Multi-effects pedals are the kings of guitar pedals. If a single effect pedal is for experimenting with a specific tonal color or mood, then a multi-effects pedal puts the entire laboratory at your feet.
Multi-effects units provide more than just effects that can be duplicated by a collection of individual pedals. Many include features like drum machines, an expression pedal, and amp models that can comprehensively duplicate the sounds of other rigs. Even if you have a collection of individual effects pedals, you owe it to yourself to add a good multi-effects pedal to make sure you have all your bases covered.
What to Look For in a Multi-Effects Pedal
There are many types of multi-effects pedals with many different features. Here are some of the features you’ll want to consider:
- What Effects are Included? Some multi-effects pedals focus on multiple specific effect types like modulation or distortion, while others focus on modeling vintage amps. Many of the best multi-effects pedals include huge numbers of different effects, amp models, and even built-in drum machines.
- How Many Effects Can I Use Together? Some multi-effects pedals only allow you to use one effect at a time. Others allow you to use many effects simultaneously, often corresponding to the most popular categories of pedals such as overdrive, delay, reverb, modulation, etc., to replicate a complete pedalboard.
- Can I Change the Order of the Effects? Many multi-effects pedals allow you to change the order of the effects to your liking. Although you don’t have to put your effects in any particular order in the effect chain, the order will make a difference in the sound. For example, distortion before a flanger will sound different than flanger before distortion.
- Does the Pedal Give Me the Options and Control I Need? Various multi-effects pedals give you different controls. Some are mainly software programmed, with few buttons. Others give you a switch and control knobs for each individual effects unit, as well as an expression pedal, and other controls. What you need is up to you.
Popular Models of Multi-Effects Pedals
Beginning in 1996 with the GT-5, the GT series of multi-effects pedals from Boss uses their decades of experience in the effects realm to form the foundation of the GT line. With these products, Boss was able to establish a great record of affording various amp tones and effects in a compact form.
The GT-1 is a simple, affordable unit, great for people looking for their first multi-effects pedal. Powered by a Boss GT-series engine, this multi-effects pedal gives you plenty of options to find your sound. The three footswitches are smartly designed to provide patch selection, tuner access, looper control, and more in a comfortably sized design. You can even download pro patches for free at Boss Tone Central.
If you want to step it up a few notches to a pro-level multi-effects pedal, then feast your eyes on the Boss GT-1000. Driven by Boss AIRD (Augmented Impulse Response Dynamics) technology, this effects machine sports a super-fast DSP engine, 32-bit AD/DA, 32-bit floating-point processing, and 96 kHz sampling rate throughout.
The Boss GT-1000 sports amp model categories like transparent, natural, boutique, and juggernaut, and MDP amp categories like x-crunch, x-hi gain, and x-drive bass, affording a wide palette of tones. In addition, there are many cabinet models to choose from, as well as a range of dynamic and condenser mics with distance adjust.
Intuitive button and knob interface with digital display makes using this multi-effects pedal very straight-forward. There’s also an expression pedal, useful for a number of applications. For the utmost sonic convenience, the GT-1000 boasts built-in Bluetooth to adjust sounds, configure control assignments, and organize patches wirelessly from your mobile device via the Boss Tone Studio app.
If you want to maximize bang for your buck, the Hotone Ampero deserves some serious consideration. At an incredibly modest price point, the Ampero packs all the options you want into a sleek-sized multi-effects pedal. Using 24-bit signal processing and up to 120dB S/N ratio, the powerfully upgraded dual DSP-powered platform encompassing CDCM HD (Comprehensive Dynamic Circuit Modeling High Definition) and F.I.R.E. (Field Impulse Response Enhancement) guarantees outstanding sonic competence.
You get a lot of serious effects with the Ampero, including 64 amp models, 60 cab models, 100+ legendary pedal sounds, and mic type/position simulations. It also includes 50+ original Hotone effects, such as drive, filter, modulation, delay, and reverb.
