Mean, loud & dirty.
We’ve seen the best metal amps for electric guitar before on the site and found out how the right amplifier can work miles towards getting you the metal sound you’re looking for. We also searched the best 15 metal guitars because without the right ax you won’t really achieve an aggressive sound.
Now, it’s time to do the same for the best metal pedals you can buy right now so you complete your explosive guitar rig.
You might be wondering, then, what can a distortion pedal do that the amplifier can’t? It is not by chance that many players can’t live without a set of these golden stompboxes.
Well, for starters, even when an amp can give you a great tone, you won’t be able to tweak the sound over and over as you play live. Instead, your practicing, rehearsal, and experimentation sessions must take you towards the one or two tones you’re going to set on the amp.
But, a pedal is friendly to your versatility purposes. You can have multiple pedals chained into either channel of your amp, and you can turn them on and off at any time with your foot, which brings an immediate and noticeable change to your guitar’s sound without too much hassle.
But, just like the amp, a good metal pedal must give you one or two amazing tones you can set quickly during your live metal performance; or give you all of the versatility and experimentation you want for your recording sessions.
We’re looking for aggressive, enraged, powerful effects that can turn your guitar into a demon speaking on tongues.
You can further improve the versatility of your gear with a footswitch. A footswitch allows you to swap the active channel of your amp.
This guide, then, has the reviews for the best six electric guitar pedal effects for playing metal. Because the metal genre is fueled by high-gain, then we need to take a look at distortion pedals.
Before we begin with our reviews of the best metal pedals, I want to hear from you: what’s your metal guitar gear? Leave it in the comments below!
- 1 What is a guitar distortion effect?
- 2 Why should you get a distortion pedal?
- 3 5 things to look for on your metal pedals
- 4 The best 6 distortion pedals for guitar reviews
- 5 1. Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal Effect
- 6 2. MXR M75 Super Badass ‘75 Distortion Pedal Effect
- 7 3. JHS ProCo Rat 2 Distortion Pedal
- 8 4. Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal
- 9 5. KDHK Electronics Dark Blood
- 10 6. Keeley Electronics Filaments
- 11 FAQs
- 12 Final Considerations
What is a guitar distortion effect?
Let’s clear of doubts by talking a bit about how distortion affects your sound, which I think can help you hunt down the best option for you.
As anything gear-wise, this is a highly subjective matter. What you might find perfect, the next guy might find as just noise. For the specific purpose of finding distortion pedals, I’d say there are no rules so long as the tone talks yo you.
However, there’s a difference we must discuss. Essentially, there are three kinds of distortion effects for bass and guitars:
- Overdrive: the overdrive effect is a harmonic “soft distortion.” This is a soft-clipping effect that lightly colors your tone and boosts the sound. There’re also overdrive pedals that offer some sorts of “transparent boosts”, which only increase the volume of your guitar without changing the tone. These transparent boosts can work wonders increasing the output of the next distortion pedal in the signal chain.
- Distortion: the term “distortion effects” particularly refers to non-harmonic savage pedals that deliver as much output as they can. However, they destroy the original signal of the guitar and give you a new one, full of a hard-clipping effect, which is way distortion pedals are so aggressive.
- Fuzz: fuzz pedals are in-between. These are harmonic distortions that enrich and add personality to your tone. It can go further into flanger, phaser, delay, reverb, and tremolo territory as well, so fuzz effects always include some sort of modulation (which means adding two or more guitar voices with short delays, detunes, and color).
This list focuses on distortion pedals, but, naturally, there’s some overlap between fuzz, overdrive, and distortions. Why? Because they all add dirt to your one, and, in fact, you could achieve similar results with fuzz and a distortion pedal.
The most gentle effect of the branch is the overdrive. See, the overdrive tries to imitate the sound cranked tube amps, so they offer the most organic and dynamic distortion. By dynamic, I mean the distortion is higher or lower according to the strength of your strumming or your guitar’s volume knob, which is something doesn’t happen on the other
Distortion clips the signal harder than overdrive, and then fuzz pedals clip the signal even harder, so the guitar tends to lose its definition.
Here’s the deal: these distortion pedals are best applied on your clean channel and your clean tones. As you push the switch, your heaviest dreams come true.
Lastly, I generally understand these three pedals with three phrases: overdrive are soft boosts; distortions are aggressive sounds, and fuzz pedals are acid sounds.
What kind of distortion are you looking for?
