For the serious guitarist, the pedal they use is almost as important as the guitar they’re slinging over their shoulders at the beginning of a performance. A pedal certainly won’t improve the talent of the player, and they’re not designed to make a guitar easier to play. What they are designed to do is manipulate the sound that the instrument makes. Pedals, aka stompboxes, come in a wide variety of options and functions so coming up with the BEST guitar pedals on the market is no easy task. However, there are some classic pedals out there that have remained staples among the serious professional musicians and that’s what we’ll discuss below.
There are a TON of pedals on the market, and it can be overwhelming when you start to shop. There are countless pedals for multiple kinds of guitars: acoustics, electric, bass, etc. However, there are a few types of pedals that specialize in a particular effect, and that’s what we’ll briefly touch on before we get into the actual model reviews. With that said, here’s a list of some quintessential styles of pedal you should consider adding to your kit:
- Distortion - Popular among hard rock and metal fans, these pedals produce that rough, hazy sound. It does this by distorting the actual sound waves and piling on overtones so that the end result is a sound that feels as if it’s way too loud but somehow still fits with the music.
- Delay - A delay feature in a pedal will give you an echo effect by duplicating your notes as you play them. It does this by mirroring each audio signal you produce slightly after you play it. Some pedals will allow you to control how long the actual delay is.
- Wah - Very popular with 60s and 70s rock (think Jimmy Hendrix’s Voodoo Child), the wah pedal produces its signature “wah-wah” sound by boosting certain audio frequencies. The more you pedal, the funkier the sound you can produce.
- Phaser - This style of pedal produces its sound by amplifying certain tones and reducing others. By splitting the notes in two like this you get a ripple effect that is very unique.
- Compressor - A compressor pedal creates a sound effect that is very sharp and punchy. It does this by controlling the volume and smoothing out the initial strumming of the note.
- Reverb - A reverb pedal magnifies the sound and creates an effect like the note is being played in a room far larger than it actually is.
- Chorus - A chorus pedal does very much what the name implies--it creates a choir or orchestra-like effect by changing up the pitch of the note. You also get a bit of a delay when using a chorus pedal.
- Flanger - A flanger pedal could easily be called the “sci-fi” pedal. A flanger produces a fantastic “spacey” sound by using a short delay and inverting the actual audio signal.
- Multi-effects - As the name implies, a multi-effects pedal gives you a multitude of effects options in one place. It’s like the Swiss Army Knife of guitar pedals. The effects pedals themselves vary in the range of sounds they each produce. Some simply give you the basic effects to play with, while others can make your guitar sound like a completely different instrument.
As with most other pieces of electronic gear, there are some elements you should consider when shopping for guitar effects pedals. Here are a few of those considerations:
- Price-- Most pedals are going to be reasonably priced, but as you can see from the list above, the investment comes by way of purchasing many different pedals. Think about the types of sounds you want to create and form a budget based on the number of pedals you’ll need to purchase.
- Style--As mentioned above, each pedal creates a different sound so think about the kind of music you want to play. Then it’s just a matter of buying more and more pedals and adding to your collection. Most serious musicians will add their pedals to one “pedal board,” some of which are impressive and insanely complex-looking works of art.
- Brand--As you research pedals you’ll discover that, like guitars, there are a ton of brands to choose from, but most serious musicians will pick one of the best and tend to stick with them for most of their careers.
- Demos--It’s important to see the pedals in action. If you’re physically shopping in a music shop you should be able to test out pedals on site. If you’re looking online, take some time to check out some YouTube videos and get a feel for whether or not you’re on the right track with your pedal selection.
OUR TOP 10 BEST GUITAR PEDALS
Now that you have an idea about some of the elements you need to take into consideration when shopping for your pedals it’s time to take a look at 10 options. You’ll find a few of each type of pedal, as well as a variety of price points.