10 Best Really Cheap Guitar Pedals: 2013 Edition

Really Cheap Guitar PedalsCheck out the 2014 edition.

There are a lot of digital rack mounted processors and even amps that come with a full compliment of effects (the Line 6 series for example).

It’s different than the traditional stompbox method, but to be honest, I think both are great.

Sometimes it’s nice to have a single pedal at your feet, other times it’s nice to have everything digitized in a multi-effects processor.

But in this instance, we’ll focus strictly on single-effect stompboxes.

When you’re Buying Stompboxes

Part of the benefit of buying single effects boxes is that you’re getting a highly customizable pedal that was designed with only that effect in mind.

It usually means you’ll get better quality sound.

So for example, paying $70 for a tremolo pedal means that tremolo sound will probably be better than the tremolo effect you’ll get if you pay $200 for a multi-effects board or a rack-mounted system that has 50 different effects.

All that to say, even if you’re into the multi-effects thing, you should still buy individual boxes.

Finding the Cheap Ones

When buying single pedals you’ll have the added benefit of affordability.

While you can spend as much as you want on a pedal, you don’t actually have to break the bank to get something decent.

To be clear, these pedals aren’t the best, but they enjoy a good reputation and an easy price tag.

So if you just have that pedal-buying-itch but don’t want to spend a ton of cash, this is a good spot to find a pedal that will satisfy.

Here’s the 2013 guide to finding the 10 best cheap guitar pedals.

1. Electro-Harmonix Nano Muff Overdrive: $30-$45

Electro-Harmonix pedals enjoy a good reputation, and while the Nano Muff isn’t the best money can buy, it’s a great distortion pedal for the price. It’s more of a traditional overdrive than a fuzz.

Cheap Guitar Pedals

2. Boss DS1 Distortion Pedal: $40-$50

The Boss DS-1 has long been one of the most reliable and inexpensive distortion pedals around. If you’re just looking for a basic distortion and nothing fancy, this is what you should spend your money on.

Cheap Guitar Pedals

3. Digitech Grunge Distortion Pedal: $40-$50

This pedal is old -- really old, and analog, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It provides a scratchy, grinding distortion, perfect for early ’90s rock and Seattle grunge covers.

Cheap Guitar Pedals

4. Electro Harmonix Nano Pocket Metal: $50-$60

This would be the Nano Muff Overdrive’s older brother, which gives you a heavier, metal-tone distortion for a few dollars more. It’s mostly a distinction between a more classical distortion and a saturated modern distortion.

Cheap Guitar Pedals

5. Visual Sound GarageTone Series Drivetrain Overdrive: $60

The Drivetrain gets pretty good reviews in MusiciansFriend, and the sound customizing options here are straightforward to go along with a smooth vintage distortion.

Cheap Guitar Pedals

6. Electro-Harmonix Neo Clone Chorus: $65

The Neo Clone has a depth switch and rate knob, which makes customizing your sound pretty straightforward. Small and compact, this pedal delivers a surprisingly clean and shimmery chorus for what you pay.

Cheap Guitar Pedals

7. Modtone MT-VOL Xcelerator Volume: $70

I’ve always been of the opinion that volume pedals are way overpriced, since they’re basically just glorified volume knobs. I guess you could also say that wah pedals are just glorified tone knobs. Oh well…people work hard to make them, so we’ve got to pay for them. This one is a great deal at $70 in most places.

Cheap Guitar Pedals

8. Line 6 ToneCore Space Chorus: $70

The Line 6 pedals are well built and provide excellent effects sound quality. The Space Chorus is certainly no exception.

You’ll get some nice sound options in this pedal, including a “color” knob, a tap tempo option and a chorus-tri-vibe switch. In this price range, there probably isn’t much that’s going to beat it.

Cheap Guitar Pedals

9. Dunlop Original Crybaby: $70

Who says that great things have to be crazy expensive? The original Dunlop Crybaby wah pedal is one of the oldest and most loved pedals in the history of electric guitar playing and it doesn’t cost much.

I suppose that getting into the $70 range might be pushing the definition of really cheap but Amazon often has it cheaper.

Cheap Guitar Pedals

10. MXR Dyna Comp Compressor: $70

I’ve owned the Dyna Comp for years and it’s an excellent addition to any rig, especially for those who play live a lot. The pedal does compression as well as any (or better) and the output knob is nice when you need a boost for a solo or lead piece. You’ll be able to hear the compression, as plucking a string harder will still maintain a normal volume.

Getting the pedal new will cost around $70, but since they’ve been around for so long, Amazon has a lot of used and slightly used options for around $50 or $55.

Cheap Guitar Pedals

Cheap brands to avoid…

If you’re going to cheap out on pedals, the ones I’ve listed above should be reliable choices. I will however say that there are some economy pedal brands that you should probably avoid.

Here’s a few that come to mind.

  • Rogue
  • Danelectro
  • The Cheap Behringer Lines

Some of these pedals can get as cheap as $20, or even less in some cases, but they’re not worth wasting your money. Cheap construction, marginal sound (at best) and no real redeeming value means you should stay away from these and avoid the lure of the low price tag.

$40 and higher is usually the threshold for quality.

Shopping Used

Keep in mind that every pedal I listed here is going to be pretty widely available on the used market, so make sure to check out the following sites for a used version of each one -- unless of course you just want a brand new pedal.

In fact, I’d recommend checking your used options on these sites, before you buy new, as you’ll usually be able to find what you need for 25-50 percent off the listing price.

Either way, best of luck on your quest for inexpensive guitar pedals. Thanks for reading.

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