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.

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 Boss ME-80 Guitar Mulit-Effects pedal combines many of their most popular single-effect stomp boxes into a flexible, rugged unit. The included Boss Tone Studio software allows users to deep edit their own presets as well as download “gig-ready” patches created by top pro musicians. The ME-80 also acts as a USB/MIDI interface.

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.