First published on Sep. 6, 2017 and last updated on Nov. 29, 2018.
More Guitar Pedals
Demand for multi-effects continue to rise, thanks to their ever improving quality and practicality. More and more are finding themselves downsizing their pedalboards, if not totally swapping all their stompboxes for a multi-effects unit.
In line with this, we present you with what the market considers as the best guitar multi effects pedals, updated to include the latest reviews and ratings data up to November 2018. This guide covers everything from beginner friendly compact units, to advanced flagship models, along with tips on what to look for. It is our intention to help you find one that fits your needs, or at least point you to the right direction.
- The Best Guitar Multi Effects Pedals / Processors
- Things to Consider When Buying a Multi-Effect Pedal
The Best Guitar Multi Effects Pedals / Processors
The Best Compact Guitar Multi Effects Pedals
These are compact and affordable multi-effects pedals that have impressed guitarists the world over. Ideal for beginners, but also great for experienced players who are working with a limited budget or who want to downsize their gear.
Donner Alpha Cruncher Multi-Effects Pedal
The Donner Alpha Cruncher is an analog style multi-effect pedal that combines three essential effects in one compact unit. First of which is the distortion effect, with classic Brit style hi-gain tones, second is chorus effect that's described as having a bright and warm sound, and finally, it comes with an analog-voiced delay.
It sports an analog style interface with dedicated footswitches and knobs that allow for hassle free and intuitive control. This means that unlike most multi-effects in this price range, you won't have to press buttons and navigate through menus.
- Effects: 3 (Distortion, Chorus, Delay)
- Footswitches: 3
- Input: 1 x 1/4"
- Output: 1 x 1/4"
- USB: None
- Dimensions: 13.4" x 2" x 2.9'
- Weight: 0.88 lbs.
Market sentiment towards the Donner Alpha Cruncher is mostly positive, thanks to its combination of simplicity and value for money. While it doesn't please everybody, it does get a lot of commendations for its overall sound. A lot of users are pleased with the classic flavor of its distortion and delay, while others are just as happy with its chorus.
There are a few who expressed their dislike of the distortion flavor, but they are easily outnumbered by the many who are happy with it.
If you're looking for a straightforward and practical multi-effects pedal that won't confuse you with buttons or break the bank - then check out the Donner Alpha Cruncher.
Zoom MultiStomp MS-50G
The biggest selling point of the Zoom MS-50G MultiStomp is its small single pedal size. This means that you get to enjoy the benefits of multiple effects, amp models, and preset switching while keeping the size similar to regular stompboxes.
The MS-50G lets you use up to six of effects simultaneously, from its large pool of digitally modeled effects (47) and amps (8). And all of the settings and parameters are adjusted via its intuitive interface, albeit with just a single footswitch. You can save each preset you create or edit, just store them into the pedal's 50 memory banks. This flexibility gives you an unprecedented tone options. Other noteworthy features include its built-in chromatic tuner and its versatile power options, which include 2 x AA batteries or via a USB power source.
- Effects: 47 (6 Simultaneous)
- Amp Modeling: 8
- Presets: 50
- Footswitches: 1
- Input: 1 x 1/4"
- Output: 2 x 1/4"
- Extra Features: Can be Battery Powered (2 x AA) or USB powered, Chromatic Tuner
- USB: USB (For Update and Power)
- Dimensions: 5.13" x 3.05" x 2.3"
- Weight: 0.77 lbs
Most users and experts agree that the Zoom MultiStomp MS-50G is a high quality and high value pedal. But it's not just about bang per buck, because many are satisfied with the quality of its effect and amp emulations. Even Music Radar is convinced of its performance saying, "While not all of the sounds are going to appeal to all players, there are enough usable tones here to make this a very practical item for just about anybody who uses effects."
There are a few users who found the controls to be somewhat confusing, but this should be easily addressed by watching tutorials or reading the manual. All in all, get the Zoom MultiStomp MS-50G if you want your multi-effect needs served by a standard size pedal.
Boss GT-1 Guitar Multi-Effects Pedal
The Boss GT-1 is a compact and affordable multi-effects pedal that features the same COSM DSP technology found on their more expensive guitar processors. This means that you get the same software algorithms that reproduce the sound of popular amps and effects all in a floor pedal that's around the size of a regular school book.
It's also impressive how Boss was able to fit 3 footswitches and an expression pedal into the unit, along with a variety of buttons and knobs. All of these work together with the backlit LCD display that makes the GT-1 very intuitive to setup and use. Another nifty feature is the ability to run on four AA batteries, making this unit a truly portable multi-effect processor.
