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Guitars & Accessories

Best Vintage Guitar Pedal

It’s ironic that as we move further into the future, even the most incredible breakthroughs in technology have us yearning for the sounds of the past. In fact, most digital effects and processors are still essentially emulating their analog predecessors. To that end, the vintage guitar pedal is one which holds a special place in the hearts of guitarists around the world.

It’s not hard to understand why, as the music created in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s shaped pop culture forever; in fact, the sounds from those bygone era are still coveted and emulated today. Fortunately, there are many vintage guitar pedals available to guitarists looking to capture those iconic sounds. All the information you need to make an informed purchase is provided below in our vintage guitar pedal buyer’s guide listed below.

MXR Phase 90 Shifter Pedal

Most notably used by Eddie Van Halen on some of his band’s most beloved albums, MXR’s Phase 90 phase shifter pedal continues to find favor amongst guitarists today who seek to harness the powerful modulation effect; Dave Grohl, Josh Homme, and Nancy Wilson are all staunch proponents of this little orange pedal. Using the pedal is simple, with a single knob which allows you to dial in the phase effect of your choice. By changing its position, you can adjust the speed of the effect from slow and subtle to a full-on, fast and watery tone. Though the Phase 90 is widely popular with guitarists, it can also be used with other instruments and sounds, including vocals, bass, and keyboards. The Phase 90 can be powered by battery or an optional AC adapter.

MXR Custom Shop CSP105 Vintage ’75 Phase 45

The MXR Custom Shop CSP105 Vintage ’75 Phase 45 phase shifter pedal was built to perfectly replicate the sound of the original model, which was praised for its subtle phasing effect. Like the original, the reissue has two stages of phasing and hand-wired circuitry that emulates the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s and ’70s. Powered by just a single 9V battery, the pedal’s compact size makes it a welcome addition to the guitarist with an already-crowded pedalboard. Other vintage enhancements on the Phase 45 include hand-stuffed supporting foam, and a lack of an LED indicator light which really gives this pedal a truly classic feel. What’s particularly notable about this phase shifter effect is that even when it is cranked to its utmost power, your guitar’s notes will never become overwrought with the watery, atmospheric effect that can sometimes cloud the original idea that you’re trying to push forward.

Vintage Mu-Tron Phasor II Shifter Pedal

Vintage Mu-Tron Phasor II Shifter Pedal

The Mu-Tron Phasor II phase shifter pedal is a blast from the past, offering an aesthetic in both its sound and appearance that immediately recalls the 1970s. This pedal provides a grittier, dirty vibe in its modulation that provides a certain lo-fi character that may be just what you’re looking for, particularly if you’re seeking to emulate the sounds of yesterday. The Phasor II incorporates the same photo-mod circuit as Mu-Tron’s Bi-Phase pedal, which allows players to control the sweep or the rate of the phase shifter effects. Lastly, this pedal is built like a tank, and certainly looks the part as this pick could easily get lost in a sea of rugged power tools to the untrained eye.

Electro-Harmonix Bad Stone Phase Shifter Pedal

Electro-Harmonix’s Bad Stone phase shifter pedal provides six stages of phase shifting, giving guitarists quite a few options in directing how they want their guitar’s tone to be modulated. A manual feedback setting allows you to reign in the effect, or let it loose for full-on, watery chaos. Unlike the original, the reissue of the Bad Stone has a lower frequency range, which allows you to affect the signal to bass notes and deeper chords. Additionally, the Bad Stone is a true bypass pedal, so it will never suck out the character of your chain’s tone when it’s not being used in your rig. This pedal isn’t just built link a tank in its die-cast package, but it’s also easy to power. It comes with the single 9V battery that the pedal requires to be powered, but also can take juice from an optional power supply working in conjunction with the Bad Stone’s built-in AC jack.

Artec SE-VPH Vintage Phase Shifter

Artec SE-VPH Vintage Phase Shifter

Artec’s SE-VPH Vintage Phase Shifter pedal is built simply but offers guitarists a sound that can run through a range of playing styles. Three knobs make it easy to dial in the exact sounds that you want. Speed, Depth, and Resonance are all relatively self-explanatory, and assist in producing a variety of tones, including a watery sharpness and a tremolo-like setting that sounds as though the signal is being run through a rotary speaker. The pedal is small and easily powered via a single 9V battery. The SE-VPH is also a true bypass pedal, which means that the signal in your rig will never be drained by this pedal’s occupancy in the effects chain when the pedal is switched off.

