Pedal to the Metal: A Beginner’s Guide to Distortion

Three distortion pedals for beginners to add more crunch to your sound without making a big investment

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As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 9 – Autumn 2019 – Ladies of Metal

So you’ve decided you want to add more crunch to your sound – with hundreds (possibly thousands) of distortion pedals on the market to choose from, where do you start? While it’s true that having the right amp will make all of the difference, there are a few pedals out there that can help satisfy the bite you are looking for – without the immediate investment of a whole new rig.

BOSS OS-2 Overdrive/Distortion

A foundational piece of many pedalboards, BOSS stompboxes generally provide the most bang for your buck. Both entry-level and professional players have relied on the durability and consistent quality of BOSS pedals for over 40 years. The BOSS OS-2 is a dual-function workhorse that gives players the flexibility they need to go from tasty blues to sinister metal. The Level knob controls the total output of the effect while the Tone knob can be used to mix the overall brightness/darkness. The Drive knob determines the level of gain, so tweaking this knob adds more bite to your sound. The Color knob is the most unique feature of the pedal; one simple adjustment can take you from sweet overdrive to thrashing crunch. With this many possibilities at your fingertips, the BOSS OS-2 is a great distortion pedal that gets the job done.
Price: $99

EarthQuaker Devices Acapulco Gold

Looking for something simple and powerful? Then look no further than the EarthQuaker Acapulco Gold distortion. In a world full of EQ and tone knobs, this revolutionary pedal is inspired by the Sunn Model T amplifier and consists of only one knob to control output volume. As the knob is turned up, both the volume and gain begin to swell. When the knob is turned all the way up, the pedal roars to life with the same explosive flavor of a cranked vintage tube amp. To add a little more variety, adjust the tone knob on the guitar; turning the knob down will reduce the gain while turning the knob up will create a darker, heavier sound. Although EarthQuaker Devices is a relatively new company, they have solidified their place in the market with their quality production and cutting-edge designs – as demonstrated in the Acapulco Gold.
Price: $129

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Revv Amplification G3

Canada-based Revv Amplification is widely known for having an unwavering range of all-tube amplifiers. These amplifiers are particularly popular with heavier rock and metal players, so the Revv team modeled their G3 distortion pedal after the Purple channel on the Revv Amplification 100 and 120 amps. Even when all knobs are set to 12 o’clock, this pedal is saturated with gain, yet is still clear and responsive; dialing in the EQ knobs can help players achieve tones ranging from Van Halen to Mastodon. One distinctive feature on nearly all Revv amplifiers is the Aggression switch. On the G3, the Aggression switch has the option to be switched to the Blue mode for a more thick and guttural sound or switched to the Red mode for a more saturated and compressed sound. This high-gain pedal is sure to satisfy your thirst for metal.
Price: $229

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