- Effects and Amp Modeling: 108
- Presets: 99
- Footswitches: 3 + Expression Pedal
- Input: 1 x 1/4", 1/8" Aux
- Output: 2 x 1/4", 1/4" Headphones
- Extra Features: Can be Battery Powered (4 x AA), With Built-in Looper
- USB: USB (For Update and Power)
- Dimensions: 12.06" x 2.9" x 6"
- Weight: 2.875 lbs.
Value for money still gets the most mention in reviews, but it's not just about having the most features per inch, because sound quality also gets a lot of nod. Many are impressed with its myriad of modulation, reverb and delay type effects, while others are pleased with the many different drives that they tried. It impresses the likes of Matthew Holliman from Premiere Guitar, who concluded "Even as an old-school pedalboard devotee, I’m impressed with the sounds and convenience of the GT-1". Portability also got a lot of thumbs up.
There are some who are irked because of the need to buy a power supply, so much so that some gave the lowest rating even though they are pleased with how it performs.
Still, having to buy a power supply separately is a minor issue compared to the quality and value for money that you're getting with the Boss GT-1
The Best Guitar Multi Effects Processors
These are what the market considers as the best guitar processors, as expected most of them are flagship models from familiar big name manufacturers.
The Boss MS-3 is a multi-effects pedal that is not meant to replace your favorite pedals, rather it is meant to help you make better use of them. It has more than enough effects (112) for most musical applications, but what makes it special is its old school approach that lets you incorporate pedals and amps into your rig, along with its built-in effects.
First off, it has three effects loops that let you control pedals (or groups of pedals) right from the MS-3. It can also be used as a foot controller for amplifiers, which allows you to change the channel on your favorite amps and employ effects in the comfort of a single compact box. This makes the MS-3 a very versatile unit, catering to vintage amp/pedal users while adding the comfort of modern digital effects processing and preset control. Since it has its own noise suppressor and global EQ, you can tame noisy pedals and shape their tone a bit more. All of these are on top of the many built-in effects that is already built into the unit, which are Boss quality good by themselves.
- Effects: 112 (6 Simultaneous)
- Presets: 200
- Footswitches: 5
- Input: 1 x 1/4"
- Output: 2 x 1/4", 1 x 1/4" (control out), 2 x 1/4" (control in), 6 x 1/4" (3 pedal loops)
- Extra Features: Tuner, Noise Suppressor, Global EQ
- MIDI: Out
- USB: Preset Editor/Update
- Dimensions: 2.68" x 9.68" x 3.87"
- Weight: 2.44 lbs.
Most reviews are coming from users who have nothing but good things to say about their experience with the unit. One user summarized what most reviewers felt by saying that the MS-3 is a "game changer". But it's not just about its amp and effects switching, because many were just as impressed with the sound quality of many of its built-in effects, including its overdrive and modulation sections. It's compact and portable design is also very much appreciated, making it an easy addition to any setups.
There aren't that many complaints, other than some requests for extra features like having a software editor, and a built-in audio interface. Other than that, the Boss MS-3 is the go-to multi-effects pedal for those who want to enjoy digital control without totally giving up on old school pedals and amps.
Being the flagship multi-effect pedal of Boss, there's much to expect from the GT-100, and now more than six years since it was first released, it still meets - if not exceeds - these expectations. At the core of this guitar processor is Roland/Boss' COSM technology, which gives the unit over 25 amp models and 44 effects.
While the number of effects may not be as many compared to recent releases, others don't have the same deep control and sound quality that the GT-100 provides. Speaking of control, instead of merely choosing your preferred amp, this processor lets you custom build your virtual amp and cabinet, an interesting feature that allows for even more freedom in crafting your own tones. Another feature that users are fond of is the ability to assign effects into its many footswitches, making the unit behave much like a regular pedalboard. Other notable features include polyphonic tuning and USB recording.
- Effects: 44
- Amp Modeling: 25+
- Presets: 400 (200 factory + 200 User)
- Footswitches: 8 + Expression Pedal
- Input: 1 x Instrument, 1 x TRS Male 1/8" (aux), Footswitch
- Output: 2 x 1/4" (main), 1 x TRS 1/4" (phones)
- Extra Features: Tuner, Amp Customize, OD Customize,
- USB: Editing, Audio Interface
- MIDI: In/Out/USB
- Dimensions: 4.06" x 21.38" x 10.69"
- Weight: 10.625 lbs.
