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    Guitar Effects Pedal Buying Guide: What Do I Need?

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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

    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 a single-pedal sized recreation of the Klon Centaur, with completely accurate electronics built to the highest specification. Like the sought after original, the Golden Eagle includes an internal charge pump which converts 9V to 18V for maximum headroom from your standard power supply. The Golden Eagle features the exact same internal buffer as the Klon. A superb Klone in a superbly built enclosure.

    The Landscraper's core circuit is similar to the classic '70s distortions (Blue Clipper, DOD 250 Preamp, MXR Dist+). It uses an op-amp for gain and then hard-clips the signal with back to back germanium 1n60p diodes. Leading into that core circuit is an op-amp input buffer (like in the Klon) which provides a nice consistently clear signal to the drive section. After the gain circuit is a JFET boost. This gives a large amount of volume to the pedal, allowing access to all of the great lower gain settings without having to sacrifice volume. It's designed to be as transparent as possible, except for the harmonics added from the clipping. The Landscraper essentially adds two extra channels to your amp, without altering your tone. If you’ve tried all the usual soft-clipping drives but not found one you like, it might be time for an alternative solution!


    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 5 clipping options. A multi-tool distortion.

    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 new Signal Cheyne Shelby Mk2 is a JFET distortion pedal with 3 gain stages. The two pairs of JFETs are run in "mu-amp" configuration, basically meaning that they interact like a pair of valves in push-pull configuration. Full of harmonics and weightiness, Shelby Mk2 goes from crunch to all-out raging valve amp. Along with its 3 gain stages, Shelby Mk2 has an internal voltage doubling circuit, giving you the headroom of 18V from a standard 9V power supply. Due to its amp-like circuit design, Shelby Mk2 responds really well to a boost in front of it. It also has plenty of volume on tap to boost the front of your amp.


    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

    The Raygun FX Super Fuzz Bender MKII uses silicon BC108/BC109 transistors to achieve that classic 1960s & '70s fuzz sound as heard in the Tone Bender, Fuzz-Tone and Fuzz Face. Equally at home with guitar or bass, the Super Fuzz Bender is a simple-yet-effective tool for fans of Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Jr, and early Foo Fighters. This pedal goes from gritty overdrive to full-on fuzz: it's a force to be reckoned with!

    The Greenhouse Effects Roots Fuzz is a great-value dual-channel Muff-style fuzz. The Red channel is more open sounding and smoother, with more headroom and a hint of upper octave at maximum gain, while the Blue channel is darker, denser and more compressed, with plenty of sustain and bloom.

    The Psychedelic Charlie is a silicon fuzz based on the classic Colorsound Fuzz Box, and it offers players fat riffing and killer fuzzy lead tones. The Kink Guitar Pedals Psychedelic Charlie takes the one-knob fuzz and adds an external bias control. Mark at Kink Guitar Pedals has also added a "pickup simulator" to the circuit, allowing you to place the fuzz anywhere in your signal chain, even after a buffered pedal (fuzzes are notoriously picky and tend to only work properly if they're the first pedal in the chain). It may have a diminutive footprint, but the Psychedelic Charlie sounds massive!

    The Bleak District Electric Antistatic is a combined CMOS fuzz and micro-looper. It's a phenomenal little package that's great for experimental synth layers or expansive soundscapes: pair it with a good delay and/or reverb and you're good to go! CMOS fuzzes produce an aggressive square-wave signal, giving velcro, gated and glitchy sounds to die for. Antistatic packs in a micro-looper offering 50ms to 3.5s of sample time, activated either by the momentary footswitch - for on-the-fly glitches or articulations - or a latching toggle switch for those times you want to leave it running. The Latch toggle switch acts in the same way as holding down the momentary Loop footswitch. Release the footswitch or toggle briefly to add in snippets of audio, replacing parts of the loop. The longer loop settings let you quickly build up some really interesting patterns.

    Described by Hungry Robot's Eric Junge as "a true desert island fuzz", The Collective features 3 distinct fuzz circuits, over a dozen internal adjustable parameters, a 2-band state-variable filter and a feedback loop. The 3 fuzz circuits - conventional, CMOS and "monophonic sub-octave fuzz" - can be blended in parallel using each fuzz's unique volume control. The Overload control manages how much of the signal is fed back through an internal feedback loop, generating self-oscillation and gritty textures. Use the adjacent toggle switch to set the Overload footswitch to either latching or momentary mode. The Low/High Spectrum controls offer an active tonestack in the form of state-variable filters, commonly found in synths. These offer more clarity and tonal presence than the traditional passive tonestack. Turn each control all the way down for a flat EQ; turn up to boost the chosen frequency range. An awesome, unique sounding fuzz.


    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 is an ambient effect pedal like no other. Choose from either true bypass or buffered signal with trails, as well as 3 different reverb modes - Natural, Sentient & Ethereal. The Natural mode is a room/hall-type reverb with controls for Decay, Tone, Pre Delay & Mix. Turn the Decay control fully clockwise and the reverb begins to oscillate to create a rotating room effect. Sentient mode is an immersive reverb with dynamic modulation, combining tremolo and filter effects which can be adjusted using the Depth/LFO & Sensitivity/Rate controls. Ethereal mode is a lush reverb with high and low octaves which can be blended in independently using the Octave Down & Octave Up controls.

