Articles

Articles

0

Everybody knows how delay and reverb effects are like. In fact, they try to reproduce the sonic effect that occurs naturally to any sound that propagates within a closed environment.

Wether you play in a bathroom, in a concert hall or in a cathedral, you will experience how these type of environments affect the decay of the signal, as the (many) echoes bouncing back from every direction (from walls, ceiling, floor) add up to the tail of the signal, expanding its decay.

Depending of the nature (and number) of echoes adding up to the dry signal, you will have what is call reverberation or delay:

  • Delay. You can see the delay as a repetition of the sound delayed in time, either a single repetition or a higher number of them, spaced in time, decreasing in volume over time.
  • Reverb. Reverb is similar to the delay, but with a lot of repetitions, shortly delayed in time. The more delayed the echo is, the lower its volume. All the echoes are blended together, giving a continuous tail to the sound.

Delay pedals

As said before, delay is a natural effect. Now, how this effect is obtained by means of a guitar pedal depends on the technology.

Vintage tape delays were the first artificial means to generate this effect, but when it comes to stompboxes, delay pedals can be classified (roughly) in two groups: analog and digital delays.

  • Analog delay. You experience echo in the natural world when you  clap in proximity of a hard, flat, somewhat distant wall, and hear the sound come bouncing back to you at a delay determined by your distance from the surface. This effect generates echoes using analog circuitry, adding a little change in the tone of the repeats. Analog delay pedals are limited to relatively short delay times and number of repetitions.
  • Digital delay. The evolution of digital circuits allowed generating more complex type of delays, by adding more functionality and increasing the delay time and maximum number of repetitions. Some pedals even include a built-in looping function that allows you to record short (or sometimes pretty long) riffs and repeat them infinitely, playing over the top.

A little history…

Empress Tape Delay
Empress Tape Delay

The early implementation of any means of delay (artificially generated) was again by using electromechanical devices. By recording the signal in two tape reels, you could adjust one of them to be delayed in time with the other, obtaining a delay effect. This is how old tape delays worked. They allowed a new way of playing in the fifties, setting the bases of rockabilly and early rock&roll.

Some guitar players find the tape delay as the pure vintage tone. That is the reason why most manufacturers include in their catalogue modern versions of tape delay pedals. They are obviously not like real tape delays, but they model (either analog or digitally) its sound electronically. Empress Tape Delay is a great example of a great modern tape delay.

As always, the evolution of solid-state electronics allowed reducing the size and complexity of delays. Thanks to the Bucket Brigade Device (BBD) chip, delay pedals became very popular in the seventies. They also added more versatility to guitarists thanks to the controls they implemented and the longer available delay times.

They increasing capabilities and lower prices of digital solid-state technology brought small and affordable delay pedals in the early eighties. The first commercially available digital delay pedal stompboxed was the Boss DD2 Digital Delay in 1984.

Digital memories allowed to increase the delay time up to a couple seconds. Modern digital pedals feature infinite number of repetitions. Some even include a looper function, allowing you to record a phrase, and then play along while the recorded phrase is looped over time.

Every pedal manufacturer (even most of boutique brands) include at least one delay pedal in their catalog.

You can dig deeper in the history of delay by checking out  these articles, one by the great high-end pedal manufacturer Effectrode and the other by Wikipedia.

Controls and features

The number of controls of delay pedals is different depending on the type of delay that it targets.

An analog delay pedal will be simpler than a digital delay modeling workstation. Here the possibilities are endless.

You can be sure that you will find, at least, three knobs in any delay pedals: Level, Time and Feedback. However, there are a lot of different delay pedals in the market, and you will find a few of them implementing the following controls:

  • Level. As always, this knob changes the presence of the effect. You will be able to go from a completely dry sound to a fully blended, only-delayed signal.
  • Mode. Some pedals target different types of delay: ping-pong (in stereo stompboxes), analog delay, digital delay, echo, loop, tape, reverse, etc.
  • Time. With this knob you can change the delay time. A lot of pedals also have a Tap switch, with which you can change, by stomping on it, the time of the delay, adjusting it to the rhythm of what you’re playing.
  • Feedback. Feedback accounts for the number of repetitions. With this knob at its minimum, you’ll only hear a single repetition. Turn it all the way up and you’ll have infinite repetitions (in a digital delay). The delay sound is usually faded out with the repetitions.
  • Tone. Some pedals allows you to change the tone of the delay, especially analog delays. Some analog delays also include a little modulation in the repetitions.

Do I need a delay pedal?

Just like I sed with Overdrive pedals in the Part 2 of this series, I will say Yes, no doubt here.

You do need a delay pedal. Or two (one that you will have always on and the other just for playing with other sounds). It is very common to have a delay pedal for short delays and another one for longer delays.

Reverb pedals

Reverberation can be defined as the persistence of a sound after it has been produced. Reverb is commonly experienced in an empty, unfurnished room, or really in any chamber with walls,  where multiple short echoes with long delays build up to an atmospheric recurring delay in the sound created in that room.

It can be imperceptible in an open space or a crowded and fully carpeted chamber,  and you can really notice its effect in a cathedral or a big cave.

Even though reverberation can be considered as a unique effect that occurs when some number of different echoes (at different delay times) add up to the end of the sound you play, reverb pedals try to emulate different types of reverbs.

Here are the most common types included in many reverb pedals:

  • Room. Room reverb try to emulate the kind of reverberation you may have naturally in a chamber. That is, in a relative small closed space, where you don’t expect to have long reverb times.
  • Hall. In this case, this reverb accounts for bigger spaces. Imagine yourself playing the guitar in a cathedral, or in a big cave. Similarly to the Room reverb, Hall emulates a reverberation that occurs naturally.
  • Plate. Plate reverb was an electromechanical way to reproduce natural reverberation in the late fifties. By using an electromechanical transducer, they create vibration in a large plate of sheet metal. A pickup captures the vibrations as they bounce across the plate, and the result is output as an audio signal.
  • Spring. Spring reverb is kind of similar to the plate reverb, because they also use an electromechanical transducer to create vibration in a spring (or more than one). A pickup captures again the vibrations of the spring. A lot of vintage tube amplifiers had built-in spring reverbs in them.
  • Shimmer. It is a kind of reverb that introduces additional notes (usually an octave up) that gives you a choral sensation. It is a sort of ghost-like effect that will give you a strange (but sweet) sustained tone.

A little history…

Electro Harmonix Cathedral reverb
Electro Harmonix Cathedral reverb

The first artificially generated reverberation was made thanks to spring reverberators. Spring reverbs are bulky electromechanical devices that utilize a transducer and a pickup to create and capture vibrations within a few metal springs, creating a very peculiar effect.

After spring reverberators, plate reverberators were used in the sixties to generate reverb in recording studios. They a similar to spring reverbs, but in this case they capture the vibrations along a metal plate, producing a different sound.

In the guitar world, spring reverb became mainstream due to the fact that most vintage tube amps started to incorporate built-in reverbs. Some of the most mythical devices being made by Fender in the sixties (i.e. Fender Princeton Reverb, Fender Deluxe Reverb, etc.).

