Guitar pedals are key components in the rigs of many guitarists. The great thing about pedals is they can be utilized in pretty much any genre of music. Their effects also range from subtle improvements and alterations in tone to full-out non-guitar sounds.
Whether you’re an amateur guitarist still learning the basics of the instruments; a seasonal professional guitarist, or an experimental musician, learning to use guitar pedals can be a fun and exciting hobby/creative outlet.
In this article, I’ll share the top 11 pedal brands I think you should know about.
The top 11 best guitar effects pedal brands you should know and use are:
- TC Electronic
- Line 6
- EarthQuaker Devices
- Source Audio
We’ll get into each of these brands in greater detail to explain why they made this list. I’ll also share some of their notable pedals; a link to their official website and a bit of history about each company.
Related article: Top 11 Best Boutique Guitar Pedal Brands To Know & Use
If you’ve been interested in pedals and effects for a while, it should come as no surprise to you that Boss is at the top of this list.
Boss offers a beyond-impressive line of stompbox pedals and multi-effects units for guitar and bass (and whatever other instruments we can plug into the pedals).
Boss pedals are found all over the world on amateur and professional guitar rigs/pedalsboards alike. Their product range is so extensive, in fact, that we could easily get every effect we’re looking for with Boss pedals alone.
On top of that, the company has developed perhaps the greatest pedal stompbox housing available on the market. We can see this build quality in the MT-2 Metal Zone pedal (link to check the price on Amazon) pictured below:
These stompboxes have a large pad to stomp on (rather than small buttons like many other pedals). The battery is housed underneath this pad. Most Boss stomp boxes will only have 4 knobs to easy compact tweaking. This design is also incredible resilient. Many Boss stompboxes from the 80s are still outperforming their peers today!
Boss also has a wide variety of other pedals including multi-effects units, synth pedals and their famous Loop Station lopper pedals.
If you’re looking for durable pedals to produce quality effects at an affordable price. Look no further than Boss!
As an additional note, all of Boss’s pedals are buffered bypass (rather than true bypass), meaning that each pedal will act as a buffer when in “off” position.
To learn more about buffered bypass and true bypass, check out my articles Are Buffer Pedals Necessary & Where Do They Go In A Chain? and What Does ‘True Bypass’ Mean In A Guitar Pedal?, respectively.
Here are few pedals from Boss that are worth checking out:
- DD-3 Digital Delay
- DD-8 Digital Delay
- SY-1 Guitar Synth
- SYB-5 Bass Guitar Synth
- CP-1X Compressor
- RV-500 Reverb
Boss Corporation was founded in 1973 as part of the Japanese Roland Corporation. It wasn’t until 1976 that the company released its first Boss pedal: the CE-1 Chorus Ensemble. Today the company is headquartered in Hamamatsu, Japan.
Official Website: boss.info
Parent Company: Roland Corporation (Japan)
Electro-Harmonix (EHX) is another pedal company with a wide variety of awe-inspiring pedals. They, like Boss, pretty well have something to fulfill your pedal needs regardless of what you’re looking for.
EHX has produced numerous firsts in the field of effects pedals and is continuously pushing the art of pedal manufacturing forward. A few examples of these “pedal firsts” include:
- Electric Mistress (first flanger pedal: 1976)
- Memory Man (first delay pedal: 1976)
- Hot Tubes (first overdrive pedal: 1978)
- Micro Synthesizer (first synth pedal: 1979)
Since its beginnings, Electro-Harmonix has made a name for itself as one of the greatest pedal manufacturers of all time. Their catalog of pedals runs deep, spanning across every effect we could need or want.
EHX pedals tend to be a bit bigger, on average, but there’s a ton of functionality jammed into many of their pedals, which makes the extra footprint worth it. Many of EHX’s classics (like the Big Muff Pi, 720 Stereo Looper, POG, Q-Tron and Small Clone) have smaller/nano versions with smaller footprints and, sometimes, small limitations in functionality.
