Dedicated Stompboxes or Multi-effects Pedals
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What’s Better: Dedicated Stompboxes or Multi-effects Pedals?

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Where should you put your money? Into specialized, single-effect pedals? Or go for a versatile guitar multi-processor with a huge range of effects, editing and patch-saving capabilities?

After due deliberation, we’ve concluded the answer to this often debated question is: It depends.

Multi-effect pluses and minuses

If you’re looking for maximum bang for your buck, multi-effects processors for guitars and basses typically offer dozens or even hundreds of effects in a single unit. And they usually allow you to edit and save effect combinations and settings as presets or patches. Many also can import new effects and patches from the web. There are a lot of cool multi-effects pedals out there with ability to tweak, twist and transform your sound in a million directions.

But let’s face it. In order to pack all those goodies into one single box, compromises are required. Instead of having dedicated circuits aimed at producing a range of, say, overdrive effects, a multiprocessor uses digital signal processing to emulate those sounds. While some DSP effects may blow you away with their ability to mimic dedicated stomps and vintage amps, real tone snobs usually prefer the original pedal or amp on which the simulation is based.

Line 6 M13 Stompbox Modeler

The M13 Stompbox Modeler multi-effects pedal from Line 6 houses more than 100 effects models based on some of the most revered stomps in guitardom.

The other downside to multi-effects boxes is a potentially steep learning curve. Some of the more sophisticated units have deep menus that take effort to master. That said, the best units make editing patches and other functions pretty intuitive. Then again, you’ll likely run into many guitarists who have barely scratched the surface of their multi-effects pedals—they’re happy with the vast selection of effects their unit offers right out of the box.

Getting dedicated

If you’re all about tone, a dedicated guitar effects stompbox is more likely to deliver the kind of sound you’re hearing in your head. Generally speaking, given their single-minded nature, single-effect pedals offer more authentic sound and playing dynamics than DSP copy cats. But on a per-effect basis, they cost more.

BOSS OD-3 Overdrive Pedal

The BOSS OD-3 does one thing and does it well: it offers a range of overdrive sounds with playing dynamics response that gets high marks from players.

If you’re someone who spends a lot of time experimenting with your sound and pushing the boundaries of what a guitar can sound like, a multi-effects box might make more sense for you. Also, if you do a lot of covers, a multiprocessor can be a lifesaver. At a moment’s notice you can call up a good fuzz sound for that “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” request.

Conversely, if your focus is on a relatively narrower range of sounds, convincing tone is a priority, and you’ve got some budget to work with, building a small collection of premium stompboxes is a better way to go.

What do you use—an effects multiprocessor or a pedalboard jammed with dedicated stomps? Weigh in below and tell us how you roll.

Learn more with our Guitar and Bass Effects Buying Guide.

Tags: Electric Guitars Signal Processors Electric Bass Effects Pedals

Comments  

# Jackhoff on Fenders 2015-12-23 13:58
A multi fx can be a great way to experiment with the different types of effects and pedals you can buy, without having to go spend the money. Once you know what sounds good for you then go spend the money on a pedal board. Until then you are probably wasting cash making a blind purchase.
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# Uncleknubs 2015-05-30 05:50
I started playing gigs in 1966 and there were very few stomp boxes around at that time,
I had a Gibson Maestro Fuzz-Tone because of the influence Keith Richards Satisfaction riff had on me and later a Vox wah-wah and a Arbiter Fuzz Face because Hendrix had used them, it took me until 1968 to get a tone bender like Page used for his sound, as it and most of these effects were being designed and made over in England for the British invasion bands and the U.S. market was slow to accommodate. But more came available over my years of playing and I became use to the single stomp box and what I could do with a group of them on a board. There wasn't any multi-pedal or digital effects boards when I started playing and when they first started coming out, they weren't very good, they sounded cheesy to me. Today the game has changed and digital effects dominate many bands and for good reason, they sound amazing today. But because of my experience, I'll always be partial to stomp boxes.
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# Martin Ranneklev 2015-05-09 11:57
I love my guitar rig running through my other software on my PC.
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# Ben 2015-05-09 11:35
I'm in the process of building a pedalboard for both. I have a POD HD500X that I use for amp sims, delays, reverbs and modulations and I have an MXR Micro Amp, EHX Soul Food, Chelle Guitars Odie Overdrive and a Boss SD1 that I'll run in front of the POD of all my drive tones.
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# John 2015-05-08 20:52
It depends on the gig.....if your band is playing covers for a club crowd, multi effects processors are quick and easy. Playing solo or in an intimate setting, give me an overdrive pedal and tube amp every time.
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# Justin 2015-05-08 15:46
Iv'e been on both sides of the spectrum and i'll tell you that yes a multi-FX Pedal has its upsides but the one was just never there for me I had tried everything from korg to the highest end boss gt series and was never satisfied with the tone! I put together a stomp box board with what i wanted and it would take A LOT to go back to a multi-fx. iv'e also learned that if you have the know how and the equipment, Building your own pedals is a really good option as well, but not for the faint of heart.. around 5 hours to solder a pedal together if you know what your doing.. and a few more hours painting them correctly. look at all the pro's most of them are NOT using multi fx. Nuff Said.
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