    If you're after a delay with tons of ambient wash, the Hungry Robot The Wash V2 is the perfect pedal for you. The Wash V2 is an analogue-style tap-tempo delay offering over 1,000ms of delay time. The unique Wash circuit adds reverb to the mix in a way that replicates and even supersedes the technique of stacking several reverb and delay pedals in series. The Wash circuit adds reverb directly to the signal, but also utilises a complex of internal feedback loops, a multi-head Binson effect, and what founder Eric calls "ripple effect". The result is a hauntingly beautiful and subtle wash of reverb and delay which sits well in the mix and retains the clarity of the original signal. The ripple effect is just one part of the Wash circuit but is the only element that can be individually adjusted, using the Ripple control. With each successive delay, the trail is slowly scattered in an organic fashion and morphs into reverb.

    The KMA Machines Cirrus is a combined delay & reverb pedal like no other. Featuring multiple modulation features, tap-tempo, an expression input and an effects loop, it has you covered for all your time-based needs. The Delay and Reverb sides are independent, with their own Mix controls and modes. Each side is controlled dynamically - that is, the effects are manipulated by your pick attack. The Sensitivity controls allow you to dial in how the effects react.


    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

    Handbuilt in France, the Signal Cheyne Echoflow is a tape-style delay with adjustable modulation. In addition to the external controls, it includes 2 internal dipswitches: one to adjust the voicing between bright and dark, and one to kill the dry signal for a completely wet delay sound.

    The SolidGoldFX EM-III Multi-Head Octave Echo is fully capable of warm, analogue-style echoes but can also achieve modern delay sounds and some ambient, futuristic sounds too! Add in a signal one octave lower for extra depth and feel to your echoes and delays by using the toggle switch. With the toggle switch to the left, you can select between 1, 2 or 3 delay heads. With the toggle switch to the right, the octave can be activated. Use the Tap Tempo footswitch to tap in your desired tempo, or use the Time control to dial it in by hand. The Flutter control adds modulation to your sound, emulating old tape. Turned anti-clockwise, you can achieve chorus-like warble, while turned clockwise it speeds up for a vibrato effect. The Color control allows you to dial in your delay tone using high-pass and low-pass filtering. Anti-clockwise, the highs are cut for a warmer, analogue-style sound. Turned clockwise, the lows are removed to give a brighter tape-style sound, or even thin, lo-fi effects. Warp and Glitch features can be activated using the footswtiches.

    The Raygun FX Aurora Lo-Fi Delay V2 takes you deep into space with its combination of analogue-style decay and dedicated Space control that goes from background wash to full on black hole implosion. The Aurora Lo-Fi Delay V2 has two selectable delay speeds; short and long. It also features two delay modes, one being lo-fi and the other being very lo-fi! This is definitely a pedal for all you fan of analogue noise and textures. This pedal's party piece is its Space footswitch, which creates an infinitely sustaining self-oscillating effect based on whatever you are playing, controllable from the Space Depth control. Turned down low it'll give a subtle wash, while turned all the way up it gets very crazy very quickly.

    The new and improved Bleak District Electric Tapescape is a dual-footswitch modulated delay pedal with expression pedal input, which generates all the organic idiosyncrasies associated with tape delays of old - but with way more going on under the hood. Featuring 7 control knobs, 4 toggle switches, and a host of internal dipswitches, this is possibly the only tape-style delay (or as Phil dubs it, "Magnetic Ambience Generator") you'll ever need! The new Tapescape massively improves the maximum delay time, from 750ms on the older model to 1100ms here, for some incredible atmospheric washes.


    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

    The Raygun FX Vintage Tremolo is inspired by the Colorsound Tremolo from the 1970s. Ranging from subtle to choppy, it's a fantastic tremolo for the price, with a warm vintage character as well as clarity and depth. The Raygun FX Vintage Tremolo shines on rock songs (think "How Soon Is Now?" by The Smiths) but is versatile enough for more ambient soundscapes too.

    The Bleak District Electric RecHead V2 is an update using cassette tape-style modulator pedal, replicating the tape saturation, flutter and lo-fi organic character of this good-old physical media. The main difference between the original and the V2 is that in this new version, the circuit used to follow the guitar envelope is different, allowing for a much stronger effect even when playing very gently. The Character control gives a different range of saturation and tone combined, while the dry signal is now just on or off, rather than a blend control.

    The Kink Guitar Pedals Smashed Kraken is a BBD (bucket-brigade delay) chorus based on the Boss CE-2. The gorgeous BBD character is really organic, lush and sweet sounding, and the Blend control adds an extra level of versatility, allowing you to mix in some of your original signal. The perfect chorus pedal for '80s metal. rock or shoegaze!

    The Signal Cheyne Stellar is a 6-stage Phaser with a beautifully simple yet effective 4-control layout. Phasers are fantastic for everything from over the top 1980s rock and metal, to beautiful 3D clean and crunch sounds - think Incubus' Nowhere Fast. Handbuilt in France.

    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 compressor can 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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