Adding a distortion pedal to your bass rig can transform live performances. The sheer power that they provide is great for heavier sections or playing bass solos.
There are many options out there when it comes to distortion and overdrive pedals for bass, all with differing capabilities. The bass distortion pedals mentioned below are, in my opinion, some of the best additions you could make to your pedal board.
The 9 Best Bass Distortion Pedals for the Money
Table of Contents
- The 9 Best Bass Distortion Pedals for the Money
- The Functions of a Bass Distortion Pedal
The Alpha Omega is the result of collaboration between Darkglass and legendary bassist Jon Stockman. What makes this pedal unique is that it’s fully operational and amplifier based, with two distortion circuits which can either be blended or individually selected.
The three-band EQ allows you to sculpt the pedal’s tone accurately. The tones produced by the Alpha Omega vary from red-hot overdriven fuzz to subtle excitement.
The blend knob can be used to mix the clean and processed signals. The bite switch instantly boosts the high-mids for added definition, while the growl switch acts as a shelving bass boost for increased low end saturation and a thicker tone.
Overall, the Alpha Omega is a bass distortion pedal of the highest quality which allows you to control every detail of the sound it produces, without overcomplicating the design or usability.
The Bass Soul Food by Electro Harmonix is an affordable, good quality pedal which features a no-nonsense design.
The intention of this pedal is not to obliterate the signal and create insanely heavy distortion. Instead, it works by adding natural overdrive to your bass sound and boosts the clean signal in order to make the bass stand out.
This pedal is great for thickening up certain sections of songs, perhaps when accompanying a guitar solo and needing to fill out the mix.
It isn’t going to shake the stage, but it does pack enough of a punch to notably lift the dynamics and energy of your bass sound. The drive, blend and treble controls enable you to adjust the characteristics until you find the perfect amount of overdrive.
The Pro Co Fat Rat is a new version of the legendary Rat pedal, and allows you to choose between the original clipping circuit and a new MOSFET version which smoothens out the upper-mids.
The bass enhancement control instantly increases the low end response and allows you to cut through the mix clearly.
Compared to other bass distortion pedals, the Fat Rat is very stripped back and simplistic in design. It features only three controls – distortion, filter and volume.
The combination you can create using the distortion and filter knobs varies widely though, so the limited amount of controls doesn’t affect the pedal’s versatility.
Another addition to this list by Electro-Harmonix is their Bass Big Muff pedal, which is capable of producing thick fuzz tones.
The pedal has a dual output which you can use to send the dry and wet signals to separate amplifiers, a useful technique for thickening out the rhythm section without losing the clean bass tone.
The Bass Big Muff has a tone, volume and sustain knob. There is also a bass boost/dry switch which instantly changes the focus of the pedal.
With the tone and sustain cranked, you get a roaring fuzz which makes the bass the centre of attention. With less of these two settings the pedal produces a warm saturation which adds color to the dry signal.
The Pork and Pickle by Way Huge is a fusion of the Pork Loin overdrive and the Russion-Pickle fuzz, creating a compact pedal which produces some brilliant distortion and overdrive tones.
A great feature of this pedal is the switchable overall sound, from the warmer Pork Loin to the thicker Russian-Pickle. You can then sculpt these presets using the tone, drive and volume controls.
Built into the pedal is a useful clean channel which is based on a British style preamp, and can be used simultaneously with the other individual modes.
The amount of sound customization options is one of the Pork and Pickle’s best qualities. You can tweak the tone by using the curve and presence controls, and by experimenting with the amount of fuzz or overdrive you add into the mix.
The large range of tones this pedal can produce coupled with the interactive sound-building aspects make it a great addition to a bassist’s pedalboard.
Walrus Audio has created a monster with the Iron Horse bass distortion pedal. The natural effect produced by the Iron Horse is a thick, substantial distortion.
If you crank up the gain, it produces a huge-sounding aggressive fuzz tone. With less gain, it provides a warm overdrive which is less in your face.
There are three modes of distortion built into this pedal; one provides a touch of compression, one provides a lot of compression and the neutral setting leaves the signal open without being compressed.
