The author is a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
Multi-effects pedals are an efficient way for guitar players to keep their pedal setups under control, and get a massive array of incredible sounds in one easy-to-carry package. Hobby guitarists appreciate them for their ease of use and simple setup requirements, but for working musicians, they can be a lifesaver.
No more dragging a bag full of stompboxes to a show and pulling your hair out trying to organize all the patch cords. With one, powerful unit you get all the sounds you need.
As with most guitar gear, you can spend a ton of money on these things if you really want to. In this review, I tried to keep things reasonable and looked at multi-effects pedals around the $500 mark.
I also included sections on the best multi-effects pedals under $200, and under $100, for those guitarists who are really counting their pennies.
Here are my top choices for the best guitar multi-effects pedals for advanced, intermediate, and beginning guitarists.
Note: Specs can change over time, so be sure to check with the gear companies for the latest info on their pedals.
1. BOSS GT-100
The BOSS GT-100 earns the number-one spot here. This is the follow-up to the popular BOSS GT-10. But there are some serious upgrades here, particularly when it comes to realistic amp modeling. BOSS’s advanced COSM processor does a great job of recreating classic amp tones but also provides a palette for creating epic tones of your own.
The EZ Tone feature and dual LCD screens make it simple to dial in the sounds you want without having to wade through hard-to-see menus. In my opinion, this is one of the sweetest features of this unit. Figuring out menus can be a real drag with effects processors, and for those who like to dial in and go this pedal is a great choice.
The memory stores 200 presets with additional space for 200 user-created presets. Among the usual inputs and outputs, the back panel features MIDI in/out, ¼” stereo or mono line out, external loop, and a USB jack for connecting with your computer and interfacing with the BOSS website.
2. Line 6 POD HD500X
The Line 6 POD HD500X is next on my list, and to be honest it was pretty tough to choose between it and the BOSS. Line 6 is a leader in digital effects and modeling. The Line 6 Spider is a legendary amp, and their pedals are right up there too. When the first POD came out years ago, it changed everything. The power of the POD is harnessed here in one of the best guitar multi-effects pedals you’ll find on the market today.
The POD HD500X is built on the legacy of the HD500, one of the most popular floor processors of all time. The HD500X brings even more power, and more amp models, including classic HD emulations of Fenders, Marshalls, and Soldanos.
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When it comes to effects there are over 100 studio and stompbox emulations available. It’s hard to imagine there is a sound you can come up with in your head you won’t be able to recreate with the HD500X. One of the coolest features, and a hallmark of the Line 6 brand, is the wealth of online upgrades and updates available via the software librarian. Line 6 is a leader for good reason, and it really shows with the HD500X.
BOSS GT-100 vs Line 6 POD HD500X
At this point, you may be wondering which of the two digital effects processors listed above are better. In my opinion, they are both excellent options. Both BOSS and Line 6 are among the best effects pedal brands, so who wins here?
I feel like BOSS has a slight edge when it comes to effects, whereas Line 6 has a slight edge with amp emulation.
My advice is to consider each within the context you intend to use it. Once you get to the bottom of this page you'll have the opportunity to vote for which of these units you think is best.
But there are still a couple more effects units to check out, and they may be even better for you depending on your needs. I'll get into a little more detail about what I think are the strengths and weaknesses of each, so let's move on to more gear!
3. Zoom G5n
Zoom is a big name in the guitars effects world, and you always seem to get a bit more bang for your buck than you’d expect with their products. The Zoom G5n doesn’t disappoint in this regard and may be one of the best guitar multi-effects pedals for the money. It also has some pretty cool features that make it unique in this review. It has 68 onboard effects, 100 custom-designed factory patches, and 5 amp emulators.
This is a powerful, rugged, good-sounding pedal, but you may be left feeling it is a notch below the others in this review. In many ways, I agree, but I did think it was worth inclusion here simply for the great value it provides.
There’s an onboard looper, and on the rear panel you’ve got stereo ¼” outputs, and of course the USB port for interfacing with your PC or Mac.
Zoom gear is good stuff, and if you need an effects processor and you’re on a tight budget, especially if you practice at home a lot, give this unit a look.
Best Multi-Effects Pedals Under $200
I think the units mentioned so far would serve serious guitarists well, especially those who need a powerful multi-effects pedal for gigs. However, I realize that intermediate and home players may not need something so elaborate, or want to drop that kind of cash on an effects unit.
