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Guitar Effects Pedal Buying Guide: What Do I Need?

Guitar Effects Pedal Buying Guide Banner 1800x800 | Boost Guitar Pedals

Putting a rig together is great fun, but it helps if you have a purpose in mind when buying guitar pedals. My guitar effects pedal buying guide below has the lowdown on the main types of pedals you might need for your pedalboard.

Of course, it's only a guide so do what you feel needs to be done to get the sound that's in your head!

Read on for my guitar effects pedal buying guide by pedal type; you can also check out my guitar effects pedal buying guide genre by genre, which highlights the different types of pedals you'll need for each of the main genres of music.

What Are the Main Types of Guitar Pedal?

Guitar pedals are used in many different scenarios, from providing distortion or fuzz to adding delay, tremolo or reverb effects. Pedals are divided into the following categories:

Boost and Overdrive

Boost and overdrive pedals increase the amplitude of your guitar signal. Clean boosts tend to provide up to around 20dB of gain, which is usually enough to increase the volume without adding any distortion to your sound, particularly at lower gain settings on the pedal.

Boost pedals are ideal to use as lead boosts for solos, and at higher settings can gently push a valve amp already on the edge of breakup into natural overdrive. You can even use one to boost the signal at the end of a long pedal chain before it hits the amp.

Overdrive pedals tend to use a combination of volume and gain controls to boost the signal as well as to dirty it up using soft-clipping. Like a boost pedal, the volume control on an overdrive pedal increases the signal's amplitude, while the gain control routes the signal to diodes or transistors which soft-clip the signal.

This process of soft-clipping works in the same way as the valves of a tube amp when they begin to saturate, producing that lovely gritty, organic sound we know and love.

Guitar Pedal Buying Guide: Boost & Overdrive Pedals To Try

Kink Guitar Pedals PC BoostThe Kink Guitar Pedals PC Boost is a tiny boost pedal that packs a real punch thanks to its MXR Micro Amp bloodline. Don't be fooled by the friendly unicorn - this is more than capable of making your stack melt!







The Fredric Effects Golden Eagle is an impeccable clone of the Klon Centaur, including the charge pump and buffers. Known for its transparency, the Golden Eagle is nonetheless capable of fattening up your core tone and adding gain too.






Hungry Robot The Lumen

The Hungry Robot The Lumen is a unique FET overdrive with an active tonestack, making it very amp-like in its response and empowered with a very effective EQ section. 






Distortion pedals are one of the most popular guitar effects. Designed to mimic a screaming tube amp rather than encourage a tube amp to reach natural distortion like an overdrive pedal, distortion pedals span a huge range of sounds, from classic rock through to modern metal.

They generally hard-clip the signal, which produces a more aggressive sound than overdrive, and one of the key selling points of many distortion pedals is that you can find various "flavours" based on popular amps. Can't afford that rare and expensive 100-watt head? Get a good quality distortion pedal that's designed to emulate the sounds of the amp you want and you're good to go! 

Guitar Pedal Buying Guide: Distortion Pedals To Try


 The Walrus Audio Eras is a high-gain distortion that's ready to chug and shred with tight response and five clipping options. A multi-tool distortion.







DRUNK BEAVER Heavy Bat The Drunk Beaver Heavy Rat is the ultimate Rat-style pedal. "Probably my favourite ever Rat to date - even against something as excellent as JHS Pedal’s PackRat," confirms Stefan Karlsson of Guitar Pedal X.






The Kink Guitar Pedals Stab Zone is based on the infamous Boss Metal Zone, providing plenty of gain and a sensitive EQ which ranges from low-end chug to upper-range definition - classic chainsaw Metal tones (and more...) await! 






Fuzz is the primitive ancestor of distortion. The effect became popular in the 1960s when musicians including Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix began using some of the first examples on their recordings. 

