The best guitar pedals to buy in 2021: 10 best pedals for praise and worship music

Everything you need to build a great worship pedalboard.

Best Worship Pedals 2021

Modern praise and worship music, played in churches across the world, makes enormous use of electric guitars. The genre does call for a certain tone, one usually achieved with a number of effects pedals – so let’s take a look at your best options.

What makes for a good praise and worship tone?

Praise and worship guitar tone is generally based around a number of things, sharing some traits with ambient music, in that it makes use of swells and immersive reverbs and delays. Many praise and worship rigs make use of stereo pedals, too, which you might want to consider depending on your amplification setup.

Overdrive is present, too, however the popular drive pedals in the scene tend towards the lower-gain side of things, and a ‘transparent’ EQ character. Transparent simply means the pedal doesn’t impart its own EQ signature onto your sound – the most famous example of which is the near-mythical Klon Centaur.

The best praise and worship guitar pedals at a glance:

  • Strymon BigSky
  • Boss RV-6 Reverb
  • Chase Bliss x Meris CXM 1978
  • Boss DD8 Digital Delay
  • MXR Timmy Overdrive Mini
  • JHS Superbolt V2
  • EHX Soul Food
  • Dunlop Mini Volume Pedal
  • Keeley Compressor Plus
  • Walrus Audio Julianna

Strymon BigSky

Strymon BigSky

+ Achingly beautiful ambient tones
+ Stereo is used well to create massive space
– Expensive

A reverb pedal staple, and for good reason, the BigSky offers 12 reverb types, with the stalwart spring, plate and hall sounds well catered for. Where it’s found the most favour, however, is in its proprietary ambient sounds, such as Bloom, Chorale and, especially, Cloud.

These extremely tweakable sounds are fine-tuned for enormous ambience, creating synth-like drones and airy highs that make full use of the pedal’s stereo support.

The sheer number of MIDI presets, matched with deep controls makes this pedal a reverb for those serious about their sound. It’s the ‘reverb nerd’s’ reverb pedal – one which you might find yourself lost in. The price tag certainly reflects this, but given how ubiquitous it is across pedalboards everywhere, the Strymon BigSky has certainly earned its reputation.

Price: $479/£449
Description: Stereo reverb with preset support and 12 reverb voices
Controls: Decay, pre-delay, mix, tone and modulation knobs, two parameters per reverb voice
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. Similar to the Electro-Harmonix Oceans 12, 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.

The RV-6 should also pique the interest of wet-dry-rig enthusiasts for two reasons. Firstly, the pedal remains completely analogue dry-through, so no phase issues should arise if you’re running two amps. And secondly, by using just the ‘B’ input, the pedal outputs a 100 per cent wet signal, meaning it can slot happily into more complicated rigs.

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 of the Boss RV-6 here.

Chase Bliss Audio CXM 1978

Chase Bliss Audio CXM 1978

+ Versatile, expansive and beautiful sounds
+ What you see is always what you get
– Expensive

The CXM 1978 is the second pedal to sport Chase Bliss Audio’s Automatone form factor – that is, a wedge-shaped enclosure with motorised sliders. The crux of the pedal is a recreation of early digital reverb; it’s based on studio reverbs first heard in, you guessed it, 1978.

The result is a set of startlingly huge sounds and an even more startling amount of control. The bass and treble sliders, rather than controlling the presence of their respective frequencies in the mix, actually alter the separate decay times of each band. The location of each band can be adjusted, as can the pre-delay, overall mix and treble content – along with a number of other tweaks to the reverb algorithm’s workings.

From hi-fidelity perfection to strange, lo-fi soundscapes, the CXM 1978 really does do it all, and although it offers massive amounts of digital save-and-recall action, thanks to those motorised sliders what you see is always what you get.

Unsurprisingly, all of this comes at quite a price – it’s certainly not a beginner’s pedal – but for some, the sounds will be more than worth it.

Price: $899/£875
Description: Studio-style plate reverb with adjustable clock rate, preset support and motorised sliders
Controls: Decay time for midrange and bass, bass and midrange crossover point, pre-delay, reverb mix, independent preset recall footswitch
Bypass: True bypass

Read our full review of the Chase Bliss Audio CXM 1978 here.

Boss DD-8 Digital Delay

Boss DD-8 Digital Delay

+ Massively versatile
+ Extra features packed in
– Not as customisable as some pedals with deep-editing

Digital delays tend to be favoured by praise and worship players, thanks to their clear and crisp repeats, versatility and deep level of customisation The DD-8 is positively stacked to the brim with features, including stereo ins and outs and a huge number of delay modes. These even include some options with reverb mixed in, which could save you a spot on your pedalboard.

Pairing the DD-8 with an expression pedal also lets you do some interesting tape speed-up and slow-down effects, and the pedal even comes with a looper built right in. The breadth of features found here rivals that of pedals four times the size and price, but thanks to Boss’ commitment to making excellent compact and affordable pedals, the DD-8 is a worthy addition to any pedalboard.

