I remember when I first started to learn to play the guitar. It was such a wide and immense world that made me so happy and excited about things to come. In the first couple of years, I was extremely satisfied with my progress and sounds, as I was mastering all the basic techniques pretty quickly and was just thriving with my new learned skills. I could even play some of my favorite solos from my favorite musicians, which was the biggest reason as to why I started playing the guitar.
After that phase of satisfaction and thinking of myself as the best ever, I quickly realized I was nowhere when it came to mastering the instrument. This realization came when I went to my first music convention, and I saw that there were millions of equipment out there, and I saw that many guitarists were pumping up sounds that I didn’t think were possible or can come out of a humble Stratocaster.
There it was though, things that I imagined were only possible in studio settings were there happening in real-time. First I thought that it was super expensive amps and equipment but then I saw guitar effects pedals which were very intriguing and strange, but it had already scratched that part of my mind that was responsible for my learning process.
I knew that stopping now was impossible and I wanted to know what those stompboxes can do. After a bit of research I realized that these tools are definitely a dream come true and will provide performance for the ages, they allowed me to create and recreate different tones that didn’t really cross my mind. I really felt like I was slowly but surely becoming a better guitarist and also started understanding the instrument and music better.
For that reason today I have decided to write this extended guide on effects pedals. Today I will reveal the best guitar pedals for each major type, explain to you what is a guitar effect, what does each effect does, the signal chain and so much more. I have written this article based on my personal experience with guitar playing and pedalboards, expert consultation, market research, and buyer feedback. So if you are ready I think that we should get going with this.
Which Are The 10 Best Guitar Pedals?
10. Electro Harmonix Micro POG
Let’s start with octave pedals, and if we want the best and only the best you have to opt for the Electro Harmonix Micro POG which has been present in the market for a long time now. This is not your average octave as it delivers every function that you may ever want to deliver versatility for pros.
One thing that impressed me the most with the Electro Harmonix Micro POG is that it is extremely tasty in terms of design and if you know Electro-Harmonix you will be surprised with it. It is pretty modern and aesthetically pleasing, and it also is extremely durable as well capable of handling abuse.
In the controls department, it has three knobs including dry, sub and octave up which allow you to handle the performance of this tool properly. In terms of performance, this polyphonic octaver delivers you the performance of a 12 string instrument and it will be definitely worth the price.
9. JOYO D-SEED Multi
As far as delay pedals go none is better than the JOYO D-SEED Multi when it comes to delivering a balance between features, performance, and price, as this one delivers amazing value for the price way better than its competitors.
This pedal works as a dual-channel delay pedal that allows you to dial in different delays for different settings. It also has a very strong noise gate eliminating all the hum and it is extremely sturdy and durable overall.
It features four control knobs including Mix, Mode, Time and Feedback that deliver you a great amount of control over your delay. The performance of this tool is definitely enough to please even the pros. Delay for ages and features that will make anyone happy.
8. Wampler Triple Wreck
While we have a distortion pedal in this list which is the best for an all-purpose nature, we had to include a distortion pedal for heavy metal, and it is none other than the Wampler Triple Wreck. It is definitely the best for face-melting riffs, a super powerful tool for your sounds.
Right out of the box you will see that the Wampler Triple Wreck is not your average distortion pedal as it comes with a pretty interesting look and wide chassis that is packed with graphics. I should mention that this beast is pretty durable as well, it is definitely a unit, and can handle a long time touring and practicing.
The Wampler Triple Wreck in terms of controls it has plenty to offer, with six knobs, which include volume, boost contour, gain, treble mids, and bass. It also has a two-way switch for hard and brutal settings the bypass and boost footswitch which makes this beast a multi-functional one. Definitely a powerful tool that will help you on stage.
7. Way Huge Green Rhino Mini MKIV
I thought that I had to definitely include a bass distortion pedal to make this list complete, and for that reason the Way Huge Green Rhino Mini MKIV is definitely the best. It comes as the most balanced bass distortion pedal that will do extreme justice for your needs.
The Way Huge Green Rhino Mini MKIV is definitely not much larger than its larger cousin, coming in with a smaller body and the bright green body that is extremely attractive. I should also mention that the metal body is extremely durable and can handle plenty of beating before it needs replacement.
The Way Huge Green Rhino Mini MKIV has plenty of controls for a pretty small and simple pedal it has the volume, drive, and tone main knobs, and then it also has the two smaller 100 Hz and 500Hz knobs that add some tonal shaping to this small beast, great overall.
