The best effects pedals to buy in 2023: 14 best guitar pedals for beginners

Get started in the intriguing world of effects with these great pedals.

Beginner Pedals 2022

The world of effects pedals can be an intimidating one if you’re just starting out, especially as units get more and more involved and complicated.

Chances are if you’re a beginner pedal aficionado, you won’t need stereo ins and outs, full midi control and an espresso-capable coffee grinder. So we’ve collated a list of excellent and accessible stompboxes to get you started on your pedal journey.

What makes a guitar pedal good for beginners?

There’s nothing inherent that separates ‘beginner’ pedals from those used by pros, however some pedals aim to solve very specific problems that beginners probably won’t need to worry about just yet.

It’s helpful to consider what needs to be added to your sound, and how your first pedal might help you get there. Think whether you want ethereal or old-school reverb sounds, raucous feedbacking distortion or sweet, subtle overdrive, and so on. Additionally, pedals are versatile in how they shape your tone – even the simplest ones offer a wealth of sounds, depending on how you set their controls and what guitar and amp you use.

The best effects pedals for beginners at a glance:

  • Fender Hammertone Space Delay
  • Electro-Harmonix Ripped Speaker
  • Boss RV-6 Reverb
  • Joyo Atmosphere Reverb
  • TC Electronic Magus Pro Distortion
  • Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini
  • Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive
  • Ibanez Analog Delay Mini
  • MXR Phase 90
  • Dunlop Cry Baby Mini Wah-wah
  • TC Electronic Ditto Looper
  • Fender The Bends Compressor
  • MXR Six Band EQ
  • Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Overdrive

Fender Hammertone Space Delay

Fender Hammertone Space Delay

+ Very affordable
+ Great sounds for the price
– Only one style of delay sound

All nine new pedals in Fender’s new Hammertone range are great for beginners: they’re straightforward, great-sounding, well-built and supremely affordable. So why are we singling out the Space Delay for this list? Because it’s a style of delay pedal that’s quite different to what you’re likely to find built into a beginner amp, or done well in the sub-£100 price bracket as a standalone pedal.

Because it emulates a multi-head tape delay, one in the vein of the Roland Space Echo (hence the name), it can do some things that simpler delay pedals cannot: you can introduce some nice pitch wobble on the repeats, as well as some alternative delay patterns, and if you crank the feedback knob you’ll get some nice self-oscillation. The tape emulation extends to the sonic character of the repeats, too, rolling off a little top-end and high-end, and introducing some subtle saturation.

All of these aspects combine to make your delay repeats wash nicely over your playing, rather than getting in the way. Combine the great sounds with the benefits of Fender’s Hammertone format – stellar looks and build quality at a very attractive price – it’s perhaps a no-brainer for your first delay pedal.

Price: $99.99 / £84.99
Description: Compact delay pedal modelled after tape-echo units
Controls: Three-way pattern switch, modulation on/off switch, feedback, level, and delay time controls, internal trim pots for modulation rate and depth
Bypass: True Bypass

Read our full review here.

Electro-Harmonix Ripped Speaker

Electro-Harmonix Ripped Speaker

+ Range of excellent fuzz sounds
+ Affordable
– Subtle sounds are hard to achieve

Fuzz: it’s the sound of countless amazing guitar tones and a great start to the world of pedals, as it’s nothing like the sound of amp distortion. Rather than sweetening your amp’s overdrive, you really know when you’ve stepped on a fuzz pedal. This particular fuzz, despite being from Electro-Harmonix, isn’t a Big Muff-style pedal – which means no midrange scoop, great if you need to stay audible in a band mix.

Despite the name, it doesn’t really sound like a slashed speaker – but it does have heaps of enjoyable sounds available, from saturated distortion to broken-sounding spluttering.

Price: $110 / £89
Description: Fuzz pedal, assembled in USA
Controls: Volume, Tone, Rip (bias), Fuzz
Bypass: True Bypass

Read our full review here.

Joyo Atmosphere Reverb

Joyo Atmosphere Reverb

+ Affordable
+ Wide range of sounds on offer
– Tone-tweaking a little more limited than some similar pedals

Joyo have long been stalwarts of the beginner and affordable pedal worlds, however in recent years, the brand has upped the game even more with its R series of pedals. The Atmosphere packs in an impressive nine reverb sounds for well under £100. Not bad!

The sounds themselves range from subtle and traditional, such as spring and plate, to more out-there ones such as rewind and pulse. If you’re yet to figure out your preferred flavour of reverb, the Atmosphere offers a reasonably-priced tasting board of the most common types of ‘verbs. Add on a classy enclosure trimmed with diffused acrylic that glows when the pedal is active, and you’ve got a great stompbox for the price.

