When they first burst onto the scene in the ‘90s, multi-effects pedals were an awesome idea that fell flat when it came to execution. The phrase “jack of all trades, master of none” comes to mind when thinking about those old multi-effects processors.

Sure, they gave you access to tons of different effects, but none of them were any good.

It seemed that no matter how much you spent, you were still dealing with mediocre quality effects that sounded thin and digital and lacked the musicality or warmth of stand alone pedals.

But, that’s all in the past.

Today, tons of different multi-effects processors can stand toe to toe with the best stand-alone effects on the planet. But, with all that choice comes plenty of confusion. How can you be sure you’re selecting the best multi-effects pedal for your sound?

Today, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about multi-effects pedals to help you find the best unit for your sound. We’ll also take a deeper look at some of the best multi-effects processors on the market.

What is the Best Multi Effects Pedal?

What exactly is a multi effects pedal and what does it do?

A multi-effects pedal is a single unit that includes a collection of different effects. Instead of carrying around an entire pedal board with a dozen or so single effects pedals, multi-effects pedals house all those different effects and then some in one easy to use pedalboard that’s usually about half the size or smaller than a traditional pedal board.

With a multi-effects processor, guitarists can select the effects they need from an expansive library of options, adjust each effect to their liking, and string them together to create a patch. The unit can save tons of different patches so you can recall them on the fly later.

One of the significant benefits of multi-effects pedals is the time that they can save you. If you play with a lot of pedals, you’re used to doing all sorts of tap dancing on stage or at practice to turn your different effects on and off for specific songs or passages.

With a multi-effects processor, all that dancing is a thing of the past. Instead of struggling to turn multiple pedals off and on, a single tap is usually all it takes for you to arrive at the patch you want, which is already set up with all the effects you need for the song.

Another bonus that you’ll find with most of the mid-tier and high-end multi-effects is that they also offer amp modeling. Not only do they provide you with all the effects you could ever want, but they also let you select from a library of high-end amplifiers and cabinets, and the effect engine can replicate what your guitar and effects would sound like through that amp.

Since most guitarists only have one or two amps at their disposal, this technology can be incredibly effective. Do you want to hear what your rig would sound like through a block letter 5150? What about a ‘59 Fender Twin or a vintage VOX AC30? Whatever your pleasure, you should be able to find the exact amp model you’re looking for.

What makes a great multi effects pedal?

When it comes to multi-effects processors, there are a few characteristics that separate the cream of the crop from the mediocre pedals you’re better off avoiding. The best way to figure out the best pedal for you is to evaluate each pedal you’re considering based on these four points:

  1. Quality effects
  2. A library of different amps and cabs for modeling
  3. Intuitive and easy to use
  4. Plenty of simultaneous effects

Quality Effects

Obviously, the most critical consideration to make is how the pedal sounds. Anyone who has ever sat down with a cheap multi-effects pedal can tell you, just because the pedal has that effect available, it doesn’t mean it’s the genuine article.

Older multi-effects processors and many of the more affordable options available today do a great job of providing a full cache of different effects at your fingertips. But, these effects often sound hollow, digital, and cheap.

Typically, inferior multi-effects don’t provide enough room to shape the tone of each effect to your liking, they’re missing many of the intuitive features that are present in more expensive units, and the sound of the effects themselves fall flat. Cheaper options also tend to be less practical and more difficult to use.

Of course, there are bound to be a few concessions when it comes to multi-effects. The phaser in your pedal may not sound exactly like an MXR Phase-90, or the wah may not sound exactly like a vintage Crybaby. But, they should be able to get you pretty damn close. In fact, you’re bound to find that you prefer the sound of some of the effects in your unit over the genuine article.

When you’re shopping for a multi-effects processor, go through each effect one by one and test them out. Do they sound warm and authentic, or thin and flat? Do they provide you with all the adjustment parameters you need, or is there something missing? If you find that the pedal you’re test driving doesn’t deliver in every regard, move onto the next option.

A Library of Different Amps and Cabs for Modeling

Another important consideration is whether or not the pedal provides amp modeling. Some pedals don’t include this feature at all, but the vast majority of them do, especially as you enter the $250 and up range.

Unless your practice studio is lined wall to wall with different legendary amps and cabinets, this is a feature you’ll want to have.

Quality multi-effects processors allow you to assign different heads and cabinets to your patches. So, even if you’re playing through a cheap combo amp, you can still simulate the tone you would get if you were playing through a bigger, better amp.

