It’s incredible what some of us will spend on our never-ending quest for the perfect tone. Not only can we drop thousands of dollars on high-end amps and guitars, but there are more high-end singular effects pedals out right now than perhaps ever before.
Do you have an insatiable appetite for sonic perfection and a budget to match? The pricey pedals listed here are all currently in production, as opposed to vintage pieces whose prices are dictated by low supply. Also, since rack or floor-based digital multi-effects units are their own niche, we have limited this list to pedals that focus on a single, specific type of effect.
Let’s now check out some of the best and most expensive effects pedals around.
Strymon Big Sky Reverberator ($479)
Strymon has long been known for their excellent, and expensive, pedals. But believe it or not, their famed Big Sky Reverb unit is the cheapest on this list. It boasts 12 different selectable types of reverb, from familiar Spring, Plate, and Hall modes to more out-there settings like Swell, Shimmer, and Nonlinear. Like a digital rack unit, there are 300 excellent presets in the unit. It even has speaker cabinet emulations.
The Big Sky is made up of a combination of digital circuitry where necessary and analog where possible, so it may just become your end-all reverb unit. Strymon also produces the Blue Sky, a slightly pared-down version of this pedal for a few hundred dollars less.
Ibanez TS808HW ($542)
The Ibanez Tube Screamer needs absolutely no introduction, least of all the venerable TS808. It is the overdrive pedal against which all others are measured, with its simple controls, mids-based tone knob, and gritty drive that give tube sounds to anyone who can afford its $150 price tag.
Or, if you want to go even more extravagant, you can upgrade to an HW-series Tube Screamer. This stompbox is handwired on turret boards, which Ibanez says results in warmer, more bassy response than regular mass-produced TS units. Add to that some intentional scarcity with production limited to 100 units a month, and this is a very special pedal. TS devotees will love it.
Origin Effects RevivalDRIVE Hotrod Ed. ($560)
Origin Effects has put as a full range of classic British and American amp-based high-gain overdrive sounds into their RevivalDRIVE, and via largely analog circuits rather than digital emulations. Like many dual-function gain pedals, the RevivalDRIVE has two separate channels. Rather than traditional hi/lo gain channels, it features a valve-style (valve) rectifier, and a silicon (solid state) sound.
The tone, blend, and output controls give these two channels astonishing diversity by themselves. However, Origin also added controls for “sagging” and “ghosting.” These features were originally flaws in vintage tube amps, but they give natural compression, attack, and overtones at certain power levels, which players today drool over. Putting these in a pedal, accessible at any volume, is a big step forward. You will not find this sort of sonic diversity at a lower price.
Neo Instruments Ventilator II Rotary Speaker Simulator ($649)
Neo Instruments has nailed the sound of the famed Leslie 122, a rotating speaker popular in the 1960s for organs and guitars alike. The original Leslies birthed later phase-shifter effects, with regular, adjustable cascading shifts from a muddled bass to a tinny treble that can only be described as “trippy.”
If you’re a guitarist or keyboardist who wants more than just a simple phaser pedal, but you hesitate to drag vintage Leslies around, the Ventilator II is the pedal for you. It has a very broad scope of functions, with all knobs operating as dual-functioned in “slow” or “fast” mode, giving you vast possibilities for chorus, phase, and even warbling flange-type effects.
This pedal even has two different bypass switches, one that truly turns the unit off, and another that simulates a Leslie with all its warm sounds, but with the rotation. Check this thing out for some vintage psychedelic goodness, but if you want to save a few hundred dollars, Neo also produces “micro” versions of the Ventilator.
T-Rex Repicator Jr. Analog Tape Delay ($819)
Tape echo machines of the 1960s were the forefathers of today’s analog and digital delay units—large boxes that produced echoes mechanically via reel-to-reel tape. Speaking of high-priced effects, vintage tape echo machines like the Roland Space Echo, the Maestro Echoplex, or Binson Echorec fetch thousands of dollars today and are usually maintenance nightmares. Taking one of these fragile units to a gig would be a bad idea, so it’s better to just buy an analog bucket-brigade chip-equipped pedal.
Or, you could splurge and get Danish company T-Rex’s sleek and authentic Replicator Jr., a modern tape echo unit complete with honest-to-goodness playback heads and a replaceable tape cartridge. This is very much a mechanical pedal, not an electronic one, with straightforward controls for wet/dry mix, delay time, and feedback. Unlike vintage tape units and many analog delay pedals, the Replicator Jr. also features tap tempo. Is it a really expensive pedal, or an incredibly affordable tape echo unit? You decide.
- Sometimes you just need to splurge, and often an effect will sound as good as its high price. With the exception of the TS808HW, which admittedly is a bit more of a collector’s piece, all of the units here are actually excellent values for what they do.
- The Replicator and Ventilator are expensive pedals, but much more affordable than the vintage machines that they emulate.
- The RevivalDRIVE is much less than the combined price of all the gain pedals whose niche it fills, and the Big Sky is simply the best reverb pedal on the market today.
- If you’ve got the extra cash (or credit), check these pedals out. Your sound will only improve.