Don’t let the price tag of many Electro-Harmonix pedals frighten you. As they say, “you get what you pay for”. Witch EHX, you get high-end effects pedals built tough to withstand abuse and maintain their character throughout the ages.
Some EHX pedals worth checking out are as follows:
- Big Muff Pi Distortion/Fuzz
- POG2 Poly-Octave Generator
- Oceans 11 Reverb
- Cathedral Reverb
- Deluxe Memory Man Delay
- Superego Synth Engine
Electro-Harmonix was founded in 1968 by Mike Matthews in New York City, New York. The company’s first pedals were released on the market in 1969. EHX is held by the parent company New Sensor Corporation and is headquartered in New York City.
Official Website: ehx.com
Parent Company: New Sensor Corporation (United States)
Well, actually, DigiTech and DOD deserve a spot. They have the same founders and are both now owned by Harmon International.
Really, DigiTech could make this list with a single pedal: the famous DigiTech Whammy. Of course, the companies have many other superb effects pedals for us to choose from but the Whammy (and all its versions) are among the most cherished pedals in the world!
DigiTech was truly a groundbreaking company when it came to effects, producing several firsts in the field of stompbox effects units. Unfortunately, things have slowed down since the acquisition in 1990 and many pedals can now only be found in the used market.
That being said, the DigiTech/DOD legend lives on and many of the most famous pedals are still in production today.
Getting back to firsts, DigiTech had created the firsts of the following pedal types:
- PDS 1000 (first digital-delay pedal: 1984)
- Pedalverb (digital-reverb pedal: 1986
- The Whammy (pitch-bending pedal: 1989)
Here are some other important pedals to check out from DigiTech/DOD:
- Whammy 5 Pitch-Shifter
- Bass Whammy Pitch-Shifter
- Trio+ Looper/Band-Creator
- Mosaic 12-String Polyphonic Octaver
- DOD Gunslinger Distortion
DigiTech was founded (along with DOD Effects) in 1973 by John Johnson and David Oreste Di Francesco. The companies were both acquired in 1990 by the audio giant Harman International Industries. R&D for DOD/Digitech was ceased in 2018 to become part of “Harmon Pro” though Harmon continues to sell the pre-established DOD and DigiTech Pedals.
Official Website: digitech.com
Parent Company: Harmon International – Samsung Electronics (South Korea)
TC Electronic pedals have become quite common on boards around the world since the company was founded in the 1970s.
With TC, we can expect wonderfully clean circuits with tons of functionality. They’ve made a name for themselves as one of the greats by continuously putting out pedals that push the art of pedal design forward.
As an aside, TC Electronics pedals are all currently designed with true bypass (in contrast to Boss, which only produces buffered bypass pedals). This is part of the reason why TC Electronic pedals are, in fact, so clean.
TC Pedals are typically simple to use with lots of stuff under the hood. They produce some of the best “utility pedals” (tuners, buffers), loopers, and straight-forward effects we’ll find on the market today.
Here are a few TC Electronic pedals worth checking out:
- Flashback 2 Delay
- Hall Of Fame Reverb
- Spark Booster Boost
- Stereo Chorus+ Chorus/Pitch-Shifter/Flanger
- Ditto Looper
- PolyTune 3 Tuner
TC Electronic was founded in 1976 by Kim and John Rishøj in Aarhus, Denmark. The brothers then created the TC Group in 1998 after acquiring other companies/brands in order to hold TC Electronics and the other brands in a single multinational corporation. The company is headquartered in Risskov, Denmark. In 2015, Music Tribe (then Music Group) acquired TC Group.
Official Website: tcelectronic.com
Parent Company: The TC Group A/S (Denmark) – Music Group (Philippines)
MXR is technically a brand of Dunlop Manufacturing, a guitar pedal and accessory manufacturer that we’ll discuss in its own right later in this list.
