It all started decades ago, with the arrival of the first multi-effects units. The original idea was to put more than one effect in a housing. Original units were pretty much about modulation and similar kinds of sound effects. Later, engineers started with implementation with other kinds of effects, including even overdrive, distortion etc.
Nowadays, these units are far more advanced and with significantly better sound quality. A modern multi-effects processor usually covers pretty much everything that goes between a guitar and PA. Besides, all kinds of sound effects, you can count on simulations of some of the most famous amp models that came from the most renowned manufacturers.
The great thing about today’s market is that the price goes in a pretty wide range. A decent processor can be found for just a few hundreds of dollars. These units are perfect for home use. Besides decent sound quality, you can count on a number of effects that physically can’t fit any pedalboard. Such a great number is an amazing benefit for non-experienced guitar players who still have to profile their style of playing and preferences.
The Best Multi-Effects Pedals
On the other side, there are also products that cost thousands of dollars, which are designed for professionals. These units deliver a sound quality that is on par with real tube amps and other legendary effects.
Here is a short list of Best 8 multi-effects pedals/processors:
1) Line 6 Helix
When it comes to professional multi-effects units, the Line 6 Helix is a processor that usually comes first to our minds. This core of this processor is a powerful computer that works super-fast and offers top-grade sound quality. You can count on tons of effects with this one. There are more than 40 amp simulations, 30 cabinets and 70 effects that you can use. Unlike most top-level multi-effects products that are menu-based, this one works as a stompbox as well, which is a huge benefit for all those who used to old-school pedals.
The Helix is very easy to use, thanks to a very transparent screen that comes with pretty nice graphics too. When it comes to connectivity, you can count on all kinds of ins and outs, including USB and other ports that are very convenient for recording and other studio purposes.
The only thing that could be considered as a drawback is hardware. Not that its quality is bad, but some additional strengthening would be nice. After all, this is a top-tier product.
2) Fractal AX8
Based on the famous Axe-Fx II, the AX8 features probably the most powerful CPU among multi-effects processors. It works very fast and offers the biggest sound base that you can find around. Believe it or not, there are 222 amp models and more than 175 effects. Such library can’t be found on any other place. Moreover, there are 512 slots for your sounds, which makes AX8 an ultra-versatile unit.
Speaking of the base design, this model features pretty solid construction. It comes with 11 easy-reachable foot switches. Also, you can notice a pretty large number of analog pots, which is definitely a big advantage over Helix. However, this processor has weak points too. The biggest one is probably the screen, which is unacceptably small for this price range. Also, a CPU has few bugs that won’t allow you to use certain effects simultaneously.
3) Boss ME-80
For those who are used to old-school pedals, this is definitely the best multi-effects unit to start with. It is the newest version of the company’s famous ME series, which insist on analog controls. It practically works as a pedalboard, where you have four footswitches, on which you can assign different effects, and an expression pedal. In addition, there is a pre-amp section, as well as equalizer and reverb. The most amazing thing is that all these controls are completely analog. The complete hardware seems strong as a military bunker, but that is a usual thing among products that come from Boss.
When it comes to sound quality, you should be aware that this is a relatively cheap product. Still, there is a bunch of effects, amp simulations, and even a built-in looper. The quality of amp simulations definitely is not on par with Line 6 HD series, but other effects work very well. Also, a big drawback is that you can’t change the chain order of effects. All in all, we couldn’t ask for more, considering the price tag.
Zoom might be around for years but still doesn’t have a reputation as other brands. In this case, it is a great benefit, because you probably won’t find a better-sounding multi-effects processor for this price. The sound quality is great, but the number of options is even greater. There are 22 amp sounds and probably more than 100 effects.
The Zoom G3X is highly transparent. There are three footswitches and each one comes with its own screen and pots, so you can easily use this processor as a stompbox. In terms of connectivity, besides standard unbalanced out, you can count on one balanced, which can’t be found on any other processor in this price range. The weakest point is probably hardware. This one looks and feels cheap, so you will constantly have a feeling that something could break. Considering the price and sound quality, I could live with such plastic housing, definitely.
5) HeadRush Pedalboard
This is something new on the market and it instantly mesmerized thousands of guitars players, mainly because of its superior interface. In terms of easiness of use, HeadRush sets some new standard in the industry. This is the first processor that comes with a touchscreen. Navigation is super easy and intuitive. With just a few moves of your fingers, you can easily set up your favorite tone. As its name says, it works like a classic pedalboard.
Speaking of the features, HeadRush offers pretty much everything you’ll ever need in terms of connectivity. The sound quality is great. On the other side, the offer of amps and effects isn’t as generous as in AX8 or Helix, though it covers the essentials. There are 33 amp models and more than 40 effects, so you can figure out why the gap in price is so big between this one and top-tier products.
6) Boss GT-1000
With this product, Boss has finally entered the top class among guitar multi-effects processors. The newest model from the renowned company came just recently, with significant upgrades compared to its predecessor, two-times cheaper GT-100.
Besides obviously more features and stronger CPU, the biggest novelty that this processor brings is a new sound technology. The old COSM is in retire, finally, and it is replaced by the new AIRD (Augmented Impulse Response Dynamics) technology, which should provide a much better amp simulation, which was a weak spot of Boss processors for years. From what we can hear, the new GT-1000 definitely makes great improvements. Still, if you’ve expected Helix sound quality, you will be disappointed. That shouldn’t be taken as a drawback. This one is much cheaper. After all, the sound has never been GT’s biggest trump. Its strong points are amazing easiness of use, tons of options, excellent reliability and super-durable constructions.
7) Line 6 HD 500X
So far, I’ve been talking about either budget or hi-end products. It’s time to mention some mid-grade models. One of them is HD 500X, which is an updated version of the famous HD 500, as you may presume. This one offers a great sound library and the sound quality that seems spectacular for this price range, especially when it comes to amp simulations.
On the other side, built quality is definitely a weak point. You will have to be a little bit cautious with footswitches and other knobs if you want HD 500X to serve you for a long time.
8) Boss GT-100
Although a little bit outdated, the GT-100 is still probably the most popular multi-effects processor around. It definitely offers a great value for the price. Compared to its direct rival, HD 500X, it offers completely opposite qualities. While the sound quality is definitely on HD’s side, the GT comes with superior built quality, simpler and more convenient navigation and more effects in total.
These would be some of the best multi-effects pedals/processors that you can find on the market. As you can see, a price range is pretty wide, so you will have to determine your budget first. Once you’ve decided how much money you want to spend, consider some of my recommendations. All products on the list have pros and cons, but each one is definitely worth buying.