Effect pedal combo boxes to get you started
When you’re starting out on the guitar it can be hard to know where to start with the wacky world of effects. You may hear certain things on records and wonder how you could incorporate them into your sound, or you may know a few effects you want for certain but your creative streak wonders how they would work in combination with other effects. If money were no object, we could all go out and but individual stomps and experiment that way but, if money is an issue, or if you just wanted to try a few things out without committing, then there is another option.
Multi effects pedals, which combine a host of different effects into one unit, have been around for ages and offer the perfect way for guitarists to dip their toes into new areas of sonic exploration. Typically, they’ll contain a range of drives, distortions, modulations (e.g. phaser, chorus or flange), delays, reverbs and, in some units, wah effects, and most can be fully programmed into logical orders so you can set them and forget them. There are plenty around, so here’s our look at the best multi effects pedals for under £250.
We’ll start with this, perhaps the most daunting in appearance on the list, but pound-for-pound probably the best. Boss is one of the big boys in the world of guitar effects, and their pedals are highly rated in terms of sounds, build quality and ease of use. The ME-80 is a great example of what happens when you combine a host of Boss’ famous effects into one unit. It features all the usual effects you’d expect, along with a phrase looper (so you can record loops and play over the top of them) and USB connectivity so you can access an online effect editor. This enables you to tweak using your computer before saving your chosen effects onto the unit for future use. Oh, and it’s a beast in terms of size and weight too; you won’t be breaking this in a hurry.
In the interest of balance, the ME-80’s smaller brother, the ME-25, is perhaps a safer option if you’re still not 100% ready to go all out there. It uses a smaller footprint and doesn’t include the visual interfacery (it is a word) through the computer of the ME-80, but does pack in features like an expression pedal for wahs and volume effects, and is a great tool for beginners to start playing with effects.There is a degree of computer connectivity to it too; the ME-25 is great for home recording as it can be hooked directly up to your computer and act as an audio input, meaning you can record directly into your DAW. To help with this, a copy of Sonar 8.5 LE is included.
If the Boss pedals are the hard kids at school, on account of their brutish exterior and preceding reputations, then the Line 6 Amplifi is the science geek which goes on to become the rock star tech wizard. Looking like they were designed by Tony Stark, the FX100 pedal packs in a serious amount of tones and effects but has a few aces up its sleeves in the form of its connectivity with Apple iOS devices. From your iPhone or iPad you can start deep editing the tones to your liking, before beaming them back onto the pedal ready to use. Not only that, the FX100 can hear your favourite artists and magically ‘match’ their tone so yours is the same. Witchcraft, I tell thee.
We’re not going to leave bass players out here! For just over £155 notes, the BOSS ME-20B bass guitar multi effects pedal is a perfect starter place for any bass player who is put off by having to wrangle the tech wizardry of the Amplifi FX100, or doesn’t yet want to delve into the more complicated units on offer. The ME-20B is a compact, sturdy, user-friendly unit designed specifically for bass players which boasts many of the same effects, pulled from BOSS’ impressive repertoire. You’ll not feel let down by any of the effects on offer, as you scroll through the likes of compressor, overdrive, distortion and so much more. Three footswitches and one expression pedal should be more than enough to keep you busy too!
Rounding off this list is the Line 6 M5 stompbox unit, which is one of the most wallet-friendly units on the market. Don’t for one second equate value with poor quality though; Line 6 have been making multi effects pedals for years and they know what they’re doing. What this pedal lacks in expression pedals or knobs to tweak it, is more than made up for by including over 100 different effects that are extremely easy to dial in. Best of all, this compact multi effects pedal won’t take up all the room on your pedal board as it’s about the same width as two regular pedals placed together – so if you just can’t tour without that coveted boutique Mayo fuzz, it will still fit nicely.