5 Essential Metal Pedals That Aren't Distortion

When it comes to metal tone, distortion reigns. While most metalheads achieve this effect by way of their amplifiers, there’s certainly no shortage of supplementary stompboxes. The seemingly endless offerings in that realm could easily keep you occupied forever, never having to try the same effect twice. But this list isn’t about those pedals.

There are other pedals that can prove essential to many a metal guitarist’s pedal board. Some of these help that distorted tone sound even gnarlier, some make that sound bigger in other ways.

Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor

If there’s one universal characteristic of metal guitarists’ tone, it’s high gain. But the more gain you dial in, the more you’ll have to push your volume. And the more pedals you add to your chain, the more susceptible you are to buzzing, string noise, and other unwanted humming and hissing.

One of the best ways to combat the noise issue is by adding a noise gate to your chain. Noise gates can drastically reduce the amount of extra noise amplified by high-gain settings, keeping your tone clear and tight and allowing you to nail those tight staccato riffs.

The Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor is a solid pedal that does exactly what it’s supposed to do a little bit better than the competition. Dialing in the right Threshold, Decay, and Mode knobs will reduce the noise between notes naturally and cut down string buzz.

The pedal can sit comfortably at the end of your signal chain. You can also try routing a particularly noisy effect through the Send and Return ports to cut down on that pedal’s specific noise.

MXR M–108 10 Band EQ

Put simply, EQ pedals are invaluable for tone shaping regardless of what kind of music you’re playing. With metal, EQ pedals allow you to dial in more gain and to seize more specific control over focusing the sound of your amp. An EQ pedal can also double as a boost, helping certain frequencies cut through the mix during a solo.

The MXR M–108 10 Band EQ is great for the job. The 12 level sliders — 10 for EQ, one for volume, and one for gain – give players a crazy amount of specific control over tone that they wouldn’t with their amp controls.

Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler

Delay is another somewhat musically universal effect. There are a variety of ways to modify the effect and tailor it to what kind of music you’re playing and what sound you’re trying to achieve.

A short delay can make it sound as if your guitar is doubled, great for beefing up your tone. A longer delay, on the other hand, can fill dead space in slower melodies, which is especially useful if you’re the only guitarist playing. Overall, delay will add depth and atmosphere to whatever you’re playing.

The Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler is a great pedal with tons of tweakability. And with three saveable presets, you can change your settings from song to song without having to fiddling with knobs on stage.

Fulltone OCD Overdrive

An overdrive is a great tool for a metal player. Using a straight overdrive stompbox is going to push your amp harder and tighten up all of the distortion you’re inevitably using.

The Fulltone OCD is a worthy, if not particularly popular, choice for metal players. It’s a super dynamic pedal that fills out your tone quite a bit. If you’re looking for a more aggressive push, flip the peak switch to high. Flipping the switch to low will give more of a clean boost.

TC Electronic Mimiq Doubler

A popular trope in metal music is doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled guitar parts. This creates a huge wall of sound that is guaranteed to melt faces whether you’re listening live or to a recording. In the studio, everyone is capable of this effect by multitracking guitar parts and layering them together. But if you’re trying to replicate the effect live with only one guitarist, the process isn’t so simple.

TC Electronic’s Mimiq Doubler packs the wall of sound concept into a single stompbox, effectively solving the single guitarist problem. With the Mimiq Doubler you can choose whether you want to add one, two, or three identical guitar layers to your sound. You can dial in the wet and dry knobs to your liking, resulting in a huge and previously unattainable thick tone.

Learn more about effects pedals on our Effects Pedals: What Do They Do? | The Basics homepage.

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