Updated by Bobby
Updated on April 20th, 2023
Added the Boss HM-2w to the comparison table as a new top recommendation in this category.
Best Distortion Pedal for Chugging (our Top Pick)
TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion
When it comes to providing quality distortion at a low price tag, we'd argue that the TC Electronic Dark Matter is one of the most underrated distortion pedals on the market. It can do subtle, bluesy tones. But for that thicker, chugging percussive sound, it's right at home. Buy confidently.
Are you looking for a distortion pedal that can provide a thick, chugging sound?
Not all distortion pedals can achieve this tone, so we've come up with a simple list of distortions we've tested that are ideal for chugging. Keep in mind, when looking for a pedal that can do this, we need to avoid fuzz and overdrive pedals and instead look at distortion pedals specifically.
These will often be heavier, more modern, and more percussive. Though this is not always consistent.
For example, the Boss DS-1 is labeled a "distortion" pedal, but doesn't really produce the "chugging" sound we're looking for. It's more of a subtle, overdrive pedal.
But in this list, we've pulled together three of the best distortion pedals for chugging that can absolutely get the job done.
Read more: Best distortion pedals overall
Best Distortion Pedal for Chugging (top 3 picks)
Use the compare buttons below to see a more detailed list of specs for each pedal, or the Sweetwater buttons to browse individual product descriptions. These help support Guitar Chalk, but cost you nothing extra.
TC Electronic Dark Matter
MXR Fullbore Metal
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What exactly is the "chugging" sound?
When guitar players refer to "chugging" they're talking about a heavy, percussive sound that is always accompanied by a lot of distortion. While the exact interpretation of this sound is somewhat subjective, it's usually characterized by the following qualities:
- High gain
- Emphasis on bass in the EQ
- Emphasis on palm-muted power chords
- Percussive response
A high gain level is almost always necessary to get a chugging distortion sound.
Distortion pedals that achieve this tone are almost always going to be heavier, designed for metal and/or modern rock. In other words, you need more than just a little bit of amp breakup to get a chugging tone.
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Why High-Gain is Necessary
In fact, I'd go as far to say that chugging isn't really possible with lower-gain environments.
Without the saturation of high gain, you don't really have distortion at all.
Instead you have something called overdrive, which is a type of gain but it is technically different than distortion. Overdrive usually is marked by lower gain levels that produce a more subtle and bluesy form of distortion.
These pedals usually don't produce enough of the qualities we're looking for in a "chugging" sound.
There's less bass, less percussive "boom", and less power coming out of palm mutes.
For that reason, a high gain level is almost always necessary to get a chugging distortion sound.
Avoid Overdrive and Fuzz Pedals
For this reason, we recommend avoiding most overdrive and fuzz pedals if your goal is to produce distortion with that chugging quality. While overdrive and fuzz pedals can be useful in other contexts, they usually don't produce the gain levels necessary to achieve a chugging effect.
Of the three pedals we've recommended, the Dark Matter is the best value. If you don't mind spending more money, the Wampler Dracarys probably has the nicest tone and sound quality.
But all three of them can achieve the chugging sound and will give you plenty of high gain levels to work with.
They're pure distortion pedals that can handle the smooth and thicker tones of modern metal and hard rock.
If you have questions about them or other suggestions, feel free to drop us a line in the comments section below. I'll jump in there and help out as much as possible.