Apart from modern reissues of vintage tube amps (of any brand), modern amplifiers include built-in spring reverbs. On the other hand, the history of reverb pedals (as stompboxes) is shorter, due to the fact that most of them use digital technology, and everybody was very happy just using proper spring reverbs…

It was in 1985 when the first reverb pedal appeared. The DOD FX45 Stereo Reverb (perhaps along with the Arion SRV-1 Stereo Reverb) the was based on analog technology and preceded the first digital reverb pedal ever made: The Boss RV2 Digital Reverb.

Nowadays every manufacturer incorporates some reverb pedals in their portfolio. They are great units, some trying to emulate spring-based vintage sounds, some others allowing you playing with endless types of reverb sounds.

Controls and features

All reverb stompboxes are digital. Therefore, the functionalities of these pedals are countless. However, most of them try to emulate real environmental sensations.

There are pedals for a single kind of reverb. This way, you can find spring reverb pedals with a single control on them, just like some amps have built-in.

However, some other pedals have infinite possibilities do to the amount of controls they include. Take as an example the Strymon BigSky, without any doubt, the best reverb pedal ever made.

In any case, you may expect to play with these controls in most reverb pedals:

  • Level. As in most guitar pedals, the level knob in your reverb pedal (also called Mix, Blend, etc.) changes the volume of the reverb. If you turn this knob at its minimum, you’ll only have the dry signal (without any reverb). Turn it all the way up, and you’ll only hear the reverberated sound. This knob will allow you to dramatically change the presence of your guitar, whether if it feels at the very front (dry) or behind any other instrument (fully wet).
  • Mode. Some pedals implement different kind of reverbs. With this knob, you’ll be able to change the type of the reverb.
  • Time. With this knob you will control the decay of the reverberation, i.e. how long does the sound takes to vanish. With less time, the reverb will emulate smaller spaces, whereas larger times stand for larger environments.
  • PreDelay. This knob controls the time until the reverb sound happens.
  • EQ. Some pedals implement different means to equalize the tone of the reverberation.

Do I need a reverb pedal?

My answer is yes. In fact, looking for a reverb pedal for me was the reason to start this website.

Everybody will tell you that there is nothing like natural reverberation. Just play in a good sounding room, and that will be the best reverb for your tone.

In addition, if you are playing live with your band, the sound engineer will tell you to play dry so he will ad reverb to the whole mix (if necessary). The same applies to the studio. When recording, just play dry, the reverb will be added afterwards.

Well, that is ok, but a reverb pedal may give you the possibility to change the presence of your guitar when playing live, and it can also change how your amp sounds like at different volumes.

You may also think: “my amp already has a built-in reverb”. Yes, you’re right! But you will have to stick to a single (and very peculiar) kind of reverb: spring reverb.

If you want versatility, and you like to create different kind of sound ambients by using reverb, you better get a good digital reverb pedal.

You will enjoy it just playing alone. you will sound different. You will sound great.

Here is the complete list of posts of this “pedals explained” series:

0

Even though pitch shifting pedals could be grouped within other filtering related guitar pedals, they generate such distinctive sounds and atmospheres that I have included octavers and harmonizers in a separate category.

What they basically do is to generate additional notes (at different pitches) to the original, creating magical harmonies. These harmonies can be very simple (just add or subtract an octave or any other given interval), or quite complex, by generating one (or several) additional notes within a given harmony that you can set.

These effects are a bit trickier to use, as you need to play the notes firmly (and in tune), because otherwise you will get some dirty and bad sounding harmonies.

In any case, they can provide your solos or single-note riffs with a dramatic presence and thickness that you won’t be able to live without after trying them…

These are the the pitch shifting pedals that I will talk about in this post:

  • Octaver. It generates an octave of the note you are playing, either up, down, or both at the same time.
  • Whammy. This pedal creates a shifted note at some given intervals, and allows you to act over the pitch shifting by rocking a foot pedal.
  • Harmonizer. This pedal creates shifted notes (either one, two and even more) within a preset harmony (major, minor7, etc.).

Octaver pedals

An octave divider pedal splits the input signal and adds (or subtracts) an octave tone to the original. They were originally really simple devices, including just a couple transistors, a transformer and a few other passive components.

Try one of those adding up an octave and you will get a similar effect to the one obtained naturally by using a 12-string guitar. Like the sixties? You will get some psychedelic stuff with these guys…

In some stompboxes, an octave can be added and subtracted at the same time, and all them up to the original note. That is so cool for playing single note riffs…

But be careful here, they can sound awful if you play chords with them.

Electro Harmonix POG
Electro Harmonix POG

A little history…

Octave pedals were also very popular in the sixties and seventies. Jimmy Page used an MXR Blue Box for recording the solo in “Fool in the rain” with Led Zeppelin.

Due to the simplicity of the electronic circuit, these pedals are quite common among pedal manufacturers.

Features and controls

Octaves are, in general, simple devices. Sometimes you will find the octave effect blended with other effects (like fuzz) in some stompboxes, but these are the controls you will see in an average pedal:

  • Octave 1. With this knob, you will bring into presence one of the octaves (i.e. the upper octave).
  • Octave 2. On the other hand, turn this knob clockwise and you will increase the volume of the down octave.
  • Tone. In some pedals you will be able to change the tone of the octaves, either with a single knobs or with two different, one for each octave.

Do I need an octave pedal?

This is one of the few pedals that a bassist should include in his pedalboard (if he had one), along with an envelope filter.

However, you may think octavers aren’t for you. Give them a try, and build an opinion yourself.

Whammy pedal

In reality, whammy pedals are not like a category of pedals as such, but a very peculiar kind of effect made by Digitech.

This pedal works similarly to an octaver, but now you can change the pitch of the note in different intervals, not just limited to octaves. In addition, you can modify the pitch while playing by rocking the pedal with your foot.

Take any recording of Rage Against the Machine and you will hear Tom Morello creating very crazy tricks with one of these.

Digitech Whammy V
Digitech Whammy V

A little history…

The WH-1 Whammy pedal, the original Whammy, was first engineered and manufactured in 1989 by IVL Technologies, and was discontinued in 1993. Now you can find different models by Digitech.

I must admit that this pedal is not one of my favorites, but you will see many top guitarists using this effect since its inception more than 25 years ago.

Features and controls

The main characteristic of the whammy pedal is the pedal itself, as you can modify the pitch of the note you are playing with your foot.

Apart from that, these are the controls of whammy pedals:

  • Harmony. In this mode, it acts as a simple pitch shifter. Add an octave, a third, etc. to your original note, and the pitch shifted note will be always there while playing.
  • Whammy. With this control you can select (up or down) the maximum pitch shifting that you will get by rocking the pedal up and down. This functionality is the one whammy pedals are well known for.
  • Shift. Newer models have an additional section with which you can modify (momentarily or permanently) the pitch of the note. Instead of having a shifted replica of your dry signal, you will now have just one: the “wet” shifted one. Although it appears to not adding any additional juice, this will allow you to play some cool and imposible chord progressions.

Do I need a whammy pedal?

