6 Best Effects Pedals For Beginners (Under $50).

The best effects pedals for electric guitar are typically going to cost you close to or over 100 bucks, but there are a half dozen or so really good effects pedals for under $50. These are them – and they’re great pedals for the price, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player on a budget.

The 6 best effects pedals for electric guitar under $50

DigiTech Hot Head Distortion

digitech_hothead_001The DigiTech Hot Head Distortion Pedal is not just one of the best effects pedals for guitar under $50, it’s also one of the most versatile distortion pedals in the under $50 price range. That’s why it was included on the Best Distortion Pedals under $50 list. The Hot Head is perfect for adding that little bit of grit to your tone. Whether you’re looking for dirty classic rock or hard rock crunch, the Hot Head will deliver.

This versatility to many styles and its easy to use design make it one of the best effects pedal for beginners.

The DigiTech Hot Head Distortion Pedal is easy to use and gets the job done, at a good price.

DigiTech DDM Bad Monkey Tube Overdrive

DigiTech-DBM-Bad-Monkey-Tube-OverdriveThe DigiTech DDM Bad Monkey Tube Overdrive has it all! A killer name, and killer vintage overdrive make this one of the best effects pedals for guitar under $50. In fact, it may be the Best overdrive pedal under $50.

The Bad Monkey is a rugged and flexible overdrive pedal that will give your amp the sound of a naturally overdriven tube amp without polluting your guitar’s distinct tone in the process.

A good overdrive pedal is an essential effects pedal for beginners, and the DigiTech DDM Bad Monkey Tube Overdrive pedal is one of the best and most affordable for beginners.

Behringer DD400 Digital Stereo Delay/Echo

behringer_dd400_delay_pedalA delay or echo is another basic effects pedal for beginners.

The two basic features of a delay pedal are number of repeats and time between each repeat (or echo). A good delay pedal will cover a good range of time and provide multiple echoes.

With 7 different modes and a delay time of up to 1.3 seconds, the Behringer DD400 effects pedal ranges from subtle to radical stereo delay. No wonder it made the Best Delay/Echo Pedals under $50 list!

With this level of control for around $35, the Behringer DD400 is easily one of the best effects pedals for guitar under $50. The DD400 gives you a wealth of available controls and sound shaping ability, making it an essential effects pedal for beginners.

Behringer Compressor-Sustainer CS400

behringer_cs400_002Dynamics (relative loud and soft notes) are an important part of music, but uncontrolled dynamics can really mess up an otherwise great piece of playing.

This is where compressor pedals come in.

A compressor pedal smoothes out the dynamics by producing consistent sound levels. This process also has the effect of improving the sustain of each note. Compressor and sustainer pedals are great for playing searing blues or metal solos and Compressors are also great for slap-style bass players

It’s because of this diversity that a compressor/sustainer is an essential effects pedal for beginners – it just opens up so many doors.

The best compressor/sustainer effects pedal for under $50 is the Behringer CS400 compressor/sustainer pedal.

The CS400 adds some great impact to your tone and near-endless sustain, and it’s easy to use.

The Behringer CS400 is great for everything from clean, snappy country leads to searing blues solos to rock solos that really scream.

At $23.99 on Amazon, this pedal is a steal! (That’s why it made the Best Compressor pedal under $50 list)

Rogue Analog Chorus

Rogue-Analog-ChorusA good chorus pedal will add depth to your tone, and it’s virtually a must for any 80’s pop songs (think The Police, Men At Work, Cure, etc..)

I know a lot of guitarists are not fans of the chorus effect, but it’s still essential to capturing that sound.

My pick for the best chorus effects pedal for guitar under $50 is the Rogue Analog Chorus pedal.

The Rogue Analog Chorus pedal creates everything from wide sweeping to shimmering 12-string sound. It adds depth to electric guitars, electronic keyboards and more.

It’s easy to use, featuring only two control knobs that let you quickly adjust the modulation speed and depth.

The Rogue Analog Chorus is has a true bypass switch engages and disengages the effect. An LED indicator shows you when the effect is engaged and gets dim when it’s time to change the battery.

