Tuesday, January 12, 2021

WHAT ARE THE BEST CHEAP EFFECTS PEDALS?

 by Mark King 

This is my first bargain effect pedal round-up. These are favorite pedals I use all the time. To be included here in this review they're all priced less than $100 each when purchased new, many are less than $50 with pro sounding pedals starting at only $19. I broke the pedals down by their effect type, here are the overall effect categories:

01 DISTORTION

02 REVERB 

03 CHORUS

04 DELAY/ECHO

05 WAH 

06 COMPRESSOR

07 EQ

08 TREMOLO

09 ENVELOPE FILTER

10 PHASER

11 UTILITIES 

12 ALL IN ONE 

WHAT ARE THE BEST INEXPENSIVE EFFECTS  PEDALS?

I consider all these pedals to be good deals, good sounding and many of them are outstanding values. On the lower end there is something for everyone with quality sounding pedals priced under 20-bucks. Many of the pedals shown in my photos have big button heads installed, they don't come with these.

I've tried to identify distinct effect categories like distortion, reverb and chorus. While almost any one of these pedals can enhance acoustic guitar or keyboards I'm focused mostly on effects for electric guitar players.

Only pedals I've actually purchased, owned and used are included here. Every one of these pedals are available online and the sellers offer returns so you can try them and hear if they are right for you. Pedals are compact so the shipping is not expensive to return them if you don't like the sound. 

There are lots of pedals in almost every effect category. Many of these are available in "High on Technology" gear reviews if you need more detailed information. 

In each effect category I'm listing the pedals alphabetically by Brand. Buy them where you get the best price and customer service, there are certainly more online outlets other than the two I've listed.

01 DISTORTION

Back when I was 12 years old, distortion was one of the first effects I wanted and the only one I could afford was an Olsen Fuzz Master for around $12. On the input it had a fixed molded cable that was about 10 feet long. There were two knobs, volume and fuzz plus a footswitch. It was cheesy but it made some great buzzy-square wave tones through my brothers Super Reverb amp.

BEHRINGER SUPER METAL, $19 from Sweetwater


This pedal recently went down in price, from the extraordinary low price of $29 down to  unbelievable $19 from Sweetwater. I've owned mine for around 10 years, it's a plastic body and I never cared for the color but this pedal can make some roaring good crunch sounds. When played through my 20-watt Marshall Origin combo this pedal put a big smile on my face and in seconds I discovered an hour had slipped by. 


I must say that I absolutely HATE the battery access on these plastic Behringer stomp boxes, I've ruined plenty of ball point pen tips trying to depress the hinge mounts to gain access to the battery compartment. These are excellent candidates for using external plug-in 9-volt batteries so save the hassle of opening one of these. 

NOTICE THE DISTORTION KNOB SETTING, MAXED OUT FOR MAX METAL TONE

The Super Metal works best in simple setups like guitar to the pedal and the pedal straight into the amp. Small impedances and lots of cable connections seem to degrade the sound from the Super Metal. Running on 9-volt battery power and plugged into a Marshall delivers a satisfying Metal sound but don't expect to rock at super low volume. The Super Metal craves being turned up a bit in order to deliver the devastation you desire. For $19 this pedal is a bargain champion.

BEHRINGER V-TONE GUITAR GDI 21 $29 from Sweetwater


This pedal does a lot besides distortion, it's actually a full miniature guitar preamplifier and direct box. Small switches let you choose which amplifier style you want it to sound like. It has an XLR output so you can use it as a direct box or direct interface. When cranked this pedal makes some of my most favorite distorted tones.

BOSS DS-1 DISTORTION, $49.99 everywhere


The Boss DS-1 has been around for a long time. I got this one as a gift over 15 years ago, it was used and a few years old at that time. The amp and guitar you use with this pedal will ultimately determine how well this pedal works for you. 


For me the Boss Distortion works best in very simple setups. A Les Paul driving a Marshall combo makes an ideal partner for this pedal because the Marshall has a clean tone that complements the buzz this pedal creates. I've heard other players use this pedal with Strat style single coil guitars through compact Fender amps and they get a great sound too. 


I've grown to like this pedal, it's always involved when I have a distortion pedal shootout. Sometimes it gets used but generally speaking it takes a back seat to pedals I prefer. With a street price of only $49.99 the Boss DS-1 is a classic pedal by a big brand name for a great price. 