I can’t say that you will need a whammy pedal if you like to play a music style in particular. This pedals are a very personal choice and are not necessary at all 99% of the times.

However, you may think that, for the other 1% of the rest of the times, the whammy is definitely what you need…

Harmonizer pedals

Harmonizers also work with the pitch of the input signal. In this case, they automatically process the tone of the note you are playing and add one (or more) shifted note according to a preset harmony.

You can work with mayor scales, minor, pentatonic, and so on. This can result in a relatively complex signal processing in order to get a natural and nice sounding quality, so better go for a quality pedal here.

These pedals go even further, as some models will allow you to set different shifted notes at different delays, so you it automatically generates arpeggios in a given harmony too.

Eventide Harmonix pitch factor
Eventide Harmonix pitch factor

A little history…

I don’t have very much to say about the history of Harmonizers, apart from the fact that I love how Brian May used them…

Please help me out in the comments section…

Features and controls

Harmonizers are very powerful devices due to the complexity of the digital processing circuits they incorporate. Most of them are rack mounted devices, so it’s very difficult to provide like general controls that an average stompbox device may contain.

In any case, expect to have, at list, some means to select the mode of operation (be sure that an harmonizer pedals will include a few pitch shifting capabilities), and a few more to control a parameter or two (generally the pitch level) of every shifted note the harmonizer generates.

An for sure, an LCD screen to deal with all the controls…

Do I need a harmonizer pedal?

Well, not really, do you?

If you want to emulate Brian May and his mythical harmonies (check the “God save the Queen” at the end of “A night at the opera” album by Queen), try one of them.

They are very versatile and complex devices, so if you are a kind of techy and love just playing and get lost within knobs, parameters and menus, you will be happy with one of those.

 

Here is the complete list of posts of this “pedals explained” series:

0

Modulation-based guitar pedals modulate one (or more) characteristic of the input signal, such as amplitude, frequency or phase. From just slight phase shifting to orbital flanging, these pedals can definitely change the character of the sound of your guitar.

How the modulation is produced very much depends on the effect. However, all of them change one of the characteristics of the signal. This change is generated (modulated) by a predefined pattern.

To do so, all these kind of pedals work similarly: the input signal is divided in two copies. One of them (dry) stays the same, whereas the other (wet) is modulated. Then both are blended together, creating an amazing effect.

As you know, any sound is composed by a few (or billions) of single sine waves. Each of these single sine waves are defined by three parameters: amplitude, frequency and phase.

  1. The amplitude (measured in volts) of the signal determines the volume of the sound. The higher the amplitude, the louder the sound.
  2. The frequency (measured in Hertz) sets the pitch of the sound. Remember that we usually tune any instrument by using an A at 440Hz as a reference.
  3. The phase of the signal (measured in radians, or degrees) express its time delay when crossing the zero volts amplitude.

Perhaps some of the effects that I include in this part don’t fit very well within this category, but it is sure that all of them ad some kind of modulation to the input signal. These are the most representative modulation guitar pedals:

  • Chorus. Chorus pedals try to make a single instrument like of more than one is playing, just like a voice chorus does.
  • Phaser. Phaser pedals shift the phase of the signal.
  • Flanger. Flanger pedals also shift the phase of the signal, but the effect is a little different than the one phaser do.
  • Tremolo. Tremolo pedals modulate the amplitude of the signal.
  • Vibrato. Vibrato pedals try to emulate the vibrato you can apply to the neck of your guitar naturally, with your left hand.

Chorus pedals

The chorus effect tries to make one instrument to sound like if more than one is playing.

To do so, it takes the input signal, doubles it, and put the doubled signal slightly out of time and tune with the original. This way, when both the original sound and the doubled one are played at the same time, it seems like two instruments are playing together, but not in perfect tuning.

To do so, they apply a short (selectable delay) that gives a more natural taste to two instruments playing together. That also apply a varying pitch shifting at a given rate, to emulate a “bad” but natural slight out-of-tune.

Boss CE2 Chorus
Boss CE2 Chorus

A little history…

Due to the short delay times these effect apply, these effects weren’t available until the seventies. The reason was, as with other effects, the availability of low price chips.

The first commercially available chorus pedal was the Boss CE1 Chorus Ensemble. As soon as it appeared in 1976, it was instantly assumed by the big fishes of the music scene. In fact, this pedal was one of the main factors why The Police sounded like it did. Andy Summers was a big fan of this pedal.

After the CE1, Electro Harmonix brough into the scene two other models that you can still find reissued: the Memory Man Stereo Chorus/Delay and the smaller Small Clone.

Then MXR, DOD, Ibanez and the rest of big manufacturers incorporated a chorus pedal in their catalogs. Today, a lot a boutique pedal makers offer chorus pedals in both analog and digital implementations.

Controls and features

The features of chorus pedals have increased with the time, mainly due to the possibilities that digital signal processing brings to these circuits. Nevertheless, you can expect to be able to control this parameters in any chorus pedal:

  • Level. This knob simply changes the presence of the effect over the dry sound. Turn it counter-colckwise and you will have the dry sound; turn it clockwise all the way up and you’ll feel the presence of
  • Tone. The tone control equalizes the high (or mid) frequencies of the wet signal (i.e. the part of the signal affected by the chorus).
  • Rate. This knob changes the speed (frequency) of the modulation effect.
  • Depth. This control changes the depth of the modulation.

Do I need a chorus pedal?

As I have explained in the Part 2 of this series, you NEED a few (a lot) of different gain pedals. However, modulation pedals are more like a personal choice.

Do you need a chorus pedals? Buy one if you like the effect that it produces, or just because you love the eighties… Check out any song by The Police and you will hear Andy Summers mastering the chorus effect with his guitar.

Chorus pedals sound great with clean sounds, either chords or arpeggios. On the other hand, they can make your distortions sound great too!

You may like the color this pedal can give to your sound when playing arpeggios in pop music. It’s great for some kind of hard jazzy sounds or fusion music too. Mike Stern is a great example of what you can do with this effect when playing impossible solos.

Phaser pedals

Phasers, or phase shifters, where originally designed to emulate the effect of a rotary speaker, like a classic Leslie cabinet.

Similarly to chorus pedals, they split the input signal in two and modulate one of them in a less intuitive manner than a chorus pedal does. A phaser takes the doubled signal and shifts its phase between 0 and 360 degrees. This phase shift affects differently to each frequency present in the original signal.

When the shifted signal is mixed back with the original signal, some frequencies phase cancel while others add together to create notches and peaks in the frequency response.

Modulating the filter’s phase shift with a low-frequency oscillator (LFO) sweeps those notches and peaks up and down the frequency range over time to create a spacey whoosh and swirl effect.

A little history…

MXR vintage Phase 90
MXR vintage Phase 90

Phaser pedals were created to emulate the effect of the rotary speaker of a Leslie Cabinet.

The first phaser pedal was the Univox Uni-Vibe. Even though it included Chorus and Vibrato controls on it, it was more a phaser pedal, based on optoelectronic circuits. Its circuit included discrete transistors, and some light bulbs and light cells, and an LFO. This is the reason why it was so big.