Like distortion, fuzz uses transistors and diodes to hard-clip the signal, but often more extreme clipping is used to produce a square wave, which produces that classic buzzy tone. The original fuzz pedal circuits were pretty simple, although some subsequent designs have introduced more complexity.

You may think fuzz pedals can only be used in a limited number of genres, but the effect has proven to be incredibly versatile, put to good use in genres ranging from Pop to Metal.

Guitar Pedal Buying Guide: Fuzz Pedals To Try

 FREDRIC EFFECTS Green RussianThe Fredric Effects Green Russian is a UK take on the 1990s Sovtek "bubble font" Big Muff Pi fuzz. It's particularly suited to both bass players and guitarists playing stoner and doom as it has less gain than other Muffs, along with a fatter bottom end combined with brighter mids.






ZANDER CIRCUITRY SiClone Silicon Chaos Initiator
The Zander Circuitry SiClone Silicon Chaos Initiator is a super-versatile 8-knob fuzz monstrosity, capable of taking you from vintage-style fuzz right through to complete sonic annihilation! Treat it carefully if you value your ears... 







RED NOISE Germanium Stone Blender
The Red Noise Germanium Stone Blender is a super-limited germanium version of the popular silicon Stone Blender, featuring circuit tweaks and different component choices to the silicon version. "This is just the most amazingly visceral and highly textured Germanium Tone Bender variety," says Stefan Karlsson of Guitar Pedal X.




Reverb effects pedals are extremely popular with guitarists as they add a sense of space to an otherwise dry guitar signal. 

Spring and plate reverbs were developed to emulate the effect of sound reflecting off of multiple surfaces in a room. Spring reverb was developed by Hammond in the 1940s for its electronic organs but became popular with guitarists in the early 1960s with the release of Fender's Reverb Unit - the sound of Surf. Plate reverb came along in 1957. Developed by EMT, it relied on the vibrations of a huge steel plate. 

Luckily, these days reverb effects can be squeezed into a guitar pedal. Some focus on a particular type, while others are multi-mode. Typical reverb sounds you might find in a pedal are spring, plate, hall, chamber and cathedral. But you might also find more ambient sounds, such as modulated reverbs, that drag the effect into the 21st century. 

Reverb is a diverse and flexible tool and deserves a space on every guitarist's pedalboard.

Guitar Pedal Buying Guide: Reverb Pedals To Try

The Greenhouse Effects Deity Reverb gives you the option of 3 different reverb modes for those who want to cover a lot of different sonic ground. Go from natural hall-like reverb to dynamic modulation then a lush, chorus-like effect with upper and lower octaves at the turn of a dial.






The Hungry Robot The Wash V2 is an ambient tap-tempo reverb with superbly lush, inviting and three-dimensional effects waiting to break out. Complex internals replicate a Binson multi-head delay as well as multiple internal feedback loops and a "ripple' effect. Hauntingly beautiful.






The Walrus Audio Slö is a multi-texture reverb pedal with 3 different reverb modes for creating dreamy soundscapes and lush pads.







Like reverb, delay adds space to your guitar sound, but in a different way. Rather than modelling the reflections of your sound, delay effectively duplicates your signal and plays it back, sometimes adding in decay and modulation along the way. 

Delay is the perfect effect if you want your solo to sound big, spacey and epic - think Pink Floyd - but subtler settings can help to highlight certain phrases or give the song a particular feel (consider how The Edge uses multiple delays together for unique and complex rhythms).

Analogue delays have shorter repeat times, typically around 300ms, but digital versions are capable of much longer repeat times of several seconds in length, which allows you to experiment with ambient, ethereal soundscapes. Combine delay with a reverb for the ultimate space-shaping setup.

Guitar Pedal Buying Guide: Delay Pedals To Try


Raygun FX Aurora Mini Lo-Fi Delay V2

The Raygun FX Aurora Mini Lo-Fi Delay V2 offers textural, lo-fi sounds in a compact format and at a great price, with the option to toggle between two different delay lengths. More versatile than you might think, hugely characterful, and great value. 