Dunlop JDF2 Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face Distortion Pedal

Dunlop JDF2 Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face Distortion Pedal

Jimi Hendrix ran his guitar through the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face on classic albums like Electric Ladyland, and in the process he changed the way guitarists viewed the fuzz effect. Despite the powerful sounds that this pedal is capable of producing, the controls are pretty simple; a Volume knob controls the output of the signal, while a Fuzz knob affects the amount of effect that is made in the unit. If you’re looking to emulate the tone of one of the greatest guitarists of all-time, this pedal is a great place to start. Its rugged construction also ensures this pick won’t break easily, even in your most passionate, Hendrix-channeling performances. However, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to light the pedal on fire so be sure to clear some space between your effects and your guitar when you decide to go full-on Jimi.

Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi Fuzz Pedal

Rock icons like Carlos Santana and Jimi Hendrix were smog the first to use the Electro-Harmonix Bigg Muff Pi fuzz pedal to turn their guitar’s tone into an unwieldy beast, so is it any wonder that that type of tone has been sought after ever since? Three knobs give players a fairly straightforward way to shape their tone; Volume, Tone, and Sustain are all relatively self-explanatory controls. The Big Muff Pi, which also doubles as a distortion pedal, can go anywhere from a slightly gritty buzz to a full-blown singing sustain. The pedal is also True Bypass so it will never undesirably color your tone when plugged into your effects chain but not activated.

Pro Co You Dirty Rat Distortion Pedal

If you’re at all familiar with the brand of pedals that Pro Co puts out under its RAT umbrella, then you know that the name signifies the snarl, bite, and grit that one could only elsewhere attribute to, well, a pack of rats quite honestly. The company’s You Dirty RAT fuzz pedal emulates the sound that Pro Co’s engineers developed in the late 1970's in a modern design that still manages to pack 100% analog signal. As if the classic fuzz tone wasn’t already enough, the You Dirty RAT also adds 3dB of compression to add a supple amount of sustain to the effected signal. The standard RAT design makes this pedal practically indestructible, thanks to its steel enclosure and heavy-duty industrial footswitches, knobs, and jacks. The pedal also comes with a two year limited warranty, which is probably the nicest treatment a rat ever got in this industry.

Rotosound 1960s Reissue Vintage Fuzz Pedal

Rotosound’s 1960s Fuzz Reissue provides vintage-sounding germanium fuzz tone. The size of the pedal makes it especially conducive to guitarists who don’t have a lot of room to spare on their pedalboard. Despite its nimble footprint, the sounds contained within are quite monstrous. Knobs for Fuzz, Treble, and Volume give you an easy way to alter the output of the pedal (in fact, the knobs are spread far enough that you can even make adjustments using your feet, if necessary). The circuitry in this pedal make it a more ideal fit for single-coil pickup guitars, particularly when it comes to chords. But this pedal is also great for single-note, lead lines as well.

Fulltone ’69 mkII Guitar Fuzz Pedal

Primarily powered by its dual germanium transistors, the Fulltone ’69 mkII fuzz guitar pedal pumps out a thick, powerful sound. Its internal bias trimmer gives players a more nuanced approach at sculpting their sound. A contour control also gives you the option to smooth out the effect, or give it that extra bite to make it slice right through the mix. Turning down the volume of your guitar can result in some great cleans and slight overdrives in the pedal’s tone. Your tone will remain unaffected when the Fulltone ’69 isn’t in use, thanks to the pedal’s true-bypass design.

Boss OC-2 Pedal

Boss OC-2 Pedal

Over the years, the BOSS OC-2 octave pedal has been used by guitarists and bassists alike to provide a tone-enhancing thickness to their sound. And though the pedal has been upgraded and is definitely not the only horse in the octave pedal race, the OC-2 definitely still maintains its superiority, thanks to its intuitive control and relatively simple design. Two separate controls allow players to shape the sound of the effect one and two octaves below the original signal, while a Direct Level knob adds further dynamic controllability to the mix. Like most BOSS pedals, this unit is built to take a beating with a durable chassis which allows owners to take this pick on the road without having to fret over the device’s safety.

MXR Sub Machine Octave Fuzz Pedal

Fuzz and octave are two unruly effects that one might assume wouldn’t be able to play nicely together; they're not unlike two crazy party animals you enjoy hanging out with but wouldn’t necessarily want to invite to the same event at the same time. MXR has somehow found a way to provide peace, unity, and above all, some seriously powerful tone in combining the two effects with their Sub Machine Octave Fuzz pedal.

Imagine being able to summon the classic-sounding fuzzed-out sounds of the past, and then being able to drop them into the depths of your guitar’s tonal range in true octave fashion. The pedal can also kick the effected signal an octave above the original signal which widens the span of frequency in comparison to other octave pedals which strictly stick to the lower end. Because MXR is all about giving the user as much control over their sound as possible, this pedal also comes with a Series switch that lets you run the sub octave either through the fuzz effect, or in a parallel route that will keep said signal clean and untouched by its aggressive roommate.

