Best Guitar Multi-Effects Processor
Many guitarists enjoy collecting multiple effects pedals for all of their recording and live performance needs, but there’s something to be said about a tool offering multiple effects in one unit. The multi-effects processor is a device which saves guitarists the time and finances necessary for tracking down and purchasing multiple pedals to add to their rig; it also takes up less space on what can often become a crowded pedal board. Logistics aside, they just sound amazing. With so many multi-effects processors available for you to choose from, we’ve outlined some important considerations to keep in mind in our buyer’s guide below.
Best Guitar Multi-Effects Processor Overall:
Why crowd your pedal board with multiple units when you can use just one pedal for a wide range of effects and sounds? That’s the gist of the multi-effects processor, a type of effects pedal that has greatly benefited from advancements in digital technology over the last few years. For the guitarist who wants to be able to dial up distortion, delay, and modulation effects (often at the same time) in one pedal, going for the multi-effect route makes total sense. Here are the best overall guitar multi-effects processors with each pedal here featuring more than 50 preset patches, multiple foot switches for quick and easy navigation through the sound settings, and amp simulators that provide a wide range of tonal possibilities before you even get to apply the effects.
BOSS had already delivered a great product with their original version of the GT-100 mutli-effects guitar processor, but they’ve stepped things up a notch with the 2.0 update. This enhancement has made it easier to interface between the pedal, your guitar, and your computer, which just opens the door for sound editing and expanded flexibility in playing and sounds as well. Read Full Review
Digitech’s RP360 is a multi-effects processor offering guitarists more than 125 effects. Additional features include a 40-second looper, 200 presets, 2x2 USB audio streaming, and more, making this a unit that can truly expand the horizons of what you’re able to do with your instrument. Read Full Review
Line 6 has built its reputation on its ability to capture the sound and application of guitar pedals and amplifiers within a smaller and more accessible package, and that’s exactly what their M13 multi-effects processor accomplishes. This unit’s four LED windows give this processor a modern and sophisticated look, and the 75+ stomboxes within sound incredible. Read Full Review
Vox may be known more for their amplifiers, but their foray into the world of guitar multi-effects processors certainly shows that the company was right to expand beyond the boundaries of expectation. Their Stomplab IG is incredibly small yet offers a depth of preset sounds as well as slots to create and save your own tonal settings. Read Full Review
Zoom’s G5 guitar effects and amp simulator is deceiving in all the right ways. Its space-age design and sheer breadth of effects and patches make this multi-effect processor seem like it should cost a fortune, but it’s quite affordable. The quality of its features far exceeds what one might expect from its price tag. Read Full Review
Best Budget Guitar Multi-Effects Processor:
By concept alone, the guitar multi-effects processor already gives guitarists more bang for their buck; by combining multiple effects such as distortion, delay, phase, flange, reverb, and more into a single unit, musicians have a full wheel of sounds at their disposal versus tracking down individual units to perform each task. But those who are truly shopping with a budget in mind still have even further options to consider, as many models are available at a consumer-friendly cost. Each of these best budget multi-effects processors come equipped with a discrete, built-in tuner that’s handy for any gigging guitarist, USB connectivity to give players the ability to organize and fine-tune their library on their computers. Each of these picks also feature multiple amp/cabinet tone options to give a distinct sound to your guitar’s signal before you ever even run it through the multitude of available effects.
From its amp simulators to effects pedals, Line 6 has long held a reputation for providing a versatile array of sounds in tiny, unassuming packages. And with their M5 Stompbox Modeler, they continue their tradition, offering over 100 stombox effects in a 2.5 pound processor. Effects are simple to pull up, and even easier to recall thanks to its simple preset-saving function. Read Full Review
Zoom’s G3X Guitar Effects & Amp Simulator Pedal allows guitarists to build their own three-pedal effects rig within one compact and durable multi-effects processing unit. Its large LCD displays give this processor an easy-to-use interface, while a built-in expression pedal allows for accurate control of the sounds being produced. Read Full Review
Vox combines the incredible sounds of their Valvetronix series in a singular compact effects unit with their ToneLab ST. With amp and cabinet modeling presets, effects, a tuner, and easy access via a USB computer connection, this multi-effects processor provides tonal options you’d need several vehicles to transport all in one device that you can carry with one hand. Read Full Review
No, it’s not just a clever name; Line 6’s Pocket Pod is a multi-effects processor that you could literally hide in the pants you’re wearing, if you needed to (why you would need to do something like this is a question best left unanswered). Featuring a gang of sound options including 300 presets, 32 amp models, 16 cabinet models, and 16 effects, this is an ideal unit for practice or recording on-the-go. Read Full Review
BOSS stompboxes are immediately recognizable with their distinct solid-colored look, and the sheer amount of effects that they provide to guitarists worldwide is an impressive feat in and of itself. With the ME-80 multi-effects processor, BOSS collects an entire library of effects into a singular package, along with the ability to record and re-amp said sounds using the unit’s dual identity as a USB audio interface. Read Full Review
Guitar Multi-Effects Processor Buyers Guide
Multi-effect processors add a variety of variables, as it’s rare to find a single piece of gear that will serve every need you’ll ever have in your rig. Fortunately, they can often serve multiple purposes quite well, making them an adequate addition to your setup.
