Posted on07 December 2016 1:44 AM GMT

Tone Anxiety - worrying about signal chain choices

Electric GuitarGuitar OwnershipTone QuestGuitar PedalsGuitar EffectsTone AnxietySignal ChainPedalboard+-
2016AfBlgToneAnxiety700V3

So - I’m happy with my guitar and amp choices, and am progressing nicely down the most fun, yet most mind-boggling part of electric guitar ownership - namely pedal selection and signal chain arrangement / sort order. There are all manner of things that need to be considered along the way - well beyond how each unit sounds and performs - such as power-supply to and power-drain by each unit. And there are a lot of units out there - as you can see from the base of this article which lists out around 250+ Pedal and Effects manufacturers, which is probably still only a quarter of the total number out there in the world. Each of these makes between 1 and 150 different pedals - which makes for a whole lot of choices.


Some pedals are totally analogue, some wholly digital, and some a wet/dry mix - preserving the analogue signal and loading the effects on top. Some of these may or may not work well with your particular amplifier, but there are various means to further sculpt and boost and improve the sound - using Compressors, Boosters, Noise Gates and EQs - all of which essential utilities can do amazing things to your core sound, and should not be underestimated.


My first list below details the 10 essential Pedal Makers which cover most angles for you. Chief amongst them are Boss and MXR (Dunlop) which are your everyday utility workhorse pedals - each company has a quality pedal to suit every purpose and occasion, and they sit in the mid-range price bracket. Pretty much every guitar professional has owned a few Boss and MXR pedals somewhere along the line.


Next come TC Electronic and DigiTech - in a similar price bracket, these don’t have quite the extensive range of Boss and MXR, but provide some added smarts to their pedals and some very clever features - such as TC Electronic’s TonePrint functionality, or DigiTech’s Trio+ band in a box.


Then you have EarthQuaker and Electro-Harmonix who do some truly unique sounding pedals, but also provide a fairly wide palette of effects. At the top end you have Canadian relative newcomers Empress, Brian Wampler’s eponymous company, then Xotic, and my own personal favourites - Strymon. The last mentioned is easily my favourite pedal maker, and I love everything they do, even though their pedals are amongst the priciest - but they’re mostly worth it. Strymon’s must-have pedals are their genius tone work stations - namely Mobius, TimeLine and BigSky - each of which features 12 effects machines within a specific category - Modulation, Delay and Reverb - and the features and options are simply amazing + build quality etc. - as is of course the sound that comes out of them.


Another consideration in assembling your pedal chain / signal chain is of course size of device, and there are lots of newer smaller units such as Xotic’s slimline trio - EP Booster, SL Drive and SP Compressor - which can relatively easily slot in on your overcrowded pedalboard. Some of the analogue drive / pre-amp-style pedals can be huge as they contain actual valves or a tonne of analogue circuitry - so strategic planning is often required - and you cannot take everything with you, or use everything in one session.


Of course most cannot afford to get everything on their wishlist, so it’s a matter of prudent and sequential acquisition. Some of the more feature-rich pedals will take you weeks to fully explore every possibility, so it’s good to stagger out your pedal acquisition as each one you get and experiment with can properly inform the decision for the next one.


As is always the case, some do several things really great, and a few do only one thing but amazingly - pretty much every pedal out there has several near clones, none more so than the legendary Klon Centaur - which to my ears is best matched by the Wampler Tumnus. Some of these pedals - e.g. AnalogMan’s King of Tone have a waiting list of up to a year - but there are of course several alternatives, none of which sound exactly the same, but a couple of which may be more pleasing to your own ears or better at home in your particular setup / signal path. I’ve streamlined down several of the wider categories of pedals.


Many people talk about the following key categories of pedals (Alphabetical):


Boost | Chorus | Compression | Delay - Analogue | Delay - Digital | Distortion | Flanger | Fuzz | Octaver / Pitch Shifter | Overdrive | Phaser | Reverb | Tremolo | Univibe | Volume | Wah


I’ve streamlined these into the ’Hitlist’ and ’Nice to Have’ categories below - where I combine Boost and Compression (often in the same pedal) and bundle Chorus, Flanger, Octaver, Phaser, Tremolo, Univibe and Wah (Touch) into Modulation - as Strymon’s Mobius handles all of those. I’ve also not listed out Fuzz separately, as this for me sits within / overlaps Overdrive / Distortion, and certain pedals have separate controls for all three - e.g. the Empress Multidrive

 