Behringer EQ700 Graphic Equalizer

Behringer-EQ700Finally, our best effects pedals for guitar under $50 list will wrap up with the Behringer EQ700 Graphic Equalizer pedal. The idea behind this pedal is simple: shape the sound going into your amp.

The EQ700 is a lot like the equalizer on a traditional stereo system. 7 EQ bands let you shape your sound and eliminate feedback.

The Behringer EQ700 handles frequencies ranging from 100 Hz to 6.4 kHz with a powerful 15 dB boost/cut per band. This makes the EQ700 an ideal effects pedal for beginners because you can compensate for whatever may be lacking in your sound – too much treble, too little treble, not enough bass – you name it! The EQ700 can help round out your sound.

The Behringer EQ700 Graphic Equalizer includes the standard status LED for effect On/Off and battery check, and you can run your EQ700 on a 9 V battery or a DC power supply (not included). It retails for less than $50 at Amazon and other stores.

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The Best Overdrive Pedals for Under $50

These are my picks for the best overdrive pedals for under $50. Note that these are overdrive pedals and not distortion pedals. If you’re looking to add some classic rock snarl or blues overdrive to your guitar tone and want to spend less than $50, you’re in the right place.

If you’re looking for killer metal distortion, then check out The Best Distortion Pedals for Under $50.

The Best Overdrive Pedals for Under $50

Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive

TO800_big

The Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive pedal creates great tube-like, screaming distortion with a smooth sustain and nice, fat tone.

The authentic vintage sound of the Behringer TO800 is made possible through the use of original 4558 op amp and the MA150 distortion diodes.

The control set for the Behringer TO800 is stripped down and simple. It also has noise free On/Off switch, status LED and battery check.

The Behringer TO800 runs on a 9 V battery or DC power supply (not included).

Behringer TO800 Controls:

  • Drive
  • Tone
  • Level

It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

If you want vintage and screaming tube-like distortion, the TO800 is a great choice, especially since the Behringer TO800 Vintage Tube Overdrive sells for $38 on Amazon!

Here’s a demo of the TO800 in action:

 

DigiTech DDM Bad Monkey Tube Overdrive

DigiTech-DBM-Bad-Monkey-Tube-Overdrive

Besides having an awesome name, the DigiTech DDM Bad Monkey Tube Overdrive pedal delivers killer vintage overdrive to your tone.

The DigiTech DDM Bad Monkey has the following controls:

  • Level: boosts the output level of your guitar signal
  • Low: adjusts boost and cut of bass frequencies
  • High: adjusts boost and cut of upper harmonics
  • Gain: provides smooth tube amp distortion to your sound

That’s it!

The DigiTech DDM Bad Monkey Tube Overdrive pedal is not metal level distortion, but it gives your guitar amp a boost just when you need it.

The DigiTech DDM Bad Monkey is a rugged and flexible overdrive pedal that will give your amp the sound of a naturally overdriven tube amp and allow your guitar’s distinct tone to be preserved.

The DigiTech DDM Bad Monkey Tube Overdrive pedal sells for $49.95 – but comes with Guitar cable, patch cord and picks! (you can also buy just the pedal, without the extras)

Watch gearmanndude demo the BadMonkey:

DigiTech Screamin Blues

DigiTech-DSB-Screamin-Blues-Overdrive

Lastly, there is the DigiTech Screamin Blues Overdrive Pedal. While all players can benefit from the Screamin Blues, it’s blues players in particular who will love this pedal.

The Screamin Blues is built to respond to playing dynamics of all kinds, but is especially attuned to a more blues style of play.

Playing lightly gives you a mild overdrive, but dialing up the gain and digging in hard will make the Screamin’ Blues sing with ultra-rich harmonics and sustain.

The Screamin Blues has the basic overdrive pedal controls:

  • Level
  • Low
  • High
  • Gain

The DigiTech Screamin Blues Overdrive Pedal sells for $49.95 and like the DigiTech DDM Bad Monkey Tube Overdrive, it includes a patch cord, picks and guitar cord and is also sold alone.