6. Digitech Jam Man
As far as looper pedals go there is nothing that can beat the Digitech Jam Man. This pedal definitely delivers a serious amount of features and functionalities that let you put out some fascinating performances, definitely the best in the looper category, on top of that it delivers great value for the price.
The Digitech Jam Man has a glossy blue body that is made out of metal and it is extremely durable making itself pretty stage-worthy. I should mention that this device can record up to 35 minutes of stereo quality loops and you can store 99 individual loops in the device itself.
It has also an SDHC slot and I should mention that this is a big pedal that measures about 10×7.2×3.5-inches in total. There are also tons of buttons in this beast but they are needed for all the complicated features and I should mention that the rhythm effects are excellent overall. Definitely the best.
5. Pro Co RAT2
At number 5 of our best guitar pedals list, we have the Pro Co RAT2. If you want the best distortion pedal in the market you can’t go wrong with the Pro Co RAT2, which is a definite legend in the guitar circles. It is also pretty affordable and will deliver a tube-like distortion that will provide ample fun.
This beast comes in a dark gray body that looks fantastic and ready for action, it is also worth mentioning that it is extremely durable. This beast also measures a measly 4.8×4.5×3.3-inches in total fitting into every pedal board and it weighs just one pound in total.
In terms of controls, it has just three knobs and the master footswitch. The knobs include the distortion knob, filter, and the volume knob, all of which allow you to adjust your distortion properly and overall I think that no one can go wrong with this beast despite not having millions of features.
4. BOSS FV-500H
When it comes to volume pedals the biggest feature that you need is reliability and durability, and no one makes more durable and stronger pedals than BOSS, and the FV-500H is definitely the best volume pedal in the market without a doubt.
The biggest feature and the most important thing about the BOSS FV-500H are that it is built like a tank and it is definitely apparent from the first look on the pedal. It is built from heavy-duty aluminum and die-cast body that can take more beating than you can think of it.
The operation of the is also extremely smooth and it allows you to adjust the volume on the fly without any problem. It is definitely one of the simplest in the market and it also has my favorite minimum volume knob that makes things extremely easy for you.
3. Boss CS-3
The entry for the best compressor pedal in the market comes from Boss, with the CS-3. This pedal comes with all the features that you might want in a compressor pedal and it is extremely easy to use, definitely the best.
It has the classic Boss body that is extremely easy to use and it is built like a beast. It has a blue paint job that surprisingly looks good with the classic body of Boss. It is a mono device with one in and one out the plug and a large footswitch that acts as an on-off switch.
In terms of controls, it has four knobs beside the footswitch including level, tone, attack and sustain knobs that do a perfect job without complicating things. I should state that in terms of performance it delivers a perfect compression without any major issues that can take it down, a superb tool.
2. Donner Jet Convolution
Moving on we have a flanger pedal here that is one of the most capable ones in the market and will deliver great value for its affordable price, the Donner Jet Convolution. This pedal might not look like much but it is definitely a superb all-around great flanging pedal that will make your life easier.
It is a pretty tiny pedal that is packed with a lot of features meaning that it has a lot going on with it. For example, it has a true bypass features and it is available in two modes. One that acts as a normal flanger and the filter mode that lets you adjust things manually for your needs. It is also a super durable pedal that can take plenty of abuse.
In terms of controls, it has a lot going on that is pretty simple and complex at the same time. In the middle, you have the rate knob and on top of that, you have the two smaller color and range knobs that accompany the two-way switch for the aforementioned modes.
1. TC Electronic Corona
Coming up to the best chorus pedal in the market we have a pick from TC Electronic, the Corona Chorus pedal that is extremely easy to use, and delivers cutting-edge technology, but while replicating the analog sounds that are the favorites of most of us. Let’s take a closer look.
This device has a sturdy metal body that is pretty durable and can take plenty of beating on stage and while practicing. It has a green body that is pretty attractive overall and it is a true bypass pedal with stereo capabilities two-out jacks meaning that you can experiment with complicated setups. It is also a pretty small device measuring 5x3x4-inches in total and weighs just one pound.
In terms of controls, it has a three-way switch in the middle that lets us switch between chorus, tone front, and tri chorus features. Other than that it has four more knobs that are extremely useful including speed, depth, fx level, and tone, so you can get the best sound for your needs. The overall performance is perfect and the analog sounds are pretty much on point, and that makes this product one of the best guitar pedals out there.
Things You Should Know Before Buying A Guitar Pedal (Buying Guide)
What Are Effects?
