Best Guitar Pedals 2024
Published on 21 December 2023
It’s already been a golden year for effects pedals! We’ve seen a real avalanche of cool pedals, multi-effects, modellers and more over here at guitarguitar, and now that we are in 2024, it’s time to assess and take in the full picture and see which pedals really stand out for the year ahead.
As always, this list is only one pedal maniac’s opinion on what the best pedals are. It's an opinion informed by decades of pedal use, and by years of demoing them both online and in store. Still, it’s a subjective list: there are loads and loads of cool new pedals that may be perfect for you, but for whatever reason, didn’t really resonate with me. That’s kinda how it is with this subject, since our tastes and ears are all so different!
Hopefully, however, you’ll come away from this blog with a good grasp on some of the highlights of 2024 in the world of guitar pedals! Let us advance, friends!
- Keeley Noble Screamer
- BOSS ME-90
- Catalinbread Soft Focus
- Dreadbox Disorder
- Fender Tone Master Pro
- Universal Audio UAFX Lion ‘68
- Line 6 HX One
- Best Guitar Pedals 2024
- Of Course You Need New Pedals!
Keeley Noble Screamer
I’ve been a fan of Robert Keeley’s work ever since my younger self splashed out on his ‘Twilight Zone’ mod of the BOSS Metal Zone. It was a significant sonic upgrade, and ever since, I’ve kept an interested eye on the further endeavours of Keeley effects.
The Keeley Noble Screamer is an overdrive that may just be the answer to many a player’s tone-dreams. Blending the ubiquitous Tube Screamer sound with that of a Nobels ODR-1, Keeley have provided low-to-mid gain enthusiasts with something that covers all angles. Looking for that TS mid-hump? You’ve got it! Want something smoother, and more transparent? You can have that too! But do you sort of want a blend of both? Done! Basically, the drive and tone knobs both have a microswitch for TS or OD, so you can have the tone setting of the Nobels with the gain of the Tube Screamer and vice-versa, as well as setting them ‘straight’ for faithful renditions of either pedal. It’s simple, it works, it’s genius.
Not all multi-fx units need to cost a grand and a half, though! The BOSS ME range has always been a good value voice for players looking to get busy with effects without splashing out on top tier tech. I’ve always been fond of BOSS multi-fx, as they played a large role in my early years as a guitarist. This new addition to the lineup is the ME-90, and I’m struggling to find anything wrong with it.
It used to be that multi-FX units were looked upon as slightly tragic devices for wannabes (which I could never really understand) but the guitar world has long since gone digital and now it’s not only acceptable to use a multi-FX, it’s normal!
With this in mind, I can highly recommend the ME-90 for everything it does: its wide palette of sounds, the straightforward interface, the tough construction and the pleasingly simple layout. I can also celebrate the inputs and outputs, which are not comprehensive but entirely generous for this price; mostly, I can salute it for the actual sounds onboard being great. No, I’d not compare it to a Quad Cortex any more than I’d compare a Classic Vibe Tele to a Custom Shop Nocaster, but on its own terms it sounds excellent, and will inspire excitement in those who choose to play it. The ME-90 makes guitar playing loads of fun, and that, at the end of the day, is really everything.
Catalinbread Soft Focus
In the 80s, Yamaha had a particular type of effect in some of their rack units that had the name ‘Soft Focus’. It was a three-path reverb which split your guitar signal into: straight reverb, reverb with octave up and reverb with chorus.
Loads of early 90s shoegaze bands used that setting when making their ‘cathedrals of sound’ and that’s what Catalinbread aimed to create inside this Soft Focus reverb pedal.
The reverb is a plate-style, and you can add in upper octaves with the ‘Symph’ knob (not the ‘Symphonic’ sound I initially expected, which was a sound also found on those Yamaha units but a different thing entirely) and chorus via the ‘mod’ control.
In full disclosure, I’ve only admired the original ‘real’ Soft Focus setting from afar: I’ve never owned any gear with it, nor tried any, so I’m not an authority on how accurate Catalinbread have been in capturing the effect, though it sounds pretty perfect to any comparisons I can make from old Slowdive songs!
What I can also say is that the Catalinbread Soft Focus is one of the most enjoyable, playable and useful effects I’ve tried this year. It’s an obvious thing to go for if you are one of the indie offset brigade, but I think all players can benefit from the creative sort of ‘production’ this pedal can add to your sound.
I will always be a sucker for any fuzz effect that mangles my tone and makes my guitar sound like an alien synth. Oh, you’re like that, too? Well, you’ll love the Dreadbox Disorder pedal.
