The Ultimate Effects Pedal/Stompbox Buyer’s Guide 2021


So you’re wondering which effects pedal you should buy, rent or otherwise try out. In this comprehensive buyer’s guide, we’ll go through everything worth considering before you make any decisions about an effects pedal.

If you’ve found yourself asking, “which pedal/stompbox should I buy?” this extensive resource is for you.

Please feel free to jump around this article and read all additional resources I have provided links to.

With that, let’s get into this comprehensive effects pedal buyer’s guide to help you in your next pedal purchase!

Related articles:
Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use
Top 11 Best Boutique Guitar/Bass Pedal Brands To Know & Use
Effects Pedals Database
Effects Pedals Brands Database


Table Of Contents


What Is Your Effect Pedal Budget?

The first thing to consider when making any purchase is your budget. Money can be a touchy subject for some, and so I’ll keep this section brief.

I would never advise anyone to overspend on any audio equipment. Know what you can realistically afford, and do your best to stay within those limitations, whatever they may be.

Effects pedals, like many audio devices, range significantly in price. The market is rather large, and so there should be a good selection for any budget.

Note that some retailers offer payment plans, which could be an option.

Consider the cost to benefit ratio of the purchase of the effects pedal. For example, if the pedal is needed for business, perhaps stretching the budget is more appropriate. On the other hand, if you don’t plan on making money with the pedal, perhaps a more conservative budget is appropriate.

Also, consider any additional accessories or upkeep that may be required for your pedal(s).

Only you can determine your budget. All I’m here to say is that you should consider it.

Back to the Table Of Contents.


Single-Effect Pedals Vs. Multi-Effect Pedals

Before we begin searching for our next pedal, we should ask ourselves whether we want an all-in-one multi-effects unit or one or more single-effect pedals.

The difference is in the name. Single-effect pedals (sometimes referred to as stompboxes) are specialized units the focus, typically, on one effect, though some stompboxes offer a few different effects. Conversely, multi-effects pedal units are designed to offer all the effects we would need in a single unit.

Single-effect pedals are typically analogue, though many have digital components. They do one effect well (if designed correctly) and can be chained together with other single-effect pedals according to the musician’s needs. Note that each pedal will require its own power supply.

Multi-effects pedals are typically fully digital to pack all the different effects and routings into a single housing. So with a single unit and a single power supply, the musician has access to a wide variety of effects.

So then, which should you buy? Let’s look at the pros and cons lists for each pedal style to help you decide:

Pros Of Single-Effect Pedals

Single-effect pedals are generally easy to use. There are rarely large menus and banks to scroll through, nor are there in-pedal routing issues to solve. That being said, some pedals offer presets.

Single-effect pedals are more visually laid out on pedalboards, and it’s easier to see which pedals are on/off and turn them on/off.

Single-effect pedals are easily mounted to pedalboards.

Single-effect pedals are easy to route manually. It’s simple to physically move the pedals and repatch them to obtain a new signal path.

Cons Of Single-Effect Pedals

Single-effect pedals need to be individually powered, which will eat up batteries quickly (if you go that route, which I don’t recommend) or require a dedicated power supply. Powering multiple pedals will require a power brick.

Chaining too many single-effect pedals together can lead to tone suck, where signal degradation becomes a factor in your tone. Additionally, the more pedals that are chained together, the more opportunity there is for something in the chain to go wrong (poor connection, dirty potentiometer, malfunctioning pedal, etc.).

Including too many single-effect pedals on a pedalboard will make it heavy. By the same token, pedalboards have limited space, so they can only fit so many individual effects. Furthermore, having too many pedals can make it difficult to “tap dance” around and ensure the proper pedals are being turned on or off appropriately.

Single-effect pedals only provide one effect or a few at best. Experimenting with new effects would require renting or investing in a new pedal. Buying individual pedals is also less cost-effective than opting for an all-in-one multi-effect.

