You are reading this because you are on a quest to perfect the art of heavy riffs and sonic solos. Your motivation to play the electric guitar is fuelled by the need to master the sheer power of soul-stirring power chords and ferocious muted chugs that know no mercy!
You are looking to replicate the sweet yet menacing sounds of masters like Jeff Loomis, Mark Morton, Kerry King and perhaps, Marten Hagstrom. Well, the truth is, maybe you won’t be sounding like them right off the bat, but by the end of this read, you will definitely have a better understanding of what to look for, in a good distortion pedal.
First of all, a distortion pedal and an overdrive pedal are two different things! To play metal, you strictly need a distortion pedal and you need one that gives you enough mileage to try out different sounds, especially if you are a beginner axeman. A good distortion pedal lets you dial in sounds with ease, lets you get acquainted with different sound frequencies, is robust and is cost effective all at the same time. In short, versatility with reliability is what you need to look for, in an ideal pedal.
Remember that along with working on your technique, training your ears to the intricate differences in sound frequencies is what will truly complete you as a guitarist. A sensitive device that lets you do all this is what you need before you can eventually find your own sound during the course of this journey of a lifetime. Let us take a closer look at ten awesome distortion pedals for metal music now, shall we?
Wampler Triple Wreck Modern Rectified Distortion Pedal
Get ready to experience some handmade goodness with this superb distortion pedal from Wampler. Gain is all you need when you are churning out those riffs and this pedal brings enough of it to the table and is easily one of the heaviest sounding pedals that you could possibly buy. If control is what you are looking for, then this is the natural choice for you. Equipped with a built-in EQ and advanced custom settings like Hard and Brutal, this pedal lets you dial in a variety of sounds. From modern day heavy metal to the classic sounds of British rock, this pedal is guaranteed to put a huge smile on your face, especially when you engage it with the two-foot switches.
Pros: One of the most versatile pedals out in the market, flawless control over tone, learning how gain settings work has just been made easy!
Cons: The most expensive distortion pedal in our list today, is not ideal for a starter.
MXR M116 Fullbore Metal Distortion
Designed to put out sound like a gunshot from point blank range, the MXR Fullbore is designed to bring out the demon in your guitar! Plug it into any guitar and it will still bite you with the same unabashed ferocity. Crafted from brushed metal and equipped with a simple layout, this pedal is already making waves with metal guitarists all over the world.
Loaded with features like a three band EQ, scoopable mid-range for that addictive thrash metal sound, this pedal brings in another critical essential for any guitarist, into the mix, a noise gate. Every muted chug and open power chord are going to sound grand on the MXR. Perfect for recording and tracking metal guitar. This distortion pedal is the chosen one for metal music!
Pros: Sturdy robust construction, easy to use controls, sublime sound, remarkable tonal control, master of high gain distortion, built in noise gate.
Made for a hardcore metal guitarist, if you are in the mood for retro and classic sounds once in a while, you may need other pedals in your kit.
Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff
Heavy metal was born in the early 70s, began to sound meaner in the 80s and evolved into a beast in the 90s, through the new millennium. This pedal is more than capable of playing all the genres of metal music that exist. If you are a fan of old school metal (read Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Exodus and even Early Metallica) this pedal is a match made in heaven, for you. Equipped with ample tonal controls, this pedal is like a time machine, sound wise, capable of transporting you anywhere between the 1970 s and 2017!
Pros: Excellent value for money for the versatility in tone, superb old school look, comes with 9-volt battery included, designated knobs for better tone quality.
Cons: The 9-volt batteries are known to drain very fast creating the need for a power adapter.
Boss is a name that has gained a reputation of making some high-quality equipment for guitarists and one look at this pedal will tell you why. Designed to be compact and effective at the same time, the Boss MT-2 is a “no frills” approach to a distortion pedal. The ability of this pedal to drive an amp well is what we personally like about it. Equipped with straightforward controls with an easy learning curve, the Boss is more than capable of being an essential in any guitarist’s kit.
Pros: Easy to use, superb sound, uses 1.9volt batteries, compact and portable.
Cons: As you get better with your skills, you may find the need to a better pedal with more tonal control.
Digitech DDM Death Metal
As a beginner, the first thing that almost every guitarist just wants to do is to plug in and chug away to a grand sounding “Metal tone”. A superb package targeted towards beginners by Digitech, this is a great place to start for aspiring Metal heads. The DDM Death Metal is more than capable of giving out a great distorted tone and it acquaints the guitarists with the art of dialing in a good sound. Simple controls with a great sound are what you are going to get with this one.
Pros: An excellent package for beginner guitarists, simple straightforward controls.
Cons: If you are a quick learner, you may grow out of this pedal soon.
Biyang Metal End (King)
The Biyang Metal End is a superb device packaged in stainless steel. If you were looking for a pedal that did more than just play metal, this is the perfect choice for you. Besides the usual EQ knobs, this pedal is equipped with multiple switches that give an unbelievable amount of control over your tone. If you have ever wondered what the difference between a “bright” and a “warm” tone is, this distortion effects pedal will bring you up to speed very well. The Biyang is specifically for a guitarist who is looking to be a versatile player.
Pros: Excellent form factor, superior tonal quality, and control at this price point.
Cons: Should you decide to go pro, you would definitely need to find a better pedal.
Pro Co RAT2
What we liked about the Pro Co Rat was its compact nature. Equipped with three volume control knobs and a foot switch, this is a bare bones approach to a distortion pedal. This is an ultra-portable device that is capable of bringing out some crisp and crunchy versatile tones. The sound it produces is surprisingly warm and sweet.
Pros: From classic rock to metal, this pedal is more than capable of giving you a wide range of sounds, small and compact.
Cons: It is more of an effects pedal than a dedicated distortion pedal.
BOSS Audio DS1
The Boss DS1 is the best way a budding metal guitarist could possibly get started. The design of the pedal introduces you to the very basics of how to dial in a tone. Equipped with just a “Tone”, “Dist” and level knob along with a foot switch, this is pedal is like a superb beginner’s course. This simple and straightforward approach to starting off with a distorted sound is what has made this pedal a natural choice for first timers and pros, who need a backup pedal.
Pros: Excellent value for money, superb tone and sound definition.
Cons: This is a distortion pedal in its truest sense. It doesn’t do anything else.
BEHRINGER ULTRA METAL UM300
Considering the needs of a beginner guitarist, there simply could not be a better distortion pedal than the Behringer. Equipped with a three-band EQ, level controls, and Dedicated distortion, the Behringer is designed for a great sound and to introduce you to what versatile pedals are capable of. The tube amp like distortion that this pedal imparts to your sound is guaranteed to impress.
Pros: The most value for money pedal in our list today, compact and versatile.
Cons: The construction could have been sturdier.
Danelectro D-3 Fab Metal Effects Pedal
Ever heard of the saying “Nice things come in small packages”? This is true in the case of the Danelectro. The amount of power this little package carries is going to surprise you. Equipped with very active and sensitive control knobs, this pedal will have you dialing in a great sound in almost no time. The amount of gain and sustain that this pedal imparts to your tone will never cease to impress.
Pros: Small yet explosive in terms of power, simple controls layout.
Cons: Strictly for guitarists ranging from beginner to intermediate.