Here’s to the jack of all trades
Guitar effects are wonderful things. Whether as tools to add a touch of something different to your tone, or as the bedrock of an all-out assault on the sonic realm, guitar effects rule.
It’s not uncommon when looking at the pedalboards of your favourite players to see a small arsenal of pedals at their feet. Pedals to control gain, pedals to add flavour, pedals to keep them in tune… There’s something wonderful in being able to build up your dream rig, one stomp at a time.
However, there’s also a lot to be said for the portability, practicality and versatility of using a good quality multi-fx pedal. These all-in-one boxes pack all the power of individual effects, yet allow you to chain together multiple different tones from a single unit.
Let’s take a look at a few different multi-fx pedals, and explain the key differences and benefits you get from these amazing boxes.
At the entry-level point of the spectrum you’ll find a lot of options from the Japanese firm Zoom. It has an amazing history of providing players with cost-effective entry points into the often expensive world of guitar effects.
The Zoom G1on is a great example of a basic multi-fx, offering 75 different effects for players to get to grips with. As well as that, you’ll find a tuner, a built-in rhythm section for practising over, and even a looper.
At a shade under fifty quid, you can’t go wrong here. Well recommended.
Boss, another Japanese company, is arguably the biggest name in guitar effects. For over 40 years Boss has been the go-to brand for all kinds of guitar peripherals, but none more so than its iconic stompboxes.
It makes sense then that its multi-fx offerings are high-quality affairs, cramming in amazing sounds and functionality into a range of dedicated units.
The Boss GT-1 is its entry-level offer, cramming in over 100 effects and sounds which use the same ‘brain’ as the company’s more expensive pedals. Tonally, you get a lot of bang for your buck here, and the ability to store and save up to 99 presets makes it a great option for live performance.
Moving slightly higher up the multi-fx food chain you get the Boss ME-80. This is a sturdy, well-built affair featuring eight individual footswitches and dedicated controls for the most-used effects.
The ME-80 also has USB connectivity, which means you can connect it to a computer for recording. This is useful on two levels; not only can you record over USB into recording software, ready for mixing, you can also access a specialist programme to gain deep access to effect chains, parameters and settings.
So while, on one hand, it’s the ideal studio mainstay, its robust metal housing means it is also ideally suited to life on the road.
Line 6 Helix LT
We’re getting into some serious multi-fx gear now. The Line 6 Helix LT is actually the baby brother of the gargantuan Line 6 Helix. However, don’t let its lower status fool you into thinking the Helix LT is inferior.
Essentially, the heart of any multi-fx is the processing unit. The digital brain which takes your guitar signal and makes it into something else. The benefit of using the better units, with their superior processing, is far higher quality sound. The Helix LT, for example, gives the player incredible levels of dynamic range – the difference between quiet and loud – which makes for a far more polished playing experience. It gives cleaner recording tones, and also allows live performance to sound crystal clear at any volume.
You get what you pay for with the Helix LT. We also really liked the intuitive on-board menu system, which made adding, removing and tinkering with individual effects a doddle.
Finally, we have the flagship unit from Boss. This truly is the daddy of all their multi-fx units, and will give you years of satisfaction. The Boss GT-1000 is the spiritual successor to their insanely successful GT-100, and ushers in with it a new generation of advanced sound modelling.
With digital modelling, a lot is made of ‘algorithms’ – i.e. the computer trickery that makes the sound – and with the GT-1000 Boss has borrowed the same tech used in it’s high-end individual pedal units. This means you are effectively gaining the power, tones and experience from a host of already-cutting-edge units.
If you have the budget for it, the Boss GT-1000 is the pinnacle of its type.
Journalist, PR and multimedia specialist. Write professionally on subjects ranging from musical instruments to industrial technology.