Pros Of Multi-Effect Pedals

Multi-effect pedals offer a wide assortment of effects in a single compact unit. They will also often have multiple varieties of any given effect (different flavours of fuzz, a plethora of delay options, etc.). Additionally, multi-effect pedals only require one power supply.

Once understood, the sometimes intimidating menus can be your best friends, offering plentiful options in routing and effects.

Experimenting with lesser-used effects is easy. There’s no need to buy a new pedal to try out a new effect that may or may not be used in your tone palette.

Cons Of Multi-Effect Pedals

The menus of multi-effects pedals are sometimes difficult to use. Adjusting things on the fly during a gig is more difficult as options are often hidden in layers of menus rather than being laid out in individual effects units.

Having too many options may be overwhelming.

The presets are great but may not offer the tone you’re looking for. However, tweaking these presets is typically possible.

Multi-effects pedals generally don’t sound as great at any specific effect as a dedicated single-effect pedal would.

Back to the Table Of Contents.


Understanding Pedal Types & Effects

Knowing the different effects available in pedals is important. This is true of multi-effects pedals, but especially for single-effect pedals.

With so many audio effects, it can be overwhelming to choose the next effect for your setup. To make matters even more complicated, there are plenty of pedals on the market for most effects types. Perhaps this is another reason to opt for a multi-effect pedal unit. However, in this section, we’ll go through the various pedal effects we’ll encounter.

Effects can be categorized into the following broad types:

Related article: Full List & Description Of Guitar Pedal Types

Dynamic Effects

Dynamic effects pedals alter the dynamics of an audio signal (the changes in amplitude over time).

By altering the signal’s amplitude, dynamic effects will also alter the shape of the signal waveform, which is, by definition, signal distortion.

The dynamic effects found in pedals include:

Compressor Pedals

What is audio compression? Dynamic range compression is the process of reducing the dynamic range of an audio signal by attenuating the amplitude of the signal above a set threshold. A compressor can be software or hardware and performs compression on an audio signal (digital or analog).

Compressors will help fatten the tone by reducing dynamic range. They can also improve sustain and make a musician’s levels more consistent.

The types of compressor circuits in compressor pedal circuits are typically VCA, but there are also FET and optical options. Click the links for more information on each compressor type.

When choosing a compressor pedal, listen to the tone and look for the following controls (I’ve included links to in-depth articles on select controls):

To learn more about compressor pedals, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Are Compressor Pedals (Guitar/Bass) & How Do They Work?
Top 11 Best Compressor Pedals For Guitar & Bass

• The Complete Guide To Audio Compression & Compressors

Limiter Pedals

What is audio limiting? Limiting is a type of hard compression whereby the signal is not allowed above a certain threshold. Rather than attenuating the signal (above the threshold) by a ratio, the limiter will simply cut off the signal at the threshold. We can think of a limiter as a compressor with an infinite ratio.

Limiter pedals keep the audio signal below a defined maximum output. When hit hard, they act as compressors and sustainers. Hit them even harder, and they may even border distortion and fuzz.

Related article: What Is The Difference Between Audio Compression & Limiting?

Expander Pedals

What is audio expanding? Expanding can be thought of as the opposite of compression. It aims to increase the dynamic range of the signal. An expander will reduce the signal’s amplitude if it drops below the set threshold, thereby “expanding” the signal’s dynamic range.

Expander pedals aren’t that common. However, there is a market for them with players that want extra transients in their tone.

Noise Gate Pedals

What is audio noise gating? Noise gating is an effect that kills the output signal if the input signal drops below a set threshold. This helps to gate or remove noise from the signal when an instrument (or another sound source) is not playing. Noise gates are especially useful in noisy rigs, which often include vintage gear.

Noise gate pedals can be our best friends or our worst enemies. They work by effectively muting the signal below a certain threshold. These pedals help reduce noise and feedback when we’re not playing. However, if they’re set too sensitive, they can cut the audio before the sustain has a chance to fade appropriately.

