Guitar Aficionado is supported by readers. If you buy something after clicking on one of our links, we may get an affiliate commission from that & it won't cost you anything.
Are you looking to build a pedalboard? With the sheer number of pedals available today, it can be difficult to decide what you should buy.
However, you really can’t go wrong with pedals that have been praised as the best of all time. Not sure which pedals fit into this category?
Have no fear, the following pedals are absolutely historic in their own right. These are sure to give you some classic tones appropriate for all kinds of music.
Table of Contents
Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby – Best Overall
The wah pedal is undoubtedly one of the most iconic guitar pedals ever created. This is often one of the first pedals that guitarists long to add to their collection.
The GCB95 is incredibly easy to use though it does take some practice to use articulately. Simply rock the foot pedal forward to engage, sweeping it back and forth for that classic wah sound.
Strymon BigSky – Best Premium
Let’s get one thing straight here, the BigSky is not your ordinary reverb pedal. This pedal comes stocked with 12 reverb types and a wide range of adjustable parameters.
You’ll get lost for hours discovering the possibilities of this pedal. The BigSky has up to 300 memory slots you can use to save your glorious presets.
This pedal comes equipped with multiple footswitches you can use to scroll through the memory banks in real-time. All of those settings you spent hours crafting will be ready to use in any performance.
Pro Co RAT 2 – Best Budget
This distortion can be summed up as providing versatility on a budget. For years, this pedal has been the choice for many guitarists who need some dirt in their channel.
If you play heavier styles of music, the RAT 2 will be especially primed for your needs. Plus, its adjustable parameters make it fairly easy to find a useable tone to call your own.
When the TimeLine was released, its capabilities were downright revolutionary. Even today, the TimeLine is a viable and worthwhile option for anyone that could use some unique delays.
There are 12 different delay types packed in here, with adjustable parameters for you to really create some new sounds. To get you started, Strymon has provided 200 different presets that you can use however you please.
Adding even more value to the TimeLine is the fact that it comes with a 30-second loop function.
There are many great delay pedals out there, but the TimeLine manages to be excessive in all the right ways.
Sometimes, it can be fun to change your guitar’s tone to something that doesn’t even sound like a guitar. For this, there’s nothing better than the Electro-Harmonix POG2 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon).
This is effectively an octave pedal with some additional effects, but the possibilities are endless here. You’ll be able to control 4 octaves (2 high, 2 low) of your signal to create some truly unique tones.
Adjust the attack, LP filter, and detune function, and you’ll find something you might not have ever heard before. Throw on the Q-filter or dry effects and you’ll find this pedal is more diverse than you thought.
Of course, anything this experimental should allow you to save your hard-earned settings. Fortunately, the POG2 allows you to save up to 8 different presets to recall at any time.
Line 6 DL4 MkII
For years, the DL4 was a very trusted delay pedal amongst some of the biggest names in music. The MkII is an updated version packed with even more features than the original.
You’ll find tons of useful tones with the DL4 MkII’s 30 delay types, adjustable parameters, and tap tempo function. Some of these are truly iconic tones you can’t find anywhere else.
The DL4 MkII is extra useful because it has 4-minute looping capabilities. You can easily add overdubs, start/stop the loop, or play the loop once, all with a press of a button.
DigiTech Whammy 5
This guitar pedal has quite the reputation, but there really isn’t anything else like it on the market. The Whammy 5 is sort of like a pitch shifter housed inside of a wah pedal’s construction.
You’ll be able to change your pitch up/down 2 octaves as well as harmonize your notes. The Whammy 5 lets you harmonize in chords or single notes.
This is a really fun effect pedal to have on your board. It’s extremely versatile, although it might not always be practical to use in most musical scenarios.
Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man
Ever since this hit the market in the 1970s, it’s become one of the holy grails of the delay world. There is just something distinct about the analog delay this pedal can provide.
This pedal allows you to have the option to add chorus and vibrato to your delay. These effects will help you to create some very tasteful (or bizarre) delay tones.
You’ll want to at least hear what the Deluxe Memory Man can do for your tone. It can sometimes provide a slight overdrive that is too tasteful to deny.
This version comes from Boss’s Waza Craft line, essentially featuring 2 pedals in one housing. A 2-way switch allows you to switch between the original Boss CE-1 and the CE-2.
Both of those pedals were legendary for their time, so it’s a great thing to see them provided together. Plus, this pedal has a stereo out so you can really make the most of the chorus effect.
J. Rockett Archer
Just about every guitarist is probably familiar with the legendary Klon Centaur. This fabled overdrive pedal has fetched prices that rival the cost of a used car.
