We’ve come a long way since the early days of low-quality multi-FX units with cheap plastic housings and questionable effects patches. Nowadays the best multi-effects pedals don’t just add an extra dimension of sound to your pedalboard, they’re here to replace your rig in its entirety.
Reducing the size of your rig is something all of us guitarists have contemplated at one point or another, usually two flights into lugging that hefty tube amp up a narrow set of sticky venue stairs. The fact is more and more guitarists are resorting to using multi-effects pedals whether it's to augment their existing setup and save space or to take the reins entirely and replace their rig with something that includes amp and cab modeling.
Lucky for you there’s an incredible amount of choice out there right now, and we’ve gathered all of the best choices from the biggest manufacturers in this handy guide. If you’re new to the world of multi-effects pedals then make sure to check out our buying advice section at the bottom of this article, otherwise keep scrolling to see our top picks…
Best multi-effects pedals: Our top picks
Narrowing down this packed field to just one best multi-effects pedal was a tough ask, but we finally settled on the Line 6 Helix. It delivers absolutely everything you’ll need from a multi-effects pedal, combining amp models and effects to make it the best way to condense your entire rig down to one handy unit.
Coming in a close second is the mighty Neural DSP Quad Cortex. With its incredibly powerful 2GHz Quad-Core SHARC DSP processing, it delivers some of the finest amp modeling these ears have ever heard. Add in its small form factor and clever dual-use footswitches and you have the ultimate pack in a bag rig.
Not ready to drop north of a grand on a pedal? Worry not, because the Mooer GE200 is a properly good multi-effects unit that’s perfect for budget-conscious or beginner guitar players. It’s packed with amp models, effects, and even has support for loading third-party IRs.
Best multi-effects pedals: Product guide
The dual-DSP-powered Helix combines amp and effects models in a large, rugged floor pedal. There are a massive 1,024 preset locations onboard the Helix, organised into eight setlists that contain 32 banks with four presets each. Each preset can have up to four stereo signal paths, each made up of eight blocks populated with amps and effects.
With the current count of 41 modelled amps, seven bass amps, 30 cabs, 16 mics, 80 effects and the option of loading speaker impulse responses, there's great potential for sound creation. Line 6 has implemented an easy editing system, complete with a joystick, and - get this - touch-sensitive footswitches offering a shortcut to parameter adjustment; you can even use these with your feet to select a parameter before adjusting it with the pedal treadle!
There are some great sounds here, especially when we got beyond the factory presets and shaped things to our own tastes. The Helix's advantage lies in its comprehensive input/output and signal routing ability, which can facilitate just about any guitar-related studio or onstage task you can think of. However, if you don't need all that connectivity, and want to save a bit of cash, there's also the Line 6 Helix LT which features further down this list.
Read our full Line 6 Helix review
Harnessing the power of 2GHz Quad-Core SHARC DSP, the Neural DSP Quad Cortex is a supremely powerful tool for the pro guitar player. It’s not cheap, but there’s a reason many pro-guitar players are switching to this brilliant amp modeler slash profiler.
The processing power of the QC means that the quality of the effects and amp models is simply jaw-dropping. In a blind test we doubt many guitarists could tell the difference between the QC and the real deal, and when you add in the ability to model your own gear - you’ve got little reason not to make the switch to modeling.
The unit itself is compact yet extremely rugged, and we absolutely love the clever footswitch/rotary control hybrids, allowing the QC to stay smaller than the vast majority of competing amp modelers. Just imagine, all of your amps, cabs, and effects pedals in a unit no bigger than a laptop. Simply incredible stuff.
Read the full Neural DSP Quad Cortex review
After the success of the DD-500, RV-500 and MD-500 units, Boss's GT-1000 floorboard combines all three. Sleek and modern, it's a formidably robust beast. To the rear, there’s the usual array of inputs and outputs, including USB recording out and an input for an additional expression pedal plus jacks to insert two mono pedals, or one stereo external pedal and a nifty send for amp channel-switching.