10 Favourite Pedal Makers (Alphabetical)

  • Boss - I love the new -1X line (Compressor, Overdrive, Distortion), also 7-EQ and NS-2 Noise Gate, Boss handles pretty much every scenario in a compact and wholly reliable format
  • DigiTech / DOD - Whammy V, JamMan, Trio+, Boneshaker, DirtyRobot, Looking Glass OD etc.
  • EarthQuaker Devices - Rainbow Machine, Palisades, Interstellar Orbiter, Gray Channel, Bit Commander etc.
  • Electro-Harmonix - Soul Food, Big Muff, Electric Mistress, Pog, Memory Man, Mel 9 etc.
  • Empress Effects - Multidrive, Superdelay, Reverb, ParaEQ, Compressor etc.
  • MXR (Dunlop)- Carbon Copy, Phase 90, DynaComp, Ten Band EQ, Uni-Vibe, Super Badass etc.
  • Strymon - Mobius, TimeLine, BigSky, Riverside, Lex, Deco etc.
  • TC Electronic - PolyTune, MojoMojo, Flashback, HyperGravity, Hall of Fame, Ditto etc.
  • Wampler - Tumnus, Pinnacle Deluxe, Triple Wreck, Dual Fusion, Ego Compressor etc.
  • Xotic - EP Booster, SL Drive, SP Compressor, BB Plus, Xotic Wah, Soul Driven AH etc.

 

 

NOTE - Both below lists are likely to be updated several times ...

 

Hitlist

  • Tuner:
    • TC Electronic PolyTune 2 Noir
  • Compressor / Booster:
    • Boss CP-1X
    • Wampler Ego Mini Compressor
    • TC Electronic Spark Mini Booster
  • Noise Gate:
    • Boss NS-2
  • EQ:
    • Boss GE-7
  • Fuzz:
    • EWS Little Fuzzy Drive
    • Zvex Fuzzolo
  • Overdrive:
    • Strymon Riverside
    • Wampler Tumnus
    • TC Electronic MojoMojo
    • Electro-Harmonix Soul Food
    • Friedman BE-OD
    • Fulltone OCD
    • Boss OD-1X
  • Distortion:
    • Boss DS-1X
    • Diezel VH4
    • TC Electronic Dark Matter
  • Modulation:
    • Strymon Mobius
    • Strymon Lex
    • Strymon Ola dBucket Chorus & Vibrato
    • DigiTech Whammy DT
    • Electro-Harmonix Nano Pog
    • AMT WH-1 ’Japanese Girl’ Optical Wah-Wah
    • Mooer Wahter Optical Wah-Wah
  • Delay:
    • Strymon TimeLine
    • Strymon Deco
  • Reverb:
    • Strymon BigSky
  • Expression Pedal:
    • AMT EX-50 Mini Expression Pedal - for use with Mobius
    • AMT LLM-2 Optical Volume Pedal
  • Power Supply:
    • Strymon Ojai
    • Strymon Zuma
  • Switches:
    • Strymon MultiSwitch - for use with TimeLine

 

Nice to Have / Alternatives

  • Tuner:
    • Boss TU-3
    • Sonic Research Turbo Tuner ST-300
  • Compressor / Booster:
    • Strymon OB-1
    • Xotic EP Booster
    • Xotic SP Compressor
    • TC Electronic Hyper Gravity
    • Keeley Electronics Compressor Pro
    • Wampler Mini Ego Compressor
    • Carl Martin Andy Timmons Signature Compressor
    • Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone Micro
  • EQ:
    • Empress ParaEQ
    • Source Audio Programmable EQ
    • MXR Ten Band EQ
  • Overdrive:
    • Xotic SL Drive
    • Ibanez TS9 Tubescreamer
    • Kingsley Jester
    • BK Butler Tube Driver
    • Wampler Dual Fusion
    • Keeley Electronics Tone Workstation
    • Effectrode Blackbird
    • EarthQuaker Devices Palisades
    • AnalogMan King of Tone
    • EarthQuaker Devices Crimson Drive
    • JHS Pedals The AT
    • LPD Sixty 8 Drive
    • Truetone Visual Sound VS-XO Premium Dual Overdrive
    • ProCo Rat 2
    • Van Weelden Royal Overdrive
  • Distortion:
    • Wampler Pinnacle Deluxe V2
    • Wampler Triple Wreck
    • Seymour Duncan Palladium
    • Suhr Riot
    • Weehbo Morbid Drive
    • MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive
    • Fulltone Plimsoul
    • Empress Multidrive
  • Modulation:
    • Free The Tone Tri Avatar
    • Xotic Effects Wah XW-1
    • Dr Scientist BitQuest
    • Electro-Harmonix Epitome Pedal
    • Electro-Harmonix B9 Organ Machine
    • Electro-Harmonix C9 Organ Machine
    • Electro-Harmonix Key9
    • Electro-Harmonix Mel9
    • WMD Geiger Counter Pro
  • Delay:
    • Source Audio Nemesis Delay
    • Keeley Electronics Delay Workstation
    • Chase Bliss Tonal Recall
    • TC Electronic Flashback Mini Delay
    • Free The Tone Flight Time
    • MXR M169 Carbon Copy
  • Reverb:
    • Neunaber Immerse Reverberator
    • Empress Effects Reverb
    • TC Electronic Hall of Fame
  • Looper:
    • TC Electronic Flashback Delay and Looper
    • TC Electronic Ditto X4
    • Boss Rc-3 Loop Station Loop Pedal
    • DigiTech Trio+
  • Expression Pedal:
    • Sonuus Voluum
  • Switcher / Controller:
    • TheGigRig G2
    • One Control Crocodile Tail Loop


