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Best distortion pedals for bass 2022: thicken up your low end with these aggressive bass stompboxes

Darkglass Aggressively Distorting Advanced Machine on a pink background
(Image credit: Future)

If you’re looking to thicken up your low end, add some serious grit or just add a different flavor to your sound, then you might want to consider one of the best bass distortion pedals.

While an overdrive pedal will push your signal into – well, overdrive – they tend not to alter your tone too much. A bass distortion pedal will add more saturation and character to your sound. Some of the best bass distortion pedals can help thicken up your tone, tighten up the EQ, or cut through a mix. There does tend to be some crossover with bass overdrive pedals, but any of those mentioned here will have plenty of gain on tap.

Distortion on bass can be heard back in the ’60s – Paul McCartney was known to drive his amps or stick a pedal in his rig to create big, dirty, fuzzy bass tones. It’s been a great way of adding a little extra spice to the low end for more than 50 years. Nowadays, you can hear bass distortion in all sorts of music, from pop to metal. 

Whether you’re kicking it in for a big chorus or solo section, or you’re looking for something to always have on, going for one of the best distortion pedals for bass could help add another dimension to your playing. There are plenty to choose from at the moment, and there’s something for everyone, regardless of the feature set you’re looking for and budget you’re trying to stick to. Read on to discover what we found to be the best distortion pedals for bass on offer right now.

Best distortion pedals for bass: Guitar World Recommends

The best distortion pedal for bass is hard to pin down; different players will likely need different things from it. That said, it’s hard not to mention the Darkglass ADAM (opens in new tab) – the tones you can get from it are incredible, the six-band EQ is really useful for tone tweaking and there are a bunch of other incredibly useful features on board. However, it’s expensive!

We also love the Fender Trapper Bass Distortion (opens in new tab) with its two individual and stackable channels; it offers a range of amazing distorted sounds and great value for money. The MXR M85 is also a really good choice for bassists wanting to cover a lot of ground. 

Best distortion pedals for bass: Product guide

Best distortion pedals for bass: Darkglass ADAM

(Image credit: Darkglass)

1. Darkglass Aggressively Distorting Advanced Machine (ADAM)

Some seriously great distorted tones, alongside compression, EQ and even a tuner

Specifications

Controls: Compression, Drive, Character, Blend, Level, 6-Band EQ, Headphone Volume
Power Requirements: 9v (500mA)

Reasons to buy

+
Great distortion
+
Multi-functional
+
EQ is very useful
+
On-board presets
+
Cab sim on the XLR out

Reasons to avoid

-
Too much for beginner players 

If you’re looking for a serious piece of equipment to help you get some super aggressive and distorted bass tones, then you should consider the Darkglass ADAM – just be prepared to part with a good chunk of cash!

Designed with a similar approach to Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood’s studio, the ADAM treats different frequency bands of your EQ in different ways. The result is a clear low end that avoids sounding flabby, even with 5 and 6-string basses, and a super distorted mid and top end. As well as having the ability to add in a lot of gnarly distortion to your signal, you’ve got a compression control on there, a six-band EQ, tuner and cabinet simulation. You can even use it as an interface for recording directly into your DAW. 

Whether you’re dialing in a little or a lot, it’s a great bass distortion pedal for a range of purposes; from rock to modern metal, djent and beyond.

Read the full review of the Darkglass ADAM

Best distortion pedals for bass: Fender Trapper

(Image credit: Fender)

2. Fender Trapper Bass Distortion

Two stackable or separate distortion channels for all the low end grit you could ask for

Specifications

Controls: Level 1, Tone 1, Gain 1, Level 2, Tone 2 , Gain 2, Frequency 2, Sub Level 2
Power Requirements: 9v (140mA)

Reasons to buy

+
Two stackable channels
+
Plenty of tonal options
+
Blend in clean low end
+
Great bang for buck 

Reasons to avoid

-
Hard to read the labels

Offering two separate and stackable distortion channels, the Fender Trapper can help add some serious grit to your bass tone, whilst giving you plenty of control over your fundamental sound and all-important EQ. 

There are level, tone and gain knobs for each channel which allow you to dial in your distortion and levels easily. Having the ability to use them individually for different sections of a song, or stack them, allows you to get super creative too. On channel 2, you can blend in the low end of your clean signal ensuring that the definition doesn’t get lost. You’ve also got another knob that sets the low pass frequency giving you loads of control over how much low-mid punch you hear come through. It’s a design that’s been well thought out and will be genuinely useful to bass players. 

Like the other pedals in this range, you’ve got the option of lighting up the markings on the controls – it might not seem like a big deal, but it’s really handy to be able to see where everything’s set on a dark stage. The only real downside is that when playing standing up, reading the actual parameter labels underneath the knobs can be a little difficult.

