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Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal Review

Table of Contents

As we plugged into the Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal, we knew this was not just another distortion box. We’ve been jamming with it and exploring the vast landscape of tones it offers, and we’ve gotta say, it’s quite the game-changer for metal guitarists looking for that perfect blend of grit and clarity.

What sets this pedal apart is the dual gain engines with independent tone controls, allowing you to dial in two distinct sounds and blend them to create your ideal distortion.

We found the bass boost switch to be a godsend, adding the right amount of fatness to our tone without muddying it.

Whether you’re trying to cut through a mix or just shake the walls a bit, this pedal has the flexibility to toggle between a light overdrive and a serious growl.

Of course, no pedal is perfect.

The Pugilist can get a bit noisy with both gains cranked up, and for those looking for extreme metal distortion, it might feel like it falls just a bit short.

Also, a few users have run into some technical hiccups, but these seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

Overall, it shines with its robust design, LED backlit knobs that are super handy on dark stages, and a magnetically latched battery door that feels like a touch of luxury.

Quick summary

For metal guitarists who enjoy tinkering with their sound, the Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal packs a punch that’s worth a listen. It’s versatile, well-built, and could very well become a staple on your pedalboard.

Considering its affordability and the rich distortion it brings to the table, we think it’s a solid choice. View it on Amazon, and give your tone that heavyweight edge it’s been missing.

Getting to Know the Fender Pugilist

It’s like Fender threw a curveball with their Pugilist.

We’re treated to a distortion pedal that’s not just about cranking gain to the max but finding that sweet spot for our metal riffs.

This little golden box comes with dual gain engines, and we have to say, the flexibility’s pretty remarkable.

Basically, you’re in control, shaping your desired level of distortion with ease. It’s about layering, thickening up the sound if we want with the series/blend switch, or maybe giving it a bit of a fat low-end punch with that bass boost feature.

The LED backlit knobs aren’t just for show either. They’ve come in handy during dim-lit gigs, letting us adjust on the fly without having to fumble around. And the magnetic battery door is a nice touch—no more screwdriver fuss during quick changes.

But it’s not all peaches and cream. We’ve noticed that cranking both gain engines can invite some feedback, which is a bit of a bummer mid-solo.

And the pedal doesn’t exactly venture into the molten metal territory—it’s more hard rock ready. Although, that might be just the thing if you’re looking to dial in more clarity rather than all-out brute force.

Dual Gain Engines

After jamming with the Fender Pugilist, we’ve really come to appreciate the versatility this little gold box offers to metal guitarists. Its dual gain engines are the stars here.

Essentially, you’ve got two separate distortion circuits that you can blend to your liking, which brings a ton of depth and range to your sound.

We’ve found that by tweaking the blend knob, you can dial in just the right amount of crunch and sustain without sacrificing clarity.

Honestly, it feels like having two pedals in one. The first engine gives you a more vintage, warm kind of distortion, while the second engine adds a punchier, more aggressive edge. Together, they allow you to sculpt a complex, layered distortion that can easily cut through the mix.

Sure, no pedal is perfect, and if you’re not careful, things can get a bit muddy when both engines are maxed out. But with a little finesse, our riffs have never sounded fuller.

Discrete Tone Controls

This pedal is fantastic for tone-shaping. If you’re a guitarist that loves to tinker, you’ll love this.

Instead of a one-knob-fits-all approach, which can be too limiting, the Pugilist offers separate controls for each of its two gain stages. This means you’re able to dial in a tight, punchy rhythm tone on one stage and then layer in a searing lead tone with different characteristics.

One thing we’ve found is that the pedal offers a nuanced level of control, making it much easier for us to get that aggression and clarity needed for metal riffs without drowning in a sea of mud.

We’ve been able to balance the warmth and bite which is essential when dealing with humbucker pickups. However, if you’re heading into a long jam session, keep in mind that it’s powered by a 9V battery, so have a spare or opt for an adapter.

While the Pugilist has its perks, especially when it comes to its sound sculpting capability, it does take some experimenting to find your sweet spot. But isn’t that part of the fun?

Series or Blend – Customizing Your Sound

We often look for that perfect heavy growl in a distortion pedal that can really make our riffs stand out, and the Fender Pugilist has proved to be a great companion in that quest.

This pedal’s dual gain engines are truly what set it apart for us shredders looking to craft our own signature metal sound. The ability to blend two distinct channels offers a level of control we don’t always see, allowing us to dial in just the right amount of punch and clarity.

One aspect that’s particularly cool is how each channel has its own discrete tone controls. You can punch up the lows on one side to beef up your rhythm parts and crank the highs on the other for slicing solos—perfect for creating a balanced mix.

The LED-backlit knobs aren’t just for show; they’re super handy on a dark stage, making it a breeze to adjust settings mid-gig.

We do have to admit, however, that while the amp Jewel LED looks slick, it doesn’t add much functionally. The magnetically latched battery door is a small, but appreciated feature. It’s just such a hassle-free solution to swapping out batteries, and we’re all for anything that makes setup easier.

Remember, though, the Pugilist is all analog, so the warmth it adds is unmistakable. It’s been a fantastic addition to our pedal lineup, offering us that rich, versatile distortion we metal guitarists crave.

The gold finish is just icing on the cake, making it stand out on our pedalboards both visually and sonically.

Building Durability – Pugilist’s Solid Design

We’ve found that the Pugilist Distortion Pedal really holds up to the rigors of the road. Walking in the shoes of a metal guitarist, gear durability is non-negotiable.

This stompbox feels like it can withstand the test of time and a fair share of abuse—whether it’s getting stomped on a bit too fiercely during a heated solo or being tossed into a gig bag for the next show.

