Boss multi-effects pedal

“Multi-effects pedal” is no longer a dirty term. Thanks to more powerful processors and DSP capabilities, what were formerly shrill, cold-sounding units have matured into all-in-one boxes capable of producing authentic effects and amp simulations. Many guitarists have even begun to favor them over dedicated stompboxes.

What’s the best multi-effects pedal you can buy? That really depends on your needs—whether you plan to deploy it on the stage, in the studio or as a supplement to your pedalboard. So in compiling this list, we’ve looked at three factors that are important, no matter the context: sound quality, ease of use, value and, of course, the range of effects available.

Let’s dive in.

1Zoom MS-50G MultiStomp

Great for beginners

The Zoom MS-50G combines the flexibility of a multi-effects pedal and an amp modeler into a compact stompbox—which will only take you a hundred bucks out of pocket. While it isn’t the simplest pedal to manipulate on the fly, its 172 effects, programmability and low price tag make the MS-50G one of the better budget buys out there.

Highlights
  • Up to 172 effects in a small, pedalboard-friendly size
  • Programmable on a computer
  • Up to 50 save slots
  • Retails at $99.99

With 100 preloaded effects, the MS-50G is great right out of the box. It also has the capacity to store a further 72 effects that you can download, so you’re spoiled for choice. The buffet of effects is organized into five neat categories: “Dynamics/Filter,” “Overdrive/Distortion,” “Amp,” “Modulation/Special Effects” and “Delay/Reverb.”   

Within these categories, you’ll have access to a sprawling range of pedal simulations. They include the likes of the Ibanez TS808, Boss OD-1, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, ZVEX Seek Wah, and many more. In terms of amp modelers, you get 22 emulations that vary between classics and contemporaries by Fender, Marshall, Mesa Boogie and a couple of other brands—all in an enclosure no bigger than a standard Boss pedal.

You can easily get to grips with the user interface here. Simply use the pedal’s D-pad, which surrounds the footswitch, to scroll through and chain together your desired effects. Up to six effects can be used simultaneously, in whichever order you like, and you can engage them individually, too. Each effect offers up to six editable parameters, accessible via three rotary knobs.

However, the MS-50G’s small size is a double-edged sword. As there are only a few knobs and buttons, you might have to play Operation when tweaking the finer details or changing up the signal chain. You can, however, save up to 50 patches and cycle through 26 of them using only the footswitch—no bending down necessary. So unless you’ve done that, this Zoom unit may not be the best live solution on its own.

Which makes the MS-50G a great tool for a beginner who’s only just starting to experiment with effects. That said, we also think its considerable feature set makes it worthy of a spot on the pedalboard of gigging musicians who need a utility or backup device.

2Line 6 Pocket POD

An industry standard

Don’t let its small stature deceive you—the Line 6 Pocket POD is the grab-and-go multi-effects unit. It packs a whopping range of over 300 presets, based on 16 effects, 32 amp and 16 cab models, with hundreds more available for download. If you’re laying down tracks in the studio and want a physical device to manipulate rather than virtual plug-ins, this kidney-shaped unit is what you’re looking for.

Highlights
  • Tiny enclosure, countless modules
  • Access to Line 6’s stellar collection, endorsed by big names in music
  • Comes with editing software for deep configuration via your computer
  • Retails at $129

The Pocket POD may only have a minuscule display, but Line 6 has found a neat way to call up the hundreds of effects that lie within.

It’s all organized under the lists “Style,” “User” and “Band.” The first is quite self-explanatory: presets that give you the general sounds of a genre, so you can recall sounds such as “Clean,” “Crunch,” “HiGain” and so on. All of these templates can be further configured with the row of dials beneath the screen, which adjusts gain, effect level and volume, as well as finer parameters such as delay feedback and EQ. Once that’s done, you can add them to the “User” list, which is a collection of your fine-tuned presets.

And lastly, there’s “Band.” This is Line 6’s collection of presets that are modeled on the sounds of guitarists such as Steve Pedulla (Thursday), Marcos Curiel (POD), and Joel Stroetzel (Killswitch Engage). You can even break down these presets into discrete modules and tinker with them.

