Adding a couple of single effects pedals to your set up, like a wah-wah or overdrive, can make a huge difference to your music. The problem is that getting every effect you might ever need quickly becomes expensive, and having to lug around a ton of gear isn’t exactly convenient when you’re touring or even just playing one gig in another city.
This is where multi-effects pedals shine. Individually, they’re more expensive than single effect pedals, but they make up for that by coming with hundreds of effects and a lot of additional functions that vary from one to the other, but can include things like tuners and loopers.
At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 5 Best Guitar Multi-Effects Pedals On The Market
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Buyer's Tips: What to look for when buying a multi-effects guitar pedal
Not all multi-effect guitar pedals are suited for the same situations. Higher end models can be surprisingly capable of rivalling a proper studio mixing session, but they might not be the best thing to have on stage with the complications of live playing.
- One of the first things you should check for is whether the pedal has a good processor capacity. If your multi-effects pedal can’t handle more than a couple of things at the same time, then it doesn’t deserve the name.
- Secondly, make sure it’s built like a god-damn tank. There’s a lot of complicated software and circuitry running in these beasts, so you’ll want to be confident that it can stand up to the wear and tear of being on the road.
- The preset effects and amp/cabinet simulation might be good, but you’ll need to sure that you can program the pedal without needing to take a year off to study it in order to get the most out of it for your own specific needs. You’ll also want to be certain that it has all the capabilities you need, so if you need a recordable looper and an effects looper at the same time, make sure you’re actually getting them!
Ok let's look at each product in more detail. To make things easier for you, we've added pros and cons for each one, as well as a video demonstration so you can see them in action. So without further ado, let’s take a look...
5 BEST GUITAR MULTI-EFFECTS PEDALS
1. Zoom G5n (Budget Choice)
The G5n is a very functional multi-effects and amp simulator pedal. It’s easy to learn how to use, which makes it a good place for beginners. Additionally, you’ll get a free license for some fancy editing software so that you can create patches and make your own unique sound.
- Very solid construction, metal and plastic that stands up well to bumps and knocks in travel.
- Extremely easy to edit patches.
- Downloadable effects
- No effects looping capability.
- Processor limit isn’t comparable to what you would get using computer, forcing you to be economical with the effects you’re using.
- Fewer effects and amp presets compared to the previous model (although still enough with the option to download more)
2. DigiTech RP1000
This is a great ‘on the go’ pedal thanks to it’s tough build and the ability to easily turn on and off a mode that emulates a chain of single pedals. If you already like the sound of your amp, the bypass is top-notch and doesn’t add any buzz. It’s also good for getting going really fast since it has so much preloaded, although you’ll soon want to get into your own editing.#
- Over 160 effects and 200 presets.
- Very large LED display enables easy use on stage without having to crouch down to fiddle around in the dark.
- Pedal board mode makes it as simple to use as having simple on/off single effect boards.
- Amp simulators aren’t the speciality of the RP1000, although they are adequate, other multi-effects pedals have better functionality in this regard.
- Power supply is weaker than it should be.
- The expression pedal needs to be calibrated before use.
3. Line 6 POD HD500X
One of the most powerful pedals, this thing screams ‘PRO’S ONLY!’ at the top of its lungs. If you aren’t prepared to invest some serious time into mastering things thing, then skip to one of the easier options. Otherwise, if quality is the top concern then this is the way to go.
- Extremely powerful tone tweaking capabilities.
- Lots of user-programmable memory slots.
- Can customise effects placement in the chain to your own taste.
- One of the most expensive on the list.
- Distortion effects seem unfinished.
- Manual is lacking in accessibility. Whilst capable of great things, the HD500X’s true capabilities might not be discovered by a beginner without some serious internet trawling.
4. Boss GT-100 (Editor's Choice)
One of the more accessible pedals for someone not used to programming a multi-effects pedal, with a fairly simple set of controls, which really helped to seal its place in our list of the best 5 multi-effect guitar pedals. Like the others, it’s built to take punishment, so you don’t have to worry about being delicate with it during a wild gig.
- Wide variety of effects straight out of the box to play with.
- User interface is intuitive and simple, especially compared to older Boss multi-effects pedals.
- Good option for beginners looking to experiment with effects for the first time as the programmability means it can grow with you once you take the time to learn the ins and outs.
- Sound quality is nowhere near comparable to those of high end dedicated single effect pedals.
- Very old looking software for programming your own sounds.
- Expensive for the level of quality it brings to the table.
5. TC Electronic Nova System
Despite the big brand name, this multi-effects pedal is disappointing for what it costs and the expectations you’d have of TC. It’s not a terrible pedal by any means, and it does perform in some ways better than more expensive pedals.
Overall, it has cheap feel, and needs serious improvement. However, if it’s the only option you have, then you’re not automatically doomed.
- Functional out of the box preset modes with a manual mode that even professional musicians will be able to get good use out of.
- Warm and full sounding analog distortion and drive.
- Tuner is accurate and reliable.
- No integrated looper.
- No expression pedal.
- Limited editing and tweaking capability.
If you can afford a higher budget, go for the Boss GT-100. You might find higher quality effects out there, but not without being able to splash some serious cash. For the best bang for your buck, whilst still being able to eat, this is a great way to go. It’ll cover your live, studio, rehearsal and home needs. It’s got plenty of customizability, and comes with a lot of factory preset goodies. The editing software looks a bit naff, but it performs just as well.
If you really need to save on every penny until you hit it big, then any on the list is good, and some are close to $200 cheaper. You lose out on quality, but we stand by each on as being a viable option. In the end, it comes down to your own priorities.
Do you think these are the best guitar multi-effects pedals, or do you think there's another we should have mentioned? Leave a comment below, and don't forget to subscribe for more!
Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.