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Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
#3056863 08/02/20 01:54 PM
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I've been watching a lot of YouTube videos and reading what I can about the different types of distortion pedals. Distortion, overdrive, fuzz. Hard clipping vs soft clipping. Mid hump boost, level boots, scoop. One thing I cannot find is a table or chart breaking pedals down by the different types. I can look up a pedal and find it if it is a Klon clone, tube screamer clone, etc... But it is harder to find information about the basics of the pedal. Type of clipping, mid boost, etc... I'm trying to make educated decisions when buying pedals but getting to try out a group of pedals is almost impossible. The nearest GC is 90 miles away and local small music stores may have 2 in stock if I am lucky. Does anyone know of a good chart that breaks down distortion pedal categories and maybe what pedals fit in each category? If not, maybe a list of top ten pedals that have a good variety of types.


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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
RABid #3056873 08/02/20 03:09 PM
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Sorry I can't help with this one amigo.I have 2 distortion pedals that I am presently using, both tube based. A Seymour Duncan Twin Tube Classic, and a Friedman Motor City Drive, I like them both. I also have a Nady TD 1 tube distortion pedal that needs to see an amp tech for a tube change. (The Nady is my all time favorite)


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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
RABid #3056874 08/02/20 03:18 PM
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One problem is that there are just too many OD/Distortion/Fuzz pedals out there for anyone to make a comprehensive list.

By and large, Dirt boxes get their sound from some degree of signal clipping. OD pedals tend to have soft clipping, Distortion pedals a bit more, and Fuzz pedals tread into Square Wave territory. Boss had a Graph showing the clipping curves of all of their various OD/Distortion pedals, and it was very clear what was going on in the graphs.

Anything with "Blues" in the name is very likely an OD, possibly a TS clone. Anything with "Metal" in the name is going to be a Distortion pedal with more EQ knobs than usual, and very likely the ability to scoop out your mid-range. Fuzzboxes tend to have aggressive (Harmonic Antagonizer) or suggestive names (Big Muff Pi, Swollen Pickle), if they don't just say "Fuzz" outright somewhere in the name. None of the names, however, will give you any real clue as to the circuitry inside. TS clones tend to have a mid-boost, for example, but if you don't know that the OD you're looking at in an online auction is a TS clone, well . . .

Octave-Fuzz pedals are trickier beasts, and many of them are based on Germanium diodes: they don't like to have other pedals between them and your Guitar, and they generally won't work in a daisy-chain. Caevan is our resident Octave-Fuzz guru, having a lot of experience using them, and developing the right touch and technique to get the most out of them. With any luck, he'll chime in here.

Many of us stack different Gain stages in our pedalboards, from Transparent OD pedals up through full-blown Fuzzboxes. Here's an article from Sweetwater about Gain Stacking; it also gives you somewhat of a breakdown of some OD/Distortion types. Stacking Distortion pedals

Here's another article, with a slightly different chart, that gives you more of a breakdown of OD/Distortion/Fuzz types. While I don't entirely agree with all the assessments in this article - mostly, I wish they had chosen some more readily available pedals like Boss, MXR or EHX as examples, rather than so many boutique brands - it's a start to addressing your question. Types of OD/Dist./Fuzz pedals.

Don't forget your Amp's place in this equation, either. A Les Paul through a Big Muff sounds very different going into a super-clean JC-120 than it does going into a hot Fender Twin. Good luck!

Last edited by Winston Psmith; 08/02/20 03:18 PM.

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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
RABid #3056876 08/02/20 04:00 PM
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Thanks for the info. I did find this at Guitarpedalx.com.

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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
RABid #3056881 08/02/20 04:36 PM
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Like Winston says, there’s sooooooo many pedals of so many kinds in this- and honestly, EVERY- category of pedal, it’s essentially pointless to look for comparison charts. You’ll find reviews and shootouts and such, but there’s hundreds if not thousands of each kind out there.

And while I like that chart, in all honesty, not all reviewers or gear heads are going to use the same terminology or break things up that way.

In my experience, the best bet in seeking advice on this kind of thing is tell the people you’re asking:

1) your budget, your preferences on buying online or in person, and if you’re willing to buy used or not

2) your general location (Can effect price and availability)

3) your target tone/guitarists & bands you’re trying to emulate

Last edited by Dannyalcatraz; 08/02/20 04:38 PM.

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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
RABid #3056882 08/02/20 04:36 PM
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That's the one . . .

Like I say, I feel like it would have been more helpful to more players if it had featured fewer expensive boutique pedals, and more off-the-shelf brands.

More than anything, you've got to trust your own ears. It doesn't matter what other players think is the greatest Fuzz/OD/Boost ever made, if you don't like the sound of it, it may as well be a brick.

Here's a quick gauge for deciding which you want, or need. If you want to retain your basic Guitar tone, with just some added Gain, an OD or Boost pedal should do you, especially going into an Amp on the edge of breakup, where your OD pedal will just push it over the top. Think Blues-Rock, or Jam Band tones, for a starting point.

