You want to find your own sound as a guitarist.
And to do that, you need effects pedals.
Some will tell you to get a multi-effects pedal. The give you tons of effects in one package, saving you money.
Others will say you need individual pedals, because they give you a better sound and are the only way to get the exact tone you want.
Who is right? Both sides are right.
Deciding between a multi-effects pedal vs individual pedals is a personal choice.
And we will help you make that choice.
Keep reading for a full comparison of individual guitar pedals vs a multi-FX pedal. We will help you figure out which option is best for you.
Table of Contents
- 1 Multi-Effect Pedal Vs Individual Pedals
- 1.1 What Are Multi-Effects Pedals?
- 1.2 What Are Individual Effect Pedals?
- 1.3 Differences Between Individual Pedals And A Multi-Effects Pedal
- 1.4 Similarities
- 1.5 Advantages Of Multi-Effects Pedals
- 1.6 Advantages of Individual Effects Pedals
- 1.7 Why You Should Get Multi-Effects Pedals
- 1.8 Why You Should Get Individual Effects Pedals
- 2 Multi-Effect Vs Single Pedals: Final Thoughts
Multi-Effect Pedal Vs Individual Pedals
We will begin our comparison by looking at each pedal type individually, before comparing them directly and diving into the advantages of each. Then we will help you figure out which one is better suited to your needs.
What Are Multi-Effects Pedals?
As the name suggests, multi-effects pedals typically feature a multitude of inbuilt effects. If you ever wondered how the guitarist you saw at a show the other day had so many different tones in his pocket, without ever changing their axe, chances are he or she used this type of guitar pedal.
Having the option to completely change the tone of your guitar on the fly is always good. Whether you’re in a studio recording songs, or playing in a venue, multi-effects pedals can make a difference.
They shine the most, however, in more casual settings. Before you take a dive down the rabbit hole and start searching for the “perfect” tone, it won’t hurt to expand your horizons with what’s already available.
Instead of buying truckloads of individual pedals, you can familiarize yourself with a rich spectrum of pre-designed tones by using a multi-FX pedal.
I’ll never forget my first Line 6 pedal. I got it as a birthday gift, with my non-musician friend calling it an “all-purpose” pedal. To this day, I still haven’t gotten around to testing all 150-plus sounds and effects that were pre-installed on it, but plugging it into my Schecter is still as fun as ever.
What Are Individual Effect Pedals?
An individual effect pedal is designed to serve a single purpose. Whether it’s a simple noise gate, a well-rounded equalizer, a smooth compressor, or a super-heavy distortion, individual pedals are excellent at what they were designed to do.
They come in all sizes, shapes, and forms, but there’s one thing all individual effects pedals have in common. They are built to give you the option to fine-tune your tone.
Not all individual pedals have a rich arsenal of sound-shaping options, but in most cases, they are exceptionally customizable.
For instance, my first individual effect pedal was an old Grunge overdrive. Even though this pedal only comes with “Tone”, “Level”, and “Volume” control knobs, I could immediately feel it in my sound, if I tweaked any of them even the slightest.
Differences Between Individual Pedals And A Multi-Effects Pedal
The most obvious difference between single and multi-effects pedals is versatility. With a multi-FX pedal, you can do pretty much anything anywhere.
You can be a one-man band playing looped tracks and shifting between an array of different styles of sounds. No need for a looper pedal and other pedals for each sound effect.
You can experiment with dozens of preset tones with your band, or you can experiment to your heart’s content on your own.
Although the versatility of individual effects pedals can’t begin to compare to that of multi-effects pedals, these pedals will enable you to implement a single effect into your sound with surgical accuracy.
If you have a pedalboard, you can string several individual effects pedals together, which takes care of the “low versatility” issue. However, creating a chain, tuning all your pedals, and using them properly takes a bit of experience and effort.
Individual and multi-effects pedals usually look more or less the same. This does not apply to more modern multi-FX pedals, though, such as Neural DSP’s Quad Cortex, or the latest Line 6 Helix LT. These are absolutely gigantic.
Both types of pedals require some form of electricity, which is either a couple of batteries or an adaptor (or both).
Multi-effects and individual effects pedals are both meant to alter your tone. While individual pedals do it in a far more controllable manner, multi-FX pedals can change the way your guitar sounds in more ways than just one.
Advantages Of Multi-Effects Pedals
Next, we will look at the primary advantages of multi-effects pedals over using individual pedals.
Studio, Rehearsal & Stage-Ready
You won’t have to worry about not having the right tool for the occasion. Nearly all multi-FX pedals feature dozens of amp presets and close to a hundred different styles of effects.
Great For Beginners
If you haven’t spent a decade on the road and twice as much time practicing, you probably won’t notice the lack of nuance in the tone of the available effects.
Change Effects Easily
Changed your mind? Change the effect. There is no need to waste time searching for a pedal that will give you the effect that you need. All you need to do is just flip the switch.
Advantages of Individual Effects Pedals
Of course, using individual effects pedals in lieu of a single multi-effects pedal also has its advantages. Let’s see what they are.
Compact And Practical
All individual effects pedals are considerably smaller and easier to transport than multi-effects pedals. If you only need a single effect, or just a few, these are more portable.
Dial In The Exact Tone You Want
Individual pedals allow you to find the tone you always wanted. Fine-tuning and tweaking every aspect of your tone is only possible with the right combination of individual effects pedals.
Unparalleled Sound Quality
While multi-FX pedals have quantity on their side, individual FX pedals value quality above all. They specialize in a single effect only, so it only makes sense they do a better job delivering that effect than a pedal that does hundreds of things.
Why You Should Get Multi-Effects Pedals
Multi-effects pedals are well-rounded boxes packed with every trick in the book: overdrive, crunch, delay, loop, phaser, pitch-shifter, and so much more. However, you can only use a specific number of them at any time, leaving your tone “imperfect”.
I love using multi-effects pedals while practicing. But for recordings, individual pedals are the way to go.
Even though no one will forbid you to use multi-FX pedals on a record, it’s usually a better idea to shoot for individual pedals, because they’ll do the same job much better.
In my humble opinion, rookie guitar players will have the most fun, and enjoy the biggest bang for their buck, if they buy a multi-effects pedal. All the preset effects are ready for use out of the box, so just plug, play, and have fun.
Another ideal type of person that would greatly benefit from having a multi-FX pedal in their bag is a casual player on a cash-strapped budget.
Buying a half-complete rig of individual pedals can cost hundreds of dollars. If you don’t mind trading tone quality for an arsenal of different effects, multi-effects pedals are the way to go.
Why You Should Get Individual Effects Pedals
Professional players and people bent on making it in the music industry won’t go far without a set of quality individual effects pedals. Without them, they will sound just like everyone else.
Individual effects pedals are meant to give you the tools you need to fully express your personality and creativity.
If you ever wondered why some of your guitar idols sound as awesome as they do, it’s because they’ve invested in a bunch of individual effects pedals before settling for the ones that fit their tone (and finding their tone).
Multi-Effect Vs Single Pedals: Final Thoughts
Hopefully this look at the similarities and differences between a multi-FX pedal and individual pedals has helped you figure out which on is the best option for you.
In general, if you are just starting out, you will get the most bang for your buck from a multi-effects pedal. They are also the most fun to play around with.
But if you want to fin-tune your personal tone and perhaps even begin recording your music, you will be better served with several individual pedals that deliver the exact effects you need. What guitar pedals do I need in the beginning? That article covers the 7 most important ones.