Seeing a guitar-driven show through the crowd’s eyes can be quite an interesting experience. Fans see the magic happening before them without knowing much about what goes on, but rather feeling the moment created through the player’s clever tricks and genuine emotion.
Taking matters from that perspective, the player, his fingers, and skills are the focal point, along with the guitar the axeman is holding. Massive amps are always acknowledged as an obvious link between the string strumming and listeners’ ears despite being in the background.
Finally, there are pedals, the quiet, subtle, yet crucial element of most magical guitar moments in musical history. In time, certain effects were far too obvious to be avoided, resulting in global massive popularity of such guitar effects as the distortion pedal or wah-wah. With iconic players such as Jimi Hendrix or Pete Townsend of The Who promoting them with their groundbreaking efforts, it would have been a miracle if they had passed unnoticed.
Additionally, the extent to which the audio is changed through such guitar effects is quite great, resulting in their additional prominence among the crowd. Other, more subtle guitar effects significantly impacted the sound but somehow passed unnoticed or even attributed to guitarists’ playing skills. These days, things are easier to figure out with the internet and various guides and books being readily available, but back in the day, the sound produced by sound effects seemed like true magic to the concert crowd.
Types of Effects Pedals:
So, right now, we’ll briefly rundown some of the most prominent pedal effects to give you more detailed knowledge of the given area. Make sure to check out the full list and some additional details below.
As noted, the overdrive pedal is one of history’s most prominent guitar effects. It delivers that crunchy vibe by adding additional gain to the audio output. This kind of sound defines rock music in so many ways. Started by Hendrix and Townsend, Black Sabbath took the device to a new level, specifically guitarist Tony Iommi, commonly known as the father of metal music. The likes of Metallica perfected the given metal sound, while the overdrive tone remained throughout the guitar-driven world.
Depending on the amount of gain and the overall vibe, overdrive effects can have a different tone, ranging from light bluesy notes to crushing death metal sounds. Some of the notable and frequently used overdrive (or distortion) pedals include Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer, Boss Tube Screamer Overdrive, Joyo JF-02 Ultimate Overdrive Pedal and more.
Delay belongs to the group of those subtle yet highly effective guitar pedals we’ve mentioned earlier. As the name somewhat clearly indicates, the pedal creates a delay in the guitarist’s tone, resulting in repeatedly playing the same tones. Specifically, the device records the input signal for a brief given amount of time, stores it on an internal audio storage medium, and plays it back after the desired amount of time.
The delay isn’t a subtle effect by default since the right setting can make it extremely prominent. But the way it is typically used among players categorizes it among the subtle bunch. Some of the notable delay pedals on today’s market include such devices as Behringer DD400, DigiTech Hardwire DL8, Boss DD-3, and more.
Looper guitar effects work around the same pattern as the delay pedal. So, the device records the input signal played by the musician, stores it via an internal audio storage unit, and then plays it back for the desired period. But loopers work slightly differently, repeating longer samples and giving a genuine background instrument for the player.
Loopers and samplers are known for their massive use in the electronic music domain but are also fairly notable in the guitar-driven world. Some prominent loopers include TC Electronic Guitar Ditto, Digitech Jamman Solo XT Looper, Boss RC-300 Loop Station and more.
Finally, there’s always the “all in one” option. Multi-effects guitar pedals come in various shapes and sizes, giving players a combined station of different guitar effects. Depending on the size and capability, multi-effects can range from only several effects, typically the prominent ones such as distortion, wah-wah, reverb, and delay, to tens or even hundreds of combinations.
Multi-effects are available for various instruments, including guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals, and more. Musicians should always be cautious while buying them, as the differences between various models can often be truly great. Notable devices in this domain include the likes of Zoom G1XN, Boss ME-50 and more.
Now that we know a little bit about what various guitar effects have to offer, let’s look at our top 5 best guitar effects pedals.
The 5 Best Guitar Effects Pedals:
Zoom is one of the few brands that were really dominant back when guitar effects processors were huge. Even though standalone effects pedals are currently the standard for most guitar players, effects processors still play an essential role in modern tone shaping. Zoom G1Xon is one of the more interesting models. It packs a decent array of features, all while being fairly affordable.
