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!
Boost and overdrive pedalsincrease 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
The 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.
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 pedalsare 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
TheWalrus Audio Erasis a high-gain distortion that's ready to chug andshred with tight response andfiveclipping options. A multi-tool distortion.
TheDrunk Beaver Heavy Rat is the ultimateRat-stylepedal. "Probably my favourite ever Rat to date - even against something as excellent as JHS Pedal’s PackRat,"confirmsStefan Karlsson of Guitar Pedal X.
TheKink Guitar Pedals Stab Zoneis 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
TheFredric Effects Green Russianis 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 doomasit has less gain than other Muffs, along with a fatter bottom endcombined withbrighter mids.
TheRed Noise Germanium Stone Blenderis 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 pedalsare 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
TheGreenhouse Effects Deity Reverbgives 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 octavesatthe turn of a dial.
TheHungry Robot The Wash V2is 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.
TheWalrus Audio Slöis a multi-texture reverb pedal with 3 different reverb modes for creating dreamy soundscapes and lush pads.
Like reverb,delayadds 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:DelayPedals To Try
TheRaygun FX Aurora Mini Lo-Fi Delay V2offers 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.
Another great value delay, theGreenhouse Effects Roots Echoprovides 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.
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.
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
TheRaygun FX Vintage Tremolois a great-value addition to your pedalboard, ranging from subtle to choppy and inspired by a 1970s Colorsound Tremolo pedal.
TheGreenhouse 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!
TheKink Guitar Pedals Smashed Krakenis 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.
The 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!
Live music is gradually returning to venues large and small following a hellish 2020 and 2021 for the music and events industries. Whether gigging is a hobby or a full-on career path, things have changed and musicians have had to adapt...
I spent an obsessive amount of time checking out univibe pedals. I'm so glad that I purchased this one from Boost. It is simply fantastic! If you don't believe me, then check out some video demos. Thanks Jim! + JG
This is a fantastic drive pedal. There’s plenty of Plexi style pedals out there and I’ve owned a few, this one stood out for the switchable A/B-B/A switch. The boost side is nice and simple, much like an LPB-1. Not overly clean but a perfect partner to the drive side. The Plexi side is again nothing revolutionary but very good all the same and sounds great, on a par with far more expensive pedals.
The build quality is also top end, very neat and tidy. Squeezed into the single enclosure and with a lifetime warrantee I couldn’t ask for more. I don’t think this’ll be leaving my pedal board any time soon!
Lots of great sounds in this relatively-compact delay / reverb
I’m only just starting to scratch the surface of the KMA MACHINES Cirrus, but absolutely loving it so far. Very responsive to pick attack which means can really control the “ambience” with playing style. Really looking forward to exploring further.
Had a few vibes, absolutely loving this one, check the YT demos, lovely satisfying vibe with all the swirly goodness you could hope for. Beautifully made and reasonably priced. Highly recommended - and Jim at Boost is a top guy
I came across the Formula B Fuzz Rangers via online demos on Youtube, and they all sounded so good that I had to get one. Looking online I found the Boost Guitar Pedals website via the Formula B website as a listed UK stockist. Jim was excellent and the pedal arrived when he said it would and it was perfectly packaged. I would have no hesitation in buying any other product from Boost.
As for the Fuzz Rangers, it is a great pedal. I had to work at it a touch to get the sounds I liked from it, but it seems to react really well to different guitars and different amps with adjustments to volume and tone on the guitar and different amp settings. I found it works best into a slightly cranked amp, and volume roll-off on the guitar offers a great variety of sounds from clean to classic fuzz. Thoroughly enjoying the pedal. Well done Jim, great website and a great selection of interesting brands and pedals..... Which one next????
Having used a number of univibe clones over the years this one truly nails the sound for me, it comes with some clever additions in a pedal board friendly size and is excellent value for money. If you want the true sound of the original this pedal delivers.Special thanks to boost Guitar Pedals for putting this deal together so quickly..
I'm still working my way through all the sounds, but so far I'm loving them all.
Each time I think I've got a fav sound I flip the diode switch and there's another one. Great value for a four-in-one fuzz pedal!!
Both modes really useable. The first can get a wooly or starved/wolly sound or more nasally raw sound depending on how you dial it in.
Mode two can be more mid focused and with both switches down it's just a real nice deep, warm wall of fuzz. Great stuff.
Awesome pedal. Does everything from short slaps, to long endless delays, or echo-verb. The infinite delay feature on the button hold is interesting, though if you need a certain sound out of it like that, you have to be okay with the sound that those settings create when the infinite hold feature is off. I’m sure it will be great for recording some interesting textures, but I don’t think I’d use it live, as the infinite hold sounds glitchy and cuts off very quickly at some of the shorter, more subtle delay settings that I use. The art on the pedal is nice, and the build quality is solid. Comes with a carry bag, for some reason, but I can’t complain. A great unit by any standard, but especially good quality and features for the ticket price.