For heavy riffs, the compression settings are extremely useful as they allow you to play with as much vigor as you like without worrying about the dynamics being all over the place.
To summarize, the Iron horse is a simplistically designed bass distortion pedal which is capable of producing crazy amounts of distortion.
The Aftershock pedal by Source Audio is based around three bass overdrive engines which produce sounds ranging from crunchy low-end, naturally smooth overdrive to obliterated fuzz.
The built-in tube engine gives the pedal an overall vintage feel. The fuzz engine produces intense fuzzy tones which are sure to capture the attention of an audience.
The Aftershock is smartly designed, with four large knobs allowing you to control the drive, level, clean and tone outputs. The three overdrive settings are operated by a tri-switch so you can further manipulate the sound by using different combinations of these controls and levels.
This pedal also has dual output so you can split the signal without having to compromise the clean foundations of your bass tone.
8. Boss ODB-3
Boss have been manufacturing affordable, quality effects pedals for decades, so it’s no surprise that their bass overdrive ODB-3 makes it onto this list.
Featuring the classic, minimalist Boss design, the pedal has four controls which allow you to edit the overall level, EQ, dry/wet balance and the amount of gain.
The two-band EQ is particularly useful as it allows you to roll off the highs if you find the tone has become too piercing, which is a common problem with bass distortion in general.
The pedal runs off an AC adaptor but can also be powered by batteries. Overall, it’s a reliable, affordable option which gives you a broad range of overdrive and distorted tones.
9. MXR M85
The final addition to our list is the MXR M85. This pedal was created as an attempt by MXR to make a more extreme sound than they had previously produced. In order to do so, they collaborated with Fuzzrocious Pedals founder Ryan Ratajski, and out of this the M85 was born.
If the intention was to create an extreme bass distortion pedal, they have achieved their goal. The level of intensity that the M85 produces is very impressive.
The pedal has two modes which are selected by pushing an illuminated button. The silicon-diode mode is quite compressed and sharp sounding, whereas the LED mode produces a thick, wider tone with more volume.
One thing that stands out about the M85 is the clarity it retains even when you push it to the limits of fuzz. There is very little unwanted noise even when the gain is cranked all the way up. If you prefer to use overdrive conservatively, this pedal has the capabilities to slightly warm up the signal without being overly dramatic.
The Functions of a Bass Distortion Pedal
The terms overdrive, distortion and fuzz are regularly used by bassists and guitarists when discussing effects. These are three effects which regularly get grouped together and sometimes mistaken to mean the same thing.
However, it’s important to know the differences between them in order to known which pedals or plugins you need to employ in order to produce the desired effect.
All three of these effects are similar in that they are taking the original signal, causing the sound to become more saturated.
However, they all use different methods to produce the desired results. Here is a simple guide that will hopefully clear up some of the confusion surrounding overdrive, distortion and fuzz.
Overdrive is the process of pushing the original tone harder, literally driving over the limits by boosting the gain of the signal.
This creates a warm, sensitive dynamic which reacts to the velocity of your playing and responds by becoming more distorted the harder you play.
Distortion is different to overdrive because the crunch which it adds to the signal is consistent in volume and level.
A distortion pedal completely changes the sound by saturating the original signal. This results in the same amount of distortion regardless of how hard you are playing.
Fuzz is the most aggressive type of distortion. It’s heavily compressed and therefore produces a flat sound.
The harsh tone is achieved by dramatically saturating the signal, causing it to clip. Fuzz actually changes to waveform of the bass into a square wave, creating a unique, heavy sound.
Sometimes Wrong Can Be Right
In my personal experience with bass effects pedals, I have commonly found sounds which I like by doing things the “wrong” way. For example, setting up your chain of pedals in a random order can produce some really interesting results.
It really comes down to experimenting with different combinations, and being open to the sounds which are produced.
Don’t be afraid to put distortion pedals at the start of your chain, combining them with octave or reverb pedals, or finding other unique ways of creating sounds. This process of experimenting can produce some wonderful results and is very helpful for understanding the functions of effects and what they are capable of.