We're often asked which is better, a pedal board of individual pedals or a multi-effects unit. As is often the case with questions of this ilk, the answer isn't straightforward, and often depends on your own needs.

Below is a list of the pros and cons of both systems.

Individual Pedals

+ If a pedal is dedicated to one thing, chances are it'll be bloody good at it.

+ If you ever fall out of love with a certain pedal, it's easy to replace.

+ Easy to quickly adjust settings on the fly.

+ No complicated programming or firmware updating to do.

+ You never have to have more effects than you actually use.

- Tricky if you need to switch on more than one effect at a time.

- Takes up a lot of space.

- Generally a more expensive route if you need a lot of effects.

- Batteries go flat on stage, or you need countless power cables.

- More elements to go wrong (pedals, cables, batteries etc.)


Multi-effects Units

+ All the effects you could possibly need, all in one convenient box.

+ One cable connection on stage, minimising cable spaghetti.

+ Generally cheaper if you intend to use the majority of effects.

+ No more tap-dancing to turn on multiple effects at once.

+ Have got VERY good in recent years.

- If you don't like a certain effect, you're stuck with it.

- Often needs pre-programming which can be intimidating.

- Quality of the effects tends not to be as good as individual pedals unless you spend a lot of money on it.

- Not easy to adjust sounds on the fly.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives you some things to consider. There are options that circumvent many of these problems.  For example, you can program control floor units to switch on multiple pedals at once, and even switch amp channels at the same time, meaning you can leave the pedals off-stage. Many of these are very expensive though, and aimed at pro touring players who couldn't live without one.

Our advice is this - make a list of all the effects you know you need.  If this list goes on a bit, and many of them will be used at once, maybe a multi-effects pedal is for you. If realistically you only use an overdrive and a bit of delay, you might be better served with individual pedals.

Ed Cox
Tagged: Guide Guitar