You can't overstate the appeal generated by vintage distortion sounds and the pedals that create them.
There's a reason the Ibanez Tube Screamer and Jim Dunlop Fuzz Face are some of the best-selling stompboxes in existence, even as modern distortion pedals gain in popularity.
In fact, Hendrix-style fuzz distortions have made a remarkable comeback into the mainstream in recent years. Just ask Black Stone Cherry's Chris Robertson (more on them below), Taylor Momsen (The Pretty Reckless) or Dorthy Martin.
In many cases, vintage distortion pedals are considered more "authentic" and, as a result, are more heavily sought after.
But, as a consequence, I've found it somewhat difficult to nail down a good-quality modern distortion. And by "modern" I mean the following:
- Heavily saturated with high gain levels
- Not fuzz or bluesy overdrive
- Thick-sounding with plenty of bass in the EQ
- Stylistically modern
Pedal cabling or couplers?
For cabling between pedals, I recommend using the Planet Waves right-angle patch cables, which are low capacitance, shielded (practically noiseless) and come cheap in packs of three.
Shielded, low-capaciatance Planet Waves patch cables help cut down on noise and pedal hiss.
Gold pedal couplers will have the same effect and significantly reduce noise between pedals.
What I don't mean is the Boss DS-1 or Ibanez Tube Screamer.
We're looking for Brad Delson, Adam Jones and Tony Rombola type sounds - not Eric Johnson or Stevie Ray Vaughan, both of which are great, but not heavy or modern.
I mentioned Brad Delson, who is Linkin Park's guitar player. Anything off Meteora is a great example of what we're looking for in a distortion pedal.
It's not bluesy or vintage at all, but dang it sounds great. I love this stuff.
Let's try one more. Skillet this time.
It should be clear from a few seconds of this track that Korey Cooper and Seth Morrison (Skillet's guitar players) are using a different distortion setting than, say, Tom Petty or Joe Walsh would typically use.
So, I'd like to spend some time looking into exactly how these sounds are created and what pedals we can target to replicate them.
Skillet's Korey Cooper doesn't settle for distortion lite. | Flickr Commons Image via DarkElfPhoto
One important note:
These distortion tones are often times not created from a pedal.
The pros don't typically use a distortion pedal like many of us do. In most cases these sounds are created by using one, or a combination of, the following pieces of guitar gear:
- Amplifier dirty or "gain" channel
- Rackmounted effects processors
- Software, DAWs or a studio effects source
Now, can we use these resources as well?
Sure, if we can afford them.
But, I'd rather look and see what pedals are out there that can get close to the sounds we're hearing on Skillet's albums, without having to spend big money on the pro-level gear.
For our purposes, we don't need to.
Our focus is going to be getting the same sound out of a stompbox.
Let's jump in.
TC Electronic's take on a true bypass, modern distortion pedal is a fantastic sub-$50 option.
The Dark Matter distortion is billed by TC Electronic as a distortion pedal that bridges classic overdrive tones and modern distortion, while preserving the nuances of your guitar playing.
While I'd say it accomplishes this, I've personally found the Dark Matter to be "at home" as a modern distortion effect.
Part of that is because it's smooth and sounds more uncompressed than say, the MXR Fullbore.
It doesn't just sound like a pile of gain and hiss, despite the fact it is extremely heavy and thick.
GC QUICK LOOK
TYPICAL RETAIL: $45
TC Electronic Dark Matter True Bypass Distortion Pedal
- Vintage smoothness but still remarkably aggressive and modern response. Ideal for thicker low-end riffing.
- True bypass and "voice" switch both add value to an already solid box.
The EQ is basic, with a treble and bass control, though the range of tones is quite broad.
That "voice" switch you see in the middle can give you a thicker, more bass-heavy response, which I found to be a big part of the difference between the vintage and modern Dark Matter.
For heavier rhythm riffing, keep that feller switched on.
The Tone Print USB connection (a trademark feature of TC Electronic pedals) isn't supported, which (in my opinion) doesn't detract from the value of the pedal.
To finish up the stat sheet, TC Electronic keeps the circuit pure with a true bypass connection, which ensures that none of your clean tone will be compromised with the pedal on or off.
PERFORMANCE & TONE
My setup is a PRS CE-24 electric guitar with a pedalboard that goes straight into a USB audio interface (either PreSonus Audiobox or iRig Pro DUO), which is then routed into a Mac Mini running GarageBand 10 and outputted to a pair of studio monitors.
