better tonality than the original and a highly versatile EQ section.

Controls

The most notable change included on the MT-2w is the toggle switch, which allows you to choose between the Standard (S) and Custom ( C) modes. While the controls are otherwise the same on this new pedal, the controls require different settings depending on which voice mode you’re in. 

There is a control for Lo/Hi Band EQ that offers up to 15db of boost or cut for those frequencies, as well as a sweepable midrange band. The Level knob controls your volume, while the Dist control dials in your gain.

Sounds

The Waza Craft Metal Zone sounds better than the original. It just does. It has a reduced noise floor, updated buffers, and reacts to your dynamics in a usable way. So, if you have reservations or preconceived notions about the Boss Metal Zone, this is still worth a shot.

The EQ is super powerful and can help you fit multiple guitars into a mix. From what I’ve gathered, this pedal plays nicer with PAF style pickups, prefers a slightly dirty amp setting to clean, and can sit well in the FX Loop. This pedal is saturated, and HEAVY.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Distortion
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: 9V DC
  • Dimensions: 2-⅞ x 5-⅛ x 2-⅜ “
  • Features: Buffered Bypass, EQ, Custom Mode

For all your heavy, high gain needs

Final Thoughts on the Boss Waza Metal Zone MT-2w

Boss took an okay distortion pedal and turned it into a great distortion pedal with the Waza model. Despite its name, the Metal Zone MT-2w doesn’t just have to be used in Metal. It’s a great option for any extreme, high gain setting.

3. JOYO RO-3 Uzi Distortion

JOYO R-03 UZI Distortion Pedal Guitar Effect Pedal for Heavy Metal Music High Gain Distortion Pedal...
  • The JOYO Advantages: over 14 years of brand history, strong technical teams, many innovative patents, electroacoustic core technology, guide design of music masters, winning the love of global fans,...

This incredible, hi-gain pedal also made it onto our list for the best cheap guitar pedals and it is too good not to include on this one as well. JOYO makes some of the best budget friendly pedals with their Revolution line and the Uzi is my absolute favorite of them.

Build

You might expect lower quality components and enclosure when you see the price point of the Uzi, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that this pedal is a tank. Its designed to give you high gain tones that range from American to British style amplifiers with the use of the pedal’s bias control. It also has LED’s on the sides of the pedal that are adjustable from the back of the pedal and features true bypass.

Controls

 The Uzi has a three band EQ across the top of the pedal, giving you fine control over the EQ parameters, regardless of what guitar or amp you play through. Below that are controls for Volume and Gain so you can dial in just how saturated and loud the pedal is for you.

The most powerful control on the Uzi, however, is the Bias control. This affects the voice and how the pedal reacts to your playing, with settings to the left veering closer to American (MESA) and settings to the right giving you British (Marshall) tones.

Sounds

The JOYO Uzi is perfectly suitable for modern metal applications when paired with a slightly overdriven amplifier. It has a tight and chewy character to it. Depending on how you set the bias knob, you may notice that the pedal can sound sagged and compressed, or open and throaty.

This pedal really does give you the best of all worlds if you can’t decide whether you like American or British style high-gain tones. Its fully capable of taking your guitar from edge of breakup, all the way to wall-of-sound mayhem.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Distortion
  • Signal: Analog 
  • Power Source: 9V DC
  • Dimensions: 5.31 x 4.21 x 2.24”
  • Features: True Bypass, Bias, Side LED’s

A pedal with American and British hi-gain voices

Final Thoughts on the JOYO RO-3 Uzi Distortion

If it weren’t for the fact that there are a lot of great budget friendly distortion pedals, and the fact that this already took the title of “Best Cheap Metal Distortion” on a previous article, this would be getting the award for best cheap distortion. Its versatile, well built, and innovative in its design without breaking the bank.

4. Rowin Plexion Distortion – Best Budget Option

Rowin Plexion Distortion Pedal for Guitar & Bass with Bright and Normal Mode True Bypass
  • 【Classic Plexion Distortion】It is a modelling pedal which mirrors the original Plexi amps.Three knobs control the Gain,Tone and Volume.Toggle switch toggle between Bright and Normal sounds.

When it comes to distortion sounds, there’s nothing quite like a cranked Plexi amplifier. The Rowin Plexion aims to satisfy all that can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars to achieve such a classic and juicy sound.

