Buyer's Guides

Best Guitar Effects Pedals: Complete Your Dream Pedalboard Lineup

If you try and choose a setup of guitar pedals completely off your own steam, you’ll quickly find you’re confronted by hundreds of things. They come in several categories, innumerable brands, updates and models. And, of course, varying levels of quality. Even Amazon has its own line of guitar pedals, for goodness' sake!

But don’t lose hope, dear guitarist. Headliner is here and we’ve done the due diligence to help you find the best guitar pedals for your needs, experience and budget. Here you’ll find the very best guitar effects pedals for each of the most common effects including distortion, reverb, delay, fuzz, overdrive and more. So, to set up the guitar pedalboard of your dreams, let’s dive straight into this fuzzy world, starting off with the most affordable pedals and working our way upwards from there.

TC Electronic Skysurfer Mini Reverb

Once you add reverb to your guitar for the first time, you won’t be going back to life without it anytime soon. You’ll find yourself screwing your face up at any drier guitar tones. Many amps have built-in reverb, and reverb pedals are among the most common to be found on a board, especially for guitarists of a shoegaze-persuasion. TC Electronic are just superb when it comes to making the best guitar effects pedals that can be found at entry-level pricing, and the Skysurfer Mini Reverb can be snagged for just £/$40. It’s a simple pedal, as you’d expect, but has three classic reverb modes, and all the controls you’ll need unless you’re looking for complex ambience.


Boss DS-1 Distortion

In the world of the best guitar effects pedals, this one isn’t a boss in name only. That is, assuming you agree that such guitarists as John Frusciante, Billie Joe Armstrong, Johnny Marr and Kurt Cobain – a formidable lineup of Boss DS-1 users. Its orange aesthetic has made it easy to clock on a pedal board. Users love its ease of use — as with most Boss pedals, there’s no risk of being overwhelmed with three modes to adjust to achieve your dream distortion sound: tone, level and distortion. The mode switch gives you the choice of Standard and Custom, which are so unique to each other as essentially offering you two distortion pedals for the price of one. Best of all, it will only set you back around £/$50.


TC Electronic Ditto Looper

You’d have to be a bit loopy to not try this pedal out. The Ditto Looper, another winner from TC Electronic, is another example of the company offering one of the best guitar pedals at way below £/$100. Artists like KT Tunstall and Ed Sheeran have partly built their careers off the back of guitar looping, perhaps the Ditto will do that for you?! This simple and intuitive pedal gives you all you need to start creating layers of chords, riffs and sub-melodies for you to play and solo over the top; there’s the one footswitch so you can hit record, stop, or playback, and the Loop Level knob for controlling volume. Sure, there are more complex loop pedals out there, but this one essentially does the job a looper needs to do, and well. Otherwise, check out TC’s Ditto X2 Looper if you want to spend a little more.


Fender Hammertone Space Delay

Fender's Hammertone brought nine new pedals into the world aimed at beginners, boasting of simplicity, quality sound, durability and affordability. Many agree that the Space Delay is the member from this range that enters the best guitar effects pedals conversation, emulating the multi-head tape delay of the Roland Space Echo. This little sub-£/$100 beast unlocks capabilities beyond basic pedals, with pitch modulation on repeats, diverse delay patterns and self-oscillation with feedback. A fantastic entry point into the trippy world of guitar delay.


Walrus Audio Fundamental Fuzz

If this isn’t one of the coolest guitar pedals out there, then my name is Frank Sinatra. Fuzz is fundamental to the sound of many a guitarist, as the title of this pedal recognises, brought to us by the also excellently-named Walrus Audio. The US boutique biz has fantastic pedals on offer, and Fundamental Fuzz is one of the best fuzz pedals out there, at an unbeatable price. If you’re seeking a gritty fuzz, gated fuzz, or the filthiest fuzz that can be summoned up, this pedal will serve it up with abandon.


Fender Pugilist distortion

Treat yourself to one of these, and you’ll find yourself fending off all the jealous guitarists in your circle who want to borrow it and play it themselves. Fender is to be expected on any ‘best guitar effects pedals’ compendium worth its salt — it’s abundant with gain, which you can dial up and down as much as you wish. There are two modes which are brilliant to have: Mode A gives gritty overdrive, or put Mode B to the test for a metal, contemporary and saturated tone. You shouldn’t have trouble picking one up for below £/$100, so it’s a great price also.