Guitar Pedals and FX

Notable Makers in bold - Alphabetical


Aalberg Audio | A/DA | Aguilar | Alairex | Ampeg | Amplified Nation | Amptweaker | AMT Electronics| Analog Alien | AnalogMan | Anasounds | Arc Effects | Arion Modified | Artec | Ashdown | Audiotech | Axcess by Giannini | Barber Electronics | BAT Pedals | BBE | Behringer | Big Ear NYC | Bigfoot Engineering | Big Joe | Bixonic | BK Butler | Black Arts Toneworks | Black Cat | Blackstar | Blakemore Effects | Bogner | Boss | BSM | Budda Amplification | Carl Martin | Caroline Guitar Company | Catalinbread | Celestial Effects | Chaosound | Chase Bliss Audio | Chunk Systems | Circus Freak | Cmat Mods | Coffin Case | Crazy Tube Circuits | Cusack Music | Dan Armstrong | Danelectro | D’Angelico | Dallas | Damage Control | Daredevil Pedals | Darkglass | Dawner | DeArmond | Death by Audio | Decibel 11 | Dedalo | Diamond | Diezel | DigiTech / DOD | Dinosaural | Dreadbox | Dr Scientist | (Jim) Dunlop / EVH / MXR / Way Huge | Duesenberg | DVK | Dwarfcraft | EarthQuaker Devices | Ebow | EBS | Effectrode | Eden | Egnater | Electro-Harmonix | Elektron | Emerson Custom Guitars | Emma Electronic | Empress Effects | Engl | Ernie Ball | Eventide | EVH (Dunlop) | EWS | F Pedals | Fairfield Circuitry | Fender | Finhol | Fire Custom Shop | Fishman | Fox Pedals | Foxx Tone | Fractal Audio Systems | Framptone | Free The Tone | Fret King | Friedman Amplification | Fulltone | Function f(x) | Fuzzrocious | G Lab | Gallien Krueger | George Morley | Giannini (Axcess) | Gig-FX | GNI | Grace Design | Greer Amps | Greenhouse Effects | Gristle King | Gurus | Guyatone | Hammond | HardWire | Harley Benton | Hartke | Hartman | Headway | Heil | Henretta Engineering | Höfner | HoTone | Hudson | Hughes & Kettner | Hungry Robot Pedals | Ibanez | ISP Technologies | J Rockett | Jack Deville | Jam Pedals | Jet City Amplification | Jetter | JHS Pedals | JoeMeek | Joyo | JRAD | Keeley Electronics | Kemper | KHDK | Kingsley | Klon | Korg | Krank | Laffing Dog | Landmine | Laney | Lawrence Petross Design (LPD) | Lead Foot | Lehle | Line 6 | Lizard Leg | LovePedal | Loud Button Electronics | Lovetone | Lumpy’s Tone Shop | LunaStone | L.R.Baggs | Mad Professor | Maestro | Malekko | Markbass | Marshall | Mayer (Roger) | Maxon | Menatone } MESA/Boogie | Millennium | Mission Engineering | ModTone | Moen | Molten | Mooer | Moog | Morgan | Morley (George) | Morpheus | Mosrite | Mr Black | Mu-Fx | Mu-Tron | MXR (Dunlop) | NEO Instruments | Neunaber | Nobels | Occtone | Okko | Old Blood | One Control | Onerr | Orange | Option 5 | Origin Effects | Orion | Ortega | Palmer | Paul Cochrane | Peavey | Peterson | Pignose | Pigtronix | Plush | Positive Grid | ProCo / Rat | Providence | Radial Engineering | Red Panda | Red Witch | Rivera | Rockett | Rocktron | Rodenberg | Roger Linn Design | Roger Mayer | Roland | Rowin | Sadwosky | Samson | Secret EFX | Seymour Duncan | SIB Effects | Singular Sound | Smart People Factory | Snarling Dogs | Solid Gold | Smallsound/Bigsound | SoloDallas | Sonic Research | Sonuus | Source Audio | Sapceman | Spicetone | SPL | Stone Deaf | Strymon | Subdecay | Suhr | Supro | Swindler Effects | T-Rex Effects | Tascam | Taylor | TC Electronic | TC-Helicon | Tech 21 | Thorpy FX | ToadWorks | Tone Concepts | Tone City | Tortuga | Traynor | Truetone | TSVG | Tube Amp Manufactur | TWA | Two Notes | Univox | Valeton | Van Weelden | Vemuram | Vermona | VFE | Visual Sound | Voodoo Lab | Vovox | Vox | Walrus Audio | Wampler | Warwick | Way Huge (Dunlop) | Weehbo | Whirlwind | WMD | XAct Custom Pedals | Xotic | XTS | XVive | Zoom | Zvex

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