Best Distortion Pedals For Beginners: My #1 Picks For 2021

So what is the best distortion pedals for beginners? For people who have never used one before? There are a few options, that are easy to use, and today we are going to talk a little about them!


So you have a beginner guitar that you love, and maybe a good practice amp. The natural progression usually will lead you down the rabbit hole of buying some pedals. This can be very confusing at first, as there are hundreds of pedal companies that make great distortion pedals.

But some are more straight-forward and easier to use. It’s important as a beginner to walk the fine line between complex and useful. If a pedal is too complicated to use, you may get discouraged. At the same time, you can get some pedals that are too simple to be useful.

So what criteria are we looking at for the best distortion pedals for beginners?

  • Affordable
  • Sounds great
  • Easy to use/program
  • Useful

So we wont be going into any deep-dives, or any complex pedals that can do everything. We will only be checking out pedals that do one thing really well, and are easy to use. If you are looking into building your first pedalboard, then this is a great place to start!!

distortion pedals for beginners

The Best Distortion pedals for Beginners: Classic Pedals

The only way to start would be to look into the past. Some of the best distortion pedals for beginners are the classics! These pedals are not only easy to use, but also create an iconic sound that many of the greatest guitarists have used over the years!

Many digital amps have tried to “model” these classic pedals, for good reason!

There is a reason all of these pedals are still being used to this day. You will find these pedals on every popular Metal guitarist’s pedalboard!

BOSS DS-1 Distortion

Best Distortion Pedals For Beginners: My #1 Picks For 2021
The iconic BOSS DS-1

The Boss DS-1 is one of the most recognized and iconic of distortion pedals. The simple design makes it one of the best distortion pedals for beginners. It only has three knobs, and you would be hard-pressed to find a bad tone no matter how you dial in the pedal.

The original BOSS “Orange” was released first in 1978, and BOSS sought out to make an inexpensive guitar pedal for the working musician. From the BOSS guitar website:

The DS-1 Distortion is a true icon in the world of guitar effects. Introduced in 1978, BOSS’s first distortion pedal defined a bold new sound, delivering hard-edged attack and smooth sustain that’s been a staple of players for generations.

The DS-1 is the top-selling BOSS compact pedal ever, and its original, unchanged design continues to inspire the creation of great music everywhere. The classic DS-1 tone is behind the signature sounds of numerous rock legends, and is ready to fuel your own signature sound today.

The BOSS DS-1 is the most best selling distortion pedal of all time, and it has been used by literally everyone. If you listen to anything recorded in the 1980’s you will probably hear the DS-1 somewhere in the mix!


Ibanez Tube Screamer

Best Distortion Pedals For Beginners: My #1 Picks For 2021
The Re-release edition of the Tube Screamer

It would be impossible to mention the best distortion pedals for beginners without talking about the Tube Screamer. This is yet another pedal that has been used for so long, it is a staple of almost every guitar player’s pedalboard.

This is another pedal that surfaced around the late 1970’s and immediately became an instant classic. But unlike the BOSS DS-1, the Ibanez Tube Screamer has more than one use!

The Tube Screamer can be used in front of the amplifier, to get a great mid-boost distortion tone. The Tube Screamer is very versatile when it comes to getting an incredible distortion tone. But it can also be used to “tighten up” your amp distortion. How does this work?

If you turn the gain knob all the way down, and the volume all the way up in front of your amp’s distortion, you boost the signal of your amp. This makes your distortion tone perfect for low chugs, and big power chords.

How you use it will be totally up to your taste. But there is no denying that the simple Ibanez Tube Screamer is one of the most perfect distortion pedals for beginners.


MXR Distortion Plus

Best Distortion Pedals For Beginners: My #1 Picks For 2021

The MXR Distortion pedal is most famously known for being used by Randy Rhoads during his time with Ozzy Osborne in the early 1980″s. The pedal was designed and originally released in the 1970’s. But unlike the other classic pedals on this list, it was not immediately popular.

People eventually caught on to the rather “mild” sound of the MXR, usually blending it with fuzz to create a heavy and clear metal sound. The MXR Distortion works so well with fuzz pedals, because the circuitry is very similar. Like a traditional fuzz pedal, The pedal uses a single op-amp and a pair of germanium diodes to ground (parallel-push) for clipping in a very simple configuration with only Output and Distortion controls, no tone control; the pedal uses no discrete transistors.

So what does all of that mean, you ask? The pedal has no tone control. The twin, easy to use knobs, only control volume and the amount of gain. As you turn up the gain, the pedal becomes more “clear”.