However, the Pocket POD doesn’t model drive pedals—only modulation, time-based, filter and compression effects. (There’s one exception in the Arbiter Fuzz Face.) Instead, the unit relies on its array of amp models for your distortion and overdrive needs. Classic British tones, Fender tweed amps, high-gain Mesa Boogies and even the mythical Dumble Overdrive Special are on offer here.

3T-Rex SoulMate

For boutique sounds

Getting into the premium end of things, the T-Rex SoulMate combines five of the boutique Danish brand’s effects into one. If you’re a guitarist who hates having to trawl through menus in search of the right patch but still desires the convenience of a multi-effects pedal, this could, well, be your soul mate.

Highlights
  • Very easy to use—it’s five pedals glued together in series
  • Great traditional sounds that are authentic and varied
  • Has an in-built effects loop
  • Built like a tank
  • Lists at $599

There’s a reason why this pedal costs a pretty penny. It has five acclaimed T-Rex pedals: the Møller overdrive, Mudhoney distortion, Replica/Reptile modulated delay, Room-Mate reverb, and a boost that offers up to 14 dB of additional volume. And if you’re using other stompboxes, an effects loop positioned between the distortion and delay lets you place the SoulMate’s time-based effects right at the end of your chain.

T-Rex’s focus is on tone quality, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a multi-effects pedal that sounds as good as this. Each effect has its own dedicated footswitch and suite of controls, which resemble those on the actual stompboxes, for easy operability. And the rightmost switch serves as both a tap tempo for the delay and to call up the tuner—very handy on stage.

You can use the SoulMate in one of two modes: live or preset. The former sets the board as five individual pedals that can be customized on the fly. And the latter lets you toggle between ten presets (in two banks of five), which can either be individual effects or a chain of them.

If you’re willing to look past the hefty price tag, the SoulMate is one of the best multi-effects pedals around, particularly for players who are after the five basic effects—but done very well.

4Eventide H9 Max Harmonizer

Perfect for the studio

While Eventide’s H9 Max Harmonizer is reminiscent of HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, we assure you it isn’t out to murder you. It does, however, have killer, studio-quality sound, a wealth of onboard effects, and deep programmability to appease even the most critical tone snob. The H9 Max may very well be the desert-island pedal for sessionists and studio musicians.

Highlights
  • Highly sophisticated sounds in one elegant little box
  • 49 in-built algorithms and ability to save up to 99 presets
  • Programmable via the H9 Control app
  • MIDI compatibility
  • Stereo inputs and outputs
  • Actively updated with new presets and mods
  • Retails for $799

The H9 Max loads its algorithms from Eventide’s TimeFactor (delay), ModFactor (modulation), PitchFactor (pitch shifting), and Space (reverb) pedals, as well as a few designed specifically for it—49 algorithms in total.

These include standard ones such as chorus, phaser, overdrive/distortion and vibrato, but also far-out ones like a pitch-shifting, delayed fuzz and Space’s acclaimed BlackHole. So the H9 feels right at home on your rendition of “Black Dog” as it does on any Tom Morello lick. And needless to say, these algorithms sound identical to those on the full-sized pedals.

In terms of controls, you only have one knob and five buttons to summon all those sounds. But they’re streamlined enough: The “X,” “Y,” and “Z” buttons each activate a particular parameter, whose value can then be adjusted via the dial. These are just the ‘top-level’ parameters on each effect that Eventide believes to be the most commonly accessed—bringing up the others requires some button-mashing action. To toggle between presets or algorithms, hit the “Presets” buttons and begin scrolling with the big dial.

The real magic of the H9 Max, however, lies in Eventide’s H9 Control app. Think of this as the ‘command center’ for the stompbox. It lets you load and create presets, manage parameters, and even control the H9 remotely via Bluetooth. The app is also the home for the ton—more than 500—of presets and algorithms that you can download.

