Should you use individual stomp boxes or a multi-effects pedal?

With so many different ways to create your own unique guitar sounds, it can sometimes be difficult to decide what you want to put between your guitar an your amplifier. One of the first decisions you have to make is whether you choose individual pedals or a multi-effects unit. So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

These days, guitarists are spoiled for choice when it comes to effects, so, whether you go for separate pedals or a multi-effects pedal, you’ll be able to find the sounds you want to hear and put them at your feet.

Separate pedals or a multi-effects unit?

Why should you use separate effects pedals?

Where to star with this one? Firstly, a pedalboard covered with stickers and stuffed with an esoteric selection of pedals just looks really pretty sweet. Do we need to say any more?

Probably.

Okay, so, using separate pedals gives you flexibility to tailor your sound as you are able to pick and choose which particular effect does the job best for you. You want a TC Polytune Mini tuner, a Crybaby with the Fasel inductor, a Cali76TX compressor, a Rothwell Hellbender overdrive pedal and an MXR Phase 100? Easy. Want to add a Boss RE-20 Space Echo later? No problem.

Does the band change musical direction and you want to swap out your overdrive pedal for a full-on metal-style distortion? Do it.

Separate effects pedals are a ‘modular’ system that lets you pick and choose what type of effect goes where, and you can have as many effects on simultaneously as you have pedals ready to stomp.

The disadvantages? Cost is one, if you want to put together a rig of half-a-dozen effects, it can work out to be a sizeable investment, particularly if you go for higher-end ’boutique’ pedals. However, these pedals do often hold their value better than cheaper pedals or multi-effects units.

Also, if you have songs that involve a lot of effects changes from one section to the next, using individual pedals can lead to the effects-loving guitarist having to perform the pedalboard tap-dance between the verse and the chorus as they struggle to turn half a dozen effects on or off.

Individual stomp-boxecs or multi-effects?

Why should you use a multi-effects pedal?

Modern guitar multi-effects pedals have come a long way since the first digital pedals, and now offer sounds that rival individual analogue pedals. In addition to ‘just’ giving you plenty of effects power at your feet, many multi-effects units also feature amplifier and speaker modelling, so you can plug straight into the PA or your recording device without having to use an amplifier.

While many higher-end multi-effects often cost more than two or three individual pedals, you are getting a lot more than two or three effects! Just to use the Boss ME-80 as an example, it costs £229, but for that you get eight simultaneous effects, with a choice of different effects in each category, which includes amp modelling and an expression pedal for effects such as wah or whammy and a looper with 38 seconds of recording time!

Not only that, but the whole thing fits in your bag, doesn’t require a whole Christmas stocking’s worth of patch cables to connect together and you’ll only need one power adapter!

Even more affordable pedals, such as the Zoom G1n that comes in at less than most individual pedals offers a wide choice of effects.

Multi-effects pedals are great for those songs when you have to switch between multiple effects settings simultaneously. Simply save the relevant combinations of effects into the patch memory, and change multiple effects settings with a single stomp.

Even if you are  single-pedal tone hound, having a multi-effects box around can often be an inspiring tool to have around for when the old creative block hits the songwriting. Just having access to a few extra effects that you don’t normally use can lead to riffs and song ideas you might not normally have found.

As for the disadvantages, well, some limit you to only one effect in a particular category, so you might not be able to use two specific effects together. Also, some of the cheaper models feature plastic cases, which may be less suited to the rigors of life on the road.

When all is said and done though, there is plenty of choice regardless of which route you choose, and the Red Dog Music guitar specialists are always on-hand to help you put your perfect guitar rig together!

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Red Dog Music is the UK’s friendliest musical instrument and pro-audio dealer. Between our 5000 square foot Edinburgh shop filled with an incredible range of products, and our London showroom in Clapham specialising in high-end instruments, dj and pro-audio, Red Dog Music has you covered from north to south and from performance to playback.

 

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Fynn Callum

producer, guitarist, engineer & dj
From indie guitarist to deep house producer via Northern Soul dj; mix engineer, producer and gear enthusiast. Jaffa Cake aficionado.

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