Effects or effects pedals are electronic devices that have circuits and other electrical w2izardy inside that process the electronic signal input from a microphone or from the instrument itself as it is most of the time. You may come across them as FX most of the time, and they explicitly run a gamut from the limiter or expander settings very subtly so you won’t detect the effect at all just some nuances, or to the max them out until you won’t recognize the original signal from your instrument at all. I consider effects as tools in a craftsman arsenal that lets him/her create interesting pieces besides its basic set of tools would allow him to. Effectively opening a new horizon for creative freedom.
In my opinion, the whole point of guitar effects is making your guitar sound more appropriate for different musical contexts, or even just having fun maybe and exploring the whole thing. Many guitarists have created their own distinct sounds that have been their trademarks by combining different pedals and effects to deliver unique sounds and tones. There is a pretty large history when it comes to guitar effects.
They have started their journey in the 1940s, with one of the most influential and most innovative guitarists of all time Les Paul. He has started this journey by experimenting with various effects and echoes, due to multi-track recording adding layers of sounds and tones to his creative prowess. The first stompbox or pedal has been produced in the late 1940s from Harry DeArmond’s Trem Tol tremolo processor that was used later from many different musicians of the era.
A decade later more effects started emerging from different manufacturers, but they weren’t big hits and were a bit more expensive to be used more frequently. At the same time, Gibson and Fender added reverb and tremolo effects into their innovative amps. Amplifiers that have started the rock and roll and hard rock era with delicious distortion and overdrive pedal effects, which came as a result of max gain and volume. I have to say that even today many effects pedals try to recreate those sounds.
Different bands started creating their sounds and have tried many different techniques to achieve this, some even tried to slit and make holes in their speakers to deliver grittier and crunchier sounds which have been trademarks of the era and of their bands such as Dave Davies of the Kinks. Due to this Marshall amps delivered the best amplifiers of the era that pleased a lot of guitarists of the era.
Now we have effects everywhere, starting from amplifiers, pedals, a processor with multi-effects, rack-mounted effects, and even in our phones, there is just a wide array of pedals available out here that will deliver you versatility for ages. For that reason I think that most of you should feel very lucky since now you can explore your tones to your liking there are no limits. Now, most of the guitarists really depend on effects for their tonalities and mostly on effects pedals that we are talking about today.
I think that every guitarist nowadays will come across and will be accompanied by a pedal in their guitar playing journey. Even if you are not a professional or just are playing for fun in our spare time, guitar effects pedals are extremely effective at what they deliver giving you the ability to play different sounds and having more fun in the process. There are tons of stompboxes out there coming in different qualities, types, performance, and even prices. One aspect that I think is the most important when it comes to guitar pedals is that these encourage the player to try different things and get out of their comfort zones, essentially creating a better guitarist in the process, not just a better guitarist but a better musician overall.
Recently we have seen super-advanced amplifiers that are packed with multi-effect sections that allow you to do various experimentation with your playing technique. If you want to experiment with multiple effects at one time you can also invest in multi-effect pedals which are very affordable recently. They don’t really deliver the best performance but they are excellent overall.
Most of them are also packed with in-built presets from the factory that allows you to achieve some distinct sounds without much hassle, and most have memories that allow you to store your own effects. For beginners, I always recommend these multi-effects pedals that deliver exceptional performance and allow you to explore and find out what sounds are right for you. After that, you can invest in standalone pedals that deliver better performance.
Types of Effects Pedals
Deciding which pedal to buy definitely will depend on the style of music you are playing and what you want to achieve with the effect pedal, also it will depend on your current lineup of guitar and amplifier. Some amplifiers today have their in-built effects as I mentioned earlier such as overdrive, distortion, reverb, and even tremolo in some cases. However, in most cases, there will be none or just one effect in your amp and it is advisable to invest in some good guitar pedals.
However, there are different types of pedals in the market today and all of them deliver different effects. Some are more similar to each other and belong to the same category for that reason. Let’s get on with it, shall we?
I have put these three effects in the same category since they basically do the same thing but in different intensities. I should also mention that these effects are also the most popular and most familiar with guitarists since they add a bit off crunch, dirtiness, and aggressiveness to your sound.
Overdrive pedals clip the frequency a little to push the amplifier to the point where it needs to distort without the super high gain, delivering a progressive distortion intensity and compression that is proportionate to the volume and signal that comes from the guitar. There are also pedals that deliver clean overdrive, dirty overdrive and sometimes even both of them. Dirty boosts deliver a little more interesting perspective on the issue here since they push the preamp of the amp to add a bit of texture and color to the sound. Most overdrive pedals also have some kind of tone-shaping capabilities and deliver you tons of control over your sound.
