Guitar Pedals Vs Multi-Effects – Find Out The Best One For You


If you play an electric guitar, the chances of playing it clean or without any effects are slim. Most guitarists use some kind of effect either is from pedals, from multi-effects or even from the build-in effects in the amp.

But which ones are better? Is it better to use a single pedal or to use multi-effect ones? Let’s take a look at the features both offer before we dive deeper into the subject. 


Guitar PedalMulti-Effect
Type of Effect/EffectsUsually a single effectCustomizable effects
ControlsOn/Off switch and several adjustment knobsA lot of knobs and switches
Power Source9V Better + Power supply For every effectPower supply
DisplayUsually noYes
Space That It TakesA single pedal is small, but it will be used on a pedalboard which is between 14 and 42 inches wide (36 – 107 cm)Between 5 to 25 inches (13cm to 64cm)
Need Additional AccessoriesPedal Board + Connecting cables for every pedal1 additional cable
Type Of SoundAnalog Or DigitalDigital
PriceA single pedal with patch cables cost around $30 to $400.

A pedalboard with a bag and aggregated power supply costs around $80 to $350.

A decent pedalboard consists of at least several pedals, lest say 4. It can cost $200 – $1950
It starts from $50 for the lower end units.

The higher-end units cost around $600 – $1500

Now, before we start going through the pros and cons of each, we should mention that both single pedals and multi-effects have their purpose. Some players would prefer one, while others would always choose the opposite. It wouldn’t be right to state that one is better than the other. So, in the end, you should try ones that fit your playing and style better. You will be able to find both of these that are excellent quality and with incredible sound. 

Single Guitar Pedals

When it comes to single-effect pedals, they are rather easy to use. All you’ll have to do is plug in the cables and play. The main difference is that you will have usually only one effect at your disposal. One of the main questions is what kind of music do you play, and according to that, you will find the right pedal. If you are playing blues, for example, you won’t need tons of effects and you can play with only a few pedals, like boost or drive and maybe delay. 

Among the most popular effects are boosts, drives, distortions, delays, wah, chorus, fuzz, and many others. They will use the signal from the guitar and change it before it goes to the amplifier. Of course, you could always put them through the effect loop if your amp has one. Some amps offer an effect loop in which case you won’t use standard input/output to connect everything. Effect loop allows you to simulate as if effects or pedals were already in your amplifier, by placing it after the preamp section of the amp. They are one of the best ways to tailor your sound and create something unique and perfect for your playing style. 

However, if we compare them to the multi-effects or processors, there are both advantages and disadvantages between the two. So, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of single pedal effects.

Pros

Firstly, we should mention that they are easy to mount. You won’t need an engineer to make everything work. All you’ll need is an extra cable, and you’ll be ready to go. Of course, using a single effect will make it easier for you to find the exact sound you were looking for. If we think about it, single-effect pedals have only one thing to do, and you can be sure that they will do it better than something that can create the same effect among other things.

While not all pedals are analog and there are some that are digital, it is still possible to find a guitar pedal that is completely analog. There are so many guitarists that prefer this type of signal to the digital one. This is also one of the main differences in the quality and color of the sound. 

There is no secret that people who are looking for something special will always opt for a single pedal effect. Furthermore, each of the effects will usually have fine-tuning via potentiometers and knobs at the top. So, not only that you’ll be able to have a specific pedal for the effect, but you will also have additional options when it comes to the color of the tone. Since they are so popular, you will have almost infinite options when it comes to brands and variations of each of the effects. Plus, you can always get more to experiment and try something new.

One of the important aspects is power. You can mount all of your pedals on the pedalboard which will make it easier both for navigation and power supply. Depending on the number of the pedals on your pedalboard, you will be able to find an appropriate power supply that will be able to provide “juice” for all of them at the same time. 