Considering all the features it brings to the table, G1Xon looks incredibly simple. That type of minimalist design is something many can appreciate, especially when you compare it to the super busy control clusters most modern pedals have. We see clean surfaces with very pronounced controls and an easy-to-understand layout. The pedal is divided into three clusters, all of which look fairly similar.
The farthest to the left features a foot switch followed by a small display unit. Next to it we have our main controls, also divided into a foot switch/control cluster. Furthest to the right is where Zoom has decided to install an expression pedal. So far, the whole thing looks quite promising. You are presented with a platform that is easy to use, compact enough, and capable. Let’s check out some of the features.
Features are what make effects processors so impressive. With Zoom G1Xon, you get a lot in a very tiny package. Its internal bank holds some 75 effects, which include anything from distortions and modulation effects to compressors and more. There are also 15 different amp models built into the processor, which increases the number of combinations at your disposal.
Speaking of which, you can use up to 5 different effects at any given time. Zoom G1Xon also features 68 rhythm patterns, making it a great practice tool at home. Last, you also get a looper, which allows you to record and layer up to 30 seconds of performance.
Effects processors are considered a shortcut these days and are not often used by pros. However, they are easily one of the best practice tools you can get on a budget. Zoom G1Xon is one of the most impressive models in this price range and a great addition to any pedalboard. If you are looking for a good, basic platform for tone shaping, this is pretty much it.
If Zoom G1Xon is a good budget processor, then Boss ME-80 is its professional counterpart. These days, Boss is known as a brand that makes some of the best pedals on the market, but not so long ago, they had a reputation for revolutionizing the effects processor game. As we are about to discover, Boss hasn’t given up on processors yet.
When you focus on the Boss ME-80, you will immediately know that this processor means business. It is a massive unit with a quality metal chassis, giving it a healthy weight. The control panel leaves very little to the imagination. It is one of the busiest control interfaces out there but for a good reason. We can divide the whole interface into three main areas.
At the bottom, you have a set of 8-foot switches, each dedicated to a specific channel. Above those, we have the main control segment littered with various knobs and buttons. Finally, to the right, there is a built-in expression pedal and a small LCD. Overall, it will take some time to figure out what each button, knob, and switch does, but it is well worth the effort.
Listing the features found in ME-80 requires a guide of its own. Even so, we can paint a good picture for you. Imagine all of your favorite Boss pedals in one place. That is what ME-80 is all about. They have integrated dozens upon dozens of effects, all of which sound authentic. Speaking of sound quality, that is the number 1 reason processors never really took off.
However, thanks to their Multi-Dimensional Processing technology, Boss has reached an impressive tone authenticity level with their higher-end processors. Another reason this model stands apart from the rest is the way controls are laid out. True, they are a bit overwhelming at first, but that type of layout allows you to make immediate, tactile adjustments where they are necessary. One of these processors can easily provide you with all the tone-shaping tools you need.
While it isn’t quite affordable, Boss ME-80 is living proof that guitar effects processors are still around and very much capable. They are much more capable these days than when they first appeared.
Overdrives are one of the oldest guitar effects in use, but also one of the most popular ones. Many will characterize overdrives as simple in nature and only relevant to specific genres of music. While that may be partially true, we live in a time where certain overdrives tend to cost about as much as entry-level guitars. The real question is, can you find a good OD pedal on a budget? Meet Behringer Vintage Tube Overdrive TO800.
Behringer is known for a variety of products. They are heavily involved in amplifiers and other gear. However, most aspiring guitar players know this brand through their affordable effects pedals. TO800 is one such model. Looking at this pedal reveals that Behringer took a page from Boss’ book. They have designed one pedal chassis and applied it to most of their current range.
There is a fairly important difference between these two brands, though. Where Boss makes their chassis out of metal, Behringer uses composite materials. In other words, plastic. If this fact is turning you off, don’t be. Behringer chassis design has proven its worth numerous times so far. TO800 is very easy to use and rather durable for what it is. Maybe it isn’t the perfect choice for frequent stage use, but home and studio use won’t even phase it.
Staying true to that old Overdrive adage, Behringer has decided to build their TO800 in an old-fashioned sense. Aside from the foot switch and the main input/output, you have only three controls available. Said controls are labeled Drive, Tone, and Level. If you have ever worked with overdrives, chances are you will already know what each of these knobs does.
