Guitar Pedals Vs Multi-Effect Processor: Which One is The Best For You

Guitar Pedals Vs Multi-Effect Processor

Most of the guitarists in their musical journey had to deal with this million-dollar question: which one is the best for you, Guitar pedals of multi-effect processors.  

For beginners with a limited budget, multi-effect processors are the best option. And for a musician who is playing guitar for a long time, wants to upgrade their rig for a more refined and meticulous sound, can opt for guitar pedals.  

So, here is your short answer. But I’m sure you are curious to know, why this answer. So, follow along to know more about guitar pedals as well as multi-effect processors. Then you can make a better decision for yourself whether you are a beginner or an intermediate guitar player.   

Guitar Pedals Vs Multi-Effect Processors: A Brief Comparison

We all like the short and concise answer to our questions. So, a short comparison between guitar pedals or stomp-boxes and multi-effect processors would give an instant idea about these gears.  

Guitar Pedals  Multi-Effect processor 
Guitar Pedals usually have only a single effect, such as Distortion pedal, compression pedal, or reverb pedal.   As the name suggests, one multi-effect processor has several effects in them, mostly the basic ones such as distortion, reverb, compression, delay, EQ, etc.  
Mostly analog components, some contain digital components as well.   Fully digitized configuration.  
It can be used with several 9V batteries or a power adapter.   It is usually powered by a power adapter.  
Usually don’t have displays.   Most of them have a digital display.  
Strong and compact built, usually made of metal bodies, unlikely to damage on impact.  Also, a strongly built metal body, but might damage some delicate digital components on impact.  
It usually as a power button and 3-5 control knobs; pretty easy and straightforward to navigate.   Usually, multi-effect processors have numerous buttons and knobs for navigating and setting up the sounds. 
Compared to a multi-effect processor, these are smaller.   Multi-effect processors are usually larger than a single guitar pedal, and they can be as large as 24 inches diagonally.  
For performing in gigs, it is necessary a complete set of guitar pedals on a pedal-board.   A single high-quality multi-effects processor can be used for a gig or live performance.  
For a complete pedal-board setup, even a basic one, would take several guitar pedals (at least 3-4), and some extra accessories such as patch cables, the pedalboard itself, and the power strips.   The multi-effect processor itself is a complete setup.  
A full pedal-board setup is quite pricey. Even the cost of a single pedal is pricey compared to the multi-effect processors.   Some of the basic multi-effect processors can be bought for the price of one guitar pedal. High-quality processors are pricey, but not as expensive as the full pedal-board setup.  

As you can see, they are quite different in many aspects, and most importantly, according to the price. But why is that? Because each of them has its own specialties and purposes. That we can find in the pros and cons.  

More About Guitar Effect Pedals

You can probably assume some of the characteristics already. How about a little more in detail? After all, you’ve come this far, so don’t miss out on the details.  

Guitar effect pedals are strong-built tonal effect modules. It has 3-6 knobs depending on the guitar pedals to control and create your desired sound effect. There are numerous types of guitar pedals, among them, the most common ones are distortion, compression, boost, overdrive, reverb, delay, EQ, wah, chorus and phaser (hope I didn’t miss any important ones).  

These pedals are strongly built with solid circuits inside that could be controlled with the knobs. And the control is analog, therefore, your sound can be as precise as you wish it to be. It might sound unlikely from a non-engineering point of view, but trust me, I’m an engineer as well.  

Depending on the type of music you are into, you might need 3-4 guitar pedals to begin with. For advanced effects or using the same effect but of a different flavor, you’d need more guitar pedals. Now Let’s look into some of the pros and cons of guitar effect pedals.   


  • The Analog control gives you more refined, original, and natural sound effects. You might have only one specific effect from that guitar pedal, but you can vary the color tone significantly. 
  • The control knobs are very well built so that you can turn them quite conveniently. Don’t worry too much about tweaking the gain a little to much, or volume a little too low. You can tweak the knobs as precisely as you want them to.  
  • The strong build is a strong point as well; these pedals can last for ages. One of my guitarist mentors uses a pedal from 2003, and it still rocks hard!!! 
  • They are powerful as well. That means, if you use them for a higher-powered amplifier and play the gig loud as hell, they would give you nearly as perfect sound as they would give you in the studio or practice session. So, you won’t have to worry about changing the setting according to the size of an amplifier or the sound systems used in the gig.  
  • It is very convenient and easier to turn on or off a single pedal because all of the pedals are on the pedalboard. For the same reason, the setting of one of the pedals can be changed very easily.  
  • They have better resell value 


  • Although the sound produced by the effect pedals is very refined, original, and solid, it takes an experienced ear to distinguish that. So, in most cases, beginners might not find the sound they make as lucrative. So, a single effect pedal for a high price for a “not so lucrative sound” would not be appealing for most beginners.  
  • There are hidden costs as well. The pedal itself costs a lot, moreover, there are extra costs for the pedalboard, patch wires (connecting wires), and Power Strips. And these accessories do not come cheap.  
  • There is limited space on the pedalboard. So, If you wish to make an upgrade to your pedal collection, you’d have to be prudent about it, or get an additional pedalboard in order to accommodate all the newer pedals. 
  • And the more pedal you add to your collection, the less portable your setup becomes. 
  • Since all the pedals are connected in series with patch cables, if anything goes wrong withing the circuit, there is no obvious way to troubleshoot that. You’d have to go through every pedal and patch cables to check the reason for the fault.  
  • It is easier to change settings and turn on/off a pedal, but not during the middle of a performance. And the task becomes even harder whenever you have to change/switch on or off more than one pedal.  