Even with newer releases, many still prefer the Boss GT-100 because of its reputation for reliability and practicality, both of which are synonymous to the Boss brand. While it may seem outnumbered in terms of features, it makes up with its amp and OD customization, which many use to craft their own sounds.
There are a few users who feel that the software editor does not do the GT-100 justice, especially when compared to what others have to offer. Thankfully, setting it up via the unit itself is not too hard, but some still wish for an improved editor.
If you're looking for a tried and tested multi-effects processor, then get the Boss GT-100. Given the company's reputation, it'll probably last longer than your interest in guitar playing :)
Line 6 POD HD500X
While the PODHD500X isn't Line 6's flagship guitar processor, it is still very capable and much in demand as evidenced by the overwhelmingly positive response that it continues to get from users and expert alike. It follows after its predecessor, albeit with a more powerful CPU and improved interface via colorful LED rings around the footswitches.
While it is well loved for its HD amp models, it also packs quite a lot of effects (over 100!), applying the same HD modeling technology on actual stompboxes to get them to sound as close to the real thing as possible. The amp modeling and effects section together allow for a wide variety of tones, while the deep controls that you have over each amp and effect parameter allows for even more in-between tones, so you can craft your very own sound. The LED rings add to the unit's overall eye candy and improve the already intuitive interface of the unit. It also houses extensive input and output options, including having its very own mic preamp, so you can use it for a variety of instruments and even vocals. Other features include built-in 48-second looping, tuning and compatibility with Line 6' modeling instrument (Variax) and amps.
- Effects: 100+ (8 Simultaneous)
- Amp Modeling: 30 "HD" Models
- Footswitches: 12 + Expression Pedal
- Presets: 512 User Presets
- Input: 1 x 1/4", 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" Aux, 1 x 1/8", 1 x 1/4" Pedal Input, 2 x 1/4" FX Returns, 1 x Variax Input
- Output: 2 x 1/4", 2 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" Headphones, 1 x 1/4" FX Send, L6 Link, 1 x S/PDIF
- MIDI: In/Out/Thru
- Extra Features: Tuner, Mic Preamp, Variax and L6 Link Compatibility, 48-Sec Looper, Effects loop
- USB: Update / Audio Interface
- Dimensions: 2.91" x 21.5" x 10.29"
- Weight: 10.6 lbs.
Being a PODHD user for many years now, I am but one of the many who commend its balance of versatility and sound quality. Like many reviewers, it allows me to gig and record conveniently, often times plugging straight to PA with great results. I've also seen a number of professionals using PODHD500X's in their concerts, so it's not surprising that even experts such as Trevor Curwen at Music Radar were convinced, saying: "The modelling is excellent throughout, with authentic-sounding amps and quality effects".
Unfortunately there are a few who are not too happy with with some of the default patches, they caution that the PODHD500X is not a plug-and-play unit. While you can get good tones with a bit of tweaking, you can get even better tones with more experience, so the learning curve can be a bit steep for some. For best results, you ought to research the actual gear that your favorite musicians use, along with their settings and use them as your starting points to creating your own tones. Thankfully, there are user made presets that you can also use as base for your own virtual signal chain.
If you're looking for a tried and tested stage and recording ready multi-effects processor, then the Line 6 PODHD500X is your best bet.
Line 6 Helix LT
Being the smaller and more affordable version of the Line 6 Helix Floor, Helix LT makes Line 6's high-end digital sound processing technology more accessible and affordable. It features the same dual DSP HX modeling engine that replicates minute details of amps and effects, improving on the already impressive modeling capabilities of their POD HD line.
With over 100 effects, there's really no shortage of virtual stompboxes to play with, while the unit's complex signal routing capabilities allow for a wide variety of effects combination. Add to this Helix' acclaimed amp modeling features, which lets you mix and match 62 amp, 37 cabs and 16 mics. If that's not enough, you can also make adjustments to the amp models to better personalize your sound. To match its complexity, Line 6 designed the interface to be simple yet intuitive, courtesy of its color LCD display and colored LED rings.
- Effects: 104
- Amp Modeling: 62 amps, 37 cabs, 16 mics
- Presets: 1024
- Footswitches: 12 (Touch Sensitive) + Expression Pedal
- Input: 1 x 1/4", 2 x 1/4" (FX Returns)
- Output: 2 x XLR, 2 x 1/4", 1 x 1/4" (headphones), 2 x 1/4" (FX Sends), 1 x XLR (AES/EBU, L6 link)
- Extra Features: Dual DSP HX modeling engine, Touch-Sensitive Footswitches, 60-sec Looper, Compatibility with Variax and Line 6 Amps
- USB: Editing, 8in/8out USB Audio Interface
- MIDI: In, Out/Thru
- Dimensions: 3.7" x 20.9" x 12.45"
- Weight: 12.45 lbs.
