12 Booster, Distortion and Fuzz Pedals

Distortion. Merriam-Webster describes it as “falsified reproduction of an audio or video signal caused by a change in waveform of the original signal,” and it’s certainly one of the most important words in a guitarist’s vocabulary. We take it for granted these days that distortion circuitry is built into just about every amplifier and modeling device we plug into. Distortion pedals were originally developed to mimic the warm overdrive that tube amps were famous for, and were a refreshing change from the fuzzboxes and treble boosters that preceeded them. But guitarists always go back to the roots of tone to find “new” ways of expressing themselves, and that’s why any respectable pedalboard these days likely contains distortion pedals, fuzzes, boosters, Octavias, and just about anything else that can alter a waveform to produce interesting distorted harmonics.

So in respect to all things that mangle guitar signals, we have focused this Roundup on a dozen boxes that cover the entire gamut of waveform clippers—from caveman treble boosters to tube-sounding overdrives to analog and digital fuzztones. We tested all of these pedals through several tube amps—a vintage Fender Super Reverb, a Mesa/Boogie Express 5:25, and a Savage Rohr 15—and used a variety of guitars to do our dirty work: A Gibson Les Paul Standard and Elliot Easton SG, a Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster, an EMG-equipped Music Man “Family Reserve” Luke, and a Schecter Blackjack ATX equipped with new Seymour Duncan Blackout active pickups.

Tested by Art Thompson and Darrin Fox

Boss FZ-5

Demeter FOD-1


HAO Rust Driver

Jacques Overtube

Jetter Gain Stage Red

Keeley Fuzz Head

Krank Krankshaft

Musicians Sound Design British Steel

Moollon Treble Boost

Skreddy Pink Flesh

Uncle Ernie’s Booster