How To Build A Budget Pedalboard

It's a rite of passage for a guitarist to build their own pedalboard. They're an integral component in your personalised sound. But how do you do bring your ideas to life without breaking the bank? We're here to help.

Cian Hodge

Cian Hodge

Whether you’re a beginner guitarist or a seasoned player, you’ll need to plan for your guitar pedalboard… and it doesn’t have to be ridiculously large or expensive. We want to make sure your budget pedalboard covers all the essential effects from the get-go, is fully future-proofed for expansion and ultimately sounds great.

Build a pedalboard step-by-step

  • Choose the guitar pedals to cover your essential effects
  • Get an appropriately-sized pedalboard, either DIY or pre-made
  • Buy the instrument cables, patch cables and power supply

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.

Building a quality sounding pedalboard on a small budget is easily achievable. One main benefit of starting out with a cheaper setup is that is 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 are a guitarist’s bread and butter. You’ll find yourself relying on variations of the “big four” across pretty much every style of music.

budget pedalboard

How to spot great pedals at good prices

We think the best cheap pedals are the ones which nail a particular sound instead of those which try to cover everything and failing to excel at 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.

Keep an eye 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.

Overdrive/Distortion pedals

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

Time-based pedals

Under the time-based category you’ll find effects like reverb, delay and tremolo. Reverb and delay are both staples on any board and are crucial in filling out your sound or creating deep atmospheric textures. They take your bone dry tone and expand it to epic proportions. Explore fresh delay-driven rhythms or solo over a bed of reverb in almost endless possibilities. Read more in our delay guide or reverb guide.

No doubt you’ll want to pick up both reverb and delay. There are plenty of analogue and digital circuits under £100 from a host of different brands, but TC Electronic and Mooer are two standout companies when shopping on a budget.

Featured Reverb and Delay pedals

Modulation pedals

Modulation arguably covers the largest umbrella of unique effect types. You’ve got chorus, vibrato, flanger, phaser, ring modulation and synth pedals, just to name a few. Modulation actively changes your guitar signal, creating anything from seasick warbles through to elastic waves and even video game style bit crushing.

We recommend checking out chorus modulation first, as it’s the most flexible in practical use and gives you a taste of how these stompboxes alter your tone. Electro Harmonix are masters of the art with the Clone chorus, adding depth to each pick of the string. Read more in our ultimate guide.

Featured Modulation Pedals

Tuner pedals

Most guitarists start off with a clip-on tuner. That’s totally fine – they do a perfectly good job and you’ll save yourself a bit of cash and space on your board. But for longevity sake, you should definitely make room for a tuner pedal in your budget. They’re far more accurate than their clip-on counterparts, they are extremely reliable and it means you don’t have to spoil the look of your guitar for the sake of tuning. Read our full guide to tuners.

A tuner pedal only has to be a small outlay in the grand scheme of your pedalboard. The Boss TU-3 is classic used by pros for years now. But there are also a number of even cheaper and far newer entries from Korg, D’Addario and Landlord FX.

Featured Tuner Pedals

Multi FX and Dual purpose pedals

Multi FX units contain lots of varying effects in one larger hardware format. These are perfect for players who want to cut right to the chase and try out loads of different sounds. And because most multi FX feature an effects loop, you can still mix and match the sounds with other pedals you buy. The only real downside is that you get what you’re given at first; you have less choice for the specific sound profiles you want.

That’s where dual purpose pedals come in. These are the types of pedals that combine closely-related effects. For example, a reverb and delay, vibrato and chorus or delay and pitch shifting. Both multi FX and dual purpose pedals are excellent choices if you’re looking to save space on your pedalboard, but will potentially cost more than your standard single effect guitar pedal.

budget pedalboard

The Pedalboard

You’ve got two main options when it comes to the board itself: buy a smaller ready-made pedalboard, or build your own from scratch.

Buying a pedalboard

Pedalboards from popular brands Pedaltrain and Rockboard start around £40-£50 and will fit approximately six standard size stompboxes. There are a number of benefits to buying ready-made: the boards are raised off the ground and are compatible with power supply mounting kits from most big manufacturers, meaning you can attach the PSU underneath and keep the top space tidy. They also allow for the patch cables to be looped on the underside. Overall, they’re robust and flexible to what you need. Read our detailed guide to pedalboards.

Featured Pedalboards

Building a pedalboard

Option two is a DIY job and your biggest money saver. You can use a number of hard, flat surface materials to make the board, or you could cut some strips of wood and nail them together to resemble the likes of a Pedaltrain design. One example would be to stick some velcro on a large plastic chopping board. You don’t get all the utilities of the pre-made versions such as PSU mounting, but you’ll hold onto some cash in the process.

Power Supplies

Realistically, there’s no need to fork out loads for a massive power supply in a budget pedalboard build, because you won’t be racking up the likes of 10 pedals for a little while. What you should do, however, is put your trust in the likes of Voodoo Lab, Tone City, T-Rex or MXR to handle the power situation even if the price creeps up a little. Their most affordable PSUs are capable of hosting at least five pedals across 9V, 12V and 18V. In many cases, you’ll want to buy a PSU with more power slots than you need to give yourself room to expand. Alternatively, you could set up a daisy chain by using one output to power multiple pedals – but there is the potential to negatively impact your sound – especially as you add more pedals to the signal path. Read our more detailed guide to power supplies.

Featured Power Supplies

Cables

Tourtech, EBS and Ernie Ball all make reliable, hard-wearing patch cables to connect pedal to pedal. You can opt for a DIY approach using Boss or D’Addario cable kits in order to cut the cables to your required lengths. For longer cables joining guitar to board and board to amp, Tourtech and Fender will do the job and last you for years to come. We recommend 10ft/3m cables to home players and potentially up to 20ft/6m for performing musicians.

Going Further… a pedalboard amp

By this point you’ve got yourself a complete pedalboard, but there’s more you can do! We’ve finally reached the point where a great sounding pedalboard amp setup is a realistic option for space-savvy guitarists.

Pedalboard amps are exactly what the name suggests: guitar amps shrunk to the size of a guitar pedal – small enough to fit on your pedalboard. This method allows for much lighter travel, saves on a whole load of space for home and recording guitarists and in general means there’s less to break or go wrong.

You could accomplish this with a preamp pedal, which is essentially an amp channel in stompbox format. The only issue is that you’ll have to plug into a separate power amp or powered speakers, otherwise you get a sound. The alternative is a complete pedalboard amp containing a power amp, such as the Hughes & Kettner Spirit Ampman, selection of Hotone floor amps or Milkman “The Amp”.

Featured Pedalboard Amps

If you enjoyed this read, check out more of our learn articles!

Shop at Andertons

Cian Hodge
Cian Hodge
Cian is a writer for the Andertons team. He shares his birthday with Muse frontman Matt Bellamy and believes he will one day reach the same level of stardom. Cian is a big prog/modern metal fan so naturally loves Bare Knuckle pickups and pointy guitars.

Responses & Questions

Leave a Reply