When choosing a noise gate pedal, listen to how it cuts in and out below the set threshold, check to see whether there’s a send/return insert loop, and look for the following controls:

  • Threshold
  • Decay
  • Reduction

Pitch Effects

Pitch effects alter or otherwise manipulate the perceived pitch of the incoming audio signal. The two types of pitch-shifting pedals are:

Pitch-Shifting Pedals

What is pitch-shifting? Pitch-shifting, as the name suggests, is an audio effect that shifts the input signal’s pitch.

To learn more about pitch-shifting pedals, check out my article What Are Pitch-Shifting Guitar Pedals & How Do They Work?

Octave & Harmonizer Pedals

What are octaves? An octave is an interval between one musical pitch and another with double its fundamental frequency. Octave pedals will copy the input signal and pitch the copy/copies up or down octave(s).

What is harmonization? Harmonization is defined as the chordal accompaniment to a melody. As an effect, harmonization will produce an interval (or multiple intervals) of the inputted note along with the dry signal. Harmonizers can be tuned to certain keys or certain intervals.

With harmonization and octave pedals, the dry note is duplicated one or more times and shifted in pitch. The output is then a combination of the input dry signal and/or a combination of the pitch-shifted voices.

For my take on the best pitch-shifting and harmonizer pedals on the market, check out my article The Top 9 Pitch-Shifting & Harmonizer Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

Gain-Based Effects

Gain-based effects alter the gain of the signal in one way or another to achieve the desired effect. These effects range from boosting the signal level to clipping it into square wave territory.

The gain-based effect pedals include the following:

Preamp Pedals

What is preamplification? Preamplification is a gain stage where the audio signal is amplified to a level for processing and improved noise tolerance. The preamp, in a pedal, can typically be overdriven to add saturation/compression/distortion to the signal through some preamps that provide very clean gain.

Preamp pedals are designed to bring a signal level up to a certain point. They work well when left in the on position.

Boost Pedals

What is boost? Boost is practically the same thing as preamplification. Boost amplifies the signal with clean gain to “boost” the level of the signal without adding any colouration.

A good boost pedal should afford us some extra gain for the parts of playing that require it (solos, etc.). The gain should be clean though some boost pedals offer some tone control as well.

For my take on the best boost and preamp pedals on the market, check out my article The Top 9 Best Boost/Preamp Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

Overdrive Pedals

What is overdrive? Overdrive happens naturally when a signal is amplified just past its clean gain limits. Past this point, the peaks/troughs of the instrument signal are compressed and “soft-clipped,” resulting in warm saturation in the signal. The overdrive circuit is designed to achieve this soft distortion with or without signal amplification. More overdrive can be achieved by playing harder/louder.

Overdrive is an awesome effect that plays with the dynamics of the signal. In other words, with overdrive, we get more the harder we play. This also means we can stay clean when playing softer.

For my take on the best overdrive pedals on the market, check out my article The Top 10 Best Overdrive Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

Distortion Pedals

What is distortion? Distortion, in terms of pedals, has to do with hard clipping of the signal, in which the waveform is more significantly deformed. Distortion yields a great deal of saturation to the signal’s harmonics and sounds more aggressive than overdrive. Distortion affects the signal across all dynamics.

As mentioned, distortion pedals are less dynamic than their overdrive counterparts. With a distortion pedal, everything quiet and loud gets distorted.

Distortion pedals give us that grittiness without having to crank our amps up to eleven.

For my take on the best distortion pedals on the market, check out my article The Top 11 Best Distortion Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

Fuzz Pedals

What is fuzz? Fuzz is beyond hard-clipping distortion to the point where the signal becomes square-like and difficult to control. Significant odd-order harmonics are produced, and the compression is so much that any playing dynamic will be affected by the fuzz.

Fuzz is an interesting effect. It’s fundamentally a compression pedal that acts to distort a signal so much that it becomes square-like. This hard compression is similar to limiting, and the resulting output signal is similar to what a synth pedal could output.