In case you haven’t, Drive dictates how much overdrive is being infused into the signal chain, Tone allows you to EQ the sound to a certain extent, while Level dictates the amount of effect pushed through to your amp. When it comes to sound, TO800 is rather surprising. It may not be as good as some boutique overdrives, but it is much better than we expected. There’s plenty of girth in its tone to work with, even if you want to layer it on top of your dirty channel. This little thing has plenty of gains to offer.
At the end of the day, Behringer TO800 and other pedals like it are there to give beginners a taste of decent guitar effects. As an overdrive, it covers the basics quite well and offers some range. We can’t ask for more than that, especially at this price.
Loop stations are becoming increasingly popular, especially among the alternative crowd. These days, you can use one such pedal to create masterpieces by mixing nothing more than your voice and an acoustic guitar. However, that newfound popularity ruffled some feathers in the industry. Most loop stations are these large, oftentimes confusing devices that aren’t appealing to casual users. Boss is one of the first brands to solve that issue with models such as RC-1 Loop Station.
On the outside, this pedal looks just like any other Boss stompbox. After all, it has become common knowledge that Boss pedals all share one identical or very similar chassis design. The same goes for RC-1. You have a rock-solid chassis made of quality metals designed to take all of the wear you can inflict. Needless to say, we have plenty of proof that Boss pedals live up to their fame regarding durability.
RC-1 is different than most other Boss pedals due to its controls. They are unorthodox, to say the least. More on that in the features segment of the review. One cool thing about this pedal is that it comes with two sets of inputs and outputs, meaning you can run it in stereo mode should you need or want to. Overall, the design and execution inspire confidence.
Boss RC-1’s features make it appealing to casual users and pros alike. There are only two controls on the entire pedal; that is all you need. Boss has also implemented an all-new loop indicator, making it incredibly easy to know how much time you have left in your loop.
Speaking of which, RC-1 offers up to 12 minutes of recording. The knob located next to the loop time indicator is your standard Level knob. To activate the recording, you only need to press the foot switch. Pressing it twice will stop the recording, while pressing and holding the foot switch resets the pedal. That is about as easy as it gets.
Boss RC-1 is a very simple, very intuitive loop station that brings this effect much closer to the masses. As such, it is right in our book.
Last but not least, we have another effects processor to show you. This time around it is a DigiTech RP55. Much like Zoom, DigiTech has been on the edge of effects processor design back in the day. These two brands have retained a steady level of interest in this technology, so we are seeing models like the one we’re talking about today.
It doesn’t take much to realize that DigiTech went for an affordable build. That much is apparent as soon as you first see this processor. The chassis is very ’90s in appearance and is made of plastics. However, build quality is good enough that all those ‘flaws’ we have just mentioned are negated.
Aside from being affordable, DigiTech RP55 is also very compact. It features two-foot switches tucked under a small control interface. Speaking of controls, you are looking at a very simple setup that is very easy to use. DigiTech has printed a rather intuitive diagram of different effects lit up by built-in LEDs once you select them—a pretty straightforward deal.
Despite its simple design, RP55 packs a decent punch for its size. You are looking at 11 amps, 20 different guitar effects, 5 cabinets, and 30 backing tracks. That is quite a package for something so cheap. In terms of sound quality, DigiTech did a very decent job at eliminating that clinical vibe. The amps and effects sound organic enough to fool even the more experienced guitar players.
DigiTech RP55 fills a very specific niche and does that quite successfully. Processors such as this one are very popular among beginners for apparent reasons. If you are starting, RP55 can be an awesome tool to have at your disposal.
Choosing Your Guitar Effects Pedal
So, as you might have already noticed, it goes to show without saying that there is far more than meets the eye as far as the domain of guitar effects is considered. If you’re looking to become a guitar expert, you must conquer the use of a vast array of guitar pedals and effects. The little nuances distinguish between cheap-sounding tunes and global hit numbers, whether it’s the wah-wah, the distortion, reverb, or delay.
Just like guitars require fine-tuning in terms of your left and right-hand finger action, pedals, and guitar effects require a precise setting of their knobs, so studying the given products comes as a must for every musician.
If we were to recommend a specific guitar effect to get you started, we would likely point to some of the devices mentioned above. Check out some of the guides and reviews we have on offer before making the purchase, though, as hasty moves tend to have bad results in the guitar products domain. Take it slow, be patient, and rock on!