Updated by Danielle
Updated on March 15th, 2023
We have removed the BBE Acoustimax entirely since it is no longer available and increasingly rare on the used market. All other pedal recommendations remain the same. Additionally, we have some minor corrections/fixes to the article's copy.
Best Acoustic Guitar Pedals (our top Pick)
LR Baggs Venue DI Acoustic Preamp
Technically a preamp, the Venue DI gives you a ton of control over your acoustic guitar's tone. Even for those with an onboard preamp, the Venue DI's sound quality is just a cut above. It's expensive, but worth it, especially for those who perform live.
You’re an acoustic guitar player, almost exclusively. Yet somewhere deep in your soul there’s a desire to branch out and at least be capable of more variety in your tone. It’s not like you want a full pedalboard or a pile of stompboxes strewn across the floor.
Just something that will provide more control, maybe a little color and flavor to your tone.
But, what pedals “work” with an acoustic rig? What effects would you actually use? There are some that work really well with an acoustic guitar. I'll highlight them in this best acoustic guitar pedals list.
Compare our top acoustic guitar pedals picks
LR Baggs Venue Acoustic DI
LR Baggs Para DI
TC Electronic Hall of Fame Reverb Pedal
Boss CH-1 Super Chorus Pedal
Boss AD-2 Acoustic Preamp
Ernie Ball Volume Pedal
Boss RC-1 Loop Station
1. LR Baggs Venue DI Acoustic Pedal & Preamp
The LR Baggs Venue DI is essentially an acoustic guitar amplifier (preamp) without a speaker cab. If you go straight into a mixer or PA system this unit lets you customize your acoustic's tone in every way imaginable. While it's particularly ideal for someone who doesn't have an existing preamp in their acoustic rig, it outperforms most onboard preamps that come standard in an acoustic guitar or even in an acoustic amp.
Read the full review: LR Baggs Venue DI
This is a fantastic tool for acoustic solos artists, worship leaders, session players, or an acoustic rig that lacks a lot of control or doesn't have its own preamp. Its price is usually on the higher end, though you can check used pricing which often dips significantly below retail.
Excluding effects like chorus and reverb, you can rely entirely on the Venue for whatever acoustic tone you can think of. LR Baggs also throws in a nifty carrying case.
IDEAL FOR: Live performance, recording, and all acoustic rigs
2. LR Baggs Para DI Preamp
If you play an acoustic guitar but don’t own an amp and prefer not to (perhaps because you almost always play into a PA system) then this acoustic preamp is ideal for your situation. Not only does it give you the added control over your tone but, it also eliminates the need for an acoustic amplifier entirely, similar to the Venue DI. It’s also much cheaper than an amp.
The Para DI allows you to control gain, which is basically the volume that goes into the master volume or output. This means it’ll be easier to control feedback and have a more compressed response. We recommend dealing with EQ preferences after you’ve set volume and gain the way you want.
It’s a complete acoustic preamp and, for what it’s worth, one of our favorite acoustic rig recommendations, particularly as a more affordable alternative to the Venue DI.
IDEAL FOR: Acoustic pickups without preamps
3. TC Electronic Hall of Fame Reverb Pedal
For acoustic guitar players (and electric players) there is simply nothing to dislike about the Hall of Fame reverb pedal, unless you just dislike ambient effects in general.
The HOF is one of the best reverb pedals we've ever used in this price range, and it's perfect for acoustic guitar tones. When you're adding subtle effects layers to your acoustic guitar, reverb is one of the best types of effects to use.
IDEAL FOR: Simple acoustic ambience and effects layering
4. Boss CH-1 Super Chorus Effect
If you just want to add a little bit of color or effect to your sound, a chorus pedal is an excellent option, requiring only basic EQ and level controls.
The Boss CH-1 accommodates with an EQ knob, RATE and DEPTH controls, all of which fall under an E.LEVEL knob which functions as a wet/dry mix control.
For subtle modulation just set every knob at about 11 o'clock. You'll get a thin, shimmering layer over your acoustic guitar's tone that doesn't drown out the natural resonance of the instrument. The pedal doesn't boost your signal or add any kind of volume. All you'll hear is a clear, simple effect layer.
IDEAL FOR: Basic acoustic effects (modulation), all recording and performance situations
5. Boss AD-2 Acoustic Preamp Pedal
What might attract buyers to the Boss AD-2, as opposed to the LR Baggs preamps, is that the AD-2 provides a much simpler control scheme with only three different knobs to consider: Ambience, Notch and Acoustic Resonance
Ambience functions as a reverb control for acoustic guitars, which sounds okay, though I still prefer the Hall of Fame reverb on my acoustic, since it gives you a lot more in the way of tweaking and a better sound quality. However, the AD-2's preamp tone sounds great out of the box, and the notch filter effectively keeps down feedback.
