6 Best Cheap Guitar Pedals On The Market (All Effect Types)

Let’s face it. Guitar gear gets expensive, fast. 

With so much “must have” gear out in the world, how is anyone expected to afford new pedals?

Is it possible to get great tones out of inexpensive gear?

Thankfully, the answer is a resounding YES.

You don’t even have to settle for subpar quality. Some of the cheapest pedals are industry standards (some for decades and others within recent years).

This goes for all kinds of effects including overdrives, compressors, even multi-effect modulations.

If you want to sound good while remaining on a budget, then this list is for you.

Snapshot: Top 6 Cheap Guitar Pedals of 2020

  1. MXR DynacompBest Cheap Compressor
  2. TC Electronics Flashback MiniBest Under $100
  3. JOYO UziBest Cheap Metal Distortion
  4. Caline Orange BurstBest Under $50
  5. JOYO Vision Dual ModulationBest Multi-Effect
  6. TC Electronics Hall of Fame MiniBest Overall

How to Pick the Best Cheap Pedals For Your Guitar

Best Cheap Guitar Pedals

There is certainly no shortage of cheap guitar pedals out on the market today. You could do a quick search on Amazon for pedals in your price range and see an overwhelming number of results pop up. The majority of these pedals, while functional, are not of the highest quality.

 However, there are definitely some diamonds in the ruff, if you will, listed amongst all the cheap pedals. You do not have to spend hundreds of dollars to get great pedals. The trick is knowing how to pick out the good ones.

So how did I pick out the pedals for this list?

First, I sought to pick out the best pedals under $100. Don’t worry if your budget is lower than that, I even found one pedal under $30! 

Then, I made it a priority to pick out a wide variety of effect types. With the exception of overdrive, of which I listed two options here, I wanted to only list one of each type of pedal I find to be really essential for most guitarists. So each of the pedals below are, in my opinion, the best of their effect type within this price range.

Cheap doesn’t mean low quality. I only picked out pedals that I thought had a build quality that could stand up against the road, meaning that they had to have minimal plastic parts. They also had to run on 9V power so that any adaptor would power them. 

Finally, they had to sound good. By this I mean these pedals add no unwanted noise and many of them are versatile. All of these pedals would sound good in front of just about any cheap amplifier. Furthermore, most of these offer serious competition for boutique pedals that cost two or three times as much. 

As a matter of fact, all of these pedals would sound really good on a pedalboard together. I might just have to work on that someday.

For now, a list will have to do. Here are our top picks for budget friendly guitar pedals of all types:

The Best Cheap Guitar Pedals In 2020

1. MXR Dynacomp Review – Best Cheap Compressor

MXR Dyna Comp Guitar Effects Pedal (M102)
  • In-line compressor “evens out” the signal to your amplifier

The Dynacomp compressor from MXR has been a staple in Nashville recording studios since its creation in 1972. It remains in production today much the same as it has always been and, unlike many classic circuits, is an affordable effect unit.

Build

While rack unit compressors are used extensively in recording studios, foot pedal compressors for the guitars are often a misunderstood unit. Yet, when most people are asked about compressor pedals, the Dynacomp comes to mind immediately and is often referred to as “The Little Red Pedal”. The red paint is almost as identifiable as its dark and colorful tone (more on that in a moment).

There are smaller versions of this pedal, but they cost a little more. This version of the Dynacomp is housed in a traditional metal casing and runs on 9V power. It also features true-bypass.

Controls

The Dynacomp only has two controls: Output and Sensitivity. The Output control acts like a Master Volume control. A side effect of compression is often a loss in volume, so this control lets you bring the output back up to (or past) unity gain.

The Sensitivity controls the overall amount of compression, with higher settings have a quicker attack and tighter “squish”, with lower settings offering a more subtle effect perfect for added sustain during solos. 

Sounds

The Dynacomp is certainly known for having its own sound to it. To my ear I think it has a noticeably dark tone to it that is especially well paired with telecasters. This explains why the effect is so adored by country guitarists. Because it is a transistor based compression, it sounds particularly “squishy” and is only a subtle effect at the lowest of settings. I love the way this pedal sounds, especially with bright pickups.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Reverb
  • Signal: Digital
  • Power Source: 9V
  • Dimensions: 2.5 x 2.2 x .6”
  • Features: True Bypass, TonePrint,

The secret of Nashville costs under $100

Final Thoughts on the MXR Dynacomp Compressor

Even though there are countless great compressors out there, the Dynacomp is long standing classic for its uniquely dark and squishy tone. Though maybe not the compressor for all, it is a great place for someone who is new to compression to start with due to its noticeable effect on your tone and its low price point.

