Top 5 'Must Have' Guitar Effects Pedals
Musicians and professional guitarists owe the existence of mind-blowing guitar effects to the pedal industry. If you own one or two, then you’ll agree how fun it is to experiment with your sound using pedals. However, if you’re a beginner interested to know which pedal is worth investing your money in – and since the many options can get confusing – you’re about to know which the best ones in the market are.
We’ve ranked the top 5 guitar pedals you should own, in no order, in the list below.
1. The Boost Pedal
If you like to keep things simple, then the clean boost should delight you. Boosters, in essence, are extra volume knobs for your axe. They are among the oldest pedal types in the market and are known to be very versatile. In the past, the earliest boosters were designed for treble. Some of the popular musicians who were known to use boosters are Eric Clapton, and Ritchie Blackmore and Brian May from Queen.
Originally designed to add more gain to the signal chain without sacrificing its nature, boosters are now used to reinforce sound especially when it needs to cut through the mix. Take for example a lead guitarist – when it’s time for him to hit the solo, he usually steps on a booster to let his sound be more distinguishable and defined above the rest of the instruments.
A booster will retain your tonal expression, refining it every time you need the sound to be much clearer. The most common types today are germanium transistors and silicon transistors. If you want to achieve an old-school sound, go for germanium. If you want something more reliable and easily accessible, the modern silicon transistor can also do the job. If you want the best of both worlds, get both!
For this type, we recommend the Xotic EP Booster Pedal.
2. The Distortion Pedal
From the name itself, this type alters your sound by increasing its gain, often producing gritty, fuzzy, or growling effects. Distortion is a key element in many genres but is best known among the ones under rock music. A typical distortion pedal operates by “clipping” the signal, adding overtones that are harmonic and inharmonic while reinforcing sustain. The more clipped the signal is, the more distorted the sound.
The great thing about this pedal is that it can be used as an overdrive pedal too (this one we’ll discuss the next), simply by reducing the clipping. There are several first-rate distortion boxes you can easily find from any store, but you’ll want to try the classics – MXR Distortion +, Boss Heavy Metal Pedal, Boss Distortion or the Rat distortion box. Learning how to dial a good distorted sound can require a bit of time for experimentation, but it’s definitely worth it.
A good distortion box recommendation you can start with is the Fulltone OCD Distortion Pedal.
3. The Overdrive Pedal
You can get easily confused between the two since there are indeed gray areas that make it difficult to distinguish which is which. How the overdrive basically operates is in twofold – it can approximate the mild or softer sound of any slightly overdriven amp, and it can get a tube amp to become distorted by providing it with a gain boost or push it up to a certain threshold.
The classic overdrive pedal known to musicians is the late 70s Tube Screamer, made legendary by the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. Given that fact, we recommend the Ibanez Tube Screamer Overdrive Pedal for this type.
It’s not only the best out there, though it is certainly the most popular. If you’re into producing subtle, less saturated or compressed tones, then overdrive could be for you.
4. The Fuzz Pedal
Considered as one of the most enduring pedal types, the Fuzz is often linked to Hendrix-esque rock genres and is said to be the most favorite of experimentalists. It’s not just popular because it’s been used by great musicians from every genre you can think of – it’s actually quite known for its ability to add flavor or character to any style you can think of. Any fuzz box can take you through a wide variety of tones, making it an excellent accompaniment for exploring your sound.
Germanium and silicon are still the main transistor types used in fuzz boxes. Note that when you’re out to buy your first fuzz pedal, try to go for germanium if you want your sound to clean up well. However, we’ll leave it to you to find out how a silicon fuzz stomp sounds as well – it does have its good uses. Another pro-tip during your shopping is to align a lot of stompers side by side so you can test them all out. This is because the transistor values can still be different among the same models.
For this one, we recommend you check out the Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face Pedal.
5. The Octavia Pedal
Designed for Jimi Hendrix, the Octavia pedal is known for its doubling effect – being able to omit an octave above the base note. The best demo from this pedal can be heard from Hendrix’s Purple Haze and the Band of Gypsies’ “Machine Gun” and “Who Knows.” The pedal for Hendrix became the basis of many reissues after his death, so there are a lot you might want to test out, especially when you’re planning to assemble a Hendrix pedal board.
The doubling effect is made possible by these properties: envelope generator, amplitude modulator, frequency doubler, and added frequency shaping filters. We recommend trying out the Fulltone Octafuzz OF-2 Fuzz/Octave for this one.