Guitar Pedals & Effects

Read our buying guides: The Best Guitar Pedals

Amplified guitars first appeared on the music scene with the Big Band era during the 1930s. In order for guitarists to be able to emulate the sweet sounds of the horns that were the stars of this type of music, many guitars featured built in sound effects. Rickenbacker debuted a Spanish guitar that featured a series of pulleys that allowed the player to create a vibrato effect. During the 1940s, the first standalone effect -- a kind of tremolo -- was created by DeArmond. The 1950s saw amplifiers evolve so that many of them featured effects built right in such as tremolo, echo, reverb and vibrato. These guitar effects were used to produce the slap-back effect that is now part of classic rock 'n' roll. Watkins Copicat, a tape-based echo unit, was typical of the ones used during the early 1960s that were prominent in British beat rock. Once the transistor became readily available during the sixties, engineers were able to created affordable effects that could stand alone. The 1970s signaled an explosion of this market that continues to thrive today due to its many innovations.

Types of Guitar Effects

There are a number of different types of guitar effects. The following provides a basic rundown of few different options available.

  • Booster: Also known as a pre-amp, a booster effects increases a signal's overall level. Egging tube amps into hyper mode while using a booster effect is a favorite method for electric guitar players.
  • Compression: Compression effects could be described as being at the other end of the spectrum. They narrow the dynamic range of a tone so that the attack on the note is limited and the decay is amplified.
  • Overdrive: With the overdrive effect, the vacuum tubes are pushed to their sound limits. They do so either by increasing the guitar's gain which then sends the amp into overdrive or by trying to duplicate the sound of a tube amp that is in overdrive.
  • Distortion: Distortion effects take overdrive to a whole new level by changing waveform enhancing levels to increase the overdrive sound.
  • Fuzz: A fuzz effect is designed to emulate the sound of a busted amp. It creates a buzzy, hum-tone that is the result of distorting distortion.
  • Phasers: When a phaser is used, the signal is split in two and sent along two separate wavelengths. A spacey sound is the result.
  • Flange: With flange, a guitar player is able to create a spacey sound like that created by phasers. A flange adds more a sweeping sound to it though.

Top Manufacturers and Guitar Pedals

  • Analog.Man
  • Boss
  • Cry Baby
  • DigiTech
  • Electro-Harmonix
  • Fulltone
  • Ibanez
  • JHS
  • Keeley
  • Moog
  • Morely
  • MXR
  • Strymon
  • Walrus Audio
  • Way Huge
  • ZVex