Knowing Your Effects

This article is designed to help you understand your effects better. I've also taken the liberty of adding some suggested buys, and a rather useful bit.

Ultimate Guitar
Hi. Tim5150's back; fortunately or unfortunately. I'll be taking about the different classifications of effects. Effects are used to change or enhance the sound an instrument produces. Effects may be categorized as two things: A single effect pedal (a.k.a Stomp Box) and a multi-effects processor.

Single Effect Pedal

A single effect pedal as the name suggests, produces only one type of effect. Though it only produces one effect, you have more control over the effect it produces, compared to a multi-effect. SFX pedals also tend to sound better because of its true bypass.

Multi-Effects Processor

A multi-effects processor is a lot like a full pedal board, digitalized, and rolled-up into one large multi-stomp box. You have less control over effects, but you can use multiple effects all at the same time - all on one patch. Another good thing about multi-effects is that the new ones have amp-modeling and or cab-modeling. Amp-modeling allows you to mimic the sound of a certain popular amplifier, while cab-modeling allows you to mimic the sound of a popular cabinet. I highly suggest buying a multi-effect processor for beginners. It's cheaper than buying a load of SFX pedals, and it'll give you something to work with while you're still trying to figure out what kind of sound you want to produce. P.S. not all multi-effects processors are large, have expression pedals, amp and cab modeling, and multiple foot switches.


Effects may be classified into four different categories. Overdrive/ Distortion, Modulation, Dynamic, and Equalization. Overdrive/ Distortion: these effects boost your instruments sound to produce a distorted or driven sound. Suggested buys:
  • Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
  • Pro Co Rat 2
  • Marshall Guv'nor
  • Fulltone Fulldrive II
  • Boss DS-1
  • MXR M-104 Distortion+
  • Boss MT-2 Metal Zone
  • Digitech Metal Master
  • Digitech DF-7 Distortion Factory
  • Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi
  • Roger Mayer Classic Fuzz
  • Fulltone OCD Modulation: this effect modulates your signal. It may modulate your pitch and or time to produce a different sound. Phase, Chorus, Octave, Flange, Vibrato, Pitch shift all fall under this category. Suggested buys: Phase
  • MXR M-101 Phase 90
  • MXR EVH Phase 90
  • Electro Harmonix Small Stone
  • DOD FX20C Stereo Phaser Chorus
  • MXR M-134 Stereo Chorus
  • Boss CH-1 Super Chorus
  • Electro Harmonix Small Clone
  • Boss CE-20 Chorus Ensemble Octave
  • Roger Mayer Octavia
  • MXR M-103 Blue Box
  • Boss OC-2 Octave
  • JH3-S Jimi Hendrix Octave Fuzz Flange
  • MXR M-117 Flanger
  • Boss BF-3 Stereo Flanger
  • DOD FX75C Stereo Flanger Vibrato
  • Jim Dunlop Rotovibe
  • DOD FX22 VibroThang Pitch Shift
  • Boss PS-5 Super Shifter
  • Digitech Whammy
  • Boss HR-2 Harmonist Dynamic: this effect may enhance your sound or modulate your time. Volume, Tremolo, Reverb, Echo, and Delay fall under this category. Delay
  • Boss DD-6 Stereo Delay
  • Digitech Digidelay
  • Boss DD-3 Digital Delay Echo
  • Danelectro Reel Echo
  • Danelectro Dan Echo
  • Maestro Echoplex (no longer in production) Reverb
  • Danelectro Spring King
  • Electro Harmonix Holy Grail
  • Boss RV-5 Digital Reverb Tremolo
  • Guyatone VT-3 Vintage Tremolo
  • Boss TR-2 Tremolo Volume
  • Morley Little Alligator
  • Jim Dunlop GCB-80 High Gain Volume Pedal Equalization: these effects allow you to cut or boost equalization. Wah, Envelop Filter, Graphic EQ, and Contour Wah fall under this. Wah
  • Jim Dunlop Classic Crybaby
