Top 10 Best Guitar Pedals Of All Time

Read about the best guitar pedals in history, as voted for by the biggest guitar community in the world.

Ultimate Guitar

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

175 comments sorted by best / new / date

    one of the best Wednesday questions ever
    one of the least arguable as well
    It should've been "Top 10 WORST Effects Pedals Ever". Everyone knows that the Tube Screamer and Cry Baby would take top honours...
    Guys, I'm pretty sure he actually meant that instead doing a Top 10 Best Pedals list (because we all know which ones are the best) it would have been more fun to see which are the worst...
    top 10 worst? ohoho ok, its not like some of these pedals have been around for 40ish years, tried and tested and are still top choice for many big names or anything.
    mxr phase 90... for sure.
    Way Cool JR.
    I like the Phase 100 way more than the 90. But the 90 is certainly the most widely used and should of easily made the list.
    you gotta go phase 90 though i mean it was one of the key aspects to evh's rig which i would say is one of the top 10 most sought after sounds
    digitech delay ahead of a memory man? no ****ing way
    I was confused as well, the Memory Man may not have as many options but it sounds way better IMO. I also would have picked a Strymon Timeline over the digitech.
    I have both an XDD and a Memory Man myself and I love both of them. The EHX is clearly better suited to straight-up delay, but the XDD is very versatile and really fun to mess around with. I would have put them the other way around, personally, but the XDD is still a damn good pedal. I'll certainly never get rid of mine.
    Alright list. Big Muffs are fantastic, especially the mk4 and mk5s. Tubescreamers are rather overrated though. I've owned a few of them, currently have a Maxon OD9 but it was replaced on my main board by a Boss SD-1 of all things. I'll get shot down for saying this, of course.
    Emperor's Child
    The Boss SD-1 is a hidden gem imo.
    good to know that so many people speak highly of that pedal this was my first pedal some time ago and i really love it. before i bought it i just heard some demo sounds and thought "hey, this sounds cool!" i just needed a overdrive pedal for my new 1 channel marshall class 5. looks like this time i realy wasted no money, hehehe.
    It does get too much criticism from gear snobs but really I've tried to replace it several times but I just end up circling back to it. It's truely a fantastic pedal.
    I find Mxr's distortion +/3 pedals to be much smoother sounding and more to my tastes, although to be fair they act more like overdrive pedals than distortion in that they pretty much just give you a more driven version of your amp sound, the ds 1 isn't neccesarily bad (especially for it's price), I just find boss pedals just don't tend to complement the pure raw analog tube sound I try to go for. However if you want a good hidden gem try the bbe crusher, who needs a ****ing tube screamer when have a high gain 80s marshall preamp in your lineup?
    whitestripesIII: fyi the maxon tube screamer was an entry level low-cost alternative to the ts9 and the 808. The maxon was not supposed to be as good as the others.
    Only shocked by the Digidelay. Kind of sad there are no flangers on the list, but I'm basically obsessed with them.
    Agreed, I feel that either an mxr phase 90 or flanger should have been included ahead of the digidelay personally. Or even a univibe
    Kudos for including the Whammy.
    the whammy is a very limited pedal ( not in the sense that it cant do many things, after all the crybaby has only one use, but in the sense that it is such an " effective" pedal with so much personality that you cant use it too much or that just would be awful) , aside tom morello and Gilmour on one song, noone really made good use of it, while pedals as the crybaby are legendary
    Lots of radiohead songs from the bends and OK computer era use it. Jack White uses one for pretty good effect as does Muse. Dimebag used one on some songs well. In addition, you can do some other stuff with it besides just pitchbending the crap out of notes. You can make a lot of weird effects by making use of mistakes in the digital tracking or you can hook it up to a programmed midi controller to make all sorts of weird harmonized sequences.
    Plenty made good use of it. Yes there's the Tom Morello crazy stuff but there's also a lot of more ambient noises that were made using the whammy. Buckethead and Lightning Bolt have created some signature glitchy sounds with it. Also Muse's recent dubstep thing was pretty much just a whammy with crazy MIDI automation.
    Matt Bellamy used the Whammy before 2nd Law. He used it for New Born, Invincible, and a few others I'm forgetting. He's had it on his board for years now, and it's become why I need one for myself.
