Best Guitar Multi-Effects Pedal Review: Top Digital Processors
Top Multi-Effects Pedals
Multi-effects processors 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 multi-effects pedals for their ease of use and simple setup requirements, but for working musicians they can be a life saver. No more dragging a bag full of stomp boxes to a show and pulling your hair out trying to organize all the patch cords. With one, powerful multi-effects unit you get all the sounds you need, and you’ll go through a lot less gaffer tape.
I’ll be honest: A few decades ago I wasn’t too enamored with floor effects units. 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 has 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.
As with most guitar gear, you can spend a ton of money on these things if you really want to. So, like with most of my reviews, I tried to choose options that will fit within a working-musicians budget. BOSS, Line 6, DigiTech and Zoom are among the best names in the business, so you know you’re getting a solid product. Here are a few of the best guitar multi-effects pedals and digital floor processors.
The BOSS GT-100 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 USB jack for connecting with your computer and interfacing with the BOSS website.
Check Out More on the BOSS GT-100
Line 6 POD HD500X
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 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.
When it comes to effects there are over 100 studio and stomp box 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.
Guitar World Reviews the Line 6 POD 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, and apparently readers agree. 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. With over 1000 votes counted so far, overwhelmingly readers choose the BOSS and Line 6 units. With 35 and 34 percent of the vote respectively as of this writing, it is practically neck-and-neck!
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!
The DigiTech RP 1000 is unique in this review. Sure, it has a whole bunch of very usable onboard amp models, effects and preset patches. This alone makes it a great choice for a guitarist looking for a powerful multi-effects processor. But it also has an interesting feature that is a little surprising for a unit in this price range: It can act as a switching system. This means you can use your favorite external pedals and stomp boxes and control them via the RP 1000. Now, that is pretty cool.
The RP 1000 boasts 55 amp modes, 26 cabinet models and 86 effects models. Other features include are a total of over 160 effects, 200 total presets (100 factory/100 user-created), a USB port, access to X-Edit Librarian software and the include Cubebase LE4 music production software, stereo outs (both ¼” and XLR), and a built in 20-second looper. If you need a powerful, flexible effects processor and don’t quite feel like letting go of some of your favorite stomp boxes, this might be the multi-effects pedal for you.
The Digitech RP1000 Switching System
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.
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 the your PC or Mac.
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.
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.
More on Downloading Patches for the Zoom G5n
Which Effects Processor is Best?
Choosing one above the others here isn’t an easy task. They all sound great, and they each have their own strengths that may matter more or less, depending on what’s important to you.
I really liked 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. And, it doesn’t hurt that it sounds amazing, either!
The DigiTech RP1000 has the switching function, which may be appealing to seasoned guitarists who really like certain analog pedals and do not feel they’ve found digital emulations that are up to par. Simply use your own outbound pedals and control them with the Digitech system.
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. Good luck choosing the best guitar multi-effects pedal, and finding the right floor processor for you needs.