This feature can be especially effective for recording. Sure, most professional engineers have a large selection of amps at their disposal, and if they don’t, they certainly have plug-ins that allow them to simulate different amps and cabs. But, what if you’re recording in your buddies basement, or you’re working with an engineer that doesn’t have a ton of gear at their disposal?

That’s where your multi-effect pedal comes in. Whether you’re in the recording studio, jamming along to records at home, or looking to achieve a specific sound in your original music, being able to model different amps and cabs can be a huge bonus.

Intuitive and Easy to Use

This point is arguably the most important of all. Since there’s so much you can do with a multi-effects pedal; it’s easy to become intimidated as you learn the ins and outs of the pedal. After all, you’re going to be dealing with far more knobs, switches, and screens than you’ve ever had to deal with when working with single effects.

Of course, once you get the hang of the pedal, manipulating the different features becomes second nature. The real reason why it’s important to find a unit that’s intuitive and easy to use comes when you’re jamming with your band, or playing a gig.

The best multi-effects pedals are made with playing live in mind. These models make it easy for you to cycle through different patches and select the ones you need on the fly. The last thing you can afford when you’re on stage is a pedal that’s not being cooperative.

When you’re test driving different pedals, make sure that it’s easy to find and access your different patches, and that you can easily do it on the fly, using your foot. Also, make sure that the screen is well lit and easy to read regardless of the environment you’re in.

Plenty of Simultaneous Effects

An important thing to note: just because your pedal offers dozens of different effects, it doesn’t mean you can use them all at once. Herein lies one of the major drawbacks of some multi-effects pedals.

Most of the mid-tier and high-end options have the processing power you need to run tons of different effects at once, but some are less powerful, and only allow you to use a few effects simultaneously.

Of course, just because you have dozens of effects at your disposal, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should be using them all just because you can. But, you’d be surprised by how quickly you can stack up different effects, especially if you’re using add-ons like compression, equalization, or amp modeling.

When shopping for an effects processor, look for ones that allow you to run at least six different effects simultaneously. Something in the ballpark of six different effects should give you the headroom to run all the different effects you need at once.

That way, you can focus more on your playing and less on which effects you need to prune off so that you can fit the tone you need into a single patch.

Multi Effects Pedal Reviews – Our Top 5 Recommendations

Line 6 POD HD500X Multi Effects Pedal

Best Overall

What Makes It Special?

With the most processing power in its class, over 100 different effects tons of amp models, and an ever-expanding library of expansion packs, the HD500X is a veritable one stop shop for all of your recording and live playing needs.

  • Over 100 effects and amp models
  • Over 25 different amp models
  • Up to 8 simultaneous effects per patch
  • 512 user-assignable patches

When it first arrived on the market over 20 years ago, the Line 6 POD completely revolutionized how guitarists play in the studio. After years of innovation, guitarists can enjoy all the benefits of the original POD and then some with the HD500X.

This workstation features an incredible array of over 100 different effects including dynamics, filters, distortions and overdrives, modulators, delays, and reverbs. There’s also nearly thirty different amp models, and sixteen different cab models, each with eight different mic placements to help you achieve different voicing.

Users can use up to eight effects simultaneously, and there’s plenty of onboard storage, allowing players to save up to 512 different patches.

While it’s made for live performance, this powerful workstation is equally at home in the studio, and it also includes powerful software that allows you to visualize everything on the entire workstation.

What Customers Like

  • All the classic effects you could ever need, plus some far-out extras
  • Tons of onboard storage
  • Constantly updated library of new tones and patches

What Customers Dislike

  • Has a steep learning curve
  • Players looking to model multiple amps at once may max out the DSP

Zoom G3Xn Multi Effects Pedal

Best For the Price

What Makes It Special?

With 70 effects, a handful of amp and cabinet emulators, and storage for 150 different patches, the G3Xn is the perfect pedal for players who need a powerful workstation on a budget. Add to that an impressive 80-second looper, and you have a powerful multi-effects unit that more than meets the challenge.

  • 70 different effects
  • 5 amp and 5 cabinet emulators
  • 80-second looper
  • Expansive online library of patches and emulators

The G3Xn is one of the most powerful workstations Zoom has to offer, and it provides plenty of effects and just enough processing power that the average guitarist will have everything they need within this single pedal.

