best distortion for punk

Top 5 Best Distortion Pedals for Playing Punk Rock

The critical component to tailoring a sound best suited for your specific style of punk is to spend a lot of time experimenting with pedals and amplification. The power that guitar pedals have to change an instrument’s sound is much greater than the power of purchasing a new instrument. Finding an instrument that you are feeling comfortable with is usually much less time consuming than finding pedals that suit your sound. The world of distortion pedals is a deep dive.

Be it any style of punk, and there is sure to be distortion.

That distortion is almost always helped by these poor little boxes that we continuously stamp on. This article hopes to provide some information about the staple distortion pedals used as a base to build and experiment upon.

Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal

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The only pedal on this list that would not need an introduction. This pedal is your staple of staples. This pedal is to blame for a significant influence on the rebellious sound of Punk music. It has had an undoubtedly influence on artists, being used in records and during live performances.

The DS-1 will give you the base to create any type of distorted sound at a very affordable price. Affordability will always be in the essence of Punk Rock. It has an iconic look and simple to use knobs. The tonal range is controlled by one EQ knob but goes from very high to very low. It will allow a user to find settings that suit their specific amp quickly. Using the DS1, your instrument will sustain harmonic clarity even if you should maximize on distortion.

The Boss DS-1 is a fantastic all-around tool for distorting Punk instruments. Commonly seen as a beginner’s pedal, this little orange box has been used by Prince, John Frusciante, and many more despite its affordability.

DigiTech DGR Grunge Analog-Distortion Pedal

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When a market responds to a pedal in the way that it has to this one, you have a trail to follow. It has been a best seller for more than a decade for all skill levels of guitar players. The most punk thing to do would be not to purchase a pedal that has proven popularity. But there are still several aspects of the DigiTech DGR that you at least want to be aware of before you consider it a no-buy.

Four control knobs will allow you to set volume, equalization, and the amount of grit applied to your signal. Having the option to adjust high and low eq separately means you get a more versatile pedal than if you would have equalization packed into the same knob. The pedal has one input and two outputs. One output will be used for an amplifier and one for a mixer.

This pedal will create loud and noisy distortion. As with all the pedals in this list, it will be versatile and can be used for any style you may want to fit it in. But the make-up of this pedal is meant to make it an excellent tool alongside a clean amp to get the fuzzy distortion that grunge wants. The DigiTech DGR Grunge Pedal is, without a doubt, a pedal capable of creating disruptive distortion, and it comes cheap too.

Pro Co RAT2 Distortion Pedal

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The Pro Co RAT2 has been a staple for many guitar players throughout the years. Created in 1978, it spread fast in the underground scene of rock and punk music. It has been redesigned in several ways to suit various niches, but the Pro Co RAT2 is the re-issue of the original Pro Co Rat. The pedal has a very slick look with three control knobs and a black-white color structure. The knobs control distortion, filter, and volume. The filter knob will control your eq one way or the other, high to low. The RAT2 will be a happy partner to an instrument with single coil pickups. When these two work together, the Co RAT2 will complement the typically sharp single coils and smooth, distorted sound.

Notably used by Kurt Cobain, Jeff Beck, Alex Turner and many many more. The RAT2 is verified to be a pedal that can create satisfying distortion at a low price across genres.

MXR 75 Super Badass Distortion Pedal

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MXR is a quality brand that makes a quality product. Usually, MXR pedals will land in the mid-high price range, and such is the case for the MXR 75.

Costing around 40 dollars more than the average product in this list, the MXR comes with more controls to play around with. Objectively better is not a phrase that exists when choosing pedals; it will always be about what type of sound you enjoy hearing. Therefore, price does not equate to quality. But with the MXR 75, you will have a tool that can cover a wider variety of tonal outputs, from a crunchier 70s sound to modern metal.

The knobs on the MXR 75 feature three sturdy equalization knobs, one control for volume and one for distortion. The three EQ knobs modify bass, mid and treble. Getting to play around with three frequency filters instead of one or two gives a player much more variety when shaping tone. On top of that, the MXR 75’s EQ knobs’ power means that a player will have a more full frequency band to play around with. When turned off, it will rest in true bypass mode, which means that the sound goes straight from the input to the pedal’s output, without being modified in any way.

The MXR 75, right choice if you want to have a wider range of tonal possibilities from the get-go.

Digitech Hot Head Distortion Pedal

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The Hot Head has filter controls that are slightly less dynamic than the MXR 75. This pedal has famously been used in rock and heavy metal to get a heavier sound. However, this is the case with all the pedals on this list and should not be a discouraging fact when choosing if a pedal could apply to various Punk styles. You will get knobs that can output everything from very low to very high gain, when the gain is increased, creating a burning sort of sound. Punk’s case is that the bigger part of this pedal might not shine through when it comes to Punk. Whether laying out a lead part or playing a chunky rhythm, you are not interested in the super heavy distortion that the Digitech Hot Head can produce at peak performance for most Punk music.

However, just because it has not been commonly used for Punk Rock does not make it a bad choice. Giving more room to the guitar than it already has will shape a new sound for a Punk constellation. If having something to bend the rules with and shape new sounds within Punk is of interest, maybe this is your go-to.


It is always hard to crown the best of anything, and especially when it comes to Punk. Due to the massive influence, this pedal has had, the Boss DS-1 will be crowned the winner of this article’s premise. The main point was to layout a distortion pedal foundation that you can experiment with different amps and instruments on. The Boss DS-1 has a speedy setup with three very dynamic knobs to control that quickly allows a player to get into action. The DS-1 will also take the price for affordability. It is the cheapest pedal on this list but also the most influential. In any Punk scenario, you can make it work.

The MXR 75 is quite an expensive distortion pedal. Though some cost more, it is in the mid-high price range. However, it will be taking home the prize for the most versatile distortion pedal on this list. If you are looking for a staple, the Boss DS-1 is a great option. If you are looking for a multi-purposed pedal where a lot of the sound is controlled in the pedal itself, the MXR 75 will give you many options to play with.

When creating new sounds, it can be both creatively freeing and constricting to have a wide range of options to choose from. Having too many options can lead to not choosing anything at all due to the vastness that your options present. If you do not know what type of instrumental tone you are looking for, choosing the simpler pedals might be of big help. If you have a clear-cut picture of your unrealized tone, then having more options to modify your sound might be the only way forward.

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