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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Saskia Kemsley

Best guitar effects pedals to sculpt your sound, from reverb to overdrive

Whether you’re a regular shredder or you’re just beginning to explore the world of electric guitar, there’s likely been a time in your life when you’ve attended a live gig and wondered what on earth that circuit board-esque set-up beneath the guitarist’s feet is for, and why they keep kicking, stomping and fiddling with it.

If you’ve ever wondered how a chord on one electric guitar can sound so wildly different to the next – from its depth and reverb to its tone and pitch – it’s not got a whole lot to do with the make and model. Rather, it’s about how that sound is processed through amplifiers and additional effects pedals.

Modern, portable amps have brilliant companion applications which come with an endless library of digital effects pedals. But if you’re in the market to kick it old school, or explore the realm of highly specialised effects pedals, you might be in the market for a physical one.

What is a guitar effects pedal and how do they work?

Otherwise referred to as signal processors, effects pedals are capable of manipulating the audio produced by the guitar in a number of ways. With the help of an amplifier, sound waves travel through effects pedals and are distorted to suit your personal sound or vibe.

What are the different types of guitar pedals?

There are a range of different effects pedals, but the essential set-up consists of the below options:

  • Tuner: These pedals do exactly what they say on the tin, helping your electric guitar or bass to stay in tune while playing.
  • Overdrive / Distortion: Commonly used by rock bands, distortion pedals are known to deliver a ‘heavy’ and more amplified tone.
  • Delay: Think of a delay pedal just like you would the right pedal on a piano, which serves to extend the sound of the notes that you’re playing. This doubling effect adds a lot more drama and weight to your sound, making it seem as though more than one person is playing. Great for experimental playing and psychedelic riffs, delay pedals create immense depth.
  • Looper: Ed Sheeran has become the poster boy for the looper pedal, since his live one-man-band performances rely on one. They allow you to record chord progressions, strumming patterns, notes, riffs, bass tones and backing tracks before playing them back through an amplifier.

Other popular pedals include: Wah (changes the timbre), Pitch Shifters (raising or lowering pitch), Compressors (controls sound dynamics and creates a smoother effect), Fuzz (heavy distortion), EQ (increasing and decreasing frequency), Modulation (increasing variation in delay times) and so much more.

How do I set up my guitar pedals?

Andertons has a brilliant graphic from a blog post about pedal set-up, which details exactly how to order your effects pedals.


See the full guide by Elliot Stent here.

No matter how you’re looking to sculpt and shape your sound, we’ve curated a selection of some of the best and most popular effects pedals on the market. Keep scrolling to keep jamming.

Shop now

Big Top Fire Eater Mini Distortion Pedal

This value-for-money, portable distortion pedal by cult-favourite brand Big Top not only sounds brilliant but will make your pedal set-up look incredibly chic. Easy to control and capable of producing a high-tone gain for the rock ‘n’ rollers out there, you simply can’t go wrong with this circus-themed, fire-eating pedal.

Buy now £29.00, PMT

Big Top Chromatic Tuner Mini Tuner Pedal

When it comes to perfecting the basics at a reasonable price, no one does it better than Big Top – which is why we had to include them twice. This brilliant LED tuner pedal weighs just 300g, making it any travelling musician’s dream. Budget-friendly and high precision, this pedal board-friendly design features a wonderfully visible display for late-night open mics.

Buy now £29.00, PMT

Fender Compugilist Compressor and Distortion Pedal

Masters at producing dual, stackable effects pedals, Fender’s Compugilist Compressor and Distortion pedal is a fan-favourite for a reason. Pricey yet highly professional, this pedal is capable of producing two high-quality, essential effects in one: compression and distortion. Another popular, stackable pedal is the ultra-fuzzy Fender The Trapper Dual Fuzz Pedal.

Buy now £133.00, PMT

Electro Harmonix Soul Food

With over 500 five-star reviews from Thomann buyers, this sub-£100 pedal by Electro Harmonix most definitely provides food for the soul. The overdrive pedal provides a transparent, clean boost to your sound without overwhelming it, all the while adding a deep punch to your chords and riffs.

Buy now £79.18, Amazon

TC Helicon Blood Moon Phaser

This vintage-style phaser pedal has an all-analogue circuit and classic four-stage filter design for the ultimate 1970s feel. Capable of a wide range of phaser tones, these easy-to-use pedal features rate, depth and feedback settings.

Buy now £39.00, Amazon

JHS Pedals 3 Series Compressor

If you’re a fan of the bright, clear and ultra-smooth tones of Talking Heads, you’ll need to add a decent compressor to your set-up. The 3 Series Compressor from JHS has a range of intuitive controls, our personal favourite being the ‘bright’ toggle switch for even cleaner sounds.

Buy now £107.00, Gear4Music

MXR 6 Band Equalizer Silver

This space-age chic equaliser with its illuminated LED sliders makes for a fantastic on-the-road accessory. If you’re not sure whether the sound that this pedal produces is for you, have a play of the clean, bluesy sample on Thomann’s website.

Buy now £119.00, Amazon

Boss RC-1 Loop Station Loop Pedal

Brilliant for both beginners and seasoned pros, the Boss RC-1 Loop Station makes looping your tracks easier than ever – whether you’re having a play with new chord progressions and backing tracks, or strumming solo to a live audience.

Buy now £199.00, PMT

MXR Phase 90

This bright orange pocket rocket is yet another vintage-style phaser, but this option comes with a unique ‘speed control’ toggle. According to Thomann, this is exactly how Eddie Van Halen “spiced up” his Lead sound on early records.

Buy now £99.00, PMT Online

SubZero Space And Time Digital Reverb Pedal

For a wonderfully shimmery reverb which makes you feel as though you’re travelling through space and time, look no further than this aptly named pedal from SubZero.

Buy now £59.99, Gear4Music

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