Best Guitar Pedals of 2021… so far!

Guitar pedal fanatics will not be disappointed by what 2021 has offered. Plenty of incredible new stompboxes have whetted our appetites, from brands both big and small. That’s why in this blog, we’ve highlighted some of our top picks from the year thus far — to help you find the next exciting addition for your pedalboard!

Elliot Stent

Elliot Stent

Guitar pedals have had a renaissance of sorts over the last decade or so. They never fell out of favour with guitarists, but their popularity and appeal has grown exponentially in recent times. With online gear demos becoming a brilliant source for buying advice, and with more players seeking electrifying new sounds to push the musical boundaries — we shouldn’t be all that surprised!

2021 has been a great year for stompbox releases so far. And we’re only 7 or so months in, so this article might require an update pretty soon! Nevertheless, we’ve still rounded up our favourite new guitar pedals that we hope will fuel you with the desire to expand your sonic horizons.

Universal Audio UAFX Pedals

That’s right, music production specialists Universal Audio joined the effects pedal party in 2021 with their stellar UAFX series! Bringing the same class-leading innovation and ease-of-use of their pro audio products to a tactile stompbox format — these hotly-anticipated guitar pedals did not disappoint, with the Golden Reverberator, Starlight Echo Station and Astra Modulation Machine capable of dishing out some truly spellbinding tones.

Boasting cutting-edge dual-processor architecture, Universal Audio’s UAFX pedals are primarily designed to provide the coveted vintage sounds of yesteryear. Equipped with superbly-detailed algorithms that’ll satisfy both audiophiles and home hobbyists alike — any one of these remarkable units can elevate a pedal setup with an inspiring palette of new yet nostalgic effects.

With intuitive ‘Preset’/’Live’ modes, analog dry-through circuitry, super-wide stereo/dual mono operation, true bypass with silent switching, an ‘Effect Mode’ toggle switch that provides access to variations of each active effect type, and free additional downloadable sounds from the acclaimed UAD algorithm team — it’s clear that Universal Audio went above and beyond!

Boss HM-2W Heavy Metal Distortion Pedal

Boss fans rejoiced when the Japanese pedal giant announced the HM-2W Waza Craft pedal! Released 30 years after production of the original HM-2 Heavy Metal ceased — a highly-revered stompbox synonymous with Swedish death metal — the HM-2W harnesses the signature “chainsaw” high-gain sound of that iconic pedal but has been refined with some modern upgrades, for enhanced performance and versatility.

Key updates include the addition of a ‘Custom’ mode, which pumps out more aggression and focus for contemporary metal players, and a premium buffer that ensures a clean and clear guitar signal when the unit is bypassed. The noise floor has also been reduced to minimise hiss and hum. Apart from those thoughtful tweaks, the HM-2W Heavy Metal pedal honours the game-changing HM-2 down to every last detail. From its legendary orange-on-black livery, to its ‘Standard’ mode that accurately replicates the sound of the original unit.

Line 6 HX Stomp XL Amp & Effects Processor Pedal

Line 6’s best-selling HX Stomp got the super-sized treatment in 2021! Packing in the same 300+ amp, cab and effect sounds found in the standard HX Stomp — all derived from the groundbreaking Helix series processor — the XL is essentially an expanded version of the original HX Stomp, boasting 8 capacitative-touch footswitches rather than just 3.

The Line HX Stomp XL’s larger footprint and extra switches essentially make it a tactile “super stompbox”. It offers greater real-time control than the standard unit, making it more practical for performing with, while a hands-free ‘Pedal Edit’ mode lets you tweak presets with your feet instead of diving through a time-consuming menu. There are 4 snapshots per preset rather than 3 too, and you can even access the acclaimed ‘6-Switch Looper’ without needing an external MIDI controller. Other than that, it’s an HX Stomp but with 5 more footswitches!