But if you plan on using the H9 Max at a live show, fiddling with your iPhone between songs isn’t the best idea. Enter the OX9 H9 Aux Switch from Barn3. This device connects to the H9’s expression pedal input and adds a further two footswitches, which can be assigned to anything from parameters, bank up/down, tap tempo and more. It’s a neat gadget that overcomes the H9 Max’s lack of on-the-fly spontaneity, making it a formidable addition to a gigging musician’s arsenal.

5Zoom G3X Multi Effects Pedal

Versatile and easy to use

The Zoom G3X combines the power of numerous multi-effects processors and an expression pedal in one compact stompbox. It has 94 effects and 22 amp models, so it’s incredibly flexible, and at this price, it’s a great starter kit that beginners won’t outgrow for years.

Highlights
  • Combines up to six ‘modules’ from a list of 116 effects and amp models
  • Easy to navigate and operate
  • Programmable on a computer
  • Has an in-built looper and expression pedal
  • Retails for $199

Apart from its sprawling range of effects and amp models, the G3X is beloved for its usability. This comes from its straightforward user interface and intuitive physical layout. The pedal features three LCD panels and a phalanx of buttons and dials—including an expression pedal—to achieve your desired tone. And, it costs just under $200.

The G3X lets you access to a host of effects. Pick from 94 simulations of classic and contemporary pedals, ranging from compressors and noise gates to dirt boxes and reverb algorithms. The device also has 22 amp emulations that take after models from brands such as Fender, Mesa Boogie and Orange, among many others. You can even pair amps with a bevy of cabinet models to achieve your personal tone.

Like the MS-50G, this pedal allows you to use up to six effects simultaneously, in any order. However, the G3X’s multiple displays—one for each ‘pedal’ slot—mean you have instant control over three out of the six effects at a time. To switch to the others, simultaneously hit the first two footswitches to move left in the chain, or the latter two to move right.

Additionally, there are 100 patch memory slots that can be used for custom effects and chains. To edit and share these patches, hook the G3X up to your computer via USB and fire up Zoom’s free Edit & Share software. With it, you can create your own effects chains, set up new patches, catalog effects, and share them all online.

6Line 6 Helix Floor

The final word in multi-effects

No list of best multi-effects pedals is complete without the Line 6 Helix Floor. More than 200—and counting—emulations are packed into this sexy pedal, all based on the brand’s Dual-DSP technology. That’s not even mentioning the device’s deep programmability, over a dozen inputs and outputs, and enough physical dials, buttons and footswitches to make you dizzy. So it’s only natural that the Helix Floor is also the priciest device on this list.

Highlights
  • 72 amp models, 194 pedals, 37 cabs, 16 microphones and counting  
  • Authentic tones and sounds
  • Flexible UI that’s simple to operate
  • All the I/Os you need—and don’t
  • Retails for $1,500

Just one glance at the Helix Floor will tell you that it doesn’t muck about. It has a gorgeous LCD display, six contextual knobs, ten stomp switches (each is accompanied by an LCD strip that displays parameter information), up/down switches to cycle through presets, and a dual expression pedal system. So in terms of controls, you can’t ask for more.

Now let’s take a look under the hood. The current list of emulations includes 72 amp models, 194 pedals, 37 cabs, 16 microphones and more. If that’s not enough, you’ll be glad to know this library is constantly growing, and patch updates can be conveniently downloaded via the Helix Edit app. You’ll even have access to patches that the rock stars are using.

A cornerstone of the Helix is its ability to capture all the nuances of well-known amp models—from the crackle of power surges to the sag of tubes, they’re all faithfully and meticulously converted into the ones and zeros of algorithms. And they’re not all Fenders and Marshalls, either. From Hiwatts to Parks to Divided by 13 models, the Helix delivers.

The Helix categorizes its 104 effects into ten broad types: distortion, dynamics, EQ, modulation, delay, reverb, pitch/synth, filter, wah and volume/pan. There’s everything you need here, and the Helix also shines in its ability to create complex signal paths: You can split the effects, assign each route to a footswitch for instant activation mid-performance, and so on.