2. TC Electronic Flashback Mini Review – Best Under $100

The Flashback pedals from TC Electronic are some of the most versatile and dynamic sounding digital delays ever created. The Mini gives you all of those tones, and more, in a mini pedal enclosure and for less than one Benjamin. 

Build

The Flashback Mini takes the sounds of the larger Flashback pedals and squeezes it down to the bare essentials. Don’t be fooled by the pedal’s size; it is a powerful little effects box. The secret to unlocking this pedal’s potential is through TC Electronic’s TonePrint app and software, which allow you to create your own custom delay sounds and then save it in your pedal.

The TonePrint also has a feature that allows you to beam famous artists’ presets (including the likes of Pete Thorn, Tal Wilkenfeld, and Robben Ford) straight from your phone to the pedal, via your pickups. To see how this works, check out this video.

Controls

Once you have the type of delay selected via TonePrint, the Flashback mini works like a traditional delay. It has controls for Feedback, Delay, and Level. Feedback controls the number of repeats. Delay controls the amount of time between delay signals. And finally, the Level control adjusts the volume of the delay signal.

The pedal also features a traditional tap temp, as well as an audio tap tempo, which responds to the rhythm of your picking across the strings and adjusts the tempo accordingly.

Sounds

It’s hard to even begin describing the sounds that this pedal is capable of creating, because it gives you just about every delay type conceivable in one mini enclosure. It has up to 7 seconds of delay and can range from bucket brigade style delays, to Ping Pong, to Memory Man style delays and much, much more.

Whichever type of delay you choose, the effect is hi fidelity and highly adjustable through the TonePrint software if you want to change the effects in any way.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Delay
  • Signal: Digital
  • Power Source: 9V
  • Dimensions: 2.5 x 2.2 x .6”
  • Features: True Bypass, TonePrint, audio tap tempo

Every Delay type imaginable in a mini pedal

Final Thoughts on the Flashback Mini Delay

The Flashback Mini is undeniably one of the most powerful mini pedals available today and it is incredibly affordable. The TonePrint function is a little cumbersome compared to traditional knobs, but is well worth it when you consider the sheer versatility of the pedal with this feature.

If you are someone who likes using their phone in conjunction with guitar playing, or if you want to try every delay type under the sun for under $100, then this is a great place to start.

3. JOYO Uzi Distortion Review – Best Cheap Metal Distortion

JOYO R-03 UZI Distortion Pedal Guitar Effect Pedal for Heavy Metal Music High Gain Distortion Pedal...
  • The JOYO Advantages: over 14 years of brand history, strong technical teams, many innovative patents, electroacoustic core technology, guide design of music masters, winning the love of global fans,...

If you want as much gain for your buck as possible, then JOYO has you covered with the Uzi distortion. This is an extremely well made pedal as part of the Revolution series from JOYO, which all are innovative, cost effective pedals that do not disappoint. 

Build

This pedal is specifically designed with Metal guitarists in mind and it has some special features that take this to a whole new level. It is voiced after the Friedman BE-OD circuit, and allows for both Marshall and Mesa amp voicings (more on that in a second). The pedal is a traditional sized pedal and is made of metal with black paint. It is powered by 9V external power only, so you won’t be able to power this by a battery.

My favorite feature on the pedal is the lighting across the bottom of the pedal, which allows you to see where the pedal is at on a dark stage, even if the pedal isn’t turned on. Even better is that if you don’t like this feature, it can be adjusted on the back of the pedal.

Controls

The Uzi has two, larger chrome controls (super Metal!) for Gain and Volume, with four mini controls for the EQ section below. These include knobs for Low, Mid, and High, as well as a Bias control that allows you to shape the overall voice of the pedal from a more American voiced amp (Mesa) to a British voiced amp (Marshall). This is an incredibly powerful control and is the key to unlocking the pedal’s potential.

Sounds

It is rare that Metal sounds come across well in effects pedals, especially in the budget price range, however, the Uzi delivers natural, amp-like tones that will sound great in front of a clean or already dirty amplifier. The Bias control is where it’s at with this pedal, giving you the ability to choose between an open, bell-like saturation, or a more compressed, mid-range focused voicing of the pedal.

