When it comes to guitars, strumming that baby can be beautiful, whether it’s electric or acoustic. But what about manipulating how the strings sound? To our avail, guitar pedals aka stompboxes can let us really customize how those strings appear to our listener’s ears. When it comes to pedals, there are so many possibilities and combinations it’s tough to really emulate anything we hear from our favorite artists, we can only attempt to match it by ear or merely make our own. Although it’s we at first felt it was pretty impossible to choose an exact “ten best” guitar pedals since there are so many amazing models out there along with different types of effects, we did our best to pick some of the classics for you to check out. Let’s see the top 10 best guitar pedals in the market.
The many different guitar pedals available
There are too many different types of stompboxes\guitar pedals out there to count. There are however some core types that we wanted to outline for you before shopping. If you’re already aware of these, of course feel free to scroll down and check out our list. However, we organized it a bit with some summaries below:
- Compressor: This gives our sound a “punchy” tone. It stabilizes the volume and also adds some smoothness to the “attack”.
- Distortion: This effect gives us that “gritty” and “fuzzy” sound we hear pretty commonly in music. It distorts the wave form and adds overtones to give us that “this sounds too loud but it isn’t” sound.
- Reverb: One of our favorites, these give us that bright “we’re in a big cathedral” sound to make our hearts feel all warm and fuzzy.
- Delay: This makes your signal sound “delayed” (of course) to give you an echo effect by adding a duplicate audio signal slightly after the original.
Chorus: This is a bit like reverb but you get more of a choir or string orchestra sound due to timbre and pitch changes. A slight delay is added to the audio signal.
- Wah: This boosts only a certain frequency of the sound depending on how you position the pedal. The result is like making your strings say “wah” (hence the name, eh?) every now and then in a rhythm.
- Flanger: This inverts your audio signal with short delay times to give you a “jet plan” or “spacey” sound.
- Phaser: These are awesome and give you a little ripple effect. It amplifies some tones and diminishes others by splitting the signal in two.
- Multi-effects: We guess the label is self-explanatory, but these are beasts if you go up in terms of price point. There are a wide range of multi-effects pedals, some to giving you a few effects to play with while others can transform your guitar to sound like a completely different instrument.
How to choose your guitar pedal
- Your budget. Most pedals are decently priced at a bill or sometimes less. It all depends on the model really. How much cash do you have saved up? Maybe you’d like to buy more than one?
- Which type? As stated previously, you’ve got a bunch of possibilities when it comes to the exact effect your pedal is going to bring you. Heck, some people want to grab 2, 3 or even 4 to start collecting. You can start building your pedal board and have something that looks like the picture to the right one day. Or maybe you already do? Feel free to share in the comments.
- Preferred brand? Some guitarists we talk to are pretty brand loyal. Are you? You’d be surprised at how awesome some guitar pedals are out there from some brands you’ve probably never heard of.
- Watch the demos! We found a demo video for every single pedal we have in this article. You can also search around for others if you want, as many pedal enthusiasts have uploaded some examples for us to hear before we purchase.
The top 10 best guitar pedals
We’ll be honest — it was tough picking only 10 of the best guitar pedals out there. We could probably do separate top 10’s of each type (and we most likely will). So just to forewarn you, it took some serious constraining when it came to these ten. We did try to grab a few of each type as well as price points to make sure it was well-rounded, but we just wanted to preface that we could probably do a top 20 or 30 with how many great models there are out there. Let us know your suggestions in the comments. Be sure to check out our best guitar amplifiers or best guitar tuners if you still need yours alongside your pedals and pedal board.
Pro Co Rat 2
This is one of the more popular distortion pedals in the market. It covers most of the ground you’ll need for this type of pedal: distortion, sustain, fuzz and overdrive. This thing really gives you that gritty sound you hear in most rock (and others of course) music. If you want to get even more specific, hard rock and metal shine here, but I’ve heard of even some hip-hop producers use it for tracks. We’ve also heard it used with bass to distort it by pushing back the treble a little bit and magnifying the lower bass frequencies. This is one of the best distortion pedals out there and has been for years. Just check the user reviews, there are thousands of positive outlines that really praise the overall sound it gives. It’s gritty, raunchy, warm, and all other superlatives you can use to describe a perfect distortion pedal. Check the video below for a taste of what you’ll get.
Electro-Harmonix Soul Food
Here’s another distortion pedal that’s extremely popular among the pedal heads. Electro-Harmonix (EHX) is a famous brand when it comes to a few of their stompboxes. The Soul Food is pretty famous. It’s very responsive, has a nice compact design for easy placement or traveling, a true bypass or buffered bypass mode, and of course the overdrive sound we all love. Super affordable as compared to some other fuzz pedals out there and this one’s also a good choice because of the definition and headroom. Grab this if you weren’t feeling the Rat 2, or like some you can always get both to cover all of your bases. Check the video demo for some examples.