Build

You can tell from the name alone that the Plexion is an amp-in-a-box version of a Marshall Plexi. For having such a huge sound and design concept, the Rowin Plexion is a tiny pedal, measuring in at just 3.74 x 1.77 x 1.89 inches across its zinc alloy enclosure.

This is a great feature if you play through a small Fender amp and have a small board, as it can effectively serve as a second channel to your amp. It even features Bright/Normal voices like Marshall amps do.

Controls

Unlike Marshall Plexi amps, which can have some confusing controls to the novice, the Plexion’s controls are simple and straight forward. There are controls for the Volume, Tone, and Gain, as well as an LED indicator light that corresponds with the True Bypass switch. The most notable control is the switch for Normal or Bright modes, which change the voice of the pedal overall to help it work in front of different amps.

Sounds

The Plexion really nails the Plexi tone for the price point. With the Gain set at zero, you still get some great, edge of breakup sounds that are perfect for tender solos or rhythm crunch tones. But this is a distortion pedal, and it needs to be cranked up. Anything above 10 o’clock puts you into eighties metal heaven and beyond, giving you tones that liken to Van Halen, Def Leppard, and AC/DC.

The Normal mode is very warm and woody, even dark sounding. You may have to turn the tone knob up to make up for the clarity loss if you want it. Whereas the Bright mode has chiming high end and more clarity.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Distortion
  • Signal: Digital
  • Power Source: 9V DC
  • Dimensions: 3.74 x 1.77 x 1.89”
  • Features: True Bypass, Bright Switch

A Plexi amp in a mini pedal

Final Thoughts on the Rowin Plexion

The Plexi sound is a highly sought after tone for many guitarists. The fact that there is a mini pedal at an unbeatable price that delivers this tone is spades is pretty unbelievable. While maybe not high-gain enough for modern metal, this will do EVH gain no problem.

5. Revv Amplification G4 Distortion Pedal – Best High-End Option

Revv Amplification G4 Distortion & Overdrive Pedal
  • Amp in a box: Big distorted amp tone, organic feel and 3 voicing options.

Revv amplifiers have been getting a lot of attention from professional guitarists of all styles as of late, but they are especially well known for their incredible, hi-gain voiced amps. The G4 Distortion pedal aims to capture one of their most legendary sounds (the Red Channel) into a small pedal format.

Build

The G4 is modeled to sound like the Red Channel from the Revv Generator 120 and 100R and was designed to play well with mid-range focused pedals and amplifiers. The circuit is housed in a laser-etched, red reflective, powder coated chassis that gives the pedal some serious class and stability. In addition to top mounted jacks, the pedal has a three band EQ and has True Bypass.

Controls

The three-band EQ is located across the top of the pedal, making the pedal truly act like an amp with plenty of flexibility. Below that are controls for Volume and Gain. What makes this pedal especially interesting is the three way toggle switch in the middle, called Aggression, with selections for Off, Red, and Blue.

This essentially works as a Voice switch, with changes in frequency and gain for each setting that make the pedal sound like a few of Revv’s signature amplifiers.

Sounds

If you’re looking for modern saturation, then this is the pedal for you. The clipping is hard, but somehow the pedal sounds open and tightly controlled at the same time. It is a truly amp-like sounding pedal and will react to different guitars differently. The Aggression control is where you will likely find your favorite and stick to that option.

The Off position sounds flat, with little altering to the gain or EQ. The Blue setting adds some extra compression and smooths out the tone, even adding some extra gain. The Red channel is by far the most aggressive, with a loose sound with high end that sizzles.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Distortion
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: 9V DC
  • Dimensions: 5.8 x 5.5 x 2.7” (Box)
  • Features: True Bypass, 3 Voice, 3-Band EQ

The best modern distortion pedal out there

Final Thoughts on the Revv Amplification G4

When it comes to organic, hi-gain, modern, saturated (and any other buzz-word you can think of) distortion tones, the Revv G4 does it best. The added price gives you some serious tonal flexibility and gain for days. You could go buy one of their amps, but if you have a high quality clean amp set to edge of breakup, this will get you there a lot cheaper.

6. Source Audio Aftershock Distortion Pedal – Best for Bass

Source Audio Aftershock Bass Distortion Pedal
  • Dry/Wet Blend Controls; USB; and Free Neuro Apps for iOS

Bassists want to distort too, am I right? That’s easier said than done if you want to retain your signal clarity and low end rumble, but the Aftershock from Source Audio does distortion justice for bassists.

