Best Distortion bass pedal reviews

Bass distortion pedals or bass overdrive pedals duplicate the overdriven sounds of amplifiers and make the electric bass sound ragged and aggressive, a sound that is distinctive in rock/metal music. Before effects pedals or any effects, in general, were made for the electric bass guitar, bassists would plug their basses into effects pedals made for the regular electric guitar and surprisingly it worked.

How it works

It’s not a surprise though, that bass players back then were eager to experience and experiment with distortion since it is arguably the most popular and utilized effect amongst guitar players. Bassists who used a guitar distortion pedal finally got the sound many guitarists were already enjoying, but there was a downside.

You see, when a bass is used in conjunction with a distortion pedal meant for the guitar, the characteristic low tones of the bass get lost. When they finally made distortion/overdrive pedals for bass, there was no more dilemma. Bassists finally got the dirty and edgy sound they wanted, while still sounding like they were playing a bass.

Distortion Bass guitar pedal usage

The first notable use of distortion by a bassist, was probably when Paul McCartney used a fuzzbox (an early guitar distortion pedal) on “Think for Yourself” from the 1965 album Rubber Soul by the Beatles. In the 1970’s, most bass players stopped using distortion.

When rock music got harder and heavier in the 1980’s and later decades and with the development of effects pedals for bass, bass distortion became more popular than ever. It’s worth noting that although bass distortion pedals are used mostly in rock music, they are also used by bassists of all musical styles.

When it comes to bass distortion pedals, you will find that they come in a wide variety. In fact, you’ll see that pedals of this kind don’t only say “distortion” on them. In some cases, they are called “overdrive” or “fuzz” pedals.

Overdrive pedal features

Overdrive and fuzz are both, forms of distortion. What usually makes an overdrive pedal different from a “regular” distortion pedal is that as you increase the volume of an overdrive pedal, the more distorted the sound becomes; whereas in most cases, “distortion” pedals generate the same level of distortion no matter how high or low the volume is.

Overdrive pedals are also known to replicate the distorted sound you get from a tube amplifier. Fuzz pedals give you the most distorted or “dirty” sound. Fuzz pedals for bass are ideal for soloing because they have the ability to give your bass a true distorted, electric lead guitar kind of sound.

The thing that distortion, overdrive, and fuzz effects all have in common is that they all involve “clipping” of the audio signal. Basically, the more “clipped” the electric bass guitar’s signal is the more distorted the sound becomes. Of the three effects, it’s obvious that the fuzz effect “clips” the audio signal the most.

Bands who have used bass distortion in one form or another include Metallica, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, and Muse.

Further reading: bass compressor pedal.