Big but sweet… Any of the modern clones don’t have its warmness and hypnotic sound. Just try to sound like David Gilmour in “The dark side of the moon”. No way without an original Uni-Vibe.

After the Uni-Vibe, other epic phaser pedals came into scene. The MXR Phase 45 and Phase 90, and the Electro Harmonix Small Stone are still available today at great prices.

These were simple devices (just a single knob to control the phase shifting). Nowadays, every major manufacturer includes one (or more) phasers in their catalogs. Some of them being fully digital, allowing endless features and controls.

Controls and features

There are some powerful phaser pedals with a lot of knobs and switches that are very flexible a versatile. They can provide a wide span of different sounds and effects.

On the other hand, take one of the greatest phasers of all time: MXR phase 90. How many knobs and switches does it have? Just one! And it sounds great…

Most of phaser pedals are very simple, and these are the typical controls you will find in an average phaser:

  • Depth. This control changes the maximum phase shift of the signal. Shifting the phase to higher values (usually turning the knob clockwise) gives a more noticeable effect.
  • Rate. Change the speed at which the phase varies from zero to the maximum value set by the Depth control with this knob.

Do I need a phaser pedal?

In my opinion, yes.

Not just because you can obtain orbital sounds with it… Small phase shifts at low effect levels make slight changes in the guitar tone that are great too.

But for those loving the effect of Leslie-like rotary speakers, or trippy sounds from the late sixties and seventies, this pedal can provide them with great times.

What if I ask you what is the best album of all times? I’m sure that “The dark side of the moon” by Pink Floyd is in your top 10 list (if not in your number one). David Gilmour taught everyone how to use a phaser (using an Univox Uni-vibe). Take “Breathe” as an example.

It sounds great, doesn’t it? Go and get a phaser!!

Flanger pedals

They are based on the same principle of modulation than phasers, with a similar sweep and motion to its sound.

However, they usually apply more dramatic frequency-altering effects going on within that motion, by imposing more control over the inverse points of the out-of-phase relationship, what results in a more oppressive effect.

They are more complex devices, requiring more involved circuitry and therefore more control knobs than phasers.

Electro Harmonix Deluxe Electric Mistress
Electro Harmonix Deluxe Electric Mistress

A little history…

Long time before the first flanger pedal appeared as a stompbox, the effect was generated manually in the studios.  How? By running identical recordings synchronized on two separate reel-to-reel recording machines, and placing a finger against the flange of one to slow it slightly; then releasing again to let the reel speed up again and chase the unadulterated machine.

As “simple” as that.

Once again, the proliferation of transistors made it possible to reproduce the flanging effect with an electronic circuit inside a guitar pedal.

However, flanger circuits are pretty complex so that they emulate manual flanging in a reliable way, and it wasn’t until the end of the seventies where the most preferred devices hit the market, allowing guitarists to widespread those trippy sounds.

Flanger pedals like A/DA Flanger, Electro Harmonix Electric Mistress and MXR Flanger set the standards for flanger pedals, and started forcing guitarist to spend a few hundred dollars (in the seventies) to get one of those stompboxes.

Controls and features

As I said before when discussing about phasers, there are flangers with a lot of knobs and switches, which can take you to another planet.

But the flanger effect is so great that they can sound orbital with just a few controls. Take as an example the Electric Mistress by Electro Harmonix… In an average flanger pedals, you will find three knobs:

  • Level. Flanger pedals usually have a level knob, so you can change how the dry and wet parts of the signal are mixed together.
  • Depth. The depth control changes the maximum time that the wet part of the signal is delayed.
  • Rate. The rate knob varies the speed (or frequency) of the time shift from zero to the maximum delay set by the depth control.

Do I need a flanger pedal?

I think that the flanger effect is something that either you love or hate it.

You can have a great time playing with your flanger pedal, but if you are in a band, be sure that your guitar will be ahead everything else if you use this effect.

But it could be great though… Add distortion to your flanger, and you will love the metallic sound you will get. Check out “Are you gonna go my way” by Lenny Kravitz. That is how you should use a flanger…

Tremolo pedals

By modulating the amplitude of the signal (i.e. volume level) you can obtain a helicopter-like pulsing effect at different speeds.

A little history…

DeArmond Tremolo
DeArmond Tremolo

In the guitar world, Tremolo first appeared as an amp-based device. It basically consisted on an tube-based circuit that cut (at different speeds and amplitudes) the signal entering the power tubes in the output stage.

The very first Tremolo pedal as a stompbox was the DeArmond Tremolo Control. I recommend reading this great article with the brief history of tremolo for more information about how this effect evolved over time.

Nowadays you can find great tremolo pedals. You will see some (like the Demeter TRM-1 Tremulator) with the few controls you could find in a vintage tube amplifier like the Fender Tremolux. On the other hand, other units are way out more complex, but also very versatile (check out the Empress Effects Tremolo 2).

Controls and features

Vintage tube amps implementing tremolo had very basic functionality. You were only able to change both the depth and frequency of the amplitude modulation.

There are modern tremolo pedals that have many possibilities to experiment with. However, most of them implement (perhaps with different names) the following controls:

  • Wave. Some tremolo pedals have a knob (or a switch) to change the shape with which the amplitude is modulated. It can be squared, saw teeth, sine wave, etcetera.
  • Depth. The depth changes the dynamic range of the amplitude variation. With the depth control all the way down, you won’t notice the effect. Turn it all the way up, and the amplitude difference will be maximum, just like an on-off effect.
  • Rate. This knob changes the frequency of the amplitude modulation

Do I need a tremolo pedal?

If your amplifier has a built-in vibrato, you don’t need a tremolo pedal.

But, would you like to have more controls over the vibrato, like modifying the attack, changing the modulation shape, etc. you’d like to check out one of the most modern stompboxes.

On the other hand, if your amp doesn’t have tremolo and you like old school, vintage effects, you should add a tremolo pedal to your pedalboard. They are very cool…

Vibrato pedals

Vibrato is another great example of a pedal that emulates a natural effect.

Think of an orchestra playing classical music. You will see any single player applying vibrato to the instrument.

By slightly modifying the note above or below its original pitch you obtain a warbling effect, similar to the one you obtain when bending a note of your guitar.

Univox Uni-Vibe
Univox Uni-Vibe

A little history…

Vibrato was also first adopted in tube amps, but it was also one of the first guitar pedals available for guitarists to play with.

As I’ve said before, the Univox Uni-Vibe was more a phaser than either a chorus or vibrato. However, it is also a kind of a vibrato unit. Guess where does its name come from?

Today, most of the vibrato pedals you will find are based on the old Uni-Vibe. Some of them claim to be clones (or slightly modified versions of it) like the JHS Warble-Tron and MXR M68 Univibe. Other pedals are re-designs of the Uni-Vibe, like this beauty: the Effectrode Tube-Vibe, a tube-based Vibrato unit, probably the best vibrato pedal in the market.

Controls and features

Just like modern flangers, state-of-the-art vibrato pedals may contain a few knobs that allow you to play with different kind of vibratos.

In any case, you can find, at least, the same controls that you had in a vintage Univox Uni-Vibe:

  • Level. Like in all pedals, the Level knob changes the presence (i.e.) volume of the effect.
  • Rate. The rate control changes the frequency at witch the vibrato is produced. You can generate vibratos at higher frequencies than your left hand (at least mine) can produce…
  • Depth. The Depth knob sets the maximum pitch of the vibrato.

Do I need a vibrato pedal?

Not really. You can do vibrato with your left hand, or with your whammy bar. But, as I always say, you love guitar pedals… Do you like Pink Floyd? What about “The dark side of the moon”? Listen the guitar at “Breathe”. Liked it?

Mmmm, perhaps you start thinking on buying one now…

 

Here is the complete list of posts of this “pedals explained” series:

1

There are tons of guitar pedals. Most of them can be grouped in categories. I’ve tried to describe most of them in the “guitar pedals explained” post series. However, there are 6 essential guitar pedals that any player should have. That is what this post is all about.

You may have seen similar posts here and there, but most of them include nearly all kind of guitar pedals. But we are talking about just the essential guitar pedals. Only a few, just like an starting point. Something to start building your collection of stompboxes.

I like the approach of Aaron Matthies of Guitar Gear Finder in this post, where he asks some of the top guitar bloggers about their essential guitar pedals.

This post (like most of them in this site) is about my personal opinion in this regard.

Why to start your collection of stompboxes from these essential guitar pedals? 

If you are a guitarist, you’re worried about your tone. It is vital to have what is called a great base tone, that is the basic sound generated by both your guitar and amp (and the cable you’re using). If you are a beginner, my advice is you better invest in a good guitar and a good amp. Then, you’ll be ready to add some more color to your sound by adding effects.

We all agree that  stompboxes are great. That is why you came to this website and are reading this post. If you are like me, you’d like to have ALL existing guitar pedals, or at least a few hundred…

But you have to pay for them, right? You have to be patient: your collection of guitar pedals is building up as you grow as a guitar player. Just like the toolset you may have, you’re always adding more tools to your collection.

In any case, there are a few essential guitar pedals that every guitarist should have on the pedalboard. If you are new to this, you should consider buying these pedals first, and then keep on with your collection.

In my opinion, the 6 essential guitar pedals are these:

  1. A good Tuner
  2. An Overdrive (or distortion if you prefer dirtier sounds)
  3. A Delay
  4. A Reverb
  5. Some type of Modulation
  6. A Compressor

Tuner

TC Electronic Polytune family
TC Electronic Polytune family

 

You must always play in tune. Especially if you play gigs with your band, you need a tuner pedal at the beginning of the signal path to tune your guitar whenever possible. It comes handy there because you mute the sound when switching it on.

Also for practicing, I find a tuner pedal very useful when learning how to bend. It is mandatory that any bending you do stays tuned. It you go from A to B, it is going to be a pure B. If not, you’re not going to sound good.

Also when learning vibrato (the one in which you bend the base note), a tune pedal is great so every bend stays in tune.

My favorite the TC Electronic PolyTune 2, a true bypass tuner that has a very cool feature: it allows you to check all the strings at once. For sure you can check each of them at a time, just like any tuner will do. But, with PolyTune, you simply strum all strings on your guitar or bass at once and it will immediately tell you which strings need tuning! It really is as simple as strum – tune – rock! 

Overdrive

Ibanez Tubescreamer TS808 (left) and Earthquaker Devices Palisades (right)
Ibanez Tubescreamer TS808 (left) and Earthquaker Devices Palisades (right)

 

Any guitarist uses some distortion. From just a little overdrive up to the dirtiest fuzzes, there is plenty of options to find the tone you like.

I think that you should have, at least, an overdrive pedal (with the time, you’ll have a few of them). It adds a little distortion, just like overdriven tube amps do when cranked up. You can also use it to boost your sound for playing a solo, even with no distortion at all (depending on the pedal).

There are thousands of overdrive pedals, with different looks, different controls and different sounds. However, most of them are based on the same unit: the legendary Ibanez Tubescreamer (either the TS808 and TS9).

Tray as many overdrive pedals as you can. If you don’t know which one to chose first, buy a Tubescreamer TS9. It is just great!

If you want some versatility, the Earthquaker Palisades will give you hundreds of different tones. It’s also based in a Tubescreamer, but it allows you changing a couple of things. First, you can select among different input bandwidths, which will change the characteristics of the input filter and hence the tone. And second, the sound of the distortion can also be changed by selecting among different clipping diodes.

Delay

Eventide TimeFactor (left) and MXR Carbon Copy (right)
Eventide TimeFactor (left) and MXR Carbon Copy (right)

 

A delay pedal will add magic to your sound. You can use delay to do crazy things (think off The Edge from U2) or just use it slightly to add some texture to the decay of the sound.

This way, you can select between a powerful, versatile, delay workstation such as the great Eventide TimeFactor, one of the best delay pedals. On the other hand, a simple analog delay pedal such as the MXR Carbon Copy is a great starting point (and a pedal you’ll keep forever).

Reverb

Eventide Space Reverb (left) and TC Electronic Hall of Fame (right)
Eventide Space Reverb (left) and TC Electronic Hall of Fame (right)

 

You may think that you don’t need a reverb pedal because you already have a built-in reverb in your amp. This reverb is, in most cases, a spring reverb. This kind of reverb is epic. It is where it all started. But it may be not optimum if using distortion.

In that case, a more natural type of reverb (like Room or Hall) will fit better with any sound you want and most music styles.

Just like delay pedals, you have, on the one hand, fully featured and powerful reverb workstations like the Eventide Space Reverb. On the other hand, my recommendation for your first reverb pedal is the TC Electronic Hall of Fame, probably the best reverb pedal for the value.

Compressor

MXR vintage Dyna Comp
MXR vintage Dyna Comp

 

Some people may argue that a compressor pedal is not really essential (i.e. for beginners).

However, it can help you making you sound better. How? When playing rhythmic guitar or arpeggios, a compressor can give presence to notes that you would’t miss otherwise.

A compressor pedal won’t just increase the volume of the weak notes and reduce the volume of the louder ones, giving a more uniform sound a presence. It can also act as a booster if required.

A must-have compressor pedal is the MXR Dynacomp.

Modulation

Boss CH-1 Super chorus (up-left), Strymon Mobius (up-mid), MXR Phase 90 (up-right), Eventide ModFactor (down-left) and Electro Harmonix Electric Mistress (down-right)
Boss CH-1 Super chorus (up-left), Strymon Mobius (up-mid), MXR Phase 90 (up-right), Eventide ModFactor (down-left) and Electro Harmonix Electric Mistress (down-right)

 

Modulation effects are probably the least essential guitar pedals of this list, but, due to their particular dynamics, they give movement to the tone of the guitar.

Most popular modulation pedals are chorus, flanger and phaser. You can check out each of them to see which of them you like the most, or invest in all-in-one modulation unit, such as the Strymon Mobius or the Eventide ModFactor.

For single-effect pedals, have a look to the Boss CH-1 Super Chorus, the Electro Harmonix Electric Mistress flanger (in any of its variations), and the MXR phase 90 phaser.

What is your opinion?

Of course, once you complete this essential guitar pedals collection, your GAS will have just started. From then on, you’ll be adding more pedals to your rig for ever (even a few more of the same kind of those presented here).

What is your opinion? Which are your essential guitar pedals? Drop a comment below and share the post if you liked it.

0

Filtering pedals modify the frequency spectrum of the signal. You may know that any sound you generate is a combination of billions of sine waves, each at a given frequency, with a particular phase and with different amplitudes.

It is very straightforward to visualize the effect of filtering pedals if you think that they simply change the amplitude of some sine waves (at single frequencies) within a given frequency span.

But these pedals are much more than simple tone equalization devices, as they can apply filtering in the time domain, which provides cool dynamics to the tone and creates synthesizer-like effects.

Apart from the basic filtering of the input signal via a graphic EQ, these pedals can produce awesome effects that you would instantly recognize as one of the most representative tones of the history of rock guitar.

In this category, you will see amazing end epic effects, like the Wah-wah that Jimmy Hendrix (once again) made so popular in the sixties. But you’ll also see other awesome effects that use envelope filters.

  • Wah-wah pedals. I’m sure you know this effect. It takes its name for the kind of sound it generates. It is so great because you control it with your foot while playing.
  • Filter pedals. Known as envelope filters, these stompboxes are really cool. Auto-wah could be included in this category.
  • Auto-wah pedals. The effect it creates is very similar (even identical) to the one the conventional way pedal generates. However, you don’t control it with your foot, but it’s created automatically.
  • Equalizer pedals. These are really easy to understand. They allow you to equalize different frequency bands, very much like the tone controls of your amp, but with more versatility.

Wah-wah pedals

This effect takes its name from the kind of sound that it generates. It ¡s another example of the great classic pedals of the sixties rock scene; it also took disco music and funk in the seventies into the next level.

Wah-wah pedals work in very simple way: by rocking the pedal with your foot you sweep the center frequency of an envelope filter, or band-pass filter, through the frequency spectrum.

When that peak is swept through the portion of the spectrum in which the current note or chord is being played, it emphasizes those frequencies and produces a characteristic wah-wah-like sound.

Cry Baby Wah
Cry Baby Wah

A little history…

Wah-wah sound has its origin back in the mid twenties, when trumpet and trombone players in the jazz scene produced such a sound when muting the instrument with their hand.

Regarding guitar world, it seems that the wah-wah pedal was invented by accident. It was mid sixties when VOX engineers were tweaking old tube amps, and they accidentally came up with an weird sound that everybody just loved.

They wanted to replace the expensive Jennings 3-position MRB circuit switch with a transistorized solid state MRB circuit. After adjusting the circuit, they connected its output to a speaker, and the sound surprised everybody around.

They used it with a saxophone, and after that they used a volume pedal to control the wah with a guitar. The rest is history…

VOS wah pedal was released in 1967. Once again, Jimmy Hendrix was the first to amaze the whole world with what this pedal could do with the sound of the guitar. From then on, Wah is considered to be essential in rock music.

The other mythical wah pedal is the CryBaby, which got its name due to the similarity of the tone that it generates with a baby crying. It came out in 1968, and I would say that it’s the most widely used wah-pedal .

In the seventies, funk, soul and disco music guitar players started massively using wah, which took this sound into the next level.

Controls and features

Wah pedals are very simple devices. You won’t usually see any knobs in them, although there are some models that allow you to change the bandwidth of the envelope filter. This way, if you select a narrow bandwidth you will get a sharper wah. On the contrary, if you increase the bandwidth the effect will be less noticeable.

Now, all wah pedals look the same, just like an actual pedal. By firmly stomping on it, you will activate the pedal so you can start rocking.

Do I need a Wah pedal?

It is a classic, and every guitarist should have one, so yes, you need a wah pedal.

Envelope filters pedals

Filters (envelope filters) are very similar to wahs and auto-wahs, although more versatile because they include more controls that allow you to amazingly shape the tone of your guitar.

Most of them include a low frequency oscillator (LFO) that is mixed with some of the controls that the filter has. In some cases, you can even modify the shape of the signal generated by this LFO (sine, square, triangle, etc.).

This is a wide category because there are very different filtering pedals, with very different functionalities and tonal possibilities. Some of them (really complex devices) provide, just with filtering, synthesizer-like sounds that will take your guitar out from conventionality.

SolidGoldFX FUNKZILLA
SolidGoldFX FUNKZILLA

A little history…

The history of envelope filtering is very related to the history of synthesizers.

Just check some recordings of the early progressive rock in the seventies and you will hear a lot of psychedelic synthesizer applying crazy filtering. Once again I will refer to Pink Floyd and “The dark side of the moon” and their mastery (though being just novices experimenting) with the use of synthesizers in the studio.

The first envelope filter was the Mu-Tron III, first made in 1972 and quickly becoming an essential effect for many funk musicians. Other examples of envelope filter pedals include the MXR Envelope Filter and the Boss AW-2 Auto Wah.

Envelope filter pedals are not really mainstream pedals. Although most mainstream brands have an envelope filter in their catalogue, there are not many models in the market (at least not as many as overdrives…)

This pedal also shaped the sound of funk.

Controls and features

In the case of (envelope) filter pedals, the controls vary widely among different stompboxes.

In any case, these are the most commons controls that you can find in the majority of filters:

  • Rate. With the rate you will control the time in which the frequency sweep occurs. Think about a wah pedal that you control with your foot: the faster you rock the pedal, the faster the wah sound is generated. You can obtain the same effect by increasing the rate of an auto-wah.
  • Depth. The depth knob changes the bandwidth of the envelope filter. At its minimum, you will get a subtle effect, whereas turned all the way up you will reduce the bandwidth, obtaining a sharper wah tone.
  • Sensitivity. Sometimes you can obtain a dynamic change in how the pedal reacts to your playing. If you play louder, the wah effect will be more pronounced. You will obtain more natural effect by tuning this control.
  • LFO. With this knob you can change the speed (frequency) of the LFO, from a slight vibe-like effect up to a high frequency helicopter-like high speed tremolo.
  • Envelope. Sometimes you can select between different shapes for the signal generated by the LFO (sine wave, triangular, square, etc.).
  • Mode. Some really cool pedals allow you to select between different modes of operation. Instead of having just a steady LFO with a constant output, they include a few presets with crazy oscillator patterns.

Do I need a filter pedal?

Not really. But trust me, they will boost your creativity, because they allow you to sound so amazing that you will get inspired by the effect itself.

I must admit that, when I’m writing these lines, I am waiting for a present that I’ve made to myself. A friend of mine is about to come from NYC, where he got for me a SolidGoldFx FUNKZILLA. What does this name suggests?

Do you like funk? Then you need a filter pedal.

Auto-wah pedals

Auto-wah is very similar to the classic wah, because it is also based in an envelope filter circuit.