Price: £77.77 / $89.99
Description: Multi-mode digital reverb pedal
Controls: Reverb mode, reverb tone, dodulation amount, decay time and mix
Bypass: Switchable trail bypass

TC Electronic Magus Pro Distortion

TC Electronic Magus Pro Distortion

+ Classic RAT circuit
+ Three variations accessible at the flick of a switch
– RAT-style distortions aren’t for everyone

Overdrive, distortion and fuzz – in ascending order of chaos, these are the three classes you’ll find drive pedals divided into. However, there is one style of pedal that takes a really good crack at all three, which is the ProCo RAT. The Magus Pro is TC Electronic’s take on three variations of the RAT circuit, with varying levels of bass and fuzziness.

It’s an incredibly versatile circuit – at low gain and high level, it can operate like an overdrive pedal, with a pleasing top-end character when the filter is rolled anti-clockwise. Turn the gain all the way up to get raucous distortion, and increase the filter control to smooth out the high-end for a creamy, fuzz-like sound.

Price: £49 / $69
Description: Rat-style distortion pedal
Controls: Gain, Filter, Volume, mode selection toggle switch
Bypass: True Bypass

Boss RV-6 Reverb

Boss RV-6 Reverb

+ Both ambient and traditional bases covered
+ Versatile I/O and analogue-dry-through
– Not too much deep editing on offer

Fitting into Boss’ famed compact form factor, the RV-6 offers a huge number of features for its size and price. It’s packed with a huge range of core sounds, from spring and plate emulation to modulated and shimmer reverbs. These sounds can be tweaked via level and tone controls, which is great if you just want a variety of sounds straight out of the box.

It’s a slightly more premium take on the digital multi-reverb pedal than something like the Joyo Atmosphere, however if you want something that will last you in both sound and build quality (Boss compact enclosures would likely survive a direct hit from a surface-to-air missile), Boss is your best bet.

Price: $153.99 / £149
Description: Stereo reverb with mode switch for 10 algorithms in total
Controls: Reverb mode selector switch, time, mix and tone knobs
Bypass: Buffered bypass

Read our full review here.

Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini Overdrive

Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini Overdrive

+ An affordable entry point into the world of Screamers
+ Small footprint
– Not the best at heavier drive tones by itself

If there’s one flavour of overdrive that you’ll come across the most as you begin your journey into the world of pedals, it’s the Tube Screamer. Ibanez’s miniature version of the classic circuit features the tried-and-tested sound crammed into a tiny enclosure with the simple layout of volume, tone and gain.

Run into a clean or slightly overdriven amplifier on a low gain setting, this pedal pushes your tone into a colourful, dynamic place, with plenty of clarity alongside the extra grunt.

But run it into a higher-gain amp, and the pedal’s mid-hump and low-end response help you achieve tight, heavy rhythm riffage. The Tube Screamer is also a great complement to other drive and fuzz pedals, giving them the extra edge in the midrange and tightening up their bass response.

Price: £65 / $79.99
Description: Compact midrange-focused overdrive
Controls: Level, drive and tone
Bypass: True Bypass

Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive

Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive

+ Tried and tested smooth overdrive
+ Boss enclosure’s durability is unparalleled
– One-trick pony

The Boss SD-1’s tube-y character, affordability and durability has earned it a reputation of being a workhorse that appears on the board of countless great players. Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Kirk Hammett, Joe Satriani, The Edge, Josh Homme are all users and abusers of the yellow stompbox – not bad for something that’s just over £50.

Its character is fairly neutral, adding enough gain for a core rock tone, but not so much that your dynamics get crushed. It also excels at boosting an already driven amp, too.

Price: £55 / $49.99
Description: Warm, smooth overdrive aimed at blues and rock tones
Controls: Level, tone and drive
Bypass: Buffered Bypass

Ibanez Analog Delay Mini

Ibanez Analog Delay Mini

+ Classic analogue delay tones
+ Great match with the TS Mini
– Not the biggest range of delay times

As the name implies, this delay is fully analogue. How important that is can vary from guitarist to guitarist, but in any case, Ibanez has packed down classic delay circuitry into a mini enclosure. Its delay time ranges from 20 to 600ms, and so it’s great for surfy slapback or even self-oscillating chaos.

Price: £89 / $119.99
Description: Compact analogue delay
Controls: Delay time, repeat (feedback), blend (delay level)
Bypass: True Bypass

MXR Phase 90

MXR Phase 90

+ Simple operation
+ Tried-and-tested analogue sounds
– No intensity control, only speed

While this is a list for beginners, and beginners are statistically less likely to be able to play all of Eruption, the MXR Phase 90 is a great introduction to modulation effects. From Gilmour-esque washes to Leslie-like warbles, its one-knob operation couldn’t be simpler. At higher speed settings, the pedal introduces incredibly speedy wobbles, while at slower settings, it’s great for ambient washes or a dramatic texture shift mid-song.