The gold finish gives it a sleek look and seems to resist the usual fingerprints and scuffs better than most. Without getting bogged down in specs, it’s the practicality that impresses us. It’s got a decent weight to it, not so heavy that it’s a burden, but enough to feel substantial underfoot.

After some real-world usage, none of the knobs have come loose, and the battery compartment is still snug—no rattles or unexpected power losses mid-shred.

While we didn’t deliberately try to destroy it, the Pugilist has inadvertently taken a knock or two and shrugged it off without fuss. It’s a solid piece of kit that’ll go the distance, especially for those of us dealing with the high-octane environment of metal music.

Convenience Features

We found the Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal to be a streamlined workhorse for us metal guitarists who need a reliable and versatile effect pedal.

Having dual gain engines offers us the flexibility to blend two distortion voices together, which means we can craft a sound that’s thick and layered or go for a more razor-sharp bite, depending on our mood and the track.

The discrete tone controls for each channel are a blessing—they allow us to fine-tune our sound with precision, so whether we’re playing rhythm or taking lead, we dial into the sweet spot with ease. Plus, the LED backlit knobs are really handy when we’re setting up in a dimly lit venue; no more fiddling in the dark to adjust settings between songs.

Pros and Cons


After a jam session, we’ve noticed it’s a powerhouse with its dual gain engines that really let you dial in a wide range of distortions. Here’s the breakdown of what we loved:

  • Tone shaping: With separate tone controls for each channel, it’s like having two pedals in one, letting us blend a lower gain with a juicier high gain for complexity in our metal riffs.
  • Visibility on stage: The LED-backlit knobs were super handy during a dimly lit gig. And that classic Fender amp jewel LED? It doesn’t just look cool — it’s functional, too.
  • Build Quality: The robust construction means it’s going to survive being stomped on night after night, and the magnetically latched 9V battery door is genius – no more fumbling for a screwdriver during a string change.
  • Versatile sound: Whether it’s for adding a touch of grit or cranking it up for a full distorted wall of sound, the Pugilist covers a broad spectrum. It’s not just about heavy distortion; it nicely complements our metal tones with warmer undertones when needed.


No pedal is perfect, and during our heavy shredding, a few things stood out:

  • Potential for feedback: When both gains are cranked, feedback can creep in. It takes a bit of tweaking to find the sweet spot where our solos sing without the squeal.
  • Not for extreme metal: If you’re looking for a pedal to deliver that brutal, palm-muted chug, this might not be the beast you need. It’s got gain, but not the kind that breathes fire for extreme metal genres.
  • Input jack issue: One of us did have a mishap with the input jack during a show. It’s on our radar as something to keep an eye on, especially when reliability is non-negotiable on stage.

Customer Reviews

We’ve been having a jam session with the Fender Pugilist and, guys, it’s a mixed bag but mostly on the awesome side. Many shredders like us gave it props for its dual-engine distortion, which seriously ramps up the versatility—pretty much a must-have when you’re looking for that perfect balance of dirty and clean tones.

No kidding, this bad boy boasts a sturdy build, and the glow-up on the knobs? Handy for those dimly lit garage gigs or when you’re too into the groove to spot your settings. But hey, not everyone’s throwing up the horns. A few folks felt the distortion was a bit mild for their taste, more of a gentle nudge than a full-on roar you’d want for metal.

Stick with us here; while it rocks a range of growls from crispy crunch to heavy distortion, don’t expect death metal levels of chug. One downer though—one of our own had the input conk out mid-set. Total bummer. But aside from that hiccup, it’s been punching well above its weight, especially considering the sweet price point. We’re talking serious gnarl for your buck!

Frequently Asked Questions

When we got our hands on the Pugilist, we couldn’t wait to see how it measured up and spent hours experimenting with it. Let’s dive into some of the burning questions we had, and you might have too.

How does the Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal stack up against other popular distortion pedals?

We’ve had experience with a wide range of distortion pedals, and we can tell you that the Pugilist really holds its own. It’s not your average pedal due to its dual-engine setup, which offers a rich, layered distortion that many others lack. When compared to other pedals, this gives you more control to shape your sound, whether needing a subtle boost or a full-throttle roar.

What are the unique features of the Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal?

The coolest thing about this pedal is the dual gain engines. This unique feature allows for blending two distinct distortion tones, each with its tone controls. Other unique qualities we appreciated are the LED backlit knobs which are super handy on dimly lit stages, and the Fender amp jewel LED, adding a touch of classic aesthetic. Also, the battery door with its magnetic latch is pretty clever – no more screwdriver fuss during quick changes.

Can the Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal achieve both vintage and modern distortion tones?

Absolutely, it’s a beast for versatility. The lower gain channel provides a wonderful warm overdrive that can give you those vintage vibes. Crank up the second channel, and you’ve got yourself a more aggressive, modern distortion. It’s all about how you set the blend and bass boost. In our jam session, we easily crafted everything from a classic rock crunch to a contemporary high-gain sound.

How versatile is the Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal in terms of genre?

Our time with the pedal showed us it’s quite the chameleon. Aside from metal, where it provides a hearty punch and can get pretty mean, it’s responsive and crisp for blues and rock. This isn’t the choice for those seeking extreme metal tones, but for just about anything else, it’s got you covered. The blend control is fantastic for dialing in the perfect amount of dirt, no matter what genre we were going for.

From our experience, this pedal fits well into a diverse array of pedalboards. If you’re after a pedal that can give you a lot of options without swallowing your guitar’s natural tone, the Pugilist might just be a knockout for your setup.



Hi I'm Tom. I've been playing guitar since I left university nearly 10 years ago now. As a self-taught guitarist, I used the internet for research on pedals, guitars and everything to do with guitar - here I noticed that there was a real gap in information for metal guitarists. I hope to change that!