Reviews of the Line 6 Helix LT are replete with good words, impressing even tone snobs who admit that that the hype surrounding this unit is real. Tone quality and versatility are two features that get the most praises from users, while there are also a good number who commend it for its easy to use workflow.
There were a few who were irked by the unit's streamlined input/output options, specifically its single guitar input, the lack of aux input and headphones output . Still, even those who had concerns are still pleased with their purchase, with most agreeing that the Helix LT is a worthy investment.
If you're looking for a powerful guitar processor that's streamlined and reasonably priced, then the Line 6 Helix LT is for you.
Fractal Audio AX8 Guitar Multi-Effects Processor
Fractal Audio is well reputed for their premium quality guitar processors, and as of this update, the AX8 is the best rated floor-based model that they are offering. It is a streamlined version of their flagship Axe FX series, carrying over many of its best features including its simulated amp and effects models.
Note that streamlined doesn't mean lack, because this multi-effects unit has more effects than you'll probably ever use on stage - with 130 different effects in 20 categories, from overdrives, to reverb, to harmony and it even comes with looping. If that's not enough, you can choose from over 200 amp models and more than 700 cabinet models. Finally, it comes with 512 preset slots where you can load, edit and store the various tones that you prefer.
- Effects: 130 (20 Categories)
- Amp Modeling: 200+ amps, 700+ cabs
- Presets: 512
- Footswitches: 11
- Input: 1 x 1/4", MIDI, 4 x 1/4" Stereo Effect Loop
- Output: 2 x XLR, MIDI, 4 x 1/4"
- Extra Features: Humbuster ground hum-canceling technology, MIDI in/out, Built-in Looper
- USB: Editing, Update
- MIDI: In, Out
- Dimensions: 3.7" x 20.9" x 12.45"
- Weight: 12.45 lbs.
Most users are impressed with its sound quality, even experts who have tried the Fractal Audio AX8 have mostly good things to say about its sound quality, including Barry Cleveland of Guitar Player Magazine, who concludes his review of the Fractal Audio AX8 by saying: "As for what the amp, cab, and effects sound like, do I really need to say more than that they are absolutely stunning and arguably unparalleled?". Build quality also gets a lot of commendations, along with overall reliability.
While the AX8 is much cheaper than Fractal Audio's flagship effects, there are still a few who wish that it was more affordable. Those who are not into navigating menus and buttons will also find the interface a bit bothersome.
Still, the investment and reasonable learning curve that the Fractal Audio AX8 requires is well worth its overall performance.
Line 6 Helix Floor
Line 6 continues to dominate in the world of floor-based guitar processors, with their flagship unit Helix Floor leading the charge. It combines up-to-date amp and effects modeling technology with extensive input/output options, resulting in a true, jack-of-all-trades processor that works great in both live performance and studio recordings.
At the core of this pedal is the Line 6 HX technology, which emulates the behavior of actual amp and stompbox components. This means that instead of merely copying the sound, it recreates the entire pedal or amplifier in digital simulation, allowing the models to respond to guitar tone and adjustments much like the real thing. While it originally had 70 effects, firmware updates have raised this number to 104, which is more than enough to keep you busy for months, if not years. Amp, cab and mic models were also increased to 115. Since Line 6 is well known for providing updates, it is reasonable to expect more expansions in the future. It does everything that the Helix LT can, with some extras, most notable of which is the LED scribble strips for labeling each footswitch. The Helix Floor also comes with expanded input/output options to work with mics and other instruments.
- Effects: 70 (104 after firmware updates)
- Amp Modeling: 62 amps, 37 cabs, 16 mics (after firmware updates)
- Presets: 1024
- Footswitches: 12 + Expression Pedal
- Input: 1 x 1/4", 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" (Aux), 4 x 1/4" (Ext Control), 4 x 1/4" (Return)
- Output: 2 x XLR, 2 x 1/4", 1 x 1/4" (Headphones), 4 x 1/4" (Send)
- Digital Inputs: 1 x S/PDIF, 1 x RJ45 Variax in
- Digital Outputs: 1 x S/PDIF, 1 x XLR (AES/EBU)
- MIDI: In, Out/Thru
- Extra Features: Dual DSP HX modeling engine, LCD scribble strips, Touch-Sensitive Footswitches, 60-sec Looper, Compatibility with Variax and Line 6 Amps
- USB: Editing, 8in/8out USB Audio Interface
- Dimensions: 3.58" x 22.05" x 11.85"
- Weight: 14.6 lbs.