Catalinbread Dreamcoat Preamp & Skewer Treble Booster Pedals

We love Catalinbread here at Andertons, and when they announced their Dreamcoat and Skewer guitar pedals at Summer NAMM 2021 — we were super stoked! Designed to closely emulate the unique gear that rock ‘n’ roll trailblazer Ritchie Blackmore used to achieve his distinctive Deep Purple guitar tone, these pedals also feature super-cool psychedelic artwork that’ll add vibrant colour to any pedalboard. The two units can be operated individually, but really come to life when used together!

The Catalinbread Dreamcoat replicates the Aiwa TP-1011 reel-to-reel preamp that Blackmore used, with the near-exact same specs. However, there are some extra features up its sleeve that Catalinbread say make it a “multi-dimensional gain machine”. It can be unruly, velcro-y and sputtery — made for capturing that huge ‘70s rock sound!

Catalinbread’s Skewer stompbox is based on the Hornby-Skewes Treble Booster. It stays true to that original circuit and features a silicon transistor to achieve a biting sound that can cut through even the densest of mixes. It perfectly partners with the Dreamcoat — letting you dial in the desired frequency range from rich and full to treble-heavy.

Walrus Audio 'SLARP' Slö Reverb & ARP-87 Delay Pedal

What’s better than one Walrus Audio pedal? Two of course. And not just any two… The limited edition ‘SLARP’ combines a couple of the brand’s best-selling stompboxes — the Slö multi-texture reverb and ARP-87 multi-function delay! By bringing their most popular time-based effects together in a single chassis, the ‘SLARP’ covers all of your ambient needs without taking up too much pedalboard real-estate. It sports custom artwork too, so it’s sure to spice up the look of your setup!

The ‘SLARP’ is an immensely powerful tool for experimental musicians who love to get lost in lush, layered and ethereal soundscapes. The Slö reverb and ARP-87 delay circuits are completely independent, but using them in conjunction with one another will yield the most immersive, dream-like experience! Inputs and outputs for each side let you route the ‘SLARP’ in a number of ways too, so that you can easily integrate the pedal into your rig without making any compromises.

Walrus Audio SLARP Reverb Delay Pedal

TC Electronic MojoMojo Paul Gilbert Edition & Zeus Overdrive Pedals

TC Electronic makes a number of top-selling guitar pedals, and it’s no surprise either. They’re affordable, sound great, and are very easy to use. In 2021, they upped their game yet again and released a range of new stompboxes — most notably their MojoMojo Paul Gilbert Edition and Zeus overdrive pedals!

The MojoMojo Paul Gilbert Edition overdrive is a modified version of the standard MojoMojo, which the world-renowned virtuoso has described as his “desert island” pedal. Using it to get the most out of his guitar amplifiers, particularly with its bass and treble knobs, Paul still wanted some tweaks made to the circuit. This ultimately led to this giant-meets-giant collaboration, with the MojoMojo Paul Gilbert overdrive going all the way to eleven with its gain-pumping ‘Mod’ switch and increased circuit board voltage that provides more headroom and dynamic range.

TC Electronic’s Zeus is one of the best Klon-style overdrive/boost pedals we’ve ever heard — especially at its incredibly accessible price-point! Capturing that coveted “transparent” gain tone, the Zeus possesses a luxurious and warm voice and injects the “nectar of the Gods directly into your guitar sound” — in TC’s own words! With plenty of tone-shaping potential too, courtesy of its dedicated treble control and unique ‘FAT’ switch, the almighty Zeus Drive is ideal for Klon fans on a budget.

DSM & Humboldt Simplifier Deluxe Amp & Cab Sim Pedal

The folks at DSM & Humboldt blew us away with their original Simplifier. It’s tactile, compact, analogue, and crammed with incredibly-convincing amp/cab tones. In fact, it was one of our most popular-selling stompboxes of last year! For 2021 though, DSM & Humboldt took their innovative design a step further with the Simplifier Deluxe — one of the most comprehensive “amp-in-a-box” pedals we’ve ever seen!

