Distortion is an effect that lives at the heart of modern Rock and Metal Music. You can find this effect in many other genres as well, from dubstep to grunge. You can also give it to electric guitars.
However, distortion is something for almost any instrument. The second most popular way to use it is with a bass guitar.
Applying distortion to your bass helps to make the signal much louder and dirtier. This is great for adding a bit of dissonance to your signal, which helps to create the punchy sound used in punk and rock.
You could buy a standalone distortion unit for plugging your instrument into, but this is expensive, and will take up a lot of space.
By far the easiest way to add this effect to your music is through a pedal. You can use pedals with both guitars and basses to alter the signal from these instruments in several weird and wonderful ways.
In this article, we have gathered together some of the best bass distortion pedals that you can buy online.
Best Bass Distortion Pedal (Quick Summary)
- Bass Preamp/Disttion Pedal with Dual Disttion Modes Blend Control
Darkglass Electronics is a popular Finnish company among bass players who focus on the heavy metal and hard rock genres.
The Alpha Omicron is the little sibling of the company’s extremely successful Alpha Omega distortion unit. While it doesn’t have the same preamp as its older sibling, it does still offer all the bite and growl you need.
There are two buttons labeled ‘bite’ and ‘growl’ under the four control knobs. You can select between the two distortion units inside the machine.
You can mix between the two distortion circuits using the ‘Mod’ knob. This allows you to personalize your effect to get a more unique sound. Also, the ‘Drive’ control can set how much distortion you want, while the ‘Level’ knob can adjust the output volume.
Finally, there is a ‘Blend’ knob that you can use to mix between your clean and distorted signal, giving you even more versatility. This pedal is exceptionally easy-to-use thanks to its intuitive controls that make it simple to dial in any tone you want.
- Intuitive and easy-to-use controls.
- Great versatility that allows you to customize your tone.
- Two distortion circuits that you can blend together with the ‘Mod’ knob.
- Onboard two-band equalizer
- OverDrive pedal specifically designed for bass
- Balance knob controls dry/overdriven sound
- Get mild overdrive to hard distortion Works for four- and five-string basses Balance control lets you mix signals Can be used as a two-band EQ
Boss is a well-known company in the music industry for providing high-quality equipment at a very reasonable price. The ODB-3 is no exception, with a simple and intuitive design that is very easy to use.
One of the great things about this pedal is the large, flat, master switch that is very durable. Unlike the button switch found on other pedals, you won’t have the issues of missing the pedals with your foot when trying to activate it.
There is only a single distortion circuit in this pedal, and there aren’t many options for customizing your signal.
However, you get a basic EQ knob for cutting or boosting high and low frequencies. With this feature, you can boost your bass or cut back on frequencies that make your sound too muddy.
The balance knob allows you to mix the dry and wet signals to get your tone just the way you want it. If you want a simple pedal that allows you to rock without having to spend ages tweaking your signal, then this is the product for you.
- Intuitive design.
- Large pedal switch that is durable and easy to push down without looking at your feet.
- Inbuilt EQ function for tweaking your high and low frequencies.
- Not as many options for customizing your signal as other pedals.
- The Jupiter is a true bypass fuzz pedal inspired by the desire for gritty, thick and loud fuzz
- The Jupiter’s controls allow you the ability to dial in the right amount of fuzz with the right tonal quality to either stand out in the mix, or ride it out with the drums and rhythm
- Mode switch that changes between three different clipping diode arrangements, providing more options and combinations of fuzz and tone
- Bass boost toggle switch for increased low end
- Made in America; includes a 5 year warranty
Our next pedal is one originally designed to be used with a guitar, however, it works just as well when paired with a bass.
If you are a fan of the low-end, fuzzy distortion used in grunge and certain types of metal, then this pedal will make a great addition to your board.
The three control knobs and two switches give you a lot of control, so you can make your bass stand out, or bring it inline with the rest of your band.
With the level knob, you can adjust your overall output level, while the fuzz control lets you choose how much distortion you want.
The tone knob gives you even more versatility in creating your own unique sound. It dictates how much grit your output signal has.