Electro-Harmonix Octave Multiplexer

The Electro-Harmonix Octave Multiplexer offers a vintage-sounding octave effect that need not be limited to just guitars; the pedal works well with bass guitars, keyboards, and even vocals running through it, too. Users can shape the sound of the effect using High Filter and Bass Filter controls. It’s important to note that this pedal only works as a monophonic effect, and can therefore only be applied to single notes, but that makes it perfect for thickening up single-note riffs, baselines, and more. The Octave Multiplexer is a True Bypass pedal, so your tone will never be detrimentally affected when it sits in your effects chain unused. The pedal’s die-cast chassis also gives this pedal a degree of durability that makes it especially endearing to players who like to rock out when playing with their stompboxes.

Dr. No Octofuzz Octave Pedal

Dr. No Octofuzz Octave Pedal

The Dr. No Octofuzz guitar pedal is of boutique lineage for sure, but that shouldn’t be held against it for those who are looking to get great tone at an affordable price. As its name implies, this unit combines a fuzz effect with an octave effect for some seriously tone-pleasing results. And while the effects can be used in conjunction with one another, the pedal also has a toggle switch so that the Octaver can be used solely as a fuzz effect. Three simple knobs is all it takes to get this thing cooking; Gain cranks up the fuzz, while Intensity functions as sort of a tone/octave level knob, and Volume controls the signal output. Whether you’re looking to channel your inner Hendrix, emulate modern rock sounds like Queens of the Stone Age, or looking for an all-inclusive fuzz/octave experience, you’d do well to pay a visit to Dr. No.

TC Electronic Vintage Octa Screamer

TC Electronic Vintage Octa Screamer

In the right hands (and of course, on the right pedal) the combination of octave and fuzz effects can be a deadly force to reckon with. Guitarists like Jimi Hendrix were able to understand just how much can be done when combining these two effects, and since the 1960's, the world has never been the same. TC Electronic created their Vintage Octa Screamer with that marriage of effects in mind, and guitarists looking to dial in that sustained, thick-sounding tone will not be disappointed with what this pedal has to offer. The pedal’s mix knob blends the octave effect in with your signal. A built-in 30dB treble boost helps to push the octave effect to prominent extremes. The pedal can easily be powered by either a 9V battery or supplied external power adapter.

Ibanez TS808 Original Tube Screamer Overdrive Pedal

Ibanez TS808 Original Tube Screamer Overdrive Pedal

Ibanez’s TS808 Original Tube Screamer is the overdrive pedal responsible for shaping the tone of legendary blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. Providing a preamp-like tone, the TS808’s sound sits somewhat adjacent to fuzz and distortion with a character that is all its own. Its simplistic three knob design provides players with a quick and easy way to dial in the sound that best fits the song with Overdrive, Tone, and Level being the three parameters at play here. The pedal’s features an all-metal casing which helps ensure that the TS808 is actually built as tough as it's namesake sounds. Beyond its iconic green shell, the pedal is also remarkable for its square toggle switch, which makes turning the effect on and off much easier for guitarists.

Wampler Tweed '57 Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal

Wampler’s Tweed ’57 is the Delorean of guitar overdrive pedals, as plugging your axe into this unit will instantly transform your sound into a vintage tone regardless of your actual rig setup today. The pedal features an input simulator switch that re-creates the normal, bright, and linked input options that were featured on vintage Tweed amps. EQ and gain adjustments give you further control over the sound and dynamics of your tone. This pedal can be easily powered either by a single 9V battery or standard 9V power supply. Whether you want to just add a little bit of dirt to your clean tone or really make your axe snarl in a more overdriven sound, this is the pedal to get the job done.

 Boss OD-1 OverDrive Pedal

Boss OD-1 OverDrive Pedal

Though often overlooked when recalling the history of overdrive pedals, the BOSS OD-1 actually stands as one of the first to hit the market way back in 1977. The pedal’s use of asymmetrical clipping provides more edge in the overdrive effect. Like most BOSS pedals, the design of the OD-1 is pretty simple as you’re only working with just two knobs. One controls the actual amount of Overdrive, while the Level is used to control the volume of the pedal’s output. Warm-sounding and tough, this pedal has passed some of its technical genes on to other BOSS pedal with the company’s SD-1 probably being the closest in sound and design. Nonetheless, the tone that the OD-1 brought to the table still stands as a staple of overdriven sound, and is still avidly sought after by players today.

