Best Guitar Pedals of 2020: Complete Reviews With Comparisons
Are you looking to push the capabilities of your guitar and add a variety of new effects and sounds to it? If yes, then choosing one among the best guitar pedals is probably your best bet. With each guitarist looking for their own style, it can be rather difficult to narrow down the right guitar pedal for you.
This article looks to help zero in your search by reviewing some of the more popular guitar pedals currently available on the market. Not only will we be reviewing a range of products but we have also compiled a helpful list of considerations for when you buy your guitar pedal.
We have also collected and answered some of the most common questions about guitar pedals.
Guitar Pedal Reviews
1. Donner Yellow Fall Vintage Guitar Effects Pedal
Delay pedals allow us to play a note or chord and have it fed back to us after a set period of time. This pure analog circuit delay pedal from Donner delivers a fantastically clear tone, allowing this pedal to be applied to a wide variety of music.
Despite its compact size, the Yellow Fall squeezes in a tonne of functionality such as its three function knobs:
- Echo: This allows for quick and easy adjustment of the mix.
- Back: Here, you can alter the number of repetitions.
- Time: This knob allows for control over the time of delay and ranges from 20ms to 620ms.
Users will also benefit from its use of True Bypass for zero tone coloration, input and output jacks that take a standard ¼-inch mono audio jack, as well as an LED light that displays the current working state of the pedal.
- Audio Processor
With the new CD2399GP IC audio processor installed, this pedal is capable of some enhanced features to produce extremely clear and true tones. Below, you’ll find some of the more notable features:
- Adjustable treble =± 10dB (8kHz)
- Bass adjustable =± 10dB (100Hz)
- Rate = 20Hz (-3dB)
- Delay Noise = 30Hz – 8kHz (-3dB)
Made from aluminum-alloy classic, this pedal is extremely strong and durable, making it great for guitarists who are constantly moving from gig to gig. Its compact size of 4.6 x 2.5 x 2.5 inches, combined with the fact that it only weighs 8.8 ounces, makes it extremely portable and easy to handle.
What's to like about the Donner Yellow Fall Vintage Guitar Effects Pedal
This is a very impressive pedal when you compare it to the other models in the same price range. Not only does this pedal offer fundamental customizability in regards to function control, but it also offers a good impedance range along with a more than satisfactory time delay range.
What's not to like about the Donner Yellow Fall Vintage Guitar Effects Pedal
Our main criticism of the Yellow Fall guitar pedal is the level of inconsistency caused by having no time delay markings. This leaves users having to enter a trial and error process to find the correct delay for them and then having to do this each time a different level of delay is needed.
2. TC Electronic Spark Mini Guitar Pedal
The Spark Mini is an ultra-compact booster pedal that delivers an extra clean boost to your sound. Another great product from TC Electronics, this mini booster is great for hobbyists or full-time musicians looking for a pristine boost.
Thanks to its extremely compact design measuring in at only 4 x 2.8 x 2.5 inches, users can easily find room for it on any pedal board. What’s more is that they are also provided with the standard input and output jacks that accommodate ¼-inch audio jacks.
This pedal is also extremely simple to use. It comes equipped with a single adjustable knob for output control and a central LED light to indicate whether or not the pedal is in operation.
Utilizing True Bypass technology, this pedal allows a truer signal to pass through for optimum clarity and zero high-end loss when the pedal is not in use. This is aided through the use of high-quality discrete analog circuitry that allows for amplification of the signal without degradation.
The Spark Mini booster also uses a revolutionary PrimeTime footswitch, which allows users to seamlessly toggle between conventional on and off modes as well as a momentary boost based on the length of time that you hold the switch down for.
What's to like about the TC Electronic Spark Mini Guitar Pedal
We’re big fans of the quality of all of the components used during the construction of the Spark Mini Booster. Designed and engineered in Denmark, TC Electronic is so confident in their product that they offer it with a three-year warranty, allowing for quick and easy replacements if you encounter any difficulties.
What's not to like about the TC Electronic Spark Mini Guitar Pedal
The pedal is certainly well made and more than worth the cost, but it’s still important to remember that you get what you pay for. Those looking for a greater deal of versatility will struggle with this pedal’s lack of customizability.