This allows me to test gear using a variety of different amp and cab models.
The Dark Matter seemed to be most effective and complimentary with some of the more modern amp models in GarageBand.
You can hear the smoothness, despite the pedal's crunchier tendencies.
I also tried some of the Mesa Boogie amp heads in Amplitube 4 from IK Multimedia.
The Orange amp models sounded really good as well.
While it's not unfair to say that much of the response I got from the Dark Matter was vintage-leaning, I found that the low-end boost and higher gain settings were perfect for some of the more modern and metal-flavored covers.
Closeup of the TC Electronic Dark Matter distortion pedal. | View Larger Image
Because of the low price (Boss DS-1-esque) I'd have a hard time not recommending it to folks who want a distinctly modern distortion pedal that's also affordable and capable of a vintage flavor.
And while it does sit more in between the styles of a bluesy overdrive and heavy, modern Mesa saturation, it's got plenty of weight behind it to hang with some of the more substantial modern rock tracks.
Stuff like Alter Bridge, Tool and the heavier Audioslave tracks like "Show Me How to Live" all sounded true to form.
Professional fans of the Dark Matter distortion include Volbeat's Rob Caggiano, Ramstein's Richard Kruspe and I Killed the Prom Queen's Jona Weinhofen.
Rammstein's Richard Kruspe. | Flickr Commons Image via Aurelien G Photographie
I've had/heard heavier, but this does a great job and strikes a respectable balance between the two distortion extremes.
- True Bypass
- Voice Switch (more bass)
- Gain, Bass, Level and Treble Controls
- Under $50 retail from most dealers
One of the most wallet-friendly distortion pedals also happens to be extremely heavy.
It's hard to overstate the value presented by the JF-02 to someone who is looking for a heavy, smooth and modern distortion pedal at a budget price tag.
To be fair, it's certainly not going to give you the same variety and control that we see with some of the more expensive distortion pedals (see #5 on this list), but it does get the tone right.
It gives you high gain and a thick low-end EQ that doesn't sound the least bit cheap.
In that respects, the Joyo JF-02 delivers for an astonishingly low price tag.
GC QUICK LOOK
TYPICAL RETAIL: $30
Joyo JF-02 Ultimate Drive distortion pedal with true bypass wiring
- Excels on lower EQs and sounds distinctly modern. You would never guess it only costs $30ish.
- True bypass wiring is claimed (I guess I believe them?) and a high/low switch gives you some additional control.
The pedal's casing is some kind of aluminum, which feels fairly strong.
At the same time, it does seem a bit hollow and "clicky" when you hit the bypass button, which is common for pedals in this price range.
Some reviewers and owners are saying it is true bypass. However, I'm skeptical about this because of the price tag and the fact that the front of the pedal just says "bypass."
In most cases, if a pedal is true bypass, it'll say so on the front where everyone can see it. There's no reason to conceal a premium feature if it has truly been implemented.
If it were indeed true bypass and you could crack it open (which I didn't because the one I was using didn't belong to me), you'd see something that resembles the following diagram.
True bypass wiring diagram. (View Larger Image)
Not a deal-breaker either way, but worth mentioning and worth leaving something in the comments section if you know for sure whether or not the true bypass rumors about this pedal are provable one way or the other.
"I was particularly fond of how the tone knob responded, since it didn't just bite your head off on higher levels..."
Controls include the following:
- High/Low Switch
- Gain Knob
- Level Knob
- Tone Knob
I was particularly fond of how the tone knob responded, since it didn't just bite your head off on higher levels. If anything, pushing the tone knob up and adding some extra treble into the EQ sounded better.
The gain knob was dynamic enough to take you from a slight boost, all the way to the heavy distortion you can hear in the demo video below.
PERFORMANCE & TONE
One of the best demos of this pedal's sound is showcased by a dude named Hunter who runs the Agufish Music YouTube channel.
To get a feel for what this pedal sounds like, it's a good place to start.
If you read through some of what Hunter writes about the JF-02, you'll see that he uses terms like "body" and "fullness" to describe the tone, which are both crucial to achieving a thick, modern-sounding distortion.
Hunter's descriptions are absolutely correct.
How a pedal strikes that balance between bass and midrange in the EQ will say a lot about where it fits stylistically. Yet, as Hunter points out, the JF-02 does it better than a lot of pedals that are more than three times its price.
Take the Boss MT-2 Metal Zone, for example.