An HD 4″ 800 x 480 sharp color touch screen display lets you see exactly what you’re working with and lock the screen when you find the combination you want. There are even 4 assignable footswitches with Halo LEDS at the bottom of the panel, as well as an expression pedal, making controlling your effects a breeze.
Line 6 was there at the dawning of the digital era and has worked tirelessly ever since to continuously up the ante, year after year. The Helix line is the result of that effort.
The mothership of all multi-effects units, the Line 6 Helix Floorboard broke new ground upon entering the market. If you want to spend the cash to have every single possible option of sound in your rig, this is the unit for you. The Helix technology enables the Floorboard to process different combinations of block types such as amp, cab, EQ, dynamics, and others, often in both stereo and mono versions. The processor was painstakingly designed, evaluating all aspects of an amp’s circuits to recreate it in an unbelievably accurate way.
With the Line 6 Helix Floorboard you have access to 62 amps, 37 cabs, 16 microphones, and 104 effects. It can hold up to 1,024 presets. When you select an amp + cab, amp, or preamp preset, you can modify its tonestack parameters (gain, bass, mid, treble) with the press of a button. HX Hybrid cabs give you a choice of 16 different microphones at 23 different recording distances.
Processing all these options can seem paralyzing, but Line 6 combats that with the excellent interface of the Floorboard. Comprised of touch-sensitive footswitches, users can select and edit a block just by touching it. It has a nice size LCD display which indicates all options in a straightforward manner, while colored LED rings and customizable scribble strips clearly distinguish each footswitch and what it’s function.
The smartly designed Expression Pedal gives you a full foot pedal to control volume, wah, or combinations of amp/effects or parameters, then engage the second foot switch by pressing down to engage a second parameter. You can even integrate and control external hardware through the number of interfaces. Overall, the Line 6 Helix has so much to offer, it’s impossible to want more.
As amazing as the Helix Floorboard is, it may not be for everyone. It’s got so much to offer that it can be overwhelming, or just be unnecessary for some players. And at the price point of a vintage amplifier, it’s not the most attainable. But the Line 6 Helix LT may be a better fit. With the same technological prowess as the Helix Floorboard, the Helix LT features the same dual DSP processing, amazing customizable options, and intuitive user experience, at a more affordable price.
The LT deviates from the Helix Floorboard in doing away with customizable scribble strips. Nonetheless this model still has a beautiful LCD screen to show you exactly what’s running, as well as colorful buttons, and an expression pedal. It’s still got 1,024 preset locations, 62 amps, 37 cabs, 16 microphones and 104 effects to choose from. The Line 6 Helix LT multi-effects pedal is for musicians who want a myriad of options in a slightly scaled down, less expensive package.
If the LT is still more than you’re looking for or costs more than you’re willing to spend, check out the Line 6 HX effects. Drawing on the same incredible, award-winning Helix software, the HX Effects holds 100+ effects in a tight package, fitting for any pedalboard. Up to 9 effects can be run simultaneously, making good use of the simplistic, intuitive interface. 123dB of dynamic range gives this multi-effects pedal accurate, responsive sound, with very low noise.
For those seeking the most compact of multi-effects pedals, the HX Stomp is for you. The Stomp packs everything you could want in the tightest package imaginable. With the same power as the HX Effects pedal, the Stomp was made with a much smaller, simpler interface, so as to supplement other aspects of your effects rig, instead of becoming the centerpiece.
The Stomp is a programmable amp/cab/effects pedal that flawlessly assimilates into an assortment of settings and situations. Using the HX edit app you can customize and run up to six processing blocks simultaneously, selected from 300 amps, cabs, and effects—it even has a looper. There’s also a jack for connecting an external expression pedal or footswitch.
You Really Can Have it All
Multi-effects pedals give you the ability to have unlimited sound options in an impossibly small package. Whether you want to use a larger multi-effects pedal as your entire rig, or you want a nice supplement to what you already own, there’s a multi-effects pedal that can fit your needs. For some more options not mentioned here, check out the other multi-effects pedals available on samash.com.