Watchgearmanndude demo the Screamin Blues:

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The Best Compressor/Sustainer Pedals For Under $50

Dynamics (relative loud and soft notes) are an important part of music, but uncontrolled dynamics can really mess up an otherwise great piece of playing.

A compressor pedal lowers the output sound relative to your input signal. In other words, it smoothes out the dynamics by producing consistent sound levels. Incidentally, this also has the effect of improving the sustain of each note.

Compressor and sustainer pedals are great for players looking for that searing blues solo, and metal players alike.

Compressors are also great for slap-style bass players, making thumb slaps, string pulls and muted notes all the same volume, for an extremely percussive effect.

Here are two great compressor/sustainer pedals that sell for less than $50.

Behringer Compressor-Sustainer CS400

behringer_cs400_002

The Behringer CS400 compressor/sustainer pedal adds some great impact to your tone and near-endless sustain. It is easy to Operate with 4 knobs to let you dial in the amount of compression and sustain you’re looking for.

The Behringer CS400 has dedicated knobs for:

  • Attack
  • Sustain
  • Level
  • Tone

Attack lets you dial in the amount of compression, while sustain controls…well, the sustain. 😉

The Level control allows you control the amount of volume boost – from subtle to “monster” volume boost. The tone knob controls level of highs.

The Behringer CS400 is great for everything from clean, snappy country leads to searing blues solos to rock solos that really scream. The CS400 also provides an LED to tell you when it’s on, and on/off switch that will put the pedal in bypass mode when off and runs on either a 9 V battery or PSU-SB DC power supply

At $23.99 on Amazon, the Behringer CS400 compressor/sustainer pedal is a steal!

Rogue Vintage Compressor

rogue-belcat_compressor_002

Rogue Vintage Compressor is about twice as much as the Behringer CS400, but it’s “Vintage”. 😀

“Vintage” means it’s likely to produce some added “noise” to your signal when put after other pedals in your signal chain. But for some players, that “noise” is the vintage sound they’re after. After all, Hendrix had a pretty hairy tone in a lot of his live recordings..

The Rogue Vintage Compressor Pedal is also a bit more simplified in its appearance, with only 3 control knobs:

  • Compressor threshold (sensitivity)
  • Sustain
  • Overall volume

The Rogue Vintage Compressor is a true bypass pedal, so disengaging the effect won’t rob your tone. An LED indicator shows you when the effect is engaged and gets dim when it’s time to change the battery.

The Rogue Vintage Compressor is made of aluminum and built to last.

The Rogue Vintage Compressor at a glance:

  • Sturdy, lightweight aluminum case
  • True bypass switching
  • Easy-to-use Threshold, Sustain and Level controls

Powered by either a 9 volt battery or external 9 volt DC adapter

The Rogue Vintage Compressor Pedal sells for about $49.99 on Amazon.

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Amps, Effects and Modeling – oh my!

Every guitarist reaches a point in his playing life when he begins to come across terms like “Combo Amp”, “Rack mount”, “Stompbox” and the like. This may happen early in his guitar journey, or much later – particularly if he has played acoustic for many years before venturing into the realm of the electric.

That was me. I played acoustic guitar for over 10 years before I ever picked up an electric. I never paid much attention to terms like “amp head” and “rack mount”. But after receiving my first electric guitar for Christmas one year, I quickly found myself immersed in a world of terminology completely foreign to my otherwise knowledgeable self.

Today, I am going to provide some detail on these terms. (since I was unable to find any decent info on the Internet that wasn’t loaded with too much info).

E n j o y.

What is a Amp Head?

An amp head (sometimes referred to as simply a “head”) is the base amplifier. In it’s simplest definition, the head is the box that receives the signal from the electric guitar, and routes it out to the speaker(s), P.A. system or headphones.

The 50w Marshall JVM205H Guitar Amplifier Head.

It may be solid state (i.e. using integrated circuits and a digital processor to carry the electronic signal) or tube (i.e. Using Vacuum tubes to carry the signal). Tube amps are also sometimes referred to as valve amps.

It is called the head because it historically sits on the top, or at the head, of a speaker stack or cabinet.