Build

The Aftershock is a digital, stereo pedal with three different engines for bass overdrive/distortion sounds. It also comes with the ability to switch between true or buffered bypass, making the aftershock a nice buffer pedal for your board. What makes this pedal extra versatile is pairing it with Source Audio’s free Neuro app for IOS, which includes over 40 overdrives and distortion pedals for bass and guitar, which can be downloaded straight to the Aftershock.

Controls

Even with all those features, the Source Audio Aftershock remains simple to use with just four basic controls. The Drive knob controls your gain/distortion. Clean blends in your dry bass signal so you can keep some signal clarity and punch. Level controls your volume and Tone is your basic EQ control. The center switch allows you to choose between Tube, Heavy, or Fuzz style distortion sounds, making this a three-for one pedal/

Sounds

I consider this to be the ultimate tone shaping machine for bass guitar. It can take you from subtle boosts to full out crushed fuzz tones depending on which of the three modes you select. The Tube mode acts more like a boost or overdrive, with lower clipping that results in a warm, slight crunch.

The Heavy setting sounds like a proper distortion pedal, with more saturation and compression, even some scooped mids. Finally, the Fuzz section is wooly, with less definition but still plenty of gain on tap. Regardless of which mode you choose, the Aftershock lets you keep your touch/dynamics with the all-important Clean control.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Distortion/Fuzz
  • Signal: Digital
  • Power Source: 9V DC (150mA)
  • Dimensions: 2.21 x 2.75 x 4.58”
  • Features: Switchable True/Buffered Bypass, Free Neuro App

Dynamic and powerful bass distortion pedal with free App

Final Thoughts on the Source Audio Aftershock

When it comes to distortion tones for bass, this could be your only pedal on your board. It’s so versatile and can take you into any gain territory, while keeping your low end and attack definition. I’m truly impressed with this pedal.

7. EarthQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold V2 Distortion

EarthQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold V2 Power Amp Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal
  • Modeled after a cranked vintage Model T amplifier to bring the openness, clarity, and crunch that only a dimed tube amp can provide

Sometimes all you need is one giant knob on a well-voiced pedal, but don’t let its simple control layout deceive you. The Acapulco Gold V2 from Earthquaker devices is a force to be reckoned with.

Build

The folks at Earthquaker Devices distilled a cranked Sunn Model T amplifier down into a single knob, IC based stomp-box. It comes with top mounted jacks and True Bypass. The pedal is designed to work in conjunction with your amp and your guitar’s volume control. Using a power amp distortion pedal such as this truly brings all the tonal control to your fingertips.

Controls

The Acapulco is a simple as it gets. You turn the pedal on and off with the bypass switch, and there is a single, large, master volume control. The rest of the control comes from your amp and your guitar. For instance, if you wanted to back off on the gain, you would dial back the volume on your guitar. This makes your guitar more like an input/saturation control. If the pedal is a bit bright, you just roll off the tone control on your guitar.

Sounds

Because of how simple the pedal is and how much it relies on your guitar settings; this very well may be an “always on” type of distortion pedal. I have to warn you though, this pedal can get loud. With your guitar turned all the way up the Acapulco Gold offers blooming low end and heavy saturation that only a tube amp can truly deliver.

Then, when you roll off the guitar volume, it turns into a spanking, twangy country boost. There are even Octavia sounds up past the twelfth fret that help add character to the already present midrange.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Poweramp Distortion
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: 9V DC (18mA)
  • Dimensions:4.75″ x 2.50″ x. 2.25″
  • Features: Big Knob, True Bypass

One knob for cranked tube amp distortion

Final Thoughts on the EarthQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold V2

Sometimes less is more. This is the perfect distortion pedal for minimalist guitarists that want all of their tonal control at their fingertips. You can essentially think of this pedal like you were plugging straight into a dimed amplifier, and the results are just as sweet.

8. Suhr Riot Mini Distortion Pedal – Best Mini

Suhr Riot Mini Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal
  • Compact, Pedalboard Friendly Design

If you’re in need of heavy, Marshall-esque distortion in a pedal that takes up minimal space on your board, then the Riot Mini from Suhr is the pedal for you. As usual, Suhr delivers the perfect blend of vintage and modern sounds with impeccable build quality to deliver the best gear for guitarists.