So, let’s make a final review…
What’s the distortion effect?
A distortion pedal drives the signal or your guitar and saturates the tone further and louder than overdrive pedals.
These effects have a distinctive tone that’s predominant in many music genres and many popular guitar players, both inside and outside the metal sphere.
Lastly, guitar distortions and metal genres are all about high gain. Keep that in mind.
Why should you get a distortion pedal?
This is the golden age of guitar pedals. We can find superb models in almost any price range: from small-scale boutique FX manufacturers handcrafting unique effects to top contenders like Boss, MXR, EHX; and entry-level alternatives from the likes of Dunlop or Behringer, there’re options for all tastes and budgets.
And these are great times to find the best distortion pedals to turn your clean sound into the dirtiest of dirt.
That said, distortion pedals are essential, almost ubiquitous for every professional guitar player, and they must be essential for you as well.
Unless you play pop music, your guitar’s tone depends a lot on your amp and your pedal, and the versatility and power and your gear determine how interesting your playing can be.
So, if your small tweed combo is not enough to cut it through your goth rock metal, boy, you’re in for a treat.
All of these distortion pedals can turn your guitar into a weapon. It’s the right choice for metal, rock, hard rock, alternative rock, and beyond.
Distortion pedals are versatile enough for almost every genre that plays on amplified guitars.
5 things to look for on your metal pedals
I’ve covered buying advice for guitar and bass pedals before, which is why I’m keeping this section short and sweet.
Here’s a quick review of the three things you must be on the lookout on your metal distortion pedals for guitar:
- Quality: but how do you know the quality of a pedal? Well, look up the reputation of each pedal. Most pedals have been around since at least the ‘80s, so plenty of people and musicians have used them before you.
Pedals by brands like MXR, Fender, EHX, JHS, and Boss are always going to be reliable, which brings us to…
- Durability: first of all, pedals are an investment, so you’d want a pedal with sturdy construction that can last for a while, especially if you’re planning to take the stompbox on the road.
Metal and aluminum cases are usually more durable than plastic cases, but also more expensive, which takes us to…
- Budget: you’ll have to make do with your budget and find the best thing you can get with the money available to you. If that means going for a plastic case, then so be it, just know that you must take extra good care of the device.
Durability vs. budget is the first inner discussion you’re going to have, which brings us to the next point…
- Tone: the tone is entirely up to your taste, preferences, and needs. So keep in mind what kind of distortion you want, watch the YouTube demos, try the pedals out if you can, and choose wisely.
By experience, I’ve found we don’t use the full 1000% of the pedal, oftentimes not even 50% of all of the possibilities the pedal offers. Instead, we fall in love with a single sound the pedal can create and just hang to it in order to create a signature sound.
You know when you hear a single guitar line and you already recognize the band? Well, then, closely consider the next point…
- Versatility: lastly, you might look for a pedal with plenty of versatility if you don’t have other pedals or a versatile amp to craft other sounds; or if you’re into experimentation during your practicing and recording sessions.
Remember versatile pedals tend to be both harder to use and more expensive.
Remember you also have to consider the weight and size of the pedal, which depends on the size of your pedalboard and how much weight are you willing to carry around.
If you need some further help, check this buying advice section for overdrive pedals.
The best 6 distortion pedals for guitar reviews
When you’re looking for the ultimate distortion pedal, you’ll see how there are hundreds of pedals to choose from. However, there are only a few pedals that are consistently used by pro players time and time again.
I made a research to find the distortion pedals professional players use the most.
I’m also considering all budgets and giving you alternatives if you can’t achieve the highest-priced options.
These pedals for electric guitar can give you everything from a smooth to creamy, crunch, and face-ripping distortion.
Overall, these effects can turn an average guitar into an otherworldly breathing entity. By the way, if you’re looking for a good budget guitar to start your journey, take a look at this guide.
Here are my reviews of the top 6 best metal pedals for electric guitar…
1. Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal Effect
Low budget, professional sound
The timeless and popular Boss DS-1 pedal is used by over 100 artists, which includes John Fursicnate, late Kurt Cobain, music producer Calvin Harris, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Gary Moore, Rob Scallon, and Robert Smith.
This is THE guitar distortion, the most classic sound there is. It’s incredibly budget, durable, and fits for both guitar and keyboards. You could also plug this on bass and enjoy incredible results.
