The subject of effects in guitar and bass setups has always been touchy. Some players have the “Bro, the Boss GT-100 is the only one for me” mentality while others “swear to God this is the only (fill in the blank) pedal I need”. But is there one perfect solution? The simple answer is no.
Everyone has different tones and guitars for the style or styles of music that they play. (You don’t see many jazz guitarist playing Jackson’s do you?) Now that’s not to say that the guitar couldn’t do that style, and for all we know the instrument may have the best setup for the genre without even hearing it. It really is a matter of personal preference and with the right setup you can really get some unique combinations. But for the sake of the subject, we will focus on effects single and multi. Let start talking about the pros and cons of both. That way we can clear up the thinking on the subject…
Guitar/Bass Multi-Effects Positives
There are some really great advantages to using multi effects pedals rather than stomp boxes. The biggest one is that they are usually much cheaper than individual pedals. A single multi-effects pedal to often have hundreds even thousands of different effects/patches. That means you don’t have to buy hundreds of pedals to tweak and setup for your “perfect sound”.When you figure the average stomp box prices runs for about $100+/-, that’s $$$, Especially when you can get a fairly advanced multi effects for $200-500 range.
A single multi effects pedal takes way less footprint space than 10-20 stomp boxes, and it’s easier to carry around too. You only need couple of patch cables rather than 20 connecting patch cables to link your stomp boxes together. You would probably save even more money because you won’t even need to build a pedal board although it is a lot of fun to build! Check out a previous article on my own pedal board. I use it for both Bass and Acoustic/Electric Guitar. It fits many styles of music and is super easy to setup. There is a flow so really read the article on how to setup your own board!
Powered adapter or 9V (or other?)
When you aren’t using many different pedals, you now only need one plug to power your entire effects unit. When you consider the single power adapters for stomp boxes runs for about $20 or so, it’s definitely an advantage you should consider. There are many power sources available for single stomp boxes such as the One- Spot, Mooer’s MPW1, or the BBE Supa-Charger which can regulate many pedals, the different voltages, and can be used internationally. You do get what you paid for.
Keeps your options open
As mentioned earlier, many multi-effects have hundreds of different effects that you can use. Some tones are unit specific and are not setup on any other units. I had seen on a pedal “Eerie Moons and Stars”? It was a very unusual patch and I could not see myself ever using that patch, but you get the idea. With a multi-effects pedal, you might find the exact effect you want. So it can be really easy for a noob to create some original effects.
One big advantage to guitar multi-effects pedals is that you can create presets for your songs. If you figure out all the tones you want to use for your songs, you can simply push down the button for that patch, and you’ll be able to use different tones in in the blink of an eye. Try doing that with a stomp box or series of stomp boxes if you are using more than one effect. Can be a gigantic pain in the ass.
If you want to use single pedals you would need to be changing the pedals as you play through your sets, and it can sometimes get very problematic, especially if you have a difficult guitar part. This limits your on-the-fly editing of your tones. Some players have 2 of the same pedal to simply the issue. This again can cost more than needed. I guess you will have spares? Seems unnecessary.
Lets discuss the flip side of this coin shall we now that we have mentioned a great deal of the positives.
Guitar/Bass Multi-Effects Negatives
Real-time tone editing is a bitch
Self-explanatory! It’s a whole lot easier to reach down to a stomp-box and change a small setting by turning a knob, than it is to enter your patch settings and find the effect you want to change. Period. Now its not to say it’s impossible to do, but you will see that the guitar multi-effects pedals are much less dynamic when it comes to a live show. Try scrolling thru menus of a tiny ass screen on the multi-effects in the dark and you will know exactly what I’m talking about. Most of the time single pedals can be more accurate on the adjustments and you can hone in on the sweet perfection.
Inferior Sound Quality
Everyone (at least people who have heard and been around really good music) knows that the digitally created sounds will never be as authentic as the originals. If you are just learning about this, now you know. Digital effects for the most part, are simply trying to emulate that authentic, original tone and whenever you are trying to re-create something like that, the end result always falls short of the original. Most of the single pedals I use are Boss due to quality of tone and flexibility (I play more than one genre of music), but again my choice is a preference for my needs. You should also think of audio flow to get the best tone.
How reliable are these things?
I am speaking mostly from my own experience, as I have played both types of setups. My experience has shown me that multi-effects pedals always break on me…..especially at the worst moments like during dead silence or it completely fails in the middle of a great riff. It is unprofessional and these kinds of things ruin the show/performance leaving me stranded with little or no tone.
Get it repaired they say. When you find out it cost more to repair it than to buy a newer/better unit, then you will see this is a deal breaker. Would you risk having your equipment stop working for you in the middle of a show? I won’t mention the units used (yes there has been more than one that have become a useless hunk of crap) as to not bash any specific brand. Just know that with single pedals, if one dies, a suitable replacement is generally available. Boutique pedals are one thing, but again there are some quality pedals out there like Mooer, Source Audio, Electro-Harmonix, Digitech to name a couple. Single pedals are widely available at most music shops all over the country, so replacement can be quick in a pinch especially if you are on tour.
I would say that I do not recommend you use a multi-effect pedal solely for live shows based on my own experience. You can definitely use it for practice and recording all day long, but they simply aren’t reliable enough at the price range we were talking about. Some of the very high end $1000+ units do not pertain to the mentioned info above for obvious reasons (you get what you paid for). There are some great ones but I will leave you some practical tips to remember:
- Find what works for you and your needs. (If you have a budget, find the best quality you can afford)
- Use your own instrument to try out tones. (This will give you a more realistic expectation)
- You can mix and match single and multi effects for ideas on what you might want in the future (Find your unique tone)
We are glad that you spent some time with us today. Be sure to checkout Ant Hill Music for all your needs. Until next time play well, and play on!