When it comes to customization, you will be able to adjust each of the petals individually. By this, we mean that you can select the order of the effects. If you like your wah to be before everything else for some reason, you can just put it in the first place. It is important to understand the order of the pedals on your pedalboard, and wiring them properly couldn’t be easier. Furthermore, while we talk about order, you will be able to place them where you like the most. Each of us has different habits and preferences, and you might want your wah pedal to be on the right side, or on the left, or anywhere. By having it all separated, you will be able to rearrange them as you see fit. 

Finally, there are so many choices when it comes to pedals that you will be able to find ones that have the same sound but different sizes. If you are trying to create a smaller pedalboard, you will just find pedals that are smaller. You won’t have to worry if your delay is too large for your pedalboard. Besides, you can even find mini wah that is half the size of the regular one. 

Cons

Of course, pedals aren’t perfect.  Nothing is. So you will have to think about the cons as well. There are several things that players don’t like and we should try to mention everything. 

The first thing you might encounter is the price. Building your pedalboard is fun. However, it might not be fun for your wallet. Pedals can be expensive and finding the perfect one might prove to be difficult if you are trying to do it on a budget. You should know that pedals can go over several hundred each depending on the sound you are looking for. 

While we are talking about the costs, you should also consider that building a pedalboard isn’t free either. You will need to cover the cost of a pedalboard, as well as the power supply and all the cables. Even though pedals run on 9V batteries usually, this might turn out to be a problem. If you have, let’s say, ten pedals, you will need to buy ten batteries. Plus, if you are performing somewhere, it would be a good idea to have spare batteries in case one of them dies. And as you can imagine, this will also cost money. 

One of the main problems of the pedalboard is space. If you create a pedalboard that is perfect for you, you will need to transport it somehow. While this might not be a problem for smaller ones with three or four pedals, it can be quite a bother for larger ones. 

Finally, if one of the patch cables goes bad, it might take you a while to figure out which one is broken. In addition, you will need to have extra patch cables always. So, for a large pedalboard, you will need tons of batteries, even more cables, and a lot of space. 

We should also mention that if you want a new effect or to try something different, you will need to go to the store and buy one. You won’t have the option of adding a new effect without buying a pedal for it. Of course, you will need more cables and batteries for extra pedals. 

Guitar Multi-Effects

As you can expect, a multi-effect will allow you to have several effects on a single device. Unlike single pedals, you won’t be able to change the effects and order at any time. There are advanced units that have four or five channels or slots where you can create an effect and make your own preset for playing. Furthermore, the quality of these units has improved quite a bit in the past years that you won’t sacrifice that much tone (if any). There are players that will argue that you will never create the sound that is as good and authentic as a single pedal. However, we should mention that technology is only improving, and since we mentioned expensive pedals, we should also mention expensive multi-effects units that will allow you to create an incredible tone. So, let’s dive into the pros and cons.

Pros

Multi-effects are cheaper. Unlike single pedals, you won’t have to buy a dozen different devices since you will have the all-in-one unit. Even if you get a more expensive one, you will need only one, and you won’t need to buy anything in addition. There are multi-effects that come with an expression pedal so you will be able to use effects like wah and volume using them. Since we mentioned pedals that can be two or three hundred dollars, you can get incredible multi-effects for five or six hundred dollars.

Furthermore, you will need only a single power source to ensure that your unit has enough power. Unlike pedals, you won’t have to get dozens of batteries and cables, and you will need a single power source. So, you should take into consideration that these units draw much less power. 

Of course, when it comes to sound, they offer hundreds of different sounds and options. Even if you have five channels or slots, you will be able to place any sound on them from the preset. Naturally, you will be able to digitally mod them almost in the same way you would turn the knobs on your regular pedal. 

When it comes to space, even the largest multi-effect unit is usually smaller than the pedalboard, so you will save so much space, and it will be easier for you if you travel. You won’t need to worry about creating pedalboard, and thinking of a way to carry it around. 