Price: £129 / $169.99
Description: Multi-mode digital delay pedal
Controls: Effect level, feedback, time, mode select knobs.
Bypass: Buffered bypass

MXR Timmy Overdrive Mini

MXR Timmy Overdrive Mini

+ Preserves amplifier tone
+ Versatile gain range
– Not quite as full-sounding as the original

Paul Cochrane’s Timmy overdrive has been a favourite of praise and worship guitarists for a while, thanks to its transparent character and pleasing “edge of breakup” sound. This collaboration between the acclaimed device maker and MXR’s Custom Shop has led to this scaled-down version of the celebrated stompbox, more affordable and space-saving than the original.

Hailed for its transparency, the Timmy comes highly deployable as a clean boost to push your amplifier, or as a fuller overdrive providing ample amounts of sustain, responsiveness and harmonics to boot.

Add to that a three-way voice switch with three distinct clipping modes, and you’ve got all the makings of a truly versatile dirtbox.

Price: $129.99/£139.99
Description: Transparent overdrive pedal
Controls: Gain, volume, bass, treble, 3-way clip mode switch
Bypass: True bypass

JHS Superbolt V2

JHS Superbolt V2

+ Low-gain but still characterful
+ Excellent when stacked
– Might be a little to rough-around-the-edges for some

JHS’ excellent Superbolt is another staple overdrive seen on many praise and worship pedalboards. It’s based on the sound of the classic Supro amps of the 1960s, used most famously by Jimmy Page. This means an old-school, characterful overdrive tone that’s warm and full without being too in-your-face.

The spongy, compressed sound of an old-school amp overdrive is a perfect match for the character of praise and worship music, where gnarly distorted sounds are less common. However, it does offer a little more oomph and character than more transparent overdrives.

Price: £195 / $199
Description: Low-gain overdrive voiced after old-school Supro combos
Controls: Volume, tone, drive knobs, gain level toggle switch
Bypass: True bypass

EHX Soul Food

EHX Soul Food

+ Classic transparent drive sounds
+ Tiny fraction of the price of a Klon Centaur
– Some might prefer a more ‘authentic’ recreation

Electro-Harmonix cooked up Soul Food as a means to deliver Klon Centaur-like tones to the masses. It’s an affordable transparent overdrive with a circuit design that includes the same TL072 op-amp that drove the mythical overdrive that inspired it.

Great as an always-on drive, or to provide a clean boost when the gain is at zero, the Soul Food manages to push tube amplifiers into their sweet spot efficiently. Boosted power rails also means an increase in headroom, which helps this pedal play extra nicely with others on your board.

Price: $104/£76
Description: Centaur-inspired overdrive pedal
Controls: Volume, drive, treble
Bypass: True bypass

Dunlop Volume (X) Mini

Dunlop Volume (X) Mini

+ Space-saving
+ Sturdy construction
– Could be tricky to use for players with bigger feet

This miniature volume pedal is a great option for your worship board for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s a little smaller than a standard volume pedal. Given the number of pedals present on the average praise and worship ‘board, plonking a full-size volume pedal down might not always be viable.

Secondly, it can double as an expression pedal – providing greater control over pedals – such as the Strymon BigSky – to achieve more complex sounds.

Price: £109 / $119.99
Description: Compact volume and expression pedal
Controls: Foot treadle
Bypass: Buffered bypass

Keeley Compressor Plus

Keeley Compressor Plus

+ Excellent-sounding compressed cleans
+ Blend control to retain dynamics
– Might not stack well with every drive pedal

A solid compressor can really add that final touch to your guitar tone, clean or overdriven. The Compressor Plus gives you all the standard benefits of a guitar compressor: evening out dynamics to stay audible in a mix, boosting your signal for a more lively feel and bringing your transients to life.

What makes the Compressor Plus especially flexible is its Blend control, which mixes back in a bit of your dry signal. It’s a technique known as parallel compression, which is often used in mixing to get a more balanced sound out of a compressor: the dry signal provides the wide dynamic range, while the compressed signal keeps things nice and punchy.

Additionally, there’s a toggle switch for choosing between single-coil and humbucker operating modes, offering greater consistency no matter what guitar you bring along.

Price: $149 / £139
Description: Four-knob compressor
Controls: Tone, level, sustain and blend knobs, single-coil/humbucker toggle switch
Bypass: True bypass

Read our full review of the Keeley Compressor Plus here.

Walrus Audio Julianna

Walrus Audio Julianna

+ Same excellent chorus platform as the Julia
+ Interesting extra effects added
– Some might want a more extreme effect than chorus offers

While praise and worship tones aren’t often heavily modulated, some subtle chorus can really bring your sound to life. Walrus Audio’s Julianna, as its name suggests, is a slight update on its predecessor, the Julia. Already off to a good start, as the Julia’s an excellent chorus pedal, the Julianna now adds a hidden ‘drift’ function, which can ramp the speed of the LFO up or down at a rate of your choosing.

There’s also an additional random wave LFO option for increased wooziness should you feel inclined, but all in all, expect to find the same excellent chorus platform as the Julia, with more breadth to each control parameter.

Price: $249 / £225
Description: Chorus/vibrato pedal, handwired in the USA
Controls: Rate, depth (drift), lag, D-C-V knobs, div and shape mini toggles, tap footswitch
Bypass: True bypass

Read our full review of the Walrus Audio Julianna here.


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