Darkglass Vintage Microtubes Overdrive

Whether you’re emulating the classic midrange tones of the 1970's or aiming to capture the grit and punch of the 1990's, the Darkglass Vintage Microtubes overdrive pedal is consistent in its warm, analog-like sound. Designed to provide a natural dynamic response similar to the compression of old tube amps and reel-to-reel tape machines, this pedal instantly brings a classic sheen to your guitar’s sound. Its design is relatively straightforward – the Level knob controls the volume of the processed signal while the Drive parameter determines how much saturation is delivered. The Blend knob gives players the ability to mix the clean original signal with the overdriven tone. The unique Era knob works in tandem with the Drive to affect the tone of the pedal itself.

TC Electronics TC Electronic MojoMojo Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal

TC Electronics TC Electronic MojoMojo Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal

The TC Electronic MojoMojo emulates the classic drive of tube amplifiers. Like the tube amps that the pedal is designed to emulate, the MojoMojo responds accurately to the volume of the guitar signal running through it. Riding the volume knob can have a surprisingly detailed effect on the actual tone coming out of the unit. The pedal’s analog dry-through circuitry and Bass/Treble knobs give this unit a truly classic dynamic. The pedal is also True Bypass, so you never have to worry about the pedal sucking up your tone when it’s in your effects rig but not in use.

Buyer's Guide

 

Vintage Guitar Pedal Buyers Guide

If you’re looking to add vintage guitar pedal to add to your rig, there are a few different approaches you can take to help you find the one that is best for you. The first measure to take is to research the sound that you are looking to emulate; identify the sound itself then study all you can about the guitarist and producer behind the records/songs featuring said sound. From there, you can find out more about what gear they used to achieve those results and either try to find the exact brand and model of gear used, or find an equivalent reissue/replacement. More than anything else, you’ll definitely want to try the guitar pedal out for yourself to guarantee you’re getting what you need. Here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for vintage guitar pedals.

Pedal Types

Fuzz Pedals
Fuzz pedals played a significant role in the sounds of guitarists dating as far back as the 1960s. Guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards made noise in a big way when they first started using fuzz pedals on some of their riffs, consequently making them larger than life.

The fuzz effect thickens up a guitar tone to such extremes that it is often used sparingly, often as a slight addition to distortion or overdrive effects in an effort to push the guitar tone just over the edge. The sound produced by fuzz pedals is also quite responsive to other variables in playing, such as how the player employs pick attack and how loud the guitar is turned up.

While the fuzz pedal is still frequently used in music today, its mighty origins will forever classify some of its members as a vintage guitar pedal.

Overdrive Pedals
Differing slightly from the aforementioned fuzz pedal, the overdrive pedal also sits under the broader umbrella of distortion pedals used to make a guitar signal hotter and while giving it more character and bite.

Emulating the warm, over compressed sound which occurs when the tubes in guitar amplifiers get overdriven (hence the pedals name), this particular pedal type can really help a guitar part cut through in the mix. With the tweaking of the pedal’s knobs and settings, guitarists can craft sounds which are distinctly their own or go for a very precise imitation of sounds from records of the past.

Phase Shifter Pedals
From psychedelic records to film scores/soundtracks to rock music that dominated the airwaves in the 1970s, phase shifter pedals are sought after by many guitarists today who are looking to capture that vintage sound.

As a part of the modulation pedal family, phase shifters duplicate the sound being sent through the guitar and then shift that new copied signal so that it is slightly out of phase with the original signal. The subsequent sound is one that has a spacey, “whoosh” effect that brings to mind something of a watery atmosphere.

Groups and artists such as the Small Faces and Queen prominently used phase shifter pedals on some of their songs, consequently solidifying the phase shifter as a staple of the vintage guitar pedal stable.

Octave Pedal
The octave pedal falls under the umbrella of a pitch shifting effect. By doubling the incoming signal and then shifting that duplication down an octave, guitar lines run through an octave pedal can have a seriously deep and powerful sound. The octave pedal can also be used to shift the signal up a higher octave, which also makes the sound more thick. Guitarists can also set the octave pedal to create a second signal that doubles the original at a different interval, such as playing 5th or 3rd harmonies.

Sean Kramer
I'm a guitarist/music producer with 18 years of experience playing on-stage, in the studio, and everywhere in between. I have toured and recorded on projects both independent and major, in styles such as rock, pop, funk, hip hop, electronic, and more. My axe of choice is probably always going to be the Fender Stratocaster, but I've been known to pick up other guitars when the music calls for it. I'm a big fan of using a multitude of effects (both hardware and software-driven) to manipulate the sound and atmosphere of an instrument. In addition to playing on records, I have also contributed to the score/soundtrack for shows and spots on MTV and ESPN, as well as for a variety of independent films, web series, and television shows.
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