Best Pedals for Metal 2024 – Distortion, Reverb, and Other FX

Last Updated on May 28, 2024 by IDS Team

If you’re looking for the best guitar pedals for metal, we’ve taken just some of the many out there and broken down their best features. Metal is a diverse genre, and there’s always more gear to try – such as in our other articles on plugins here and (free ones) here. However, for real life hardware, these are our top picks, ranging from the best pedals for death metal, best pedals for djent, and anything else you might need for a killer metal guitar pedalboard, from phaser to distortion.

Best Distortion Pedals for Metal Runner Up: Mesa Boogie Throttlebox EQ

We find the classic tubescreamer (featured below) is one of the most versatile distortion pedals and provides practically everying a metal guitarist could need. However, we’re kicking off this list with the Mesa Boogie throttlebox. With four knobs – level, gain, mid cut, and tone – it allows you plenty of granular control. Likewise, it allows you to adapt your overall sound from classic hard rock to modern, icier sounds. 

What else makes the Throttlebox one of the best guitar pedals for metal?

Generally it prioritises a warm and organic tone which may not be the best for some metal subgenres, but it does excel at high gain, crisp modern sounds too. For tis we rank it as the runner up on this list in favor of the greater versatility of the tube screamer but this isn’t to knock it – this is a distinctive pedal that leaves no stone unturned in terms of giving musicians real control over their sound. What’s more, this warmth really allows you to flesh out your sound – crucial if you’re trying to build up layers in the studio by yourself – while still maintaining plenty of aggression and energy. 

The one other con is that this is a discontinued legacy product, so it can be more challenging to find one, but for the great options it give syou as well as the innovative touch of the mid cut knob, we’re choosing to include it here. If you’re looking to get your hands on it, it’s possible to find one secondhand online and they generally tend to retail around 220 USD. You can try your luck on Reverb by clicking here however they are generally rare,

Best Distortion Pedal Overall: Ibanez Tubescreamer

The tubescreamer needs no introduction, but we have to feature it here as a perfect piece of equipment that neatly checks all your potential distortion requirements. It’s a great pedal for beginners or if you are just starting out in building your pedalboard, due to it’s reasonably low cost, universal appeal, and intuitive nature. However, dig deeper and we think the features that make the tubescreamer deserve it’s hype are the following: 

What features make the Tubescreamer one of the best heavy metal guitar pedals?

  • Mid frequency boost – this gives it a strong, powerful sound that is heard easily in live settings.
  • Incredible versatility – it’s not just a favourite of metal guitarists, instead, it’s used by many in other genres. Therefore, if you are also in other projects, it is a great option, and it can even work as one of the best pedals for death metal and other subgenres too.
  • Overdrive and compression – coming complete with overdrive and compression, this not only increases its versatility further but also allows greater control over your sound
  • Great ability to control your drive – this goes without saying, but its such a finely tuned and intuitive pedal that its one of the most reliable options, ensuring you get the tone you are looking for, time and time again
  • Sturdy and withstands aggressive playing and tone – the Tubescreamer actually responds to aggressive picking, varying the levels of overdrive

There are plenty more great features, and due to it’s reliability and versatility we recommend this as one of the best pedals for beginners. With many variations, it generally retails at 140 to over 200 USD. Find it here.

Best Distortion Pedal for Metallica Inspired Guitarists KH-DK Dark Blood

At 229.99 USD, this is not a cheap pedal, but, designed in tandem with Kirk Hammett of Metallica, it is an incredibly versatile pedal for both ends of the fretboard. A powerful distortion pedal, this brings hypnotically dark tones to your tracks through intense gain that cuts through with its own unique tone. It’s credibility stacks up, praised by artists such as death metal’s Broken Hope for its depth of sound. 