CALINE AMERICAN SOUND AMPLIFIER SIMULATOR GUITAR EFFECT PEDAL, AKA THE AMERICANA, $29.99 from Amazon



This distortion has become a favorite of mine. Three band tone controls, volume level, voice and drive control knobs provide a lot of sonic versatility. In direct A-B comparisons this pedal trounced $200+ distortion pedals from big boutique brands. Good sturdy cast metal box, standard external power.

EHX ELECTRO-HARMONIX BIG MUFF PI, $84 from Sweetwater



This is a classic distortion pedal. Three knobs adjust volume, tone and sustain. A true bypass footswitch turns the effect On and Off. This pedal has been around in one form or another for 50+ years, there is a good reason for it's long enduring popularity. Great sound and awesome low street price. Here is the in-depth High on Technology review of the Big Muff.

JHS THREE SERIES



The 3-Series delivers in a big way with great sound effects and versatile controls. All of these pedals are built in Kansas City and feature high quality cast metal enclosures. Josh Scott has lots of excellent demo videos for these pedals. Check out the JHS web site for details. Here is a High on Technology review of the entire JHS 3 Series.

JHS 3-Series Distortion, $99 everywhere - if distortion is what you crave JHS has you covered. The 3-Series distortion can crank up some serious crunch.

JHS 3-Series Overdrive, $99 everywhere - Overdrive is another form of distortion, this pedal can push a tube amp harder or inject its own distorted flavor.

JHS 3-Series Fuzz, $99 everywhere - fuzz is one of the earliest forms of distortion. Your sound is completely buzzed out and grinds hard. If you have other flavors of distortion already then Fuzz may be just what you need for new musical ideas. 

MXR DISTORTION PLUS, $79.99 from Sweetwater


ONE OF MY WELL WORN DISTORTION PEDALS

Distortion+ has been around a long time. It's not low noise and it does not have a bunch of controls. An Output knob sets the volume output and the Distortion knob sets the amount of crunch. You can use boosted output to help a lead punch more. The modern version includes an LED to tell you it's ON and an external DC power inlet. This distortion has been used on many albums. The relatively low price for a classic effect makes this distortion pedal a winner.

02 REVERB EFFECTS

FOUR OF MY FAVORITE REVERBS AND A LOOP BOX WITH SNAP ON BIG BUTTONS

Back in 1982 I got my first digital Reverb, it was $1300. Now you can get good sounding digital reverb pedals starting under $50. Reverb is one of my personal favorite effects. I own over two-dozen reverbs because I like lots of variety. 

CALINE SNAKE BITE DIGITAL REVERB PEDAL, $42 from Amazon

DOES NOT COME WITH THE BIG BUTTON HEAD

Like most digital pedals this one needs to be connected to a power supply output capable of 200 mA otherwise it may pop and not sound great. Give it a good high current power supply and this reverb pedal delivers a ton of tone. Variable predelay and low pass filter are control highlights. This is a lot of reverb for a very cheap price.

FLAMMA EKOVERB, $97.99 from Amazon

BIG BLUE BUTTON HEADS NOT INCLUDED

This may be a brand you're not familiar with. This stereo delay and reverb pedal is one of my all time favorite pedals. The reverb algorithm in this pedal is so lush and smooth. The integrated echo sounds amazing. The LED indicators are very unique. Overall this pedal competes with reverbs in the $400+ category. You need a good strong power supply to drive this digital pedal. Requires 300 mA power supply outlet.

JHS 3-SERIES REVERB, $99 everywhere

I am a big fan of the JHS 3-series effect pedals. The reverb has a great big sound, it can simulate a spring reverb or a large plate reverb depending on how you set the controls. Easy to use and with the $99 price it's easy to own a great American pedal. 

JOYO ATOMOSPHERE, $89 from Amazon

The Atomosphere is an exceptional reverb pedal. It is loaded with a variety of reverb models to choose from. It has a trails switch on the face so it's easy to decide if you want that or not. The shimmer effect in this pedal is the best of any of my reverb pedals.  Very heavy duty and unique construction.

03 CHORUS PEDALS 

L TO R, CHORUS, CRY BABY JUNIOR WAH, FLANGER

Chorus is an effect that falls into the overall category of "Modulation". 

