While the sound of nothing but your guitar and amplifier is undeniably awesome, sometimes you might want to be able to throw in a touch more variation. By sticking a few effect pedals between your guitar and amp, you can put a whole world of sound at your feet. But do you go for a bunch of separate stompboxes loaded onto a pedalboard or would you prefer a more one-stop-style solution in the form of a multi-effects unit? In this blog, we take a look at both, so you can kit yourself out with exactly what you need, whether you’re a guitarist, or a bassist who wants to be more than just part of the rhythm section.

Pedalboards: The Quest for the New Sound

Guitarists that are forever on a quest for new, fresh sounds and effects often go for a pedalboard loaded with separate pedals. A pedalboard is like a collective noun for your sound arsenal and includes the board, your pedals, and all the necessary connecting cables. Plenty of guitarists choose to build a board based on what their personal guitar hero uses, but whatever kind of pedalboard you’re putting together, note that you might be forced to spend a bit more cash than you would have to on a multi-effect unit of around the same quality level.

The Necessary Prep

Of course, what you need to build your pedalboard will depend on the kind of guitar effects or bass guitar effects you go for. Most compact effect pedals control just one effect and are connected to each other using short patch leads to make your effects chain. From there, you use a couple of jack leads to plug your guitar into the starting pedal of the effects chain and connect the ending pedal of your effects chain to your amplifier. So you can quickly set up for every gig, you can mount all of your pedals onto a pedalboard using a roll of hook-and-loop fastening strip, which makes it easier to remove and shift effects around in the chain. If you’re only using maybe five pedals, then you can usually get away with powering them all at once using a single power supply and a daisychain cable. If you’re using a whole load of different pedals, then daisychaining them all from one power supply can result in less stable power, which can affect your sound. In which case, you might want to use a purpose-designed multi-pedal power supply.

Easily Switch Up Sounds

One of the biggest advantages of using a pedalboard is that it’s really easy to change up your sound. So, if you want a richer, better chorus, a more practical delay or a different type of distortion with a similar voltage, you can just slap a bit of hook-and-loop tape on the base of your new pedal and add it to your board.

Multi-Effects: Direct Access to Masses of FX

If you’d rather just gain direct access to a small mountain of different effects in one shot, then you’ll be better off with a multi-effect pedal. In essence, these boxes open up a wealth of possible sounds and they’re often a far more affordable option compared to a loaded pedalboard with a similar range of sounds and level of build quality. On top of that, you don’t need nearly as many cables to set up a multi-effects unit (just two jack leads for your guitar and amp). These days, bassists are also offered a growing range of multi-effects units built specifically for their instrument.

Play Around with Control Pots or Trigger Fixed Presets?

There are more and more versions of the multi-effect concept around today than ever, all loaded with push-buttons and control pots so you can tweak your sound whether you’re just rehearsing or playing a gig – just like you can with a stompbox-loaded pedalboard. If you like to be prepared, however, then you can figure out all of your settings beforehand and save them as presets so you can call them up at just the right moment. In this case, it’s definitely worth diving a little deeper into the functions of the onboard effect processor with the user manual on hand, so you can really get the most out of your multi-effects unit. Usually, you can save every settings combination as an individual preset and, at the push of a button or footswitch, flip to an entirely different effect combo – which is definitely a big bonus!

The Various Versions of the Multi-Effect

Multi-effects can be roughly divided into three different groups. The first are the multi-effect units that come packed with masses of different effects, but then you can only use a limited number of those effects at the same time. These units are great for practising at home and experimenting with, but aren’t so handy on stage. Then there are multi-effect stompboxes, which are simply a combo of a few different effects, like an overdrive combined with a compressor or a single pedal that houses five of the most-used guitar effects going. The third group includes big and extensive multi-effects units that don’t just come rammed with loads of different effects, but enable you to build a near limitless stack of effects without any issues. These models sometimes also include extra sound emulations of legendary amplifiers and cabinets, so sometimes, all you need to take to a gig or rehearsal is your guitar, your multi-effects unit and a couple of jack leads – since you can jack straight into the PA. The super-high-end models also offer extremely high-quality sounds – which even the professionals wouldn’t be ashamed of.

At a Glance



  • You’re only working with the pedals and sounds that you actually want.
  • You can choose where each effect is placed in the chain (which has a big effect on your sound!).
  • Your pedals are easy to remove, swap out and swap around.
  • You can easily adjust your settings.


  • To build your pedalboard, there’s a lot to set up and connect.
  • Buying every pedal, patch lead, power supply and the pedalboard can cost more than buying a multi-effect unit of similar quality.
  • You don’t get any presets so you can quickly change up pedal combos to change your sound in real-time.



  • You get the same sounds and build-quality as you would for a complete pedalboard, but at a better price.
  • You gain access to a mass of different effects.
  • You can start playing almost immediately.
  • Often, you can combine effects and then save your combos as presets so you can quickly switch between combos while playing.


  • You’re stuck with the effects that came with your multi-effects unit.
  • The placement of effects in the effect chain is almost always fixed, so you can’t choose the placement yourself.
  • It’s only with the more extensive models that you can quickly change settings.

Know of any other pros and cons that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments!

See also…

» All Guitar Effects
» Separate Guitar Effects
» Separate Bass Guitar Effects
» Guitar Multi-Effects
» Bass Guitar Multi-Effects
» Effect Pedal Accessorires (inc. Pedalboards)

» What’s the Best Pedalboard for Me?
» What Are the Best Guitar Effects for Me?

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