If you want to quickly change your Guitar tone into something more aggressive, while punching up the Output, you want a Distortion pedal. Think Classic Rock and old-school Metal.

If you want over-the-top Psychedelic Guitar tones, or if you're pursuing the Holy Grail of Infinite Sustain, get a Fuzz. If you're pursuing the sound of Blue Cheer or RED-era King Crimson, Fuzz is your friend.

Of course, any OD dimed out will cross over into Distortion territory, a Distortion pedal dimed out will cross over into Fuzz, and a Fuzz dimed out may well collapse Space-time as we know it . . .


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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
RABid #3056887 08/02/20 05:02 PM
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A single chart showing every possible gain and EQ setting with waveforms for the basic passive/active humbuckers and passive/active single coils for a Boss Distortion pedal would make your head explode.
Once it is in a signal chain all bets are off.

Infinite data is no better than zero data.

My Tri-AC set to Fender mode will give me that "SRV" tone except it won't because I don't use passive single coils. Still, it gets pretty distorted and sounds like a Fender amp turned up way loud.
It will also give me a fat, cleanish bass tone with my active EMG pickups on a Peavey Fury.

That is just by itself, straght into a DI. Put a wah in front and run it into an amp with varialble gain and there are umpty bajillion other sounds, just waiting for knobs to be tweaked.

I know it pretty well and can usually tweak what I want out of it. It is one measure practicality and one laziness but I tend to find one good lead tone and one good clean tone and just use them all night.
But then, I hate knobs. Knobs are bad.


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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
RABid #3056892 08/02/20 05:53 PM
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RABid, since you're 90 miles away from a GC where you can try out pedals, try going on YouTube. You can find just about any pedal that you want to hear a demo on especially the more classic/popular ones. Don't forget to plug in ear phones as the quality of the audio is greatly increased. +1 on DannyA's #3. Have an artist in mind that you would like to emulate. There are many rig run downs on YT for various artists with different amps, guitars, pups, etc. All of which will make a difference when picking out any kind of pedal...If you know what you want to hear, it's going to be easier to find what you are looking for. +1 on gaining the type of knowledge you wish to have from the charts, videos, research articles, etc. But, going for that sound you are looking for should help with your search and with your pocket book over time...just plugging in a few comments...good luck in your searches and have fun with it! cool


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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
Larryz #3057015 08/03/20 06:01 PM
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@RABid - Let me ask, as I should have done to begin with, what does your nearest Music store carry? If we knew what was readily available to you, we could make suggestions that were closer to home.

That "Mayan Calendar"-looking graph isn't much help for anyone who can't compare all, or even most of the pedals featured in the comparison, and I haven't seen a GC yet that has all of those pedals or makers in stock.


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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
RABid #3057044 08/03/20 09:59 PM
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There isn't a store in my town. In the closest neighboring town they have a few guitars but no pedals. 20 miles away in my old hometown they keep 3 or 4 various pedals in stock. Usually Boss. Maybe I should list what distortion/OD/Fuzz I have and someone can tell me where a hole is that needs to be filled.

What I've got...
Fulltone OCD
EH Big Muff Wicker
Danelectro Daddy O
Pro Co Rat
Way Huge Swollen Pickel
Way Huge Fat Sandwich
Way Huge Pork Loin
Joyo Tauren
Joyo Uzi
Tone City Durple
Tone City Wild Fro

Pedals that I am thinking about.
Paul Cochrane Timmy
EH Big Muff Germanium 4
Boss DS1
Boss MT2
Boss Blues Driver
Ibanez Tube Screamer
JHS Charlie Brown
And if I can find it at a really good price, a Line 6 DM4

(Okay, after listing these I am thinking "Why do I want another distortion pedal?" But, you know how it is....)


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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
RABid #3057071 08/04/20 03:07 AM
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The Boss Blues Driver goes for $99 bucks, the Boss DS1 goes for $49 (I paid $36 for my DS 1 many years ago). I have had both pedals on my board with and MXR Comp in front. They are all roadworthy, get great sound and last a long time. My Ibanez Tube Screamer did not last but it was cool while it lasted. I have no experience with the other contenders... cool

Last edited by Larryz; 08/04/20 03:40 PM. Reason: sp.

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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
RABid #3057076 08/04/20 03:47 AM
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Originally Posted by RABid
There isn't a store in my town. In the closest neighboring town they have a few guitars but no pedals. 20 miles away in my old hometown they keep 3 or 4 various pedals in stock. Usually Boss. Maybe I should list what distortion/OD/Fuzz I have and someone can tell me where a hole is that needs to be filled.

What I've got...
Fulltone OCD
EH Big Muff Wicker
Danelectro Daddy O
Pro Co Rat
Way Huge Swollen Pickel
Way Huge Fat Sandwich
Way Huge Pork Loin
Joyo Tauren
Joyo Uzi
Tone City Durple
Tone City Wild Fro

Pedals that I am thinking about.
Paul Cochrane Timmy
EH Big Muff Germanium 4
Boss DS1
Boss MT2
Boss Blues Driver
Ibanez Tube Screamer
JHS Charlie Brown
And if I can find it at a really good price, a Line 6 DM4

(Okay, after listing these I am thinking "Why do I want another distortion pedal?" But, you know how it is....)

