Guitar FX pedals are booming. Despite digital/modelling amplifiers getting better and better, low-wattage tube amplifiers for home and mic’ed stage use are more popular than ever. FX pedals provide flexibility for these often simple and straightforward amps, to the point that pedal platform amps, which only provide a base clean sound that is then shaped with pedals, have become a thing. Combine this with the fact that people spend more readily €250 for a pedal than €1,000 for a new amp, the relative simplicity of designing and building pedals, and the marketing power of the Internet – resulting in an ever-growing number of manufacturers of FX pedals. It has indeed become impossible to keep track of them all. This post presents some of the bigger names in the business that might be worth checking out when looking for a new pedal – hence I focus mostly on manufacturers that offer the full range of pedals, as it would be impossible to list all the companies that build a couple of overdrive pedals, certainly the most popular type.
Boss, part of the Roland company, has a huge range of pedals. It is probably the best-known company in the business. The pedal design and colors are iconic. In recent years, the Boutique pedal movement has been countered by Boss with the Waza craft range of pedals, upgraded versions of popular Boss models.
Ibanez is best known for the Tubescreamer overdrive, and while they have offered a large range of pedals in the past, the current range consists only of several Tubescreamer variations and a few mini pedals.
MXR has a long history. The brand is owned by Dunlop. Among the most famous pedals are the Phase 90 phaser, Dyna Comp compressor, and Carbon Copy analog delay.
Electro Harmonix is best known for the Big Muff distortion/fuzz pedals. Their range also contains affordably prices versions of classic pedal designs, such as the Soul Food (Klon Centaur) and Glove (Fulltone OCD).
TC Electronic started out as studio equipment company. They are known for their advanced Nova series pedals, but real success came with the innovative Polytune tuner and Toneprint pedals, which made it possible to design sounds on the computer and beam them to the pedal from your phone, through the guitar pickups. TC Electronic is now owned by Behringer, and a series of affordable pedals has been added, somewhat diluting the value of the TC Electronic name.
Keeley started out by modifying pedals, but these days is known for a large range of pedals. Renowned for compressors, Keeley also makes their own versions of popular circuits (Oxblood = Klon Centaur, Red Dirt = Tubescreamer), dual pedals including the D&M drive, and the “Workstation” range that combines multiple effects.
Like Keeley, JHS started out by modifying pedals, but now have their own range of pedals, famous for the icon on the pedal instead of a name. Well-known examples are the Charlie Brown (JTM45) and Angry Charlie (JCM800) overdrive pedals. The owner, Josh Scott, is a true pedal nerd, and his Youtube channel is worth checking out.
Chinese Mooer is best known for their very large range of mini pedals, many of them based upon popular designs by other brands. Their range keeps on expanding, adding mini preamps in the style of popular amplifiers, and multi effects.
Way Huge is Dunlop’s high-end range of pedals.
Mad Professor offer a range of colorful pedals, mostly named after the color of the pedal itself.
Wampler is another company that started out small and has become much bigger since then. Popular designs are the Plexi Drive and the Tumnus Klon-style pedal.
EarthQuaker Devices are known for pedals that are often “on the wild side”, but offer a full range of pedals.
Guitar/amp giant has been introducing a new range of pedals for the last couple of years, which come with smart features such as a magnetic battery lid and switchable knob lighting.
Fulltone has been around for quite a while, and is best known for the OCD distortion pedal.
Zvex is another company known for unconventional designs, but their most popular offering is the Box of Rock, a JTM-45 style pedal with boost.
Digitech used to have an affordable (best known example: Bad Monkey overdrive) and the more expensive Hardwire range, but now used mostly the DOD brand name for newer pedals.
J. Rockett Audio Design
JRAD is probably best known for the Archer, a legitimate clone of the Klon Centaur.
Xotic have a small range of pedals, but their boost pedals, especially the EP Boost, are found on many pedals boards.
Walrus is another smaller company, known for their graphic pedal designs.
Still not enough choice? Well, you can always check out Carl Martin, Death by Audio, Lovepedal, Okko, Vahlbruch, Seymour Duncan, Thorpy, Suhr, Danelectro, Bogner, Friedman, Daredevil Pedals, Catalinbread, JAM Pedals, Chase Bliss, Empress, Greer, Barber…