Read the full review of the Fender Trapper Bass Distortion

Best distortion pedals for bass: MXR M85

(Image credit: MXR)

3. MXR M85 Bass Distortion

A bass-centric take on the classic ratty distortion

Specifications

Controls: Dry, Wet, Tone, Distortion, 2-Mode Distortion Button
Power Requirements: 9v (11mA)

Reasons to buy

+
Two distortion modes
+
Dry and Wet controls retain low end
+
Classic sounding distortion

Reasons to avoid

-
Not much

Made in collaboration with Fuzzrocious Pedals, the MXR Bass Distortion is essentially a reworked Rat and can help add a little bit of tube-style overdrive to your sound, or provide you with a big, chunky and aggressive bass tone. 

There are two flavors of distortion to choose from on this pedal; you’ve got silicon clipping diodes that can sound really aggressive with some nice compression, or you can select LED mode which is a little more open and dynamic. There are wet and dry controls that allow you to blend in your distorted sound with your clean signal – this gives you plenty of control over your tone, and also keeps the bottom end nice and tight. We really like that the tone knob only affects the distorted sound, and not your clean sound too.

Easy to use and plenty versatile – definitely one of the best distortion pedals for bass out there.

Best distortion pedals for bass: EBS Black Haze

(Image credit: EBS)

4. EBS Black Haze

Affordable, flexible and sounds great!

Specifications

Controls: Drive, Tone, Volume, 3-Mode Distortion Button
Power Requirements: 9-12v

Reasons to buy

+
Simple and easy to use
+
Three unique modes
+
Does everything from overdrive to fuzz

Reasons to avoid

-
No blend control

This is an incredible bass distortion pedal that dances real close to being a fuzz pedal at times. You can get some really aggressive clipping with this pedal, as well as plenty of sustain and some nice harmonics. It’s easy to use and it’s versatile – what’s not to love?

You’ve got three different modes to choose from, Thin, Normal and Deep, each with their own tonal characteristics that can help you sit in or stand out from a mix, depending on what you want. With dual drive engines, you can go from lightly overdriven to fuzzy and saturated with ease, allowing you to cover a range of tones and musical genres. 

Not only does it sound great, but it’s built well and is relatively compact. The price is also a great selling point, proving that you don’t have to spend loads to get one of the best distortion pedals for bass.  

Best distortion pedals for bass: Aguilar Agro

(Image credit: Aguilar)

5. Aguilar Agro

Simple and effective distortion from one of the biggest players in the bass world

Specifications

Controls: Level, Saturation, Presence, Contour
Power Requirements: 9v

Reasons to buy

+
Great distorted tones
+
Based on a very good bass amp
+
Super easy to use

Reasons to avoid

-
More control over clean blend would be nice

This is based on the dirty channel of Aguilar’s much loved AG500 bass head, and offers bassists a wide range of distorted bass tones; from mild overdrive to full-blown, dirty rock and metal sounds. It’s also incredibly easy to use, with a simple four knob layout, and it’s built to a great standard.

The actual sound of the distortion is really nice, and works for a massive variety of stuff. The range is great too, with every tiny turn of the drive knob adding something more each time. The contour control is perfect for manipulating the mid-range to help you sit where you want to in the mix, and the presence knob lets you control the amount of attack. What you hear is a nicely distorted bass tone, with lots of clarity left intact.

Aguilar bass amps sound great, and being able to harness the saturation you get with one in the form of a compact pedal really does make the Agro one of the best distortion pedals for bass.

Best distortion pedals for bass: Electro-Harmonix Bass Big Muff

(Image credit: Electro-Harmonix)

6. Electro-Harmonix Bass Big Muff

The classic fuzzy distortion reworked specifically for bass

Specifications

Controls: Volume, Tone, Sustain, Dry/Normal/Bass Boost Switch
Power Requirements: 9v

Reasons to buy

+
Legendary distorted sound
+
Bass boost to keep low end intact
+
Good range of distortion

Reasons to avoid

-
Too fuzzy for some 

The Big Muff is one of the most well known distortion pedals of all time. Whilst it is usually lumped in with fuzz pedals, it’s hard to talk about the best distortion pedals for bass without mentioning it, as it does such a good job of lathering on thick, rich saturation to your bass tone. 

This being designed specifically for bass, the low end is kept intact. There are three modes to choose from: normal gives you the sound of the pedal, bass boost does exactly what you think it might do, it boosts the low frequencies; and dry blends in some of your clean signal with the distorted tone for extra clarity. Of course you can get some amazing fuzzy tones from this pedal, but you can also dial in more subtle overdrive, and everything else in between. 