For my take on the best fuzz pedals on the market, check out my article The Top 12 Best Fuzz Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

To learn more about these gain-based effects pedals, check out my article Guitar Pedals: Boost Vs. Overdrive Vs. Distortion Vs. Fuzz.

Spectral Effects

Spectral processes refer to the frequency spectrum of audio and, sometimes, to the panoramic spectrum of an audio mix.

These effects pedals have to do with altering the frequency information of the audio and include the following:

Equalization Pedals

What is equalization? Audio equalization (EQ) is the process of altering the amplitude of certain frequencies/frequency bands in an audio signal. This includes filtering out sound below or above a certain cut-off frequency (high-pass and low-pass filtering, respectively). It also refers to shelving, notching, boosting and cutting, which we’ll get to in a moment.

By boosting and cutting various frequencies, we can effectively shape our tone to how we see fit. This means EQ will not only help us to sound better alone but will also help musicians find their home within the greater context of the mix.

The types of EQ in equalization pedal circuits are typically parametric, semi-parametric or graphic. Click the links for more information on each compressor type.

To learn more about EQ pedals, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Are EQ Pedals (Guitar/Bass) & How Do They Work?
Top 12 Best EQ Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Complete Guide To Audio Equalization & EQ Hardware/Software

Wah Pedals

What is Wah? Wah (or Wah-Wah) is a filtering effect that is common on guitars. Wah is achieved by sweeping one or more boosts in EQ up and down in frequency, thereby mimicking the human vowel sound of “wah”.

Wah pedals are generally built as expression pedals. Rocking the pedal back and forth will sweep the peak response of a frequency filter up and down, creating a spectral glide known as the “wah effect”.

To learn more about wah pedals, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Are Wah-Wah Guitar Effects Pedals & How Do They Work?
Top 14 Best Wah Pedals For Guitar & Bass

Envelope Filter Pedals

What in envelope filtering? Envelope filtering is the filtering triggered by the envelope or transients of a signal. These filters, therefore, act according to the dynamic rise and fall of a note (or chord) from the instrument.

The sound of an envelope filter is often described as wah-like or like a duck’s quack. Various filter types (high-pass, band-pass or low-pass) can be triggered when a note is struck.

To learn more about envelope filter pedals, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Are Envelope Filter Effects Pedals & How Do They Work?
Top 13 Best Envelope Filter Pedals For Guitar & Bass

Modulation Effects

Modulation effects modify the source audio signal with another signal (generally an oscillator) and are generally used to give the sound a sense of movement. Plenty of effects fall into the modulation category, ranging from the weird-and-whacky ring modulation to the lush and wide chorus effect.

The modulation effects found in pedals include:

When choosing a modulation pedal, listen to how it moves and colours the sound. Look for speed, intensity, feedback, tap tempo, and mix controls along with stereo capability.

Leslie/Rotary Pedals

What is the Leslie/rotating effect? The Leslie effect was initially produced by the famous Leslie speaker, a unit with a rotating speaker. As the speaker rotates, three separate effects are produced in the [stationary] listener’s ears. Those effects are tremolo, the Doppler effect (vibrato) and Phasing.

So then, a Leslie/rotary pedal is essentially a 3-in-1 modulation pedal, combining the effects of a tremolo, vibrato and phaser pedal. The result, as one would expect, is that of a Leslie speaker without a Leslie speaker!

Chorus Pedals

What is chorus? Chorus is an effect that produces copies of a signal (the original signal and each of its copies has its own “voice”) and detunes each voice to produce a widening and thickening of the sound. Each voice interacts with the other voices to produce slight modulation and an overall larger-than-life sound.

Chorus pedals make the tone sound large and wide by effectively adding voices to the original sound.