BEHRINGER ULTRA CHORUS PEDAL, $19 from Sweetwater

For less than 20-bucks you can get a decent chorus pedal. It has mono input and stereo output which also works fine in mono. The plastic body is not a problem in my experience. I have a couple of these that have been abused since 2012 and they still operate fine. It's a little bit high in background noise but for the price it's an incredible deal. 

CALINE "SO WHAT" FLANGER, $35 from Amazon

BIG BUTTON IS NOT INCLUDED

While not technically a chorus pedal this fun offering from Caline can be adjusted to provide a good thick chorus sound and a whole lot more. This pedal is capable of matching the $229 Catalinbread Zero Point flanger sound. Spend some time noodling with one of these, it will be worth it because this pedal can do a lot more than just flange, it's a modulation playground for an unbelievable cheap price. Solidly mounted controls and a nice sturdy cast metal box too. Can you tell I like this pedal?

JHS 3-SERIES CHORUS, $99 everywhere

BAD PHOTO OF GREAT PEDAL

JHS has captured the essence of chorus and distilled it into an affordable and durable, easy to use package. Lots of classic tone here. A fun feature is that the LED pulses according to the rate knob setting, it lets you see the rhythm, I wish more pedals like delay had this feature. Adjustable speed and mix on knobs for easy access.

TC JUNE 60, $49 from Sweetwater and Amazon

The June 60 is another fun chorus pedal with a rich analogue sound and incredible cheap price. It has a mono input and a single output jack. A switch lets you select stereo processing but you'll need a splitter cable to run the output in stereo. Plugged into the effects loop of my 5150 III tube amp this pedal instantly teleports me back to 1978 with lovely swirling effects and rich tone. 

04 DELAY ECHO EFFECTS

CALINE SPACE ECHO, $29 from Amazon

This is a basic digital delay, it has three knobs, a footswitch and an LED. One knob sets the delay time, one sets the mix and one sets the number of repeats. It has a little background noise but it's a great bread-n-butter delay for an insane cheap price. Clean sound, lots of echos, good amount of delay time, blue cast metal enclosure and true bypass footswitch makes it a great pedal. 

According to Caline this pedal can run off a 9-volt battery and it comes with the necessary battery clip to be powered externally or you can use any 9-volt source with at least 100 mA current available. The specs say the delay time is 25-600ms. I use it to provide subtle repeats from my Freq-Out pedal. It's a good sounding delay for a very inexpensive price, I call that a bargain.

DONNER TAP DELAY, currently $55 from Amazon

THE BIG RED BUTTON HEADS ARE NOT STOCK

I love the Donner Tap Delay pedal, I own seven of them. At this price and with its special features these are impossible to beat. The right footswitch is Tap Tempo, that is all it does, two taps sets a new delay time. The LED above the right foot switch pulses according to the delay setting, it lets you see the rate of repeats. 

If you don't tap-in a tempo then it defaults to what the little knob labeled delay is set for. At any time you can update the tempo with only two taps on the right footswitch, brilliantly simple. The left footswitch turns the effect on and off. If you turn it off it will forget the tap tempo and go back to whatever the delay knob is set for. A knob for feedback gives you lots of delay repeat options. 

A three position mini toggle switch chooses Analogue delay tone, digital delay tone and reverse reverb. The reverse is one of my favorites. My advice, buy two of these and plug the output of one into the input of the second one (see above photo). It's echo heaven for under $120 (for two delay pedals). 

JHS 3-SERIES DELAY, $99 everywhere

For sound quality and solid American construction you can't beat the 3-Series delay. Low background noise lets you keep it ON without hiss. Mix, feedback-repeats, and delay time controls let you dial this delay in to enhance everything from Rock to Rockabilly to Country and Swing. This pedal requires less than 100 mA of power which means you can use it with most inexpensive power supplies. Great sound quality is a hallmark of JHS pedals. 

05 WAH PEDALS

It's easy to spend a lot on some rockstar signature wah pedal but what about those of us with limited funds to spend?

L TO R, ORIGINAL CLASSIC, NEW JUNIOR MODEL

CRY BABY (original), $79.99 from Sweetwater

Marketing hype aside you could do a lot worse than a new one of these Cry Baby wah pedals for under 80-bucks. It has a classic wah tone and it's easy to use. The Cry Baby sounds great with a variety of amplifiers. 

