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High Gain Distortion Pedals


Are we at a point now where high-gain distortion pedals into a clean channel can replace a dedicated high-gain channel?

I'm thinking of the offerings from people like Wampler, Blackstar, TC Electronic, and loads more I'm sure...

In the past I always found distortion pedals a bit too thin, and lacking the grunt and thump of a proper high-gain distortion channel. But to be fair that was almost a decade ago, and I've rarely gone anywhere near those pedals since.

Any real developments, or am I going to be just as "meh" about the current crop?

Those new Bogner pedals are pretty damn interesting.


Not even close. I've heard most of the "high-gain" pedals, none actually hold a candle to a real amp. They can do a nice impression. I think for a player who is happy with a single channel amp it works because heavy stuff is probably not their main gig.


Nothing will beat the real thing. But I do like my pinnacle. It's my favorite "high gain" pedal. It nails the "brown" sound, power tube loose growl. Plus the contour eq is very usable.
my 2 cents...


Sorry to go with a BOSS pedal, but what about the MD-2 Mega Distortion?

With the caveat that I wouldn't spend more than 30 or 35 dollars for it on eBay, does anyone like that pedal? It apparently has the most gain of any BOSS dirt box, and doesn't sound anything like the DS-1, despite the physical resemblance.


the mi audio megalith is pretty darn good. I haven't owned any super brutal amps, so I can't say for sure, but I know mi audio's sales pitch was that they were hesitant to release it because it sounded very similar to their actual high end high gain tube amp.


I found a weird but amazing combo. A Boss Metal Zone into an Alessandro Redbone head.

Best metal sound I've heard and I've had/tried a lot of hi-gain heads. For some reason I thought that a crap pedal into an amp couldn't possibly be great. I was wrong.

Nowadays I've got 2 amps that do a great hi-gain - Blockhead Custom 50 and (don't laugh) 4 input HiWatt Custom 50. They both kick serious ass.

But the Allesandro/Metal Zone combo was as good or better than any hi gainer I've tried.

BTW the Wampler Triple Recstortion (not the triple Wreck - haven't tried one)is a great hi gain pedal.


Gold Supporting Member
Not even close. I've heard most of the "high-gain" pedals, none actually hold a candle to a real amp. They can do a nice impression. I think for a player who is happy with a single channel amp it works because heavy stuff is probably not their main gig.
Not even close? Not even a little close?



I prefer the Kingsley Minstrel as a high gain channel into my barking but clean loud 50 watt Plexi. It's just insane.
The fact that it is a high voltage all valve/tube preamp I guess makes it not a solid state pedal, but the Minstrel proves that there is at least one high voltage high gain preamp that is just as good as an amp.
Yes, I was a non believer. Went through the Fetto's, Wamplers, Weehbo, and all the classics, and while some were good and some were damn good, nothing comes close to the Minstrel, IME of course.


Hmm, I would have said no after going through some good high gainers (Okko Dominator, Wampler Triple Wreck, Weehbo Morbid Drive, Suhr Riot, Carl Martin Plexitone plus others) but I recently picked up the MI Audio Megalith Delta pedal and I'm really impressed.

I always liked aspects of the other units but they frequently sounded off or were too thin, brittle, harsh or too muddy etc. It might have just been my amp(s) but they gradually went.

If you're going for a really modern style of gain, go to 3:28 and compare them.

The pedal is the preamp of the Megalith amp in JFET form.

It's produced some killer high gain sounds for me personally. I've owned some decent high gain amps like a Jose Marshall, 5150, 6505+, Dual Recto, DT50+HD500, plus dedicated modellers run into ss and tube rack power amps etc for comparison and it's produced some of my fav gain tones. I really like running it into a clean blackface preamp into my Jose Plexi's FX return. At volume the thing is beast.

Of note (prev poster) I'm using the Kingsley Juggler for the clean preamp.

My Minstrel into an already broken up Plexi works great but it's not a modern style of gain. Fantastic for 80's rock/metal (it killed the Suhr Riot) though it doesn't do the crazy gain stuff (it looses clarity).

I love my Kingsley pedals as well!



If you are looking for (in my opinion) an awesome high gain pedal try the EMMA pisdiywot. It gives your amp a boost in volume as we as a really tight distortion sound. You can get all sorts of overdriven and distortion sounds out of it.


A MXR 10 Band EQ is a means to make a merely quite good high gain metal pedal into a great one. If I didn't have the EQ, I'd go for the Megalith Delta.

I've thought all the major heavy bands used only real amps as gain source. Then I found out that Dark Tranquillity use a Behringer digital V-Amp, of all things, for live tones. Admittedly, I haven't heard Dark Tranquillity live, so I don't know if their live tone compares to their very good album tone.

blk albm

I love using an OD into the MI Audio Crunchbox (Be on the lookout, the Super Crunch Box will be out anytime). Sounds awesome as I don't really care for the distortion in my amp AT ALL (JCM 2000 dsl 100).


There's a lot to consider here, particularly what kind of amp you're using and what volumes you're working with.

IMO it's a lot easier to get a great "second distortion channel" out of a pedal when you're have a powerful tube amp and closed back cab (preferably with speakers meant for a distortion sound). Take a look at gearmanndude's youtube clips; most that I've seen use a jmp and a closed-back 4x12. But if you can do that, why not just use the real thing?

The second thing is volume. Nothing sounds like a cranked stack (preamp, power amp, speakers all pushed). You can get your tone by pushing everything (but it's a luxury that even the giggers among us don't often have). A lot of high gain pedals try to act like a second preamp, which forces you to lower the power amp's and speakers' contribution to the equation. Guys who play at low volume by themselves tend to play much softer than even a quiet band ("what's it sound like at tv level?"). I've seen lots of pedals sound good at bedroom levels and then lose a lot when you take them to a rehearsal (I guess it would be the same if you tried to play a 100-watt stack softly in your living room).

So my question would be, are the guys with fender-ish amps that want to use a pedal for marshall sounds out of luck? I gig regularly with a custom fargen blackbird and a wampler plextortion, and it that gets me the closest I've been. It gives a me pretty good distortion sound, but the FEEL of a cranked stack isn't there, not even close.

And, do pedal designers take the amp and/or target volume into account when they design their high-gain pedals? If so, please share that in your ad copy!

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