This pedal provides the same type of transparent overdrive that the Centaur is known for. You can dial it in completely transparently and use it as a boost, or you can opt for some crunch.
Part of the Centaur’s appeal is undoubtedly due to the aesthetic appeal of the pedal itself. The Archer manages to capture both the sound and aesthetics of the original while remaining relatively affordable.
MXR M222 Talk Box
Are you familiar with Peter Frampton’s song, Do You Feel Like We Do? If so, you’re probably familiar with the talk box effect, which is part of the reason for the song’s success.
The M222 features a long tube that you clip to a microphone stand. You’ll put this in your mouth, using it to shape the tones created in the pedal itself.
This version features a built-in amp, so you can use it without having a dedicated amp for the effect. In the early days, that was a requirement for the pedal, which is probably why it wasn’t overly popular.
This Waza Craft version features the original Blues Driver in all of its functions and capability. What makes this different is that there are expanded tonal options that add a bit more thickness to the tone.
If you need an overdrive pedal, the BD-2W is definitely worth checking out. It is one of the most popular choices for that classic overdriven sound.
This is another pedal from Boss’s Waza Craft line, which is an updated version of the original DM-2. The original became a fabled pedal, having been discontinued for over 30 years.
With this, you get the classic functionality of the original in all of its glory. You can double delay time and add more definition to the pedal’s tone with a flick of a switch.
This flanger pedal is packed in with all of the classic flanger tones you could ever hope to use. Plus, it has 4 different adjustable parameters to truly dial in something that sounds unique.
The M117R has a pretty rugged housing that looks simplistically stylish. You will need an 18v power supply to power this pedal, however.
Dunlop JDF2 Classic Fuzz Face
If you’re familiar with Jimi’s pedal setup, you know that he had a Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face. This offering from Dunlop is essentially a reproduction of this classic pedal.
With this, you’ll get that same iconic circular pedal in a classic red color. The controls on this pedal are super simple to figure out, meaning you can rock in minimal time.
The SP is a clone of the famed Ross Compressor, which was known for its extremely transparent nature. You’ll find this pedal to be very easy to dial in, thanks to its minimal controls.
What’s even better is that the Xotic SP comes in a nano-sized form factor. You’ll be saving space on your pedal board while also saving your guitar’s tone.
Fulltone Octafuzz OF-2
Hendrix gear nerds are probably well aware of his use of the Octavia, which was a wedge-shaped octave fuzz pedal. Anyone looking for this pedal will be disappointed to find that it’s been discontinued.
With this, there’s no shortage of classic tones that can really add a new dimension to your sound.
Dunlop EP101 Echoplex
The Echoplex is responsible for creating some of the most well-known tones in the history of recorded music. Unfortunately, this device is incredibly expensive and fragile, making it impractical for live performances.
With the advancements in technology, you can have the Echoplex’s versatility right on your pedalboard. The Dunlop EP101 Echoplex (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is one of the best options available.
This pedal is essentially the famed preamp of the Echoplex in a pedal format. Simply adjust the dial to find your classic tone of choice!
MXR M68 Uni-Vibe
The original Uni-Vibe pedals from the 1960s and 70s are pretty much unattainable by the average guitarist. This offering from MXR is a faithful reproduction of this timeless classic.
With this pedal, you’ll be able to easily add in the Uni-Vibe’s characteristic blend of vibrato and chorus. Pedals like this can either be used subtly or at an extreme and still be quite tastefully potent.
There’s nothing quite like a great tremolo, allowing your guitar’s tone to bounce between speakers. If you’ve been searching for this effect, check out the Boss TR-2 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon).
The TR-2 is a classic choice that many guitarists opt for when they need a usable tremolo effect. This pedal gives you control over the depth and speed of the tremolo, as well as its waveform characteristics.
Overall, the TR-2 is incredibly simple to use. Guitarists of all skill levels can find a use for this classic tone.
Tube Screamers are another one of those classic overdrive pedals that many of the greats have used. This pedal has a bit more transparency compared to something like the Blues Driver.
As the saying goes, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Ibanez has kept the formula true to its original design concept.
Use the TS9 as a fairly clean boost, or dial up some grit for when you need it most. However you use it, you’ll probably be using this pedal extremely frequently.
Electro-Harmonix Micro Q-Tron
Sometimes, a guitar’s tone needs wah in a way that just can’t be performed with a dedicated wah pedal. That is where the Electro-Harmonix Micro Q-Tron (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) comes in handy.
The Micro Q-Tron is a miniature version of the famed Q-Tron auto-wah pedal. It analyzes your playing in real-time, applying a dynamic wah with each note that you play.