That robust programmability makes the Helix a perfect nerve center for your entire rig. With over a dozen I/Os—including MIDI, XLRs, digital outs, a USB interface and four effects loops—you’ll be able to control all your other devices via the Helix.

All that said, the Helix is clearly not for everyone. Unless you’re a touring artist, studio wizard or are simply after a more cost- and space-effective alternative to owning acres of pedals, the Helix is probably overkill.

7Boss GT-1000

For creating and switching between sophisticated patches

Few brands come with the heritage and credentials of Boss. So its top-of-the-line multi-effects unit, which packs a list of the brand’s renowned stompboxes, has certainly created a great deal of excitement ever since it was announced at Winter NAMM 2018. The GT-1000 sets itself apart from its closest cousin, the Line 6 Helix Floor, thanks to its unique patching system that lets you concoct and quickly recall detailed signal chains.

Highlights
  • 116 effects and amp models
  • AIRD technology produces authentic tones
  • Unique patch system to call up signal chains
  • Ships with 250 presets, and you can save up to 250 more
  • Extensive I/O with MIDI capability
  • Priced at $999

At the heart of the GT-1000 is Boss’ Augmented Impulse Response Dynamics (AIRD) technology, which is also used in the Tube Logic software found in the brand’s Katana amps. This piece of tech mimics the interactivity and complexity of tube amps and, in the GT-1000, balances out dynamics between all the other components in your signal chain. The result: You can use the processor with any amp and still nail the same results.

The AIRD tech is also woven into the GT-1000’s list of amp models, which sound distinct, detailed and, crucially, ‘alive.’ On top of that, you’re granted access to a whole suite of Boss’ iconic stompbox algorithms, from the DS-1 to DD-500 Digital Delay, MD-500 Modulation and RV-500 Reverb.

However, the GT-1000 handles its effects and amp models in an idiosyncratic way. Rather than individual effects, it relies on patches, which are the sum of effects, amps and their corresponding parameters. This means that you can’t exactly switch off an individual pedal in a signal chain—you’ll have to call up another patch that doesn’t feature that effect.

It’s a far cry from the way a traditional pedalboard works, and isn’t as intuitive as the Helix. But the upside is that you can string together extremely sophisticated chains and toggle between them at the stomp of a footswitch. You will, however, have to plow through three exhaustive manuals to really figure out the GT-1000’s nature.

Thankfully, the floorboard sports ten footswitches, six contextual knobs and a large display to help you create and recall patches. Or, fire up the Boss Studio app to design everything on your computer or mobile device. Meanwhile, a suite of I/Os—including MIDI, XLR and two effects loop—is sufficient for most studio and stage needs.

Overall, the GT-1000 is a fantastic multi-effects pedal, yet it does require a higher level of proficiency to operate. Better still if you’ve experience with rack units.

8NUX MG-100

Best for practicing

For $100, you’ll do well to find an entry-level multi-effects board that’s as comprehensive as the NUX MG-100—it even has drum sounds and comes with an in-built expression pedal. Sure, the adage “Jack of all trades, master of none” springs to mind, but fresh guitarists honing their craft and only starting to dabble with effects will find plenty to love in this practice-oriented tool.

Highlights
  • More than 50 modules available; eight can be strung together at any time
  • Looper with sound-on-sound capability
  • Built-in drum machine and integrated expression pedal
  • Color LCD display
  • Retails for $99

With its clearly labeled buttons and intuitive color LCD display—it even shows the current effects chain—the MG-100 is well suited for the novice guitarist. It has three other knobs, labeled “1,” “2” and “3,” which serve as contextual controls that change depending on the effect. For example, in Flanger mode, “1” governs rate, “2” depth and “3” resonance. Two footswitches make cycling between presets easy, while an expression pedal affords you hands-free control over the volume, wah or an effects parameter.

