We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: multi-effects pedals are the best possible way for guitarists to take their first steps into the world of effects.
For one, pedals can be a daunting prospect, filled with multi-coloured boxes of all shapes, sizes and tonal promises; but multi-effects units cover just about every sound under the sun, giving you a broad overview of different kinds of effects, so you can figure out which suit your style of playing - and which aren't your cup of tea.
These fully functioned units can act as springboards to bigger pedalboard rigs or, given the quality of multi-effects available today, provide you with a full palette of tones that will serve you well for years of recording and gigging.
Best of all, multi-effects offer the best effect-per-pound/dollar ratio money can buy - and that’s certainly true of our beginner picks here, all of which cost under £200/$300. Read on, and dive in…
Vox StompLab IIG
The IIG, like all of the pedals in the range, features an onboard tuner and comes with 120 onboard memory slots, 100 of which are presets, leaving 20 opportunities to edit and archive your own sounds.
The unit can be used between guitar and amp, but the single output will also drive a set of stereo headphones for silent practice. You can practise anywhere you like, in fact, because power comes from four AA batteries, although in most cases we imagine users would employ a nine-volt adaptor, both for convenience and to keep costs down.
"The StompLab is two things in one: an amp processor and multi-effects unit for home headphone practice that can be equally at home supplying effects on stage."
FULL REVIEW: Vox StompLab IIG review
It might be entry-level, but if you hadn't seen the price tag you'd be forgiven for thinking the ME-25 was a more expensive bit of kit. The metallic black finish brings it in line with its bigger brother, the ME-70, and it's the first unit at this price point to include Boss's COSM amp models.
Effects-wise, the ME-25 does the business. It doesn't include some of the more elaborate effects of its sibling, but what you do get is a usable set of classic, distortion, modulation, delay and expression pedal-controlled effects.
"If you want to get started with a unit that laughs in the face of its limited budget, buy an ME-25."
FULL REVIEW: Boss ME-25 review
While the G and MultiStomp series have kept Zoom at the cutting edge of multi-effects, the G1Xon's appearance recalls its former glories - in particular, the 707, which introduced a generation of guitarists to effects.
The cost-effective plastic construction draws comparisons to the past, but the lil' LCD display boasts the pedal-based interface of Zoom's latest effects.
"It might not stay in your rig forever, but the G1Xon is a stellar introduction to effects."
FULL REVIEW: Zoom G1Xon review
DigiTech RP360 XP
The RP360 XP boasts 162 effects (54 amps, 26 cabinets and 82 stompboxes), including models of classic stompers from the DigiTech and DOD archives, such as the Whammy, FX13 Gonkulator and FX25 Envelope Filter, while the sounds are controlled using three footswitches and the built-in expression pedal.
There's also a 40-second looper, drum machine, and a USB port for recording with your DAW and editing sounds using the sharp-looking Nexus editor and librarian software. In short, there's not much DigiTech's new wonderbox can't do.
"There's a wealth of multi-effects out there, but the RP360 XP has diversity and ease of use on its side."
FULL REVIEW: DigiTech RP360 XP review
Gear4music GP120 Guitar Multi FX Pedal
G4M's stompbox has certainly got the figures: 11 effect modules containing 11 flavours of dirt, eight amp models, eight cabinet types, 15 modulations, four delays, four reverbs and even three different types of wah. And that's not including noise gate, compressor, EQ and volume modules, as well as expression pedal control of volume and wah. Oh, and a drum machine. Phew.
Having these individual modules means you can combine multiple sounds into one patch, which can then be stored as one of the GP-120's 48 user presets. Setting up presets can be fiddly thanks to the single parameter control knob, but the LCD screen is dazzling – there's no danger of missing this stomper onstage.
"A curate's egg of a pedal, but the good definitely outweighs the bad."
FULL REVIEW: Gear4music GP120 Guitar Multi FX Pedal review
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With an impressive array of effects and some decent-quality amp modelling, the G3X offers plenty of sonic options as a standalone unit or an add-on to your existing pedals.
The salient point about this release, though, is the treadle, which means you get instant access to foot-controlled wah, Whammy-style pitch shifting or dynamic control of any assigned parameter.
"For just £20 more, the addition of the treadle increases the sonic versatility of the already handy G3 by a far greater proportion than the extra outlay suggests."
FULL REVIEW: Zoom G3X review
Line 6 M5 Stompbox Modeller
In essence, the M5 can be whatever pedal you haven't already got. The M5 effects are arranged in five categories (delay, modulation, distortion, filter and reverb) and include 19 delays, 23 modulations and 17 distortions, plus 12 compressors and EQs, 26 filters and 12 reverbs, any of which can be easily loaded into one of 24 onboard presets for easy recall.
Everything is clearly shown in the display, with each effects category backlit in a different colour. The presets that come with the unit have been programmed at the factory but are easily overwritten: a model select knob scrolls through the effects models in each category, while a press on that knob moves on to the next category.
"All the effects you'll need in a single stompbox, provided you use them one at a time."
FULL REVIEW: Line 6 M5 Stompbox Modeller review
DigiTech Element XP
This petite expression-pedal-loaded unit packs in 58 effects, 200 presets, plus 45 drum patterns. It's made of hardened plastic, which should see you through a fair few gigs, and though the expression-less Element costs £20 less, the XP's extra wah and Whammy effects are worth the extra.
The factory presets of multi-effects units can disappoint. Not so with the Element XP, where - multi-effects in usable presets shocker! - all 100 of the pre-programmed tones sound great and inspire you to play. That's in part down to DigiTech's wise decision to avoid assigning cabinet simulation to patches; the Element XP is designed to be run old-school, into an amp - cab simulation is available, though.
"Like the best multi-effects, rather than leaving you endlessly tweaking sounds, the Element XP actually makes you want to play."
FULL REVIEW: DigiTech Element XP review
Zoom MS-50G MultiStomp
Zoom claims that the MS-50G is the first of its kind, packing a multi-effects pedal and amp modeller into a single-sized stompbox.
What you get with the MS-50G is a pedal packed with 55 different sounds (47 effects and eight amp models), six of which can be used simultaneously in any order. Add a chromatic tuner into the equation, and you're looking at a pedal for all seasons.
"Having Zoom's multi-effects in a compact form factor could provide the most practical chameleon pedal so far."
FULL REVIEW: Zoom MS-50G MultiStomp review