Multi-effect pedals have had been in and out of fashion many times over the years. When I started playing seriously in the 1980s, there were only two choices. You could buy one or more pedals, which would only handle one effect at a time. Or you could spend a small fortune and buy a rackmount studio processor, which could do more than one effect at the same time.
But then in the late ’80s and early ’90s, cheaper multi-effect processors hit the market. Offering not only all the sound options our individual pedals gave us but the ability to program them. This meant that a single press of a switch could introduce a whole new group of settings and radically change the sound – instantly. There was no longer a need to tap dance your way around trying to turn your distortion, chorus and delay on or off at the exact same time.
But there was a problem, even though these early multi-effects pedals offered immense practicality. Not only in terms of being able to switch multiple effects on and off at the same moment. But also benefiting from less set up time, no dead battery problems, no dodgy wall warts, etc. etc. All these advantages, however, couldn’t overcome one major disadvantage, in that multi-FX systems, just didn’t sound good.
So some purists, myself included, kept on lugging our pedalboards around because we would rather tap dance and have fantastic sounds, than hit a single switch to change from one terrible sound to another. Then, to make it even harder on multi-FX processors, boutique pedals started to become available. These offered an even greater variety of sounds and higher quality than the Boss, Ibanez, and MXR pedals we were all using.
Both these factors caused multi-effects processors to go through a sales slump, which led to the manufacturers working hard to improve every aspect of the products so that they could regain their ground. They re-designed them and improved their ease of use and their functionality. But most importantly of all, they improved how they sounded, with the rapidly expanding DSP capabilities of modern processors, they now sound superb and are a pleasure to use.
So let’s look at 12 of the best of current guitar multi-FX pedals and processors, in different price ranges and find out which one best suits you
Line 6 Helix LT
The LT is the smaller and more affordable version of the Line 6 Helix Floor. The company has, however, wisely included the same dual DSP HX modeling engine in this unit. Giving it the same quality amp and effects modeling capabilities, as the more expensive Floor.
Featuring over 100 effects, there is no end of sounds that can be created and manipulated. It also has a complex signal routing system, which allows even further experimentation with different effects orders and combinations. As for modeling, it lets you mix and match 62 different amplifiers, 37 cabinets, and 16 mic positions.
In contrast to all this complexity, Line 6 however. designed the interface to be as simple and intuitive as possible, using a color LCD display with colored LED rings.
A guitarist who wants a huge variety of quality effects and sounds available but doesn’t want to spend days reading a manual and learning how to use a multi-FX processor.
- The tonal quality and versatility
- Easy to use workflow
- The price
- Limited input/output options by modern standards
TC Electronic G-System
- Can power up to 9 effects simultaneously
- Flexible board design - can be separated and used both in a 19" rack with the control board on the floor
- 4 switchable mono-loops for your favorite effect pedals
TC Electronic rose to fame with their industry standard rackmount delay unit, the hallowed TC2290. Every serious studio in the world has one (or more), it would probably be difficult to find a hit record without TC Electronic delays on it. So it is fair to say, that the company knows delays better than most, if not anyone. But they also produce one of the most widely used studio reverb units in the world. Also, the most commonly used rackmount chorus unit. I’m sure you can see where I’m going here, in terms of effects, TC Electronic has it nailed.
So when they decided to manufacture the G-System, their top of the range floor-mount FX system (or rackmount if you choose to rack it), they got serious. Giving players the same gorgeous delays and choruses that had made the company famous but in a transportable system.
The effects on this unit are breathtaking, I own one and love it dearly. There is no stand out effect, they ALL stand out. It’s simply a stunning sonic creation.
But as always there are downsides. The main one being that there is no overdrive or distortion. WHAT! I hear you all cry. Yes, honestly, no overdrive or distortion.
The thinking behind it is that most players have their own particular favorite vintage, modern or boutique overdrive/distortion pedals, or maybe they use the different channels on their amps. So why include something that most people will not use? I agree with TC Electronic, I love my distortion pedals and would much rather integrate them with the G-System. Far better than using an in-built overdrive/distortion circuit I don’t really like and have to put up with it forever.
And the unit was designed with that in mind so it will power your pedals for you, and turn them on and off, without you needing to go anywhere near them. It will also switch amp channels automatically. If you buy a TC Electronic Nova Drive overdrive/distortion, it will even change any pre-programmed setting you want on it, with a simple tap of your foot.
A guitarist who loves the best of both worlds, – the best modulation effects you’ll find anywhere, teamed up with the best drive pedals they own and/or can buy – a sonic match made in heaven in my opinion.