CRY BABY JUNIOR, $99 from Sweetwater

This pedal seems to be just like the full-size Cry Baby original except that the pedal is smaller physically, the input and output jacks are on the top rear and this one has an LED to tell you when it's ON. I like the slightly smaller size, the sound is classic and the LED to indicate when it's ON is priceless. Someday every wah pedal will have an ON indicator light. 

CRY BABY JUNIOR LED SHINES WHEN PEDAL IS "ON"

06 COMPRESSOR PEDALS

I don't use compressor pedals in the studio very often because I use expensive rack mount compressors patched on my recording console. When I do want a stomp box compressor I turn to these low cost performers. 

BEHRINGER COMPRESSOR SUSTAINER CS400, $19 from Sweetwater

I put one of these CS400 on my girlfriends pedalboard to help even out her guitar volume. The pedal body is made out of plastic but it's lasted for almost 10 years. It has some background noise but you can't beat the combination of features, sound, performance and price. If you're at all like me then you look at the price of this pedal and ask yourself "can this possibly be any good?". The answer is yes. 

DONNER ULTIMATE COMP, $39.99 from Amazon


This mini compressor has a good clear sound. On the surface it has three knobs, a tiny selector switch and a True Bypass ON-OFF footswitch. A large single "Comp" knob adjusts the amount of sustain or compression effect. 


A tiny "level" knob allows you to match the ON and OFF levels. A "Tone" knob helps compensate for treble loss from compression and the tiny switch makes it sound a little better or a little worse depending on what guitar pickups you use. Humbucking pickups sound darker than single coil models. The Donner Ultimate Comp is good sounding, very compact and under 40-bucks delivered.

EHX TONE CORSET COMPRESSOR, $89.50 from Sweetwater


The Tone Corset from EHX Electro-Harmonix is a compact three knob compressor with a fourth very important "Blend" knob. 


The Blend knob allows you to create a mix of compressed and uncompressed sound. You can go from no compression with the knob full counterclockwise to maximum compression when mix is full clockwise. 

By blending uncompressed sound with your compressed sound the attack of your notes can be less compressed but it can sit in a body of compressed sound for sustain. This pedal sounded better in my studio than a big boutique brand of compressor-pro which sells for $299. 

The EHX Tone Corset is built in a cast metal box with standard 9-volt external power inlet. A volume control knob helps you match volume when the compressor is ON or OFF.

JOYO DYNA COMPRESSOR, $37.99 from Amazon


Don't let the green color and scorpion logo scare you, this is quite an amazing compressor pedal regardless of price. If I'm using a distorted amp sound this is the compressor pedal I'd reach for. It's not a clean compressor, it has a darkness to the overall timbre that complements distorted guitar tones. 


The really special feature on this pedal is the Attack knob, any setting before 3-o'clock has a sharp attack tone, adjusting the knob makes it more or less pronounced. After 3-o'clock position and heading towards 5-o'clock the sharp attack tone is reduced and you still can get a lot of sustain without a wall of background noise. It's currently installed on my big pedalboard which means it's GREAT!

MXR DYNA COMP, $79 from Sweetwater

With only two knobs this is a very easy to use compressor pedal. A knob labeled Sensitivity controls the amount of compression and sustain while the Output control lets you match the ON and OFF volumes of the effect. Dead simple to operate, it's been used on guitars that have made million selling albums.

JHS 3-SERIES COMPRESSOR, $99 everywhere

This is another winner from JHS. It's built in a solid cast metal enclosure. You get three knobs and a toggle switch to mod your tone. I've been using this regularly since the 3-Series came out. It puts my guitar sound out front and center when I engage it. 

07 EQ

EQ is short for equalization, a fancy word for tone control. EQ is one of the things that might be most helpful to live acoustic guitarists. I suspect many already have EQ built into their amp.  I sometimes use an EQ pushed at 800 hz to give a cocked-wah effect. 

JOYO 6-BAND EQUALIZER, $37.99 from Amazon

When I bought my first one of these Joyo EQ pedals they were only $29 on Amazon. I bought one because I could hardly believe the price. It has been a great workhorse EQ pedal, it lives on the output of my Eventide Harmonizer and makes the high frequencies nicer. 