While it may not be the heaviest pedal ever, it is certainly a great distortion unit that is more than heavy for most applications.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Distortion
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: 9V
  • Dimensions: 5.3 x 4.2 x 2.2
  • Features: True Bypass, LED Lighting across bottom of pedal, Bias control

Heavy tones. Light on the wallet.

Final Thoughts on the JOYO Uzi Distortion

If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you know that I like the JOYO amplifiers, and their pedals are proving to be a force to be reckoned with. This is a great sounding, hi-gain pedal that is perfect for 80’s metal, to modern metal tones and the LED lights make it a practical solution for dark stages. And it’s under $50!

4. Caline Orange Burst Review – Best Under $50

USA Digital Overdrive Guitar Effect Pedal with 4 Control Knobs (CP-18)
321 Reviews
USA Digital Overdrive Guitar Effect Pedal with 4 Control Knobs (CP-18)
  • CP-18 Orange Burst overdrive is a classic tone machine, wonderful Christmas gifts for guitar players

This was possibly the most surprising pedal to me while composing this list, because I couldn’t believe that a pedal that cost so little could sound so good. I set out to find the best pedal under $50, but ended up finding one for under $30 that is unbeatable in terms of sound quality. Yeah, that’s right. $30.  

Build

While the Caline Orange Burst looks to be a clone of the MXR Script Phase 90, it is actually modeled after the Xotic BB Preamp, which made into our list of best boost pedals, except this box costs almost a sixth the price. I love Xotic pedals, but if I can get a sound anywhere within the ballpark of the BB preamp for just $30, then I’m sold. It is housed in a traditional sized, aluminum alloy housing, features true-bypass switching, and is powered by 9V. 

Controls

Just like the Xotic BB Preamp, the Caline Orange Burst has four controls: Gain, Volume, Treble, and Bass. Gain can also be thought of as distortion and this control can take you anywhere from a clean boost set all the way off, to hairy lead tones cranked up. There is enough Volume on tap to take you well past unity gain as well.

The controls for Treble and Bass let you dial the pedal in to sit with whatever amp/guitar you are using as well.

Sounds

This is a very versatile pedal and could be used in a wide variety of applications, whether it be as a boost for solos, pushing your amp into natural sounding overdrive, or completing taking over the voice of your signal. While I think the pedal sounds smooth overall, it still has a certain hairy quality to it that gives it a lot of character, similar to that of a Marshall amp cranked up.

In terms of sound quality compared to the boutique pedal it is aiming to clone, I consider the differences to be subtle enough to justify getting this pedal.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Overdrive
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Source: 9V
  • Dimensions: 4.4 x 1.7 x 1.3”
  • Features: True Bypass, 2-Band EQ

Smooth Overdrive for dirt cheap

Final Thoughts on the Caline Orange Burst Overdrive

You will be hard pressed to find a better built or sounding overdrive than this pedal here. I’m completely stunned that something that sounds this good can come in at $30. Even if you already have a bunch of overdrives, you can afford to try this one out.

5. JOYO Vision Dual Modulation – Best Budget Multi-Effects Unit

JOYO R-09 VISION Multi-Effects Pedal Dual Channel Modulation Effect Pedal for Electric Guitar Each...
  • The JOYO Advantages: over 14 years of brand history, strong technical teams, many innovative patents, electroacoustic core technology, guide design of music masters, winning the love of global...

Playing through overdrives, compressors, and delays are all well and good. However, there comes a time in every guitarists’ journey that they want the guitar to sound… weird. In guitar gear terms, the word for weird is modulated. There are so many different kinds of modulation out there, from chorus, to phase, to flanger; how is one supposed to pick if they are on a budget? With the JOYO Vision you get to pick from 18 different effects and can use two of them at the same time, for well under $100.

Build

The JOYO Vision is a multi-effects box that has two similar, but slightly different sides to it. It has eighteen different digital effects built into it with stereo outputs available on each side, as well as the ability to route these effects in series or parallel. Of all the effect pedals on this list, this one is definitely the most packed with features and it has the largest footprint.

Yet it manages to do all of this without introducing any finicky scenes or user interfaces, just tried and true knobs and all while running on a standard 9V power supply.

Controls

Each of the two independent modes have their own set of similar controls. Each side has a control for Speed/Rate, Control, and Depth/Mix. These controls affect each of the 18 effects in a unique application, so some testing will definitely be required. Each mode has 9 effects, of which you can control two at a time, because two sets of modulation are more fun than one.