To learn more about chorus pedals, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Are Chorus Pedals (Guitar/Bass FX) & How Do They Work?
Top 11 Best Chorus Pedals For Guitar & Bass

Vibrato Pedals

What is vibrato? Vibrato is a fast but slight up-and-down variation in pitch. Vibrato is used in signing and in instruments to add character and improve tone.

By varying the pitch, vibrato can yield everything from subtle waviness to wild pitch oscillation.

To learn more about vibrato pedals, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Are Vibrato Guitar Effects Pedals & How Do They Work?
Top 8 Best Vibrato Pedals For Guitar & Bass

Tremolo Pedals

What is tremolo? Tremolo is a fast variation in amplitude. Tremolo is similar to vibrato, except that it acts on amplitude/level rather than pitch.

By varying the pitch, vibrato can yield everything from subtle waviness to deep-sea-sounding volume oscillation.

To learn more about tremolo pedals, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Are Tremolo Guitar Effects Pedals & How Do They Work?
Top 11 Best Tremolo Pedals For Guitar & Bass

Phaser Pedals

What is phaser? Phaser is a modulation audio effect whereby a series of peaks and troughs are produced across the frequency spectrum of the signal’s EQ. These peaks and troughs vary over time, typically controlled by an LFO (low-frequency oscillator), to create a sweeping effect known as phaser.

Phasers sound pretty psychedelic and are a popular modulation effect.

To learn more about phaser pedals, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Are Phaser Pedals (Guitar/Bass FX) & How Do They Work?
Top 11 Best Phaser Pedals For Guitar & Bass

Flanger Pedals

What is flanger? Flanger is a modulation audio effect whereby a signal is duplicated, and the phase of one copy is continuously being shifted. This changing phase causes a sweeping comb filter effect where peaks and notches are produced in the frequency spectrum or the signal’s EQ.

Flangers tend to sound like more “natural” versions of phasers. They’re often regarded as “jet whoosh” as they make a similar effect to a plane flying overhead.

To learn more about flanger pedals, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Are Flanger Pedals (Guitar/Bass FX) & How Do They Work?
Top 11 Best Flanger Pedals For Guitar & Bass

Ring Modulation Pedals

What is ring modulation? Ring modulation is an amplitude modulation effect where two signals (an input signal and a modulator signal) are summed together to create two brand new frequencies: the sum and difference of the input and modulator signals. The modulator wave is typically a simple wave selected by the effects unit, while the carrier signal is the audio signal at the input.

The sound of ring modulation is difficult to describe but sounds rather robotic and tinny.

To learn more about ring modulation pedals, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Are Ring Modulation Effects Pedals & How Do They Work?
Top 8 Best Ring Modulation Pedals For Guitar & Bass

Time-Based Effects

Time-based effects include all processes where some form of time manipulation occurs to the signal. The most obvious examples of time-based effects are:

Delay Pedals

What is delay? Delay, in terms of pedal signal processing, is a time-based effect where an input signal is recorded for a relatively short amount of time and is played back after a set period of time after the initial recording.

Delay types found in pedals include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Tape delay: tape delay pedals emulate the sound of delay caused by mechanically shifting magnetic tape. Tape delay is often used for slapback delay.
  • Analog (bucket brigade) delay: a delay circuit that utilizes bucket brigade chipsets, which degrade each passing delay.
  • Digital delay: digital delay pedals converts the dry signal to digital, processes the delay, and outputs the delays converted back as analog. This results in a very clean delay effect with little to no degradation (unless the digital pedal is designed to emulate older delays).
  • Shimmer delay (aka octave delay): these pedals combine delay with pitch-shifting so that the delays are pitched differently than the dry signal.
  • Reverse delay: these pedals record short sections of the signal and play it back in reverse with delay.

Delay is a versatile effect but often has a few core controls to look out for, including:

  • Effect Level (Wet/Dry) Control
  • Delay Time
  • Feedback
  • Tap Tempo

To learn more about ring modulation pedals, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Are Delay Pedals (Guitar Effects) & How Do They Work?
Top 13 Best Delay Pedals For Guitar & Bass

Reverb Pedals

What is reverb? Reverberation happens when a sound wave hits a surface (or multiple surfaces) and reflects back to the listener at varying times and amplitudes. This creates a complex echo that holds information about the physical space.