This pedal offers an incredible amount of control to provide you with tones far beyond the basics.
Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi
Fuzz pedals come in all sorts of varieties, usually consisting of certain materials to provide distinct forms of fuzz. The Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a true classic in the realm of fuzz pedals.
This fuzz can get quite beefy in tone, offering controls for volume, sustain, and tone. You can get some nasty grit, or morph your guitar’s tone to sound like a synthesizer.
For being such an old design, the Big Muff Pi continually proves it has something worthwhile to offer. This version even features its oversized form factor for a truly classic look.
MXR M102 Dyna Comp
In the world of compressors, the Dyna Comp has legendary status. This version from MXR provides the same versatility that the original did, all with simplistic controls.
The M102 Dyna Comp isn’t necessarily a transparent compressor. If you need some extra beef and sustain in your tone for solos, this pedal can work wonders.
MXR M101 Phase 90
Phasers provide a unique modulation effect that can really add some motion to the sound of your guitar. The MXR M101 Phase 90 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a signature pedal for providing this sound.
This pedal has been trusted for decades by some of the biggest names playing the guitar. Eddie Van Halen is perhaps the most noted for having frequently used the Phase 90 in great detail.
The M101 Phase 90 features the same functionality with a 1-knob adjustable speed parameter. It doesn’t get any simpler in design than this pedal provides.
Plus, MXR has kept it traditional by offering this modern rendition in the same classic orange color.
TC Electronic Ditto
For years, guitarists were wishing that they could record loops of themselves to easily play along to. The technology was available, but it was extremely costly and not always the most practical.
The Ditto provides the same simplistic functionality as it always has, relying on one single footswitch during operation. You’ll be able to record loops and a number of different overdubs layers for a complex and layered sound.
What’s even better is that the Ditto is extremely affordable. All guitarists should have one of these in their rig.
Electro-Harmonix Nano Small Stone
A phase shifter can add motion to a guitar’s tone in all of the right ways. One of the most iconic phase shifters ever made was the Small Stone.
The Electro-Harmonix Nano Small Stone (see price on Sweetwater, Guitar Center) is a worthwhile modern version. All of the classic tones from the original can be found here, with the benefit of a small form factor.
Using this pedal is a breeze. Simply choose how fast you want the phaser to be, and how you want the frequency to sound.
The Nano Small Stone can provide that missing ingredient that can add a unique dimension to your playing. Whether used subtly or at an extreme, this is sure to be one of your favorite pedals.
What To Look For When Purchasing The Best Guitar Pedals Of All Time
Buying pedals can be both a frustrating time and a very enjoyable process at the same time. It’s frustrating because there are so many pedals that are all very similar.
Don’t let this frustration bog down your journey of building a pedalboard. With the right attitude, pedal shopping should be quite a fun experience.
If you’ve never bought a guitar pedal before, there are some things you’re going to want to keep in mind. The following information will come in handy when you are doing research on pedals you might want to purchase.
For those that are new to pedals, considering the size of a pedal might seem like an odd thing. However, anyone who has had a pedalboard can tell you that this becomes extremely important.
Most guitarists will invest in a dedicated pedalboard to which they can conveniently attach their pedals. What inevitably ends up happening is that these boards end up running out of space.
In this predicament, you’ll be looking at those massive pedals and wondering if they are worth the real estate. If you have a need for another pedal but lack the space, you’ll be sacrificing one for another.
This is probably something that every guitarist will have to deal with to some extent. These types of decisions are never easy to make, especially if you have extensive use for all of your pedals.
Most guitar pedals tend to come in a pretty standard form factor, which helps to make things uniform. Keep in mind, though, that not all pedals come in the same sizes.
There are some pedals that are quite massive, though these do tend to offer multiple uses. These types of pedals tend to have more than one use, where the size can be justified.
Other large pedals might have one basic function. In these cases, a large form factor might not be the most justified.
This is where nano-sized guitar pedals have really changed the game. These pedals provide the same function at a serious fraction of the size.
With nano-sized pedals, you’ll be able to fit way more guitar pedals on your pedalboard. These pedals also make a great addition when you only have a sliver of space for accommodation.
When buying any pedal, you’ll always want to be aware of the power requirements the pedal has. Gone are the days when you'd have to rely on a 9V battery to power your pedals.
Some pedals do offer battery operation, but this is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Many pedal manufacturers do not even offer the option, which is usually the case with nano-sized pedals.
Fortunately, most pedals tend to run off of a standard 9V power supply. You’ll find this is the case more often than not, but it’s always a good practice to check beforehand.