Build

You may already be familiar with the popular, original Suhr Riot pedal for its classic, cranked amp like distortion sound. This Riot Mini is the exact same pedal, just housed in a smaller chassis. The power coated die cast enclosure ensures that your high gain tones are ready for the road and it can be powered by any 9V DC power supply. It features True Bypass and a two voice switch for some extra tonal flexibility.

Controls

As with most mini pedals, the controls on the Suhr Riot Mini are simple and easy to use. There are two small knobs, one for Tone and one for Level, as well as a larger knob for Distortion. This controls your overall gain.

One difference between the Riot Mini and the original, full sized Riot is that the Mini has a 2 position voice switch, while the original has 3. These two still give you plenty of tonal flexibility between the LED and Diodes clipping voices.

Sounds

There are a couple of 100W amplifiers that I could relate the Riot Mini to, but overall, I think it has a sound of its own. Suhr did a great job of balancing vintage, tube amp grit with modern clarity and bite. Flipping the voice switch to the right gives an almost Marshall JCM like character to the pedal, while flipping to the left allows for a more open sound with full midrange.

This is a pedal for all kinds of players, as it can get low gain crunch to sustaining, singing lead tones.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Distortion
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: -9V DC
  • Dimensions: 1.82”(W) x 3.85”(D) x 1.89”(H)
  • Features: Dual voice, True Bypass, Powers off any 9V adaptor

Mini distortion with highest quality build/tone

Final Thoughts on the Suhr Riot Mini

The Riot Mini is a top notch distortion pedal with loads of classic tube amp character. It has top of the line build quality, while keeping a moderate price point that will entice those who want the killer sound it puts out. Suhr pedals are phenomenal, and the Riot Mini is no exception to that standard.

9. Fender Pugilist Distortion – Best for Rock

Walrus Audio Iron Horse V2 LM308 Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal
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Walrus Audio Iron Horse V2 LM308 Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal
  • A return to the classic distortion: thick, punchy, riffy and rowdy

Fender has been releasing some really cool pedals in the last year and the Pugilist Distortion is one that is sure to get you classic rock tones. With dual channel gain structure, this pedal has tons of flexibility.

Build

What separates the Pugilist from the other pedals on this list is that the Pugilist has dual gain circuits that can run in series or parallel. This gives you the ability to blend between two different gain settings or run one into another for more unique sounds.

It has offset Inputs/Outputs to make it more pedalboard friendly, as well as a magnetic battery compartment for easy battery changes. The LED controls are also a cool feature that makes finding your settings on a dark stage a problem of the past.

Controls

Each of the two gain engines has controls for Tone and Gain. When set in the Blend setting, the Blend control then allows you to dial in the perfect mix between these two engines. You can also run the pedal in Series, which then makes the Pugilist act as if you were stacking two separate distortions into one another. The Level control controls your output volume, and there is an optional bass boost as well.

Sounds

Side A of the pedal is a lower gain structure, while Side B has higher gain. This means you can select between having a lower gain or higher gain sound by utilizing the pedal’s Mix control. This is more of a classic rock sounding distortion and won’t likely work for metal unless you’re using a higher gain, modern amplifier.

But if you’re looking for ZZ Top or Aerosmith like distortion, this is a great pedal to run in front of a clean Fender, Vox, or even Marshall style amp.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Dual Distortion
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: 9V Battery (Adaptor not included)
  • Dimensions
  • Features: Offset Input/Outputs, Magnetic battery compartment, True Bypass, Dual Gain, LED Controls

Classic Rock distortion sounds in a dual engine box

Final Thoughts on the Fender Pugilist Distortion

Fender has become quite the force to be reckoned with in the pedal market this year. The Pugilist is a good showcase of that, with little, but important features like LED controls and magnetic battery compartments that show the company is listening to players.

10. Walrus Audio Iron Horse V2 Distortion

Walrus Audio Iron Horse V2 LM308 Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal
14 Reviews
Walrus Audio Iron Horse V2 LM308 Distortion Guitar Effects Pedal
  • A return to the classic distortion: thick, punchy, riffy and rowdy

Walrus Audio has updated their famed Iron Horse distortion in all the right ways with the second version. This pedal has tons of output and gain on tap that will satisfy even the loudest guitarists.