Reverb types found in pedals include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Room/ Chamber/ Hall: room, chamber and hall reverb pedals emulate the reverbs of rooms, chambers and concert halls, respectively. As you can guess, the reverb sounds larger in halls than in chambers and larger in chambers than in rooms.
  • Plate: plate reverb pedals emulate the sound of plate reverb, a type of reverb that relies on the vibration of a sheet of metal and a pickup that captures said vibration.
  • Spring: spring reverb pedals emulate the sound of spring reverb, a type of reverb that relies on the vibration of a long metal spring within a spring reverb unit and a pickup that captures said vibration.

Reverb is a versatile effect but often has a few core controls to look out for, including:

  • Mode/Type/Model
  • Mix (Effect Level)
  • Pre-Delay
  • Decay Time
  • Damping

To learn more about ring modulation pedals, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Are Reverb Pedals (Guitar Effects) & How Do They Work?
Top 13 Best Reverb Pedals For Guitar & Bass

Utilities

Tuner Pedals

What is tuning? Tuning an instrument is the act of tightening or loosening the tension of the individual strings so that each string produces a defined and specific musical note.

Sure, these pedals aren’t the most flashy. In fact, they should do little to affect the tone of the signal. That being said, bring in tune is paramount to sounding great, and a tuner pedal is, therefore, a worthy investment for every pedalboard!

For my take on the best tuner pedals on the market, check out my article The Top 5 Best Tuner Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

Expression Pedals

What is expression? In the context of pedals, expression refers to a variable treadle-style pedal control rather than an on/off switch or a rotary knob. These pedals are similar to the expression pedals or keyboards, pianos and organs.

There are plenty of pedals on the market that have expression pedal inputs for additional functionality when combined with an expression.

Volume Pedals

What is volume? In the context of audio signals, volume refers to the amplitude of the signal and, more specifically, to the attenuation of the signal (rather than to the amplification of the signal). Controlling volume should, by itself, leave the signal waveform unaltered except for the overall amplitude.

Volume pedals are easy to understand. Depending on how the pedal is set up, the expression pedal will allow maximum signal in either toe-down or heel-down position and no signal at the opposite position.

For my take on the best volume pedals on the market, check out my article The Top 7 Best Volume Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

Buffer Pedals

What is buffering? In the context of audio signals and pedals, buffering has to do with impedance and proper signal transfer. Long, unbalanced patch cords/cables and pedals with high output impedance can significantly degrade signal quality. A Buffer drops impedances to help preserve the signal.

Pedal signals are carried through unbalanced patch cables. Other instruments that may utilize effects pedals, including synthesizers, may also carry unbalanced signals. The pedals themselves are typically designed with unbalanced inputs and outputs.

To learn more about buffer pedals, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
Are Buffer Pedals Necessary & Where Do They Go In A Chain?
Top 5 Best Buffer Pedals For Guitar & Bass

Switcher Pedals

What is switching? In the context of effects pedals, switching is the act of changing/switching the path of the audio signal. With a tap of a button, we can change the signal path to go through a different set of pedals, a different amp, or any other device(s).

Switcher pedals are very useful utility pedals. There’s a lot that can be done with them, for example:

  • Redirecting the audio signal to a completely new line of pedals. This can effectively turn several pedals on/off with a single button.
  • Switching between amplifiers. A switcher can have each output sent to a different amp if need be to change tone.

To learn more about switch pedals, check out my article What Is A Guitar Pedal Switcher & How Do Switchers Work?

Looper Pedals

What is looping? Looping is the process of recording a period of audio and having it repeat. Once a loop is established, it is common to stack other audio recordings on top of the loop (or take other audio recordings out of the loop).