A lot of users described the Line 6 Helix Floor as something amazing and too good to be true. Commendations for it's incredible versatility and sound quality are common place, with many describing it as the best guitar multi-effects processor in the market today. There's simply no denying its continued success in the market, along with the high review scores that it continuous to attain. Premiere Guitar's Joe Gore properly summed up what most people feel about the Line 6 Helix Floor: "Great sounds. Cool design. Solid construction. Extraordinary connectivity. Good price."
While there are those that are satisfied with its intuitive design, there are still some users who wish for a more simpler way of managing its settings. Weight and bulk also came up, along with its hefty price tag, still most are more than happy to recommend the Line 6 Helix Floor to more people.
If you're looking for the best multi-effect pedal that money can buy, then get the Line Helix Floor.
Things to Consider When Buying a Multi-Effect Pedal
As the multi-effects label implies, more is generally a good thing, as long as you don't spend too much time obsessing over each one to the point that it hinders your productivity and practice.
It is also important to consider the maximum number of effects that can run simultaneously, which are usually based on effect group types or "blocks". This means that you usually can only have one modulation, one reverb, one drive etc in a preset. Advanced processors allow for more freedom which include combining same type pedals, series/parallel routing, pre-post amplifier routing and many more. While they allow for more ways to craft your tones, these processors also require more tweaking time and are usually more expensive.
Since digital effects use DSP, manufacturers have made the most of the processing power by adding amp modeling features. To the point that amp modeling has become a standard feature, and has even overtaken effects in popularity. If you already have a good amplifier, then amp modeling is not important, but it's still a good addition for the extra versatility amp modeling provides.
Footswitches and Control Interface
Footswitches allow for handsfree control of your multi-effects pedal, so having more of them is good, as long as you're OK with the added bulk and weight that they require. Some processors have a stompbox mode feature that lets you utilize footswitches much like a traditional pedalboard, but most of the time the switches serve as preset selectors, along with other secondary uses.
As mentioned above, the versatility of multi-effects require complexity, and complexity requires longer learning curves. Thankfully, manufacturers have been continually improving the control interface and workflow of their units, so its never been easier to setup multi-effects units. Bigger display screens and good control positioning are important, but they also add to the overall size and bulk, so don't expect them on smaller units. Some even go as far as adding small LED scribble scripts to the footswitches, which removes the need to memorize or list down your presets.
Adding to their already good value, most multi-effects come with built-in features that are essential to gigging and practicing, first of which is a built-in tuner. Looping is also a good feature to look for, thankfully it now comes standard for most units. Having the ability to record straight to a computer is another handy features that should be considered, as well as the ability to edit the settings via your computer or mobile device. Built-in metronome/rhythm is also a nice plus, especially for those who want to take their skill to the next level.
For most applications, all you really need is a guitar input, and an output that you can plug to an amplifier or PA system. Still, it doesn't hurt to have extra input/output options, like a mic XLR input (for vocalists who play guitar), an aux input (for practicing with your favorite tracks), headphones out (for quiet practice and tweaking), stereo output, and many more.
Portability (Weight and Size)
More features require more components, and improved durability requires a stronger chassis, all of which add to the bulk and weight of a guitar processor. In the end it will be up to you to balance your budget and needs to your preferred portability. In line with this, we've provided the weight and dimensions, for easier reference and comparison.
Case / Carry Bag
We highly recommend buying a good carrying case or at least preparing a fitting bag for your unit, since they can protect them from handling and environmental damage. They also add to the overall convenience, especially if they are custom fit for your unit and if they have enough pockets for the cables and tools that you carry.
Best Guitar Multi Effects Pedal Selection Methodology
We decided that we're going to limit this guide to floor-based multi-effects units, and we also deliberately included only those with different effect types/blocks. For this November 2018 update, we ended up with a total of 25 multi-effects pedals in our database. All of the most recent and relevant reviews, ratings, forum discussions, and expert opinions were fed into the Gearank algorithm, which gave us the scores that we used to narrow down the list to just the top 10 - over 6,800 sources were analyzed during this process. We then selected the highest rated options in two categories: compact multi-effects pedals (since many are looking for them), and medium to large size ones to recommend above. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.