When picking the best guitar pedals, we chose to focus on electric guitar pedals and did not include acoustic or bass guitar effects pedals. We included brands based on their sound quality, construction and the effects they offer. This lineup includes brands that offer single-effect pedals and multi-effect pedals but chose to exclude vintage brands.
Guitar pedals let you alter the sound of your music in all kinds of interesting ways. You can experiment with all kinds of pedals until you find the setup that creates a distinctive, signature sound that fits you as a musician. You can utilize a single pedal that simply controls distortion or you can chain multiple pedals or use a multi-effects pedal or a pedal box to give you more customization. You’ll also need to choose one that’s robust enough to withstand plenty of use from your feet. If you want to know more, check out our learning center for additional articles on guitar effect pedals.
Best Guitar Pedal for Beginners
TC Electronics is our first choice for guitar pedals for beginners. This brand offers a huge selection of single-effect pedals, ranging from simple volume controls to multiple delays, distortion and loopers. There is enough variety among the offerings from TC Electronics to satisfy the curiosity and experimentation of every enthusiastic guitarist just learning to find their signature sound. While this brand does offer a number of high-end single-effect pedals, its extensive range of affordable models are a great choice for budget-conscious guitarists as well as beginners. These pedals are robust and resilient and offer high-quality performance. Most pedals from TC Electronics feature top-mounted on/off controls for ease of use. Even the budget-friendly compact models boast tough, roadworthy enclosures.
The range of guitar pedals available from TC Electronics is exhaustive. Beginners can find good-quality, budget-friendly, compact single-effect pedals that let them hone their sounds without breaking the bank. At the other end of the scale, there are high-end units with multiple options and features. Notably, for a brand with such an exhaustive catalog of single-effect pedals, many of which are professional-grade, TC Electronics doesn't offer multi-effect boxes.
Best Guitar Pedal for Live Performance
Boss guitar pedals are our top pick for live performance because of their reliability, durability and versatile features. This brand offers an extensive range, including single and multiple-effects pedals. It’s the quality of Boss multi-effects pedals that make them stand out as star performers for live sessions. As well as a range of popular effects, many of these pedals come with sound libraries that contain collections of preset tones that performers can select, use and customize rapidly. You’ll also find models with phase loop recording capabilities, so you can record your own backing or create complex rhythms. Models with Boss Librarian software let you edit and save your own sounds effortlessly. The ease of use and high level of customization make Boss pedals a popular choice for live performances.
Boss guitar pedals are available both as single and multi-effects units, so the brand offers plenty of diversity across its guitar pedal line. You can find simple, beginner-friendly, low-cost units as well as high-end, professional-grade products that are well-suited to live and studio performances.
Best Guitar Pedal for Studio Recording
For studio recording, whether in your home studio or a professional one, DigiTech pedals are at the top of our list. This brand offers an array of pedals, from tuning pedals and pitch changers to multi-effects pedals. It’s their multi-effects units that set them apart as an outstanding brand for studio recording. They are versatile products with plenty of flexibility, with some models boasting an output jack that allows you to connect the unit to a mixer for direct recording. Select DigiTech pedals have a library of 100 factory-recorded presets with another 100 user-defined presets. Up to 52 effects, 40 tone and FX bank combinations, and up to a five-second delay give these pedals enough versatility for the most demanding recording session.
Whether you want a utility pedal like a mute pedal so you can retune on stage or a volume control pedal, or you want to capture the sounds of a classic blues acoustic, add some fuzz to your signature sound, or utilize a complex looper to play along to interesting backing sounds, you can find DigiTech guitar pedals to meet your needs. A diverse range of single-effects pedals ensures that guitar novices and veteran musicians alike can capture the right tones as they play. For those who don’t want a huge pedal board or mammoth chain of cables and pedals, DigiTech also offers multi-effects boards with an exhaustive list of features and options.
Single or Multi-Effects Pedals
Every guitarist has their own opinion regarding whether a multi-effects or single pedal is the best option. A single individual pedal is less costly than a multi-effects box, but as your music progresses, there’s a strong possibility you’re going to want more than a single pedal. So, as you keep buying more units, cables and power supplies, things can get a little costly. Plus, you’ll need a pedal board and protective cover to keep all your individual pedals together for the sake of simplicity. On the other hand, multiple individual pedals can leave plenty of room for customization, and you can organize your setup in any order and position you prefer. A multi-effects unit is more cost-efficient than multiple single pedals, and high-end models contain large sound libraries and have plenty of space for user-recorded library entries. While some claim that the audio created with the use of single pedals is cleaner and more accurate than with a multi-effects unit, good-quality models don’t follow this claim, and in the vast majority of cases, this difference would only be noticed by serious audiophiles.
Type of Effect
There are several different effect categories to choose from. Time effects include delay, reverb and echo. Modulation effects are those that duplicate and alter the waveform of the original signal, then blend the original with the altered signal. These effect pedals include tremolo, phaser, flanger and chorus. Gain-staging effects include gain boost, overdrive, distortion, compressions and volume control. Frequency effects include EQ, wah-wah, envelope filter and pitch shifter. There are also pedals that change the sound of an electric guitar to that of an acoustic or bass. Some instrument models will even alter the sound of your guitar to a different instrument altogether. Loopers let you record sound and then play it back on a loop indefinitely.
Most modern guitar pedals and multi-effect models come with at least a few presets. These are preset overall sound setups, and many are so good that you won’t need to worry about creating your own. However, if you want a totally unique signature sound, high-quality models will let you start with an existing preset, tweak it until you’re happy and store it. Some units will let you create and store presets from scratch.
While it may not seem like a deal-breaker, one of the key considerations when buying a guitar pedal is the strength and durability of the product. Remember, whether you’re an enthusiastic amateur jamming to your favorite tunes in the comfort of your bedroom or a seasoned pro performing live on stage, your pedals are going to take a beating. Therefore, they need to be solid, sturdy, and roadworthy.