Looper pedals are awesome units to have in a rig. They range from simple to complex with a variety of functions. We will often be capable of adding additional loops on top of an original loop and be able to remove loops as we see fit.

To learn more about looper pedals, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Are Looper Pedals (Guitar/Bass FX) & How Do They Work?
Top 11 Best Looper Pedals For Guitar & Bass

Controller Pedals

What are controller pedals? Controller pedals will effectively control either an amplifier or software on a computer. These pedals do not necessarily have effect circuits of their own but rather act to control signal flow in other pieces of the rig.

There are plenty of controller pedals that simply switch between an amp’s clean and distortion channels. In a way, these controller pedals are also line-switcher pedals.

Synth Pedals

What is audio synthesis? Audio synthesis is loosely defined as the audio signals generated by electronic musical instruments called synthesizers. Synth pedals turn instrument audio signals into “synthesizer-like” sound waves.

The vast majority of synth pedals do not actually alter the waveform of the instrument signal itself, as is the case with pretty much all other pedals. Rather, a synth pedal will typically detect the pitch of the instrument’s signal and use that pitch to tune and engage its built-in synthesizer oscillator(s).

So a synth pedal, generally speaking, will use the instrument signal only as a control signal rather than actually affecting the signal and tone itself.

To learn more about synth pedals, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Are Synth Pedals (Guitar/Bass FX) & How Do They Work?
Top 10 Best Synth Pedals For Guitar & Bass

Miscellaneous Effects

Miscellaneous effects include all the odd effects that don’t fit into any of the categories above. Most pedals on the market will belong to at least one of the aforementioned categories, but there will be some that do not.

Back to the Table Of Contents.


Mono Vs. Stereo Effect Pedals

Pedals have inputs and outputs, which can either be mono or stereo.

Mono has a single channel of audio, while stereo has a left and right channel of audio.

Though we naturally hear in stereo, many instruments are mono.

Choosing a pedal with stereo outputs allows us to record or otherwise playback the sound in two channels, which is beneficial for a more realistic mix.

Stereo outputs are typically reserved for modulation and time-based effects, which act to widen or otherwise fill the sound field.

Stereo pedals will give us the option of going stereo but typically perform just as well in mono (typically by connecting to the left output channel only).

So if you’re considering recording, sending to a stereo PA system, or even connecting to two amplifiers simultaneously, a stereo pedal will give you the option.

Back to the Table Of Contents.


True Bypass Vs. Buffered Bypass Pedals

Individual single-effect pedals are either true bypass or buffered bypass. Knowing the difference between the two and understanding how they interact in a pedalboard setup will help you make more informed decisions about your pedal purchases.

True bypass is a switching circuit that will route the guitar signal directly from the input to the output when the pedal is turned off. A pedal with true bypass will effectively act as an extension of the guitar cable when turned off and have little to no effect on signal tone/degradation.

Note that longer cable lengths are subjected to “tone suck” thanks to cumulative capacitance. High-end frequencies are effectively filtered out, and the tone suffers.

Buffered bypass keeps part of the circuit in the signal path regardless of whether the pedal’s main circuit is active. A pedal with buffered bypass, then, will maintain consistent output impedance and keep a signal more level in signal strength and timbre throughout the system.

By keeping part of the circuitry in the signal path even when the pedal is off, the buffered bypass pedal will colour the audio signal in one way or another.

So then, which should you buy? Let’s look at the pros and cons lists for each pedal style to help you decide:

Pros Of True Bypass

True bypass removes the pedal circuit completely from the signal path when off. This means that the pedal will have no effect on the sound of the audio signal when it’s turned off.

Cons Of True Bypass

By removing the pedal from the signal chain when turned off, true bypass pedals effectively elongate the signal wire (audio cable), which can cause tone suck in longer runs. We typically begin having issues with unbalanced cables over 25-feet long.

