Best Guitar Pedals for Metal

When it comes to the fierce genre of metal, every element of your sound matters. Guitar pedals are crucial for creating those heavy, bone-crushing tones metal is renowned for.

Best Guitar Pedals for Metal

A guitarist’s arsenal is incomplete without a solid distortion or overdrive pedal. The following pedals are considered some of the best for dialing in that perfect metal tone.

Rock band performing

Boss MT-2 Metal Zone

The Boss MT-2 Metal Zone is an absolute classic, adored and detested in equal measure. Its high gain sound, powerful EQ section, and sturdy construction have made it a staple on many a metal guitarist’s pedalboard.

The Metal Zone offers dual-gain circuits to create a unique, complex distortion sound, with a rich bass and powerful mid-range. It’s known for its lengthy sustain, which makes it perfect for those soaring solos.

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer

The Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer might seem like an odd choice for metal, but hear us out. While it’s most famous for its mid-boosted overdrive sounds, the TS9 is a versatile tool that can give your amp the kick it needs to delve into heavier territory.

Used as a boost into an already cranked amp, the TS9 can deliver a tight, aggressive tone that cuts through the mix, ideal for modern metal styles.

MXR M116 Fullbore Metal Distortion

The MXR M116 Fullbore Metal Distortion is a compact but mighty beast. This pedal is a one-way ticket to high-gain heaven, providing an ultra-high gain circuit that can deliver brutal metal tones.

With a built-in noise gate and a detailed EQ section, the Fullbore Metal Distortion lets you sculpt your tone to perfection while keeping noise and feedback under control.

Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff

The Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff offers a diverse range of distortion sounds, from sludgy low-end growl to aggressive high-end bite. The ‘Top Boost’ feature can provide an extra edge to your solos, ensuring they cut through even the densest mix.

This pedal’s wide-ranging EQ and articulate distortion make it a worthy contender for your pedalboard.

Understanding The Key Factors for Metal Tone

Choosing the best guitar pedal for metal is not just about picking a high-gain pedal. Several factors come into play in getting that ideal metal tone.

Distortion vs. Overdrive

In the realm of gain-based effects, the two main players are distortion and overdrive pedals. Distortion pedals provide a hard-clipped tone, making them ideal for heavier genres like metal.

Overdrive pedals, on the other hand, are softer and more dynamic, but can be used to push an already distorted amp further.

EQ Options

A pedal’s EQ section can dramatically shape your tone. Metal typically requires a good deal of treble and bass, with scooped mids. Pedals with flexible EQ options will allow you to dial in these settings with precision.

Integration With Your Amp and Guitar

Every pedal will sound different depending on the guitar and amp it’s paired with. High output pickups, tube amps, and solid-state amps will all interact with your pedal in unique ways.

Guitar pedal board

The Impact of Pedal Order

The order in which you place your pedals can significantly impact your tone. While there are no hard and fast rules, a common approach is to place your gain-based effects (overdrive, distortion, and fuzz) towards the beginning of your signal chain. Modulation effects (chorus, flanger, phaser) and time-based effects (delay, reverb) usually come after.

Building a Metal Pedalboard

Building the perfect metal pedalboard requires some planning. Aside from your distortion or overdrive, you might also want to consider adding a noise gate to control feedback and unwanted noise, an EQ pedal for additional tone-shaping, and perhaps some reverb or delay for creating atmosphere.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can you use a blues pedal for metal? While blues and metal are very different genres, some blues-oriented pedals can work for metal when used in the right context. They often provide a crunchy, mid-focused tone that can add a unique character to your metal sound.

2. Are multi-effects pedals good for metal? Multi-effects pedals can be an excellent choice for metal, especially for those on a budget or with limited space. They offer a wide range of effects, including high-gain distortions and amp simulations.

3. What’s the difference between distortion and overdrive? Distortion and overdrive are both gain-based effects, but they process the signal differently. Distortion provides a harder, more aggressive clipping, while overdrive is subtler and more dynamic.

4. Do I need a noise gate for metal? While not essential, a noise gate can be beneficial for metal guitarists. High-gain settings often come with a fair amount of noise and feedback, which a noise gate can help control.

5. Why are some pedals so expensive? The price of a pedal can depend on various factors, including the complexity of its circuit, the quality of its components, and whether it’s mass-produced or hand-assembled.

6. Can I play metal without a pedal? Yes, many metal tones can be achieved with just a good amp. However, pedals offer more flexibility and can help shape your unique sound.


Finding the best guitar pedals for metal involves much more than picking up the most brutal distortion you can find. From understanding the difference between distortion and overdrive to knowing the importance of EQ and pedal order, many factors will influence your ultimate tone. Explore, experiment, and most importantly, let your ears be the judge. Happy shredding!

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