It's been another 12 months packed with great effects pedal releases and the market has never been more vibrant. There's a lot to pick through, and we've taken the time to consider our favourites for different reasons.
Great tone is a given. Exceptional premium effects deserve recognition but we also want to shine a light on value in our list too.
Here are our top 11, in no particular order of preference…
1. TC Electronic SCF Gold Chorus
Reissues give us a chance to not only reappraise a pedal, but for it to find new fans who didn't know what they were missing. So it proves with this excellent modulation pedal.
A celebrated analogue stereo chorus / flanger and pitch modulator from back in the dawn of TC Electronic, this has flown under the radar next to Boss in the chorus pedal stakes because it was discontinued. Eric Johnson is a well known fan, but its wide range of lush tones have a wide appeal that could make this a go-to modulation station for many players.
2. MXR Custom Shop Duke Of Tone
Analogue Man's King Of Tone is simply on too many pros' pedalboards to be a victim of hype, but its four-year waiting list isn't a myth either. Designer Mike Piera teamed with Jeorge Tripps and MXR to deliver half a KOT in mini form for the mass market – essentially a mini Prince Of Tone.
If it's a comparatively high price for an overdrive pedal, it more than justifies it for us with three modes to deliver a superb boost, overdrive and distortion that's as articulate as it is versatile. Great for stacking too.
3. Walrus Audio Slötvå Multi Texture Reverb
The market isn't exactly short on reverb pedals so companies really have to pull out the stops to impress these days. Enter Walrus, already proving to be experts when it comes to inspirational tone boxes.
The Slötvå simply takes the existing Slö pedal and adds three preset slots; a hugely useful addition because you'll need them for all the wonderful tones you'll create. This is not a do-it-all reverb, more exactly what the words 'cinematic soundscapes' were designed for. We specially love that sustain switch for solo jams.
4. Maestro Mariner Tremolo
Tremolo pedals aren't the belles of the pedalboard ball; they don't often get the love they deserve. This new analogue design as part of the the second wave of effects from the revived '60s brand Maestro does a superb job of showcasing vintage tremolo tones.
Classic and harmonic tremolo modes both impress here on a pedal that doesn't seek to reinvent anything but simply offer two excellent modes with plenty of scope within them. The latter recalling sounds on classic ‘60s Fender tube amps including the Bandmaster and Vibrasonic. Classic exactly as you'd hope; the depth and range controls here allowing you to explore a wide range from subtle textures to thumping pulsations.
5. Walrus Audio M1 High-Fidelity Modulation Machine
Walrus again? The US company has had a very good year with the Lore delay/reverb, Eons fuzz and Mira Optical Compressor all impressing. The M1 wasn't even the only Mako Series pedal of the year as the D1 delay got a V2 upgrade, but in delivering a comprehensive modulation experience, it had to be the former pedal as our choice.
The only thin missing here for us here is a flanger (and with the fine job the company does in supporting products with firmware updates we wouldn't rule it out) but the sheer range of chorus, phaser, tremolo, vibrato, rotary, and filter sounds with the comprehensive parameter controls here is almost overwhelming at first.
7. Chase Bliss Habit
We love to hear familiar tones refined and tweaked by pedal companies, but we need the designers who live to suprise and inspire by deviating from tradition with effects to go down a rabbit hole with. That's kind of the Chase Bliss modus operandi; it could easily put out 'safer' pedals and make money but it chooses to carve a bolder path. And the Habit really defines that.
It's a digital delay pedal with two playback heads, and delay times that can go up to one minute. Throw in pitch shifting effects and this is a pedal for creation, rather than colouring existing parts. The company even call it a 'musical sketchpad' with complex stutters, multi-tap cascades and random interludes available from its memory. It's not for everyone, it's $400 and it needs plenty of time to explore and find happy accidents, but it rewards it in a compact unit with a hugely helpful instruction manual (other companies should study this). We need makers like Chase Bliss and pedals like Habit.
8. SoundLad Liverpool Hungry Beaver
One of our favourite things about the effects pedal industry is that it can host established giants like Boss as well as one-man operations. It helps the market thrive. It also helps that soundLad Liverpool's Marc Dunn is consistently trying to create effects that stand out in a packed marketplace, and at affordable price points.
We haven't actually got round to trying his new trio of pedals yet but we reviewed his first fuzz pedal in 2022, and we never forgot it. Yes, the name is a cheeky nod to the Big Muff, but Marc's really gone to town here with a surprisingly versatile pedal that's its own animal (and with 30db of boost). It rewards your time to understand its unique controls with a feast of fuzzy goodness for £99.
9. Boss RE-202
The compact RE-2 is excellent and the best choice for size vs price and features, but let's go whole hog here with all the bells and whistles. The original RE-201 unit finally gets the floor unit it deserves with all the tape delay and spring reverb goodness Boss's digital technology can deliver. And it really does. Wow and flutter indeed.
It also builds on the legacy; there's four virtual heads now, rather than three with 12 modes in total and the option to add reverb independently to them. Four onboard presets is also a welcome feature. Oh, and it nails the sounds.
10. EarthQuaker Devices Special Cranker
We could have filled this list with overdrive pedals but the return of the original Speaker Cranker (with improvements) needs its spotlight. This $99 mid-gain pedal has huge potential appeal because it works so well with your amp, while giving you the options to enhance grit and boost without stomping all over it.
The diode selector switch allows you to select between the original Speaker Cranker's brighter silicone response and a new, softer character Germanium option. The Tone control is perhaps the big selling point here; treble frequency to works with your sound without smearing or muddying in its saturation. Sometimes just getting more out of your dynamics without reinventing your sound is what we all need.
11. Eventide H90
A late contender, that comes out swinging plenty of algorithms around. The Eventide H9's 2022 successor has plenty to add to the story but it's easy to forget just how unique and ahead of their time even the most established sounds are on this unit. There's no real competition when it comes to these sounds.
Recent standalone units that featured flagship H9 algorithms like the MicroPitch delay and Blackhole reverb are in here, but the improvements raise this up to a new level. OLED display, ARM processing and 10 new algorithms, with the ability to run two at once – in stereo if you require. There's a galaxy of sounds in here with a potential that would take a lifetime to fully explore.