This pedal is so good because it’s a no-nonsense hard distortion that reproduces all the subtle nuances of your playing dynamics. It means the sound is lively, organic, and reacts to your strumming and your guitar’s volume, much like an overdrive does.
The DS-1 distortion is present on pedalboards across a wide range of genres because it has superb versatility and a fantastic range of distorted tones. Plus, we already know Boss is a reliable brand.
The company first debuted this pedal in 1978 and became the go-to pedal for many artists (Kurt Cobain, Steve Vai, and Joe Satriani, for example).
The fact that it allows musicians to dial smooth and subtle gain tones all the way to huge, hard and heavy tones for metal riffs made this pedal carve its way into the metal industry really fast.
Think of Nirvana’s all-time classic “Breed” or “Smell Like Teen Spirit.” In particular, Nirvana shaped the music of the 90’s decades by the use of chorus pedals on their clean sections (verses) and distortions on the heavy sections (chorus, medleys, outros).
And it’s easy enough to use. Here are the knobs it has:
- Tone: it works as an EQ of sorts as it goes from dark to bright tones;
- Level: it raises or lowers the volume of the distortion;
- Distortion: this is your gain knob as it raises the level of the distortion.
- The footswitch to turn the effect on and off.
Personally, I find the Boss DS-1 as the best distortion pedal for beginners for it’s cheap, easy to use, reliable, and has a superb sound. Plus, it brings eight suggested settings in the manual (settings as to how to set the knobs to get specific tones like British rock or punk).
I’m sharing the version Boss released at its 40th anniversary, which is the same pedal but repainted orange and a slightly improved sound. Overall, this pedal cuts through the mix with the perfect rock & roll sound, and the perfect application of this pedal is just keeping it simple, much like Steve Vai, Kurt Cobain, and Joe Satriani.
As for durability and design, you can expect the usual Boss construction which is tested to last. Even on budget items.
On the downside, you might find the sound of this pedal is too bright, which is why it can do so well on hard rock and alternative rock but may sound a little thin on the heaviest genres.
Also, this is not an extremely versatile pedal, but I hope you’re not expecting an ocean of possibilities for such a bargain.
2. MXR M75 Super Badass ‘75 Distortion Pedal Effect
Super vintage Valhaha
The MX3 Super Badass is one of the best distortions you can get, and one of the prettiest and nastiest distortions by the acclaimed brand MXR.
It has an incredible range, it’s easy to dial, it sells for an affordable price and comes in a sturdy and durable. Overall, it offers an outrageous value for its price.
This is an analog pedal that offers the 100% analog feel. Hence the nickname, “‘75,” as it gives you the sound of the ‘70s rock music. Think of Iron Maiden, Saxon, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, or Judas Priest.
The MXR Super Badass Distortion is highly responsive and versatile. It’s able to cover a full spectrum of sounds, from ‘70s low-gain overdrives to the most modern metal distortion. And, in between, you get the acid and dirty sound.
Here’s what you get regarding controls:
- A 3-band EQ (bass – mid – treble knobs): this is the signature feature of this pedal. It allows you to sculpt the tone of your tone whilst enhancing or solving the issues and advantages of your guitar gear.
- Output sets the volume of the distortion.
- Distortion: sets the amount of distortion. It goes (clockwise): clean bosts / gentle clip / hard rock distortion / metal distortion.
With that simple setup, the M75 is the ONE distortion pedal that’s hard to beat regarding versatility, especially considering its price.
For example, with the knobs all the way down, the M75 delivers a clean bust. With the knobs at the model, you approach a crunchy overdrive. And with the knobs cranked all the way and the mids cut back, you’ll achieve modern metal tones.
Lastly, the M75 includes a True Bypass switch. If you need some extra info on bypass, go read the bypass options on this buyer’s guide section. Basically, though, True Bypass allows the signal of the guitar travel out of the pedal without any noise, hums, and buzzes.
Overall, the MXR M75 is a badass pedal with an incredible range and a nice vintage, all-analog sound. The 3-band EQ is a great feature that sets it apart from others and gives this pedal so much versatility, which is incredibly helpful if your guitar gear is small.
If you don’t have any pedals yet, I commend the MXR M75 Super Badass ‘75 Distortion your first pedal for electric guitar.
On the downside, though, I’m not particularly fond of any single sound the M75 does. So, if you’re into experimenting and are excited about the possibilities a pedal can give you, this does extremely well. If you’re limited on your pedalboard and want a small pedal that can do it all, this is also a great option.