3. Dunlop Cry Baby GCB95 Guitar Pedal
Wah pedals allow us to create the true awing sounds of vintage rock and roll by altering the tone of your signal from bassy to trebly, which is done by pressing and releasing the foot pedal. The Cry Baby GCB95 has the highest frequency of all the Dunlop pedals, making it great for both clean and distorted sounds.
Wah pedals are extremely easy to use as they operate on a rocker controlled by the user’s foot. Offering a fantastically high-frequency range of up to 100 kOhm, the Hot Potz potentiometer helps to deliver a faster response of the way effect. Cry Baby pairs this with a hard-wired bypass to keep the signal truer to its original self while passing through the pedal.
Consisting of heavy, die-die-cast metal, the Cry Baby guitar pedal is perfectly ready for being hauled from gig to gig, ensuring to deliver years of reliability. With very few external components, there is very little to go wrong with this pedal.
In fact, the Cry Baby is so confident in the quality of their products that not only do they offer a standard warranty but also allow you to register your product for an extended warranty of four years.
- Red Fasel Coil
The precision-wound toroidal produces an incredibly clean sound and has been reintroduced into this wah pedal. These inductors are the key to delivering the singing tonal sweep that all rockers hope for but struggle to find with newer models.
What's to like about the Dunlop Cry Baby GCB95 Guitar Pedal
We love how you can feel the quality of the pedal right out of the box. Its heavy metal construction gives it a fantastic level of durability too. While it may seem lacking in regards to any “bells and whistles”, this pedal delivers a fantastic sound every time and can turn any amateur guitarist into an old-school rocker.
What's not to like about the Dunlop Cry Baby GCB95 Guitar Pedal
Although it mainly comes down to personal preference, we did find the pedal itself to bit a little stiff. In fact, it did require us to take the back plate off to raise the switch slightly. While everyone prefers different levels of resistance and we’re aware this will loosen over time, we do think there should be an easier way to do this.
4. Zoom G1Xon Guitar Effects Pedal With Expression Pedal
The Zoom G1Xon is a one-stop-shop pedal board offering numerous sound effects that can be run simultaneously. This pedal is great for those who are looking for a variety of effects but are on a tighter budget.
- Built-in Tuner
Coming in with a chromatic tuner already installed, the G1Xon shows you whether your notes are sharp, flat, or perfectly accurate. You’re also able to choose to bypass your current sound effect and tune your clean, unaltered sound, or you can simply mute the signal altogether and tune in complete silence.
- Built-in Rhythm Functions
Getting into a rhythm is obviously important for all musicians, but it couldn’t be made any easier for us guitarists. This is thanks to the G1Xon’s 68 realistic-sounding rhythms.
These high-quality drum beats play a variety of real-life patterns across an array of genres including rock, jazz, blues, ballads, indie, and Motown. This rhythm training makes it significantly easier for us to practice across a wide range of genre and its all key in one convenient location.
- Built-in Looper
If you’re looking to get a bit more creative, you might want to keep in mind that the G1Xon offers looper functionality too. This allows the user to piece together 30-second performances and layer them over one another to create a truly unique sound. This can also be used parallel to the effects board and the rhythm accompaniments for a fuller end result.
The pedal itself offers over 100 different effects to be used. These include distortion, compression, modulation, delay, reverb, and a selection of realistic amp models.
These many effects make the pedal extremely versatile and viable for a huge variety of guitarists. What’s more is that you can even use up to five of these effects simultaneously. This pedal indulges an expression pedal, which allows for overdrive, volume control, filtering, and of course, the much-loved “wah-wah” effect.
What's to like about the Zoom G1Xon Guitar Effects Pedal With Expression Pedal
We love the sheer versatility of this pedal. It is essentially a fully built and ready-to-use pedalboard offering all of the fundamentals to those who are looking to test and alter their sound.
What's not to like about the Zoom G1Xon Guitar Effects Pedal With Expression Pedal
The main limitation that this pedal has is that it can only run five effects simultaneously, which can limit those who like to control every aspect of their sound. Moreover, not specializing in specific effect management will deliver lower quality effects than dedicated guitar pedals.
5. Boss DS-1 Distortion Limited Edition Guitar Pedal
Possibly the most widely used and the most reliable pedal type around, distortion pedals take the sound and distort it through the addition of volume, crunch, and sustain to deliver contrast to your natural sound. The Boss DS-1 Distortion is one of the most popular distortion pedals ever created. In fact, it celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2018.