Price: £83 / $79.99
Description: Simple phaser pedal
Controls: Phase speed
Bypass: Buffered bypass

Dunlop Cry Baby Mini Wah

Dunlop Cry Baby Mini Wah

+ Small footprint
+ True bypass switching
– Those with large feet might want to check out the larger version

Wah is one of the most recognisable effects out there, and thanks to Dunlop’s Cry Baby Mini it’s now achievable in a more pedalboard-friendly format. With no controls other than the (admittedly tiny) foot rocker and an internal toggle switch to adjust the effect’s Q (which defines where the centre of the frequency sweep lies), the Cry Baby Mini represents an affordable way to get your feet on the classic effect.

Price: £99/$99.99
Description: Compact version of the timeless wah pedal
Controls: Wah rocker
Bypass: True bypass

TC Electronic Ditto Looper

TC Electronic Ditto Looper

+ Small footprint and easy operation
+ Unlimited overdubs and five-minute loop limit
– No dedicated stop button

Loopers are wonderful tools to have at your disposal – especially if you’re a beginner bedroom jammer.

Want to practise over chord changes of your choosing? Or test out different tones on the same passage? The Ditto lets you do that in the most intuitive of ways: there’s only one footswitch to record, stop and playback, plus a single Loop Level knob to control the volume of the loop.

While it’s not the most full-featured looper out there, its operation couldn’t be simpler – and it’s an affordable entry point to the world of, um, playing with yourself.

Price: £71.99/$98.98
Description: Simple one-knob looper
Controls: Loop level, multi-function footswitch
Bypass: True bypass

Fender The Bends Compressor

Fender The Bends Compressor

+ Affordable for the feature set
+ Wet/dry blend is a bonus
– Not the most exciting or inspiring effect

Compression is everywhere. Your overdrive pedals, your amps, your pickups, the mastering process of almost every single recorded piece of music released – they all compress a signal to some extent.

In short, compression evens out the dynamics of your playing; it brings up the soft parts and quietens the loud parts. And so a dedicated compressor pedal grants you deep access to this essential process of controlling the speed, sustain and output gain of the effect. Compression can have a sound of its own, too – a single-coil into a compressor into a clean amp is a timeless sound of funk, R&B and pop, for instance.

Fender’s The Bends is a solid introduction to the effect. Through the Drive and Recovery knobs, the stompbox lets you squeeze your signal and extend your sustain. But the main benefit of the pedal is its Blend knob, which allows you to mix in your dry signal to retain your natural pick attack, among other quirks in your playing style.

Price: £89/$149.99
Description: Compressor pedal with wet/dry blend
Controls: Drive, recovery, level and wet/dry blend
Bypass: True bypass

MXR Six Band EQ

MXR Six Band EQ

+ Brings the best out of your gear
+ Doubles up as a clean boost
– Uninspiring on its own

Like compression, every piece of gear has its own inherent EQ character. But with a standalone EQ pedal, you can finetune the sound of your guitar, amp and pedals, all depending on where you position the stompbox in your chain.

Is your practice amplifier sounding too rumbly in the low-end? No need to buy a new one – just drop the 100Hz band a little. Is your new distortion pedal hissing away in the top end? Cut the 10KHz band. Can’t hear yourself when you solo? Boost the midrange when it’s your cue.

The six-band MXR EQ is a great place to start – like most of the pedals on this list, it’s compact, affordable and durable. Its six bands give you just the necessary amount of control to be considered a pure ‘utility’ pedal. Plus, the 18dB you can cut/boost each frequency band is a touch more than the comparable Boss GE-7, although the latter lets you tame or amplify the high end with a 6.4K band.

But for more precise and sophisticated alternatives, check out our guide on EQ pedals for a more in-depth look.

Price: £99/$89.99
Description: 6-band equaliser pedal
Controls: six sliders for the discrete frequency bands, overall level control
Bypass: Buffered bypass

Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Overdrive

Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Overdrive

+ Optional buffer
+ High headroom
– Low end is a little quiet

You buy your first guitar. Your first amplifier. You observe the wall of guitar pedals in the shop, and make a mental note to do some research on the matter. You log on to the /r/guitarpedals subreddit and look at the top posts. Here you see multiple references to a horse, a centaur, something arcane lost to the annals of time. You get a sense that this is the tip of the iceberg.

Scouring the ancient, dusty comments sections you piece together the legend of the Klon Centaur – perhaps the ‘best’ pedal of all time, it seems, thanks to its low-gain ‘transparent’ overdrive.

You look on for a true Klon Centaur out of curiosity. You see “£3,796.62”. You close that tab and instead purchase an EHX Soul Food for a 50th of the price.

It sounds the same. And if you think we’re being flippant, here’s a side-by-side comparison of the Klon and Soul Food by Living Room Gear Demos.

Price: £69.99/$86.20
Description: Klon-style ‘transparent’ overdrive
Controls: Gain, treble and output level
Bypass: Buffered or true bypass, set with an internal switch


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