MXR Six Band EQ Pedal, $89.99 from Sweetwater

MODERN VERSION WITH LIGHTED SLIDERS

This was one of the first six band EQ pedals on the market. I bought the modern black version back in 2015. I use it for a variety of tone shaping. It's not low noise but it is reliable. The original one did not have a footswitch, it's a great addition to the modern ones. 

MY VINTAGE MXR 6-BAND GRAPHIC

08 TREMOLO AND OTHER MODULATION

Tremolo is an effect that causes the volume level of a signal to get louder and softer, but depending on the pedal that pulsing tone can have lots of enhancement. It can be an auto pan if the pedal is stereo. It can be a combination of auto pan and chorus for a very moving type of effect. 

KMISE BELCAT TREMOLO, $36.99 from Amazon

When I bought my first Belcat Tremolo it was only $29.99 with shipping. This pedal makes tremolo sounds that compete directly with my $200 JHS Kodiak. The Belcat Tremolo is low in noise and it's easy to noodle around with the controls and come up with interesting effects. This pedal goes head to head tonewise with boutique tremolo pedals costing upwards of $250.

JOYO VISION, $89 from Amazon

This is a fantastic pedal, it is actually two modulation pedals in one box. In my setup the left effect is set to tremolo and the right effect is set for chorus sound. The combination creates a beautiful pulsing swirl but both effects sound good on their own.  It's a very heavy duty enclosure, it has great controls that are easy to use. This is a lot more than just tremolo, it's a best buy pedal!

NUX (NU>X) MOD CORE DELUXE, $79 from Amazon


If you need modulation in a smaller sized package then there is a lot to love about the NUX Mod Core Deluxe. It does Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Tremolo, Pan, Rotary, U-Vibe and Vibrato effects with full stereo inputs and outputs. I love the "Pan", it will take a mono input and pan it between two amplfiers, a huge effect when done right. 


There are dedicated pedals which can do one effect better than the Mod Core. The MXR Phase 90 does phasing better than the Mod Core but it costs more than the Mod Core for the single effect. A lot of whether an effect works well is riding on the shoulders of the user, it's up to us to really explore all the capabilities any pedal offers and to try it in a wide variety of ways. 

USB port for software updates

The NUX Mod Core Deluxe packs a lot of sonic options into a compact metal stompbox. It can run on an internal 9-volt battery or external through the standard outlet. On paper the company name looks like NUX (rhymes with trucks) but if you look carefully there is a little arrow head separating the U from the X so from what I hear, the real way to say this is pronounced like "New X". 


I like the Mod Core, it's not a super-cheapie but it is low in noise and offers quality effects for a very fair price. 

09 ENVELOPE FILTER

Evelope filter is an auto wah effect. The bigger the signal you feed in the more wah you get out. 

Donner Mini Auto Wah, $42.99 from Amazon

I have some very expensive auto wah pedals but this review confines us to under $100. That does not mean you must settle for inferior auto wah effects. This little purple pedal from Donner is the one I picked for my Big Pedalboard, it delivers a great wah tone with excellent sensitivity. Knobs for Sensitivity, Resonance, Decay and Range deliver big sonic impact in a small low priced pedal.

10 PHASER

Phase shifting is a form of modulation that can be done with analogue electronic components. It's a unique and classic sound effect. 

MXR PHASE 90 PHASE SHIFTER, $79.99 from Sweetwater

I remember when the Phase 90 first burst onto the music scene in the 1970's, it was the effect that put MXR on the map. Suddenly you had a swooshing effect similar to a Leslie speaker cabinet in a box you could put in your pocket. There are lots of boutique versions but MXR still makes a super affordable version that has THE sound. You decide if you need to spend more, I don't. This low priced performer has features the original did not including LED ON light and external power supply input jack. This pedal ended my search for a Phase effect pedal I can depend on. I love the size and the sound. 

11. UTILITIES

Utility pedals don't have the hype or the flare of big effects like delay, reverb and flanging but the right utility pedals can take what you've got and make it better, sometimes A LOT BETTER.

BEHRINGER V-TONE GUITAR GDI 21 $29 from Sweetwater

I previously mentioned this pedal under the distortion category but you can turn down the drive, crank up the master volume and use the XLR output to connect an acoustic guitar directly to a pro microphone input socket without buzz or distortion. Or connect any electric guitar direct, I just mentioned acoustic because that's a favorite application of mine. This pedal is an incredible value. 

