This has been another year that adds weight to our suspicion that we are truly living in the golden age of guitar effects pedals.
We are seeing two converging trends. There are the retro-hunters, the forensic tone archeologists who are grabbing up vintage capacitors and modding existing circuits in an effort to resurrect tones of a bygone era with a sense of authenticity that would fool those who heard them the first time around. Them there is the onwards march of technology, modelling platforms that algorithmically map out the contours of sound and make them more accessible.
This list of the best of 2019's pedals, as voted for by you, has a bit of both. It features pedals from pedalboard perennials such as Boss and Electro-Harmonix, whose longevity and ubiquity has not dulled their appetite for R&D, but also really cool pedals from a number of boutique effects companies, including ThorpyFX, Free The Tone and Sinvertek. And, of course, no "Best of . . . " pedals list is going to be complete without something from Strymon.
Sure, there is a multi-effects unit in this list with the processing power to challenge the established industry heavyweights, and might just be the one-size-fits-all solution for gigging musicians on the go.
But, ultimately, reading this list of your favourites from this year, only one thought is going through our minds . . . You're gonna need a bigger pedalboard.
1. Strymon Iridium amp modeller and IR cab sim
Designed with players who are going direct into a p.a. system or to a DAW, the Strymon Iridiium is a stompbox amp modeller and IR cab sim that is voiced after three classic amplifiers.
The Round Amp mode is based on the gorgeous cleans of the Fender Deluxe Reverb, the Chime Amp mode offers some of the British jangle and brightness of the VOX AC30, while the Punch Amp offers a hotrodded Marshall Plexi 1959 Super Lead tone, with a little more gain on tap.
With nine impulse responses captured by the likes of OwnHammer, Celestion, cabIR and Valhallir, plus amp-like controls and the inherent familiarity in using these as you would an amplifier, the Iridium is a phenomenal piece of kit.
2. Boss DD-200 Digital Delay
The DD-200 condenses features from Boss's flagship DD-500 into a compact yet powerful delay package. If you're in the market for a Boss delay, these are the top of the line. Packing 12 delay types, including the retro space echo (Tape), Binson echorec 2 (Drum) and the textural pad echo, the DD-200 also offers a 60-second phrase looper and four onboard memories to call up when you need.
3. Strymon Volante Magnetic Echo Machine
The Volante emulates vintage tape echo machines without the bulk, noise and constant maintenance. More creative delay applications are a cinch, too. All straightforward delay tasks can be executed with exacting control over the sound of the repeats. Complex rhythmic repeat patterns, sheets of ambience hanging in the background, a sound-on-sound looper capability . . . The Volante handles it all with ease,
4. ThorpyFX The Deep Oggin Chorus/Vibrato
This all-analalogue chorus and vibrato features the best of British effects pedal design. The smart chrome enclosure looks cool, feels indestructible, has a straightforward layout, and is housing some very smart circuitry. Both the chorus and vibrato sound immaculate, but you get a lot of joy out of the blend control that well help you find the sweet spot between your dry signal and both effects in tandem. There is a lot of range, from subtle to less so.
5. Seymour Duncan Dark Sun Delay and Reverb
Seymour Duncan enlisted the services of Mark Holcomb from Periphery to help create the Dark Sun – a pedal that provides space and ambience by putting reverb and digital delay in one box and offering plenty of adjustable parameters, a choice of options for combining the effects, and a whopping 128 onboard presets. Hugely configurable, potentially tranformative, the Dark Sun is a state-of-the-art delay/reverb.
6. Hudson Broadcast AP Ariel Posen Signature Preamp
Designed in association with Canadian slide ace Ariel Posen and exclusive to Andertons, the Broadcast-AP is not unlike the Hudson's non-signature Broadcast in that it shares much of the same circuitry and is designed to saturate your signal much in the same way as vintage recording consoles. However, featuring a pair of silicon transistors and an OEP transformer, it is built to clean up frequencies below 100Hz, so expect the Broadcast-AP to be a little darker, with a heavier and more defined low-end.