In terms of editing, we didn't find it to be the most intuitive. For example, when you switch between patches in a bank, you’re not just turning off, say, a ‘Tube Screamer’, but switching to a different chain that doesn’t have a gain block – standard in rack-style processing, but tough for beginners.
Sounds-wise, the 32-bit, 96khz sampling finds the GT-1000 punching above its weight, and on the effects side, there’s a wealth of modulations, delays, reverbs and drives. If you run a larger, more traditional pedalboard, perhaps the so-called ‘Bossfecta’ of the MD, RV and DD-500 series units would provide more flexibility, but for most players, the GT-1000 is a highly practical solution.
Read our full Boss GT-1000 Guitar Effects Processor review
The Kemper Profiler Stage is way more than just a multi-effects pedal. It replaces your rig entirely, giving you every amp and effect combination you could ever dream of. Coming in a handy pedalboard format, this powerful profiler could well be the last guitar purchase you ever make.
Pre-loaded with some of the finest amp models and effects ever made, everything here has been profiled in professional recording studios, ensuring you get the best sound possible. There are distortions, delays, choruses, and pretty much any other effect you can think of, all easily edited with Kemper’s Rig Manager app.
The unit itself is sturdily built, giving you plenty of reassurance that it will put up with a hectic touring schedule. A built-in looper and tuner offer extra functionality and you can plug in up to four expression pedals to modulate any parameter you like. Add in the wealth of connections on the back and you’ve got one of the most complete multi-effects pedals out there.
Read the full Kemper Profiler Stage review.
The Chinese brand Mooer has slowly but surely built itself a reputation for hitting the sweet spot between price and performance. What began as a brand offering low-cost versions of existing big name pedals has grown to them now being considered a genuine contender at the low-to-mid range.
The Mooer GE200 is a great example, offering a selection of effects, models and tools that wouldn't look (or sound) out of place on a unit far higher up the effects food chain. The 70 included effects all sound great, and we particularly liked the ability to load your own impulse responses to fine-tune your speaker outputs. Very capable, and definitely worth your attention.
The HX Stomp contains 300 effects, including the Helix, M Series and legacy Line 6 patches, as well as the amp, cab and mic options of the full-fat Helix. It even supports loading impulse responses, so if you have modelled your own amps, or purchased commercial IRs, they can be loaded as well.
Cramming not only the sounds of those units, but also a full-colour screen into a unit the size of the HX Stomp is certainly impressive and no mean feat. With MIDI in and out, there’s clearly been some consideration for those that want to incorporate the HX Stomp into a rig controlled by a pedal switcher. In that context, it’s easy to see the attraction.
Though the HX Stomp is limited in terms of its controls on the front, it’s highly customisable, and offers a broad palette of professional-grade effects to explore. For the guitarist that wants specific modulations, delays or a cab sim on tap ‘just in case,’ the HX Stomp is a smart, compact solution, and the capacitive footswitches make assigning and editing a relatively error-free procedure - it’s unlikely you’ll need to refer to the manual much at all. And if you don't need the amp models and fancy a few more footswitches, there's also the HX Effects.
Read our full Line 6 HX Stomp review
The Eventide H90 Harmonizer is the follow-up to the cult classic Eventide H9, of which many could be found on pro guitarists’ pedalboards. Loads of guitarists were adding two H9s to their ‘boards to make the most out of the amazing algorithms on board, so it made sense for the next iteration that Eventide would essentially stick two H9s together in one unit.
The H90 does an amazing job of marrying your more run-of-the-mill delays and reverbs with some of the weirder pitch-shifting effects to make something that’s perfect for the sonic explorers. If you feel like you’ve tried every effect out there and nothing is quite cutting it for you, then this powerful bit of kit might be the perfect choice.
There’s an incredible array of routing options for integrating it into your rig, and you can select which effects you want to run before or after your amplifier for extra flexibility. As well as being an incredibly powerful tool for guitarists, it’s also right at home in the studio thanks to its excellent editing app.
