Donner Dark Horizon Crunch Distortion Pedal Review [2023]

Budget guitar gear brand, Donner, has been gaining popularity quickly with their range of high quality, yet inexpensive pedals and FX units.

One of their latest offerings is the Donner Dark Horizon, a crunch distortion pedal from their new “Vivid Series” of effects units.

We’ve had some good experiences with budget pedals to date, so expectations were high for the Dark Horizon – will it make the grade? Keep reading to see what we found out.

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Check out our ultimate guide to guitar pedals to find more jumping off points.

Who Is this for?

The Donner Dark Horizon is aimed at guitarists with all levels of experience. It’s simple to use, and adds enough gain to get the metal tones people look for in distortion pedals. As with the last Donner pedal we reviewed, it has a solid metal construction, a nice outer design, and the switchgear is sturdy enough to handle any live performance.

Appearance / Features / Controls

Donner Dark Horizon Distortion Pedal Demo (No Talking)

The outer shell of the Dark Horizon is a silver metal box, and surprisingly, the top design is painted on, and not a stick on decal in sight. Overall, it feels and looks like a premium pedal, so when you consider the price, it already feels like excellent value for money.

In the middle of the pedal, there’s a small toggle switch that moves the unit between Mode 1 and Mode 2. Mode 1 is the “Detailed Mid Gain Clipping Circuit”. In this mode you get more of an overdrive/crunch effect than you do distortion. In Mode 2, you get the “Original High Gain Clipping Circuit”, which dials up the gain and creates more distortion.

Other than that, it comes with the usual array of preamp controls, including gain, treble, middle, bass, and volume.

To turn the pedal on and off, there’s a pretty robust stompbox style foot switch.  

This pedal only accepts 9v AC adapters for power – there is no possibility to run this pedal with a battery, which is always a nice feature to have. The Dark Horizon does not come with a power adapter supplied, so, if you don’t already own one, make sure to buy one at the same time if you plan to purchase this (or any other) Donner stomp box.


Donner - Dark Horizon Distortion - Unboxing and Playthrough

Our test started with the Dark Horizon in True Bypass mode, which unfortunately didn’t really work as a true bypass. We found that there was some gain bleeding through, resulting in some low distortion even in the bypass mode.

After turning on the unit, it did start to behave as expected. The pots gave a great sweep, with no drop off and a nice swell from off to full. It’s definitely a hot signal coming from the pedal, and with the gain cranked, the distortion is significant.

In mode 1, as expected, tones were more rock than metal. We got a nice crunch that kept the details sharp while still adding the texture we wanted. In mode 2 we got searing metal tones, especially with the gain set anywhere past noon. When the gain was up, there was a fair amount of noise, however, but this is fairly typical of a distortion pedal.

If you’d like to hear first-hand how the Donner Dark Horizon sounded, please check out our no-talking demo over on the Killer Guitar Rigs YouTube channel

Final Thoughts on the Donner Dark Horizon Crunch Distortion Pedal

The bleed through on the true bypass was a real shame for the Donner Dark Horizon, we aren’t sure if it was a one off issue, or something common to this model, but it does make it difficult to turn off and play clean passages properly.

Besides that, it was actually a good distortion pedal. We managed to get a good range of tones while playing with the EQ and the gain, and having the 2 clipping circuits really added to the versatility.


  • Simon Morgan

    Simon is an Orlando based musician, but originally hails from Newcastle, England. He started playing bass and guitar in 1998, and played the local scene throughout his teen years before life got in the way. Favorite Genres: Blues, Classic Rock, and he’s not ashamed to admit - Emo