We do not recommend this. (View Larger Image)
Getting your hands on a new Boss Metal Zone will cost you $90.
And while I almost always love the products we get from Boss US (now a division of Roland), I've got to say that the $30 Joyo JF-02 absolutely blows the doors off what you get with the MT-2.
All this to say:
Price isn't always the entire story.
In this case, we get a pedal that produces a tone that accommodates heavy styles and playing. Moreover, it sounds quite good and, dare I say, professional.
Here are a few other things I noted about this pedal's sound:
- Tone meshes well with your clean signal (possibly a vote of confidence for this pedal being true bypass)
- Tone knob has a nice dynamic range and doesn't simply "bite" on the higher settings
- Harmonics come out clear
- Pedal seems to provide a lot of sustain under chords and single-note lead lines alike
- True bypass (maybe)
- Distortion is smooth and saturating
- Amazing price tag
We'd consider Wampler "boutique" both in terms of pricing and inventory. Then again, you get what you pay for (most of the time). The Dracarys is an absolutely punishing distortion pedal, yet with a ton of versatility.
Pronounced Drak - air - us.
I can't tell you the Dracarys distortion pedal is cheap, but I also don't see any way that it could or should be.
This is simply one of the heaviest and most finely-tuned modern distortion pedals I've ever used or even heard.
Wampler designed the pedal based on the tone and guitar playing of Ola Englund, who is a Swedish guitarist and music producer known for his thick metal riffs and for creating the band Feared.
If you're not familiar with Englund's style, rest assured it is heavy and all modern metal.
The Dracarys pedal follows suit almost perfectly, with a ton of smooth gain that can be loosened or tightened up via an Open/Tight switch.
On either setting, the distortion tones sound fantastic, though I liked the "tight" mode just a little better, particularly for heavy palm-muting.
GC QUICK LOOK
TYPICAL RETAIL: $199
Wampler Dracrays High Gain Distortion Pedal
- One of the best-sounding high-gain distortions on the market and a personal favorite of mine.
- True bypass wiring with the soft switch is great. Tone responds really well to the Open/Tight toggle.
Wampler repping the Dracarys on the first slide. (View Larger Image)
One thing that I hate about true bypass pedals is how harsh the bypass switch tends to click. While the Dracarys distortion is true bypass, Wampler uses a "soft switch" that is far more subtle.
In addition to the Open/Tight toggle, you'll have the following controls:
The box is made in the United States with a casing that feels rock solid (I'd assume it's metal and not aluminum).
Also note that the instrument jacks are on the top of the pedal, which may or may not be a good thing for you, depending on how you have your pedalboard setup. Personally, I don't like pedals that are setup this way. I know it saves me space horizontally (on the sides of my pedals), but I've found the space lost on the top of the pedal, even with right angle cables, to be more disruptive.
The Dacrarys distortion pedal has i/o jacks on the top panel. (View Larger Image)
Either way, not a deal-breaker, just something to consider.
PERFORMANCE & TONE
Englund's own demo of this pedal does a great job of illustrating its capabilities at a variety of settings.
Let's start there.
"I can definitely smell a lil' bit of America on it." - Ola Englund
Mids and treble are often a sore spot for me when it comes to high-gain distortion.
I don't want to turn them too far down (even though Eric Johnson usually does), but at the same time, having them too high just seems to take out the thick bass response that I'm looking for.
With the Dracarys, I had to push mids and treble really high before I felt like it was covering or cutting into the heavier side of my EQ. It struck an absolute perfect balance.
Moreover, the higher gain levels of the pedal, while saturating, didn't sound overbearing and didn't bury the melodies in single notes or chords.
The Dracarys raised its share of eyebrows at NAMM '17.
Piling on gain is always a balancing act.
You need it to be heavy, but you don't want to loose the melody and shape of your playing. The Dracarys distortion strikes a good balance here as well, especially when you use the Open/Tight switch.
From what I can tell, the difference between the two modes is mostly sustain-related.
Tight equals less sustain while Open gives you a bit more.
In that regard, I'd recommend using Tight for rhythm playing and Open for lead.
- Open/Tight switch for fine-tuning gain
- Responsive and dynamic EQ
- True bypass with "soft switch"
The TightMetal St from Amptweaker is extremely versatile and can be used as a standalone preamp with a builtin effects loop.
There are three total versions of Amptweaker's TightMetal distortion box:
While wouldn't begrudge someone for spending the $320ish necessary to reel in the TightMetal Pro, the TightMetal ST is plenty of pedal and a much better value at around $200.