Distortion, on the other hand, is a bit wilder than the overdrive and it is a little more interesting, but then again different distortion pedals have different qualities and tonalities that make them unique. Most of these pedals push the incoming signal to the clipping point through the transistors, which is the main point of the effect, as the transistor defines the character of the effect. Most of these pedals have tone knobs, drive or gain boost knobs and volume knobs, and I also think that these are extremely useful. The big muff is a very popular one. We didn’t mention the big muff pedal in this article because it is very popular already.
Moving on we have the fuzz pedals which are a bit of wildcard as they take away most of the color and texture from your sound and distort it beyond recognition. While these are not the most versatile pedals to use, some guitarists have always them in their arsenals. Most of these work exactly the same as distortion pedals but have special silicon-germanium circuits to deliver the edge and aggressiveness guitarists are looking for. If you are planning to become a professional guitar player like Jimi Hendrix, definitely get a fuzz pedal. Every home should have a fuzz pedal!
Pitch Shifter – Harmony and Octave
These pedals come in different styles but the most classic and most popular ones are octave pedals that take your sound and up it or reduce it down an octave. On top of that, there are polyphonic harmony pedals that allow you to put in whole chords. There are millions of pedals in this category and each of them delivers different functionality, so you can choose the one that fits your needs the most.
These are your best bet if you want to create fully unique sounds and want to try out fully new sounds. However, there are a couple of things you should consider before buying such pedals.
The first thing you should know is that these effects can be used to create cool sounds, which aren’t particularly realistic and the more you alter the pitch of the sound the more you will get away from reality. However, this the feature that makes these pedals unique and favorite of many users, these are unique and none other pedals can do that sort of thing. The second thing is that you need to be a little more careful about it since the harder you shift the pitch the more lag and glitches you will come across.
Time Effects – Delay and Reverb
Time-based effects definitely deliver some great ambiance and spacious textures to your sound and are found on pedalboards of most guitarists out there. There are time effects that sound realistic and natural but there are also time-based effects that are super artificial and space-age sounding. It will definitely depend on your personal taste whether you like these sounds or not, and what taste do you like them at, but they also depend on the genre that you are playing at
Delay is the simplest form of this as it takes the original signal and repeats it after a period of a predetermined time, or multiple times. There are just pretty basic controls on most delay pedals, which include the delay time, number of repeats or feedback and the balance between the delay and the original signal.
Many guitarists modern and old don’t consider a pedalboard complete without a delay pedal and rightly so since this pedal will suit right into many music styles, from blues to surf, to rockabilly, even more, modern alt and psychedelic rock genres.
The type of delay you will get from a particular pedal will depend on the type of circuitry and the algorithm of the digital wizardry that is used to create the effect. The early forms of delay pedals or analog delay pedals used loops of tape or bucket brigade chips, each of them delivering some distinct characteristics that made each one favorite of various musicians. Today we have mostly digital delay pedals using Adaptive Delta Modulation and PCM delay types recreating the retro and modern delay sounds at the same pedal.
A reverb pedal, on the other hand, is used to create a larger and bigger sense of space around your sound, a guitar effect that has been a trademark of so many bands that are our favorites. Some reverb pedal sounds are pretty synthetic but still very incredible nonetheless, and some deliver a more classic analog feeling reverbs such as springs and plates. All of these effects try to simulate the feeling of a larger room and comparing two types of reverb is simply not possible and they can’t be ranked, it is just like colors, you can’t say that blue is better than red since it is a matter of personal taste. Like I said there are various types of reverb pedals in the market, and I have to say that different pedals have different controls so you will have some variety there.
Gain-Staging – Compression and Volume Control)
These pedals actually belong to the same category as overdrive, distortion, and fuzz, however, these are milder and affect the sound more subtly and therefore I decided to set them in a different category. In this category, there are gain-boost pedals as well which help deliver a gain boost to your sound but in a cleaner manner. Let’s get on with them, shall we?
Compression pedals utilize a signal processor that is used pretty much in every studio setting, they don’t really differ that much from them. This effect actually compresses the sound as the name implies to not cross a certain threshold, effectively and sometimes significantly decreasing the dynamic range of your sound. However, it also needs to boost the output to pick up the quiet sounds and bring to the certain preset range so you can keep a cleaner sounds overall. It is more frequently used with funk guitarists and those who require a bit more accuracy in their playing.
If accuracy and cleanliness aren’t your first priority then you should probably not invest in such a pedal, it is a pedal for articulate guitarists and those that are a bit more experienced. I also have to mention that these come in various types as well and one won’t be similar to the other, but then again all of them will do the same thing in the end. Just to be safe it is wise to have a compressor pedal with at least three knobs, for gain, attack, and threshold.