TC Electronic Hall of Fame
We have more than one TC Electronic pedals in here for good reason. Up at #3 for our list is our first reverb pedal, and this one is arguably stated by many to be one of the best out there. It’s hard to say for sure and back this claim up, but they state that artists like Michael Jackson to Dire Straits have used this bad boy. It gives us 10 different reverb types, a stereo I/O and deep tonal options to really customize the feel of reverb you want to attain. It will take some experimenting to find the sound you want but to us that’s one of the most fun parts of grabbing a new pedal — you lose track of time being so focused on the sound of your strings. The decay, tone and level controls are perfect. One of the best reverb pedals out there if it’s what you’re looking for.
MXR M169 Carbon Copy
Now that we’ve chosen our preferred reverb pedal, here’s a great delay model if you’re looking for it. MXR is in here quite a few times and for good reason. The Carbon Copy is pretty popular because of a very rich and warm delay sound to your instruments. It takes about 600ms of delay time (optional modulation available with a switch at the top). You also get an option for “mix” (dry or wet blend) or “regen” (delay repeat). It’s a super simple pedal to give you the raw delay you may be looking for without anything fancy attached to it. It’s also pretty small in size so it’s going to fit on your board or to the side of your setup with easy travel. A solid, simple pedal for delay.
Zoom MS-70CDR MultiStomp
If you wanted both a reverb and delay but didn’t want to grab two pedals at once, here’s an awesome combo pedal to give you those two as well as some chorus. Zoom is usually known for some portable audio recorders or microphones but this one has a lot of positive reviews backing up the overall quality it gives. You have 86 classic effects, a super easy interface and a tuner built-in. It’s super small for easy travel or placement and there’s a small screen on the top to help you navigate through the many customization options you have at your finger tips. Check this thing out for a great combo pedal.
TC Electronic Flashback
Another TCE model here and this one gives us some awesome delay and looping capabilities. You have 11 solid delay times, some audio tapping as well as the built-in looping (40 seconds). The audio tapping function lets you set your delay times simply on-the-fly, so if you’re doing some live improvisation stuff or want to record naturally you can. The pedal detects the tempo once you strum your strings so even if you’re with a band you can get it to work quickly. With the looping, 40 seconds is a decent amount of time so there are no complaints there. There are also a lot of on-board switches and knobs, such as a the delay time adjust, FX level, feedback, and type selector. Check out the video demo above to see what it’s about.
It doesn’t feel right only having one Boss guitar pedal in here, but with how things worked out and the constraints of ten, this one will do. The seven in the model number is because of the 7-band EQ you’re getting here. You range from 100 Hz to 6.4 kHz and a boost/cut of 15dB plus or minus to have pretty much full control of how your strings are going to sound. Pretty simple when it comes down to the “extra features” like some other pedals, but with an EQ stompbox it’s what we prefer: something simple that allows us to control the frequency and boost\cut. This is almost an essential if you have a board in the making. Grab it and don’t look back if you want more control over your sound.
Now it’s time to get into compression. The Ego is pretty popular if you do some research on compression pedals. You have some nifty knobs on the front to really get a feel for what you want to do with your sound. Sustain, tone, attack, overall volume and most importantly, the blend. The blend knob helps you control your tonal quality and is a dry mix that sweeps between an effect signal to zero across the sweep. Basically, it helps bring the quiet parts up and the louder parts down to give a more even sounding tone. A super effective and high-quality compression pedal and one of the favorites among the stompbox community.
Power this thing up with your AC adapter or two 9 volts and you have one of the best flangers around. Van Halen used this one in “Unchained” and “And the Cradle Will Rock”, so you’ve got some timeless backup when it comes to having some confidence in the pedal. There’s even a switch called the “EVH Switch” which automatically presets Van Halen’s speed, width, regen and manual settings to replicate the sound — not bad, right? Even if you’re not necessarily a EVH fan (who isn’t?), it’s a sweet sounding flange. I mean, even the colors match with the dude.
MXR M101 Phase 90
Last but not least, we have our recommendation for one of the best phaser guitar pedals in the market. Another MXR model here but this one has too many positive user reviews to count. It gives us a really rich, warm analog tone to our strings. That “swooshing” tone is pretty distinct and the main knob lets you control the speed of it. Another pedal MXR markets with Van Halen’s name which never hurts, but what stands out the most is that you can use it with any instrument (bass, keyboard or maybe vocals), too. It’s a pretty simple pedal when it comes down to it but you’d be surprised how different each speed can make your strings sound. Grab it if you want a sweet phaser. It’s pretty affordable as well.