Way back in the day, I used to play a lot of metal guitar and needed the best high gain distortion pedal that I could find. I tried a lot. While, if you look at my picture, I probably don’t look like a metal guitarist, I do love playing it! Over the years, I’ve tried out a huge number of distortion pedals that are known to have a whole lot of high gain.
So what makes a pedal of the distorted variety be called high gain distortion?
What To Look For
There are many different things to look at. Probably one of the most important things to consider is that just because the effects pedal has the word “metal” in the name, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are looking at the right thing. I find that a lot of times, companies use the word mainly for marketing. So don’t choose a guitar pedal just based on the name.
The other thing to consider is the amp that you are using. Does it already have super gain in the first place? Maybe you actually don’t need this type of pedal and can get away with creating the desired guitar tone plugging straight into the amp.
I also like something that has the ability to really dial in a good guitar tone. Now, to be fair, I also like simple ones that are more plug and play. So, when you see my recommendations below, you will see that I kind of choose the best of both worlds.
What Is High Gain?
Personally, I equate this to be a modern metal guitar tone. Kind of like taking distortion to the extreme. If you think about most metal guitar tones, this is probably where you are going to find it.
Our Top High Gain Distortion Pedals Recommendations
- Wampler Dracarys High Gain Distortion Pedal
- Xotic SL Drive Distortion
- BOSS Mega Distortion
- MXR M116 Fullbore Distortion
- Keeley Filaments Distortion
Wampler Dracarys High Gain Distortion Pedal
The Wampler Dracarys is an all-analog distortion pedal with two distinct modes of operation. It has a warm mode and a hot mode to give you more tonal options than most other pedals on the market today.
With this pedal, you can go from mild overdrive to full-on metal mayhem without having to mess around with knobs or settings. You just plug in and play! This is great if you are playing live because there’s less time spent messing with your gear so you have more time to focus on rocking out!
Xotic SL Drive
You’re looking for a distortion pedal that can give your guitar the edge it needs to stand out in a mix. A little bit of grit and grind is what you need, but not too much. Something that will make people take notice without being overbearing or harsh. And something with just enough gain to cut through the mix when needed.
The Xotic SL Drive Distortion Pedal has all this and more! It’s got three different modes – Clean Boost, Classic Overdrive, and High Gain – so you can dial in exactly what you want from your sound. Plus it’s got an active 3-band EQ built right into the unit so you can tweak your tone even further if desired. And did we mention how great it looks? This thing is gorgeous!
BOSS Mega Distortion
The BOSS Mega Distortion pedal has three modes to choose from; Clean, Crunch, and Lead. Each mode gives you a different sound with its own character. This means you can get your crunchy rhythm tones in one setting, then switch over to lead for some soaring solos without having to change any settings or dials!
If you want a great distortion pedal that will give you tons of options as far as sounds go, this is definitely the way to go! With so many features packed into such a small unit, it would be silly not to check out what this thing can do!
MXR M116 Fullbore
The Fullbore delivers that vintage tube amp tone you love in an easy-to-use stompbox. This pedal will give your guitar the natural overdrive of a cranked up tube amp without losing any of its original tone.
If you want to get that full on Marshall stack sound with just one stomp then this is the pedal for you! With three simple knobs (Volume, Tone and Drive) it couldn’t be easier to dial in your perfect tone. And if you’re not sure where to start we’ve included some presets so all you have to do is press play!
The Keeley Filaments Distortion Pedal is the latest pedal from Keeley Electronics. It’s a distortion pedal that gives you all of the great tones of an overdriven tube amp, but with none of the hassle or cost.
This distortion pedal has been designed to give you everything you need in a distortion pedal without any unnecessary features or complications. You can get great sounds out of it by just plugging it into your guitar and turning up your volume knob on your guitar!
If you want to sound like Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page, Slash, Jack White or even Kurt Cobain then this is for you! The Keeley Filaments Distortion Pedal will help make those dreams come true!
Looking for more options? Check out these best distortion pedals for classic rock options.