I don’t think there are enough effects like this out there. We probably have enough Big Muff copies now, so let’s start seeing more creative pedals like this, which takes a nice fuzz sound and adds a big ol’ synth filter to the circuit.
There is a high pass and low pass filter to play with, so you can decide how gnarly your signal gets in relation to where your guitar part intends to sit within a song. The best thing about this pedal is that it is still very musical, and kind of adds to your playing rather than just squashing it (which it still kinda does, but in a good way!). It may not be for use on every song, but it’ll turn heads whenever it’s unleashed!
Fender Tone Master Pro
One of the most notable releases this year was the Fender Tone Master Pro. This was Fender’s entry into the realm of premium digital modelling, a world they had hitherto barely stepped. In fairness, the Mustang range of amps have been offering modelling for years, and the recent Tone Master solid state amps were a success, but this is a step onwards for the company into a realm reigned over by Neural DSP, Line 6 and Kemper.
How did Fender fare? Well, those Tone Master amps were a telltale sign of the progress made in this department: Fender have absolutely joined the front lines of the modelling revolution. The added exclusivity of being able to offer official models for not only the Twin, Princeton etc but also the EVH 5150 III is quite a flex, and it’s one they’ve been able to support with performance.
My personal opinion? As I said in another blog, the Quad Cortex is the one to beat for sounds, but its interface leaves a lot to be desired. On encountering the Fender unit, my opinion remains that: Neural DSP still has the edge, sound-wise, but the Tone Master Pro is immeasurably more fun to operate. You must weigh up what’s most important to you, but at this level of technology, there are no bad choices.
Universal Audio UAFX Lion ‘68
If there are three absolutely classic guitar amp sounds out there, they’d have to be these: the clean Fender tone, the ‘hairy’ Vox AC30 sound and a roaring Marshall Plexi. To have each of them dealt with is to own the holy trinity of tones, in my opinion.
With a name like Lion ‘68, you won’t need three guesses to establish which of those sounds is promised by the latest Universal Audio pedal! Three different takes are included of that defining sound in this pedal, including one unashamedly called ‘Brown’, which everyone reading this will understand.
Now, if there’s one thing I’ve heard a million times in my professional life, it’s yet another pedal maker telling me that their recreation of such-and-such an amp is the best ever, as close as possible, indistinguishable from the real thing etc etc. It gets boring, to tell you the truth, since I inevitably get my hands on said effect and ultimately walk away cold and unfulfilled. Talk is cheap!
That’s maybe why I initially didn’t give the UAFX Lion ‘68 much time. I feel like it’s a subject that has been covered ad nauseam, and I’d long since learned my lesson regarding all of those overblown claims.
That is, until I finally did hear it. Let me cut to the chase: this is the best sounding Marshall Plexi I’ve heard that didn’t come from an actual half stack. The surprisingly accurate cleans (Marshall clean sounds are daftly underrated) were the revelation, but the real money was in the cranked tones, which delivered such an encouragingly ‘real’ experience of a fire-breathing Marshall, I’ve never been able to fully move on from it.
Try it yourself (use at least a 12” speaker to do it justice) and you’ll see what I mean. Space on your board for one more pedal? Though so!
Line 6 HX One
Are you a player who frequently wants a more unusual/mad/disgusting effect on your guitar but can’t quite justify such a pedal existing on your board for the sake of one song?
Well, that’s just one of the many reasons why you need a Line 6 HX One. It’s over 250 effects from the Helix range, and a looper, squeezed like commuters on a bullet train into one small stompbox-sized unit.
There are so many practical applications for the HX-one, but that one is the most obvious. It’s a chameleon of a pedal that will be whatever you want it to be, and when you need it to be something else, you simply change it to something else. The quality speaks for itself (anyone who doubts Line 6 for effects quality should research Jeorge Tripps and Strymon, then come back to the subject refreshed) and the possibilities are endless.
Honestly, there isn’t a guitarist, bassist or synth player reading this blog who can’t enjoy the benefits of the HX One. It’s for all of us.
Best Guitar Pedals 2024
Of Course You Need New Pedals!
This blog isn’t about convincing you that you need some new pedals - that’s not even a topic for discussion - but about which ones you might want to try. NAMM is just around the corner so no doubt there will be some tasty bits to stare at with glazed eyes, but in the meantime, each of the above boxes are well worthy of your attention.
Don’t take my word for it, though: head to your local guitarguitar and demand a demo today!