Read the full Eventide H90 Harmonizer review
The TC Electronic Plethora X5 takes some of the company’s best TonePrint pedals and puts them all in one handy unit for you. It comes at a very reasonable price too, considering the number of effects you get.
Chain up to five pedals together including some stone-cold classics like the Flashback delay and Hall of Fame Reverb, as well as a bunch of other modulation and more workhorse effects like a noise gate and compressor. You can stack multiples of the same pedal, although you may run into artifacts with too many.
You can then store your chain as a ‘scene’, giving you a different flavor of tone for each song in your setlist. TC Electronic has also added more pedals via firmware since its launch, so there’s potential for powerful upgrades in the future too.
Read the full TC Electronic Plethora X5 review.
Coming in at around half the price of the flagship GT-1000, the Boss GX-100 certainly doesn’t offer half the performance. This is a professional-level multi-effects, with an intermediate price tag.
This sleek and stylish unit houses an impressive 23 amplifier models and a mega 150 effects. Now, as you’d expect from the world’s most famous pedal brand, the effects in the GX-100 are nothing short of spectacular. In fact, they are the same as the effects found in its big brother, the GT-1000.
The unit also features a vivid colour touch display which makes the task of editing, programming and selecting sounds a total breeze.
Read our full Boss GX-100 review
Back with a serious functionality upgrade, the HeadRush Prime takes everything that was great about the HeadRush Pedalboard and amplifies it tenfold. As well as being an amp and effects modeler, it enables you to profile fresh amplifiers and process vocals alongside your guitar, making it a supremely powerful choice.
With a massive 300 effects and over 50 amp sims built-in - plus loads more to be added via firmware updates - HeadRush has painstakingly modeled pretty much any stompbox and amplifier you can think of. There’s some serious depth on offer here and the ability to create your own ‘scenes’ essentially making it work like a multi-switcher, makes it a great choice for the gigging guitarist.
As well as an entirely separate section for vocal FX processing that includes Antares AutoTune, it’s got a built-in looper which is super-fun to play with. You can import tracks and loops to jam along with, all triggered via the footswitches. You can also clone your favorite amplifiers and pedals with ease, making it one of the most complete multi-effects pedals money can buy.
The slightly older among us will remember the classic Zoom 505 unit from the '90s. With that, Zoom introduced cost-effective multi-effects units to a new generation, and that heritage is evident in the Zoom G5n.
Packing in 68 digital effects, 10 amp and cabinet emulators and a stereo looper with up to 80 seconds of looping time, the Zoom G5n is a worthy option for beginners or anyone looking to expand their options. The USB audio interface is a welcome addition, although we'd have liked to have the option to sync the device with MIDI. For this price, however, that's a minor gripe.
Read our full Zoom G5n review
Following a raft of recent updates, the MS-50G now boasts over 100 effects and 22 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.
The very playable amp models cover the popular options: there are three Fenders ('65 Twin Reverb, '65 Deluxe Reverb, Tweed Bassman), a Vox AC30 and a Marshall Plexi. You also get a Two-Rock Emerald 50, while a Diezel Herbert and Engl Invader cover the high-gain side of things.
Effects include modulation, filter, pitch shift, distortion, delay and reverb. Most are generic, but some, particularly in the overdrive/distortion category, are modelled on well-known devices – the Big Muff and TS-808, for example. Each patch can be constructed from a chain of six effects blocks, each with a modelled amp or effect, DSP permitting. It all adds up to the most practical, cost-effective way to expand your pedalboard by adding a single pedal.
Read our full Zoom MS-50G MultiStomp review
If you've been following the rise of NUX, then you'll know they pride themselves on making everything from amplifiers to electronic drum kits accessible to everyone - and that extends to multi-effects units.
The newly released MG-400 is their latest pedal, and frankly, it may be their best unit yet. This value-packed modeller builds on what NUX established with the MG-300 and is powered by their flagship White-Box Amp Modeling algorithm.