Ibanez Analog Delay Mini

Are analogue guitar pedals better than digital? Well, we could devote an entire article to that argument. If you, however, love the grit and warmth that digital pedals can’t quite fully replicate in analogue pedals, then this Ibanez pedal could be the delay pedal for you. As its name heavily implies, it is 100% analogue, full of delightful real delay circuitry despite being a small and portable guitar pedal. The delay times can go from a mini 20ms to a huge, trippy 600ms — meaning there's a big penchant to achieve all sorts of small or huge delay tails here.


Jim Dunlop JC95 Jerry Cantrell wah

If this being the signature wah pedal of Jerry Cantrell is enough to convince you, it deserves to be listed among the best guitar effects pedals, then read on, dear axeman/woman. If you’re after a wah pedal that puts full range in your control, then meet the pedal’s Fine Tune Knob. Besides looking the bee’s knees, you can expect one of the clearest wah effects that isn’t muddy-sounding when pushed. Grab one of these, and you’ll feel as mighty as the Alice In Chains guitarist himself.


EarthQuaker Devices Blumes Low Signal Shredder

Next up is an Earth-shuddering guitar effects pedal for you to shred on. As to be expected from EarthQuaker, this is a unique take on an overdrive pedal, and you won’t find yourself straining to get deeply pleasing sounds out of it — it sounds fantastic straight out the box. There are level, tone and gain controls to keep things intuitive and easy, and then three mode switches to take things to the next level. Mode one is all about the LED clipping for big compression a la Marshall. Mode two gives you a clean boost for amp tone maintenance, while mode three specialises in transparent tones thanks to silicon diode clipping.


Boss CE-2W Waza Craft Chorus

If crafting the ultimate guitar tone is your raison d'etre, the chorus that you sing from the hymn sheet, then have we got just the doozy for you. You’ll struggle to find anything that lays a better claim to being the best guitar effects pedal in the chorus category than the Waza Craft Chorus. It’s based on Boss’ original CE-2 pedal, a very important guitar pedal throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s. It actually combines features of both the original CE-2 and the CE-1. Look up a YouTube video of this pedal in action, and you’ll quickly recognise its sound from a lot of hit records. This Waza Craft version costs around the £/$200 mark, which is pretty fair considering all the history.


Boss RV-500 Reverb

Boss completes its trilogy of entries on this best guitar effects pedals list thanks to the RV-500 Reverb. If you’re after some stunning ambient sounds, this larger pedal is here to shoegaze your world. Packing in digital delay, three footswitches, 21 types of reverb and 12 modes, you can spend many wonderful hours with this unit. To get you editing even further, there is modulation, EQ, decay, density and more. It even allows you to emulate some legendary reverb sounds such as Roland’s Space Echo and SRV-2000.


Strymon TimeLine

Strymon is a very popular manufacturer of pedals, and pedals such as this one and its BigSky reverb that see many users comfortably discussing them as being among the best guitar effects pedals. The TimeLine includes a whopping 12 different delay types (or as Strymon calls them, ‘delay machines’), along with a stereo 30-second looper and a memory bank that can stash 200 presets. It’s a sonic playground in a compact box. From dreamy ambient vibes to vintage analogue warmth, its range of sounds is most impressive. It is rounding off this list as the most expensive pedal at around £/$450, but that is because it oozes quality.


Which pedals do I really need?

Apologies for the distinctly non-straightforward answer to this, but it comes down to you individually as a guitarist and person. There are so many factors: your tastes, the genres you predominantly play, and which pedals will complement your guitar. Then there’s the fact that some guitarists ardently love having a huge pedal board with a dozen or more guitar pedals, whereas some will find this a headache and prefer a minimal setup.

If you want to sound like Kurt Cobain, then overdrive and distortion pedals will likely be your priority. If you want to create sounds of film score scope and grandness, reverb and delay will help you create chords and melodies that echo out into infinity.

If you do fall into the category of not wanting lots of pedals and cables, rather a one-size-fits-all type pedal, then you might be better off looking at a multi-effects guitar pedal — we have a guide dedicated to the best of those. Rather than the specialist guitar pedals you see above, multi-effects pedals cover lots of functionality and effects in one unit. Some guitarists love them, some hate them.