Each side also has its own independent tap tempo control, so you can set one effect for half time, or go crazy and have each effect completely out of synchronization. There is also a three way toggle switch for Series, Output, or Parallel routing.

Sounds

The Vision manages to have classic effects like Chorus and Vibrato, that to my ear are modeled after classic circuits of old. It also has some more experimental/niche effects like Ring Mod, Stutter, and Low Bit that will take your sonic landscape to new places. Even with the effects being digital, I find that they sound warm and lush, and the knobs give you ample control over the effects.

This pedal can go from subtle to seasick and over the top, giving you a lot of room for experimentation.The most impressive thing about the pedal is the ability to route the effects in series/parallel, which can have a drastic effect on how you selection of modulations play into one another.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Multi-Effect Modulation
  • Signal: Digital
  • Power Source: DC 9V
  • Dimensions: 5.1 x 4.3 x 2.0”
  • Features: Series/Parallel, two effects at once, stereo out, 18 effects

Double dose of modulation, please.

Final Thoughts on the JOYO Vision Dual Modulation

JOYO is possibly the best company at making high quality, but budget friendly pedals and the Vision is one of the standout examples of this. This pedal is crammed with great sounding effects that are sure to keep you experimenting. Even if you find other specific choruses or flangers that have the specific sound you want, this will always be a great studio tool to bring out when a part needs something extra added to it. 

6. TC Electronic Hall of Fame Mini Review – Best Overall

TC Electronic Hall of Fame Mini Reverb Pedal with TonePrint Bundle with Blucoil Slim 9V Power Supply...
  • OFFERS 10 REVERB TYPES - The Hall of Fame Mini comes pre-loaded with TC Electronic's legendary hall reverb FX. You can change this with 9 other reverbs (Room, Spring, Modulated, Lo-Fi, Plate, Church,...

When it comes to picking out the best budget pedal out there, the first pedal to come to mind is the HOF (Hall of Fame) Mini. Reverb adds depth to your tone and sometimes you want to have different flavors of it, but you don’t want to take up too much space on your board or hit the wallet hard. No other pedal offers as much versatility or customization under a small enclosure, for under $100, making this my top choice for cheap pedals.

Build

There is more to this mini pedal than meets the eye. Those who are familiar with the standard size Hall of Fame may wonder if this pedal has as many sounds packed into it. In fact, this one has more and it is all due to the TonePrint software/app. Within this software you can design your own custom reverb and then beam it to the pedal from your phone, or via USB.

It also has presets designed by some of your favorite artists including Guthrie Govan and Steve Vai. All of this power comes in a tiny package that runs on a 9V battery, making the HoF a great option for gigging musicians wanting to travel light, but remain adaptable.

Controls

Once you have selected your reverb type using the free TonePrint app, the Hall of Fame Mini works like many traditional amps with reverb circuits: just one control. Dial the control to the left for less effect, and to the right for more. The majority of the control comes from the app, so the pedal remains versatile and infinitely tweakable, while remaining simple on your board.

Sounds

What really separates this pedal from all the other budget friendly reverbs is the quality of sound. This is a digital reverb that passes for an analog, tube, plate, or whatever kind of reverb you can imagine. TC Electronic have obviously put in the time to create stellar recreations of our favorite reverb sounds, while also pushing the envelope to give unique and exciting new reverbs as well.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Reverb
  • Signal: Digital
  • Power Source: 9V
  • Dimensions: 2.5 x 2.2 x .6”
  • Features: True Bypass, TonePrint

Mini reverb that you can customize

Final Thoughts on the TC Electronic Hall of Fame Mini

When I became a working musician, I wanted to carry as light, yet as powerful of a pedalboard as possible. The HoF Mini was the perfect reverb unit for such an application, and the fact that it cost under $100 made it all the more enticing. It is built to last and has a lot of power available to it. This is by far my favorite mini/budget pedal out there.

Quick and Cheap Inspiration

Guitarist adjusting affordable guitar pedal

When the well of inspiration dries up, one of the quickest ways to get things rolling again is to get a new pedal.

It won’t solve all your problems, and it rarely makes you a better player, but inspiration comes from many different places.

Cheap, but high quality effect units such as the ones I’ve listed above are a great way to get excited about playing and to explore the full capability of the guitar.

All of the effects above are worth much more than they will cost you and are sure to help you create amazing sounds on any instrument you put through them.

Further Reading: