8 Best Multi Effects Pedal – A Lot Of Performance In Just One Box
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Guitar effects have become so accessible and affordable that building a pedal board can become overwhelming. With so many models to choose from, and so many different types of effects, it is fairly easy to get lost in the whole process. One solution that alleviates some of those issues are multi-effects pedals. These have been popular back in late '90s, only to dip out of the spotlight until recently. Today we are going to show you some of the best multi-effects pedals on the market and talk a bit about why they might be a great solution for your needs.
Last Updated Nov-22-2018.
Top 8 Multi-Effects Pedals:
|Guitar Pedal / Rating
| Carl Martin Multi Effects Pedal
Total of 4.92/5
A tough, agile and versatile board that packs one pretty mean punch.
| T-Rex Engineering Soulmate
Total of 4.88/5
Impressive unit that lacks nothing in terms of tone control and quality.
| Electro-Harmonix Epitome
Total of 4.88/5
Well balanced, finely tuned machine that brings a perfect combination of effects.
| Keeley Dark Side Workstation
Total of 4.88/5
As usual, we see a complete package from Keeley packed with power.
| Electro-Harmonix Soul Pog
Total of 4.78/5
A result of taking the best effects EH offers and combining them.
| Electro-Harmonix Tone Tattoo
Total of 4.83/5
Gain rich and among the more aggressive model from their multi-effect collection.
| AMT Electronics Chameleon
Total of 4.88/5
One of the more refined cabinet and microphone simulators on the market.
| Electro-Harmonix Holy Stain
Total of 4.80/5
Very capable and promising bang for the buck multi-effect pedal from Electro-Harmonix.
Featuring a rather vintage, industrial design, Carl Martin Multi Effects pedal combines four of their best known effects into a single unit. You get a compressor, a pretty versatile overdrive, a great tremolo and an echo effect.
The layout of controls makes it very easy to distinguish which effect you are working with, and allows for pretty quick adjustments when necessary. The quality of effects is impressive to say the least. Even though there are no complex controls, you are still able to dial in pretty impressive tone with any of the four circuits on this pedal.
With silent switching and an integrated power supply, Carl Martin Quatro is definitely one of the most refined and capable multi-effect pedals available.
Here's another board that is just packed with quality effects. T-Rex Engineering's Soulmate comes with a very intuitive layout, great build quality and a lot of great features.
You get an overdrive, distortion, delay and a reverb. Aside from these, the board comes with a tuner and a boost option. In terms of versatility, Soulmate has you covered. Each of the available effects comes with a sufficient number of controls, which guarantees that you will be able to shape the tone anyway you want.
Also, you can use any of the effects in a standalone mode, or as a part of a preset. To top things off, T-Rex Engineering included an FX loop input. The entire platform is very flexible.
Although they are best known for their standalone pedals, Electro-Harmonix is no stranger to multi-effect platforms. Electro-Harmonix Epitome is just one example of what this old brand has to offer. One of its best features is its compact body size.
They've used a very familiar enclosure while still managing to cram a whole bunch of effects with no issues. Speaking of which, you get an octave in one section, flanger and chorus in another, and finally a great sounding reverb.
Each of the effect groups has its own footswitch, ensuring that you can instantly turn on the effect you need. Considering its low profile, great sound and versatility, it's fair to say that Epitome is one of their better stompboxes.
Keeley's effects pedals are well known as elite boutique stompboxes. This is also one of the reasons why them releasing a multi-effect pedal was such a big deal.
Keeley Dark Side workstation brings a perfect mix of effects which will set you up for a wide range of tones. You get a fuzz portion of the circuit as well as delay and a variety of modulation. The entire thing is still withing the limits of compact, so you know it won't take up too much space on your pedalboard.
In terms of tone, this pedal brings only pure quality. With all the controls available, you can dial in a wide variety of awesome sounds for which Keeley is known for.
Here's another great design from Electro-Harmonix. This time around, they have combined their awesome Soul Food overdrive with Pog,, one of their better octave generators. Compared to other models on our list, Soul Pog is a relatively simple one.
It comes in that standard Electro-Harmonix enclosure we are all used, and features a clean layout. Controls available are relatively basic, but more than enough to use the full range this pedal has to offer. In terms of tone quality, this is a top notch overdrive while the octave function sounds incredibly natural.
If you are looking for a more basic multi-effect setup that is clean and easy to use, this is as good as it gets. It is pure quality.
We continue our countdown with another great Electro-Harmonix model. This time around it's Tone Tattoo and it brings a more aggressive flavor to the table. The pedal technically combines their Metal Huff distortion, Neo Clone chorus unit and Memory Toy delay.
The best thing about the Tone Tattoo is its analog nature. There isn't a bit of digital circuitry in this thing. It features a nicely balanced amount of controls which allow for all the tone shaping you could ever need to do, without cluttering the top panel.
Compared to other models on our list, this one is a bit on the aggressive side. Its distortion circuitry brings an abundance of gain that can only be described as organized chaos.
Let's take a turn in a completely different direction and introduce you to AMT Electronics Chameleon. This pedal is fairly unique in the sense that it is a multi-functional cabinet simulator. It doesn't offer conventional effects, but its presence in your signal chain can seriously intensify the flavor of your tone.
Even though it comes in the standard pedal body, this bad boy allows you to control the size of the cab, speakers and the position of the fictional microphone.
With some effort and a bit of time, you will be able to simulate your favorite stack in no time. With that said, this is one of those guitar effects pedals you need to try in order to fully appreciate.
The last model we want to show you is Electro-Harminx's first multi-effect pedal. It just so happens that it is one of the cheapest ones they offer as well. The effects available with this pedal include fuzz, drive, tremolo, pitch shifting and reverbs.
It is worth mentioning that Holy Stain is an analog unit, which is pretty remarkable considering the price it goes for. Quality of tone is awesome, although the range of certain effects isn't as wide as featured on some more modern Electro-Harmonix multi-tools Even so, the fuzz/dist section is pretty flexible and lacks no gain whatsoever.
At the end of the day, it is a no-nonsense unit designed for those who demand quality on a budget.
The Story Behind Multi-Effects Pedals
Ever since we first invented overdrive, the search for new and exciting guitar effects kicked off. The next big breakthrough occurred with the invention of guitar effects pedals. Before that moment, you were pretty much limited to what your amplifier had to offer. In some cases that was more than enough, but keep in mind that back in those days you had to spend a lot of money in order to get that level of performance. A good distortion could set you back quite a bit. Speaking of which, if you want to see the best distortion pedals available, check out our dedicated guide here.
The invention of a silicone transistors and integrated circuits unleashed the new age of humanity. Computers, smart phones and many other things wouldn't have been possible without what is essentially a successful attempt to make ground up rock think on its own. Pretty amazing stuff, right? As time passed, transistors and integrated circuits started creeping into music industry. One aspect of this new age was the invention of multi-effects pedals. First ones appeared in the '80s, made mainly by Boss and a few other brands. The more affordable market was almost completely dominated by Zoom at around the same time.
By today's standards, these pedals were pretty crude. Not only did they lack the versatility of modern designs, but their core performance wasn't that close to that of a dedicated pedal board.
What Are Multi-Effects Pedals?
As their name states, multi-effects pedals contain numerous effects in a single chassis. Original Boss models has around 8 effects you could choose from, which is laughable in today's world. However, back than it was viewed as borderline magic. A multi-effects pedal allows you to choose any of the effects, modify them, add your own patterns and combine different effects as you please.
More recent designs have started including very accurate emulation of different legendary amps as well as pedals. Do you need a vintage Vox AC30? Not a problem, just push a couple of buttons and you are ready to go. In most cases, you will have brands choose a number of their most successful effects pedals and add their emulations into a multi-effects unit.
However, that is not the full extent of what these devices can do. For example, things like guitar tuners, tap tempo and many other tools are present as well. The idea is that a multi-effects pedal should cover all of your needs, no matter what they are.
Some Misconceptions That Need To Go
When multi-effects pedals first hit the stores, there was a lot of valid skepticism in the community. After all, solid state amps were still relatively new and haven't been living up to the hype at the time. Seeing how multi-effects pedals used a fairly similar technology, that skepticism pretty understandable.
Let's make some things clear right away. The very first multi-effects pedals were mediocre at best. Versatility was definitely there, but the quality of effects wasn't all that great. There was still too much of that unmistakeably digital footprint, which has turned off most of the users. Higher end stuff was decent, however.
The moment when multi-effects pedals became affordable is where the first real misconceptions and prejudices appeared. Many guitar players straight up refused to use these pedals as they were seen as inferior to standalone effects. Even back in late '90s the quality of tone was improving rapidly. Today, the situation is very different but some of the misconceptions have stuck around. If someone tells you that modern day multi-effects pedals are all awful, we can only suggest that you get advice from someone else.