The Boss DS-1 is often favored for its simplicity as well as its quality. The pedal itself offers just three knobs to control the output of your sound: tone, level, and distortion. Users will also benefit from its check light, which displays whether or not the pedal is in operation. Its inline input and output jacks allow for easier cable management too.
The Boss DS-1 uses two-stage circuitry that utilizes both transistor and op-amp stages in order to deliver a much greater range. This allows you to go from a mild, lowly buzz to a heavy, fuzzing sound. The tone control lets you tailor EQ on the unit to effectively maintain low-end definition for when you’re using the Boss DS-1 as a booster with vintage-style amps.
Even though three controls may not seem like many, they allow for various different sound colors. This characteristically low-frequency fullness is what guitarists love about this distortion pedal when playing heavier music genres.
Built to last, the Boss DS-1 has an entirely metal enclosure that is built for heavy and regular usage, making it great for those who are continuously heading to gigs or different events. This pedal comes with an AC adapter but can also be used wirelessly with 9V batteries. This is perfect for those who don’t like too many cables laying around.
This pedal is extremely compact, measuring in at 4.7 x 2 x 2.8 inches and weighing around 13 ounces. While this leaves it a little on the heavy side when compared to similar pedals, its small size makes it extremely portable and leaves plenty of room on a pedal board.
What's to like about the Boss DS-1 Distortion Limited Edition Guitar Pedal
The reliability and sound quality produced by this distortion pedal are what made it famous across the globe. These features are also why it has been used by some of the most successful bands and guitarists to have ever existed. The fact that it is affordable doesn’t hurt either.
What's not to like about the Boss DS-1 Distortion Limited Edition Guitar Pedal
We do find that there is a lot of humming that comes with this pedal and the tone control can get quite shrill rather quickly. This can make it less suited to higher-end amps. This pedal also produces a rather generic distortion sound, which isn’t bad. However, for guitarists looking for a unique sound, it can be a little disappointing.
In order to help you narrow down your search and get a better understanding of the features that you should be looking for when purchasing your guitar pedal, we’ve compiled a list of possible considerations. Below are some of the most common effects that you might want your new guitar pedal to have:
Modulation effects work through disturbing your signals pitch or frequency to generate a variety of unique sounds. Modulation pedals come in a variety of models, and you can find the more popular types listed below.
- Phasers: Phaser pedals split your signal in two before playing back the paths at different wavelengths. This produces a more futuristic or spacey sound effect.
- Flange: Similar to a phaser, a flange delivers more of a sweeping effect to the final sound.
- Vibrato and Tremolo: Despite sounding similar, these are both very different effects. Tremolo is a dynamic effect that plays off of variations in a note’s volume in order to produce its shuddering effect. On the other hand, vibrato uses small, fast pitch changes to deliver more of a vibration sound.
- Octave Divider: These simply output your signal in either a lower or higher octave.
- Ring Modulator: These pedals mix your input sound with an internal oscillator to create mathematically related signals that result in varying noises from grinding to bell-like tones.
Time-based effects are effects where the signal has been altered and produced in a specific manner. These effects include delays, echoes, chorusing, flanging (short delays with modulation), phasing (small signal shifts), reverbs (multiple delays or echoes), and more.
Time-based effects are commonly used throughout the music industry. They can be found in some form or another in most pedal variations.
Other Effects Pedals (Amp Emulation, Instrument Modeling, Loopers, Loop Switchers, Multi-effects Pedals)
There are so many different effects that can be applied to your signal to produce a truly unique sound. Below, you will find some concise examples of other possible effects and pedal types.
Amp emulation provides guitarists with the opportunity to model their sound around some of the most iconic guitar tones of all time. This makes picking the sound that’s right for you significantly easier as you can try out numerous styles back-to-back.
These pedals allow you to change the sound of your guitar completely. For example, you could change to an acoustic guitar or perhaps even an organ if that’s what you’d like. Instrument modeling allows you to try out a variety of sounds that you may not have considered before.
Loop pedals have become incredibly popular. They allow solo artists to play as an entire band and create some truly unique pieces. Loopers operate through short recordings that can then be layered and played back indefinitely or until deactivated.