More About Multi-Effect Processors

Multi-effect processors are amazing if you choose the right ones. There are numerous options to choose from and some of the very good ones are within a beginner’s budget range.  

Now, as I mentioned before, multi-effect processors have inbuilt digital effects that could be accessed and modified according to your musical preference. Some processors have just the basic effects such as distortion/overdrive, compression, delay, reverb, equalizer, etc. Advance processors might have advanced effects such as chorus, flanger, phaser, synthesizer, amp simulator, and a lot more.  

Multi-effect processors often come with USB type A to Type B connection options, so that you can easily connect it to your computer for recording or jamming purposes. And some processors also have a control pedal, that can be used for controlling volume, as well as other effects such as wah, reverb, delay, distortion level, etc.  

Since multi-effect processors offer you the option to store different effects as patches in banks. Some of the multi-effect processors also have a “looper” option that helps you for practicing or jam on your own.  


  • One of the biggest advantages of multi-effects processors is, they offer a lot for a cheaper price. Therefore, they are very beginner-friendly.  
  • Unlike the guitar pedals, there are no extra charges for pedal-boards, patch cables, etc. Only a power adapter is required to keep the processor running. 
  • The option to store different combinations of sound effects as presets in the banks is a lifesaver. You can make several presets suitable for different music, save them and access them later whenever needed. 
  • Multi-effect processors are compact, so they are very portable, even the bigger ones.  
  • You can connect with your computer for recording purposes as well as practice with other soundtracks. 
  • The looper option gives you to jam with your own riff. Some processors also have drum tracks and metronomes to practice with. 
  • High-quality multi-effects processors have amp simulators as well. That mean, you can also experiment with a different type of sounds from famous amps like fender, EVH, Randall, etc., for building your sound presets.  
  • You can change from one preset to a different preset with a press of a single (maybe two) footswitch. So, if you need to change the setting of the effects, or turn on/off one or several effects at once, you can just make two different presets with different settings, and switch them mid-performance using for the desired outcome.  


  • One of the shortcomings of the multi-effect processor is that they do not provide as powerful and natural sounding effects as the guitar pedals.  
  • If there is a gig where high-power amps are used, the setting of the processor might need to be changed because they won’t work the same as they work with smaller amps in practice sessions.  
  • It is really tricky for a beginner to bring out good sounds with a budget multi-effect processor.  
  • Sometimes, all the options in the processor seem overwhelming. So, you might get confused or in a dilemma to which effects or amp simulators to use.  

Final Words

As a musician who has been playing guitar for more than 10 years, I can confidently suggest you to get a multi-effect processor if you are a beginner. Even if you have a good budget, you might use that budget to get a high-end multi-effect processor. Because, you would be able to get a lot out of it and experiment thoroughly, which is much needed for a beginner musician.  

If you are intermediate and have sufficient experience, then probably you can make the decision yourself. If you have been using multi-effect processors, you might upgrade to a next-generation one, because the processors are getting better day by day. And If you are using guitar pedals, definitely upgrade that one as well.  

However, it would be interesting if you want to combine the guitar pedals with a high-end multi-effect processor. A lot of musicians are doing that nowadays, even I have tried that as well. It works wonders!!  


What Pedals Should Every Guitar Player Have?  

As I have already mentioned, there are some pedals that are a must for your electric guitar whether you are practicing by yourself or with your bandmates. We can categorize them in 3 types.

The first segment consists of control pedals such as a volume pedal, noise gate pedal, and Tuner Pedal. Among them, the must-have ones are the Noise-Gate pedal and the tuner. The volume pedal is good to have, but you can initially work without it.

The second category is to power pedals such as Distortion, overdrive, Fuzz, etc. One of these pedals would be a must-have, depending on the type of gain you want.  

The third category is the modulation ones, which refine your tone or enhance it. Such as delay pedal, reverb, EQ, Phaser, Flanger, Chorus, Wah, etc. Delay, Reverb, and EQ are the must-have ones in my opinion.

Should a Beginner Guitar Player Have Pedals?  

It depends on your budget and preference. Sometimes, the digital distortion sounds are not up to the mark for multi-effect processors. So, If you wish to have a refined distortion, you can have a distortion pedal of your preference and use a budget multi-effects processor for your other effects. Otherwise, if you are satisfied with the full digital sound of the multi-effect processors, it is not necessary to get a pedal.


I think you have a better idea of what is better for you; Guitar effect pedals or multi-effect processors. And on the way of your musical journey, you’ll get more experience and ideas to make better decisions for yourself. Best of luck with that, and keep rocking!!! 

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