The question should not be “What is the best multi effects pedal?”; it should be “What is the best pedal for you?” Many guitarists find it too expensive to purchase all the single guitar pedals it would require to achieve their desired sound, not to mention how cumbersome it is to lug all those pedals and wires around to different gigs and recording studios. The answer, for many of those guitarists, is to turn to multi effects pedals, a one-stop shop to dialing in the right sound on one compact unit. But before purchasing, you should look at many factors including price, number of effects and number of modelers you need before deciding which is the best multi effects pedal for you.
Sometimes referred to as Multi-FX processors, these devices are all-in-one effects packages, usually containing various types of effects such as distortion, delay, chorus, tremolo and reverb, along with many more. Many multi effects pedals also offer amp modules, a pre-set replication of your favorite amp. Want to sound like you’re playing through a classic Vox AC-30 when you’re actually just plugged into an effects pedal? There’s a button for that if you have the right multi effects pedal.
Most guitarists using these pedals live will opt for floor models such as the Line6 Floor Pod Plus:
Floor effects pedals typically contain foot switches so you can change sounds while playing. More expensive “rack-mount” models of multi effects processors also exist, but are typically designed more for studio use than for use in live settings.
While no one likes to mix money and art, the fact of the matter is that budget will be a determining factor for most everyone purchasing a multi effects pedal. Online music retailer zZounds currently lists many guitar multi effects pedals, ranging in price from the $49.95 DigiTech RP 55 to the TC Electronic G-Force Guitar Effects Processor, which will run you almost $1500.
And while these processors can get expensive, let’s do some math with a hypothetical situation. Say you want your rig to have at least the following effects: overdrive, delay and a wah pedal. Let’s look at how much these would run you if you went with separate, popular stomp boxes:
Overdrive: Ibanez Tube Screamer TS-9: $99.99
Delay: Boss DD-3 Digital Delay: $109.99
Wah: Dunlop Crybaby: $69.99
Or, you could save over $200 and purchase a Behringer X V-Amp Guitar Multi Effects Pedal, which features all three of the aforementioned effects, plus chorus, flanger, tremolo and a multitude of guitar amp modules, amongst other features.
What features you need
Almost every multi effects pedal will include traditional effects like distortion, delay, chorus and tremolo, but your choice of the best multi effects pedal for you should be influenced by the more complex features you need. For example, some pedals will come with a looper which allows you to record a sample of your playing and continues to “loop” that playing while you play something new in real time with it. This feature is handy while working on guitar technique at home by yourself; you can write a chord progression you like, loop it, and then come up with a riff to play on top of it.
Some of the best multi effects pedals will come with a USB port, allowing you to plug the processor directly into your computer and record with whatever effects you have chosen. Additionally, not all effects pedals have amp modelers, which can be extremely useful in both recording and live situations. If you want to have your guitar sound like you’re playing out of certain amps, be sure to check which pedals have the models you want before you buy.
In the end, the choice for your best multi effects pedal should be made by your ears, just as every guitar choice you make should be. Take the time to go down to your local music shop and try out all the multi effects pedals that fit your budget and has all the features you need. Of those, decide which best fits what you are looking for in your guitar sound. Again, there is not a single best multi effects pedal out there, but there is a best multi effects pedal for your playing style and budget.