  • Morley Classic Wah
  • Morley Bad Horsie
  • Vox V-847 Wah Envelop Filter
  • DOD Envelop Filter
  • Dunlop Q-Zone
  • Boss AW-3 Dynamic Wah Graphic EQ
  • MXR KFK-1 Ten Band EQ
  • Boss GE-7 Equalizer
  • MXR M-109 6 Band Graphic EQ
  • MXR M-10B 10 Band EQ Contour Wah
  • Morley Bad Horsie 2 Contour Wah I'm not sure whether these pedals are SFX pedals or multi-effects processorsso I'll call em' B42T4RI>2 B42T4RI>2: a cross between a SFX pedal and a Multi-effects processor. These have true bypass. Ex
  • Digitech DF-7 Distortion Factory
  • Digitech The Weapon
  • Digitech Crossroads
  • Boss OS-2 Overdrive/ Distortion These pedals are pretty neat, and they have reasonable prices too! Here are some really neat pedals which most people neglect. Acoustic simulator: this little box enables you to mimic an acoustic guitar using your electric guitar. Try
  • Boss AC-2 Acoustic Simulator Compressor: I'm sorry I didn't put this up in the classifications part. I honestly don't know what category this falls under. This effect compresses all your instruments' signals and equalizes them, so that they all have the same volume. This also ads a little more crunch to your sound. Try
  • Marshall EQ-1 The Compressor
  • Boss CS-3 Compression Sustainer
  • Digitech Main Squeeze
  • MXR M-102 Dyna Comp
  • MXR M-132 Super Comp Tuner: this is a godsend to people who can't tune well. This is also quite handy on or off set in a gig. Try
  • Fender PT-10 Tuner Noise Gate/Reducer: this lessens or eliminates the noise from your long line of effects. Try
  • MXR M-135 Smart Gate
  • DOD Gate/Loop
  • Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor Talk Box: this is the Wah pedals little saliva covered brother. Try
  • Danelectro Free Speech Talk Box
  • Jim Dunlop Heil Talk Box
  • Peter Frampton Framptone Talk Box Well that about concludes the article. But before that, let me teach you how to make your own Passive Tone Booster! You will need
  • 3- 500K Potentiometers
  • 1- 250K Potentiometer
  • 3- Stereo/ Mono output/input Jacks
  • 3- 223K Resistors
  • 1- Metal/ Plastic Box (for the chassis. Preferably rectangular)
  • Insulated Copper wire (lots)
  • Soldering Lead
  • Soldering Iron
  • 4- knobs
  • cutter
  • long nose
  • a crap load of patience Procedure: 01. Drill in four holes on the lid of the chassis for the potentiometers to go thru. 02. Drill in a hole on the right side for the input, and 2 on the left side for the output jacks. 03. Screw in the jacks and potentiometers (order:500K-250K-500K-500K) 04. Tone POTs: Solder the resistors to the POTs (order: 250K-500K-500K). One end to the third prong (hot) of the POT and one end to the back (ground) of the pot. 05. Volume POTs: Solder the third prong of the last (from the right. 500K) pot to its back (ground point) 06. (From the right) solder the tone POTs third prong to the (beside) tone POTs center prong. Do this to chain all the POTs together (series). 07. Solder the hot connection of the input jack to the tone POTs second prong, and the ground connection to the tone POTs ground point. 08. Solder the hot connections of the 2 output jacks to the volume POTs second prong, and the 2 ground connections to the volume POTs ground point. Please email me if you want a wiring diagram or photo of the prototype ( Well I hope I've given you some useful information. Please use the sites below for more info on effects:
  • Btw if you want to ask me for tips on how to chain up your stomp boxes just email me. I will be answering all questions personally, unless the answer is something important that I've missed in this article. I've also tried to change my writing style...i hope its better now...
  • 84 comments sorted by best / new / date