Finally, you can create presets for the entire song, so if you want, you can just press a single button and activate the desired sound for that song. On the pedals, you will need to turn them on and off one by one, and changing the settings on each of the pedals would take you too much time. 

When it comes to experimenting, you will have a lot more options. If you want to try something new, you won’t need to go and buy a pedal for that. All you need to do is press a button, and if you don’t like it, just forget that it even exists. We should also mention that you will need one cable in, and one cable out. So you won’t need a thousand cables for all the effects they offer.

Cons

One of the main issues with multi-effects is reliability. If you buy a cheaper one, you will grow out of it. There are so many players that buy cheap multi-effect and stop using it after a while. While this might not be true for expensive ones, not everyone can afford expensive equipment, so you should consider if it’s worth buying a cheap one. Furthermore, if something goes wrong with it, you will be left with no effects at all. Unlike pedals, you won’t be able to just turn off a single effect. The whole thing won’t work. 

While there are a rather expensive multi-effects out there, many players will say that digital sound will never be as good as analog. Of course, when it comes to editing the sound on the go, it won’t be as easy. There is a display that works for the entire unit, and you will need to find the effect that you want to change and then change it, save it, and so on. It might take you a while to get a hold of it. Besides, these digital screens are usually small so it will make things only more complicated. 

When it comes to preset, most of the units will offer them. However, they are mostly average quality and you will need to tweak them in order to create the sound that you need or that you imagined. Naturally, having too many options can sometimes be confusing and difficult for users. 

If you buy cheaper ones, the effects will come in order, and it won’t be easy to find the ones that you like. Furthermore, you won’t be able to change the position of the footswitch and some units are more difficult to get used to. There are people that will say that multi-effects are “jack of all trades – master of none.” 

Examples Of Pedals and Multi-Effects 

We should also mention some of the best and most popular pedals and effects. Whether you opt to get a single pedal or a multi-effect unit, we should try to give you some suggestions and recommendations. We will only mention one per category, so we won’t list two pedals that do the same thing. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to list all the incredible pedals that are available on the market, so we will stick to our favorite ones. 

Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal

Usually, guitar players love the overdrive effect. And throughout history, not many pedals had an impact as Ibanez Tube Screamer. If you have never tried it, this might be the right time. Naturally, there are so many different options out there, so be sure to try and find one that is perfect for you. 

Dunlop Cry Baby Wah Pedal

One of the most popular and most recognizable pedals in history. Everyone used them, from Clapton to Zakk Wylde. Dunlop’s Cry Baby left an important mark in music history, and if you are looking for the best wah, many players will say that this is the one.

Fender Mirror Image Delay Pedal

Delay pedals are great and they are so much fun to use. While there are so many options, it might be a good idea to try a few before deciding which one if the right for your taste. 

Boss Premium GT-100 Multi-Effect

The options are almost infinite and there are so many great processors out there. You will get several footswitches as well as an expression pedal. The price for this one is not the highest, but you can be sure that the quality is great.  

Line 6 Helix LT Multi-Effect

One of the finest processors out there that offers so many options and comfort. As you can expect, the price is not really cheap. If you are looking for incredible multi-effect processors, this one won’t disappoint you. 

Conclusion

It would be wrong to say that one thing is better than the other, and in the end, you should pick the option you like more. Similar to almost everything in music, pedals vs. multi-effects discussion is subjective and some players prefer one to the other. We listed the most obvious and popular pros and cons here so you can easily decide which one would fit the best for you. In the end, that’s all that is important. 

If you are looking for a more clear authentic sound for your guitar, then the pedals might be the right choice. However, if you are looking for something cheaper that gives you a lot more options, then you should stick with one of the incredible processors.

If you found this article useful you may want to save this pin below to your Guitar board

Jacob

I have been playing guitar since 2004. I have a huge passion for rock music and I extremely enjoy playing it. I created this website so I can help as many as possible on their guitar journey. Read More About Me

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