Looking for the best guitar effects pedals? Picking your guitar effects is a very personal decision, and it’s not something that someone else can just do for you. It’s like getting dressed in the morning: you’re on your own to pick out your style.
That being said, there are some clear winners in the world of guitar effects, and below you can find the Top 6 Best Guitar Effects Pedals to get you started in the right direction.
1. Ibanez Tube Screamer
As far as overdrive goes, this is hands down one of the best guitar effects pedals out there. The original model is exceedingly difficult to find these days, as it’s out of production. But, Ibanez has released the TS9, which is a pretty good replica and a very popular reissue. In this day of effects boards with 10,000 presets and way too much complication, sometimes it’s best to keep it simple.
Stevie Ray Vaughn was a fan of the Tube Screamer, and I used to see acoustic guitar phenom Monte Montgomery actually use the Tube Screamer in his live rig… for his acoustic guitar! Obviously, you can use guitar effects for more than they’re meant for.
The key to the Tube Screamer’s sought-after tone has to do with the way the pedal subtly clips the sound. In creator S. Tamura’s words, the Tube Screamer “preserves the original dynamics of the input signal which otherwise would get lost at the threshold of clipping.” That’s about as techie as I’ll get for you, but if you’re looking for subtle and classy distortion, the Tube Screamer (and TS9 Reissue) is one of the best guitar effects pedals you’ll find.
2. Dunlop Crybaby Wah Pedal
The wah pedal (or wah-wah) is one of the most distinctive-sounding guitar effects pedals. If you’re not familiar with the effect, think Jimi Hendrix “Voodoo Chile,” Slash on the end of “Civil War,” or Tom Morello playing Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade” intro. All of those are iconic examples of the wah pedal’s “crying” sound, and the wah has the best name of all the guitar effects pedals: it’s name is what is does.
The wah pedal was actually inspired by a trumpet player named Clyde McCoy, who was famous for making “crying” sounds on his trumpet by covering and uncovering the opening of his instrument with a trumpet mute. It’s not clear who invented the first wah pedal, but since the 1960s it’s been a huge influence on guitarists and popular music in general.
The wah pedal effect is often built into most multi-effects boards these days, but it works great as a standalone pedal too. The wah is one of the best guitar effects pedals for soloing with distortion on, too.
3. BBE Sonic Maximizer
The Sonic Maximizer is a not the first effects pedal you should get, but it makes an excellent addition to any guitar player’s rig. This is a relatively new player on the guitar effects scene, but has gotten very popular because it just makes your rig sound better.
Using some complicated technology that I won’t get into here, the Sonic Maximizer gives your sound more fullness, presence, more clarity.
It couldn’t be easier to use: it’s got two knobs, “lo contour,” and “process.” It’s way easier than typical EQs and has a much different effect. Check out more review of the BBE Sonic Stomp Sonic Maximizer Pedal here
4. TC Electronic Stereo Chorus Flanger
You have a ton of chorus pedals to pick from, and TC Electronics wins in my book because it’s subtle, versatile, and organic. It’s not going to be the most over-the-top chorus effect out there, and that’s part of the reason it’s good. This is a pro-level effect, and it really lets the your tone come through without coloring it.
It’s a very natural and warm sounding effect too, and as far chorus is concerned is one of the best guitar effects pedals you’ll find.
This unit is really tough, and can stand up to heavy gigging. Where it really shines, though, is in the studio. The crisp, pure analog boutique quality tone comes across very well on tape (or disc). This chorus unit also has Pitch Modulation and Flange, and has true bypass that won’t color your tone when you’re not using it.
5. Keeley Compressor
The Keely Compressor is “the” industry standard in guitar compression. It’s understated, meaning it’s not gonna knock your socks off with any crazy effects. But, when you’re talking about compression, quality is far and away more important than anything else.
The Keely is truly “transparent,” meaning that it won’t color your tone. You can find the Keely in 2 and 4-knob versions, and I recommend you go for the 4-knob as it obviously gives you more control.
The Keely ain’t cheap, but if you’re looking for the best compressor, the Keely is the hands down one of the best guitar effects pedals around.
6. Boss DD-20 Delay – “Giga Delay”
It was really tough to narrow down the Best Delay Pedal, there’s just so much to choose from. I ultimately went with the Boss DD-20 Delay because it’s versatile, and unlike some of the other top delay pedals out there you can set the exact delay time instead of just twisting a know and hoping you get it right.
For some songs that use delay as a crucial piece of the guitar sound (U2 come to mind here), it’s really important that you have the delay time locked in. When you’re playing a song that *depends* on the delay, the guitar will actually keep time for the band. How about that… the drummer counting on the guitar player for timing! This should happen more often
This delay pedal comes with lots of presets. You have up to 23 seconds of delay, you can tweak almost every parameter, and you have 4 presets so you can save four completely different delay settings. Read more reviews of the Boss DD-20 Delay – “Giga Delay” here.
Good luck with your search for the perfect sound!