Effects are a great way to tailor your instrument’s signature tone into something quite different, pushing a guitar’s sound farther than what would normally be possible with just an amplifier. They are a great addition to a player’s arsenal of tonal tools. Do you know the differences between the three main type of effects? Today, we'll be looking at compact pedals (also commonly known as stompboxes), floor multi-effect boards and rack mount units in order to help you decide which best fits your needs. To find out more about each type of effect in regards to sound, such as distortion, delay, etc., you can check out our Effects 101 article.
Compact pedals: The most common effects unit of the three, they are designed to go in between the instrument and amplifier. Compact pedals usually provide a specific effect, like overdrive or delay, although many do offer multiple other features and controls. They are intended to work specifically with low signal levels that a guitar or bass produces and are usually not suitable for use with line level signals.
Rack mounted: These type of effects units are designed to bolt into the industry standard 19” rack mount cases. Rack mounted effects units were originally created for use in recording studios are usually of higher quality than floor pedals. They also often boast multiple effects as well as more options and controls than pedals.
Floor multi-effects: Just as with compact pedals, floor multi-effects units are designed go in between an instrument and an amp. Along with a multiple effects, these type of units often include amplifier, speaker and even microphone modelling. The major benefit of floor multi-effects units, aside from having a good amount of sounds at your disposal, is that they include foot switches to easily swap effects and may also include a rocker pedal for volume or wah control.
More about Multi-Effects
One of the main attractions of units containing multiple effects, be they rack mounted or floor boards, is that custom configurations and settings can usually be stored in the unit’s memory in the form of patches. When a saved patch is selected, the unit can recall all the different effects used in the patch, the order of the effect and even their individual settings. This ability can save a musician who heavily employs effects a lot of the time and effort involved with setting up and knob tweaking a number of separate compact pedals individually.
As mentioned above, many multi effects units often contain amp and speaker modelers, often making them the only device needed for a gig – just take your multi-effect unit and plug it straight into the PA or monitor system and you're ready to go.
One of the disadvantages of muti-effect units is that they tend to have a steep learning curve. If don’t have much experience with effects, suddenly having a huge variety all at once may feel a bit daunting. The best way to deal with this problem is by experimenting with one effect at a time to wrap your head around it, learning how it works and how to use it effectively before moving on to the next.
There is also a good chance that you will come to prefer a specific effect from a certain manufacturer. Most multi-effects units should allow you to insert separate pedals into an effect loop and be able to switch them in and out as required.
Need some help decided what effect form factor is right for you? You can chat with one of our pros and they'll be sure to send you in the right direction! Know what you're looking for? Browse our huge selection of Effects and once you're ready we'll be sure to get you the best deal around!