Would you believe me if I told you that my life changed when I came across my first distortion pedal? This might sound a bit cheesy, but I am sure most of you out there have experienced this feeling. Back then I had just started playing a guitar and was in the phase of playing everything. I had not figured out what music I wanted to play and how I wanted to sound. My only aim was to take all the notes right. My world turned upside down when one day my friend suggested to try playing with his distortion pedal. He could not get the sound right and wanted to find the reason. Let me tell you, once I plugged in, I felt the wave of excitement and shock, I could not believe that my music could sound that good. I would say that was when I found the real music and came across my soulmate pedal. If you want to find yours, keep on reading until you discover the best distortion pedal for your music.
Table of Contents
- Top 10 Best Distortion Pedals
- Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion Pedal
- MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion
- Xotic Effects SL Drive Distortion
- Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff Distortion Pedal
- BOSS DS-1 Distortion Guitar Pedal, 40th Anniversary Limited Edition
- Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal
- Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Guitar Distortion Pedal
- Xvive Golden Brownie T1 Distortion Pedal
- TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion Pedal
- Biyang Metal End (King) High Gain Distortion Pedal
- A brief history of distortion
- What is the big deal about distortion anyway?
Top 10 Best Distortion Pedals
|Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion Pedal||(5 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Xotic Effects SL Drive Distortion||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff Distortion Pedal||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|BOSS DS-1 Distortion Guitar Pedal, 40th Anniversary Limited Edition||(4.9 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Guitar Distortion Pedal||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Xvive Golden Brownie T1 Distortion Pedal||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion Pedal||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
|Biyang Metal End (King) High Gain Distortion Pedal||(4.8 / 5)||Check on Amazon|
A brief history of distortion
In the early 1940s and 1950s, musicians tried to maximize the capacity of their guitars by driving their amplifiers to the fullest. The sound they received had a growling effect to it, which was considered an error by the engineers. As years passed by, this error became a trend and more and more guitarists started using it in order to create a thicker, more saturated sound. However, one of the first samples of recorded guitar distortion was a result of an accident. In 1951, Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm recorded “Rocket 88”, with their guitarist Willie Kizart playing through a damaged tube amp. The replication of this sound became the main target for musicians of that time.
Experimenting with distorted sounds was everybody’s favorite activity in the early 1950s. Willie Johnson from Howlin’ Wolf started to increase gain beyond the norm on purpose in order to create warm distorted sounds. Similar tones can be heard in “The Things That I used to do” (1953) by Guitar Slim, “Maybellene” (1955) by Chuck Berry. A heavier distortion was created by Pat Hare in “I’m Gonna Murder my Baby” in 1954. He turned the volume on his amplifier all the way up and delivered a dirtier electric guitar sound.
The fuzz sound that we nowadays refer to when we mention distortion was discovered by Grady Martin in 1961, when he was playing Marty Robbins’s “Don’t Worry” with a faulty preamplifier. The sound of his guitar got distorted and produced a fuzzy sound. Recreating this sound was a challenge that led to the development of the first fuzz pedal. It was introduced by Orville Rhodes, who built a fuzz box for The Ventures. In 1962 the Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone pedal came out and found its place in The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. The following years were characterized by race between manufacturers to develop more and more amps and pedals. Sound effects became an integral part of the legendary music created by Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and many more.
In the late 1960s, Big Muff was created, the pedal that still holds its place in modern music. The combination of these pedals and overdriven amps were used to push distortion to a new level and create heavy metal (Motörhead claimed to be one of the brigadiers).
This is a great example how sometimes accidents define and shape our life. It if were not for faulty and damaged amplifiers, who knows when and how distortion would erupt. A simple error that turned into a great discovery ceases to mesmerize musicians and audiences up to this day.
What is the big deal about distortion anyway?
In the world of differences, choices and a variety of sounds, you might start contemplating why you need all these effects and devices that just complicate everything. The answer is quite simple: you want to develop as a musician and in order to achieve that you have to explore every single possibility your tone has to offer. You have to grab your instrument, go out there and experiment in order to find your own style and make your music unique. Distortion is something that is not for everyone but can be used with almost anything. It is an audio effect that can range from subtle to heavy, from classic, toned-down sounds to crazy raging tones. It all depends on your taste and preferences and that is the part which you have to determine yourself. Nobody can tell you what you like. All we can do is give you some options and freedom to select your soulmate of pedals.
The effect itself is created by clipping the sound signals in a way that intensifies the tone and adds a piercing touch to your notes. Generally, even the simplest distortion pedal comes with a level, tone and gain knobs which can be adjusted according to your music. By increasing the gain you can produce those “growling”, “fuzzy” sounds and dive into metal paradise. However, distortion pedals can be used with classic rock music as well. For me, distortion is something that every musician should play with at least once. It alters your sound in a unique way and forces those creative senses to awaken. Speaking of that, let’s dig deep and differentiate between different kinds of distortion out there.
This is a type of distortion that strives for recreating the sound of an overdriven tube amp. Typically, overdrive is a more subtle, lighter type of distortion, but it does not mean it cannot be used at its maximum capacity to create a heavier tone. It is worth noting that overdrive pedals can be used with solid-state amps as well as tube amps.
Fuzz is considered a bit outdated for today’s standards. The sound it produces is a bit muddy and the individual tones are not as distinctive as with other distortions. But some consider it as a throwback to good old days and prefer it to other sound effects. One way or another, it’s the versatility that lets the distortion really stand out.
Distortion pedals produce a much heavier sound than overdrive and way more distinct tones compared to fuzz boxes. It can really change the game and take you to a whole new level. If you choose the one that suits your music, the range of your sonic possibilities will enhance unimaginably.
The important thing to note is that you should always pay attention to the features that different pedals have to offer. Some of them are quite simple but have great tones, while others are equipped with various modes and effects. You should make your choice depending on what you want to achieve with the pedal. Never forget to be picky with tone and gain because those are the features that interfere with your sound the most. Other factors such as design and durability play a huge role as well when picking out the pedal, but nobody wants a fancy device that sounds like crap. However, most of the time we ask too much. I have experienced having a pedal that did what it was supposed to, nevertheless, I have caught myself being too critical. Do not go and buy two-knob pedal if you want an array of modes, because by doing that the only thing you will achieve is a disappointment. Figure out what is your deepest desire and let it lead you on your way to great music.
In conclusion, mastering your sound is the most valuable experience in the world of music. There is no better feeling than discovering your sound and creating masterpieces with it. If you are a guitar genie and can do all of that without the help of effects, you deserve a medal my friend. More mundane players like me need a touch of spice to take our music to the next step, distortion pedal is the tailored potion for that. This article includes all the information you need to find the best distortion pedal and hopefully you will. Let your taste define your path and never give in to anybody’s “right” opinion.