Greenhouse Effects Roots Echo

 Another great value delay, the Greenhouse Effects Roots Echo provides up to 500ms of delay time, allowing you to go from slapback echo to ambient soundscapes with a near-endless trail of warm, lush repeats. The clever dual-function footswitch allows you to access a self-oscillation mode when you hold down the footswitch.





SolidGoldFX EM-III Multi-Head Octave Echo

The SolidGoldFX EM-III Multi-Head Octave Echo combines octave effects with a tape echo emulation and tap-tempo for a powerful delay pedal that sounds completely analogue yet offers up to 1,000ms of delay time.





Pedal Knowledge: How to Use Delay Pedals


Under the category of "modulation pedals" we can include effects such as chorus, phasers, vibrato and tremolos. 

Chorus is intended to replicate the sound of several guitars (or voices) by delaying the original signal and passing it through an LFO (low frequency oscillator). Depending on your settings, you can take chorus from a subtle shimmer to a full-on wobble. 

A phaser varies the volumes of two identical signals, which creates a phasey, swooping effect as the levels change. Its most indetifiable but most unuseable setting can make your guitar sound like a jet fighter passing at low altitude, but more subtle settings can lend welcome movement and depth to your guitar sound.

Tremolo modulates the amplitude of the signal. It's sometimes confused with vibrato, which modulates the pitch of the signal to produce a similar (but different!) effect. Like spring reverb, it's a favourite of Surf musicians, but has many other applications too - think "How Soon Is Now" by The Smiths, or "Blow Up The Outside World" by Soundgarden.

Guitar Pedal Buying Guide: Modulation Pedals To Try

Raygun FX Vintage Tremolo

The Raygun FX Vintage Tremolo is a great-value addition to your pedalboard, ranging from subtle to choppy and inspired by a 1970s Colorsound Tremolo pedal.







Greenhouse Effects Logos Chorus Vibrato

The Greenhouse Effects Logos Chorus-Vibrato produces chorus in distinctive, musical and innovative ways. It features 3 chorus modes, each with 8 different settings, as well as a dedicated vibrato effect. Waveform shaping, LFO, modulated intervals, reverb and bonus hidden features are all par for the course with the Logos!





KINK GUITAR PEDALS Smashed KrakenThe Kink Guitar Pedals Smashed Kraken is a bucket-brigade-delay chorus based on the famed Boss CE-2. It sounds superbly chewy and organic and is the perfect chorus for '80s metal, rock or shoegaze.







Red Noise Butterfly Harmonic TremoloThe Red Noise Butterfly Harmonic Tremolo is loaded with enough dials, toggles and inputs to give endless tonal versatility, taking you from subtle pulses to huge, choppy square waves. Try with synths or drum machines as well as guitar and bass!




What Pedal Should Every Guitarist Have?

Depending on what genre or style you play the most, one of the three pedals listed below should be a must-have for every guitarist:


Use to push a tube amp's front end for sound thickening, or add in the effects loop to use as a true clean boost for solos. A versatile and often pocket (and wallet) friendly pedal.


Reverb pedals give depth to your sound and should be high on any guitarist's list. Used sparingly, reverb gives your guitar space in the mix and stops it sounding too dry and sterile. Ramping up the controls can increase the size of the "room" and you'll soon find yourself in psychedelic or ambient territory!


The unsung hero of many pros, a compressorcan be a great way to smooth out your sound by reducing the difference between the loudest and quietest parts of your signal. It can even be used as a volume boost!


So there you have it - my guitar pedal buying guide. We've covered Boost and Overdrive pedals, Distortion pedals, Fuzz pedals, Reverb pedals, Delay pedals and Modulation pedals - plenty to get your teeth into!

Don't forget to check out my buying guide by genre.

Originally published 30th January 2020. Updated 6th September 2020, 25th September 2021, 11th January 2022, 23rd May 2022

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