However, the MXR brand stands out as its own brand in this list due to its wide product line and reputation amongst guitar pedal circles.
MXR pedals are often simple but pack a huge punch regardless of what effect they aim to achieve.
Their first pedal, the Phase 90 phaser, has made its way onto countless pedalboards and is one of the most recognizable pedals ever.
This only one example of many MXR pedals that sound great; have a small footprint and durable build, and get us the effects that we need and deserve in our rig.
Whatever effect you’re looking for, rest assured MXR will have you covered, and likely at a very competitive price!
Here are a few MXR pedals worth mentioning:
- Timmy Overdrive
- Phase 90 Phaser
- M75 Super Badass Distortion
- Dyna Comp Deluxe Compressor
- Carbon Copy Analog Delay
- EVH 5150 Overdrive
MXR was founded in 1972 by Keith Barr and Terry Sherwood in Rochester, New York and was officially incorporated in 1974. MXR was acquired by Jim Dunlop in 1987. Dunlop continues to produce pre-87 models along with new designs under the MXR brand. The company’s main headquarters is now located in Benicia, California, USA.
Official Website: jimdunlop.com/products/electronics/mxr
Parent company: Dunlop (United States)
Line 6 is a bit of an outsider in this list as its main focus, when it comes to pedals, is on multi-effects units and stompbox modeling pedals rather than the more “simple” stompboxes produced by the other brands listed here.
With Line 6, we can expect loads of functionality in each and every pedal. This goes for the Stompbox Modeler series (DL4, DM4, FM4, MM4 and JM4) and each of the brand’s multi-effects pedalboard units.
You’re unlikely to find a pedalboard full of Line 6 pedal. In fact, you’re more likely to see a single Line 6 pedal act as an entire pedalboard!
Line 6 strives to push the envelope further when it comes to pedal design. This determination can be seen in the many category-defining products that Line 6 has produced over the years.
Here are few pedals from Line 6 to check out:
Line 6 was founded in 1996 by Susan Wolf, Marcus Ryle and Michel Doidic in Calabasas, California, USA. The company was acquired by Yamaha Corporation in December of 2013. Though Yamaha is a Japanese company, the Line 6 headquarters remains in Calabasas.
Official Website: line6.com
Parent company: Yamaha Corporation (Japan)
EarthQuaker Devices could be considered a “boutique” pedal brand. Each pedal is made by hand to ensure high-quality craftsmanship and pedal longevity.
The EarthQuaker Devices product line has been growing steadily for some time now. Though the brand does have some solid standard pedals (a few fuzzes, reverbs, tremolos, etc.), its is probably best known for its groundbreaking original effects pedals.
EQD pedals offer some of the most forward-thinking and downright strange effects available on the market today.
This is a company for pedal fans, tone aficionados and musical experimenters alike.
Here are a few EarthQuaker Devices pedals to check out:
- Rainbow Machine Polyphonic Pitch Mezmerizer
- Data Corrupter Phase-Locked Looper
- Spatial Delivery Envelope Filter/Sample & Hold
- Afterneath Reverb
- Bit Commander Octave Synth
- Erupter Fuzz
EarthQuaker Devices was founded in 2004 by Jamie Stillman in Akron, Ohio, USA, where the company is still headquartered today.
Official Website: earthquakerdevices.com
Strymon continuously released top-notch, industry-leading pedals without compromise. Their pedals are built to impress both in their electronics and their durability.
Choose any one of Strymon’s pedals and you’ll find a bulky powerhouse of a stompbox. Each pedal offers a ton of tonal value to a rig and is sure to stand up to the tests of time on the toughest of tours.
This company is still growing and making a name for itself as a top-tier pedal manufacturer. Look out them now and in the future for excellent pedal designs!