Even if you like the bells and whistles of the Pro version, the ST still does more than you're ever likely to take advantage of.
GC QUICK LOOK
TYPICAL RETAIL: $200
Amptweaker TightMetal ST (standard) Distortion Pedal
- A high-tech option that provides a wide range of metal tones and more control than anything else on this list.
- Noise gate, three tone-shaping switches, send/return jacks and an incredibly aggressive tone make this a popular recommendation.
The EQ on this pedal is a little unconventional.
Instead of having the familiar bass, mid and treble knobs, you have four different knobs and three switches. The four knobs are labeled as follows:
- Tight (lo-pass filter)
The knobs and EQ arrangement on the TightMetal ST is a little unconventional. (View Larger Image)
Likewise, the three switches:
While the knobs are fairly easy to understand, these switches are a bit cryptic, so I'll walk you through my experience with each one.
What does the "Tight" knob do?
The "Tight" knob is a lo-pass filter, which basically removes or "filters" out the low parts of your EQ. The lower you have this set the thicker your tone will be. As you turn the knob higher (clockwise) your sound gets thinner and less bassy.
First, the MID knob is the same as the Thrash/Smooth control on the Jr. version of the pedal, which is basically allowing you to scoop the mids of your tone to go with a more aggressive "bite" or a smoother, rhythm-friendly saturation.
The Gate switch is to engage the built-in noise gate, while the Gain switch, not to be confused with the gain knob, acts as a booster option to give you a little extra volume.
A few extra controls on the TightMetal Pro. (View Larger Image)
To be honest, the "user interface" is not easy to decipher.
While that has nothing to do with the performance and actual tone of the box, it did take me a little bit of time just to figure out what everything did. Then again, that's the price you pay for a more versatile distortion pedal.
If you like the "tinkering" aspect, this is a good choice for you.
The box is made in the United States and wired for true bypass in a casing that feels rock solid.
I'm also quite fond of the black and orange color palette.
One feature that I think really sets this pedal above the fray is the included noise gate (works fantastic - check the Tone King Demo below), which helps to reduce the hissing and static you sometimes hear when going from a clean tone to a heavily-distorted signal.
The noise gate in this pedal also adjusts itself based on how much gain you're using.
In other words, the more gain you use, the more aggressive the noise gate will be, while at the same time scales back as gain is reduced and noise reduction isn't as needful.
It's a stacked pedal in every respect.
Here's a quick bullet list of all the features:
- Two built-in effects loops
- Built-in noise gate
- Mid and Gain switches
- Gain and Tight knob (for controlling saturation and sustain)
- True bypass
PERFORMANCE & TONE
While it does have more control, I found the TightMetal to be far more "aggressive" than many of the other pedals I tested. By that, I don't really mean that it was heavier or more distorted, but the distortion seemed a little more unpredictable and less contained.
Feedback would show up quicker (at least without the noise gate) and harmonics seemed to ring out for as long as you wanted.
Despite this more chaotic resonance, the sound was easily refined and tightened up, even if I limited myself to using only the Gain and Tight knobs to do so.
In fact, I found that in most cases those were the only two controls I needed to change.
USING THE TIGHTMETAL AS A PREAMP & BYPASSING YOUR AMPLIFIER
Louis, who runs the Tone King YouTube channel reviews this pedal and runs it through a Blackstar amplifier head.
However, he uses an effects loop to bypass the Blackstar's preamp.
His reasoning is that the Amptweaker pedals, particularly their distortion pedals, are designed to function sufficiently as their own preamp. With the amount of dials and controls provided, that would make sense.
At the same time, I don't usually test pedals with a physical amplifier (everything goes into my Mac and either GarageBand or Amplitube) so I can't confirm or deny that there's much of a difference.
Here's Louis's demo.
- Two built-in effects loops
- Build-in noise gate
- Tons of control
- Tight knob for lo-pass filtering
The only dual-channel distortion pedal in this list hails from a family-owned operation in Bend, Oregon and competes aggressively with the TightMetal for the title of most versatile.
My suspicion is that once you get used to having two different (and individually customizable) channels in a distortion pedal, you'd have a hard time going back to just one.
Hence, the Empress Effects Heavy's appeal is undeniable.
Each channel is completely individual, meaning every control is mirrored on both sides. In that respect, the "heavy" and "heavier" labels by each button are a bit misleading.
When I first looked at it, I thought that "heavier" must mean some kind of gain boost, like we've seen on other distortion pedals.
But upon closer inspection you'll see that each control knob is repeated for both sides of the pedal, meaning either side can be customized to be entirely unique.
Not only that, but the signal path is completely analog.
GC QUICK LOOK
TYPICAL RETAIL: $299
Empress Effects Dual-Channel Distortion Pedal
- One of the most versatile distortion pedals in existence, with two separate channels and a ton of customization options.
- Each channel has its own noise gate and mid scooping control. Pedal is made by hand in the United States.
As we've already mentioned, having two channels essentially breaks the distortion pedal up into two different parts. It's like buying the same pedal twice, and then leaving each one on a different setting.
Controls available individually to both channels include the following:
- Noise gate (switch)
- Mid freq. (switch)
In the middle of the pedal you've got some additional "master" EQ in the form of a high and low knob.
The MID Freq EQ switch gives you the following options:
And your noise gate switch:
I already mentioned the analog signal path and you'll also be treated to true bypass with the soft touch switches.
The case is some kind of die-cast aluminum, which still feels more like a solid piece of metal.
PERFORMANCE & TONE
You've got to go all the way back to the Dark Matter distortion before you get a distortion pedal we've looked at that can handle a classic metal tone the same as it can a modern tone.
Even if vintage distortion is not something you're interested, the Heavy is strong enough on both spectrums that you could still be completely happy with it.
The main draw should be the use of the dual-channel feature, which can be particularly helpful for live performances and gigging.
Pro Guitar Shop's demo covers all the extremes and gives you some nice looks into the capabilities of the noise gate.
You can hear in the video that there's a slight delay between when playing stops and the noise gate kicks in.
This was in the "natural" noise gate mode.
In that respect, I didn't like this gate quite as much as the one you got from the TightMetal. Particularly when the TightMetal was switched into "Chomp" mode, it seemed to almost immediately cut off noise.
The Empress Effects distortion's noise gate in "aggressive" mode sounded a little better, though still left a bit of a trail.
Yet, some tinkering with this mode and the gain levels can get you a really clean-sounding tone without any unwanted feedback.
Overall, the analog circuit path makes this pedal feel a bit more vintage, but it can hang in either arena and is a great fit for those who want a modern distortion that maintains a small amount of tube flavor and vibe.
- Dual-channel distortion
- True bypass with soft switches
- Three different noise gate modes
- Three different MID Freq EQ modes
- Entirely analog signal path
Best Modern Distortion Pedal Honorable Mentions
As I've tested and researched pedals over the years, I've found that for modern distortion tones, boutique pedals and/or smaller companies tend to get it right more often.
That's why many of the pedals in this list are sourced from what I'd consider "boutique" pedal manufacturers.
Yet there are some others that I didn't mention, some that are more mainstream, that deserve a mention.
- Boss MD-2 Mega Distortion
- Boss ST-2 Power Stack
- Rivera Metal Shaman
- DigiTech XMM Metal Master
- Hardwire TL-2 Metal Distortion
The Rivera might have cracked my top five if it weren't for the slightly biting response that I often got from it and frequently heard cited on other people's reviews and demo videos.
Moreover, I don't have enough personal experience with that pedal to be sure that it's worth the hefty cost.
I've owned the Boss MD-2 Mega distortion for close to a decade and have found it to be a serviceable option when it comes to generating gain that can handle modern metal riffs. However, I don't like it enough to have it "unseat" any of the five that I gave individual write-ups.
The problem that I often have with so many of the other boxes I've heard (or used) is that they're either too soft sounding, coming off as more blues than metal, or they're too raspy and biting on the high end of their EQ.
All five of these pedals get a mention because they strike a nice balance between being both smooth and heavy.
Why do some heavy distortions sound too raspy or thin?
Graphic via Freepik
And why is that?
Why do some heavy distortion pedals pull this off while others fall flat?
From a technical perspective, there are several factors that play into the tone quality you get from any distortion pedal.
- Electrical components
- Gain levels
- Output (amplifier or power amp)
- Type of pickups (humbuckers, single coil, etc.)
You're dealing with variables both within the pedal and from external factors like the type of pickups, amp or even the strings.
These external factors are outside the scope of this article. But what about properties of the pedal itself?
Take "Gain levels" for example. With a pedal like the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver, there simply isn't enough gain (which is just volume at a preamp level) to push the distortion to a thicker saturation.
"In most cases, the reason you're not getting a metal tone from your pedal is because of a cap or governor that has been set on the gain control. It's just not enough noise."
