Review: ZT Amps Extortion Pedal —Expressive Distortion

ZT Amps recently came out with the Extortion pedal. Now, before you go thinking Bernie Madoff has his own signature distortion pedal, let me explain. The pedal gets its name from the words "expressive" and "distortion."

So what’s in a name?

Your classic distortion pedal probably has three knobs: Tone, Level and Drive. This pedal does too, but the shortcoming with most other pedals is the Tone knob is just about useless outside the 10-to-2 o’clock range.

The Extortion pedal acts as two pedals in one. On the right side of the pedal is your classic analog circuit distortion pedal with the three knobs mentioned above. The tone knob, however, is built around seven famous EQ settings, which also can be be blended between the preset above or below the preset you're on.

On the left side of the pedal is the Spectral DSP knob, which acts as an accent knob to supercharge certain frequencies in your presets.

This snazzy white box sizes up at 3.75 by 4.75 inches. It can be powered by a 9v, 250mA, negative-tip power supply or any 9v battery. I applaud ZT for giving this pedal a battery compartment as opposed to having to take off the entire back plate. The side jacks are Input, Output and Control. Control allows you to plug in an external expression pedal to adjust the Spectral DSP knob hands-free.

When I first plugged in the Extortion, it sounded like two EQs fighting each other, so I recommend leaving the Spectral DSP off until you get acquainted with the right half of the pedal.

Once you dial in your initial sound, click on the Spectral DSP. You’ll hear it sweep through everything from a murky bass boost, a warm overdrive to a compressed mid-scoop. For the sound clips the first two clips are my Fender Thinline Telecaster with humbuckers straight into the Extortion, then into a Vox AC4.

In clip 1, everything is flat and the Spectral DSP is off. For clip 2, I boosted the drive and level and have the Spectral DSP turned hard left. This gave it a really dirty, funky blues tone. Clip 3 is a Strat with a little delay added. The Spectral DSP is right around 12 o’clock to give it some warmth. I cranked the level and dialed back the drive so the pedal would naturally overdrive my amp, reminiscent of a Tube Screamer vibe.

Below along with the photos of the pedal, I snapped a picture from the user manual to show the presets on the Tone knob.

Street Price: $199.99

You can't believe everything you read on the Internet, but Billy Voight is a gear reviewer, bassist and guitarist from Pennsylvania. He has Hartke bass amps and Walden acoustic guitars to thank for supplying some of the finest gear on his musical journey. Need Billy's help in creating noise for your next project? Drop him a line at

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49