When it comes to distortion pedals for beginners, the MXR Yellow Distortion is the most user-friendly. This pedal would make a great introduction to dialing in distortion!


Distortion Pedals For Beginners: Modern Offerings

Guitar gear is unique as it usually looks to the past for inspiration. This is a cool idea, but the market is absolutely flooded with clones of the first pedals on this list! But don’t worry. There are plenty of modern distortion pedals that have a modern tone, with modern features.

So there will not be any clones of classic pedals in this section. These will all be modern, yet still easy to use for a beginner! let’s take a look at one of my favorites first.

MXR Super Badass Distortion

Best Distortion Pedals For Beginners: My #1 Picks For 2021

The MXR Super Badass is designed to almost be an “amplifier in a box” type of pedal. I have used this distortion pedal for years, and I can confidently say that this may be the only distortion pedal you ever need!

At first look, the MXR Super Badass looks like a fairly simple pedal. It has a three band EQ to help you dial in your sound. Otherwise, you only have a gain and volume knob. This may seem spartan. I assure you, it is not!

To me, the MXR has a Marshall Amplifier distortion sound, without having to crank up a 100 watt amp to sound good! It works great if you are looking for that “scooped mid” sound, like Pantera. But it also blooms with the mid knob turned up, providing an almost “Djent” like tone.

because it is so versatile, this makes the MXR one of the best distortion pedals for beginners on the planet! You can dial in tons of tones, and I can attest that you will never get bored with this pedal.


Bogner Red and Blue Mini

Best Distortion Pedals For Beginners: My #1 Picks For 2021

The Bogner Series is the most expensive of pedals on this list. It also has the most complex controls, while still being great distortion pedals for beginners. This is all for good reason, though!

Bogner makes some very high-end boutique amplifiers. These amps have a legendary sound that is made for hard rock/metal and Bogner is known for being easy to dial in for recording. But these amps are very expensive, but the next best thing is the Blue and Red pedals!

These are both based on the legendary Bogner Distortion sound that you get from the amplifiers, without the high price tag. Both pedals have an amazing amount of tone features, and while they look complicated…they are very easy to dial in.

The internal wiring of both of these Bogner pedals replicates the high gain amp sounds at a fraction of the price of an actual Bogner amp. They have a three band EQ, and lots of distortion options from low gain, all the way to buzz saw!


Joyo Extreme Distortion

Best Distortion Pedals For Beginners: My #1 Picks For 2021

On the other spectrum of the price category, is our least expensive choice! Joyo makes some of the best distortion pedals for beginners because they are all budget friendly! None of Joyo’s pedals are more expensive than $60 usually.

But just because they are a budget pedal company does not mean that they are junk. The Joyo Extreme is actually quite the opposite!

The Joyo Extreme comes with the usual three band EQ, and gain controls. But the Joyo comes with a secret weapon with it’s second switch. The “boost” switch takes the gain and volume up a notch and is perfect for boosting your signal for guitar solos.

On top of the excellent boost switch, the Joyo Extreme is made to be used with any type of amplifier, whether solid state or tube based. This makes the Joyo a versatile pedal that can dial in just about any gain tone. If you’re on a budget this is the best modern distortion you can find!


The Best Distortion Pedals For Beginners: Wrapping up…

As always, this article is just a bunch of suggestions. The best way to really find a guitar pedal that you can use as a beginner, is to go to the store and try them. never be embarrassed to ask to try a pedal or any gear at a guitar store, just because you are a beginner!

You honestly can’t go wrong with any pedal on this list, though. The classics are “classic” for a reason, and the modern pedals are all very versatile options that can get you through any tone you are looking for!

At the end of the day, it’s all up to you, and what sounds great to your ear!

Are there any inexpensive distortion pedals for beginners?

Many companies make solid pedals for beginners, like Joyo, BOSS, and MXR. These are not only affordable, but great-sounding pedals!

Are distortion pedals for beginners hard to find?

You can find tons of entry-level guitar pedals at every retailer.

Are classic distortion pedals for beginners worth it?

The classics are still used today, by many professional musicians! The classics are easy to use, and sound great!

Christoper Horton

Christopher started playing guitar in 1994 at 14 years old. He has been a part of the Metal community for the last 25 years and has 11 solo albums under his belt. Christopher started his career in Atlanta, Georgia in the late 90's, later securing a major label record deal in the early 2000s under the name IAMSOUND. He worked briefly as a hired gun in Los Angeles before he opened his own studio in 2010 in Savannah, Georgia. Chris has worked with some big names over the years like Tripping Daisy, Kylesa, Baroness, and the legendary Reflux.

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