Build

The V2 of the Iron Horse from Walrus Audio includes some much needed updates. It has a modified Volume control that makes identifying unity gain much easier. The Tone is also much wider sounding, making the pedal much more versatile and likely to stand out in a mix.

Finally, the Distortion has been modified to include better low gain sounds for those who don’t want to blow the roof off. The graphics by Adam Forster are absolutely stunning and will surely catch the eye of any curios fans.

Controls

The controls are super simple on this pedal: Volume, Tone and Distortion. As I mentioned before all of these controls have been updated to be that much more usable than the first version already was. The three way clipping toggle is super useful. Set it to the center for no compression, to the left for light compression, and to the right for high compression.

Sounds

Gosh, this pedal sounds amazing. It sounds like a cranked amplifier with tons of grit and character. I quite like the way it sounds with a Stratocaster (I find strats to be rather picky when it comes to distortion), in that the bell-like character still pops through.

This could easily work for metal if put in front of an already broken up amplifier. The clipping stages are super useful and can help you get some much needed sustain for solo boosts or can be open and raw for rhythm chugging.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Distortion
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: 9V DC (100mA)
  • Dimensions: 6 x 4 x 3”
  • Features: True Bypass, 3 Clipping modes

Heavy gain for single coil pickup guitars

Final Thoughts on the Walrus Audio Iron Horse V2

The Iron Horse is heavy and loud! It has some serious growl but can also be flexible and open enough to accommodate single coil pickups. The price point is in the “boutique” range, but I think the build quality makes up for it even if the limited features keep it from being the best in its price range. All the updates are improvements and will unfortunately leave the previous version in the dust.

11. Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal – Best Overall

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BOSS Distortion Guitar Pedal, Single Mode (DS-1)
  • Tone, leveland distortion knobs on face

This may be a controversial choice to some who are familiar with the Boss DS-1, but if you’re rolling your eyes just hear me out! The Boss DS-1 is a classic, cheap pedal with incredible potential when used right.

Build

The Boss DS-1 is the #1 selling distortion pedal of all time. It also might be one of the most polarizing pedals ever. What I’m reviewing here is the new models of the DS-1, which are faithful recreations of the original 1978 circuit. It looks and plays exactly like the originals do, and it comes in at unbeatable prices new and used on Amazon. It has buffered bypass like all Boss pedals and is the first distortion pedal to be released by them.

Controls

The controls are dead simple on this pedal. There are controls for Tone, Level, and Distortion (all pretty self-explanatory). If you’ve had troubles with this pedal before, I recommend keeping the Tone control below 9 o’clock, as this is a powerful high end EQ. I would also recommend exploring the Distortion control below 12 o’clock, as anything beyond that just adds compression and sustain.

Lower settings allow for more character while still getting plenty of grit.

Sounds

The DS-1 sounds best placed in front of an already dirty amplifier and can be a great “always on” pedal, or even act like a second gain channel. It has plenty of gain for punk and classic rock tones but may leave metal players wanting (see above for the Boss Metal Zone).

If you’re not a fan, even with my recommended settings, consider looking into modded versions of the DS-1 from Keeley, JHS, or Analog Man. With a great amp and the right settings, the DS-1 can be a genre defying distortion pedal that is great for beginners or vets alike.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Distortion
  • Signal: Analog 
  • Power Source: 9V DC
  • Dimensions: 2-⅞ x 5-⅛ x 2-⅜ “
  • Features: Buffered Bypass

The classic distortion pedals is still a favorite

Final Thoughts on the Boss DS-1 Distortion

While the DS-1 is far from a perfect circuit, I consider it to be a standard in distortion pedals. In fact, I consider it to be the best distortion pedal for many guitarists because it teaches you to use your ear, is cheap (making it great for beginners), simple, and is a great pedal to mod to your own specs. Every guitarists should have one of these.

The Best Distortion Pedals for Every Genre and Budget

Just about every guitarists wants a distortion pedal at some point. In fact, I would argue that distortion is practically synonymous with the electric guitar. It makes you loud and can literally make the audience feel your music as it fills up the room. Just imagine what EVH would have sounded like without distortion.  

As a result, hundreds of guitar pedal manufacturers has made distortion pedals. It is my hope that this article has made picking the best distortion pedal just a little bit easier for you, no matter what genre of music your play or your budget.

Further Reading: