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10 Cheap Distortion Pedals Every
Guitarist Should Know About


This page features the best cheap distortion pedals available today, split into several categories based on specific styles.

Whether you need a light, bluesy crunch, ultra high gain metallic grind or something that'll do it all, there are great distortion pedals under $100 that will satisfy all your dirty desires.

Use the quick links below to jump to the right category and find user review summaries (taken from reviews and comments across the web), audio clips and user demonstration videos of these exceptional stomp boxes.



Cheap Distortion Pedals for Metal

Three solid pedals, one clear winner, for its gut wrenchingly deep but warm and dynamic analogue sound and a simple but ingenius switch that adds a whole new dimension to your EQ.

Hardwire TL-2 Metal Distortion Pedal

Hardwire TL-2 Metal Distortion Pedal Overall Rating

9 / 10

Reviews

Harmony Central | Ultimate Guitar
Amazon | Zzounds | Musicians Friend

Best Deal

  Est. $99

Meatier than the more popular Boss MT-2 with Tight/Loose control for added variation.


What users say

The TL-2 is the meatiest sounding metal distortion pedal you'll find in this price range and, at the budget end of the spectrum, users compare it favourably to the thinner sounding, yet still highly acclaimed Boss MT-2.

You get plenty of that low end grind frustratingly absent on many cheap distortion pedals, which you can "tighten" or "loosen" thanks to a handy little switch below the EQ. This switch seems to be the key feature of the pedal.

As this is an analogue pedal, any feedback you get when the gain is cranked is harmonic and more controllable than your typical digital screech. There's also an associated warmth and depth that separates it from its often cold, brash sounding digital counterparts.

Users note how versatile the TL-2 is, and although it's designed primarily for the heaviest of metal, it can also be pulled back and tamed (with help from the tight setting) for more of a classic, hard rock sound, ala AC/DC and Led Zep. Once you're into that stylistic territory, further tweaks of the responsive EQ will find you tones suitable for virtually any distortion-based music... except perhaps those that require more defined crunch and lead bite.

If you were planning on going for the Boss MT-2 but would, on second thoughts, prefer something with a bit more meat and depth, the TL-2 is a superior alternative.

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Other Good Metal Distortion Pedals

Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion

Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Distortion Pedal Overall Rating

8.5 / 10

Reviews

Harmony Central | Ultimate Guitar | Jemsite
Amazon | Zzounds | Musicians Friend

Best Deal

  Est. $90

Hundreds of positive user reviews. Very popular pedal for old school thrash.

Probably the most popular metal distortion pedal. There are literally hundreds of reviews for this thing and most are positive. On its own, the Metal Zone has a flatter, smoother and more nasal sound than the Hardwire, with less low end presence, but obviously your amp will help shape the overall tone. Regardless, there's definitely an old school, 80's thrash vibe about this pedal which make it a "one trick pony" to some. It's not really for the post-thrash, ultra-brutal, shit-your-pants metalcore styles.

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MXR M116 Fullbore Metal Distortion

MXR M116 Fullbore Metal Distortion Pedal Overall Rating

8 / 10

Reviews

Harmony Central | Ultimate Guitar | Jemsite
Amazon | Zzounds | Musicians Friend

Best Deal

  Est. $100

More features and control over your distortion than other pedals. Great scoop tones. Built in noise gate.

The M116 houses more features than other cheap distortion pedals, with a frequency knob in addition to the standard high-low EQ to select the range of your mid control for more personalised scoop tones - in fact, many say that's its speciality (Pantera and Exhorder fans love it). Add to this a built in noise gate, scoop switch and all-analogue circuitry. Overall, the Fullbore's tone is harsher and grittier than the more defined, smooth MT-2 and TL-2 pedals.

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Cheap Versatile Distortion Pedals

If (like me) you like the option of several distortions without the hassle and expense of buying separate pedals, the below unit is the best compromise between quality and value for money you'll find.

DigiTech DF-7 Distortion Factory Pedal

Digitech DF-7 Distortion Factory Pedal Overall Rating

8.5 / 10

Reviews

Harmony Central | Ultimate Guitar
Amazon | Zzounds | Music Radar

Best Deal

  Est. $100

7 overdrive/distortion pedals in 1 including DS-1, MT-2, DOD 250, Metal Master, Big Muff, TS-9 and Rat.

What users say

5 distortions and 2 overdrives in one pedal make the DF-7 perfect for those guitarists on a budget with a breadth of playing styles and/or those who simply want to experiment with their dirty side, unconstrained, through a single unit.

Use the overdrive models to naturally boost your solos and rhythm playing with the DOD's warmth and crystal clear note articulation and the TS-9's characteristic bluesy mid-accentuation faithfully represented.

On board are two Boss legends almost identical to their originals - the DS-1 (a classic distortion pedal) and the MT-2 mentioned earlier on this page, one of the most highly regarded metal distortion pedals. Metal players have been particularly impressed with the authenticity of the MT-2 and DigiTech Metal Master models.

Also featured are a very convincing Rat, itself an incredibly versatile pedal, and the Big Muff (both are featured in more depth later on this page).

As with all digital pedals, the Distortion Factory truly shines through a decent, preferably tube amp and even if not all the models are to your taste, the dual concentric EQ pots (if you don't know, that means one knob on top of another) offer smart and broad scalability, with their functions changing on some models to reflect the controls on the originals (e.g. gain becomes sustain on the Big Muff, high becomes the filter control on the Rat).

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Other Good Versatile Distortion Pedals

Pro Co Rat2 Distortion

Pro Co Rat2 Distortion Pedal Overall Rating

8 / 10

Reviews

Harmony Central | Ultimate Guitar
Amazon | Zzounds | Musicians Friend

Best Deal

  Est. $95

Distinctive, unique sound. Used by guitarists across several genres. Dynamic distortion and filter controls.

The Rat can take you from light, biting crunch to intensely heavy chugging distortion or smooth fuzz with a couple of twists. Chunky, punchy, organic and with little noise. The filter control replaces a standard 2/3 knob EQ - a hard left will give you a crisp, high end presence, whereas a hard right will close up your tone producing a smoother, low-mid presence for those softer leads. The beauty of the Rat is the distortion knob doesn't just pile on or off the gain, it feels more dynamic than that, changing the overall shape of your tone as you crank it and, along with the filter, makes the Rat incredibly versatile, which is why you'll find it being used by guitarists right across the genres.

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Hardwire SC-2 Valve Distortion

Hardwire SC-2 Distortion Pedal Overall Rating

9 / 10

Reviews

Harmony Central | Ultimate Guitar
Amazon | Zzounds | Musicians Friend

Best Deal

  Est. $100

Handles anything but the heaviest of metal. Great overdrive crunch. Crunch/Saturated switch for variation.

Another great pedal from Hardwire (DigiTech) with their signature two-way switch below the EQ giving you two polar tonal foundations to work from - crunch and saturated, both with great definition, clarity and responsiveness (especially through a tube amp). Works especially well for classic rock tones but will handle anything but the most extreme metal (see their TL-2 pedal above for that). Many users praise the SC-2 simply for its natural overdrive with the controls pulled back, delivering lively, responsive harmonics and increased sustain.

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Cheap Distortion Pedal for Classic Rock

For a more traditional rock vibe, to thicken up your rhythm and lead playing with an authentic, warm, tube-like breakup distortion...

MXR M115 Distortion

MXR M115 Distortion Pedal Overall Rating

9 / 10

Reviews

Harmony Central | Ultimate Guitar
Amazon | Zzounds | Musicians Friend

Best Deal

  Est. $80

Organic, overdriven tube distortion perfect for classic rock. Clarity and transparency. More complex responsiveness than the Boss DS pedals.

What users say

A very "clean" low-mid gain distortion - organic, warm and crisp, perfect for those cranked tube amp, traditional rock sounds.

Simple controls, with just 3 knobs to find your sweet spot, but the sweetness is there at every point rather than you having to filter out any harsh frequencies.

Because of its clarity and transparency, it responds wonderfully to a change of pickup and your guitar's volume pot. It's also necessary to make full use of your guitar's volume as the pedal's volume isn't as responsive as other pedals.

The distortion control functions more as a tone shaper than a drive, adding subtle layers to the distortion's overall character, from a smooth overdrive base to fuzzier overtones. So you get a very nice combo of a natural, transparent boost with a satisfying, overlying crunch in the last quarter turn.

