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Multi-Effect Pedal Buyers Guide

Multi-Effects Pedals are the king of guitar effect pedals. If the purpose of an effect pedal is to experiment with different tonal colors and moods, then a multi-effect pedal puts the entire laboratory at your feet. Multi effect units provide more than just the effects that can be duplicated by a collection of single effect pedals. Many include features like drum machines and amp models that can duplicate the sounds of other rigs. Even if you have a collection of single purpose pedals, you owe it to yourself to add a good multi effect.

Surprisingly many multi-effect boxes can represent an extreme value. For example, the Zoom G1N pedal contains 54 effect types including multiple wah wahs, pitch shifters, delays, and distortion, 15 amp models, and a drum machine, all at a price that is less than the purchase of one good single purpose pedal. The G1N even includes artist designed patches for professionally designed styles. It is missing an expression pedal for foot control of the wah wah and volume effects, but you can add one later or buy the Zoom G1XN with the expression pedal built in.

Zoom has a complete line of multi-effect units, including pedals designed specifically for acoustic-electric guitars, bass-guitars, and artist models.

What to Look For in a Multi-Effect Pedal

There are many types of multi effect pedals with many different features. Here are some of the features you need to consider:

  • What Effects Are Included? Some pedals focus on multiple specific effect types like modulation or distortion, others focus on models of vintage effects. Many of the best pedals include huge numbers of different effects, amp models, and even built in drum machines.
  • How Many Effects Can I Use Together? Some multi effect pedals allow you to use one effect at a time; others allow you to use three or more effects simultaneously.
  • Can I Change the Order of the Effects? 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. Many Multi-Effect Pedals allow you to change the order of the effects to your liking.
  • Does the pedal give me the control I want? Multi effect pedals give you different controls. Some are mostly software controlled with few buttons, others give you a switch and control knobs for each effect unit as well as expression pedals and other controls. What you need is up to you.

The Line 6 M5 Multi Stompbox Modeler pedal uses the digital magic of modeling to put over one hundred classic stompbox pedals in a single unit. Although the M5 only delivers one pedal effect at a time, it keeps its controls simple and easy to use. It includes tap tempo for time based effect and can accept and external foot controller as well. It includes choruses, reverbs, delays, echos, reverse playback, phasers, flangers, vibratos, tremolos, rotary speaker effects, overdrives, fuzzes, octavers, compressors, EQs, auto wah, filters (which can be controlled by an optional expression pedal for a Wah Wah effect), and even a digital tuner.

The DigiTech iSTOMP is something completely different. Connect your iPhone, iPad, or iPod to this deceptively simple little pedal and change from distortion, to reverb, to overdrive, to phaser, delay, and chorus. Download new effects for as little as $4.99 each.

The new Zoom G3 USB Guitar Effects and Amp Simulator pedal is the latest from Zoom and includes virtually everything you could want in a complete stomp pedal board. The unit looks like three combined stomp pedals each with its own footswitch, so you can use up to three effects and amp simulations at once and in any order in the effects chain. The Zoom G3 includes 13 amp models from vintage to current and the ability to create your own custom rig by combining different amp and cabinet models. There are 107 different DSP effects (including chorus, flangers, phasers, tremolos, pitch shifters, harmonizers, delays, reverse delays, compressors, noise reduction, EQs, Auto Wah and Wah Wah, fuzz and overdrive), 94 stompbox presets, and storage for up to 100 of your own creations. The Zoom G3 also includes 40 seconds of phrase looping and overdubbing, an integrated drum machine, a connection for an optional expression pedal (to control Wah and Pitch Shift effects among others), and an XLR input for microphones. Steinberg Sequel LE and Edit & Share software are included free.

The new Zoom G5 USB pedal includes all the power and all the features of the Zoom G3, plus:

  • 12AX7 Tube booster for overdrive
  • 3D Z-pedal (moves up and down and side to size) for the ultimate in effects control
  • 123 stomp boxes and 22 amp models (and the ability to use up to 9 stomp boxes simultaneously and in any order).
  • Store up to 297 original tones
  • Save yourself the trouble of putting together a pedal board. All your effects are here and can be operated as separate pedal devices.

Multi-Effect Pedals At