Better yet, the new MG-400 introduces scene functionality which allows you set up "snapshots" within a preset, for easy recall of multiple effects - perfect for gigging guitar players!
For us, the NUX MG-400 is an insanely powerful multi-effects unit that certainly out performs its price range.
Best multi-effects pedals: Buying advice
What should I look for in a multi-effects pedal?
If there's one thing you've got when choosing the best multi-effects pedal for you, it's a wide selection. As with anything, your allocated budget will dictate which end of the spectrum you'll end up at, but there’s plenty of choice, from enormous 'studio-in-a-box' type units, to small form-factor pedals that pack a handful of essential effects onto your pedalboard. Here are some things to consider.
How many effects is too many?
We've all seen examples of someone firing up a multi-effects unit, blasting through the presets like a kid in a sweetshop, but it’s crucially important to consider the types of effects you'll actually use.
Be realistic with yourself, because it’s likely you’ll settle on a small handful of the best guitar effects. Would you be better served looking for a smaller, more capable unit to handle the effects you use the most? Or do you absolutely need the spaceship-looking behemoth full of wacky sounds?
The alternative theory is that, occasionally, you can stumble on something you've never used before and it can spark your creativity. This definitely happens, and is a happy side benefit of having so many effects at your beck and call. For a beginner, the sub-$200 range has plenty to get you excited.
If packing in as many effects as you can into a single box is your aim, you'll find plenty of options to choose from at all ends of the price scale. From budget options like the smaller Zoom pedals, through to entry-level versions of the pro models from the big names in effects like Boss and Line 6.
What do I get if I spend a bit more?
As you move up the range, you'll start to see extra features and functionality like loopers, hardened chassis models and extra connectivity. It's not uncommon now for multi-effects to link with apps on your smart device, where you can get in for deep editing of parameters and settings.
Also common nowadays is for a multi-effects unit to double up as an audio interface or amp modeller. These USB-enabled devices can be plugged into one of the best laptops for music production, allowing you to record songs into a digital audio workstation (DAW) like Ableton Live or Pro Tools.
As ever though, our advice is simple. Work out what you'll realistically want, need or use. Be clear on your budget. Don't be distracted by extra bells and whistles - unless that’s what you want.
Are multi-effects pedals worth it?
It all depends on what you value when it comes to guitar. There are many guitarists who prefer a traditional pedalboard layout. You can tweak each pedal individually without menu diving, reorder them at will, or replace them whenever you feel like something isn’t working.
However with a multi-effects unit, you’ve got less chance of failure due to bad patch cables or faulty pedalboard power supplies, less to carry around, and they’re usually cheaper when you take into account the cost of some individual pedals.
In terms of pure value for money, we’d argue that yes, multi-effects pedals are worth the investment. You get much more bang for your buck with a multi-effects pedal, at the expense of some ease of use.
How do we test a multi-effects pedal?
Testing out a multi-effects pedal is a fairly straightforward procedure, and similar to testing a standalone stompbox. Although the quality of pedals is subjective - like many pieces of musical equipment - there is a set of criteria that every pedal should meet before we recommend it to anyone.
We'll first start with the build quality of the enclosure, controls and footswitch. Pedals are designed to be stood on, so we need to ensure that the enclosure and footswitch feel robust, solid and able to withstand being stamped on. We then check the quality of the dials, making sure that they have a smooth action with enough resistance to reduce accidental movement.
We also check to see how well spaced out and easy to use the footswitches are. We'll also check the expression pedal if there is one, and make note of its action and usability. Multi-effects pedals are here to make your lives easier, after all.
We then test the pedals sonically, and much like our amp testing procedures, we start with every dial in the middle '12 o'clock' position. We then tweak each dial towards a tone we would usually go for - and make sure that we experiment with the full range of sounds on offer. We'll then check any amp or effect emulations or presets. We'll cycle through those, while editing a few as we go to see how easy the process is (or isn't).
Read more about how we test music making gear and services at MusicRadar.
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