      digitech is good for modelling. for those who recieved an e-mail from me pls email me again...i need your adresses so i can send them... i accidentally deleted them yesterday...sorry!!!
      hey there, really, really good article here, I myself have been playing for four years now, but I'v never had a clue about which effects pedals etc are the best and which ones to buy so I'v never bothered, but thanks to this I know which ones to get now thanks! 5 stars by the way***..
      technically the "tonerboner" is NOT supposed to work... but for some freak reason it DOES! it generally helps you "control" the tone of your axe. i was able to make my Wolfgang sound like a Vintage Les Paul just by turning the first knob full, second two-thirds and the third zero (also try one-fourth)! but hey! i got the sound in conjunction with my amp and SFX pedals... it currently has a bit of hum, but i'm currently working on eliminating that!
      Punk as atticus
      what about like wah pedals and whammy and stuff? well ya i agree w/freepower you should actually posted for ALL of the effects for what they do not JUST distortion.
      Boss way better than Digitech!! Digitech sounds ... well .... digital.
      if you guys have questions please email me and put "FXARTICLE" as the subject.... if i did not reply to your email please email me again.
      Dude, who cares if he likes Boss. they are waaay better than digitech trust me. Maybe he just had Boss down a couple of dozen times, because Boss is the most popular name of pedals,-they got almost everything-.
      sorry about the double post there I didn't see my first and thought that my internet screwed up. You can ignore the first one.
      The only thing I don't agree with is his promotion of Boss pedals as far as I'm concerned they are the biggest pieces of crap ever made. Between MXR and Digitech (mainly MXR) you have the best pedals ever made that blow Boss' out of the water. Also if you have the right pedals theres really no need for a multi effects processor.
      Good article but im a bit insulted that he listed anything but MXR and Digitech, and especially offended that he included Boss in his list of suggested pedals instead of calling them the trash that they are. The only thing you need to know regarding pedals is buy MXR and if MXR doesn't carry that specific kind of pedal such as delay go with a Digitech.
      to clarify my earlier statement. There are lots of songs that have really clean parts with alot of sappy chorus, reverb etc. then the song kicks into the hard part and the guitars are mostly heavy and dry .... chorus sounds too heavy on distorted setting. So how do you swap from clean/sappy to distorted/dry immediately w/pedals?
      a ring mod is very similar to a pitch shifter. i did not put it here sinced a ring mod is what you get after combining a couple of it kind like a "sub-race" (like the blood elves in WarCraftIII: The Frozen Throne).
      good article...and why dont ya right another article for beginners, suggesting what to have in multi-effect processor when buying their first multi-e proc. And please suggest one processor which is good at everything(and durable though).
      Umm... He did tell what they did... The category says so, doesen't it?
      Okay, does anyone know what I need to buy to get the sound off of unconditional by the bravery? And I'm talking about the intro?
      Hi. Tim5150s back; fortunately or unfortunately
      Definitely unfortunately.
      joyful womble wrote: that cannot be a tone booster. it contains nothing but resistors. I second that. You can't get boosted tone without some kind of powered unit. So, its basically a really simple equaliser? I don't really know a super deal about electronics, but it seems that way.
      maybe it boosts when you turn it off. thats how i have my "boost" set up. my amp and effects sounded shit when i boosted them, so i lower my sound, and then disengage it for a boost.
      Cursed emoticons. The round thingy in the above comment that vaguely resembles a winking human face is supposed to be a closing parentheses. Also, another point which I forgot - "Passive Tone Booster" is in itself an axymoron, since "booster" implies active electronics.
      A feeble article, full of information that ranges from confusing to just plain wrong. To give a few examples, the "B42T4RI>2" (in English, we say "bastard") pedals he mentioned are all just plain stompboxes. Distortion pedals, to be specific. No BOSS pedal has true bypass, they're all electronically buffered. Ditto for Ibanez, Digitech, DOD and other companies. Compressors and noise gates would fall under the Dynamics category, delays/reverbs/echos under Modulation, and the talkbox and acoustic simulator under Equalisation. Further, if this article was aimed at beginners, why were there no suggestions for which multi-FX units to look into? The author him(her?)self explicitly stated that beginners should prefer multi-FX units, yet failed to elaborate further on the subject. All in all, 1/10.
      yah knowing your effects is a good thing... but its most important to know when to use them. some people use too many effects and it just gets old somewhat. DONT GET LOST IN YOUR PEDALS! takes away from your sound too. D$
      good read for a beginner like myself to get a grasp on effects. thanks
      Does anyone know how I could get the same effects as the intro and chorus to the bravery's unconditional?
      didnt explain the effects well enough but w/e....i recommend the PODxt Live for anyone looking for a high class effects has amp and cab modeling, all the effects he has mentioned and then some and an expression pedal, it also give u all the options of the stomp box the effect it has would have
      im considering buying a EH Big Muff and im wondering would it be cheaper to make own fuzz pedal and would you be able to help me with the what ill need and how to put it together.
      Paul James wrote: What can you recommend for long sustain with a clean sound, like Robin Trower has?
      Go for some compression, it helps with your sustain. Also, make sure your guitar is set up properly for sustain.
      joyful womble wrote: that cannot be a tone booster. it contains nothing but resistors.
      I second that. You can't get boosted tone without some kind of powered unit. So, its basically a really simple equaliser? I don't really know a super deal about electronics, but it seems that way.
      Paul James
      What can you recommend for long sustain with a clean sound, like Robin Trower has?
      Paul James
      I do need to find a way to know what the various FX equipment sounds like. there are so many boxes and so little time, and even less $$$ to spend. I know that EHX sells a dvd that is a demo for it's FX boxes. Does anybody know of another way to hear samples for other equipment?
      some dude beat me to it...there's already an article made for uber noobs...sorry it that offended anyone...we've all gone thru that stage!
      Good stuff. I do not agree that the upper eschelon is a bunch of pedals. The top end of effects is a good multi-effects rack unit tied to a midi pedal. You can turn on and off several effects with one push of the petal live. How do you do that with pedals?
      um, coulda explained what the chorus, phaser, etc, all actually do to the sound of your guitar...
      Good article. I think you should have gone into more depth over what pedals such as The Octave or Pitch Shifter do. Also does anybody have a Ds-2. If do are they good?
      could you make a second article explaining what everything does? (sry for double post)
      good article, but some things wern't explained at all. for example, phase, chorus, octive, etc. try to explain stuff more for begginers sake 4*'s
      sounds like you know your stuff. just give more information about what each of them actually sound like if you make a new article.
      This wasn't really helpful for those actually curious about what the pedals actually do...(As a lot of previous comments have already said). Good list for intermediate players, but this justs leaves noobs in the dark. 2 stars.
      Awsome, you realy know your stuff, could i wire up a passive tone booster and maybe use it as a second eq?