The Best Guitar Pedals by Effects Category
We are constantly researching the best effects of all types, and for the first time we bring all of that information together in one place with this roundup of the best guitar pedals in each effect category.
Our selection criteria included pedals which are in mass production and readily available at most music stores. There are some boutique pedals which we would have included but they are often out of reach due to high prices and a lack of general availability.
The following effects categories are included: Distortion, Overdrive, Fuzz, Volume, Wah, Chorus, Phaser, Reverb, Delay, EQ, Tremolo and Compressor pedals. Scroll down below to see which one we have selected in each category. You can also click on the category title in each section to see a full list of the top guitar pedals of that type of effect.
The DS-1 is one of those classic pedals which has stood the test of time so well that it's still in production after more than 30 years since being released by Boss.
Joe Satriani and Steve Vai are two of the most famous guitarists who have put the DS-1 to great effect, both live and on recordings, and Kurt Cobain also used one. It's clear that the Boss DS-1 has helped shape guitar music and influenced many of the modern distortion pedals that are available today.
Although it sells at quite a reasonable price, usually under $50, the main thing that has attracted so many guitarists is its dynamic distortion, and transparency. It's extremely easy to use also making ideal for those who are just starting out. It's so solidly built that you shouldn't be surprised if it lasts longer than you do!
NB: You can also find an alternative opinion on which is the best distortion pedal at Guitar Chalk which is worth taking a look at.
Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer
Since its release over 35 years ago the Ibanez TS808 has become the pedal that defines overdrive, sometimes referred to as the mother of all overdrive pedals, and it continues to be one of the highest selling stompboxes available today. The tube screamer has influenced the design of many modern overdrive pedals up to the point where some pedals are essentially clones of the TS808.
The TS808 is used by many well known guitarists, most famously Stevie Ray Vaughn, and because it keeps the dynamics of the input signal this pedal has become wildly popular with guitarists of all levels of experience and ability.
So whether you play rock, metal or blues, do yourself a favor and get the original and best overdrive pedal - The TS808 Tubescreamer.
Dunlop JD-F2 Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face
If you want the tone of Jimi Hendrix then you need a fuzz pedal, and in particular you want the Fuzz Face. Hendrix isn't the only well known guitarist to use one - there have been many including Dave Gilmour, Eric Johnson, George Harrison, Pete Townsend, Duane Allman and many many others.
Dunlop have released many versions of the Fuzz Face since they acquired the rights to it from Dallas-Arbiter in 1993, but the Dallas-Arbiter JD-F2 is special because it's designed to replicate as closely as possible the original circuit design the original Fuzz Face had back in the 1960s. It has the original Germanium PNP transistor design, easy to use controls, vintage look and classic fuzz tones of the classic exemplar.
The unusual circular shape may not be the current trend in guitar pedals, and it will take up a bit of extra space on your pedalboard, but you won't find any other guitar pedal that comes as close to the original Fuzz Face as this without spending a great deal more than this one costs.
The Morley PVO+ is used by both guitarists and bass players who resoundingly report that it's completely transparent - it won't color your tone, just change the volume.
It utilizes an electro-optical system meaning that there are no pots to wear out producing 'scratchy' sounds. It also has a bypass switch so you can instantly reset to your original volume.
The audio taper is smooth and adjustable to your preference. Conveniently it has a footswitchable "Min Vol Knob" - this lets you to use volume as a lead/rhythm switch. Finally, the pedal is housed in in a sturdy casing, ready for all the stomping you will throw at it.
Dunlop Cry Baby Wah GCB95
There are a great number of wah wah pedals available today, and Dunlop produce many of the popular models, but the Cry Baby Wah GCB95 is our top selection in this category because of its popularity and ease of use.
It's known as the "Original Cry Baby" because it sticks very closely to the original design with only minor changes over the years - most notably the inclusion of a bypass switch.
The popularity and longevity of the Dunlop Cry Baby Wah GCB95 is attested to by the fact that you can now get signature model versions of it by Slash, Kirk Hammett, Joe Bonamassa, Jerry Cantrell, Zakk Wylde and others - click here to see a list of signature versions currently available.
Boss CH-1 Super Chorus
It's not surprising to see Boss appear for a second time in this roundup of guitar pedals because they know how to come up with a good design, house it in a solid and durable stompbox, and produce it on a large scale while keeping the quality control up - the CH-1 Super Chorus is another stellar example of that.
The first chorus pedal I ever used was a Boss and I can attest to their simplicity and ease of use - I strongly recommend the Ch1 to anyone buying their first chorus pedal. It avoids the more extreme chorus sounds found in more expensive models while retaining sufficient versatility for most of us.
If you've been wondering which chorus pedal you should get, stop wondering now and get yourself a Boss CH-1 Super Chorus today.