Don’t get stranded when you realize you can’t use the pedal until you have a specialized adapter. You can avoid this situation altogether if you take a small amount of time to check beforehand.
The controls (or lack thereof) are another important aspect to consider with pedals. However, much of this is going to come down to your preferences and personality.
Are you somebody that likes to have control over every adjustable parameter? Maybe you’re somebody that wants something simple to set up and play with?
If you’re not sure what your preferences are, it’s probably best to start with simple pedals. When you don’t have so many adjustment knobs, you can usually find usable tones in a matter of minutes.
As you become more familiar with your pedals, you’ll discover things that can inform future purchases. Sometimes, it’s not possible to know you need a certain adjustable parameter until you’ve gotten your feet wet.
Pedals with fewer controls can also provide a degree of randomness to your tone. These are little aspects that you probably couldn’t find on something with complex controls.
On the other hand, if you purchase a pedal with tons of control, you could become easily frustrated. These pedals might offer expanded tones, but you need to be patient and curious enough to find them.
But, for somebody that really knows their way around guitar tones, extra controls can be worth it. These pedals can allow you to really dial in a tone to the most minute detail.
Sometimes, when you have an ideal tone in mind, having extra controls can help you shape that tone.
More isn’t always necessarily better, but neither is less. Purchase accordingly to the kind of personality you have.
Many pedals are clones of famous pedals that have come and gone with the times. Despite having a historic status, many of these pedals are not in production anymore.
Because of this, clones are made, replicating the original circuitry. Manufacturers then add their own tweaks to make an improved version of the classic original.
If you are looking for a specific historical clone, you’ll want to understand how authentic it is. Do some research to see just how faithful the manufacturer was to the original design.
You’ll find that the pedal is either a complete reproduction or something based on the circuitry with added features. What you choose is completely dependent upon what your preferences are.
When you are shopping around for guitar pedals, you must always keep your budget in the back of your mind. These pedals can get extremely expensive and guitarists have a way of justifying these purchases.
Generally, a pedal that is more expensive doesn’t always mean that it is better. Many inexpensive pedals are more than capable of providing the tones you might be searching for.
Always do your research when you’re looking at pedals. You just might find a more inexpensive alternative that can outperform what you may have your eye on.
Also, don’t be afraid to check around the used market. Going this route is going to save you some serious cash.
Plus, you’ll be able to expand your musical network by meeting other guitarists in your community. You can also use this used market to sell your pedals, allowing you to retain part of your initial investment.
Another route worth checking out is to see if music shops have demo versions available for sale. These are basically brand new pedals that have only been used in the store.
Because they have been lightly used, stores will offer these at a slight discount. Little things like this can save you cash over the long run.
Try The Pedals Out
The internet has made it extremely easy to be able to buy something without ever leaving your house. If you’re buying a guitar pedal, please use it as an excuse to leave the house.
To put it simply, if you want the best value, you’ll need to try the pedals out for yourself. How else would you know exactly what the pedal can do for your own sound?
Demo videos on the internet are convenient for formulating ideas. However, only you can play like you, as your musical identity and the gear you use are unique to you.
Paying upfront for a pedal you’ve never even tried is a scenario destined for an expensive disappointment. What then, should you do to make the most of this?
You should bring all of your gear to a music shop and ask them to try out some pedals. Many shops have no problem if you want to bring your rig in to test out pedals.
These shops tend to have guitarists working there who all understand the purpose and intention of this. Don’t be shy about this, trying out pedals like this is extremely enjoyable.
Best Brands For The Best Guitar Pedals Of All Time
Not sure where to start your pedal journey? Sometimes it can help to look at the products offered by notable brands in the industry.
The following brands have excellent reputations for creating quality and time-tested pedals. Guitarists trust these brands to provide them with their distinct tones.
Boss is one of the biggest names in the guitar pedal industry. Since the mid-1970s, the company has been responsible for producing some of the most famous pedals ever created.
Electro-Harmonix got its start in the late-1960s, making it one of the oldest pedal manufacturers still around. The company has produced numerous effects that have become bonafide pedalboard staples.
Top Guitar Pedals Of All Time, Final Thoughts
No matter how you want your guitar to sound, you can be sure there is a pedal to provide. That is perhaps one of the best things about today’s market offerings and what is currently available to guitarists.
Sometimes, the classic pedals are more than enough to provide you with the sound you’re looking for. These are the types of pedals that people will still be using for decades to come.
Side note, do you want to learn to play guitar songs the easy way? Learn how here – results are guaranteed!