7. Fender Tre-Verb Tremolo/Reverb
The harmonic tremolo setting, the ’63 brown face reverb tank, the ’65 black face reverb, plus a studio-style plate reverb emulation . . . There's a whole lot going on with this delicious Fender tremolo and reverb, and a wide range of classic tones. With its muddy, vintage tone and washiness on longer settings, the ’63 brown face is perfect for atmospheric post-metal, and perfect for adding fatness and colour to Tele-pickup blues licks if you dial back the dwell and blend controls.
8. Mooer GE-300 multi-effects pedal
A bona-fide challenger to the likes of Line 6 and Boss, Mooer's flagship multi-effects unit has a smart, super-tough enclosure and an intuitive interface that won't stand in your way when accessing its voluminous functionality. There are some convincing amp models on hand so you have some Marshall and Fender tone on-tap, plus there is a whole heap of effects, including a monosynth, which has all kinds of onboard oscillators to play around with.
9. Electro-Harmonix Attack Delay Tape Reverse Simulator
This reissue of Electro-Harmonix's legendary and much sough-after early-'80s original brings its reversed tape effect, bowed sounds and volume swells back for a new generation of players. But it's also new and improved, borrowing some tech from the HOG2 to give the Attack Delay a Poly mode that means any note you’ve played doesn’t immediately cut out when you play a new one. With separate volume envelopes for every note you play, it makes for a much more flexible effect.
10. Electro-Harmonix Bass Mono Synth
At just £115, the Bass Mono Synth is a steal, offering bassists – finally – a bass synth with super-fast tracking and a wide variety of synth tones to play around with. The sound quality is exceptional. There are 11 synth modes, and with each setting notably different from the last, there are plenty of interesting options available to adventurous bassists, all of which are configurable and highly usable.
11. Fender The Pinwheel Rotary Speaker
Fender has been knocking it out the park with its contemporary effects line. The Pinwheel is no different. There are few better stompboxes that give you those psychedelic Leslie effects at the touch of a footswitch. There are a lot of controls to acquaint yourself with but there is no deep mystery, just options. Great options, such as the drive control, which adds a warm vintage boost to your tone, or the sensitivity control, which works with your picking dynamics so you can really make this your own.
12. Electro-Harmonix Mono Synth
Ranked a couple of positions below the bass version, probably because of the euphoria from bassists who finally have an affordable and awesome synth to work with. With solid tracking, 11 different synth types and 11 programmable presets for each type, well, that's a whole lot of synth. Want to go all Gary Numan? Point that dial to Nu Wave. Tuned towards the '80s generation of synths, this is a fun and expressive synth in a stompbox.
13. Supro 1313 Analog Delay
One for the bucket brigade fans out there, this little doozy from Supro actually offers longer delay times than most vintage units. You'll get up to 600ms of delay time here. Other cool features include tone shaping on your repeats, so whether you like them bright or dark there's something for you, plus you can connect an expression pedal to control delay times, repeats, and effect level. With circuitry by Deluxe Memory Man designer Howard Davis, there is vintage analogue in its DNA, all with a functionality that's resolutely modern.
14. Free The Tone Future Factory FF-1Y RF Phase Modulation Delay
This is a fancy one, and at £399 it should be, but if you are looking for a studio-quality delay with a cornucopia of tweaking options, the Future Factory should be on the list. Offering stereo and mono outputs, the Future Factory offers two distinct digital delay paths and a modulation effect that sounds really unique, courtesy of an LFO with a phase signal that changes at random when the signal crosses a certain attenuation level. The result? Well, it'll make your tone sound like suspended in air. Pretty trippy, huh?
15. Sinvertek Fluid Time MkII analogue delay
Sinvertek specialise in packing a huge amount of features and great tones into small enclosures, and the Fluid Time MkII is no different, featuring a number of expression modes that can be used in a fashion that enables the second footswitch to toggle between two preset delay time lengths, a pitch-shifted feedback mode, plus there is a momentary oscillation mode. You've got heaps of vintage bucket brigade tone and up to 700ms of delay time courtesy of a quintet of reissue 3208 chips.