How To Choose The Best Guitar Pedals: Top 5 Guitar Pedals Review
Stompbox, guitar effects, effects pedal, guitar pedal, gear, rig... call it whatever you want, it all pertains to the same thing - these are all signal altering devices that change musical color in many different aspects. If you are looking for the guitar pedal that will suit your needs, you will surely be overwhelmed with the wide selection available in the market today.
Well, unfortunately, it’s hard to say what are the best guitar pedals for you! It heavily depends on what genre of music you are on.
What Makes A Good Rig Great?
We hook up these babies in our chain to define color, modulate timbre, reduce noise, compress/boost signal, amplify sound, drive, more drive, add some weird flavor and enhance the sound we produce. In my opinion, classical instrument performances are best heard live and raw as it is. But we are talking about modern music, and the best guitar pedals pump steroids to your music!
It’s quite difficult to lead you to a specific set up that you will forever use until the end of your career. But to guide you, here are some recommendations that might be useful in your practice, recording and even in live performances.
Synergy In The Sky
It may not always be about copying popular tones, but we also can’t deny they have made their sound very distinct that sometimes, just hearing it points to them or their band. Remember that famous bands are composed of at least three people. Their performances are a synergy of the combined signals each one of them plays. Try finding the right amount of treble or distortion or chorus that compliments with the whole band.
If you mostly play alone with a backing track or a complex layer in a loop, it is still not an excuse to find harmony in your piece. Think of the many muscles in the face; it takes a few of them working together to form a smile. Each layer is tangled with each other but still flowing smoothly.
Mixing And Matching 101
With the advent of technology, a huge selection of stompboxes have saturated the music industry and have made it difficult to choose and even decipher the effects inside the track. I knew you have tried to copy the exact sound of your favorite artist and failed a lot of times. You even bought their signature pedal and found yourself crying in the middle of your practice, frustrated and feeling ripped off.
It is not rare to see musicians who have multiple guitar pedals linked together. Hook up a chorus with the best distortion pedal and get your mind blown to bits and pieces! If you haven’t tried doing this, I hate to say this but, you’re in for a face melting awesome experience!
What Fits Your Style?
Before you pick up that guitar you are holding right now; I know someone, a single person or a band has influenced you to play music. You carefully listened to them, appreciated their songs and tried copying them. You find another artist worthy of your time, and you start listening to them.
If you’re like me, I love alternative rock music in their medium drives and subtle choruses. Again, it heavily depends on the genre you are into. If you are inclined to reggae, a wah pedal is generally recommended to get that twangy sound. If you love playing heavy metal, I think fuzzes, heavy distortions and the best overdrive pedal would be an astounding choice.
If you play alone, or your band is one guitarist short, you can use a looper to enhance your gig. If you want some futuristic sounding effect, you might opt to use some phaser combined with echo or delay. I bet that would be a face melter! You can learn more about the best delay pedal!
Other Things to Consider
You might have been consumed by the idea that the best guitar pedals are all you need to sound great. Put into consideration the amp head and the speaker you use. Ask yourself if all your equipment compliments each other. Is my amp already driven? If I add more drive, will it sound good or will it be too much? Should I purchase a reverb pedal or does my amp already have a reverb?
You might save a few dollars by checking what you can make out of the equipment you already have.
Top 5 Best Guitar Pedals
In the next section, I will share with you the best guitar pedals I found with their pros, cons, and their distinctive features.
- Weight - 13.6 ounce
- Dimension - 2.6x5.5x4.4 inches
- Power - Operates on a single 9v battery, AC and DC
- 5 Knobs - level, rate, depth, and 2 tone knobs
The first time I saw this, seeing MXR M234 in its glittery aqua blue color, I think Dunlop have just perfectly defined the color of its sound. Out of the box, the size and weight of MXR M234 are just like your average stomp box. You can feel the solidity, durability and toughness just by holding it. It will not have a problem taking space in your rail.
This effect is easily one of the best guitar pedals in the market, in my opinion, as it trumps most of its competitors with its five control knobs! Basic choruses have three knobs namely; level, rate and depth. This Analog Chorus by MXR was designed to cater a more versatile user. Let me warn you that this is a bit tricky to configure. Aside from the default switches, MXR added a tone dial for the low and high-frequency signal. This gives you more options in just one piece!
If you want to play a bright solo, you can make it even brighter by dialing the low-frequency tones down. It will add up much more flavor and distinction to your style. You can also combine it with a distortion pedal, dial the high-frequency tone down and jam with a dark and heavy chorus/distortion combination. Careful with the head banging!
- Sturdy and durable finish
- The high and low frequency cut tone knobs kills
- The battery enclosure is a bit of a hassle to unscrew. A snap fit would have been a great alternative.
- The power source would have been better positioned at the top to avoid tangling from patch cables
- Weight - 18 ounce
- Dimension - 1.5x5x3.5 inches
- Power - Operates on a single 9v battery, AC and DC
- 4 Knobs - level, delay, feedback, mode
- Interface - USB (cable included)
Flashback Delay and Looper is another great choice of effect for your rig. Its flat but it weighs more than it looks and feels solid and durable. It has four knobs; level, delay, feedback and one for different pre-set modes.
