Best Distortion Pedal for a Fender Amp (Our Top Pick)
Fulltone OCD Overdrive
Since Fender amps tend to sound bluesy, we'd recommend going with a bluesy-sounding distortion like the Fulltone OCD. This pedal has a lo and hi pass filter in addition to the expected volume, drive, and tone controls. It's one of the best-selling distortion pedals on the market, and sounds great with warm tube amps.
Fender amps are one of the more popular amp brands on the market, especially their tube-driven combos. Though they aren't known for their onboard distortion, which is why a lot of Fender amp players decide to pair their combo with an external distortion pedal.
In this article we're covering some recommendations for that situation: Which distortion pedal is the best option for Fender amps?
You can see from the above section that the Fulltone OCD overdrive is our top pick for pairing with a Fender amp.
However, we have a list of suggestions that includes four other distortion pedals.
Read more: Best Fender amps
Best Distortion Pedals for Fender Amps (top 5 picks)
These are the five top distortion pedals we recommend pairing with Fender amps. They can all function as standalone distortion sources, but can also be used to push the dirty channel on your Fender amp (more on that later). Use the compare buttons to see pricing and specs for each pedal side by side.
Fulltone OCD Overdrive
Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
Boss BD-2 Blues Driver
Wampler Tumnus Deluxe
None of these are what you would consider heavy, or high gain saturation. They're all more properly categorized as overdrive pedals that are going to give you a warm, tube-friendly overdriven tone that will pair well with a Fender amp.
Of the five, the BD-2 is probably the most mellow while the Revv G3 is the most intense.
How we setup this page
Instead of reviewing each pedal individually, we've linked to Sweetwater pages and provided the compare feature so you can easily look at details for each one. We've also done the homework of vetting them and have only made recommendations that we're confident in.
Overdrive or distortion?
With Fender amps, we're recommending pedals that are more properly categorized as overdrive pedals, which just means they provide more of a bluesy tone that's made to push you amplifier.
Since Fender amps aren't typically sought out for high gain levels, a good distortion pedal needs to provide a more subtle form of breakup or distortion.
You might want to just push the clean signal slightly, while maintaining the character of the tube amp.
Overdrive tends to be better at this, because of the following features:
- More subtle than full distortion
- Works with your clean tone instead of covering it
- Typically sounds better in a blues context
- Pushes gain at lower volumes
So yes, these are distortion pedals, but they're definitely more mellow and will do a better job of letting your amp do the heavy lifting while complimenting an already pristine and solid base tone.
For Fender amps, these are the style qualities you should be looking for in a compatible distortion pedal:
I'd recommend avoiding heavier distortion pedals that are made for metal and are designed to produce much higher gain levels. While that can sound good with a Fender amp, that's typically not the distortion style they're designed for.
Think about the type of music you want to play.
If you already have a Fender amp, you're likely prioritizing the following:
- Clean tones
- Light rock
Make sure the style of your distortion pedal is able to compliment and promote these styles and not simply cover them up.
What about the distortion from the Fender amps?
Most Fender amp combos have multiple channels and their own distortion source. In the tube amps I've tested, I've never been impressed with the higher gain settings, beyond adding a simple amount of breakup to the tone profile
The distortion on most of these amps is also not particularly versatile, which leads me to recommend a distortion pedal that'll give you some more options and more control over your high-gain tones.
It's certainly not to say that Fender's amp-based distortion is bad.
But it can definitely benefit from an external gain source, which would at least keep you from having to rely on it completely for distortion.
Using Overdrive as an Amp Boost
If you want to use both a distortion pedal and your Fender amp's gain channel, you can use the pedal as a sort of gain boost.
For example, you might have a low gain setting on your amp's dirty channel and then set the gain on your pedal slightly higher. This would push your amp's gain to give you more volume and/or distortion, perhaps when it comes to jumping between rhythm and lead guitar parts.
A lot of guitar players prefer this method as opposed to running up the gain on the amplifier itself.
It's a method we think works particularly well with Fender amps.
Fender amps sound great on their own, especially on clean settings.
So if we're going to add a distortion pedal we need to make sure it doesn't intrude on the quality of tone that we're already getting. The distortion pedals in this list do a good job of providing some higher gain settings without covering up or short-changing the natural sound of a tube amplifier.
They're also not super expensive.
Of the five recommended, we like the Fulltone OCD the best, but any of them could potentially be a good fit. We believe in making less recommendations, but making those recommendations more reliable, based on pedals we've actually used and tested.
Questions and Your Recommendations
If you have questions about the pedals we've listed here or recommendations about one that should be included, feel free to drop a line in the comments section below and we'll chat.
See you there.