In typical Boss fashion, this pedal is affordable and comes with Boss's five-year warranty. As I previously mentioned, the AD-2's strongest mark is simplicity and a setup that's effective "out of the box" without a lot of tinkering. If you want the simple preamp solution, this is easily one of your best options.
IDEAL FOR: Set it and forget it preamp, acoustics with a weak onboard preamp
6. Ernie Ball 6180 Junior Size Volume Pedal
Typically it’s not as easy to control volume on an acoustic guitar as it is on an electric guitar. With some acoustic pickups (like the Woody from Seymour Duncan, for example), you have no control over the volume from the guitar itself. Thus a volume pedal is nearly a must for acoustic rigs.
The Junior Ernie Ball volume expression pedal is a good combination of quality and price.
It’s an ideal option acoustic guitars with no onboard volume control.
The VP Jr. has a tuner out, which is a nice add-on if you don't want the tuner in your main signal path. It’s also smaller, which you might prefer over the larger wah-sized volume pedals. This particular model is designed for passive electronics (essentially a pickup without a battery), though it will play nice with most acoustic pickups.
Passive sound hole inserts, like the Fishman Neo, are particularly good companions.
IDEAL FOR: All acoustic rigs
7. Boss RC-1 Loop Station Pedal
The Boss RC-1's interface has gotten much simpler in this iteration of the pedal, having gone through several previous versions. I had no trouble at all figuring out how to use the looping function, as the control process is a straightforward stomp-on and stomp-off system. The recording time can go up to 12 minutes, all of which can be stored via onboard memory even after the pedal is turned off.
This makes it a great acoustic songwriting companion, allowing you to quickly store ideas or test out vocal melodies by looping chord progressions.
For acoustic rigs, I find the Boss RC-1 to be the most ideal looper pedal option and a better value than something like the Ditto Looper.
The RC-1 is just a more complete pedal, with a more informative interface (the LED circular lights) and the aforementioned features (onboard storage, stereo i/o).
IDEAL FOR: Studio, performing, practice, songwriting
Can you use electric guitar pedals with an acoustic guitar?
One of the confusing thing about effects in an acoustic rig is trying to determine the difference between electric guitar pedals and acoustic guitar pedals. The truth is that most pedals are not necessarily designated only for electric guitar, but are just assumed to be made for an electric guitar rig.
In other words, you aren't going to see a lot of pedals labeled specifically for acoustic or electric guitar use, outside of certain preamp pedals and multi-effects units.
This means that you definitely can and should use electric guitar pedals with your acoustic guitar.
The question is: Which pedals?
An easy way to answer this question is to break things down by effects category and cover how conducive each category is to an acoustic guitar's signal.
- Modulation is the parent category for any type of guitar effect that manipulates waveform. This is done by combining a variance of the original signal with the original signal itself. It usually takes one of three forms:
- Variance in pitch + original (clean) signal
- Variance in timing + original signal
- Variance in blending between the two signals
This process is used to create the following modulation effects:
These effects are friendly to the acoustic guitar because they are low-intensity and do not impact gain levels, volume, or timing. They're great for adding thickness and variety to a clean or dry signal. If you're looking for more information on these effects, checkout the following Guitar Chalk buying guides:
Where modulation effects manipulate waveform, ambient effects manipulate time. There are three types of ambient effects pedals:
These effects aren't as common in an acoustic guitar rig as modulation, but they can be useful depending on the style of music you play. The only issue to be careful of with ambient effects and acoustic guitars would be the number of repeats in your delay or trail length of your reverb. If those are too high or too long, you can have feedback problems.
As a general rule, delay and reverb pedals for electric guitar are fine to use with acoustics if you keep the repeats and trail length low.
Distortion (gain-based effects)
Distortion is a much tougher effect to pair with an acoustic guitar because it involves an increase in gain. Gain increases anytime you push volume higher at the preamp level, and distortion pedals are made to do this to the point where you get the desired distorted signal. In most cases, we don't recommend using distortion with an acoustic guitar, though some acoustics can use a subtle gain boost or overdrive.
If you do, a sound hole cover is also a good idea. This will help prevent feedback.
What about tuner pedals?
Pedal tuners are a universally helpful item, regardless of whether you're playing acoustic, electric, or even bass guitar. They're especially helpful for playing live when you have to mute and tune quickly. Note that pedal tuners do have to be plugged in via an instrument cable to work (no microphone on them for open air tuning).
Pros and Cons of Using Pedals with An Acoustic Guitar
In this section we'll look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of using pedals with an acoustic guitar. This will help give you a better idea of whether pedals are right for you and your acoustic setup.