High points of this model include 70 different effects, including dynamics, filters, gain effects, modulation effects, and time-based effects, a massive 80-second loop function, and a simple and intuitive interface.

While there are only five different amp and five different cab emulators, you can add more to the pedal from Zoom’s online library. The G3Xn allows users up to seven simultaneous effects and emulators per patch, and there’s room for 150 user-assignable patches.

Most importantly, this Zoom pedal manages to deliver beautiful sounding effects in every category, so if you can sacrifice a few of the bells and whistles present on higher-end pedals, the G3Xn is a great way to unlock all the tones you need while saving some money in the process.

What Customers Like

  • Astonishingly easy to use
  • Library of additional tones and amp emulators
  • Affordable

What Customers Dislike

  • Doesn’t have the processing capability of the higher end pedals
  • Only five different pre-loaded amp models

Boss ME-80 Multi Effects Pedal

What Makes It Special?

With over 50 different Boss stompbox quality effects, nine different amp simulators, and a familiar knob-based interface, the Boss ME-80 is ideal for players who feel overwhelmed by all the digital components of other multi-effects pedals.

  • Quality Boss effects
  • 38-second loop function
  • Runs on battery or AC power
  • Up to eight different effects at once

The ME-80 is one of the more unique pedals on our list, as it harkens back to the old days of the knob-based interfaces that many guitar players preferred. The high point of the ME-80 is that it features effects which are every bit as good as Boss’ standalone stompboxes. It’s also incredibly easy to control.

But, there are a few caveats with this one, as well. Unlike other multi-effects which allow you to assign any effect you like to a patch, the ME-80 breaks effects into categories, and you can’t run more than one from each category simultaneously. So, if you had your heart set on using chorus with another modulation effect like flanger, unfortunately, you’re out of luck.

What Customers Like

  • Legendary Boss tone
  • Intuitive and easy to use
  • Quality loop function

What Customers Dislike

  • Can’t assign multiple effects from the same effect category
  • Doesn’t include a power supply

Digitech Element XP Multi Effects Pedal

Best for Beginners & Students

What Makes It Special?

The Element XP provides 37 different effects as well as 12 amp emulators and 9 cabinet emulators. Features like a built-in drum machine and a headphone jack for jamming quietly makes this powerful multi-effects processor ideal for beginners and students.

  • 37 different stompbox quality effects
  • Built-in drum machine
  • Headphone jack for quiet practice
  • Up to 20 effects at once

With features like a built-in drum machine with 45 preprogrammed loops and a headphone jack that allows for quiet practice, the Element XP is tailor-made for beginner guitarists who need the right tools to help them progress as musicians.

The presets with this unit are especially useful, and each one inspires you to dig in and have fun. Editing presets and creating your own patches is easy, but the tiny screen can be limiting, and since each patch is represented numerically, it can be a pain in the butt to remember where certain patches are.

Editing individual effects is also difficult, but that doesn’t take away from the impressive tones this tiny entry-level unit is capable of delivering.

What Customers Like

  • Effects sound great, especially the delays and whammy-wah style ones
  • Enough processing power to run tons of effects at once
  • Headphone jack is perfect for practicing

What Customers Dislike

  • Editing on such a small screen is very difficult
  • Lacks the different editing parameters of pricier units

VOX StompLab 2G Multi Effects Pedal

Best on a Budget

What Makes It Special?

An impressive array of over 40 different amp models and useful presets for seemingly every genre of music, the StompLab 2G is a small but mighty multi-effects processor that’s ideal for guitarists on a budget.

  • Over 80 different effects and amp models
  • ¼” output can also accommodate headphones for quiet practice

For players who need an affordable multi-effects processor that doesn’t sacrifice in the tone department, the StompLab 2G from VOX is well worth a closer look. This pedal provides over 40 different effects and an awe-inspiring selection of 44 different amp models and 12 different cab emulators. The VOX amp emulators are an exceptionally high point for this powerful unit.

This pedal is broken into genre categories, which is a smart way of separating presets. Users can easily select from ten different presets in each category, with tones that are optimized for every style of rock, metal, blues, and jazz. There’s also room to save up to 20 of your own patches.

This pedal is limited by its tiny screen and lack of meaningful editing ability. But, the category presets sound great, and the different amp emulators are impressively musical. For the money, it’s hard to find much to complain about.