Loop switchers let you arrange independent effect loops that can be toggled on and off during your performance. All of your pedals can be connected to this device and be activated or deactivated with a single press of your footswitch. This allows for some big changes to your sound mid-song.
This is a combination of numerous pedal types brought together to produce a single hub of guitar effect alterations. This allows you to change numerous sounds and levels from a single point, rather than individually, across your pedal board. These are great money-savers and offer an unparalleled level of convenience.
Advanced Concepts (Stereo vs. Mono, True Bypass vs. Buffered Bypass)
Stereo vs. Mono
Without a doubt, a stereo can produce some truly amazing sound quality. However, it is rather difficult to use without simultaneously using two amps. Most sound engineers will stick with mono, especially during live performances, for the ease and simplicity of it.
With guitar amps also being so directional, there are only a few spots where people will be able to hear what the guitar is actually meant to sound like. If you can get over the difficulties presented by running stereo over mono, then you’ll definitely reap the rewards in terms of a fuller sound.
True Bypass vs. Buffered Bypass
Both types of pedals have their advantages and disadvantages that we’ve listed below. When it comes down to it though, this is often a personal preference decision. Nevertheless, check out our comparison below to know which you prefer more.
Benefits of True Bypass
- Great for short signal chains
- Delivers true sound
- Every nuance of the tone comes through
Disadvantages of True Bypass
- Drains the signal
- Leaves you with some high-end roll off
Benefits of Buffered Bypass
- Fuller sound output
- Strengthens the signal on every amp
Disadvantages of Buffered Bypass
- Possibility of driving the signal too hard
- Might result in an unwieldy sound
Below we’ve gathered and answered some questions that are most commonly associated with guitar pedals. Go over each one to educate yourself more about them before making the decision as to which model to invest in.
How to use guitar pedals?
With such a wide variety of guitar pedals available, it’s impossible to say how each of them works exactly. This being said, they do generally follow the same practice in that you will link guitar pedals in a predetermined series until finally linking your guitar to your amp.
These pedals will all provide a varying range of effects to alter or enhance your sound. They can often be manipulated through a selection of knobs located on the front. Depending on the complexity of the pedal, the number or specificity of these knobs may vary.
How do guitar pedals work?
There is a huge array of different guitar pedals available ranging from delay pedals to multi-effect pedals. Each of these pedals is operated differently but work through altering your signal via various methods.
Guitar pedals function either through frequency changes, volume changes, and timing changes. This altered signal is then passed onto the next pedal for further manipulation. Refer to our buyers guide for a more in-depth analysis of how some of the more common pedal types operate.
How to set up guitar pedals?
The vast majority of guitar pedals are set up through very similar processes. They typically have both an input and output port that accommodates a ¼-inch audio jack and will run off of a power supply or an internal battery.
These pedals are then linked together in a sequential series to modify the signal. In turn, this will ultimately decide your tone. When setting up your pedals, it’s a good idea to position your tuner as the first in the series so that it receives a clean and unmodulated signal.
How to modify guitar pedals?
The guitar modding market is absolutely huge. This is because, more often than not, you’ll buy a pedal, and it won’t quite be what you were hoping for. Instead of buying a new pedal, most guitarists simply opt to mod their existing model.
The level of modifications available depends on the type and model of pedal that you have purchased. However, normally, you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for with a quick internet search.
The more common reasons to mod pedals are to prevent tone sucking, adding more bass, changing the equalization, altering the distortion properties, and decreasing the noise level. Modding pedals is a very personal venture and aren’t really advised for those who are just starting out. It’s much better to try a variety of sounds first, so you know what you’re looking for before you start modding pedals.
How to hook up a guitar pedal?
Guitar pedals couldn’t be easier to hook up as, more often than not, they only have an input and output port (excluding power supply ports). When hooking up a guitar pedal, you would want to connect your pedals together with the shortest cable possible. This is so that you can achieve the truest possible sound because there is very little room for signal alteration.
When it comes to getting the best guitar pedals, you really need to get out there and try as many different models as possible. There is an almost limitless number of ways in which you can modify your sound to make it truly unique, and this can be achieved through one pedal or many.
For this option alone, our recommendation for the best among the best guitar pedals has to be the Zoom G1Xon. Thanks to its incredible versatility and offering 100 different effects from time delays to distortion, this pedal is a great choice for those who are yet to find their sound. This pedal will let you try out a variety of effects from a single device.