Is it possible to build on a budget?
Guitar pedals are important tools in your sonic arsenal. Creating one pedal chain to act as a cohesive soundboard is vital for song writing, gigging and simply having a fun time playing your instrument.
It’s certainly achievable to build a quality sounding pedalboard on a small budget. Starting out with a cheaper setup also lays the foundations for your future purchases. There’s always room to add new sounds at a later stage without wasting money replacing pedals if you get your first few buys right. Lock down your important tones now and figure out what you need for your more “experimental” musical endeavours further down the line. For example, even if you buy a £200 boutique reverb year’s time, we want you to keep your original effect so it doesn’t go to waste.
Buying the right pedals
Let’s dive right in with the most exciting part of the build. You’ve got four key stompbox roles to fill on your board: a tuner, overdrive, a time-based effect and modulation. These sounds and applications are a guitarist’s bread and butter. You’ll find yourself relying on variations of the “big four” across pretty much every music genre.
How to spot great pedals at good prices
We think the best cheap pedals are the ones which nail a particular sound instead of trying to cover everything and failing to excel in any. You’re more likely to keep them in your setup as you expand, rather than pay out a sum and chuck it as soon as something better comes along.
Look out for trusted pedal manufacturers such as Boss, Electro Harmonix, T-Rex and Ibanez – all legends in the business who have been making top notch pedals at good for prices for decades.
Another reliable rule of thumb is that mini pedals (stompboxes around half the size of a regular guitar pedal) tend to be cheaper and sound just as good as larger alternatives, even if they feature a few less controls. Brands like Tone City, Landlord FX, Mooer and TC Electronic are all excellent starting points.
Everyone from the Beatles to Meshuggah use some form of overdrive and usually it’s in pedal form. You’ll have some thinking to do here, as most overdrives or distortions follow one of five distinct styles: soft clipping Bluesbreaker, soft clipping Tubescreamer, hard clipping distortion à la RAT, hard clipping Klon Centaur and amp-in-a-box. Find more in-depth details on each in our ultimate overdrive pedal guide.
Tone City excel in overdrive and distortion with a massive catalogue of pedals, each delivering on unique tones falling into the five aforementioned categories. They seriously hold their own up against more expensive options and are a popular choice for all types of players.
Featured Overdrive Pedals