However, if you want to craft a signature tone, this is not the best option out there.
Here’s another vintage alternative that trades some versatility for an amazing tone….
80’s metal pedal: JHS Angry Charlie V3
The JHS Angry Charlie is an attempt if putting the ‘80s rock defining JCM 800 amp head in a box. If you need to ask who played the famous JCM800, here’s a shortlist:
- Joe Frusciante;
- Billy Joe Armstrong;
- James Hetfield;
- Steve Vai;
- Dave Mustain;
- Zack Wylde;
- Jerry Cantrel;
- Thomas DeLonge;
- Mike McCready…
You get the idea. It is like the ‘80s and ‘90s Rock Hall of Fame. The thing is the JCM800 is an ultra-rare and expensive item you wouldn’t find in your local store. YOu can search for more info on the official page of the JCM 800 2203.
Let’s go on…
The result is the classic Marshall British sound with chunky mids, plenty of gain, and wide EQ options. It means the tone is not the most modern, trash and gain-heavy metal, but more of a Guns ‘N’ Roses kind of thing with light crunches and searing solos.
As for controls, you get:
- A 3.band EQ: it has Bass, Middle, and Treble knobs that are really sensitive to your guitar gear;
- Volume: sets the volume of the distortion;
- Drive: this knob controls the amount of distortion.
The Angry Charlie pedal sounds a little muddy on when you crank the knobs, but it does sound great imitating 80s hard rock and metal music, which has softer, gentler, and less defined guitars than modern hard rock and metal.
The V3 (version 3) adds a little more headroom than its predecessors.
Bottom line, the Angry Charlie has the rich sounding British distortion of the JCM 800 amplifier and excels in many genres thanks to its EQ.
3. JHS ProCo Rat 2 Distortion Pedal
The professional standard
The Rat Distortion is a legendary series that feels like wild, filthy animal roaring through your speakers.
The Rat series of pedals excels at arena rock, which is why it’s present in the pedalboards of many big bands. The Rat 2, as well as the original Rat distortion, is used by over a hundred artists.
Reading through the list of artists using this pedal is like going through your favorite rock artists list on Spotify:
- Metallica (James Hetfield);
- Foo Fighters (Dave Grohl & bassist Krist Novoselic);
- Nirvana (Kurt Cobain);
- David Gilmour (Pink Floyd & as a solo artist);
- Arctic Monkeys (Alex Turner);
- King Crimson (Robert Fripp);
- Coldplay (Guy Berriman).
Rat 2 is also a very unique pedal. Its distinctive tone is the result of being 45% distortion and 55% fuzz:
The pedal debuted in 1978 and quickly became the go-to pedal of punk and rock underground artists. But, you know, those artists later became huge. In particular, Rat 2 is the reissue of the original pedal.
This is a primary distortion. This is the pedal that can craft your signature tones and all of the tone you want and need for your lead guitars and metal riffs.
It’s amazing because it catches that sweet spot where a tube amp goes from crunchy clean to warm overdrive (like an overdrive pedal), whilst adding an extra layer of distortion.
Hence, the beauty of this pedal relies on its versatility. It’s truly superb for rythm guitars and soaring leads and truly gets as much juice out of your amp as it can. Or, it can go the other way around and deliver soft, gentle tones for pop genres, alternative rock, and experimental rock. It can do almost anything.
And here’s what makes this pedal so special: the RAT2 checks all of the distortion boxes. It’s a distortion with sustain, fuzz, and overdrive functions. It means it can get sweet and raunchy as well as crude and angry.
Just pick your poison and dial-up with its set of three knobs. That means that, despite all of its versatility, this is fairly easy to use pedal.
Let’s then review the control knobs:
- Distortion: sets the amount of distortion;
- Filter: it adds an extra layer of effect, which goes from overdrive to fuzz as you turn it clockwise;
- Level: controls the volume of the effect;
- The footswitch.
The pedal is very easy to dial in. They adjust smoothly and have LED indicators that glow in the dark so you can see the status of the pedal on the fly. Plus, the control knobs have a rubberized grip that feels really comfortable on your hands.
Lastly, I must also address the construction of the pedal is superb. It comes in a thick aluminum case that can pretty much survive a car accident.
You’ll also find great that, despite all of its advantages and professional use, this is a budge pedal.