Indeed I do! Except my dirt pedal obsessions are fuzzes. Right now, I’ve got enough of those to make a grizzly bear, and more on my G.A.S. list.

As to YOUR list...

In terms of quality manufacture and delivering on its promise, you can’t go wrong with a Timmy.

I’ve said it before: the Blues Driver is one of those pedals Boss really nailed down. A lot of blues rock players use some sort of Tubescreamer (or clone) paired with BBD (or clone) to craft the core of their tone. I don’t have a BBD, but a pedal based on it- the Keeley Katana Blues for that sort of thing.

Speaking of TS clones, you might want to pass on the Ibanez original. No knocks on it, but a lot of pedal makers were inspired to improve on it by giving you more tone shaping options. Some are also more durable. Way Huge’s Green Rhino is one of those that has gained a reputation as being a solid improvement on the original.

The Boss MT2 is a love it or hate it pedal. Some think it’s the worst distortion pedal ever made, but some metal players used it as a cornerstone of their own distinctive tone. I have also heard some players extolling it’s virtues when used in an amp’s effects loop as opposed to in front of the amp. Personally, I’ve invested in “metal” distortion pedals that I can find tones I want with quickly, like the Empress Heavy, Emma Pisdiyauwot, or the as-yet unpurchased Diablo Red or Black pedals from OKKO (while similar, the pedals’ differences are more than cosmetic).

Last edited by Dannyalcatraz; 08/04/20 03:49 AM.

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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
RABid #3057095 08/04/20 11:42 AM
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Thanks Danny. I'll keep an eye out for the Green Rhino. I think the best approach might be to list 5 pedals I want, then start searching Reverb and Ebay for deals. Find a mint unit and a really good price, decision made. Gonna make my own "Pedal of the month" club and let is double as a bargain of the month club.


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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
RABid #3057109 08/04/20 02:16 PM
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@RABid - That's a nice selection of Dirt boxes. Although I'm not familiar with the Joyo nor Tone City models, the other give you a nice range from OD up through Fuzz.

Looking at both lists, I have to say it's hard to go wrong with a Boss DS-1, especially for the price. $50 new, and I've seen them as low as $20-25 used; same thing with the Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive. Less compressed-sounding than a Tube Screamer, and half the price of a TS9.

Another vote for the Blues Driver; you really owe it to yourself to try one, it's just a damned good pedal, and a nice dynamic OD.

There are cheaper "Metal" pedals than the Metal Zone, and I have to agree with Dannyalcatraz; it was one of the worst-sounding things I've ever heard, and I have a fondness for Noise boxes. Same thing with the Boss Metal Core!?!?! It's no surprise the old HM-2 Heavy Metal has become a collector's item.

I'd be wary of used DM4's. Early versions of the "Modeler" series were made in the U.S., and they tend to be sturdy; I have one of the U.S.-made DL4's and I like it very much. Very quickly, though, production moved to Malaysia, then China, and the later import models have some issues. The foot switches are mounted directly to the PCB board, which means trouble. The TAP footswitch was usually the first to give out on the import Delay modelers. You can spot the U.S.-made models, because the Line 6 logo is part of the metal enclosure, and it's the same color as the enclosure; on the later imports, the Line 6 logo is a B&W sticker attached to the top of the box.

Slightly sideways approach, but for the price of a DM4, new or used, you might well look into a new or used M5. The M5 has all the models you'd find in the Modeler series, except the Looper, plus it has a nice informative display, and you can store 24 of your own presets, as opposed to 4 on the big Distortion Modeler. You also get all those other Mod, Delay and Filter/Synth FX in one box; it's a lot more bang for the buck, and more functional, too.


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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
RABid #3057123 08/04/20 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by RABid
Thanks Danny. I'll keep an eye out for the Green Rhino. I think the best approach might be to list 5 pedals I want, then start searching Reverb and Ebay for deals. Find a mint unit and a really good price, decision made. Gonna make my own "Pedal of the month" club and let is double as a bargain of the month club.

I once had a “Year of the Pedal”, in which 90%+ of my major gear purchases were pedals. It lasted for 18 months...


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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
RABid #3057176 08/04/20 11:08 PM
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I just got a Line 6 Pod Go. How viable is it to test pedals virtually with the Pod Go and use its models to decide what I want to buy next? Are the models that accurate?


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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
RABid #3057178 08/04/20 11:27 PM
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IME, simulators in MFX and similar devices vary in accuracy, even within a single unit.

I still use them to guide my shopping, though.


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Re: Guitar distortion pedals. Sources of information?
RABid #3057468 08/07/20 08:11 AM
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Just my take-always keep in mind what you will be playing a pedal through. Some pedals
will get a big 'so what' through a solid state amp, then when you have a tube amp that's turned up but not quite
distorting, and then you add the pedal-oh......
are you playing live or recording, or both? just some stuff to think about.


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