6 Best Distortion Pedals For Punk and Pop Punk

best distortion pedals for punk

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Punk is a unique genre, it delivers a punch and gritty tunes without the aggression that metal and rock bring. It’s the perfect balance for those looking for some headbanging songs without the classic heavy metal sound.

Over the decades, many bands have been able to deliver this, while still producing an original sound unlike any other. And who doesn’t want to have a sound that’s unique to their own band? After all, that’s you make a real name for yourself whether we’re talking about punk, pop punk, or any other genre.

But how the heck do you pull that off and create a unique sound in a genre that’s been around since 1976?

Well, there are a lot of ways to make this happen from an insane stage presence of someone like GG Allin (Google at your own risk) to the punchlines of pop punk legends Blind 182. But when it comes to pure sound, one of the best ways is to simply work in distortion pedals. They can add some real meat to your tune and make it a lot harder to forget.

We’re going to explain what you need to look for in a distortion pedal, specifically for punk or pop punk, and how they can give your sound the finishing touch you’re aiming for. But if you just want to get to the point, you can check out our three favorite pedals here:

Best For Classic Punk
ProCo RAT2
ProCo RAT2
9.9
  • This is the quintessential distortion pedal for grungy, dirty but loud as heck punk rock
  • Reliable, versatile, and almost impossible to break the RAT2 is an old school classic for a reason
  • More than 500+ five star reviews on Amazon
Best For Pop Punk
Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808
Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808
9.7
  • Perfect for that pop punk sound from bands like Blink 182 or Man Overboard
  • Remember, you need a tube amp to get the most out of this pedal
  • A whole pile of positive reviews on Amazon and a long list of celebrity users
Most Versatile
Boss DS-1 Pedal
Boss DS-1 Pedal
9.6
  • This punk-ready distortion pedal can handle just about anything you throw at it
  • Easy on the budget without sacrificing quality
  • More than 2,000 five star reviews on Amazon

Now let’s get into it!

Let’s Talk About Punk and Distortion Pedals

Keep in mind that what’s best for one band may not be the best choice for you. In reality, there is no “perfect” pedal out there. Each punk band is different, and each wants to achieve an exclusive sound that certain distortion pedals are better at. So let’s break down some features and factors to keep in mind before we get to the reviews. 

Keep It Simple…Keep It Punk

Old school punk music isn’t about big productions or high-quality equipment. Instead, it was about putting together what you had, maxing it out, and tearing down the house…sometimes literally.

That’s part of why I love distortion pedals for punk so much. They’re easy to use, can hit your tune with heavy gain, and give that grit that’s popular across many styles of punk. But don’t overthink this too much or feel like you need a long list of gear.

This is also why most of the distortion pedals on this list are easy on the budget and don’t feature a lot of options.

Think About Your Favorite Punk Sound

While most of the distortion pedals on this list are pretty darn versatile you will have an easier time picking the perfect pedal if you already have a specific punk sound in mind. Between classic punk and pop punk, there’s a huge range in styles.

I’ve labeled them to help you figure out which one will match your preferred style but keep this in mind as you go.

Best Distortion Pedals For Punk, Pop Punk, and Everything In Between

Now that you know what you’re getting into, let’s take a look at the reviews. I’ve flagged some pedals as good options for specific genres but you aren’t required to stick to those suggestions and in the world of punk rock you can make just about anything work.

Best For Classic Punk: ProCo RAT2

Best For Classic Punk
ProCo RAT2
  • This is the quintessential distortion pedal for grungy, dirty but loud as heck punk rock
  • Reliable, versatile, and almost impossible to break the RAT2 is an old school classic for a reason
  • More than 500+ five star reviews on Amazon

The RAT2 become popular during the 1980s when punk was really hitting its stride but has continued to be used for the last 30 years. Pop punk legends like The Offspring used the RAT2 along with others like Nirvana, Radiohead, and the Foo Fighters.