Equipped with an astounding amount of features, still squeezed into a portable pedal-sized chassis, the Simplifier Deluxe is the ultimate all-in-one portable amp for guitarists who seek versatile, easy-to-tweak tones on the go. It’s a zero-watt, dual-channel stereo amp at its core, with realistic cab emulation tech and even an onboard multi-stage reverb. Almost endless connectivity options make the Simplifier Deluxe straightforward to route into any type of rig too, while an included footswitch lets you take control of the unit’s most critical live-performance functions.

Use its 2 preamps as independent channels or in parallel for full stereo signal chains, choose between 3 cab types with a dedicated ‘Mic Position’ knob for each channel, precisely sculpt the perfect tones using an effective 3-band EQ per channel, the list goes on… It’s a mighty impressive machine.

Way Huge Penny Saver Royale Joe Bonamassa Modulation & Overdrive Pedal

Does any guitar player have more signature gear than Joe Bonamassa? Probably not. And in 2021, we saw yet another product with his name attached to it — the Way Huge Penny Saver Royale! Merging two of his most beloved Way Huge guitar pedals in a space-saving 2-in-1 enclosure (the Overrated Special overdrive and Blue Hippo chorus), the Penny Saver is a rich-sounding mega-stompbox with its two circuits working together in perfect harmony.

The Overrated Special side offers a gritty overdrive sound based on the “mythical horse” pedal (you know which one we’re talking about!), while the Blue Hippo half delivers the silky analogue chorus tones of the standalone pedal’s primary mode — with a custom delay time specially suited to Joe’s taste!

As Way Huge describes: “This pedal is ready to infuse Joe’s hypnotic licks — and yours — with an electrifying surge of gain and sustain with the liquefied intensity of a rotating speaker.” Now that’s a killer line.

Fjord Fuzz Guitar Pedals

We might be pushing the rules a bit with this contender. That’s because most of these Fjord Fuzz pedals have been around for at least a couple of years. However, we eagerly took the brand on in early 2021 and the reaction to their products has been simply incredible! Why you might ask? Because nothing sounds like their stompboxes. They’re like mini weapons of mass destruction!

If you’re unfamiliar with Fjord Fuzz, they’re a small boutique pedal brand based in Norway — specialising in unique fuzz circuits that completely warp your guitar signal with pitch-altering, high-gain chaos. All of their speaker-shredding stompboxes are handmade and built by “by real musicians for real musicians”, with their ODIN octave fuzz arguably their most popular device. The BIFROST is another noteworthy pedal that combines fuzz with a glorious delay circuit that can achieve extremely psychedelic, self-oscillating pitch bends.

All of Fjord Fuzz’s guitar pedals are far from conventional. And we mean that in the most complementary way possible!

ThorpyFX Pulse Doppler Phaser, Vibrato & Tremolo Pedal

We think ThorpyFX guitar pedals are dynamite. They sound phenomenal, have a fun “military” vibe and are, aptly, built like tanks! The Pulse Doppler is their most recent release, which is an intriguing multi-modulation pedal that has to be heard to be believed. Blending rich analogue phase-shifting, vibrato and tremolo into one enchanting stompbox that recalls the characteristic pitch-warp motion of nature’s own ‘Doppler Effect’ — it sounds pretty abstract!

Brought to life by Adrian Thorpe and legendary former Lovetone designer Dan Coggins, the ThorpyFX Pulse Doppler offers up an array of compelling effects to satisfy even the most sonically-adventurous guitar player. It sweetly embellishes the sound of practically anything you plug it into with throbbing, frequency-modulated pulses that range from subtle to dramatic. We simply love it!

Honourable Mentions

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Elliot Stent
Elliot Stent
Elliot is a Senior Digital Guitar Marketer at Andertons. A fan of '90s rock, vintage Formula 1 and offensive comedy — he often feels like he was born in the wrong decade. In his spare time, Elliot peruses eBay for second-hand Music Man guitars, Marshalls and merch from bands you've never heard of.

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