The amp head is usually rated by power consumption, ex.: 15w or 30w, meaning it consumes 15 or 30 watts of power while in use. The higher the wattage, the more muscle. Amps today range anywhere from less than 1w to over 400w.

A final word of caution on amplifier wattage: more watts does not always mean louder sound. It’s only a measure of potential power, the ultimate sound quality and decibel level is also a factor of the input and the speaker(s).

What is a Combo Amp?

So, if the amp head is the amplifier itself, what is a combo amp?

The Fender '65 Twin Reverb combo amp

Put simply, a combo amp is both the amplifier and the speakers in a single unit. Combo amps are ideal for learning to play and for practicing, whether solo or in a band. Everything you need to produce sound (outside of the actual instrument) is in a single, self contained unit.

Combo Amps vs. Amp Heads

So which is better, an amp head or a combo amp?

That depends on your desired use. Each has it’s benefits and drawbacks.

Amplifier heads are typically better amplifiers than combo amps. This is because you’re paying top dollar for just the head. Many combo amps have very good amp heads and good speakers, but generally speaking you get a better amplifier for your money when you buy an amp head.

Combos are ideal for practice and learning, but the speaker(s) in a combo amp cannot compete with stand alone cabinets for concerts or live shows.

Most hobbyists will do just fine with a combo amp, while most professionals favor the stand alone amp head with speaker cabinet set up.

What are Effects?

OK, with me so far?

Good.

Now that we know what gets the sound from the electric guitar out through the speakers we can turn our attention to sound effects.

There’s no definitive list of effects, but the most common types include:

  • distortion
  • modulation
  • dynamics
  • filter
  • time-based
  • pitch/frequency
  • feedback/sustain

Much of a guitarist’s sound is the result of their choice of effects.

Effects should be viewed as an added layer of sound put on top of the base sound from the guitar. It’s for this reason that the most important aspect of an amp is it’s ability to deliver good, clean tone without any (unintended) distortion or sound degradation. After all, if you start with a muddy sound, you’re only going to end up with a muddy sound at the heart of whatever effect you’re applying.

Effects can be applied to that sound a number of ways. Here are the 3 most common.

Stompboxes

A Stompbox is an effects pedal, designed to lay on the floor and be turned on or off by the player stomping it with his foot. The stompbox may have 1 or more effects, and a multitude of controls affecting volume, signal, etc..

The Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal.

The instrument cable is connected from the guitar to the stompbox, and another cable is connected from the stompbox to the amplifier. Sometimes, multiple stompboxes may be chained together, creating a more complex sound as the signal is modified by each box on its way to the amp.

Common pedal effects include:

  • compression
  • wah
  • overdrive
  • chorus
  • flanger
  • phase shifter
  • delay
  • echo
  • reverb

Rackmounts

Lexicon MX400 Dual Stereo/Surround Reverb Effects Processor

Rackmounts get their name from the fact that they are larger than stompboxes and require that they be mounted in a rack, like the kind used in telecommunications and networking.

Rackmounts are larger and usually offer more control over the signal, making for a more complex sound. Since they are not as easily toggled on/off as stompboxes, rackmounts are favored in recording studios or sometimes used in live sound mixing, whereas the stompbox is used by the guitarist at home and on stage.

Some of this separation has disappeared as modern rackmounts can now be controlled by foot switches, much like a stompbox. However, they are still less portable than their stompbox cousins.

Modeling Amps

Fender Mustang III modeling amp

Lastly, some amplifiers provide sound effect features on-board, eliminating the need for the stompbox or rackmount. These are usually called “Modeling amps” as they model the stompbox or rackmount capabilities.

Some newer amps take modeling to a new level, modeling other amplifiers themselves. These amplifier modeling amps make it possible to emulate vintage amps that are often too expensive for the beginner, which makes them great amps for the hobbyist.

Conclusion

The world of electric guitar is much broader than that of the acoustic, at least in terms of gear and equipment available. But that’s part of the allure. After all, who doesn’t love to roll up their sleeves and play around with a different sound now and then?

It may seem like a lot of info, but it can open up whole new worlds of sound to explore.

Happy exploring!

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