Guitar pedals are more than a box of wires and electrical components. They're a work of art. When an engineer designs a pedal, they're no different to a classic artist, who draws inspiration from other cultural heroes but gives their creation a new twist of their own.
For the musician, selecting their dream pedal board can be an art in itself. These are the colors they choose to paint with, and to some it's as important as picking the guitar and amp.
On Wednesday we asked UG readers to nominate and vote for the best guitar pedals of all time. Thousands of votes later, the results are in. So what are the best guitar pedals of all time?
10. Electro-Harmonix Memory Man
Analog delays are all about evolving tones, and the Memory Man does it perfectly. Since delay is the basis for other modulation effects like chorus and vibrato, you actually get a lot of bang for your buck with this unit. The current edition is the Deluxe Memory Man, with a delay up to 550 ms (that's around half a second).
9. MkII Tonebender
Two simple 'level' and 'attack' controls drive your guitar signal through classic transistor distortion. The original Tone Bender was designed in 1965, but was out of production for 40 years until D*A*M Pedals started producing an emulation of the original in 2009. It's a good thing they do, because an original is going to cost you up to $1,500 on the second hand market.
8. Dunlop Fuzz Face
The iconic sound of 60s and 70s distortion, used by many of the greatest rockstars of the era including Jimi Hendrix, Dave Gilmour and Pete Townshend. The big round shape isn't exactly pedalboard-friendly, but the current model is built to the exact specifications of the original so you'll forgive the rotund shape.
7. ProCo Rat
In the mid-70s, ProCo engineer Scott Burnham was repairing so many Dunlop Fuzz Face pedals that he started to think up ways to improve it. The result of his experiments was the Rat, which became hugely popular through the 1980s (purists still swear by the mid-80s models). These days the rat looks quite different, and comes in six different variants, but the Rat2 is closest to the original sonic vision.
6. Dunlop MXR Carbon Copy
70s pedal brand MXR almost died out in the 80s, but Dunlop stepped in to save the beloved pedal line. This pocket-sized pedal packs plenty of analog punch.
5. Digitech Digital Delay
Flexibility is the name of the game here: up to four seconds of delay are available across seven different delay types, including tape, reverse and looper modes so you can layer up pretty guitar textures.
4. DigiTech Whammy
The original 1989 model was the first mainstream pedal to control pitch-shifting with a pedal, enabling a flurry of experimentation from artists like Tom Morello who pushed the pedal to the extreme. The full list of Whammy lovers reads like a list of the best guitarists of all time.
3. Electro-Harmonix Big Muff
What a name. The goal for the Big Muff was to release a huge distortion unit with plenty of sustain. One of the first production units ever went straight to Jimi Hendrix, and it's also adored by bassists where the low frequencies prompt a crushing wall of distortion which is difficult to match elsewhere.
2. Ibanez Tube Screamer
Often emulated but never bettered. Ibanez have released a faithful reissue of the original Tube Screamer, which is cited as one of the most copied overdrive pedals in history. Guitarists love the bump in the mid ranges which help push the guitar sound straight through the centre of a big rock mix.
1. Dunlop Cry Baby
Here it is: the king of guitar pedals. It's the best-selling pedal of all time, and it's iconic way-sound can be heard from artists in all kinds of genres around the world. It's so good that an award winning film has been produced about it, which you can watch in full right here. Enjoy!
Thanks for reading all about the best guitar pedals of all time.
Which are your favorites? Tell us about your pedal setup in the comments below.