    Yeah I know I'm a pretty big fan of him. Sunburn also has it, as well as the glitchy riff of Ashamed and the solo to Recess. I was just trying to get an example of someone using the automation.
    I have been using Electro Harmonix and can safely say there my favorite and then Boss.
    This will probably be the least argued about list in UG history.
    Good list but Taurus synthesisers are pretty cool too. I donno if it fits the category that this list is but it is operated by your foot.
    I love the carbon copy, I really want a Z Vex Fuzz Factory too. Does anybody know of a high gain distortion pedal that could tighten up my Mesa Lonestar? Or should I just try an EQ?
    I watched the entire video about the crybaby. Worth it.
    Me too - Can't believe how hooked I was to an hour long documentary about a guitar pedal!! For those who haven't watched it... WATCH IT!
    No trebleboosters?
    I agree with this. Some of the most iconic tones ever were done with treble boosters. From May using one with Queen, to Iommi boosting his Laneys with one
    Rex Inclitus
    I would be inclined to agree as the Rangemaster was a very iconic and influential pedal, eg. Blackmore, Iommi, Gibbons, May
    Really surprised the MXR Phase 90 isn't on here. It seems like everyone from pros to amateurs alike has that pedal, and for good reason. Its great and affordable.
    Haha number 7. My favorite the rat haha. Nice to know I own one of the best pedals.
    Great List, But replace the Digitech Delay with a MXR Phase 90, and the MXR Carbon Copy with a Boss CH-1, which was very popular throughout the 80s and 90s.
    I'm a huge MXR user. With my gigantic fanbase (15, no wait, 16 adoring fans), I'm surprised Dunlop hasn't offered me an endorsement deal.
    too many distortion pedals. lame.
    3 Fuzz pedals, 3 delays, 2 distortion/OD, then the whammy and wah. Seems pretty balanced to me.
    Face R1pper
    Fuzz qualifies as distortion.
    I know, but in terms of the sounds they create I'd say they're different enough pedals to be categorized separately.
    They can and will do different things to your tone. They should definately be categorized separately. Just because OD, Distortion, and Fuzz can/do similar things doesn't mean they can all be considered the "same."
    no Strymon Timeline? Probably one of the best delay unit with the Time factor
    Nice they put up rob Chapman aka monkey lord in the whammy vid, bit younger then, awesome guitar player
    I own 3 pedals, and they're the top 3, I agree with the community!
    No Noise Gate at all?
    i mean, it doesnt really DO anything, besides make your sound a little cleaner
    it stops unwanted feedback and hiss that could otherwise ruin a recording or performance.
    But if you are going to take that line than the top pedal should probably be a tuner... Not a bad list, although perhaps the title should be 'most iconic guitar pedals' rather than 'best'
    A Noise Gate alters the signal. A tuner doesn't
    Not true, technically tuners do alter your sound as it is muffled while the tuner is on.
    I think he's trying to say that like a noise gate can be vital to a recording or performance, being in tune is just as essential, hence, the tuning pedal.
    if you have a good enough setup no need.
    Arguable point. Most people I know who use pedals or any kind of effect or signal processor also use a noise gate. Maybe having one in the top 10 is a little extreme, but a nod to them in the article would have been nice
    I am not someone who thinks big names pedals are necessarily worse than boutique.....but is this really best they could do? This seems like it was put together by a 16 year old who has only shopped in Guitar Center. There are 3 delays on here and what we get is the Memory man, carbon copy, and digitech? Best delays ever? Best fuzz pedals are the Big Muff and DUNLOP Fuzz Face?
    There are boutique pedals with special features that are kind of unique, but let's be honest most of them are more or less copies of the big brand pedals with some mods here and there. Why don't you name some boutique pedals then that, in your opinion, should have been on this list and can be been seen as groundbreaking or must haves?
    Way Cool JR.
    These are all pedals from big name brand companies for a reason. Lots of people have played/used them forever. whereas "Boutique" pedals, (theoretically speaking) only a hand-full of people use them. They just really have no status in the music world yet compared to the big brands.
    this is a really boring, predictable list. give me some good boutique pedals over these mass-produced pieces of junk any day.
    Best? Hmmm, that's questionable. I can think of many pedals that thrump those on the list. Just not your everyday popular brands so they dont get as much exposure. 10 most popular maybe..
    I dont understand the downvotes because what you said sir, is true..
    Probably because I've offended some owners of these pedals. Well I own/have owned most of these and more too, good pedals but IMO better out there to MY ear