The tone control is different to what you might find on the Boss DS pedals. It doesn't just roll off the highs and boost the lows with a left turn, rather it enrichens the low end whilst maintaining all the harmonic presence of the high end. No mid range scoop or boost either - well balanced at every setting.

As far as distortion pedals go, it's subtle - it fattens and enhances your existing tone. While the fuzz of many other distortion pedals tends to muddy up intricate chord playing, the III is more reserved, adding clarity and sparkle.

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Cheap Distortion Pedals for Blues

All the simplicity and ruggedness of a Boss pedal with the option of a transparent and dynamic signal boost or a natural, overdriven crunch for fuzzless lead bite.

Boss BD-2 Blues Driver Distortion Pedal

Boss BD-2 Blues Driver Distortion Pedal Overall Rating

8.5 / 10

Reviews

Harmony Central | Ultimate Guitar
Amazon | Zzounds | Musicians Friend

Best Deal

  Est. $99

Transparent, responsive to pick attack and touch. Fattens your tone. Similar to TS-9 without the midrange boost.

What users say

The BD-2 is everything a blues pedal should be - transparent enough as to not saturate your amp's natural tone (especially important if you have a tube amp), ultra responsive to your pick attack, and the option of crunch or clean boost.

If you've been wondering how to get that touch sensitive responsiveness, especially for light fingerpicking, the Blues Driver is the answer. So even if, like many, you only intend to use it as a volume boost, you'll get the increased sustain and dynamics with it.

Really, then, it's more than just a blues distortion pedal, as it will sit faithfully in front of the amp of any guitarist looking to fatten their tone, but for those blues players who want maximum crunch with zero fuzz, the BD-2 does it better than any other - a natural, raspy tube-esque overdrive that maintains chord definition.

Users have likened it to the Ibanez Tube Screamer "without the mid-range boost", so if you've heard/played the TS-9 and wanted more of a scooped overdrive sound the BD will satisfy.

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Other Good Blues Distortion Pedals

Digitech Screamin' Blues Distortion

Digitech Screamin' Blues Distortion Pedal Overall Rating

8 / 10

Reviews

Harmony Central | Ultimate Guitar
Amazon | Zzounds | Musicians Friend

Best Deal

  Est. $50

More control over your tone than the BD-2 but brighter and more aggressive.

Slightly brighter and more aggressive than the BD-2, but used for similar functions (boost, extra presence and sustain etc.). The differences you hear will boil down to personal preference, although the "consensus" suggests the BD-2 is preferable. Regardless, the Screamin' Blues will give you buckets of sustain and crunch with clarity at a much lower price. One thing it does have that was missing on the BD-2 is separate bass and high controls. For those who find the BD-2 lacking in the bass department, the DigiTech might be the answer.

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Cheap Fuzz Distortion Pedal

You either love it or hate it, but this one-of-a-kind distortion has graced many a record and fuelled some of the most powerful riffs and solos known to man. An exciting purchase for rock guitarists on a budget, as it's very close to the original...

Little Big Muff Distortion Pedal

Little Big Muff Distortion Pedal Overall Rating

8.5 / 10

Reviews

Harmony Central | Ultimate Guitar
Amazon | Zzounds | Musicians Friend

Best Deal

  Est. $70

Unique sound faithful to the classic fuzz box. Warm, fuzzy lead with huge lows yet enough bite to cut through the mix.

What users say

Based on the original Big Muff Pi, the LBM, as the name suggests, delivers that classic fuzz distortion in a smaller package (yes, it's now the size of a regular pedal!). Users who own the 70's original comment on the authenticity of the tone, albeit more aggressive, which gives it a more modern edge.

The beauty of the Muff is its ability to combine lead smoothness and thickness with plenty of cut, just enough transparency (although not much) and of course the option of "endless" sustain which can be controlled directly.

The powerful lows of the original are also faithfully present on its littler descendant with the tone knob pulled back. Pushed passed 12 o'clock things get a lot fizzier, but certainly not in a cheap digital way.

It simply does not do subtle, and anything after the LBM in the chain will receive a considerable boost.

Double stops, powerchords and single lead lines is what this pedal truly complements, being a tad too sludgy for intricate chords, but then this is a very specific sound for a very specific purpose.

Probably the dirtiest distortion on the market, but its warmth and depth are what make it satisfyingly musical as opposed to an incoherent mush.

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