MXR Phase 90
As Alexander said in his roundup of phaser pedals, "There's nothing surprising about the MXR Phase 90 getting our pick as the Best Phaser Pedal, this seemingly simple single-knob pedal continues to be one of the most prominent phasers since it was introduced back in 1974."
This is another one of those classic stompboxes that Jim Dunlop resurrected after the original manufacturer went out of business and they build it to a high standard while keeping the price down - it usually only costs about $69. They've stuck with the simplicity of the original with a single knob to vary the phasing speed but added an LED so you can see when it's on, and the option to use external power as well as a battery, so it will work nicely on your pedalboard.
Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Nano
Alexander described this so well in his reverb pedal roundup that I'll provide you with pretty much exactly what he said...
With virtuosos like Yngwie Malmsteen and Vernon Reid endorsing their brand, there's no denying the popularity and reach of EHX. Their entry for the reverb market is the Holy Grail, which is currently one of their most popular pedals and available in various versions, the Nano version being the most practical and accessible.
Since most guitarists utilize subtle reverb for tone enhancement, the Holy Grail Nano's compact size and single knob configuration make it the most practical choice. All you need to do is insert it where you want it in your signal path and adjust the reverb knob to taste. Adding value to this pedal is a three way mode selector that lets you switch between spring, hall and flerb modes.
While spring and hall follow traditional sonic signatures, flerb provides a unique reverb texture thanks to the combination of flanging and spatial reverb. If you are looking for a money and space saving reverb pedal, check this one out.
Moog MF Delay Minifooger
Their was a time when Moog's analog effects seemed to be priced out of the range of us mere mortals, but these days they cater to all segments of the effects market and the MF Delay Minifooger is an excellent example. Once used by top artists such as The Doors and Jeff Beck, we can now all get our hands on Moog analog delay with the Minifooger typically selling for just under $200.
Here's what Alexander had to say about it, "This pedal produces clear delay that blooms out and fades naturally with every repeat, resulting in a very organic and beautiful sounding trail of echoes. It has up to 700ms of delay, so you can set long decays that build up much like reverbs. Making this delay pedal stand out further is the addition of analog drive which can go over 22dB. And finally, it supports expression pedal connection for realtime control over your feedback or time settings. Although this pedal lacks modern versatility, it is the best in what it does, which is providing great sounding delays."
Watch this video with Jon Levy from Premier Guitar as he puts the Moog MF Delay Minifooger through its paces:
Fulltone Supa-Trem ST-1
Fulltone set out to replicate the warm tremolo sounds which can be found in many old American tube amps by utilizing photo-cells, something which they've achieved admirably well while avoiding the noise problems of older gear. And when you hear big names like Joe Bonamassa endorsing this as the best classic sounding tremolo pedal available then you have to sit up and take notice.
It doesn't provide much in the way of tone shaping, instead it focuses on producing a tremolo effect with controls that allow you to select a wide range of speed and mix settings. You can choose between classic voice "Soft", or modern style "Hard" stuttering, essentially giving you two flavors in one pedal.
Additionally it includes a footswitchable Half/Full speed setting that stays in tempo, a speed knob for adjusting the rate of tremolo and a mix knob which lets you control how much of the tremolo sound is mixed with the original signal. It provides volume control as well with up to 15dB of gain. To top it all off it's enclosed in a relatively small case which leaves plenty of pedalboard space for all your other pedals.
Keeley 4-Knob Compressor
There was a lot of hype surrounding this pedal when it was first released by Keeley, however it has lived up to that and remains a top-notch compression pedal being favored by many guitarists over more recent releases. It's used both by guitarists and bass players.
It is a fairly transparent compressor and some say that it can match expensive audiophile rack-mounted rigs, most report that your tone is unaffected across a wide range of settings. It provides control over sustain, level, attack and clipping, and includes true bypass.
It's used by well known artists such as John Mayer, Adrian Belew, Pearl Jam and Charlie Hunter. It's true that there are cheaper compressor pedals out there, but for around $200 you're getting compression in a pedal which is a step above the rest.
By the way, if you want rackmount quality compression combined with a valve preamp, then you might want to consider getting a rackmountable channel strip instead.
MXR M108 10 Band Graphic EQ
This is the third time a Dunlop owned brand has appeared in this list, and the MXR M108 10 Band Graphic EQ is just as deserving of its place here as the Fuzz Face and Phase 90 pedals above.
The 10 bands on this graphic equalizer pedal have been selected as the frequency bands you'll most want to control for your guitar, both when playing clean and when in sequence with other effects - watch the video demo below to see what I mean. Once you try an EQ pedal like this you'll immediately appreciate the advantages of not being tied to the simple EQ options provided by most guitar amps.
Controlling so many frequency bands can be a little daunting at first, so they've included a number of suggested settings that you can start with right out of the box making it accessible to those without a great deal of EQ experience.
Finally there's a category not covered above, so here's a roundup of synthesizer pedals for guitar.
If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
Share This Article