Here are just a few Strymon pedals to check out:
- Deco Tape Saturation/Double-Tracker
- TimeLine Multidimensional Delay
- Mobius Modulator
- El Capistan Tape Echo Delay
- Big Sky Reverb
Strymon (formerly known as Damage Control) was initially founded in 2004 by Pete Celi, Gregg Stock and Dave Fruehling in Westlake Village, California, USA. In 2009, the group began producing pedals under the Strymon name. The company headquarters remain in Westlake Village.
Official Website: strymon.net
Parent Company: Damage Control Engineering
Yes, the almighty guitar brand Fender, responsible for the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Precision Bass and Rhodes Electric Piano, also produces stellar guitar pedals!
Fender’s a giant company with plenty of resources at its disposal. Producing effects pedals was a logical step in the brand’s evolution as a musical instrument manufacturer.
Although Fender may not necessarily be re-inventing the wheel when it comes to their effects pedals, they certainly aren’t slouching either.
Their expert team has developed a fantastic line of pedal standards that sound incredible and give us those well-known effects we’re looking for. Though the effects are standard, they are extraordinary in their tone-altering circuits. These pedals are awesome!
Here are a few pedals from Fender to check out:
- Santa Ana Overdrive
- Pugilist Distortion
- Tre-Verb Digital Reverb/Tremolo
- Bubbler Analog Chorus
- Mirror Image Delay
Fender started out as “Fender’s Radio Service”, founded in 1938 by Clarence Leonidas Fender in Fullerton, California. In 1946, the company had its name changed to Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Fender began producing guitar pedals in 1954 with their first volume pedal. Today, the company is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA.
Official Website: fender.com
Parent Company: Servco Pacific
Dunlop is the creator of the beloved Cry Baby wah pedal (and the owner of the aforementioned MXR brand).
I think that gets Dunlop a spot on the list automatically. The fact that there are plenty of other excellent Dunlop pedals on the market furthers the case for Dunlop as a top performing pedal manufacturer.
Jim Dunlop has been a well-known brand for guitar picks, strings, accessories, electronics and, of course, pedals for some time now. And for good reason.
There are several brands of pedals within the Dunlop umbrella. We’ve discussed the largest subsidiary, being MXR, as its own brand. Here we’ll focus on Cry Baby, Way Huge, Authentic Hendrix and Dunlop Electronics pedals.
Each of these brands have excellent pedals. Dunlop’s catalog runs from the famous Cry Baby wahs and Jimi Hendrix Fuzz pedals to the well-respected “boutique-style” Way Huge pedals.
Whether you’re looking for a classic or a solid pedal to add to your rig, be sure to check out Dunlop’s full product lines!
A few Dunlop pedals (other than MXR-branded pedals) worth noting are:
- Echoplex EP103 Delay
- Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face JH-F1 Fuzz
- Rotovibe JD4S Chorus/Vibrato
- Siete Santos BFGO7 Octavio Fuzz
- Cry Baby GCB95F Classic Wah
Dunlop Manufacturing was founded in 1965 by Jim Dunlop in Glasgow, Scotland. The company moved to Benicia, California, USA in 1972 where it is still headquartered today. Dunlop owns the aforementioned MXR brand of pedals along with the Cry Baby, Way Huge, Authentic Hendrix and Dunlop Electronics brands.
Official Website: jimdunlop.com
Source Audio is a leader in effects technology. Their pedals are compact but swing far above their class in terms of functionality and tonal flexibility.
The company’s successful One Series line of pedals utilize 56-bit processing with stereo ins and outs, MIDI functionality, and deep editing power with the Neuro Mobile and Desktop software editors.
If you’re looking for pristine tone and highly-advanced capabilities, look no further than Source Audio.
Their product line offers plenty of options and each feature-rich pedal is well worth the cost.
Even the utility pedals from SA are jam-packed with functionality.
Here are just a few Source Audio pedals to look into:
Source Audio was founded in 2005 by Roger Smith and Jesse Remignanti in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, where the company is still headquartered today.
Official Website: sourceaudio.net