Where effects are concerned, there are a total of 58, eight of which can be engaged simultaneously. There are the customary drives, reverbs, modulators, wahs and delays, along with utility effects such as a compressor, six-band EQ and noise gate. Additionally, the MG-100 packs in its arsenal 13 amp and 11 cabinet models—these include your usual suspects, such as tweed Fenders, an AC30, a JCM800, a Bassman 4×10, a Rectifier 4×12, and even one amp model dubbed the “Death Zone.”

Perhaps the most useful features for practice are the in-built drum machine and looper. The former lets you pick from 56 rhythm patterns, set a tempo and time signature, while the latter allows unlimited overdubs of 40 seconds each. So recording your own backing track to solo over is as easy as pie.

9Behringer FX600

For bargain hunters or as a backup device

It’s probably a surprise to see this one on a list of best multi-effects pedals. But the Behringer FX600 is, for the price of three packs of strings, one of the most value-for-money stompboxes—let alone multi-effects units—you can find. It also plays well with other pedals, has stereo capabilities and produces decent, if digital-sounding, modulated tones.

Highlights
  • Fuss-free and compact design
  • The easiest pedal on this list to use
  • Good coverage of modulation effects
  • Has stereo inputs and outputs
  • Retails for $39.99

The FX600 doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t. There are only six modes here: flanger, chorus, phaser, delay, tremolo and pitch shifter. That’s right, no drive and ’verbs to be seen. And you can only use one effect at a time. So don’t think of this as a pedalboard replacement but a supplement—especially if you’re in the market for a modulation box to slot into your rig.

Unlike most of the stompboxes on this list, the FX600 doesn’t have an LCD screen. Because it doesn’t need one. There are just four knobs—“Level,” “Parameter 1,” “Parameter 2” and “Effects”—to tinker with. “Level” controls the output level, and the six-way “Effects” dial lets you toggle between modes.

The two parameter knobs have contextual functions that differ from effect to effect. For example, in the pitch shifter mode, “Parameter 1” adjusts the higher octave while “Parameter 2” tweaks the lower octave. But when you’re on the phaser, chorus or flanger, the former adjusts the effects’ speed, and the latter their depth.

The sounds themselves, however, proudly reflect their digital nature. Clear, bright and, as Behringer designed them to be, very ‘hi-fi’-sounding. In other words: Look elsewhere if you want analog-voiced effects.

That’s about all there is to the FX600. It’s compact, concise and dead easy to run in your existing chain.

10Boss MS-3

For integrating with your analog pedals

Integrating multi-effects stompboxes into your existing rig can be a tedious project. It involves a lot of messing with routing and, in some scenarios, it just doesn’t work. With the MS-3, Boss has delivered a simple solution by combining a solid effects loop switcher with a quality multi-effects engine. Oh, and it clocks in at only $400.

Highlights
  • All-in-one multi-effects pedalboard with loop switcher
  • 112 built-in effects including delays, reverbs, OD and more
  • User interface is easy to use
  • MIDI compatible
  • Retails for $399

The MS-3’s focal point is its integration potential, which comes largely from its three independent effects loops. What this essentially means is you can loop three separate FX chains and let the MS-3 take care of the rest. And for whatever other effect you’re missing, it’s got your back. It’s the odd-job man that pulls your rig together.

Under the hood, the MS-3 has over a hundred different effects, ranging from the usual suspects like OD, reverb, mod/pitch, to proprietary ones like Slicer, Slow Gear and others. Up to six of these can be used simultaneously in a patch.

And while the MS-3 can fill the gaps in your current rig, it does require some planning—especially if you’re thinking about using it in a live performance. A limitation with the MS-3 is the inability to change the sequence of the loops, so chart your signal paths carefully.

Thanks to the large LCD screen, navigating the many effects menus is relatively painless. It may take you a few tries if you’re unfamiliar with Boss’ user interface, but you’ll get there quickly. Alternatively, you can also hook the unit up to the computer via USB and use Boss’ free editor software to plan your presets.

To tie things up, the MS-3 also has a wide array of I/O options at the back, including MIDI and expression control. Once you’ve set it up to your liking, you’re going to love how the MS-3 integrates with your rig.