If that’s you, here are a few wallet-friendly options that have many of the same attributes as the effects units above:
My top pick for effects pedals under $200 is the Zoom G3n. Though it’s a step down from the G5n discussed above, the little brother G3n offers a lot for the money. It features 68 digital effects including distortion, compression, delay, reverb, flanger, phaser, EQ, and chorus, along with five tube amps and five-speaker cab emulations.
And, like the G5n, it offers super-easy effects tweaking via stompbox-like knobs. Other features include a USB port, two ¼” outputs (one line out and one headphone), and an 80-second looper.
The RP 1000 boasts 32 amp modes, 18 cabinet models, and 74 stompbox models. Other features include are a total of 126 effects, 198 total presets (99 factory/99 user-created), a USB port, stereo outs (both ¼” and 1/8” headphone), and a built-in 40-second looper.
If you need a powerful, flexible effects processor and don’t quite feel like letting go of some of your favorite stompboxes, this might be the multi-effects pedal for you.
There are a lot of great effect units in the BOSS lineup ahead of the GT-1, but not for under $200. This pedal is somewhat of a smaller, simplified version of the GT-100. It features 108 effects including reverb, overdrive, delay, modulation, and wah, and a 32-second looper for jamming with yourself. It has a pair of ¼” outs (line and headphone) along with a USB.
Notably, it has an expression pedal, which separates it from the two units above.
Top Multi-Effects Pedals Under $100
If you are really on a budget, a beginner, or just looking for a pedal to have a little fun with, here are some cool pedals to consider:
Zoom G1X Four
The Zoom G1X Four boasts 70 effects, 13 amp, and cabinet models, 50 user-created patches, a 30-second looper, and built-in drum patterns. It even has an expression pedal, which is a great feature in a pedal at this price point. Small multi-effects units like this one are great for practicing at home with headphones. It also runs on runs on batteries in addition to the plug-in power supply. That means you can take it with you as a headphone amp anywhere you go.
This is a cool, compact multi-effects pedal of under $100. It features 34 effects, 12 amp models, 9 cab models, 100 user presets, a tuner, and even a rhythm machine. I give the Zoom a slight edge because of the expression pedal, but the Element is another great pedal to consider.
Vox StompLab IIG
This is a cool pedal that reminds me of my Vox Valvetronix modeling amp. It has 100 presets and over 100 effects, plus a built-in tuner. It’s a bit simpler than the other pedals in this review, it’s also very affordable. And, it doesn’t hurt that Vox modeling technology sounds really good.
How to Choose a Multi-Effects Pedal
I’ll be honest: A few decades ago I wasn’t too enamored with. I can be a bit of a tone nerd, and back then I heard nothing that even remotely resembled the sounds I wanted. Compared to good old-fashioned tube amps and analog pedals, they just didn’t have it.
But digital effects and modeling have come a long, long way in the time since then, and nowadays I have to say I’m really impressed with the sounds some gear manufacturers are putting out.
In fact, I'd go so far as to say that, these days, finding yourself a good, portable, reliable multi-effects pedal unit is a smart move, especially if you play in a band where you need to nail a lot of different sounds. Or, even if you are practicing at home and want to cop those amazing tones you hear by your favorite artists. Effects processors are more versatile, more powerful, and more realistic than ever.
I really like the BOSS pedal for its ease of use. The controls seem super intuitive, and creating complex patches appears a bit easier than with most multi-effects pedals.
The Zoom G5 is a great bargain and comes in at a price quite a bit lower than other pedals in this review. It might be a great choice for players new to the effects processor thing, who need a quality setup but aren’t quite sure they want to part with a lot of cash to get it.
The Line 6 HD500X not only has an impressive array of models but incorporates some powerful software and computer interfacing that keeps your sound fresh. This might be frustrating to some of us old-school guys, but younger, computer-savvy guitarists will love it.
It’s also worth noting that floor processors are just the tip of the effects iceberg. There are some incredible pro-quality rack systems out there, controllable via footswitch, with sounds that will blow your mind. That, however, is a topic for another day.
Hope this article was helpful. Remember this is all based on my own opinions and experience, and to do your own research before making a decision. Check out the company websites for the latest info on their gear.
Good luck choosing the best guitar multi-effects pedal, and finding the right floor processor for your needs.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.