However, you now don’t control the frequency characteristics of the filter with the foot; instead, this is done by the pedal automatically, depending on the dynamics or you playing and the settings of the pedal.

This is a really cool funky effect that gives you a sound kind of different than a classic wah. If you are into soul and funk music, you definitely must have one of those.

Mad Professor Snow White AutoWah
Mad Professor Snow White AutoWah

A little history…

Auto-wah can be considered as a particular case of envelope filtering, so the history of envelope filters apply here.

Controls and features

Auto-wah pedals can be considered as a group within the envelope filters category. However, there are some models in the market with just auto-wha functionality.

in general, they will share these controls:

  • Rate. With the rate you will control the time in which the frequency sweep occurs. Think about a wah pedal that you control with your foot: the faster you rock the pedal, the faster the wah sound is generated. You can obtain the same effect by increasing the rate of an auto-wah.
  • Depth. The depth knob changes the bandwidth of the envelope filter. At its minimum, you will get a subtle effect, whereas turned all the way up you will reduce the bandwidth, obtaining a sharper wah tone.
  • Sensitivity. Sometimes you can obtain a dynamic change in how the pedal reacts to your playing. If you play louder, the wah effect will be more pronounced. You will obtain more natural effect by tuning this control.

Do I need an auto-Wah pedal?

Unless you are into funky stuff, you won’t be thinking in including an auto-wah in your pedalboard… But if you do like how synthesizers can color different sounds by adding filtering and LFOs you will love what these pedals can do with a guitar.

Equalization (EQ) pedals

This effect is pretty straightforward. It consists on a graphic EQ that includes a number of band pass filters at different frequencies. Depending on how many bands the EQ has, you really can change the tone of your playing. EQ pedals usually have slider-based controls to tune each band, that present a graphic image of the shape of your EQ settings.

A little history…

MXR 10 band Equalizer
MXR 10 band Equalizer

Graphic equalizer pedals were widely used in the seventies. They’ve always been used to adequate the sound of the guitar when playing live at a particular venue.

The most popular EQ pedals were those offering 6 frequency bands. Everybody was offering EQ pedals, so you will find Electro Harmonix, Ibanez, DOD and other brands competing since these pedals first appeared.

Controls and features

Graphic equalizers are usually very simple devices to control. They usually have these controls:

  • Volume. You can boost (or attenuate) the output of your guitar with a volume control, after having equalized the sound.
  • Frequency band. You will be able to boost or attenuate different band frequencies independently, with the respective knob or fader. Faders are very convenient because they give you a graphic view of how the frequency equalization is shaped. In fact, they sometimes include an led so you can see the frequency shape on stage.

Do I need an EQ pedal?

You may think that this pedal is not for you, because you have enough EQ control with the knobs of your amplifier. Well, that is true if you are playing at home…

If you play live with a band, you will need some means of quickly equalize the sound coming out of your amp. The sonic characteristics of the venue may impose to boost some signal while attenuating others. You could even need to notch a given frequency to avoid an unwanted feedback to occur.

In addition to that, an EQ can make your guitar sound like it was produced in a recording. They will provide you with a lot of flexibility.

As I said before, if you play in a band in relatively big venues or you just want to be able to change drastically the tone of your guitar, put an EQ pedal on your pedalboard!

Here is the complete list of posts of this “pedals explained” series:

0

Cheap guitar pedals are very underestimated indeed.

You love guitar pedals, but don’t want to spend a fortune on a nice shiny boutique pedal. At least, not now…

You probably think that there’s a correlation between the price of guitar gear and the quality of its sound: the more expensive the pedal, amp or guitar, the better the sound you’ll obtain with it. Although this might be true sometimes, you can find great deals and awesome sound without breaking the bank.

What about expending no more than $70 in the next purchase for your stompbox collection?

Here you have my 10 favorite cheap guitar pedals under $70.

Be aware that these pedals are not cheap-unbranded-unknown crapy imitations. Take the Pro Co Rat2 as an example, one of the most iconic distortion pedals, used by many of the greatest guitarists of all time.

1. Pro Co Rat2

Pro Co Rat2 is the current production model of the legendary Pro Co Rat distortion pedal, firstly introduced in 1988.

It is one of my favorite distortion pedals, and has been used by all kind of guitarists: from David Gilmour to John Scofield, James Hetfield and Kurt Cobain (and the list goes on and on…), which gives you an idea about its versatility.

You can obtain a wide range of tones, from bluesy overdriven sounds to heavy distortions. You can even use it as a fuzz pedal, if you drive it with a booster pedal at its input.

It is built like a tank (is a heavy pedal), and very simple to use: It has three controls:

  • Distortion, to control the amount of distortion of the pedal
  • Filter knob is not a simple tone control, it is awesome to shape your sound. If you turn it clockwise, it darkens your tone. Turn it fully counterclockwise and you’ll get heavier sounds.
  • Finally, Volume knob controls the output level of the pedal.

As most stompboxes, it requires a standard voltage supply of 9V, and it is true bypass.

2. Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive

The Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive is another cheap guitar pedal that has been on the pedalboards of many pro guitarists such as Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen since the early eighties.

Thanks to its asymmetrical clipping, it recreates the sound of an overdriven tube amplifier.

A great feature of this pedal is that it is quite transparent, meaning that you are able to notice the guitar

As most overdrive pedals, it has three control Knobs: level, tone and drive.

  • The Level knob sets the level of the output signal. It is great to play with to drive harder another distortion pedal after it without changing very much the texture of the sound.
  • Tone acts as a tone control. This knob is very dangerous because it can ruin the sound of the pedal. However, it has some sweet spots: at noon, it will respect the tone of the amplifier. Counter clockwise it will darken the sound (it can be very cool though). Clockwise it will bring brighter tones, cutting out bass and making the signal less dynamic.
  • Drive sets the amount of distortion. This control is great, as it provides very cool possibilities:
  • Thickening the sound of another (previous) distortion pedal (or the sound comming from the distortion channel of the amp). If you set the knob from 1 o’clock, you’ll get great crunchy sounds from it.
  • Booster. This pedal is great to drive another distortion pedal after it (or the distortion channel of the amp). Try it: you’ll notice that your rock sound will be better. Much better. as simple as that.

The required power supply is the standard 9V, and it is not true bypass, which may bother you if you cascade a few other pedals with it.

3. Mooer ShimVerb

I absolutely love the Micro series of Mooer pedals. They are small, you have a wide selection of pedals to chose from, they look nice and they sound awesome. And, if you are looking for budget gear, you should check them out.

In the Mooer ShimVerb, the Room mode sounds warm and feels analog. You can set small studio-like reverbs or bigger hall ambiences. On the other hand, I love the heavenly sweet sounds that the Shimmer gives you by adding a 5th.

However, the Spring reverb doesn’t sound as realistic as it does in other spring reverb pedals. It feels a little digital. One thing that I noticed is that the output volume is kind of reduced when using this pedal, so better use a boost in front of it.