With this effect, you can have up to six seconds of delay and a wide selection of presets that can be readily dialed on the fourth knob. You can also record up to forty seconds of virtually unlimited number of overdubs. I think that’s a good way to compensate for a missing guitar player or just to spice up the jam a bit more.
If you think that that’s a good enough deal, prepare to get your mind blown for its unique toneprint! TC Electronics Flashback delay with Looper has a USB slot interface to upload pre-made mixes downloaded from their website that you can readily use! It’s a real nice addition to your arsenal, especially for live performances.
- Good selection of preset modes
- Toneprint makes this deal for its extensive selection of downloadable tracks and mixes
- Forty seconds loop is quite a good length to record the riff of a verse
- Lacks a control switch for tap temp
- Cannot readily adjust the volume of your loop because the level knob acts as the master volume and your solos can be overwhelmed by your backing track
Pro Tip : If you already own a volume pedal, this can be addressed by placing your delay pedal next to the volume pedal for more versatile volume mixing.
- Weight - 3.7 pounds
- Dimension - 10x2.5x 4 inches
- Power - Operates on a single 9v battery, AC and DC
- 4 Knobs - level, delay, feedback, modeInterface - USB (cable included)
Way to go, Dunlop! GCB95 is the first of its kind and popularly called the original crybaby wah-wah.By the size, look and feel of it, it does not look like a baby at all, and you might cry upon hearing it sound. It is made of diecast iron which makes it one of the toughest effects out in the market. It operates on a single 9v battery, AC and DC. It is very easy to use and fairly self-explanatory. Press forward until you feel a click to activate it, and the same goes for switch off.
I think no one would disagree with the great legends who have used this pedal with their face melting and electrifying solos. Do I need to say the name Jimi Hendrix? I guess it’s the first name that comes to mind. It makes a great sounding wah on highs and does decent on the lows. It makes funky crunches and does ridiculously awesome on reggae!
- Sturdy and can take a beating quite well
- Fluid enough to smoothly glide with just the right amount of rigidity to feel the feed-back
- Simple and straightforward operation
- If you will not use a power brick, it will consume a lot of juice
- Big and heavy
- Takes a lot of space on your rail
- Weight - 1.4 pounds
- Dimension - 6.1x9.3x2 inches
- Power - Operates on four AA batteries, AC and DC
- Footswitch - 2 programmable footswitches and 1 expression pedal
Zoom G1xon is a great gear for beginners and intermediate musicians. It is lightweight, and will fit the gig bag well. If you are just starting on your musical career, I think this is the best guitar pedal to understand how guitar effects work and how they sound.
It has 100 preset effects that you can easily access at the sound bank. It has 80 types of effects that you can play with. You can always tune and retune with its accessible chromatic tuner. Had enough? You can also record a loop of up to 30 seconds and it also has a drum beat preset, which is very nice. You can play one-man band with it! Another great thing is that you link up to 5 types of effects simultaneously! If that’s not enough, they also placed an expression pedal that can be used to adjust volume and doubles as a wah pedal. The best of all, its price is low, considering the big things it can do!
You can’t judge it by its price. Hey, it's cheap. Yeah, we could all agree on that and maybe it cannot live up to the quality of analog stompboxes. But you could use this to learn a few things about almost everything and work your way from there. It’s like having a slice of everything.
- Huge selection on soundbank
- Has a 40 second looper
- Can chain up to 5 effects
- Has 68 rhythmic drum patterns that can be used as backing tracks
- A bit delicate because it is made of plastic
- Has only a few switches for the amount of effects you have
- With only two foot switches, it can be quite difficult to memorize the control combinations
- Weight - 8 ounce
- Dimension - 4x3.9x2.5 inches
- Power - AC and DC
- Others - 1 knob and 1 footswitch
This might be the best looper pedal in its category brought to you by TC Electronics. It is handy and small but fulfills its purpose well above its competitors. This pedal is straightforward, thanks to its simplistic design. With only a single knob for volume and a footswitch for control, it’s hard to go wrong.
A single press activates the looper to start recording a layer up to 300 seconds! That’s almost the whole song’s length. Another click stops recording and starts playback. Your next stomp would signal the device to record an overdub. This is where you might want to adjust the volume to achieve the right balance for your mix and then insert your riff.
A long press will clear your previous recording and pressing the switch twice in quick succession will end the loop. To reset the device, press and hold the footswitch, release then you are ready to go again.
- Portable and light
- Can record 300secs with unlimited overdubs
- Simplistic design
- Can only be operated using an adapter or a power brick
- During a live performance, the operation can be quite confusing
Every guitar effect has its use and synergy. Among the best guitar pedals listed above, it is G1xon that has the greater edge on all aspects - functionality, versatility, ease of use and value for money. It can be at par with the other mid-level effects on the market at most.
If you opt for the best of each class, you might prefer the single analog stompboxes out there. But for starters on a budget, G1xon is already a great deal.
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