There’s nothing too fancy here and the design is dead simple with only three dials. But that’s exactly what we’re looking for in a great distortion pedal for punk. The knobs give you a wide variety of sound and control over distortion, volume, and filter. With a true bypass analog circuit, this pedal creates a distortion that merits a wild, warm tone.

Specializing in a smooth, semi-fuzz tune, the RAT2 is a simple, straightforward distortion pedal that is an excellent choice for a variety of genres.  For rocking solos and soaring leads, this pedal steps up to the plate and will give you that desired, extra kick.

You can hear exactly what I’m talking about in this video which showcases many of those chunky sounds that you love to hear in classic punk:

 

The only downside is that the RAT2 comes with a 3.5 mm plug for the power adapter which could cause some problems in your setup. For most punk rockers, your setup should be simple enough that this isn’t a problem and you’ll have a 3.5 mm adaptor. But for more complicated rigs, this is worth keeping in mind.

There are only three knobs so you can run through the distortion pretty quickly but to get you started I suggest putting distortion at the 11 o’clock position and turning the filter way down. That’s what I think gives me the best 80’s punk sound. It should also go without saying that the volume is all the way up in this scenario.

You can read more reviews, see the full list of musicians that have rocked the rat, and check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Best For Pop Punk: Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808

Best For Pop Punk
Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808
  • Perfect for that pop punk sound from bands like Blink 182 or Man Overboard
  • Remember, you need a tube amp to get the most out of this pedal
  • A whole pile of positive reviews on Amazon and a long list of celebrity users

Pop punk has its own style that’s a lot less grimy than the classic 80’s variety. So if you want to sound more like Man Overboard and less like Black Flag then this could be a good option.

Of course, this distortion pedal is versatile enough to handle a lot more than just pop punk and there’s a huge list of artists across a wide range of genres that make use of the TS808. This distortion pedal is famous for its pleasing over-driven tones and all-around great quality design.

With three simple, easy-to-use knobs you can control level, tone, and drive. What makes this pedal unique compared to the others, is that it won’t cause hard clipping and still gives you a spicy distortion and a pronounced mid boost that is not harsh.

The Ibanez Tube Scream TS808 defines the term “great overdrive pedal,” by adding this device to your bass or guitar; you will achieve the best distortion for pop punk, punk, rock, metal, or blues. There’s little this pedal can’t do when it comes to distorting your sound and giving it that extra punch.

Just keep in mind that as the name implies, the Tube Screamer is designed to be used with a tube amp so if that’s not your thing then you may want to look at another distortion pedal. Don’t worry, the TS808 isn’t the only way to get that pop punk sound.

You can take a closer look at the unique design, read more reviews and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Most Versatile: Boss DS-1 Pedal

Most Versatile:
Boss DS-1 Pedal
  • This punk-ready distortion pedal can handle just about anything you throw at it
  • Easy on the budget without sacrificing quality
  • More than 2,000 five star reviews on Amazon

You’ve probably already seen this pedal, maybe even been recommended it, and that’s because Boss is consistent in delivering sturdy, powerful, and versatile pedals.

Yeah, I know it’s “mainstream” but that doesn’t mean it’s bad or not well equipped to handle the punk sound. In fact, this thing can handle just about any rock sound so it’s a clear winner for out most versatile pick.

This true classic has been heard on many punk hits, including the legendary “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from Nirvana. The three knobs design, although simple, helps you shape the sound and distortion to your liking. Following the typical Boss formula; the tough construction and easy to use knobs of this pedal make it a go-to pedal for any musician, especially those who like to add some ‘punk’ to their sound.

The DS-1 is a full analog pedal and this particular version produces a tone that’s a bit more middy and sharp compared to the original. While the original Boss pedal composed a warm, softer tone, the DS-1 is better at composing a harder punch and grime to your sound while still giving you that classic tone you recognize from some of the most famous rock and punk albums.

What makes this pedal stand out above the others is that it lets your true guitar tone shine. Even when your guitar is at a low volume, your sound won’t be affected by muddiness. You have complete control to shape the sound so that it suits a rhythm guitar, or you can switch it up and produce crazy solos with smooth sustain even at high volume.

