Guitar pedals vs amp effects, which one are you rooting for?
While it is obvious that guitar pedals are the best tool for the job, amps are becoming more and more capable of producing high quality effects. Moreover, some iconic guitar amplifiers also possess a certain sweet, overdriven tube sound that even young musicians today are dreaming to replicate.
There are advantages that guitar players can get from using guitar pedals, but amplifiers can bring something special to the table as well. Choosing between the two will all boil down to a musician’s necessities and it is important to know the capabilities and limitations of the equipment involved.
Guitar pedals vs amp effects: the Pros and Cons
- Guitar pedals
- Guitar pedals are more portable
Except for pedalboards that are starting to resemble a spaceship, guitar pedals are relatively smaller and easier to transport compared to most amplifiers.
- You can buy them per piece
For guitar players with a limited budget, procuring stompboxes doesn’t have to be done in one go. You may prioritize the pedal that you needed the most and then save up for a few months before acquiring the next one.
- Excellent sound quality
When comparing guitar pedals vs amp effects, the first thing to look into is the sound quality.
It is safe to say that the best guitar pedals sound better than most amp effects, since the companies behind their production have poured in all of their time, effort and knowledge to perfecting their stompboxes.
On the other hand, some amp manufacturers’ operations are centered on perfecting the amp and speakers only, with the effects being considered as mere additional features.
- Stompboxes are more fun to use
The biggest advantage of having a set of guitar pedals is that you won’t have to crouch and reach out for that overdrive button on your amp, you can just stomp on your effects with ease. You will need a footswitch for your amplifier for you to be able to rock it out onstage, but unfortunately, not all amps can be paired with one.
- Needs amplifiers
Unless you have a D.I. box that will allow you to go straight to the P.A. system, there is no way you will be able to use your effects pedals without an amplifier.
- They can get more complicated
Setting up your effects rig is not a walk in the park. You will need ties, straps, patch cables, a reliable power supply and the pedalboard itself to go along with patience and some knowledge about signal chain sequencing, before you can even jam out on your pedals.
- Collecting pedals can get addictive
A lot of guitar pedals may seem cheap, but the reality is that it will cost you a lot, even if your only aim is to get the basic ones. What more if you get hooked on this addictive vice and you are now craving for another synth emulator to go along with your two types of wah-wah, four distortion variants and a bunch of delays.
- Amp effects
- Amplifiers are easier to set up.
The joy of having a guitar amplifier that’s chock full of effects is that you just need to plug your instrument in, turn on the power and start shredding immediately. No need to learn how to daisy chain a dozen stompboxes or worry about their placement in the signal chain.
- Amps with effects are versatile
If you have a powerful digital modeling amplifier like the Fender Mustang GTX, you’re all set and ready to perform anywhere you go. The technology nowadays allows guitar players to have an amp, a speaker, and almost a limitless set of effects, all in one box.
- Entire unit can be affected by certain issues
Unlike in guitar pedal setups, the problem of one stompbox is an isolated matter that won’t affect the other gadgets. You can just take out that pedal and have it repaired or replaced.
For amplifiers, there are specific parts that can affect the entire unit when damaged, rendering everything unusable. It would be very inconvenient to lose all of your effects, together with the amp and speaker, just because a certain part got fried.
- Amp effects can’t match the sound of most guitar pedals
Even though some amps are revered because of their unique sound and its impact on music, a vast majority of guitar pedals are still better than most amplifier’s built-in effects
- Footswitch is needed
Guitarists need a footswitch to be able to activate the built-in guitar amp effects comfortably. Having to use your fingers to press on buttons everytime you need to use an effect, is certainly a vibe-killer that can make your performance less memorable.
Is amp distortion better than pedal distortion?
Another aspect of the guitar pedal vs amp effects duel that is often compared is the distortion.
A distortion pedal actually offers more versatility with a number of parameters that you can use to sculpt your tone. However, for guitarists who are seeking that warm, tube amp sound, digital pedals may sound a tad too artificial. This is why some guitar pedal makers have come up with stompboxes that emulate the overdrive or distortion of legendary vintage amps by Fender and Marshall.
Are guitar pedals better than amp effects?
In a full scale battle between the best guitar pedals and the best amp effects, the stompboxes will surely emerge as the winners in terms of sound quality and playability. They are specifically designed to produce effects, as opposed to an amp that is intended to only strengthen the signal of your guitar and make them heard through a loudspeaker.
However, today’s level of technology has allowed amplifiers to evolve beyond their original purpose. Some amps can imitate other amplifiers, while providing an insane amount of effects presets that can make guitar players drool with excitement.
In the end, the answer to the guitar pedals vs amp effects debate lies more on the personal preference of a musician. Even though guitar pedals have an edge in the sound quality department, some players would rather acquire an amp that is jam-packed with effects, so they can start working immediately while saving on space and money.