Tube distortion pedals can be used widely; from limitlessly bolstering an overdrive channel to producing all the gain into a clean amplifier. Some guitarists prefer to run their distortion pedals at the start of the chain, while others run theirs in the effects loop or at the end. Below are our recommendations for the best tube distortion pedal.
Our Top Tube Distortion Pedal Reviews
The Maxon RTD800 is a brawny yet remarkably light pedal for its size; it weighs in at 1.5 pounds and measures 4.5 inches x 6 inches x 2 inches. It has a cast zinc construction that protects the tube inside and makes it feel ultra-solid. Its matte nickel finish and blue and black accents provide the pedal with an industrial business-like look. Additionally, the power supply with its two-part assembly includes a 5 feet 9-volt cable that culminates in a brick attached to a standard 2 feet IEC power cord to deliver 9 volts of power.
There are 2 rows of 3 knobs on the top of the pedal. Treble, Mid and Bass are located just below Master, NR (noise reduction) and Gain. Switches for NR on/off and OD/Dist are found between the knobs and when engaged, Noise Gate and Boost LEDs shine bright blue. At the foot of the pedal are Bypass and Boost stomp switches and the pedal is true bypass. A glowing Sovtek12AX7LP tube is behind a transparent plastic window. On the back of the pedal is what seems like a battery compartment but is really access to a pot that adjusts the quantity of boost function between 3 to 9 db.
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BK Butler Tube Driver
This tube driver was designed and created by B.K. Butler, an audio electronics engineer. It delivers anything from a light, smooth overdrive tone to a heavy classic rock-style distortion. At high gain, the pedal is quite similar of a Marshall JCM800 amp tone. At low drive, it can deliver a bluesy overdrive or a smooth gain boost reminiscent of a Fender.
Through some amps, it does not sound very versatile; however, it delivers an exceptionally good sound with others. Dialing in a tone that hits the sweet spot can be difficult and some individuals find it quite finicky because of some issue with the design, but with the right amp, in the right setup, there is nothing that sounds quite like it. This tube driver has a tremendously unique voice that is difficult or impossible to replicate.
There is a standard 4-knob version that features a drive, master volume, LO (bass) and HI (treble) controls. The 5-knob model includes a MID knob. There is a fusion fuzz/pre amp circuit inside as well. There is a hard-clipping element of the distortion that comes from the op-amp or integrated circuit chip. This robust signal is fed into a vacuum tube.
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Fender MTG: LA Tube Distortion Electric Guitar Pedal
This is a tube-powered dirt box, as suggested by the name. It was created in collaboration with Bruce Egnater, the amp guru of Egnater Amplification fame. In short, this stomper can be likened to the shredding channel your amplifier never knew it had.
Along with its three-band equalizer, this Fender tube distortion pedal provides users with a “tight” control that assists in shaping bottom end at more elevated gain levels. In addition, it is equipped with a footswitchable boost complete with independent gain and level controls. There is a tube featured in the circuit and as such, the distortion produced by this pedal is more rounded than would be expected from a standard box of dirt. The gain levels range from medium to high and even goes beyond that; however, this MTG pedal is not merely a renegade.
When the mids are backed off and the gain is down to about the 10 o’clock mark, it will get you through those moving numbers. The previously mentioned boost circuit also provides this pedal with additional usefulness, with its separate controls enabling you to dictate the level of intensity and volume you prefer to add to the dirt.
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Behringer Vintage Tube Monster VT999
The Behringer Vintage Tube Monster VT999 uses a 12AX7 valve along with its solid‑state circuitry and rather than producing the single tone control of a previous version, the user gets a full three‑band equalizer. In addition, the pedal features an effective noise gate that has rear-panel threshold control. When a very high gain setting is engaged, a bypass switch is there to clean up the pauses. Additionally, there is the expected master level and drive controls, with an LED showing when the effect is active and another indicating when external power is on. The switch is wired to provide a true hard bypass.
The majority of the exciting sounds can be found close to the low end of the gain control. When it is turned clockwise more than a short distance, you will be directly into overt distortion, with tone controls producing lots of range to take you into scooped metal terrain, if this seems like somewhere you would like to go. The distortion character is more ‘growly’ compared to the previous pedal and is best suited to slow blues at lower gain settings or chugging boogie.
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Electro-Harmonix English Muff’n
The pedal has dual vacuum tube, dedicated to an original tube overdrive and this is naturally provided with two EH 12AY7 tubes (the same ones that provided Marshall amps with their remarkable tone in the 1960s), and replace EH 12AU7 and 12AX7 for more or less distortion. This facilitates heavy experimentation with a variety of tube combinations to deliver unique and brand-new tube sounds.
With the gain control of this pedal, you will be able dial in pretty much anything from a balls-out metallic roar to a warm and bluesy breakup. In addition, there is adequate disparity in the filth for it to be suitable to any kind of player. There are also knobs for high, mid and low that can be used to tweak the tone. This places all types of juicy tones at your fingertips: think Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Pete Townshend. Clapton´s original tone from the 1960s, achieved with a Marshall and Les Paul setup, serve as inspiration for a generation of rockers for whatever gear they choose to use. The Electro-Harmonix English Muff´n depicts that legendary sound and do so quite deliciously.
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Top Tube Distortion Pedal Conclusion
Everybody needs some distortion from time to time; in fact, there are a number of guitarists who simply cannot live without it or their tube amps. This is the golden age of distortion pedals as can be seen by the variety of manufacturers of small-scale boutique stompbox facing off against giants in the industry. There has never been a better time to find the top tube distortion pedal to assist you in turning your unsoiled cleans into delectable dirt. Any one of the pedals on our recommended list will transform a clean guitar amplifier into a seriously dangerous monster.