Budget-friendly, well-built, and award-worthy…it’s hard to go wrong here. You can read some of the 2,000+ reviews and check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Most Distortion Options: MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion

Most Distortion Options
MXR M75 Super Badass Distortion
  • More distortion options thanks to 5 knobs and a three-band EQ
  • Very tight and dirty sound that's perfect for punk
  • Tons of positive reviews across the web

You’ve probably heard of MXR, and that’s because they produce some of the best darn distortion pedals money can buy.

Even though a wide range of sounds aren’t always needed when it comes to classic punk production, modern pop punk can have a lot more variety. With multiple 5 knobs (compared to the usual 3) this breaks the keep it super simple but we’re going to make an exception for the pop punkers.

You can get everything from warm and smooth overdrive to hard, crunchy distortion that can help improve your punk tracks. All those options are managed by the 5 knobs and the three-band EQ. By adjusting the Bass, Mid, and Treble knobs, the EQ controls allow you to sculpt your music to receive your desired sound. Even when pushing it hard, the analog circuitry gives you a pleasing, smooth tune.

The M75 Badass delivers volume without losing higher gain, and although a bit louder than other pedals, the volume can easily be cured with the output knob. When analyzing this pedal, you’ll find it distributes full spectrum distortion that gives it an out-of-this-world sound.

I know it doesn’t impact the sound but you gotta love the name of this pedal and you’re really setting yourself up for some high expectations when you call your pedal the “Super Badass”. Luckily, this thing delivers.

You can take a closer look at the 5 knobs, read more reviews and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Best For Metalheads: Fulltone OCD Pedal

Best For Metalheads:
Fulltone OCD Pedal
  • A gritty and fuzzy pedal that's built like a tank
  • Gives you a sound a buzzsaw sound that metalheads and fans of Black Flag will both love
  • Premium pricing

If you play punk but love metal then you’re in the right place. This gritty, grimy distortion pedal will run your punk riffs through a buzzsaw and leave you with something that’s downright awesome. Even though you have a lot of sound options here, I love cranking the drive to the max and letting it rip.

Even though punk isn’t very represented here, you can see a long list of legendary guitarists who have used the Fulltone OCD including Gene Simmons. It’s not hard to make a jump from the buzzsaw sound of early Kiss to classic punk rock.

But if you’re more of a pop punk player, this is probably not a good pick and instead, you’ll want to check out the Tube Screamer above. But if you like your coffee and your metal black…then this distortion pedal will easily let you move from punk power chords to metal in minutes.

You can read more reviews, check out the almost indestructible design, and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Honorable Mention: Circus Freak Pickled Punk

Unfortunately, this awesome pedal isn’t around anymore. I’ve got one stashed away…and I’m not selling.

I haven’t been able to find one anywhere so this is officially a rare find now.

This pedal features a unique design that incorporates the 90s grunge vibe the producers are well-known for. It’s not just the design that will make you nostalgic, but this particular pedal delivers a high-gain ’80s and ’90s tone that packs a serious punch.

What makes the Pickled Punk stand out among the others is the thick and impressive weighty delivery of the pedal’s tone that is hard to find in other pedals.

Its mammoth tone, simple and forgiving performance, and tough enclosure make this pedal a tidal wave of power. This pedal is a welcomed change from the average distortion pedals that drown out your sound while still delivering muscular distortion tones.

If you can get your hands on this, you’ll definitely have a good shot at a unique punk sound since no one can even track this thing down. At this point, your best bet is going to be garage sale and I wish you luck!

Closing Thoughts

That covers it- you’re now a bonafide expert when it comes to distortion pedals and punk rock.

These pedals work well with guitarists of any experience level, and if you’re looking for a specific bass distortion pedal, check out our other blog that gives you the best options to choose from.

While these pedals are going to help you and your band achieve the unique sound you’re looking for, it’s really up to you to take your music to the next level. And we hope, with this new pedal underfoot, that you will be inspired to go above and beyond with your sound, and truly make it into what you dream it to be.

Now go start making some punk tunes.