I am an avid guitar pedal collector and right now possess almost 50 pedals from BOSS to Electro Harmonix. There is something so simple about having a small box that has just a few controls on it, with its sole job being to create a chorus, delay or phaser effect. In fact, for many years, I was so accustomed to using pedals that it completely veered me away from using rack mount equipment and made the thought of programming and using such gear a very daunting and arduous task.
Although my rig has evolved into utilizing a Fractal Axe Fx2 for the effects, I still love all my pedals and cherish the heck out of them. It just got to the point with all the traveling that they would fall off the board or every time I open the case up some wall wart or cable would be broken and I just got completely sick of it. Some pedal boards are built to withstand all this traveling but unfortunately, mine was not at all. Now, at home I occasionally get out a pedal or two and keep it really simple.
This week, the desire to share some of my favorite pedals of all time really struck a chord with me and I am really excited to share with you all. Bear with me, it was an extremely difficult list to put together.
Honorable Mention: BOSS Metal Zone
I know this is a list of top ten, but the metal zone pedal deserves an honorable mention here. I think, at least for my generation, that everyone owned one of these pedals. Combined with the right amplifier and settings, this pedal can be a beast and conjure some great tones. From “Slaughter of The Soul” by At The Gates to even the bass on Fear Factory‘s “Demanufacture” (Super-producer Colin Richardson told me this actually) this is a great entry level pedal to get some great tones.
10.) BOSS GE-7 Equalizer
You will see a lot of BOSS pedals mentioned here, not only are they extremely affordable but pretty ubiquitous as all major stores always seem to have an elaborate BOSS display featuring all kinds of awesome pedals. The GE-7 is am amazing pedal to help shape your sound for rhythms, leads or even just as a boost to drive the front-end of the amplifier a lot harder. Again, at under $100, it’s the perfect addition to a rig on a budget.
9.) MXR Carbon Copy Delay
Very special thanks to Scott Uchida and Dunlop Manufacturing for providing myself and Mike Spreitzer with awesome gear and the Carbon Copy is definitely one of the finer pedals I have ever used. I spoke with Mike before I wrote this article and we both admitted some disdain for delay pedals. For high gain situations, in particular for leads, it is really hard to get a clean delay sound that doesn’t add a low-end rumbling (on digital units with a built in EQ we often roll off everything below 120 hz to clean it up.) The Carbon Copy features a “mod” button that enables an extra layer of clarity.
8.) EMMA Discombobulator
Very, very cool pedal here. EMMA is distributed through through Maxon in the U.S. and this is more of an envelope filter pedal that has a wide variation of sounds. I originally became fascinated with this device after I deduced it was the opening effect on the beginning of Guns ‘N Roses track “Sorry” off the killer record Chinese Democracy. When I was viewing then G ‘NR guitarist Robin Fincke’s rig I saw that he had one of these in his elaborate setup. You can get really “funky” with this pedal or twist some knobs and create your own tone and color.
7.) MXR Phase 90
The messiah of all phaser pedals. One knob, one button-real simple. I have the Eddie Van Halen reissue pedal with the “script” button that changes the tone slightly, but the original issue pedal can get the job done no problem. Digital rack units have never been able to replicate the true sound of a phaser pedal in all of it’s glory and to this day I would probably continue to use the phaser in order to get the true analog sound that I desired. Go get one!
6.) BOSS CS-3 Compressor/Sustainer
Sick pedal, especially for leads. Compression is one of those effects that take a while for a novice musician or producer to really get. Unlike chorus or delay, where it is really straightforward, a compressor changes the dynamics and the attack of your guitar tone. Phil Demmel from Machine Head and I spoke about this years ago, as he has it in his rig for lead tones. Apparently, Neil Schon from Journey was his main influence and reasoning for adding this into his arsenal. There are some particular settings that will make your leads scream and sustain like a banshee. But it isn’t my job to show you that! Experiment and discover it for yourself!
5.) Zakk Wylde Overdrive
Another killer pedal from MXR, this is probably my number two overdrive pedal and just absolutely love it. Since Zakk is a Marshall player and those amps have a voicing that replicates mid-range perfectly, the ZW OD pedal is voiced for some more low-end response. When I was playing Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifiers, I swapped out the stock tubes for Groove Tubes and threw this bad boy in front. Still one of the most devastating tones I have ever had.
4.) Centaur Overdrive Pedal
Very boutique and specialized pedal here. At the amazing Sonic Ranch studios in El Paso, Texas I became privy to this awesome overdrive pedal and we have used it all over our albums. It looks ugly as heck but has an awesome voicing and again, with three knobs it is as simple as can be.
3.) T-Rex Replica Delay
This is the only pedal that comes anywhere close to a rack mount/digital delay for me. It comes in a terrible brown/orange sort of color but sounds great and has many options. With a tap tempo button, and an option for a “brown” sound it can literally replicate the classic analog delay tones of the past. It also has a midi port to be able to speak with your other midi devices and this is really cool if you want to put in a rack and get off your pedal board. Really clean, clear sounding delay.
2.) BOSS CE-2 Chorus
The absolute holy grail of all chorus pedals and to this day I don’t think that anything even comes close to this bad boy. It is very appropriate to use on clean tones above all else. There are all kinds of after-market mods that can be done to this guy but just find yourself a vintage used one and you are extremely good to go with this. I mean, David Gilmour uses one – need I say more?
1.) Maxon OD 808
The best overdrive pedal for metal, period. This has been all over our records and comes in a very distinctive “puke” green that makes it not only easy to see but also distinguishes it from other pedals. I have to thank our famed producer Mark Lewis for introducing us to this magic gem. It is my go-to distortion every time. I absolutely love this device and will always have several on hand.
I welcome your comments, what are your favorite pedals?