5 Multi-FX Pedalboards

January 1, 2010

STOMPBOXES ARE THE SIMPLEST WAY TO enhance the sound of your guitar, and they’re also the easiest things to add to your signal chain. Patch a couple of pedals between your guitar and amp, tweak the knobs a bit, and you’re done. Where things start to get complicated is when you need to have a bunch of pedals and want to be able to select them in groups to get specific combinations of sounds. Floor-style multi-effectors have long been one of the solutions to this problem. It’s not the same as having the pedals of your choice configured into a “total access” system, of course, but multi-effects processors by nature deliver a great deal of flexibility in terms of how many effects they provide, the level of programmability they are capable of, and their relatively low cost compared to buying the individual stompboxes and all the related components that go into constructing a fulltilt pedalboard.

The downside of many floor multi-effectors is their inherent complexity and non-intuitive interfaces, which typically require you to use multi-function knobs and switches to call up the effects, adjust their sounds (usually referred to as “parameter editing”), and store presets. In fairness, things have come a long way in the world of multi-effects pedalboards, many of which now carry excellent modeled amp and effects sounds, can interface easily with outboard gear, and have more user-friendly operating systems. This group of five new floor effectors reveals that there is no standard way of configuring a modern multi-effects processor. Some offer tons of effects but limited tweakability of the sounds. Others do the opposite by offering super deep editing of fewer numbers of effects. Some have USB and MIDI capability while others do not. In terms of the touchy-feely stuff, some of these boxes are bone-simple to use, while others have somewhat steeper learning curves. For lots of reasons, each will appeal to one player more than another—so, as always, it’s wise to spend a little time with any multi-effects processor you’re considering to make sure it does what you want and won’t overly test your patience. We tested these units on gigs and in our studios using a variety or guitars (including Fender Strats and Teles, Gibson Les Pauls, and a PRS SC 245), and a selection of amps that included a Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb, a Fryette Sig:X, and a Mesa/Boogie Electradyne combo.

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