- The sounds with those legendary delays, choruses, and reverbs
- Some of the best footswitches you’ll find on top of any floor-mount unit
- No overdrive or distortion so you can use your all-time favorites
- The Price
- Editing effects can be a little complicated at first
- No overdrive or distortion so you have to find one you really, really like and use it with it (or is that really a plus?).
ISP Theta Pro DSP
With a colour that reminds you of Italian sports cars and a chassis that looks like it would bounce off walls without a scratch, The ISP Theta Pro DSP is a hard and fast pedal, built for the riggers of touring.
It features two preamp stages – Clean and Distorted, Parametric EQ, and an onboard Decimator noise reduction. It has a number of great direct-recording features and a Boost switch which gives an addition +10dB of gain. It doesn’t offer the massive number of effects some of the other offerings here do, with a very humble six, a Phaser, Tremolo, Chorus, Flanger, Delay, and a Reverb. But in reality, that’s all you need 99% of the time anyway.
Input-wise, you can plug an expression pedal into it and use the Wah features, and/or plug a volume pedal in for more control. One of the best features of the unit is the wonderful direct recording function. Every preset ISP have created sounds truly realistic, it’s as if an invisible microphone is actually in front of an invisible cabinet right there with you.
The speaker simulator options are superb, offering a choice of all the classics – 4×12 with Greenbacks, a 1×12 with a Creamback, a 1×12 Deluxe, a 4×10 Bassman, and a 2×12 Twin.
The Mic Position feature, that emulates off-axis and edge-of-cone placement, is also very realistic. If getting great tones into a DAW is high on your list of priorities and you either, haven’t got lots of mics and lots of cabinets, or your neighbours appreciate getting some undisturbed sleep, then the ISP Theta could well be the processor for you.
A guitarist who uses his multi-effects as a recording tool.
- Great recording features
- Big Screen
- Only six effects but they are ones you actually need
- No onboard tuner
- Guitar Multi-effects Pedal with Amplifier Modeling
- Simple Editing Interface
- Analog and Digital I/O
Where would we be without Boss? The answer is nowhere. The Japanese pedal giant has continually innovated and pushed the boundary of what is possible with its excellent range of products over the years. The GT-1000, their latest, high-end multi-effects processor continues this rich tradition.
The Boss GT-1000 is a floor-mounted multi-FX processor combining the best of their popular RV-500, DD-500, and MD-500 units. It has a modern, sleek look and great build quality. Featuring 116 effects, you shouldn’t run out of sonic choices and the 32-bit, 96khz sampling produces a wealth of gorgeous modulations, delays and reverbs, as well as convincing, down and dirty drive tones.
It, however, is not the simplest unit to navigate, especially if you’re new to effects programming. As with anything, it will get easier with practice but the Helix LT beats it hands-down in this department.
It’s also worth mentioning that for players who currently or aspire to own a larger, more traditional pedalboard, the so-called ‘Bossfecta’ of the RV-500, DD-500, and MD-500 series units would definitely provide more flexibility, than the GT-1000.
A guitarist who loves the Boss sound.
- Massive range of effects
- The amp models sound very impressive
- Excellent build quality
- Not particularly user-friendly for beginners.
- Not really worth buying if you already own an RV-500, a DD-500, and/or an MD-500. An RV-500, a DD-500, and an MD-500 may provide a better solution for many players.
- Powered by Eleven HD Expanded DSP. Hands-free edit mode
- 100+ Realistic FX, Amp, Cab, and Microphone Models
- Gapless Preset Switching with Reverb/Delay Spillover
Another impressive multi-effects pedal from HeadRush offering quality amp modeling, enough effects, and a killer touchscreen.
Although nowhere near as extensive as some of the processors already covered, with only 33 amp models and 42 effects. The Headrush does have one huge advantage over the rest. And that is its very impressive 7-inch touchscreen interface. This is superb for editing, especially for beginners to effects processing. From the very first time you use, it, little effort is required. And most of the changes to any effect setting can be easily done with a turn of a few knobs.
Although the number of effects included, is lower than some of the rest in this rundown, most of what you’ll probably ever need is included. The unit also has the ability to load custom/third-party impulse responses, allowing you to have even more tonal refinement. And also features a looper with an impressive 20 minutes of record time.
A guitarist who wants an extremely easy-to-use interface.
- Amazingly intuitive touchscreen
- Excellent amp modeling
- Also functions as an audio interface
- Fewer effect options than on most of its competitors
- A limited number of amp models and routing options
- No software editor
- Advanced COSM amps that model vintage amp tones and delivers never-before-heard tonesImproved EZ Tone with graphical Tone Grid for constructing new...
- Dynamic Range 100 dB or greater (IHF-A)
Back with Boss again, and to the little brother of the impressive GT-1000 that’s already been covered, the GT-100. Nearly seven years after its original release it has stood the test of time better than most and still sounds great with its incredible Roland/Boss’ COSM technology.