What you might not like about this pedal, though, is that you might find the sound to be “too” ‘80s and ‘90s. If that’s the kind of sound you’re looking for your rock music (because these two decades are gold), then you can check it out.
There’s another thing: the Rat 2 pedal is 55% fuzz and 45% distortion, so the result might be too weird for you.
Hence, I’m giving you a similar alternative that swaps these numbers but sells for a higher price:
Most premium metal pedal: Big Ear WoodCutter
The WoodCutter is a ProCo Rat clone through and through. Keep in mind, though, this is a handmade boutique pedal with a solid build, a metallic case, and a solid, balanced tone.
This pedal has the same knobs as the Rat although with different names. Plus, it has an easy to click footswitch and LED lights to keep you guided.
So, if you’ve ever been interested in the famous RAT, then you should also take a look at the WoodCutter as it sounds very similar:
The difference is the WoodCutter has more bass, and that can be good or bad depending on your guitar rig. For example, if you have a heavy-bass amp or a fat Les Paul guitar, you might not need this extra bottom end. However, if you’re rocking on amps like Peavey, Fender or Marshall and sport a Telecaster / Stratocaster guitar with single-coil pickups, then the extra fatness will do great things for you.
One more thing, the ProCo Rat2 is 55% fuzz and 45% distortion. Now, the WoddCutter is the inverse, which means the resulting tone is less otherworldly and more metal.
That, to me, makes the WoodCutter just like a Rat, only better.
And do you want to know something very special about this pedal? Well, each model is hand-made in limited quantities by a wife and husband team. And that’s why the price is nearly three times what the Rat costs.
If you’re into a premium, handmade musical gear, then this is your choice. Why? The WoodCutter is dipping with elegance, sophistication, and worth.
This pedal is not available on Amazon as its stock is very limited. You would have to search it on your local store or specialized musical sites like Reverb.
Here’s their official webpage, if you’re interested. The company is located in Nashville, USA.
4. Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal
The Fender Pugilist is the pedal with the highest gain available. It’s a complex device, to be honest, but if you take your time negotiating with its control knobs, there’s plenty of joy to have.
It has a defining feature which is dual gain engines, each one with their own Tone, Gain knobs:
Tone: dials the tone from soft to raw and aggressive;
Gain: it sets the amount of distortion.
Then, on the master section, it has:
- Blend: it allows you to run the two gain engines together or before/after each other.
- Bass Boost Switch: it fattens the tone by adding extra weight to the chords, as it accentuates the root notes and enriches the low-end of the frequency.
The overall result is the classic tonality of Fender amplifiers rendered into a hard-hitting sleek looking pedal. Also, this pedal sounds huge.
However, this pedal is kind of an oddball with the “two gain engines” feature. See, there are two because each one reacts to your guitar differently:
Mode A works as an overdrive/crunch. Mode B saturates your tone with a modern metal distortion. And the bass boost fattens single-coil pickups.
That might leave you wondering…what kind of music can this pedal play? Well, the answer is all types of music. But in typical Fender fashion, it doesn’t play all too well with the heaviest of metal genres. Instead, it plays better with early metal music (the 60s and 70s).
So it sounds excellent, you can tweak the sound a lot, and features the classical Fender vintage metal sound. What’s not to like by us classic rockers?
As you see, the pedal comes in the classic Fashion of Fender pedals: bright, sparkly, big, heavy, and filled with controls. This might be a massive drawback for people searching for ease of use or if you have a small pedalboard or small patience for heavy gear.
If you’re into the loudness of this pedal but would prefer something cheaper and less complex, here’s an alternative:
Easiest metal pedal: EarthQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold
This is an interesting pedal delivering a mean, loud, and aggressive sound. It might catch your eye because of how unique it looks, and how easy it’s to use.
The pedal only has a footswitch, with a brilliant LED indicator in the middle of a beautiful black and gold artwork, plus one big knob.
The EarthQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold is interesting. One glance will tell you that. In addition to some beautiful artwork, the form factor of this pedal puts its uniqueness on display from the moment you first lay eyes on it.
This stompbox then leaves the tone entirely to your guitar and your amp, whereas the giant knob simply controls the output volume of the distortion.
See? A single distortion sound with the highest amount of gain possible. And as for tone, it models the sound of the Sunn T amplifier, a vintage amp that’s known for having a cult following and for sculpting the tone of Queens of the Stoneage’s frontman Josh Homme.