What Customers Like

  • Specific presets for different genres
  • The VOX amp models alone are worth the price of the pedal

What Customers Dislike

  • Tiny screen makes it hard to recall presets
  • Only has space for 20 user-defined patches

6 More Really Good Multi Effects Pedals

Line 6 M9 Stompbox Modeler

The M9 Stompbox Modeler came on the heels of Line 6’s wildly popular four switch single effect units, like the DL4 and MM4. As the next logical step, this pedal combines the functionality of all those different single effects units in a single, powerful multi-effects workstation.

This pint-sized multi-effects pedal allows users to use up to three effects simultaneously, and it’s incredibly easy to make changes to the parameters for each effect. With an impressive array of more than 75 different stompbox quality effects and a powerful 28-second looper with dedicated footswitches, the M9 is a powerhouse that was built for guitarists who play live.

HeadRush Pedalboard Amp and FX Modeling Station

Quickly becoming the industry standard, the HeadRush delivers studio quality effects and amp models powered by the wildly popular Eleven HD DSP, which was considered a breakthrough in the guitar world.

This pedal packs a full-color HD screen, the most processing power, and the best sounding effects of probably any multi-effects pedal on the market. It’s worth noting that the power of this unit is only equaled by its price, and you’ll have to shell out about $1000 to add one to your rig.

Boss GT-1 Multi Effects Pedal

The GT-1 might not be winning any beauty pageants any time soon, but it does deliver plenty of processing power and all the effects you could ever dream of, with well over 100 different options to choose from.

While the GT-1 sounds great and offers plenty of versatility, it does fall victim to many of the pitfalls that are characteristic of the multi-effects units of the ‘90s and early ‘00s. The screen is tiny, and there’s only limited editing capability.

Zoom G5n Multi Effects Pedal

A step up from the popular G3Xn pedal, this pedal features the same impressive selection of studio-quality effects, and amp and cab emulators. However, the G5n is even more powerful.

With this pedal, Zoom added an additional fifty user-defined patches bringing the total to an impressive 200 patches, and a USB in for jamming along to your favorite records. The processing power of the G5n is also more substantial, and players can run up to nine effects at once, making this pedal ideal for players who love to layer different effects and amp models.

MOOER GE200 Multi Effects Pedal

For players looking to squeeze the most bang for their buck out of a multi-effects unit, this sleek offering from MOOER is worth a second look. While it’s a few hundred dollars cheaper than most of the high-end options on the market, it delivers a very comparable set of features.

The GE200 provides an impressive array of 70 effects, 55 different amp models, and 26 different cabinet models. Other impressive features include a 52-second looper with dedicated footswitch controls and a built-in drum machine with 40 drum patterns and 10 metronome patterns.

This pedal provides room for 200 different patches, and editing is a breeze thanks to the large, high-contrast screen on the front of the unit.

NUX Cerberus Multi Effects Pedal

An especially interesting multi-effects pedal, the NUX Cerberus manages to deliver analog distortions and overdrives, and true bypass wiring. The pedal contains a total of sixteen different effects that can be adjusted with simple and intuitive knob-based controls.

A dedicated IR loader allows you to run your gain effects out front while modulation effects and delays are sent through the effects loop. Up to four effects can be run simultaneously.

For players who are looking to simplify their live set up without having to worry about learning the ropes associated with more complex units, the NUX Cerberus is a great sounding pedal that’s among the easiest on the market to use.

5 FAQ’s About Multi Effects Pedals

How do you use a multi effects pedal?

Unlike stompboxes which are designed to provide a single effect, a multi-effects pedal puts dozens of different effects at your fingertips. With all that choice comes a seemingly infinite amount of ways to use a multi-effects processor.

So, there’s no right or wrong way to use a multi-effects pedal. Perhaps the best way to use your new multi-effects unit is to experiment as much as you can with the different effects you have at your disposal.

Since there’s so much going on inside these compact pedalboards, you’ll want to treat the owner’s manual like your favorite new book. Familiarize yourself with all the different effects, amp models, and extras that the pedal is capable of and learn how to use every one of them; you never know when that obscure effect you thought you’d never use will come in handy.

Every multi-effect pedal comes loaded with preset patches that you can make use of and draw inspiration of when you’re making your own patches.

As long as you develop a solid understanding of all the pedal is capable of, you’ll be well on your way to using the pedal properly, and getting the most you can out of your pedal in your playing.

Where do you place a multi effects pedal (in the chain)?