When it's a Good Fit
Generally speaking, effects are helpful when you want to decorate or layer a clean signal. They're also helpful for performing live, depending on the style of music you play. Also, does your acoustic guitar already have a preamp? If it does, then you're ready to plug in to an amp or PA system and can run whatever pedals you want within that signal.
- More variance in your tone and sound
- Easy ways to tune, change volume, and add compression (utility pedals - not just effects)
- More flexibility when playing live
- Helpful for those that want to do more with their acoustic tone
When it Might Not Be for You
Those who want to avoid dealing with the added complexity of pedals, perhaps who prefer playing with a mic or unplugged entirely, might be better off avoiding an acoustic pedalboard setup. The primary drawbacks are the cost, extra time given to setup, and transportation.
- Added cost
- Requires a power source
- Harder to transport
- More time to set up
- Learning curve, depending on your experience with guitar pedals
If you prefer the natural tone of your acoustic guitar and don't often play through an amp or PA system, you could probably afford to pass on the cost and setup work of pedals.
How to set up Pedals in an Acoustic Guitar Rig
If you want to tackle the setup process, it isn't that bad once you understand the basics. First, you'll need to make sure your acoustic guitar has a preamp onboard with a 9V battery. In my Taylor, it looks like this:
From the preamp jack, you'll run an instrument cable to your pedals and then connect your pedals to an amp or PA system (mixer). This line is called a "signal chain" and will look something like this:
How to Connect Guitar Pedals in an Acoustic Rig
Here's the step by step process, assuming you have an acoustic guitar with a preamp, pedals, and an acoustic amp ready to go:
- Plug an instrument cable into your acoustic guitar preamp and the other end of the same cable into the INPUT of your first guitar pedal.
- Connect OUTPUT to INPUT for each subsequent pedal with a shorter patch cable.
- From your last pedal, run an instrument cable from the OUTPUT of the pedal to the INPUT of the amplifier.
- Set basic volume and tone levels at your acoustic guitar preamp and acoustic amp.
- Once volume and base tone levels are set, you can tweak the effects and settings in your pedal chain.
Pedals or Rack-mounted units?
For more advanced players, you might also consider buying your acoustic effects in the form of rack-mounted units. While pedals are smaller, cheaper, and a little easier to manage in small amounts, rack-mounted units are more powerful and compact, better for professional gigging and recording. For more info, you can checkout our article on setting up rack-mounted guitar rigs.
When to Use a Preamp Pedal
We've already mentioned that your acoustic guitar needs to have a built-in preamp, what is sometimes call an "acoustic-electric guitar." But what about an additional preamp pedal as part of your pedalboard?
As we've recommended in our above roundup, the LR Baggs Venue DI is one of the best such pedal preamps:
Even if you have a preamp built into your acoustic guitar, we'd still recommend adding a preamp in pedal form. The main reason is that these pedals are usually far more flexible and powerful than what you would have in onboard acoustic electronics. Even if you aren't trying to set up pedals with your acoustic guitar, we'd recommend some kind of supplemental preamp.
Are preamp pedals better than the onboard acoustic preamps?
Yes. Preamp pedals are almost always most flexible and produce a better tone than what you can get out of an onboard acoustic preamp.
Can/should I bypass my acoustic guitar's preamp?
Even if you have a preamp pedal, I would not advise bypassing the controls on the onboard preamp. Just set the dials on the guitar first, then tweak the pedal. Whenever you have multiple sources of tone, start at the beginning of the signal (the guitar) and work your way down until you get to the final output.
Getting the Most out of your Effects in an Acoustic Rig
To wrap up, what are some takeaways for getting the most out of your acoustic guitar pedals? Here are a few highlights I'd recommend keeping in mind:
- Electric guitar pedals can work with an acoustic guitar
- Make sure you use utility pedals (tuner, compress, and volume)
- Focus on modulation and ambience for effects layering (chorus, tremolo, delay, reverb, and phaser)
- If possible, always use a preamp pedal
- Avoid using heavy distortion pedals
- Keep effects settings on the subtle, less aggressive side
How much should I spend on acoustic guitar pedals?
Most of your acoustic rig budget - outside of the guitar itself - should go towards your preamp.
The Venue or Para DI are both fairly expensive, while most other pedals in this list are somewhat cheaper. My advice would be to get the preamp situated first, since you'll use it the most.
Once you have that, I'd grab at least one modulation effect and one ambient effect, depending on your budget.
Questions about anything?
If you have questions about our best acoustic guitar pedals list or any of the gear mentioned, please post them in the comments section below as that's the easiest way for us to respond and also the best way to make sure that information is available to future readers.
We also welcome gear suggestions and corrections.
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