It means the sound is acid, dirty, and able to break your windows. It’s great for stoner rock, trash metal, doom metal, and similar genres. So, if you like it simple, elegant, and specific, this is your choice.
5. KDHK Electronics Dark Blood
The ultimate doom
“Dark Blood” is a name that wouldn’t make sense anywhere else but metal. The darkest, heaviest, meanest genres can shine with this aggressive pedal.
What it does is deliver a high-gain distortion with a built-in noise gate to keep your output and noise levels in check.
This is such a professional-grade pedal that is Metallica’s Kirk Hammett’s signature stompbox. In fact, Kirk Hammet (KH) co-founded the company alongside David Karon (DK) in 2012. Here’s the official company story, if you’re interested.
And what the company managed to create is the definitive pedal for playing metal on electric guitar. It looks badass, it sounds badass, and it feels badass:
As for knobs, you have:
- Gain: controls the amount of distortion;
- Volume: controls the volume of the distortion;
- Doom: is a pre-distortion EQ that controls the low-end frequency. As you turn it clockwise.
- Treble: controls the highs.
The knobs adjust very smoothly and are very intuitive. Additionally, it has a Hi/Lo selector switch for compression (compressing the highs or the lows), plus a Sustain button and a subtle Gate knob (which controls noise reduction).
The pedal holds its own on high gain treble leads. However, the real deal is when you try this out with fat, bassy leads: when you turn the Doom knob past the middle, your low-end toes gain clarity, power, and growl.
The Doom knob really stands out and sets this pedal apart from others. The noise gate is also a great extra that allows you to eliminate unwanted feedback with a simple twist of a knob. It can almost completely cut out feedback even on noisy single-coil pickups.
Keep in mind the gate level varies across different guitars and across different pickups.
The overall sound is full, impressive, and remarkable. The EQ is also amazing and is able to fatten up a thin guitar or brighten a fat guitar. More so, it works especially well with humbucker pickups and tube amps.
In summary, this Kentucky-made pedal is terrific for metal tones and high-gain situations for both soloing and rhythm guitars.
On the downside, the pedal is not too terrific in low-gain situations. Quite the contrary, it muds your tone on low gain. But as Kirk Hammet said this pedal was designed to be the “the ultimate pedal for gain freak.”
Here’s a similar alternative also marketed and proven to be one of the heaviest metal pedals there is. Just like the Dark Blood, the next item doesn’t stand out on low-gain situations…
Heaviest metal pedal: Wampler Dracarys Distortion
Do you like Game of Thrones? I mean…if you could forget the last season.
Well, it’s time to unravel your bloodiest ambitions with the Dracarys Distortion by Wampler.
The Dracarys is a boutique pedal shipping in a sturdy black aluminum case tainted with the Targaryen’s family curse, a dragon sweeping its wings across a menacing black sky.
It’s inspired by the Swedish guitar player Ola Englund, who is mostly known for owning a YouTube channel testing out guitar gear.
Here’s Ola Englund trying out the pedal:
This boutique pedal has a true bypass switch and delivers a tone that can burn your enemies. Forget about a transparent drive because this pedal offers a huge, metal distortion.
The controls are just like the MR M75: Bass, Mid, Treble, Volume, and Gain. Plus, it has a toggle switch in the middle that lets you go between Open and Tight (less or more compression, respectively).
Overall, this pedal offers way less versatility than the MXR M75 with similar tones. The result is modern rock and modern metal, and it goes to people who like playing the heaviest genes.
For modern metalheads out there, this is one of the finest gain distortion pedals you can find, with super-easy to use.
6. Keeley Electronics Filaments
The all-rounder metal distortion
The Keeley Electronics FIlaments is the most versatile pedal for metal as it sounds great on low and high gain equally.
It’s marketed as a “high-gain” pedal, though, and it delivers great high gain tones. However, what truly excels on this pedal is how it can deliver aggressive high gain tones as well as soft, gentle distortions for your clean, lighter sections.
The Keeley company has made some great drives, but the Filaments goes into higher gain territory than their other devices.
It has the incredible feature of three stacked gain stages that can interact with your signal. The sound is warm, defined, and tight.
