My top 5 best distortion pedals are:
#5- MXR M69 Prime Distortion
This is another example that a good distortion pedal doesn’t have to be expensive. A lot of players, myself included, like a distortion sound that can be dynamically controlled, either by how hard you pick or by the volume knob. This pedal can do that, and when pushed hard the signal doesn’t get very noisy, and the pedal is 100% analog. I think of this pedal as good medium between the DS-1 and the TS-9.
#4- Pro Co Rat2
The Rat is a very good pedal for getting a raspy type of distortion reminiscing of some 80′s hair metal music. It cleans up nicely when used more mildly, but it really comes into its own when used more aggressively. I tend to prefer this pedal with Ibanez RG guitars, or similar ones. These type of guitars sometimes lack low end due to their thin bodies. The Rat’s added compression helps to even out their sound and gives sustain and punch.
#3- Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi
A long time ago I had an old 80′s Charvel superstrat in yellow crackle (I was absolutely broke!). I found it for almost nothing at a local pawn shop. To jam with a friend I had to use his bass amp. The sound was horrendous, and I had no way to get distortion. My friend recommended that I tried a distortion pedal that he had, to see if the sound could get a little better, a Big Muff Pi . When I plugged it, into a Fender Bassman, I was very impressed with the sound. I was glad this happened because if not for the circumstances I’d have never tried this.
#2- Ibanez TS808
The Ibanez Tube Screamer has a very pure and creamy sound. As the original of overdrive pedals the Tube Screamer is known for producing a gain in volume that is enough to overdrive the input of the amp, but is still clean. It can be used on top of an amp’s distortion, or with another distortion pedal, producing a compressed distortion sound that works really well for hard rock and metal. A lot of players use this combination as a boost for solos.
#1- Boss DS-1
If there’s one distortion pedal that works for everything hard rock or metal is the Boss DS-1. I used one for the first time in 1995, it’s just astonishing what such an inexpensive pedal can do. In my experience it makes any set up sound better, from a Squier Strat through a Fender Frontman, to a Gibson Les Paul through a Marshall. I’ve read stories of players like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Kurt Cobain and many others, players that could have used any distortion pedal that they wanted, yet they chose this one. I’m not saying it’s for everybody, but it’s definitely a must try.
Thanks for reading!