There is also a mode switch for selecting between the three clipping diodes inside the unit. This means you can personalize your tone even more.
All the controls are very sturdy and feel great to touch, just like the button switch, which compresses with a satisfying click. Naturally, when using this pedal for a bass, you will want the bass boost switch always set to on.
This will give your instrument a hefty punch to match the energy of the drums and rhythm guitar in your band or mix.
- You can use it for both regular and bass guitar.
- Three different clipping diodes for selecting which type of fuzz you want.
- Durable unit with sturdy controls that are satisfying to use.
- Warm, harmonically rich overdrive
- Clean signal blend control
- True bypass
- Bundle includes MXR premium instrument cable and 2 patch cables
This all analog overdrive pedal made by Briskdrop MXR is a great all-purpose distortion unit. The M89 is a good choice if you are just looking for a beginner’s pedal for experimenting with overdrive. While there are certain sounds it may struggle to replicate, it will amaze you with versatility.
There are four knobs on this pedal that allow you to adjust your signal to get the exact sound you want. The clean knob dictates how much of your clean signal will end up in the mix. With this, you can make your distortion as overt or as subtle as you want. With the tone knob you can control how bright, or how grungy you want your overdrive effect to be.
Overall, this is a very warm distortion pedal that emulates the effect of old tube units. This may not work as well for some genres that require a bit more dirt, such as heavy metal.
However, for a beginner just looking to experiment with distortion effects for the first time, this is a reliable model that is easy and very fun to use.
- Simple and easy-to-use controls.
- Allows you to blend your dry and wet signal to get the exact sound you want.
- True bypass means your clean signal will be unaffected when the pedal is not active.
- May be too warm for certain genres.
- Get tube-like distortion, smooth sustain and super-fat tone
- This BEHRINGER product has been designed to compete head to head with leading products on the market
- Unique Balance control to blend between overdriven and dry bass sound for maximum punch
- Dedicated Level, 2-band EQ and Gain controls for awesome sound shaping
- Status LED for effect on/off and battery check
The BOD400 is another pedal that emulates the sound of old tube-like distortion effects. It offers a fat tone for deep, rumbling bass that packs a lot of punch.
You can plug this unit into a power supply just like any other pedal, or you can run it off a 9V battery. It is very versatile and easy to take with you to gigs.
Thanks to the built-in equalizer, this unit gives you a lot of control for adjusting certain frequencies in your signal. This means you can cut the high frequencies when you want to make the bass extra fat, or turn the bass down for a more gentle, bright tone.
There is also a balance knob that lets you mix your dry and wet signals to make your distortion more pronounced or more subtle as you require.
The large flat pedal switch on this unit isn’t easy to miss with your foot, so you should have no problem activating the distortion when you need to.
There is a light at the top of the pedal that tells you when the effect is active and when your battery is low. If you are working on a tight budget, then this product offers excellent value for money.
- EQ controls allow you to cut or boost both high and low frequencies.
- Runs on a 9v battery as well as a standard power supply.
- Simple controls that are easy to understand and use.
- Plastic construction is not the most durable.
- Our famous mod now perfected with amazing sounding JFETs that emulate old tube amps in a unique way
- The Super Phat Mod pedal now has incredible dynamics. It is full range and very responsive. The phrase “transparent overdrive” was born of this design!
- From country, to blues and rock the Phat Mod is the choice for those not wanting the over-refined sound of a common screamer.
- Set the gain high and let your guitar’s volume control or your pick attack do the work.
- With the Super Phat Mod you now have all of our refinements, the very best of tone-shaping electronics, and modern features like true-bypass.
Simple, compact and capable of packing a hefty punch, this overdrive pedal made by Keely has all the things you could wish for in a good distortion unit.
There are only three control knobs on this pedal, yet they succeed at giving you a lot of options for creating a great sound.
This is a pedal that you can plug into your amp and instantly start creating punchy riffs on your bass with minimal setup.
The tone control allows you to adjust the brightness of your mix. You can make it as warm or as dirty as you please.