Much like the Headrush, the amp model and effect count are relatively low, with around 25 amp models and 44 effects. While this may not be as many compared to other units, few in this price range have the sound quality of the GT-100. It also offers excellent amp and OD customization, allowing users to craft their own sounds.
A guitarist looking for a multi-effects processor with a tried and tested reputation without having to spend a lot.
- Reliability that has stood the test of time
- Great sounds for the price range
- A low number of different effects and amp models
- The software editor is nowhere near as good as most of its competitors
- The H9 Core can run all of the effect algorithms from our TimeFactor (delay), ModFactor (mod), PitchFactor (pitch), and Space (reverb) pedals as well...
- Every H9 CORE comes with a coupon for a free algorithm download.
- Built-in Tuner, true bypass, and MIDI. Wireless control with Bluetooth via H9 control app on Windows, OSX, or iOS.
The H9 is an excellent, compact multi-effects pedal with app control, from Harmoniser legend, Eventide.
The base model features nine different effects, but you can buy additional effects to expand the pedal’s capabilities. Included are the Chorus and Tremolo/Pan from the ModFactor pedal, the H910/H949, and Crystals from the PitchFactor pedal, the Tape Echo and Vintage Delay from the TimeFactor pedal, and Shimmer and Hall from the Space pedal.
Eventide products have always been full-featured with amazing versatility, but along with that comes the associated complex editing systems. The H9, however, is still full-featured but far easier to navigate. The free H9 Control Editor app is perfect for editing, creating and managing presets, changing system settings and you can even use it to purchase more algorithms.
Guitarists who want an incredible sounding Chorus for one song, then an amazing harmonizer for another and the most awesome delay you can imagine in another but doesn’t want to buy three separate pedals.
- Amazing sounding effects
- Eventide sounds for a massive amount less than a rackmount unit
- The app-based editing is easily done
- Only certain effects can be used at one time
- App-based editing isn’t for everyone, especially those without a smartphone
Keeley Dark Side
- Epic Big Fuzz Multi Head Tape Delay Rotary/Flanger U-Vibe/Phaser
- We should all be so lucky as to be identified by the sound of a single note
- Some players are so well defined that their entire musical journey can be heard in a single note they play
The Keely Dark Side is easily one of the best multi-effects pedals on the market today. Its concept is, keep it simple, without the need for unnecessary technology, getting in the way of functionality and sound, and ultimately raising the price. The Dark Side is famed for one thing, and one thing only, the sound and the quality of its effects.
To start off with, there is a drive circuit which is based on a fuzz unit from 1977. Then to continue the vintage vibe, there is a multi-head delay effect which features twelve syncopated delay patterns. This is followed by a modulation section featuring flanger, u-vibe, phaser, and rotary speaker effects. As is obvious from the name of the pedal, Pink Floyd was the inspiration behind the design of many of the effects. So if that’s the sound you’re looking for, you’ve just found your dream pedal. If not, don’t be put off, this pedal will create great sounds in any number of musical genres.
As for options, there really aren’t many, which I think is a great thing in a pedal of this type, it just focuses on a great raw sound and beautiful tones. But it does have the option of connecting an expression pedal if you so wish, as well as being able to change the order of the effects in the effects chain. This creates some interesting variations on the sounds available, but in terms of options, that’s about it. But regardless of that, The Keeley Dark Side is a fantastic sounding pedal as long as you only need the basics and I would personally highly recommend getting hold of one.
David Gilmore, or anyone who loves his sound.
- A great sounding raw, high-end, analog multi-effects pedal
- Easy to set up and use
- Did I mention how good it sounds?
- Lacks the variety of effects that most people want from a multi-FX
- Not very tweakable if you want to change multiple parts of a particular effect
Tech 21 Fly Rig 5
Fly Dates are when musicians take a few essentials such as guitars and a pedalboard and then rent or borrow, all of the other gear needed for a concert, such as amps and cabinets on site. And they have led to the development of the Fly Rig. A simple rig a guitarist can take with them on commercial airlines.
SansAmp creator, Tech 21 has adopted the name for their new Fly Rig 5, which aims to provide everything a guitarist could need for any concert, in the smallest, simplest, possible package
It’s a small but perfectly functional pedalboard, containing the equivalent of five stompboxes. And you can use it at any venue worldwide because it is powered by an auto-switching mains adaptor.
The companies flagship overdrive/distortion, the famed SansAmp, is at the heart of the Fly Rig. It also has a spring reverb emulation based on the Boost RVB pedal, and a Plexi section, based on Tech 21’s Hot-Rod Plexi pedal. Last in the signal chain is a delay with tap tempo – the DLA.