Why it’s one of the best guitar pedals for metal distortion:

The pedal has four knobs, including gain, volume, doom, and treble, though what really makes it stand out is it’s gate, which offers high and low settings and does a great job of cutting out some of the noise associated with high gain settings ensuring your sound is crystal clear and enabling you to hear the full power of the Dark Blood’s rich tone in all it’s glory on everything from chugging riffs to high octane solos. Find it here.

Best Guitar Pedals For Metal Lead: Jim Dunlop EVH Phase 90

Phaser pedals don’t always make the lists of best pedals for metal, with many focussing on distortion. What’s more, while powerful chugging riffs are certainly a sound that is crucial to get right – if that’s what you’re going for – it’s easy to neglect the things you can add that can take leads and solos to the next level. 

Why it’s one of the best guitar pedals for metal lead:

Introduced in 2004, the EVH Phase 90 is a homage to Eddie Van Halen’s heavy use of MXr pedals – both phaser and flanger – during the early stages of his career. Designed with the signature red, white, and black colors of Eddie van halen’s famous frankenstrat guitar, it is an intense phase effect that has two options – script and block – which give you vintage vs modern phase effects respectively. Apart from that, it has a simple speed dial, making it a streamlined and intuitive pedal that is easy to use. The Phase 90 is powered by 9V battery or power adaptor as well as DC brick, iso brick, and mini brick power supplies, though does not come with any of these included. 

The EVH Phase 90 retails at around 190 USD. You can look online on Reverb for second hand options by clicking here.

Best Heavy Metal Guitar Pedals for Delay: Walrus ARP-87 Multi Function Delay 900-1039

The Walrus ARP multi function delay packs quite a lot of features into one pedal – which can be both a pro and a con. With six knobs, it offers four main algorithms, digital, analog, lofi, and slapback. You might not necessarily use all of these in metal, but the unprecedented range alone as well as the pedal’s great value for money mean it makes this list. 

Knobs include levels, dampen, repeats, ratio, and program, as well as one adaptable knob, x, that controls modulation for all the algorithms but lofi, for which it instead controls filter width. 

What else makes it one of the best choices for a metal guitar pedalboard?

The ARP 87 also has a trails mode which allows the natural delay trails to remain (as opposed to artificially cutting them off when the pedal is off), which can be accessed by toggling the bypass switch and holding it down for one second while applying power. 

For it’s feature richness, levels of control, and brilliant tone, we have to include the ARP 87 on this list – with it’s major pros also being its drawbacks that it might have too many unnecessary features for those who want something more streamlined. 

The ARP-87 sits at 220 USD for all it’s features. Find it here.

Best Boost Pedal for Lead Guitar – Xotic USA EP Booster

The Xotic EP Booster mini boost pedal is based off the Ep-3 echo effects processor preamp, used by artist such as Van Halen and Jimmy Page. As a result, it offers a powerful boost with a classic sound that allows your solos to shine through, with one easy to use dial that allows you to adjust the intensity of the pedals effects. 

What else makes it one of the best metal guitar pedals for lead?

This pedal has internal dip switches that allow you to adjust the boost frequency and EQ, a well thought out addition that give syou more granular control over your sound. We love it because this can make or break a solo or lead line, especially in a metal setting, and the pedal’s true bypass switching allows you to simply remove the effect from he signal chain cleanly. 

At around 130 USD, it’s a bit cheaper than some on this list although not really beginner range. Either way, it offers fantastic value for money with is streamlined design that touches a lot of bases without adding too many unnecessary features. Find it here.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the best pedals for metal involves a mix of criteria, we’ve tried to include some that are distinctly metal and designed for the genre, as well as others that have features many metal guitarists might find useful. Ultimately, there is no be all and end all and there are a host of other fantastic pedals out there that didn’t make this list but which might be perfect for your pedalboard. 

Metal is a genre with a staggering range of divergence and versatility in its sub genres, in the end, choosing the pedals that make the perfect sound for you is an ongoing process – regardless of the original design intention.

And, if you love hardware, you can check out our whole section here.