Using the ‘Level’ knob, you can adjust the output volume of your signal. The ‘Drive’ knob controls how much overdrive you want to apply. There is also a small switch for selecting between a flat and phat tone.
Choosing the flat effect will keep your signal relatively clean. Meanwhile, the phat setting provides a slight bass boost. This is a very versatile pedal for its size and suitable for several different genres and styles.
Thanks to its compact design, this pedal will easily fit on your existing board and is easy to slip into your gig bag along with your instrument.
- Compact pedal that will fit snugly in your gig bag.
- Simple controls that are easy to navigate.
- Flat-phat switch for a mild bass boost when you need it.
- The overdrive is more subtle than that provided by a standard screamer.
Bass Distortion Pedal Buyers Guide
You might think that manufacturers build all bass pedals the same. However, there is actually a lot of variety between the different models.
Finding the right one for you will largely come down to the style of music you want to play. In this section, we will offer some helpful tips for finding the right bass distortion pedal for you.
What genre is best for a distortion pedal?
Certain pedals will work better for playing different styles of music. If you just want a generic pedal that will work for ‘Rock and Roll’ or ‘Pop’, then you should look for a pedal that has a warm sound.
Warm distortion has a more gentle, fuzzy feel that isn’t as heavy as the dissonance offered by pedals made for heavy metal or punk.
If you are buying your first distortion pedal, you want to get a warm model. This allows you to get a feel for the unique sounds this effect can create.
Afterwards, if you decide you want something different from you can always buy a new pedal that matches the sound you want.
What are good controls for a bass distortion pedal?
Most pedals will come with at least three basic controls. These include level, drive and tone. Level is often the control that adjusts your output volume, while drive dictates how much distortion applies to your clean signal.
Tone is often used to control the type of distortion, making it either warmer or more dirty.
These are the only three controls that you need for a good distortion pedal. However, there are other features that can be very useful as well.
Switches for applying a bass boost to the output signal are especially useful if you want your bass to be extra punchy.
Equalizer controls are also a strong feature that will allow you to shape your sound. EQ knobs let you cut or boost certain frequencies, often those in the high and low ranges.
Another useful control is balance, which lets you blend your dry and wet signals. This is another feature that gives you more control over your tone to get your sound just the way you want it.
These extra controls are useful, but aren’t essential and may just make the pedal less accessible for complete beginners.
You only want to look for a pedal with these features if you know you are going to use them, or will learn how they work.
What does a switch do in a bass distortion pedal?
The switch is the main button on a pedal that you press to activate the effect. They come in two forms: pedal switches which are large, flat and button switches which are a single metal button.
The advantages of pedals is that you can press them down halfway. However, this feature isn’t too important in distortion.
That said, pedal switches are also much easier to tap with your foot without looking, so you can apply your effect without worrying about missing the switch.
Button switches, on the other hand, can be more durable, but are a little hard to hit. Since buttons are so much smaller than pedals, they allow the pedal box itself to be much more compact.
This means buttons are a brilliant choice if you have a pedal board that doesn’t have the space for a larger model.
What is the best size for a distortion pedal?
Many musicians will have multiple effects pedals arranged onto a board. This keeps all of their effects in one place where you can access them during a gig or practice session.
If you have a pedal board yourself, then you will want to buy a pedal that can fit on it. This won’t be a problem if your board is relatively empty, but will be trickier if you already have a lot of pedals.
In this case you will need to decide which pedals you want to kick off the board or look for a very compact model like the Keeley Super Fat we looked at earlier.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do Distortion Pedals Work?
Distortion pedal raises the gain of an input signal above its peak. This means that the peaks and troughs of the signal are cut by a phenomenon known as clipping.
When clipping occurs, it creates harmonic overtones and dissonance to make the signal sound muddy and unclear. This process also produces a natural sustain, which is why notes played through a distortion effect will go on for much longer.
What Is ‘True Bypass’?
You will see many pedals described as having ‘True Bypass’ on their switches. This simply means that the clean signal can pass straight through the pedal without being altered in any way when the effect is not active.
Pedals that don’t have this feature may subtly affect the sound of your clean signal, even when turned off.