Check out our growing list of distortion pedal reviews, watch the videos, and feel free to add your own comments and feedback. If you want to dirty up your tone, you may also be interested in exploring our overdrive pedal reviews and fuzz pedal reviews.
The Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion pedal is so user-friendly that you don’t even need the manual. It contains three main controls: Level, Tone, and Distortion, and an additional “Turbo” knob that functions as a switch between Turbo Mode I and Turbo Mode II. The pedal features twin Turbo modes, which means that you practically get two distortion sounds in a single box. Turbo Mode I produces light and mellow, but powerful distortion because of the turbo circuit. Even when the sound is extremely distorted, the distortion circuits prevent the emission of a high-pitched sound. Turbo Mode II produces an explosive sound and, besides riffs, is great for solos. The possibility to switch between a turbo and normal mode by connecting the Boss FS-5L footswitch to the Remote Jack is really useful for this pedal.
The reissued version of the original Guv’nor overdrive effects pedal, the Marshall GV-2 Guv’nor Plus, is a versatile distortion stompbox whose captivating design will immediately attract you. One cannot remain indifferent to the retro beauty of its shiny sturdy metal housing. There are golden control knobs for gain, deep, bass, mid, treble, and volume. It is very user-friendly and it requires no effort to press on/off switch. The Guv’nor Plus employs a passive bypass switching circuit. In the beginning I used a power supply but soon after switched to a battery. A long battery life is what makes the pedal highly reliable at concerts. It is powered by 9-volt battery or 9VDC power adapter. With the chassis hard as a rock, the pedal has a high level of stage survivability, which is another feature that adds to its reliability.
I found the Crunchy Shell Distortion to be less bassy than the other OD/distortion pedals I had laying around. Playing the Crunchy Shell over a backing track, it cut through the mix really well and never became muddy. Turning down the tone knob and toggling the Hard/Soft switch to Soft certainly darkened the tone a bit, but I still found the Crunchy Shell to be aggressive enough to cut through the mix. Although this would not be my go-to pedal for warm tones, the Crunch Shell isn’t a one-trick pony either. The gain knob gives the Crunchy Shell a range from slightly breaking-up overdrive to heavy metal distortion.
I have to be honest that I didn’t want to like this pedal. In fact, it sat on my desk for a couple of months with a few other pedals I’ve been meaning to demo. One day I was building a new pedal board, however, and decided to plug it in for a quick test. I was blown away at how thick it sounded. The other distortion/overdrive pedals on my board at the time were a Keeley modded Blues Driver and a Mesa Boogie V1 Bottle Rocket. I kept switching between them to make sure I wasn’t crazy, but the Ultimate Drive was beefier than the other two, while perhaps not quite as dynamic as the tube-driven Bottle Rocket, or as sparkly as the Blues Driver, which has the ability to clean up almost completely. That said, I found myself leaving the Ultimate Drive on and having a lot of fun with it.
The Boss DS-1 is a very common distortion pedal. It is housed in a standard Boss compact chassis and features basic controls. For some reason Boss does not stick to a standard layout for controls across models, but the DS-1 is easy to use once you know what all the knobs do. This pedal produces a range of tones from moderate to heavy distortion, depending on the position of the distortion knob.
The Fulltone Plimsoul is an extremely versatile distortion pedal in a surprisingly small enclosure. Its fancily named controls allow a mixture of smooth overdrive and heavier distortion with extremes available at either end. The lighter distortion is controlled by the sustain knob, and the heavy distortion can be mixed in using the miniature stage 2 knob, which is rotated a little off center by design. The enclosure is compact, durable, and attractive.