CALINE DI BOX GUITAR PEDAL, $32.99 from Amazon

I like this little Direct Interface box because it has a headphone amplifier on it. An XLR microphone level signal is available. While not the worlds greatest DI Box (it does not have a ground lift switch which is ok if you did not know what it is). I use this pedal to test other pedals, I listen with the headphone jack and send pedals to review in through the input jack. It's in a sturdy cast metal enclosure and the price is right. I use it with my Martin D-35 sometimes, this box does not degrade the fine acoustic tone.

EHX ELECTRO-HARMONIX SIGNAL PAD, $45 brand new from Reverb.com

This pedal is the opposite of a clean boost, it's a clean cut. Think of it as a master volume you can insert in your audio anywhere. Here is a comprehensive review on High on Technology.

EHX ELECTRO-HARMONIX LPB-1 LINEAR POWER BOOSTER, $41 from Sweetwater

This inexpensive boost pedal may be just what you need to get the sound you crave. Here is a comprehensive review on High on Technology.

JHS SUM, $80 from Sweetwater

This is a simple, high quality mixer which combines two signals down to one. You may not need it but it's nice to know that when you do these are available and priced affordably.

JHS MINI A/B Two Channel Line Switcher, $55 from Sweetwater

This pedal is simple and very basic. It takes a single input and sends it to either of two output jacks. The LED glows blue for the upper output and red for the lower. I use it to send the output of my Variax guitar to my acoustic amplifier or to the big pedalboard for more effects processing. This pedal is simple, basic and high quality American construction. 

JHS MUTE SWITCH KILL SWITCH, $55 from Sweetwater

JHS MUTE SWITCH ON MY BIG STUDIO PEDALBOARD

This little utility pedal has an input and an output. When you stomp on the button it mutes or kills the audio passing through. I love having one of these on my pedalboard input, it lets me silence my rig with a single button press. A single LED light tells me if it's ON (blue) or OFF (red). Tune or switch guitars in silence.

KLARK-TEKNIK DI 10A, $69.99 from Amazon

The DI 10A, KT Direct-Interface box is active, it is transformer coupled, it has a convenient pad switch, it can be powered by 48-volt phantom power or an internal 9-volt battery and the sound quality is indistinguishable from the much more expensive RNDI by Rupert Neve.

The DI 10A is totally professional and a good way to direct connect a guitar, bass or keyboard into a PA or recording system.  I'm using mine to connect the output of my Suhr Impulse Response load box to my Soundcraft recording console. 

The Klark-Teknik DI 10A feels strong, solid and well built, it has quality switches and jacks, a Midas designed audio transformer for isolation and it is $200 cheaper than a Neve RNDI. In my experience the cheaper KT works just as well as the Neve and it's a great deal too. 

MOSKY MINI DEC BOOSTER BUFFER, $23.97 from Amazon

Not all mini pedals made in China are the same even if they have similar looks and features.


Do you need a buffer or booster? This mini pedal from Mosky does not disappoint and what an amazing bargain price. With the volume turned all the way down it's a unity-gain buffer which isolates your guitar pickups from your effects. I cannot hear any degradation to my tone when using this as a buffer, it sounds beautifully transparent.


As a booster this little Mosky can make an anemic distortion pedal more distorted and interesting. It can bring a Strat with single coil pickups UP to the same output level as a Les Paul with humbucking pickups.

 I have a couple other pedals from different brands that look like this one but they actually degrade the tone just being in the signal path. This little buffer/booster competes with pedals that cost $130+. 


These little utility pedals from Mosky are fun, budget priced and deliver solid performances every time. If you need a boost or a buffer give this one a try before they raise the price.

MOSKY TAP, $25 from Amazon

MOSKY TAP SWITCH ON AMBIENT DELAY 

I bought two of these for only $18 each when they were on sale. I'm a big fan of the Ernie Ball Ambient Delay pedal. With the Mosky TAP plugged into the optional hole on the Ambient Delay I can set the tempo of the repeats with just two taps which is a lot more convenient than bending over and twisting knobs. A solid little pedal in a cast metal box.

MOSKY LOOP BOX, $29 from Amazon

This great little pedal lets you add True Bypass Switching to any single or multiple pedals. It's easy to use and it can be a real eye and ear opener when you can put a complete string of effects on a single button. What could be more simple, an input, an output and a loop you can switch in or out of your signal path. I own three of these and use them all the time to test and control effects. 