This pedal has three knobs (Level, Color and Decay), a small switch for changing the type of the reverb (Room, Spring, Shimmer), and a single stomp switch (true bypass) to activate the pedal. This is how the knobs of the pedal work:

  • Level controls the amount of reverb that will add to the dry sound.
  • Color changes the tone of the reverb by taking over high frequencies
  • Decay will adjust the length of the reverb.

This pedal is powered via 9V negative power supply. Even though Mooer says that the pedal requires 128mA of current to operate, I’ve read some reviews saying that the Shimverb only draws 10mA, which will allow you to daisy chain a lot of these pedals with a standard power supply.

4. TC Electronic Spark Mini Booster

As a guitar player, you MUST own a booster pedal, mainly because of this two features:

It provides a volume boost when you need it, for example in a solo.

It boosts the signal so it drives the amplifier (or the next gain pedal) with a higher level, making it sound simply better.

The TC Electronic Spark Mini is very simple: just a level knob to adjust the boost in the signal. But it includes another great feature: if you press the stomp switch (true bypass) for more than one second, it acts as a momentary switch, allowing you to boost just what you need.

Watch this video by TC Electronic explaining the features of the pedal.

5. Electro-Harmonix Satisfaction Fuzz

Ok, the Electro Harmonix Satisfaction Fuzz is not a versatile pedal.

It does a single thing: to recreate the classic fuzz tones of the late sixties and early seventies. And it does it great!!

Now look at its name. Sounds familiar? Yes, you’ll be able to recreate one of the most iconic riffs of all time with the EHX Satisfaction Fuzz.

Now the controls of this pedal are very simple: Volume and Attack

  • Attack is basically the amount of fuzz.
  • Volume sets the level at the output. At 12 o’clock is unity gain, so the volume won’t be altered when switching the pedal on and off.

It is also powered at 9V and is true bypass.

There is another version of this pedal, modified by JHS pedals. As said by JHS pedals, it includes a new three-position “voice” toggle on the left side of the pedal gives you three eq choices.

In the middle position you have the stock “Bright” voice.

In the down position you have the “Mids” voice. It has a nice mid punch that is just bright enough but also has some body to it. Great for rhythm riffs and chords.

In the up position you have the “Bass” voice for the most low end. Huge chords, full riffs and overall the most powerful setting.

All of these voices interplay with the stock “Attack" knob and the newly added “Saturation" control on the right side. The “Saturation” control lets you fine tune the dirt structure of the circuit and allows for the pedal to interchange as a boost pedal, overdrive pedal, distortion pedal or the originally intended Fuzz box that it is.

You can see the difference in the following video.

Awesome!!! However, it doesn’t fit in the cheap guitar pedals list under $70 :-(

6. Valeton Comprince Vintage Compressor

I absolutely love Valeton Coral Series guitar pedals. They are small, cheap, and sound pretty nice. The Comprince Vintage Compressor is a great (and cheap) sounding pedals.

If you don’t have a compressor pedal yet, you should definitely get one, and this could be a good candidate.

As you may know, compressor pedals compress the input signal, by smoothing the attack of the note and sustaining its decay, reducing the dynamic range of the input signal. This way, the sound of the guitar becomes a little thicker.

The Valeton Comprince comes in a small size and features four control knobs:

  • Output controls the output volume.
  • Sustain controls the threshold of compression and boosts the decay of the sound.
  • Tone changes the brightness.
  • Attack sets the attack time.

As you can see in the videos below, it sounds great: its sound is based on vintage studio rack-mount compressor equipment. The signal path is fully analog and the stomp switch is true bypass. However, the pedal can be a little noisy if you turn the sustain knob fully clockwise.

In any case, the results you’ll obtain with this pedal are great for the money you’ll spend. It is definitely one of the best value basic pedals you can add to your pedalboard.

7. Electro-Harmonix Nano Double Muff 

The Muff fuzz by Electro-Harmonix is, by no means, one of the most iconic dirty distortion pedals of all time. It is responsible, among many others, of the distortion sound of David Gilmour.

Like the solo of Comfortably Numb? That is a Big Muff.

The Electro Harmonix Nano Double Muff Fuzz/Overdrive includes 2 Muff fuzzes cascaded in series. You can use just one of them for a creamy overdrive sound, and the two of them for… you know, dirty distortion.

The controls are very simple: Just one switch to select only one Muff of the two of them, and two knobs, one for each Muff, to add distortion.

As said by the people of Electro Harmonix:

We paired two of these together in one box to create the Double Muff. Use just one Muff for a hint of milky distortion, or cascade the second Muff for over-the-top overdrive that turns the milk into cream. Two distortions in one!

8. TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion

This great pedal also tries to emulate a cranked tube amp, from just a bit overdriven tone up to very very (very) crunchy sounds.

Once thing that I love about the TC Electronic Dark Matter Distortion is its dynamic range. It doesn’t compress the sound as many other distortion pedals do. Instead, you will get a wide variety of sounds with the same settings, just attacking the strings of the guitar differently.

The pedal is 9V voltage powered, is true bypass and features four control knobs:

  • Gain lets you vary the amount of distortion
  • Level sets the output level
  • Bass allows you either cut back or boost the bass frequencies independently
  • Treble does the same of Bass knob for higher frequencies

It also includes a switch to toggle between two different voices, changing the overall sound of the effect.

You better check out this video by TC Electronics to see what this pedal is capable off.

For less than $60 I wouldn’t think even more. Just go to Amazon and check it out!!!

9. Mooer MTU1 Baby Tuner

I have only used reverb pedals from Mooer. In fact, one of them (Shimverb) is also on this list :-)

I bumped into the Mooer MTU1 Baby Tuner when I was looking for a small cheap tuner pedal that I could bring always with me, in the backpack or the guitar’s soft bag.

The TC Electronic Polytune 2 Mini is a great pedal, but more expensive than the Mooer (ok, it is also better, but I already have a Polytune on the pedalboard…

The Mooer MTU1 just do the job. It bypasses the sound when tuning, and the sound is not altered at all when the pedal is not in use (true bypass).

I’ve also tried with the bass, and it works great too. It is fast, and the lights are pretty good.

10. DOD Phasor 201 Analog Phaser

I’m a big fan of classic phasers, mainly because of the guitar sound of “The dark side of the moon” album (it is the third reference to David Gilmour in this post already…)

My favorite phaser is the MXR phase 90. Simple, sounds great. But it doesn’t fit into this list, as it’s a little more expensive than $70 (in fact, it’s around $75 when writing this in Amazon).

But here there is the DOD Phasor 201. The same simple control as the MXR (Speed), and pretty similar sound. Both speed and phase depth are controlled simultaneously. Although it my look too simple, it gives you a great variety of sounds, with either clean or dirty sounds.

It was one of the first compact phaser pedals ever made (it’s been around for nearly 40 years), and was reissued in 2013 with a couple of improvements: aluminum chasis, true bypass, blue flashy LED and 9V power supply (battery or DC). It also doesn’t boost the sound when switching it on, which is great.

Just watch John Bohlinger with Premier Guitar playing with the pedal, and let the sound speaks by itself…

What do you think about these pedals? Do you have any other favorite cheap guitar pedal that is not featured in this list?

Leave your oppinion in the comments down below.​