The Fly Rig 5 is extremely functional with great drive tones and decent sounding versions of the most essential effects.
Guitarists on the move, either on the ground or in the air who want a reasonably priced pedal board with great drive tones.
- The SansAmp heritage
- Extreme functionality
- Can be used anywhere in the world
- Other multi-effects in the price range offer more variety of effects
- The effects don’t sound as good as the Drives do
And here comes yet another Boss offering, the baby brother of the GT-100, the Boss GT-1.
Compact and affordable it may be, but it features the same COSM DSP technology found in its bigger brother. Therefore giving it, the software algorithms that enable it to reproduce great sounding amps and effects models.
Also impressive is Boss’s ability to fit 3 footswitches and an expression pedal, into such a small footprint. The backlit LCD display finishes it off nicely, making the GT-1 very intuitive to setup and use.
Another feature is the ability to run it using four AA batteries, making this unit a truly portable multi-effect processor. But, you would also, obviously need a battery powered amp to go with it if you’re going off-grid. And battery powered amps don’t sound too good on the whole.
Guitarists who want the same great modeling technology as featured in more expensive units at a very affordable price. Also good for guitarists who want to play screaming solos on top of a mountain, miles from civilization.
- Value for money
- Very impressive modeling
- Great sounding effects within the price range
- Power supply not included
Zoom MS-50G MultiStomp
- Easy-to-use interface includes LCD, footswitch, and analog-style cursor keys/parameter knobs
- 55 effects types (47 stomp box effects, 8 amp models) can be used in any combination
- Use up to six effects simultaneously, 30 preset patches ready for immediate use, Create and store up to 50 original patches
Zoom has, as usual, attempted to fit as many effects as possible into the smallest possible space at the lowest possible price. That’s a hundred plus effects and 22 amp models with the recent updates to the MS-50G MultiStomp.
The pedal allows you to use six of these 100+ effects simultaneously and in any order, which is more than enough for most occasions. The 22 amp models cover the usual bases, three Fenders – a Tweed Bassman, a ’65 Twin Reverb, and a ’65 Deluxe Reverb, along with a Vox AC30 and a Marshall Plexi. Also included are a Two-Rock Emerald 50, and if you want to get down and dirty there’s an Engl Invader and a Diezel Herbert to have some high-gain fun with.
On the subject of modeling, it also features models of some famous effects pedals, including a Tube Screamer and a Big Muff.
Guitarists who like tweaking and want access to lots of different sounds but don’t want to spend a fortune, and is, in my opinion, a great introduction to the fascinating world of effects.
- Surprisingly intuitive interface
- A wide range of either single or multiple effects
- Great sounding modulations, delays and reverbs within the price range
- Drive tones nowhere near as good as the other effects
- Only a single footswitch which limits functionality
- No power supply included so you’ll need to run it off batteries or buy one
Donner Alpha Cruncher
- 3 types of guitar effects in one chain: Delay, Chorus and Higain
- Insanely heavy distortion with full range response.
- Bright, warm chorus module for creating the natural sense of space
If you’re looking for a good, basic compact unit combining three essential effects and not much more then the Donner Alpha Cruncher could be the unit for you. It’s an analog-style, multi-effect pedal combining distortion, chorus, and delay, which are easily the three most useful effects to have.
Considering the price, the distortion is good, producing a classic British style sound, while the chorus is warm, bright and shimmery, and the analog-voiced delay does what it should.
The interface is laid out as if it were three pedals glued together, with dedicated knobs that allow for hassle-free control of each effects settings, and three corresponding dedicated footswitches.
Simplicity is what this multi-effects pedal is all about. No need to navigate layers and layers of menus and press 20 buttons to change your delay time, just turn a knob and you’re done. This obviously has its downside if you want more control, but if you don’t then this could be the perfect pedal for you.
The pedal has a lot of fans worldwide mainly due to its value for money and its simplicity, and those who like it usually don’t want anything more complicated.
A guitarist who doesn’t enjoy constant tweaking, trying to get ‘the’ sound and is looking for a simple life, but with great sounds.
- Great sounds for the very low price of the unit
- Incredibly simple to set up, use and change sounds
- That low, low price
- Not programmable
- Very few adjustments per effect compared to other units
- Not really worth buying if you already own a distortion, a chorus and/or delay pedal
Well, there you have them, in my opinion, the 12 best multi-effects pedals and processors available today, within the different prices ranges. How much you want to spend is of course up to you, and do take note of the pros and cons of each unit and the recommendation on what type of guitarist it would best suit. But, whichever one you choose, I can assure you that you will not be disappointed.
Have fun and enjoy yourselves making great music with some amazing sounding effects.
Last update on 2019-03-26 / Source: Amazon