Owning one of the best multi-effects pedals for guitarists enables you to access a stack of different effects in one single unit. This makes them very attractive to guitarists looking to save space and who might be looking to consolidate collection that's grown a little out of hand.
Even those of you with the best guitar effects collection might be looking to add something new to your round-up, and if so a versatile multi-effects is definitely worth considering. Once upon a time, even the best multi-effects pedals were seen as perhaps a more inferior option to having individual stomp boxes. That's changed hugely.
Big leaps forward in multi-effects technology have seen these units grow in popularity, which means we now have a bigger choice to play with. So regardless of whether you're starting from scratch with your effects, or you're a hardened pedal-head, now is the time to start looking at how the best multi-effects pedal could benefit your rig. Don't forget to check out our guide to the best pedalboards too.
With Black Friday on the horizon, it could be worth holding off on picking up a new multi-effects pedal until the Black Friday guitar deals and Black Friday music deals start emerging. We'll be reporting on the best offers right through to Black Friday itself.
Which are the best multi-effects pedals right now?
Try as we might, it was difficult to pick out one particular model as the best multi-effects pedal in the world. In terms of pure sound quality, feature-set and reliability it's hard to look beyond the Boss GT-1000. You'd expect the flagship multi-effects pedal from the biggest name in effects to be special, and the GT-1000 certainly delivers.
At the other end of the scale, the Mooer GE200 impressed. The effects all sounded like they came from a much more expensive unit, and the ability to load up your own impulse responses gave it a sense of personalisation which we rated.
Special mention too for the Eventide H9, which is another of our top picks for the best multi-effects pedal. Although more suited to studio than stage, the H9 gets a mention purely on account of the included reverbs and delays. Enough to make the hairs on your neck stand up, and well worth the investment alone.
Best multi-effects pedals: buying advice
If there's one thing you've got when choosing the best multi-effects pedal for you, it's a wide selection. There are small form-factor pedals that pack in a handful of essential effects, and there are enormous 'studio-in-a-box' type units. As with anything, your allocated budget will dictate which end of the spectrum you'll end up at, but there are some key things to point out.
You'll want to consider the types of effects you'll actually use. Be realistic. We've all seen examples of someone firing up a multi-effects unit, blasting through the presets like a kid in a sweetshop, before settling on a small handful of tried and trusted effects. Would that person have been better served looking for a smaller, more capable unit to handle the effects they ended up using?
The alternative theory is that, occasionally, you can stumble on something you've never used before and it can spark your creativity. This 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.
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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.
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 to double up as an audio interface. 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.
The best multi-effects pedals to buy now
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 you get beyond the factory presets and shape things to your own taste. 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
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, it’s not 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 AX8 features the same core modelling engine as the Axe-Fx II for identical sound quality, but has different CPU power and offers just one rather than two amp blocks in its signal chain. It's still pretty potent, though, with 512 onboard presets that are built from a series of blocks. You get amp and cabinet blocks plus blocks for the most commonly used effects, and a looper.
There are 222 amp models, over 130 Factory cabs, plus 512 User Cab memory slots and loads of effects. Everything has a massive amount of editable parameters to get the sound just right, either accessed from the AX8's physical controls or via the free editing software if you connect it to a computer.
With rock-solid construction, the AX8 lays out its 11 footswitches in an easily accessible manner. All of them can be assigned to a host of tasks, all aimed at making your onstage experience go as smoothly as possible.
Sound-wise, Fractal's realistic amp tones, carefully tailored cabinet models and crystal-clear effects give you tones that can stand up next to any conventional amp and effects rig. If you like the idea of an Axe-Fx II but aren't keen on the rackmount format or thought it out of your price range, the AX8 may be right up your street. A worthy addition to our best multi-effects pedals guide.
Read our full Fractal AX8 review
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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.
If you want the best multi-effects pedal that's stuffed with features, the HeadRush Pedalboard is the one. Its quad-core processor-powered DSP platform enables a faster and more guitarist-friendly user interface, reverb/delay tail spill-over between presets, the ability to load custom/third-party impulse responses, a looper with 20 minutes of record time, and more.
The unit's most notable feature, however, is the seven-inch touchscreen, used to edit patches and to create new ones. In form, the Pedalboard most closely resembles Line 6’s Helix in that it has a treadle and 12 footswitches with LED ‘scribble strips’ showing each switch’s function and a colour-coded LED for each.
There are several modes available for calling up sounds, easily changed by a couple of footswitch presses. In Stomp mode, the two footswitches to the left scroll through and select Rigs, while the central eight footswitches call up stompboxes within a selected Rig. Then in Rig mode, the left switches scroll through the Rig banks, while the eight select rigs.
Sound-wise, there's no 'fizz' here, even on higher-gain patches, and the closer you get to a clean amp sound, the more convincing it is. If amps matter to you more than effects, the HeadRush is well worth looking into. And if you're after something with a smaller footprint, there's also the HeadRush Gigboard.
Read our full HeadRush Pedalboard review
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 H9 is a pedal that can run all of Eventide's stompbox effects. All of the effect algorithms (including their associated presets) are available for purchase, but several come already built in - you get Chorus and Tremolo/Pan from the ModFactor, H910/H949 and Crystals from the PitchFactor, Tape Echo and Vintage Delay from the TimeFactor, and Shimmer and Hall from Space - and algorithms are being updated on a regular basis.
The complex effects algorithms feature loads of editable parameters. The H9 has both wireless (Bluetooth) and wired (USB) connections for the free H9 Control editor and librarian software (iOS app, Mac, Windows) for editing, creating and managing presets, changing system settings and purchasing algorithms.
This pedal has been designed to take full advantage of this and it works brilliantly, especially so on an Apple iPad where a few finger swipes zap the pedal through thin air to produce instant results. Other one-effect-at-a-time 'chameleon' pedals exist out there, but the H9 pushes the genre's envelope.
Read our full Eventide H9 review
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
Boss's MS-3 is an ingenious pedalboard solution that gives you programmable loops for three of your own pedals and a host of built-in effects – 112 to be precise. The MS-3 can switch your amp channels, adjust external effects and integrate with MIDI-equipped pedals. Then there’s the built-in tuner, noise suppressor and global EQ. It’s as if Boss looked at everything players could want from a pedalboard controller and crammed it into one compact unit.
There are 200 patch memories for saving your expertly tweaked sounds, each with four effects or pedals that can be switched in or out at will, or four presets that can be instantly recalled. The MS-3 is rammed with pristine modulations, all the essential delay and reverb types, as well as a load of Boss specials, such as the dynamic Tera Echo and sequenced tremolo Slicer. Then there’s the niche yet useful effects, such as an acoustic guitar sim, Slow Gear auto fade-in and that sitar sim you never knew you wanted.
The drive tones don’t live up to standalone pedals, but for most players, we’d wager those three switchable loop slots will be used for analogue drives, with the ES-3 handling modulation, delay and reverb. A genuinely exciting pedalboard development.
Read our full Boss MS-3 Multi Effects Switcher 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