9 Essential Pedals And Their Smaller Friends
Know your options when pedalboard real estate is at a premium
Pedalboard real estate is at a premium these days, haven’t you heard? Huge, bulky pedals are great and look really cool, but when you need more than 5 pedals on your board and you don’t want to make the jump to a multi-effects, you need those smaller, space saving options. Besides, the more room you have the more pedals you can use! With that in mind we’ve put together a list of essential pedals and their smaller cousins, that are all totally capable of satisfying your soundscape needs without taking up every inch of room on your pedalboard.
Looper pedals are becoming more and more commonplace on pedalboards across all genres, especially acoustic players. They can be quite large, taking up valuable living space on your pedalboard. If you don’t need a whole host of effects and options, the BOSS RC-1 Loop station stompbox is a great option. Not huge in size, it will fit nicely on your board, but when you can go smaller – do it! The Rowin Looper is a fraction of the size and replaces all the bells and whistles for a sleek, simple and easy to use (and almost indestructible) stompbox. The BOSS RC-1 does have mono/stereo options and an LED display lets you know when your loop is about to stop/start, but if you just need a simple looper with an in/out the Rowin Looper will do everything you need to do, whether you’re using it for vocals, guitar or bass.
The wah pedal; probably the most obnoxious, pedal around. It sits there like that housemate who takes up the living room all day and won’t change the channel when you ask them to, yet unfortunately they pay the bills and are actually a decent person to live with so you let them off. I digress. The Wah pedal is a much loved yet massively space consuming pedal that takes up a lot of room. Yes, you love it and need it for your sound, but still; it’s so heavy! Fortunately, the good people at Jim Dunlop have decided to take this classic pedal and reduce it dramatically in size! In fact, the Crybaby mini wah is half the size of the original wah yet still retains that classic sound and can still be powered by battery or AC adapter. It’s the wah you love, just so much smaller.
Delay pedals are a lot of fun to use and can also really change your sound for the better, whether you’re using slapback delay or long and drawn out sweeping lines, it adds a whole new dimension and depth to your playing. They can also take up every inch of spare space on your board if you’re not careful. If you like to have an array of delay effects at your feet, you’ll undoubtedly be familiar with the Electro Harmonix Memory Man – a hulking pedal that is as tough as (and the size of) a tank. The Deluxe Memory Man Tap Tempo 1100 Delay is a smaller option with 5 different expression modes and a maximum delay of 1100 milliseconds, perfect for those who want a variety of options. If you want to go smaller, the Memory Toy Analog Delay is the answer. It’s a mini version of the old school memory man with a much simpler design. You have your delay, feedback, blend and mod options to add chorus, but all in a smaller, robust box.
BOSS tuner pedals are non-optional if you want a professional and reliable tuning pedal, and although they’re not massive, they can still take up a bit of room. Thankfully BOSS have taken the TU-3 tuner and crammed everything into a smaller package. They’ve removed the stompbox capabilities in favour of an “always on” type of pedal. You still have your input and outputs with the TU-3S but the bypass has been removed. At the end of the day, you still have that reliable tuning from the world’s top-selling stage tuner, all in a more space saving package.
A huge part of the guitar community relies on reverb. Whether you want huge ocean like swells or just a little extra presence to your solos, the reverb pedal is a vital tool for many guitarists and as such should take pride of place. However, it shouldn’t be bullying other pedals out of a place to live on your board! There are many great reverb pedals out there offering all sorts of sonic architecture to play with, and thus to fit all those different effects in requires a larger housing. The Strymon Blue Sky and its larger brother the Big Sky Multi reverb are fantastic pedals and are quickly becoming the new industry standard, but for those with limited space it’s not always viable to place these on your board. The new Wampler Faux Spring Reverb is about a 3rd of the size of these pedals and saves plenty of room. The Wampler is designed to be a pedal version of the Fender 63 Tube Reverb amp, and although it doesn’t have anywhere near as many effects or tone shaping options, it will offer gorgeous reverb tones and allow you to sculpt your sound easily. It does everything it says it does and gives you a classic Faux Spring Reverb all in a conveniently sized box.
Getting that coveted British overdrive sound just right has been made easy thanks to two great pedals, the Wampler Plexi Drive and the Rowin Plexion Modeller. The Wampler pedal range is by no means large in physical size, but we’re trying to save space here, so the Rowin LEF-324 Plexion modeller is the one you need if pedal real estate is really tight. The Wampler Plexi Drive offers that classic British stack overdrive and can emulate 18-watt Marshall tones to the impressive rock tones of a JTM-45 and adds a Bass switch for that extra low-end boost when you want it. The Rowin Plexion is a far simpler design, yet equally impressive pedal, offering gorgeous 60s inspired tones and huge crunch when you need it. It’s easy to use via Gain, Tone and Volume knobs and a Bright and Normal switch allows you to switch between classic 60s rock to 90s grunge styles quickly. Both pedals are formidable opponents in the battle for tone and of course, pedalboard space.
You’d think the classic overdrive pedal favoured by the likes of guitar greats such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore, Joan Jett would be impossible to improve, yet Ibanez has proved us wrong. In one corner, you have the awesome Ibanez Tube Screamer, which is not particularly large in size; a reliable reissue of the coveted original, just plug it in and send your amp into overdrive heaven. In the other corner, you have the Ibanez Tube Screamer mini version of this great pedal that still packs a punch and does everything it’s bigger brother can do without overcrowding your board. The mini contains a genuine tube screamer circuit, complete with JRC4558 IC chip, just in a smaller box.
Here, we have two extremely coveted effects; the BOSS Waza Craft VB-2W and the EHX Stereo Pulsar, both of which should be on your list to check out. The Stereo Pulsar was part of EHX’s foray into making smaller, more compact pedals before the Nano range really took hold and the VB-2W is the result of BOSS’ collaboration with the geniuses at Waza Craft. The Stereo Pulsar provides a fantastic selection of vibrato and alien-like zaps depending on how you set it, whilst the VB-2W offers an updated version of the much sought after VB-2 from the 80s. With both pedals you have an almost indestructible housing to play with; EHX with its solid metal casing and BOSS with its signature stompbox design so good luck trying to outwear these things. The BOSS VB-2W utilises its Rise Time dial controls and Unlatch mode features very well, whilst the Stereo Pulsar offers great control with the wave shape selector switch and shape knob. Both pedals are extremely good at what they do, but in terms of size, the BOSS will offer you more of that all important space.
Check out the full range of effects pedals at the Dawsons website.