MOSKY VOL, $32.99 from Amazon

I am a fan of the EHX Signal Pad which is similar to the VOL from Mosky. It is a volume pot in an enclosure with a true-bypass footswitch and LED. This pedal is the opposite of a clean-boost, this is a "clean-cut" in signal level. 


This attenuator pedal has a 100k pot inside, it's over double the value of the pot used in the EHX Signal Pad which means it damages your tone less than the EHX. The Mosky is lower priced than the EHX but it's harder to find in-stock, it's not always available from Amazon.


The Mosky VOL is a mini pedal so it cannot use an internal 9-volt battery like the EHX Signal Pad is capable of. The Mosky is appropriate for space-challenged pedalboards but you'll need external power to light the LED. If you don't need the LED the pedal works fine without power. 

RADIAL BIGSHOT ABY SWITCHBOX, $99 from Sweetwater

Radial Engineering is based in Canada and they build some really nice gadgets. There are cheaper ABY pedals but these from Radial have a very solid feel and in my experience, they last a long time and have fewer electrical problems. The whole box is passive, you only need the power to light the LED indicator lights. Send one guitar to two different amps either individually or Y-connected together. An internal transformer reduces ground loop problems. A very professional pedal.

RADIAL BIGSHOT EFX LOOP SWITCHER, $99 from Sweetwater

USING TO SWITCH IN AND OUT IMPULSE RESPONSE GADGETS

This is a great pedal, it is two loop boxes in a single enclosure. You get two external loops, each is on it's own footswitch, each loop can be one or a bunch of effects so that with a single button press you can apply a complete effects chain. This is a totally passive pedal and functions without DC power. If you power it then the LED lights help you see what's going on. This pedal puts a ton of processing control under just two footswitches.

ROWIN DUMBLER, $31.99 from Amazon


There are a lot of companies trying to cash-in on the "Dumble Amp" name and tone. I normally ignore them but this one had so many positive reviews and was so cheap I went for it. 


This pedal does not disappoint. It's not a grainy-buzzy sound like a lot of "drive" pedals, this one has a very smooth and midrange-forward sound. 

GAIN, MAXED OUT, MY FAV SETTING

This Dumbler uses very low current so it will work on a 9-volt plug-in battery or 100 mA outlet on a power supply. A standard center-negative DC power jack is provided.


There are pedals with more sustain but this one is a great rock lead guitar tone without a lot of noise or buzz. It's under 50-bucks, it's compact and it sounds good. 

12 ALL IN ONE

All in one is a special category, it's the kind of pedal that includes several effects in a single enclosure with individual ON-OFF switches for each effect. I own and use two of these all-in-one pedals and they were both under $100 each. 

DONNER ALPHA CRUNCHER, $78.99 from Amazon

This pedal combines three effects in one box. Distortion, Chorus and Delay each have individual controls and ON-OFF footswitches. Advertising says it is based on Classic British hi-gain sound. A sturdy all metal enclosure houses the electronics. This pedal provides a relatively inexpensive avenue to heavy distorted lead and rhythm guitar sounds.

SONICCAKE, SONICBAR BLACK HAMMER $99.98 from Amazon

This pedal combines boost, distortion, chorus and delay effects into one pedal. It is advertised as a one-stop solution for metal heads. This pedal is user friendly and can run from a 100 mA power supply outlet. Each effect has its own rotary controls and footswitch. If you're looking for a lot of tone bending power in a relatively cheap, easy to use box there are hours of enjoyment to be had with this one. Try it into a tube amp driving a 4x12 cabinet, the sound is gigantic and heavy.

EPILOGUE

We've come to the end of this review. I hope you enjoyed it and learned something. There are a lot of fun pedals just outside the price limit for this review but I enjoyed going through all my pedals and finding these budget performers which deliver true professional tone for under 100-bucks each. Some are great performers without trying to be budget friendly, they're just great and happen to be reasonably priced. 

As I said at the outset of this review, these are pedals I bought and use. There are lots of others available but these are the bargain models I own and regularly use to make music. I'm sure there are others which are equally good but I don't own those so you won't find them here. 

Thanks for reading, Good music to you!

This review for High on Technology is copyright January 2021 by Mark King, it's not ok to copy or quote without permission.