It’s a classic pedal, and it’s really well priced, so if you’re looking for one of the best bass distortion pedals under $100, then this could well be it. 

Best distortion pedals for bass: Source Audio After Shock

(Image credit: Source Audio)

7. Source Audio SA246 After Shock

Tube like grit, Germanium fuzz and crushing distortion, all in one place

Specifications

Controls: Drive, Level, Clean, Tone, 3-Mode Distortion Switch
Power Requirements: 9v (150 mA)

Reasons to buy

+
Really versatile
+
Amazing range of tones
+
Blend in clean signal

Reasons to avoid

-
Nothing

A super versatile and great sounding bass distortion pedal; it’s hard to get a bad sound out of this. No matter what kind of distortion you’re looking to get, chances are, you can probably dial it in on the After Shock.

There are three different overdrive engines built into this compact bass distortion pedal giving you three different styles of dirt and grit. Tube offers a classic sounding valve-amp style overdrive – this is a great ‘always-on’ sound to help give you a bit more punch. You’ve then got Heavy, which, as the name suggests, gives you some amazing heavy bass tones, with a slightly scooped mid-range. Lastly, there’s Fuzz which gives you some old-school Germanium fuzz tones without sacrificing any of your bottom end. It’s really easy to dial in, and the Clean knob lets you blend in your dry, unaffected signal to ensure your bass tone remains clear and defined. 

Best distortion pedals for bass: Laney Blackheath

(Image credit: Laney)

8. Laney Black Country Customs Blackheath Bass Distortion

Three different flavors of bass distortion direct from the birthplace of heavy metal

Specifications

Controls: Gain, Volume, Range, Color, 3-Mode Distortion Switch
Power Requirements: 9v

Reasons to buy

+
Three different styles of distortion
+
Great EQ control
+
Versatile

Reasons to avoid

-
No clean blend

This is a super versatile bass distortion pedal made by amp legends Laney. It covers both old-school and modern tones and gives you an overdrive mode, alongside two different flavors of distortion.

Whether you want a subtle little boost to your signal that adds a touch of grit, or you want full-blown distortion, the Laney Blackheath can do it all. Having the three distortion modes is really useful – you can either find the sound that’s right for you, dial it in and leave it; or, if you’re switching between different basses or styles of music within a set, you can switch modes to suit what you need. It’s also a great recording tool, having so many different tones on offer.

The color and range knobs are great for dialing in your EQ – particularly handy for bass, where you want to make sure that you don’t lose all the power of the bottom end. 

Best distortion pedals for bass: Buying advice

Close up of EHX Big Muff Bass pedal on green background

(Image credit: Future)

Some of the best distortion pedals for bass have a lot of tweakable parameters, some have just a few. If it’s got a load of knobs and switches on the front of it, then you’re going to be able to dial in your tone and distortion really precisely – so if you’re very particular about your sound, then this is something to keep an eye out for. Other players prefer a simple interface with just a few knobs – whilst you won’t have as much control over your tone, you might find it easier to just dial it in and play. 

EQ is important with bass distortion. As a bass player, you’ve got a crucial space to fill in the mix and the wrong distortion pedal might sit you where you don’t want to be; too much mid and top end could mean you start battling with the guitar’s frequency range and you get lost in the mix. Features like a bass boost or even just an overall EQ control can help with this. The best distortion pedals for bass should also be designed with this in mind. 

The actual sound of the pedal is of paramount importance. Do you want a pedal that tightens up your EQ? Are you looking for something with a really thick low end? Something that adds compression as well as distortion? These are all things to consider. How much saturation it can lather onto your sound is a consideration too; if you’re playing really heavy music then you’re probably going to want plenty of distortion on hand. 

Whilst we’ve tried to concentrate mostly on distortion pedals here, there is some crossover with overdrive and fuzz. A distortion pedal dialed in lightly won’t sound too dissimilar to overdrive, though you’ll likely get a few more tonal characteristics coming from the pedal with the former. Fuzz pedals tend to clip your signal harder than overdrive or distortion, though again many of the best distortion pedals for bass can be pushed into fuzz territory, or they might even have a separate fuzz setting. 

Think about how you will be using it too. Are you planning on just setting it and leaving it, or are you likely to alter the settings to cater for different musical scenarios? Some of the best distortion pedals for bass have different styles of gain that lend themselves nicely to different uses, making them really versatile – though of course, this won’t be necessary for everyone.

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After spending a decade in music retail, I’m now a freelance writer for Guitar World, MusicRadar, Guitar Player and Reverb, specialising in electric and acoustic guitars bass, and almost anything else you can make a tune with. When my head’s not buried in the best of modern and vintage gear, I run a small company helping musicians with songwriting, production and performance, and I play bass in an alt-rock band.