The tone is also incredibly easy to adjust as you have 7 methods of EQ shaping. So, regarding controls, you get:
- Presence: it toggles the amount of distortion going from soft and gentle to sharp knife cutting through the mix;
- Bass: treat the lower end of the frequency;
- Body: contours the mids;
- Treble: controls the highs;
- Boost: for a more transparent boost sound;
- Bright: it gives the sound a “shine” effect;
- Crunch: it gives “chugging”-like rhythms for searing solo tones.
All of the settings produce quality sounds, and the controls give you the option to sculpt your tone precisely. It’s complex but very versatile, and its range goes from light-gain drives to overloaded metal tones.
The pedal looks the part too, as it comes in black with an aggressive art scheme and a sturdy metal chassis. The blood-red lettering sets things off, and the LED lights in bright blue lights help this pedal stand on the stage.
Lastly, this pedal doesn’t have the ability to run on a battery, so it needs either a 9 or an 18V adapter (it’s louder on 18). What it does has, though is a true bypass.
As the Filaments Distortion Pedal is so balanced, I wouldn’t say it has any real drawbacks. It produces high-gain drives and nuanced metal tones, and it’s able to deliver a transparent boost.
What you might find negative, though, is the complexity that comes with such versatility. So it’s up to you.
Remember to watch the YouTube demos in order to find your favorite heavy metal pedal.
Can I use a guitar distortion pedal on a bass guitar?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer is you probably shouldn’t. The frequency range of electric guitars is higher than the bass, and pedals take this into consideration when they build their pedals.
Of course, you can do some trial and error to find some good guitar distortion that works well with bass. Feel free to experiment, although I already know the result is going to be a higher-pitched bass with a really aggressive distortion.
If you want to save the hassle, here’s a guide detailing the best pedals for bass guitars. Additionally, there are some pedals that are crossovers, which means they can work equally well on bass and guitars. In particular, EHX Big Muff pedals, as well as other fuzz pedals, cover the entire frequency range, so they can work for both guitar and basses alike.
What’s the best electric guitar distortion pedal effect for playing metal?
Overall, the Wampler Dracarys, the KHDK Dark Blood, and the Keeley Filaments are the best distortion pedals for metal. Their looks are evidence of how good they can play a ripping solo.
Metal players need higher levels of distortion and gain than other players. More so, they tend to need a more compressed sound to flow between rhythms, chords, and riffs with balanced volume output. Plus, they need the power to cut through the mix on a soaring solo.
The three choices I gave you are able to achieve all of this on their own and on a single setting, without you needing to tweak the knobs as you play.
What’s the best distortion pedals for classic rock? (‘70s and ‘80s)
Now, players looking for the shorter end of the balance can also find great choices on this list. The Rat series is especially good for classic rock and has been the most popular choice for legendary rockers for over 3 decades now.
More so, this pedal is still in use in modern recordings.
What’s the best budget distortion pedal for metal?
The Boss DS-1 is, without a doubt, the best budget distortion pedal for electric guitar. It’s a dedicated pedal created in 1978, just like the RAT, and has a premier reputation despite its price.
Just like the Rat, this pedal has been a landmark on many albums, songs, and even music genres for decades. IF you’re looking for a classic distortion and you’re on a budget, this is your best option.
I hope my list covered all of your budgets and musical needs. Personally, I’d go for the Rat 2 as I’m no fan of super-distortions like the Dracarys.
The Rat is the most unique sounding of all distortion pedals in the market right now, which is why there are dozens of pedals trying to imitate its tone.
Remember pedals react differently to the pickup style of your guitar. Check the following link if you want to understand pickups a bit more.
The DS-1 is a certified classic, and it’s the cheapest of them all. You wouldn’t find anything as good for that price range, not even close.
In the meantime, the MXR M75 is also a great affordable choice. If you had to pick a single pedal to fulfill all of your musical needs, then this versatile beast would be your definite option. It’s not the substitute of the Rat 2, but it can get pretty close to the classic DS-1 tone. So, if you play a lot of genres, you should go for this one.
Meanwhile, the Fender Pugilist, as well as the EarthQuaker Devises Acapulco Gold, are the definite oddballs of the list. These are options for someone with some extra budget to experiment.
Also, these are great for guitar players with experience who know what to do with a pedal and what they want to achieve. Even so, both these pedals deliver A LOT of gain.
And, in particular, I love the Acapulco Gold as it gives you the acid, stoner guitar tone I love so much from Queens of the StoneAge.
You already know which of these pedals are the metal options.
Well, what are your thoughts? What’s your favorite distortion pedal for metal? Leave it on the comments!