Volume pedals, on the other hand, are pretty simple and act as a convenience tool on stage. It is extremely for adjusting your sounds volume on the fly when you can’t take your hands off your guitar. It is not as much as an effect as it is a utility and I think that every guitarist should have one in their lineup to keep a smoother performance overall. I have seen many guitarists use them for creating ambiance and excellent fade-outs, meaning that they can become effects if you utilize them properly.
Modulation Effects – Chorus, Flanger, Tremolo, and Vibrator
These are the most complicated guitar pedals you will find in the market since they use a combination of gain-staging, frequency, and time-based effects, which means that there are a few specialty tools that belong in every guitarist’s pedalboard. I consider them to be somewhere between time-based effects and frequency effects, however, then again they are more o time-based effects, and the name modulation comes into play here. Modulation means that the effects will change over time, and it will mostly depend on the nature and the type of the pedal.
Chorus and flanger effects are pretty similar to each other and the names sometimes are used interchangeably however, that is not the case since they are different effects. That is mostly since there are tons of pedals out there that pack the same effects in the same pedal. Flanging was a pretty old studio trick discovered by the late Les Paul. Then again both of these effects have slight differences, for example, the flanging effect has a rise-and-fall or whooshing jet plane sound, on the other hand, the chorus has a more spacious vibe to it with a bit of delay.
Tremolo and vibrato, on the other hand, are pretty simple effects that are based on the LFO modulation of one tonal element, which is pretty plain and simple. Tremolo pedals make modulation in the volume which is pretty apparent on the surf and rockabilly genres. Vibrato pedals on the other hand focus on modulating the pitch of the sound, these are pretty distinct and are used by various genres to define their sounds and create different pieces of art.
Looper pedals have become extremely popular in the past few years by many musicians and especially guitarists to create songs alone without the need for a band or professional studio equipment. They work pretty simply, for example, you press the button on the pedal records the sound that you start playing when you press the button again, the sounds that are recorded are played back indefinitely, so you can play on top of it.
These are the simple models, whereas there are models that have more complicated controls such as more loops at once, syncing, multiple parts, and tons of other features that might be useful for you. For studio purposes, these are not the pedals you need since in studio you can create loops professionally, but on stage and while practicing these are essential.
Things Worth Knowing
Stereo or Mono
There are several pedals in the market, especially time-based effects that let you choose either mono or stereo options. Stereo setups give you the advantage of controlling the depth and dimension of the spatial effects, for example, delays and reverb, on the other hand, the downside of this is that you need to run two amplifiers, or it won’t be useful at all. Meaning that if you have a good stereo setup it is perfect, but if not it is better to opt for mono pedals.
Buffered Bypass or True Bypass
This is a pretty interesting top of conversation between many guitarists about whether you should go with one or the other. But if I have to be honest there is not much of a difference between the two and not even much of an advantage that you will come across. True bypass cuts the circuitry of the pedal completely so the signal won’t interfere at all when the pedal is not in use. On the other hand buffered bypass pedals may slightly affect your tone when not in use, but they still deliver a bit of amplification that delivers good signal retention and prevents high-end attention.
Pedal Order on the Signal Chain
There is no right way to arrange the pedals on the signal chain, but there is a wrong way. Most of the guitarists arrange them in a certain way and I will show you how most of them do it including me and after that you can modify it to your needs.
First, off you should start with filters and EQ pedals. These pedals include the wah and auto-wah pedals, graphic and parametric EQ pedals so nothing will interfere with them.
Compressor pedals, if you use them, will be placed next to filters since they raise or decrease the noise levels of everything that comes in before them. Boost pedals are used next, either clean or buffer boost pedals. After these comes the fun part, distortion, overdrive pedal and fuzz pedals are placed after these to enhance the sound.
Then you can place modulation pedals such as tremolo, phaser, chorus or flangers, they fit perfectly right after dist boxes. Volume pedals are placed next since in this position you can maintain a consistent signal. Time-based effects come next such as delay and reverb, in that order if you use both.
There you have it, my fellow guitarists, your complete guide to the best guitar pedals. I hope that after reading this guide you have a better understanding of effects pedals, what do they do and where should they placed in the signal chain. I can say that you’re ready to become the new Jimi Hendrix or Eddie Van Halen. Make sure to check the top picks about effects pedals, a fail-safe list about the best in each category. Always experiment with your pedals and learn to have fun all the time.