In other words, it's not made or intended for metal.
Same goes for pedals like the EHX Big Muff or Boss DS-1.
They're great pedals, but they're not for metal heads.
So in most cases, the reason you're not getting a metal tone from your pedal is because of a cap or governor that has been set on the gain control. It's just not enough noise.
To explain this "cap" you've got to get into the schematics and technical brass tacks of the pedal's circuit. The easiest way to understand what's happening inside your distortion pedal, and how gain is created, is to look at the work being done by transistors.
Underneath the hood, transistors inside the pedal are basically maximizing input and "capping" or limiting output which creates a distorted signal. Gain is created through this process since volume is being increased before it is sent into the final output phase.
When you have a pair of transistors like this (in the above image), your guitar signal will be clipping by the time it gets to the pedal output because the first transistor (M1 in the diagram) is pushing a higher volume into the second (M2).
Every transistor pair in a distortion pedal functions similar to this, thus the resulting tone depends largely on the type and quality of the transistors used.
For example, the fuzz circuit shown above is from a circuit that uses old Germanium transistors modeled after the same ones Jimi Hendrix used in the '60s which produces a classic distortion you would get from something like a Jim Dunlop Fuzz Face.
Newer transistors still create distortion the same way, yet are smoother and will push more or less volume into the circuit, thereby increasing or decreasing the gain.
Transistors will also increase gain and saturation levels by sending an already distorted signal back through the original transistor n number of times.
My drawing isn't particularly technical, but hopefully you get the idea.
Signal gets passed through the first transistor a second time. (View Larger Image)
Now we have three technical intra-pedal factors that play into what our distortion stompbox sounds like:
- The level (volume) increase at the first transistor
- The compression or limiting at the second transistor (which "caps" the signal)
- The value of n, indicating how many times the signal passes through the cycle of transistors
If you could sort of "crack the hood" of what your distortion pedal is doing, this is where you'll find most of the signal processing issues making an impact.
And while I'm not totally certain about the science and/or mathematics that go into this equation, I believe that as the signal repeats the cycle (is passed back through the transistors) the result is grittier and more chaotic.
In other words, the most ideal recipe for a modern distortion pedal is to reduce n, and make sure that volume is significantly increased at the first transistor (enough to get the high amount of saturation) then clipped for a smooth output after the second transistor.
Again, this is not my area of expertise. I'm putting two and two together, and throwing in a bit of speculation as well.
If you have more info on how this works, feel free to correct or add to this information via the comments section below.
The Different Types of Distortion Pedals
What do the different titles given to distortion pedals mean?
There are primarily three different additional titles used to describe distortion.
- High gain
Most of the time we just use the word "distortion." But as you might have gathered from the previous sections, the most apt description of this sound would be "high gain."
Because that's what's happening in any situation where you have a distorted signal.
Increase the volume - cap the signal.
That's always the process.
The difference between each type or name is almost entirely described by style, as we've already seen.
Overdrive pedals are meant to sound like tube amps and, while distorted, are usually not heavily saturating. This means that the level increase at the first transistor is more modest, thus the resulting distortion isn't as heavy.
You can hear that while some of the clips get a little heavier (kind of that AC/DC rock sound), this type of distortion isn't overtly aggressive.
Let's try a fuzz pedal this time.
It's easy to hear the difference.
The fuzz pedal is much grittier and more hectic.
This sound comes from that cycling process we talked about, where an already distorted signal gets looped around for additional trips through the transistors. The more trips, the more gritty and messy the fuzz tone becomes.
Black Stone Cherry uses this sound often, particularly on their Kentucky album.
Now let's listen to a modern metal distortion.
It's almost as though the metal distortion sounds are a mix between the overdrive and fuzz samples we just heard.
The aggression of the fuzz pedal is there, but at the same times there's a smoothness that reminds me of the overdrive tones. Once you add a thicker EQ, you've got all the ingredients for a modern high-gain product.
Knowing the difference is important for when you go pedal buying.
Not all distortion pedals are created equal or with the same intent, so know the difference before you spend your hard-earned money.
Questions and Comments
I know that there are a lot of pedals omitted from this list.
I try to limit my selection to what I have at least some level of experience with and am comfortable recommending.
If you have other modern distortion pedals you'd like to share, drop them in the comments section below.
For gear-related and technical questions, do the same. I'll answer in the comments so that other readers and community members can benefit as well.
Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of YMH