Since true bypass immediately disconnects the pedal’s circuit from the signal chain, turning these pedals on/off can result in pops and clicks. Furthermore, turning these pedals off may cause hard stops (no tail) in time-based effects such as delay and reverb.

Finally, true bypass pedals are often more expensive than their buffered bypass counterparts.

Pros Of Buffered Bypass

Buffered bypass pedals, like proper buffer pedals, offer impedance and capacitance altering. This effectively buffers the signal, bringing its signal strength, impedance and capacitance to appropriate levels even when turned off. In effect, this allows for longer cable runs since each buffered bypass pedal “restarts” the cable length.

Unlike true bypass pedals, buffered bypass pedals do not produce the pops and click when turned off/on and do not necessarily hard-stop effects when disengaged.

Buffered bypass pedals often typically cost less, all else being equal.

Cons Of Buffered Bypass

Buffered bypass pedals colour the tone whether they’re engaged or not, which can lead to unwanted results when there are too many pedals on the board.

Related My New Microphone article:
What Does ‘True Bypass’ Mean In A Guitar Pedal?

In my opinion, a good mix of true and buffered bypass pedals is the way to go when designing a pedalboard layout.

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Planning Out The Pedalboard

When buying a new effect pedal, it’s worth considering how it will integrate into the larger pedalboard setup.

Understanding how the pedal will interact with the others and where the pedal should go ahead of time is useful information to have when making a decision.

Additionally, if you already have pedals on your board, perhaps it’s best to purchase an effect you don’t already have. For example, a third fuzz pedal may not be appropriate when you don’t have a proper reverb.

Though not the most critical aspect of a new pedal purchase, it’s worth pondering the plan of the pedalboard and how the new pedal(s) will be incorporated.

Related My New Microphone article:
Ultimate Guide To Setting Up A Guitar Effects Pedalboard

How To Order Guitar/Bass Pedals (Ultimate Signal Flow Guide)
How Many Guitar Effect Pedals Is Too Many?

Back to the Table Of Contents.


Know The Additional Costs Of Effect Pedal Accessories

Power Supplies & Power Accessories

Pedals require power to function. Power supplies include batteries, dedicated power blocks and their power cables, and the power cable adapters for the pedals.

Most pedals can run on 9V batteries, though some pedals use other battery types.

Generally speaking, though, it’s best to power the pedals directly via a dedicated pedal power block and the appropriate power adapter cables.

Pedalboards & Accessories

If you’re using multiple pedals, you’ll benefit greatly from a pedalboard. Opting for a pedalboard with good adhesives and a proper carrying case/bag is recommended for the performance and longevity of the entire setup.

Related My New Microphone article:
Top 11 Best Pedalboard Brands On The Market

Patch Cables

Of course, we need patch cables to connect the pedals together. These cables are typically short 1/4″ TS cables, but some pedals have the options for MIDI and other connections as well.

Related My New Microphone articles:
Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Patch Cable Brands In The World
How Do Patch Cables Carry Audio? (Guitar, Bass, Synth, Etc.)

Back to the Table Of Contents.


Best Pedals By Type

Below is a list of My New Microphone articles regarding the best pedals per pedal type:
Top 9 Best Boost/Preamp Pedals For Guitar & Bass
• Top 5 Best Buffer Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 11 Best Chorus Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 11 Best Compressor Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 13 Best Delay Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 11 Best Distortion Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 13 Best Envelope Filter Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 12 Best EQ Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 11 Best Flanger Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 12 Best Fuzz Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 11 Best Looper Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 10 Best Overdrive Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 11 Best Phaser Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 9 Pitch-Shifting & Harmonizer Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 13 Best Reverb Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 8 Best Ring Modulation Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 10 Best Synth Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 11 Best Tremolo Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 5 Best Tuner Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 8 Best Vibrato Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 7 Best Volume Pedals For Guitar & Bass
Top 14 Best Wah Pedals For Guitar & Bass


This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.

Arthur

Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement (hikersmovement.com) or composing music for media. Check out his Pond5 and AudioJungle accounts.

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