Add Oomph to your Music with the Best Guitar Effect Pedals
The world of music is huge and ever expanding and even the most experienced guitarists are continuously on a learning curve, especially when it comes to ‘effects’. Different guitar effects produce different results; hence buying the right pedal can be overwhelming and a daunting process. The most common effects are overdrive, reverb, delay and modulation, distortion, compression, tremolo, vibrato, chorus, clean boost and flanger. That’s a lot of them and considering the fact that more effects are finding their way into the market, it becomes even more imperative to know the best guitar effect pedals and their functionalities.
To achieve a warmer, thicker sound and add more sustain to your playing, Overdrive effects go a little way beyond a clean boost. This is achieved by cranking up the amp so that the clean sound breaks up a little. Overdrive boosts the volume and adds a little more color and texture to the tone- different overdrive flavors provide different tones.
The Ibanez Tube Screamer is hailed as ‘the industry standard for overdrive pedals and came into existence in the latter part of the ’70s. Though there are many overdrive pedals out there, the Tube Screamer is unique because of the way it interacts with a cranked up amp. It has three knobs- a drive knob that adjusts gain, a level knob that takes care of the output volume and a tone knob that adjusts treble. The Tube Screamer adds a bit of gain and sustains and offers many tonal playing options. It also provides equalized sounds that oscillate between bass and treble frequencies. This ensures that individual guitar sounds are not lost in the general noise of the band while playing metal, blues or country. The popularity of this pedal is attributed to Stevie Ray Vaughan.
When any sound strikes a hard surface, it is reflected to the listener in the form of an echo. Reverb effect pedals simulate such reverberations and are very important while adding warmth and depth to a clean tone. Initially, reverb effects pedals were in the form or rack units but with the advance in technology, they shrank in size and were incorporated in the amp itself. Now, they can now be fit on to a guitar pedal. Reverb is a great way to add ambiance to the guitar sound, especially while playing in small, confined places.
The TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 reverb pedal boasts of an innovative Mash footswitch and can deliver shimmer reverb algorithms for expressive effects. This pedal’s claim to 10 different reverbs that range from plate to churches, means you always have a reverb sound to suit your style of play. The footswitch allows you to toggle between reverb on and off and is so pressure-sensitive you can control reverb parameters using it. It also has three slots for TonePrint presets, so you have three reverb effects ready to be used.
This is a commonly used effect where the incoming signal is copied and played back many times after a stipulated interval of time. This effect is often used in solo playing and with a clean guitar sound. Guitarists love the delay effect because it implies untold possibilities for experimenting. By setting the repeated sound to play back after longer intervals, players have time to play a note, add patterns and embellish it in other ways before the repeated note is played again.
MXR Carbon Copy reigns supreme in the world of compact delay pedals. It looks elegant with its three control knobs and green metallic color. The knobs control the delay time, the volume of the repeats and the number of repeats. The mix knob adjusts the level of the delayed signals that go to the output. There is a small LED switch that modulates and adds a little bit more spice to the repeats. You can experiment with sounds to reach the ideal one. The sound produced range from springy reverbs with short delay times to a maximum of 600ms. The repeats produced are warm and sound natural and are clear.
Although this pedal doesn’t boast of elaborate control like the new-fangled digital pedals, it more than compensates with its bucket brigade-driven analog tone. The Carbon Copy is easy to use and does everything that’s needed.
Distortion effect is merely extreme overdrive, and that’s why it’s ideal for heavier guitar styles like metal and punk. This pedal takes the input signal and distorts it before it reaches the amplifier. The resulting sound has less color and is thicker in quality. By reducing the gain, distortion pedals can be used to function as overdrive pedals.
The bright, orange-colored distortion pedal-Boss DS-1- is well known for its elegance and reliability. It is sturdy and compact in design and has simple and elegant controls. There are just three knobs- tone, level, and distortion and by adjusting the tone and distortion knobs, you can get the compressed, bold notes of rock or creamy sounds.
Those entering the challenging world of pedals will find this an affordable and practical option. Because of its high compression, it can smooth over errors in technique and encourage beginners and players to carry on learning.
Compression effects are used to make quiet tones louder and louder tones, quieter. The resulting tones are clear. The compressor introduces a note of uniformity by making all notes normal. Most pedals have two gain stages, tone knob/s, and tone-shaping controls. Compressors are useful especially if players use a tube amp. Compressor effects pedals are used by guitar players to either make chords sound thicker or get more overdrive by boosting the amp’s signal.
Mooer’s Yellow Comp is a great compression option for those looking to either thicken tone or for those who don’t want the existing tone to be colored. That this pedal is a true bypass is also another point in its favor. It has limited controls onboard with three knobs- one for volume, the second for compression and the third one is an EQ parameter knob. This one cannot be powered by a 9-volt battery and uses only an adapter. It’s not very pricey and is worth considering.
The clean boost is a simple effect that helps you boost the signal from your guitar. When paired with an overdrive pedal, it can produce heavy, hot sound. Players love the boost pedal as the increased volume will make the input part of the amp work harder and in the process provide more gain.
Xotic is one of the most popular clean boost pedals around and many players use it boost volume and also as a tone shaper. They combine it with overdrive pedals to clean the tones. It has a small footprint, is simply configured and is available at discounted prices.
The term modulation refers to the pitch and many parameters such as frequency and delay can be modulated to create different effects such as chorus, flanging, vibrato and more.
Chorus effects split the audio signal, copy the signal many times over and then plays them after a delayed time period. With the initial signal being split into multiple ones, their pitch and quality modified and the resulting tones delayed, it appears that many instruments are playing together.
Voted as the best chorus pedal of all time, the Boss CE-2 Chorus is a compact unit that is versatile. A tiny slider switch works big time- slid to the left, it produces smooth CE-2 sounds, slide it over to the middle and you get a swirl and shifting it to the right puts the guitar into the vibrato mode that offers the goodness of pitch-bending. All the sounds are authentic.
8. Modulation effects- Ultra Tremolo UT300 Pedal
The terms vibrato and Tremolo are often interchanged with each other, but they are different. A tremolo effect is achieved by modulating the volume of the output to get a pulsating sound whereas vibrato refers to the variation of the pitch by any means.
The Ultra Tremolo UT300 is a user-friendly guitar effect pedal that’s ideal for beginners. By adjusting the wave, depth and rate control you can get the desired tremolo effect. The Pedal is compact and is top notch to achieve tremolo effects.
It produces a flanger effect when two similar signals are mixed and played at delayed intervals (less than 20 milliseconds). These out-of-phase signals produce a whooshing sound.
MXR flangers are simple and easy to use and very effective if you are looking for a real good flanger pedal. It’s a basic model that’s almost Spartan in looks. They offer solid performance and are rated as one of the best flangers around.
In conclusion, there are so many effects, different genres of music and so many pedals. Experiment with the effects on different pedals and find the one that works best for you.