It’s most important to assess exactly what you’re looking for. Do you need a pedal to be primarily used live or do you want a rack unit designed for easy studio integration? Are there particular effects that you want to use the processor to cover? You’ll definitely want to test your options before buying, but there are several things to keep in mind before even getting to that point.
Multi-effects processors offer up several different effects types or categories. Some processors specialize in one specific type, while others provide a wide range drawing from all of them.
Overdrive effects encompass all kinds of distortion, overdrive, and fuzz sounds. These are great for loud rock music, heavy metal, and any other genre that requires an effect to highlight solos or lead melodic lines.
Filter effects alter the equalization frequency of the processed guitar sound. These include high and low pass filters, envelope filters, and any other effects sweeping through, cutting out, or boosting the high, mid, and low frequencies. Filter effects can clean up and fix an undesirable sound, or transform it to take on specific characteristics not normally found in a guitar; for instance, utilized so a guitar signal sounds more like a synthesizer
Reverb and Delay
Reverb and delay effects don’t so much transform guitar sound as they enhance it, often by providing an echoing reverb or repeated delay to the signal. These types of effects can be as basic as reverb and delay, but can also include reverse mode in which the signal is played backwards, echo, and more.
Flanging duplicates the original signal of a guitar’s output but delays one signal by a small and gradually changing period. The resulting sound is similar to a comb filter effect – one that has been characterized as “sucking air” and/or “the Darth Vader effect.”
Although wildly popular as a guitar effect, flange was first popularly utilized by producer George Martin during recording sessions for the Beatles. John Lennon would often use the effect on his vocals; in fact, historian Mark Lewisohn claims that it was Lennon who first gave the technique it's namesake. The first Beatles song to feature the flanging effect was “Tomorrow Never Knows” on their album Revolver; almost every single song on that record had some sort of flanging effect on it.
Whether used subtly to suggest a spacey feel or cranked all the way up to create an unnatural, synthetic-like sound, flanging is a guitar effect that doesn’t seem to be losing popularity anytime soon.
Chorus duplicates the original output signal and alters it slightly so that the signal sounds like it’s being voiced by multiple sources – or, as the name indicates, by a “chorus” of instruments. Chorus is a great way to thicken up the sound of a guitar part, and can be used with other effects such as distortion to expand multiple layers of tones within a signal.
Perhaps one of the most instantly recognizable uses of chorus in popular music is the beginning intro guitar riff to “Come As You Are” by Nirvana. Like tremolo, chorus effects are often built into guitar amplifiers; however, working with processors like pedals (which are solely designed to produce this effect) will almost always result in a better and more nuanced sound.
Phasing (also referred to as phase shifting) does exactly what its title suggests – a signal is duplicated, and then that new copied signal is shifted to be out of phase with the original signal. The resulting sound creates a spacey, “whoosh” effect that brings to mind watery atmosphere.
While signal phasing can sometimes be an unwanted by-product of audio recording, the effect began to be used intentionally on psychedelic records in the late 1960s, notably on “Itchycoo Park” by the Small Faces. The effect was later popularized in decades to follow from guitarists such as Eddie Van Halen, Queen’s Brian May, and Incubus axeman Mike Einziger.
Many recent processors allow you download and update the library of effects within the unit as new ones become available. This can be accomplished via memory cards, Bluetooth technology, mobile apps or digital downloads to refresh the processor’s library of sounds and effects. Although this is a relatively new technology within the world of guitar multi-effects processors, this is likely to become the standard in the years to come.
Usability and Customization
While processors come pre-built with the sounds and organization already pre-determined, many guitarists enjoy multi-effects units because of their ability to change their workflow as well as the sounds/effects they produce. For instance, many units come with blank slots in their effects libraries so guitarists can tweak and edit sounds on their own before saving them as presets for later use.
In addition to crafting and shaping the sounds, users can also control how the effects are accessed through the processor; a guitarist can save specific sounds so they’re readily available by simply tapping a button or flicking a switch. This is especially useful for guitarists playing live who need to have specific effects at their fingertips (or more accurately, their feet) for quick and easy recall.