The technology has advanced so far that we are seeing proper tube amp emulation with most of its nuances and subtleties. That is a pretty impressive feat on its own. But wait, things get even better. Where early multi-effects pedals had only 8 or so effects, modern ones come with dozens and dozens of different ones. In other words, there is no more room for prejudice in this segment.
Benefits Of Owning A Multi-Effects Pedal
Now that we have covered the history of multi-effects pedals, let's discuss some of the most obvious and some not so obvious benefits of owning one. We are going to divide this overview into specific sections for the sake of accuracy and legibility. Just listing the benefits doesn't really do it. This is especially true if you are new to the whole field of guitar effects. Because of that, we are going to go into detail and try to cover all of the more important bases.
Guitar effects pedals are small and unnoticeable when used on their own. However, when you start stacking them together on a pedalboard, things tend to get a bit cluttered. With multi-effects units, you simply don't have that problem. Everything you need is packed into a fairly compact pedal. There are no complicated power supplies, tons of cables or anything of that kind. All you have to do is bring enough gear that can cover a single effects pedal of any kind. In other words, two cables and a power supply. That's it.
This small form factor tends to be helpful on stage as well. Even though most professionals still prefer to use pedalboards and muck more complicated gear, a multi-effects pedal is a great way to cover all of your needs before you can build a complex signal chain.
Presets, Presets, Presets
Here's one of the more awesome things a multi-effects pedal can do for you. Let's say that you want to dial in a great blues tone but you already have your multi-effects pedal set up for metal. Instead of taking a piece of paper to write down every knob position, all you really have to do is save that preset into the internal memory of the pedal. That usually takes a couple of presses of a button. Most modern multi-effects pedals will allow you to store numerous presets and recall them from memory at any time.
If you are someone who likes to play a variety of genres, this could be a true life saver. What's really awesome is that most modern pedals of this kind come with anywhere from 2 to 8 channels depending on the model. If you decide that you want to use different presets in a single song, you can assign them to these channels and then pull them up by pressing a corresponding foot switch.
Despite the technology of multi-effects pedals advancing at a fairly rapid pace, one thing hasn't changed at all. Multi-effects pedals are still one of the most cost effective ways to get into guitar effects. Those who are just starting out and have a limited budget, will definitely benefit from a multi-effects pedal. These simply give you the best bang for your buck when you are at this stage. The next cheapest alternative is to get yourself a set of cheapest possible pedals you can find. Let's just say that doing so usually doesn't yield the expected results. Instead you are left with half a dozen barely mediocre pedals of questionable quality.
Instead, you can spend less money and get a multi-effects pedal. When you are just starting out, the quality of effects won't bother you too much. Your ears are going to take some time to adjust to the sound of guitar and various defining tone features. Until that day comes, you will benefit much more from an all inclusive solution such as multi-effects pedals.
Works With Any Amp
One of the major issues beginners have when they just start is amplification. Even though practice amps are light years from where they were just a few years ago, not everyone has access to a modern unit. For those stuck with simple solid state amps, a multi-effects guitar pedal could prove to be a real force multiplier. We say that mainly because these tend to sound awesome even on the worst of the worst amps.
Makes Recording Music That Much Easier
If you are interested in recording guitars, there are several options you at your disposal. You can go ahead and spend insane amounts to build a professional studio, spend a lot to build a decent enthusiast rig for recording, or just get a good multi-effects pedal. Recording music is another activity where the sheer number of effects these pedals offer becomes a game changer. You get to choose between different distortions, different effects and more. It just makes sense.
You Can't Use Multi-Effects Pedals On Stage
Aside from a multitude of professionals blowing this argument out of the water by actually using these pedals, the premise itself is quite ridiculous. Sure, modern multi-effects pedals are still not on the exact same level as some of their standalone counterparts, but saying that these are not for stage use is a false statement to be polite.
Not only can you use a multi-effects pedal on stage, but it is recommended in some cases. Two of the most obvious ones include not being able to afford a fancy pedalboard and simply appreciating the compact format. The only real aspect where a multi-effects pedal really can't keep up with a good pedalboard is making adjustments on the fly. If you find that one or more of your effects need a touch up, you might find it difficult to do that quickly.
Multi-effects pedals have their place in the grand scheme of things. All of the prejudice has led to them being one of the most underutilized tools available to guitar players. Don't make that same mistake if you can help it. Multi-effects pedals are a relatively reliable and extremely cheap way to gain access to more effects than you will know what to do with. Any of the models from our list will do just fine. All you really need is a guitar, a couple of cables and an amp. Getting into guitar effects doesn't really get much easier than this.