With single pedals, how they’re placed in your signal chain is a critical component that many guitarists overlook. While you may think it’s something you don’t have to worry about with a multi-effects pedal, that’s not the case.

Just as there’s a specific order for placing single effects pedals, you’ll want to follow that same order when arranging the patches on your multi-effects unit, as well.

Some units just automatically place different effects where they should go in the chain, but high-end models allow guitarists to do the placement themselves so they can achieve different sounds based on where they place their effects.

As a rule of thumb, here’s how you should place different effects within a patch.

Start with any dynamic effects, such as an equalizer, compressor, or volume pedal. Follow that up with any filters you’re using, like a wah or envelope filter. Next, place gain effects like distortion, fuzz, or overdrive. Then, add modulation effects like chorus, flanger, phaser, or tremolo. Last, put time-based effects like delay and reverb.

If you’re using a tremolo effect, you’ll want to place that before any compression you have, because a compressor will negatively interact with tremolo and other effects which alter the volume of your signal.

If you’re using any standalone effects in addition to your multi-effects unit, place those in your chain before your multi-effects.

A final thing to note: if your amp features an effects loop, you may prefer the way your rig sounds with your multi-effects pedal running into the effects loop compared to how it sounds with the unit running out in front of the amp.

What are the top multi effects pedal brands?

These days, over a dozen companies make multi-effects pedals. But, you’ll notice that you see a few names over and over in your search for the best multi-effects pedal. While many of the other manufacturers also make great pedals, there’s something to be said for the heavyweight brands who have already established themselves in the market.

Line 6 is a newer company that’s owned by the Yamaha Corporation. They were founded in 1996, and since then, multi-effect units have been their bread and butter. Starting with their legendary POD multi-effects unit and amp modeler, the company has only grown from there, and today they produce some of the best multi-effects units on the market.

Boss is perhaps the largest manufacturer of guitar effects, and they’ve applied their decades of knowledge making single effect stompboxes to the multi-effects space as well. Today, they produce a handful of different multi-effects processors that are competitively priced and offer some of the highest quality tones you’ll find.

Zoom is another major player, and similar to Line 6, multi-effects processors have been their primary business since the company was first founded. They specialize in making budget-friendly multi-effects pedals, and they’re popular with guitarists who need a vast array of effects but can’t afford to drop $500 or more on a top of the line option.

How much does a good multi effects pedal typically cost?

When it comes to how much you can expect to spend for an excellent multi-effects unit, it’s more a question of your budget than anything else. So long as you’re willing to spend the money, there’s always a higher quality option available.

Generally, you’ll need to spend at least $150 to purchase a quality multi-effects pedal. But, at that price, there’s sure to be some limitations with how good the pedal sounds, and how much you’re able to do with it.

Pedals in the $200-500 range are typically considered to be of high enough quality to compete with the tones you could achieve with a pedalboard of single effect stompboxes. They also provide the processing power necessary to take full advantage of all the different features of the pedal.

Once you eclipse the $500 range, you’re entering the rarified air that’s occupied by the highest end multi-effects on the market. These pedals are considered to be studio quality, and there’s virtually no limit to what you can accomplish with one of these units.

So while it’s hard to put a price tag on a good multi-effect processor, the one certainty is that you should probably stay away from any pedal that costs under $150.

Where can I learn more about multi effects pedals?

When it comes to continuing your multi-effects education, music stores usually do the best job of providing you with all the additional info you need.

Sam Ash is a famous American music store, and chances are, you’ve spent an afternoon at one of their locations jamming away. They do a good job of providing info on the gear they sell on their blog, and the link above has some solid info about multi-effects processors.

Andertons is one of the go-to music stores for guitarists in England, and like Sam Ash, they do a great job of providing info, tips, and tricks for all the gear that they sell. Their guide to multi-effects pedals is a must read.

Sweetwater is another music store, but they’re also the internet’s premier resource for video and audio demos of today’s best gear, including multi-effects. Virtually every product page on the site offers a detailed product demo video, and these really come in handy when you’re shopping for a piece of gear and want an idea of how it sounds before you pull the trigger.

Conclusion

A multi-effects pedal is a great way to simplify your rig without losing access to all the different effects you need to achieve your signature sound. If you’re tired of tap dancing all over the stage to turn your different pedals on and off for different parts of the song, a multi-effects pedal may be just what you need.

Do you have a multi-effects pedal? Which one do you use? Do you have any tips or tricks to share about your rig? Sound off in the comments below; we’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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