2018 has been an important year for guitar technology and we understand that it can be difficult to wade through the endless supply of information that the internet provides us with. Which is why we have decided to save you the hassle and compile a list of our favorite gain pedals to be released in 2018. Some of these are overdrive units, others are distortion units, and some of them kind of do both. This list is less about drawing lines in the sand and more about presenting you with what we consider to be the cream of the crop with regard to the newest and brightest generation of analog gain pedals.
This high gain option from Canadian company Revv Amplification is designed to function more like an additional amp channel than a traditional distortion pedal. With three channel settings to choose from, and a multi band EQ, the Revv G3 provides a plethora of medium and high gain options. Works great with both low gain and high gain rigs. Tight bottom end, dynamic mids, and crisp highs.
This offering from Abasi Guitars, designed by Tosin Abasi and Brian Wampler, is another pedal designed to serve as an additional amp channel. The Pathos is particularly well suited to high gain lead tones, thanks in part to the Smooth/Edge switch. Go from full djent to full shred at the flick of a switch. Pairs very nicely with high gain and low gain rigs.
Sugar Drive Mini
Earlier this year, MXR unveiled this compact version of the Sugar Drive, their take on the Klon circuit. Given its price and its mass produced nature, this pedal performs surprisingly well. In addition to the three knobs typically found on Klon-circuit pedals, the Sugar Drive Mini has the option to engage true-bypass switching at the flick of a switch. It’s a nice feature not typically found on pedals at this price point and really sweetens the deal.
Nine tubescreamer models crammed into one pedal. Need we say more? It’s a remarkable feat of engineering, and perfect for anyone who can’t seem to decide if they prefer the sound of a TS-9, or an 808…or an OD-1, or six of the other most common and sought out overdrive options. Finally back in stock, get one while you can.
Bogner Ecstasy Red Mini
A medium to high gain pedal based on the full sized Bogner Ecstasy Red. Its thick, juicy, kinda sounds like a Plexi, and has that slight vintage sag that tightens up with a little bit of knob tweaking. If you like classic crunch and hot rodded vintage lead tones, the Bogner Ecstasy Red Mini is definitely worth checking out.
Wampler has done it again. He has captured another legendary sound and crammed it into a little box that you can step on. The Pantheon is based on the Marshall Bluesbreaker circuit and delivers all of those classic tones that come to mind when you hear that name. From subtle breakup crunch to smooth leads, this pedal’s got you covered. The 3-way gain switch and 3-way voicing switch allow you to dial in your tone with the level of precision that you have come to expect from this boutique pedal designer.
Friedman Golden Pearl
Fresh out the oven, just in time for the holiday season, the Friedman Golden Pearl is designed to be more of a lower gain boost pedal that will either push your clean amp into breakup territory, or shift your dirty amp into full saturation. Think of this as Friedman’s take on the Klon circuit, but with the added shine of the Friedman touch. A 3-way high cut switch, and a 3-way voice switch which allows you to choose between diode, LED, or no clipping modes, give this pedal some of that extra Friedman mojo that we’re into.
Fender Full Moon
This year was an important one for Fender. They revamped their pedal offerings and showed us that they can hang with the boutique boxes. The Full Moon Distortion is kind of a Swiss army knife of a pedal. With two channels and a smattering of knobs and switches, you can switch between symmetrical and asymmetrical clipping, change the frequency response of the upper mids (djent, anyone???), dial in just the right EQ setting for your rig, and even add 12dB of post-gain boost to your signal for those epic solos you’ve got up your sleeve just waiting to be unleashed. If you are intrigued by a handful of the features found in the other pedals on this list, but don’t want to commit to buying a ton of new pedals, this one is probably a good place to start.
Darkglass X7 Multiband Distortion (Bass)
This one is designed specifically for bass (though you could use it with anything). With guitar pedal technology advancing at an amazing rate, we are glad to see that the options for bass players are increasing as well. The bass is a fundamentally different instrument than the guitar, covering a different range of the audible spectrum, and so bass players need gear specifically designed to address those differences. The Darkglass X7 Multiband Distortion nails this by offering detailed filtering, compression, and gain options, that have been voiced specifically for the bass. If you are a bass player, or you know someone who is a bass player, this new bit of gear is certainly worth checking out.
Boss Metal Zone (Wampler mod)
The most hated pedal in all of the guitar playing community. Fixed. By Brian Wampler. Now you can have a whole pedal board filled with Metal Zones and impress your friends. Seriously though, if you have some downtime during the holidays and also happen to have an old Metal Zone lying around, consider trying one of these mods. Modding can be fun and educational, plus the look on all of your friends’ faces when you stomp on your old MT-2 only to reveal the most lush of boutique tones will be priceless…