One of the real beauties of the electric guitar is the ability to create a unique sonic signature by mixing and matching audio effects. This high level of customization establishes an intimate relationship between guitar and guitarist that shows through in the music they create together. That's why you recognize your favorite artists from their first introductory riffs – nobody sounds quite the same. Perhaps more than with any other popular musical instrument, the electric guitar is an extension of the mind and body. With the aid of a guitar effect pedal, you and your guitar can produce a tone that is as unique as your own fingerprint.
Unlike most electronics, the best guitar effect pedals age well. A thirty-year-old stompbox is a vintage delicacy among guitarists, and the more the merrier. To achieve a truly unique sound, stompboxes both old and new must be chained together. As you can imagine, this quickly becomes expensive. For new guitarists, we recommend a multi effect pedal. Some guitarists might argue that the tone quality of these digital devices is inferior to analog stompboxes, but they produce a much wider range of effects and effect combinations. If you don't know what sound you want quite yet, a multi effect pedal will give you the creative latitude you need to explore and find that signature tone. Veteran guitarists with already much-loved guitar pedalboards have good reason to own a multi effect unit as well – an all-in-one unit is essential when emergency gig opportunities catch you by surprise or require air travel.
We recommend the POD HD 500, DigiTech RP1000 and BOSS GT-10 for a great mix of durability, flexibility and tonal quality. If you want to know more, check out our learning center for additional articles on guitar effect pedals. Your search for the best guitar pedal comparisons and reviews ends here, because at TopTenREVIEWS, We Do the Research So You Don't Have To.™
Whether you are new or pro, you'll need a multi-effect pedal with a wide range of effect options and customization controls. It should also be durable (you will probably be stomping it) and portable. When choosing your guitar effect pedal, consider the case material, number of effects and connectivity options.
Effect Options and Features
Do yourself a favor and purchase an effect unit with an expression pedal. They give you the power to control and modulate the volume and other effects without bending down to twist the knobs. Also consider the number of footswitches: The more there are, the more control and versatility you will have in chaining different effects together to simulate one sound.
You need an effects pedal that can take a beating because you'll be beating it if you are using it at all properly. Look for a metal chassis (the metal casing that protects the electronic innards) with metal footswitches. These pedals might just last long enough to become a vintage part of your collection.
The more inputs and outputs on your guitar effect pedal the better; you never know what you will want to run through it or add to it. As you supplement your multi effect guitar pedal with other stompboxes and accessories, you'll end up needing a wide variety of inputs. Custom-built pedal boards are notorious for their complexity. If you are not planning to supplement your effect pedal with other stompboxes (and you may never need to, with the number of effects you can accomplish with one unit), all you really need is an input and output jack.
With a guitar effect pedal, an amp and your favorite axe in hand, you have everything you need to design your signature sound. Whether you opt for crunchy or clean, ethereal or metallic, you can be sure that your sound will fit you.