Distortion is, by far, the most important effect for guitar players in general. No matter the genre, you’ll always need one. This simple effect completely reinvented modern music during the second half of the 20th century. Although it was first achieved by pushing the amps over their limits or even deliberately damaging their speakers, we got first compact distortion pedals during the 1960s and the 1970s. These days, the distortion is achieved the same way, by amplifying the signal using operational amplifiers and then deliberately cutting it using transistors or diodes.
However, although simple in its nature, it takes a lot of effort and experience to create a specific kind of distortion. This is especially the case with metal music where even the slightest nuances can mean a world of difference. What one metal guitarist might love, the other one wouldn’t even want in their signal chain.
However, there are some amazing and very versatile metal-oriented distortions that we can find on the market today. Since digging them up yourself might take a lot of time, we thought that we could help you out and bring some of the best distortion pedals for metal. The choice wasn’t easy, but we managed to include something for everyone’s tastes in here.
Boss MT-2W Waza Craft Metal Zone
With their immense collection of pedals and overall great quality, it’s hard not to include Boss stuff in here. At this point, all the guitar players are familiar with the company’s MT-2 Metal Zone. Although very popular, the pedal has sparked many discussions and arguments, achieving even somewhat of a “controversial” status.
However, the improved Waza Craft version is more accepted and highly valued among metal guitarists. Aside from already detailed controls for a simple compact distortion pedal, this improved version has an additional switch that lets you toggle between the standard Metal Zone mode, which focuses on the mids and higher mids, and an additional mode that covers a broader spectrum. Also, the pedal’s improved circuitry gives a new dimension to the tone.
Amptweaker TightMetal ST
Although Amptweaker pedals aren’t as widespread as some other brands that we’re used to, they have some surprising stuff in their arsenal. For this list, we have their appropriately named TightMetal (yeah, that’s one word) that offers so many tone-shaping possibilities. The pedal is bigger than a standard compact size that we’re used to. However, this is a pedal that offers some rather diverse sounds. Anything from scooped old school 1980s tones and up to those “in-your-face” tight modern metal tones. It even comes with an integrated noise gate, which is pretty useful for such a high-gain pedal. Onboard, we also have an effects loop with send and return jacks. Just imagine the possibilities with this one.
MXR M116 Fullbore Metal
If you need a simple metal pedal that cuts right into that juicy metal tone, look no further than MXR’s M116, also dubbed Fullbore Metal. And it seems that however you set it, you’ll be able to get a really good tone. Although compact, Fullbore Metal has some really useful and detailed controls. Aside from a standard 3-band EQ, there’s an additional knob that lets you dial in the peak mid-level frequency. And this is exactly what makes this pedal so great.
As if all this wasn’t enough, there’s an onboard noise gate with a simple one-button operation. For more tone-shaping options, there’s also a “scoop” button that cuts the mids to a lower level. All in all, it’s a very versatile pedal and comes in handy for more music styles than just metal.
Friedman Amplification BE-OD Deluxe
Friedman Amplification makes only the best stuff. There are no pedals or amps that are “just okay.” It’s either going to be high-end or they’re not making anything. Their BE-OD Deluxe pedal is a great example. It has that “2-in-one” kind of deal with two separate channels with identical controls. Each section has a 3-band EQ, an additional presence boost switch, and a “tight” mode switch. This way, you can make two distinct presets and switch them as you please.
But it’s not just practicality and versatility that makes this pedal so great. To put it simply, this is just an awesome-sounding device. Yeah, it’s not the cheapest option out there and it’s kind of a large pedal, but it’s definitely worth the price. Along with very detailed controls, you just get additional options for pretty much any metal subgenre that you might prefer.
TC Electronic Dark Matter
We know that TC Electronic makes some of the best pedals on the market. However, it’s mindblowing to see such a great yet cheap pedal like their Dark Matter. This little bad boy can help you create some of the meanest-sounding distorted tones you’ll ever hear. No matter the type of amplifier you have, Dark Matter manages to bring its harsh heavy tone.
And although fairly simple, there’s one additional control on it that lets you choose between two voicings. By flipping it, you get some quite bottom-end heavy tones with some additional tightness in there. Of course, there are the basic controls for volume, level, as well as two knobs for bass and treble.
The whole thing is rounded up with pedal’s true bypass circuitry. Overall, many consider this to be an advantage, but it comes down to personal preferences.
Lastly, we’d like to include Wampler and their Dracarys pedal. This one sounds as mean as its name and design would suggest. Although not the cheapest one, it provides you with some amazing tone-shaping options. Once again, we have a switch that lets you choose between “open” and “tight” modes. Other than this, you can do the essential tweaking using its 3-band EQ. It’s a very aggressive and modern-oriented distortion pedal. If this sounds like something you need, you just can’t go wrong with Wampler’s Dracarys.