If you’ve got a bit of spare cash, and want to freshen up your guitar sound, then grabbing yourself one of the best cheap guitar pedals is probably the quickest and easiest way to do it. For not much money at all, you can introduce a completely new sound, or enhance the sound you’ve already got.
Maybe 10 or so years ago, the selection of pedals that was widely available was a lot more limited, plus they tended to be fairly expensive. Nowadays, you can pick up one a cheap guitar pedal for literally the price of a few guitar cables. Whether you’re after a new modulation effect, a ferocious fuzz, or a clone of a classic unit, you’re spoilt for choice.
There’s a whole wide world out there filled to the brim with good quality stompboxes for not much money, so we’ve compiled a list of the best cheap guitar pedals to make it easier for you. Many of these brands offer a wide range of models, so if you don’t see what you’re after, check out what else the brand does.
We've included some expert buying advice at the foot of this guide, so if you'd like to read it, click the 'buying advice' tab above. If you'd rather take a look at the products, keep scrolling.
Cheap guitar pedals: Our top picks
In terms of quality of tone, the TC Electronic June 60 Chorus is excellent - its vintage-style sounds and looks come at a fraction of the price of other similar models.
Cheap guitar pedals: Product list & reviews
The June 60 looks like it should be a lot more expensive than it is. It's an analogue chorus pedal billed as a reproduction of the chorus found in the Roland Juno 60 synthesiser. As a result, it doesn't always perfectly translate to guitar, and with only two modes compared to say, the Boss DC-2's four, sometimes the depth and rate you want isn't on offer. Still, it's about a third the price of the DC-2W reissue and even has a stereo out, assuming you use a TRS-Y cable. Also, look at it!
The Mosky Deluxe is a bargain even on a list of bargains. It's a clone of the Lovepedal Amp 11, itself clones the superb Paul Cochrane Timmy for its core drive circuit. What you get with the Deluxe is a versatile, punchy two-footswitch overdrive. The left side is a Timmy with diode switching options, and the right is an Electra overdrive, like on the Lovepedal Amp 11. The additional switch allows you to remove the clipping diodes, making it a clean boost rather than a second drive stage. Cram that punching power into a tiny enclosure and similarly minuscule price, and it's almost too good to be true.
Coming in at not far off the price of a Tubescreamer clone, the Ibanez Tube Screamer mini is the definition of a bargain. It's got the original TS-808 sound, true bypass, and it looks super cute. What's not to like?
The Boss FZ-2 fuzz pedal has long been the subject of pleas for a Waza Craft reissue. The FZ-2 was a modernised Univox Super Fuzz with switchable modes and two-band EQ, discontinued in the late 90s. For whatever reason - those in the know have sometimes mooted availability of the right transistors - Boss has demurred on a reissue. This has left the coveted pedal to grow in cult popularity. Luckily for those needing a fix, Behringer released its own take on the pedal, the SF300. It's pretty close and there's even DIY guides available online for rehousing the guts of the pedal in a more robust metal enclosure if you want a project.
This is a clone of the legendary Klon Centaur. For a pedal with only three knobs, it’s surprisingly versatile and actually houses a fairly clever design. The footswitch, when held down, lets you choose between Gold and Silver versions of the Centaur - whilst the differences between originals might not be as big, on the Horseman, the Silver mode gives you a little more gain and a bit of an extra boost in the mids/high-mids.
This can be used as a clean boost, as a straight up distortion/overdrive or to get you those great on-the-edge-of-breakup sounds. It plays well with different amps, and stacks really well with other pedals. If you’re looking for something that does the Klon thing on a budget, this is definitely one to check out.
Though there's a few options for mini-sized analogue delay pedals at around the same price, we always like slightly larger delays so that we can bend down and twist controls live. In that regard, the TC Echobrain is a fun unit. The controls are intuitive, with plenty of scope for runaway oscillations and psychedelic weirdness. If you're after it not for weirdness, but for a solid, warm analogue delay sound then of course it has that in spades.
Though we've not had the time to take ours apart, the buzz on the internet is that the Black Secret distortion pedal uses a surface-mount LM-308 op-amp, the same as the original, iconic ProCo RAT. The slow slew rate of the LM-308 resulted in almost triangular-wave clipping at higher gain levels. This accounts for the different, highly-coveted sound of vintage RATs, so if true, this is even more of a bargain. Even without the LM-308, it's a diminutive beast that packs a mean punch. It can be switched between classic and turbo mode, and in classic mode has a fantastic range, going from light dirt to full-bore hurricane.
To our ears it's still one of the fizzier distortions, and we wish it had some more volume on tap, but we can't deny it's a classic. For many, the BOSS DS-1 was their first pedal, and at this price point it's easy to see why it's still so popular. If you want a no-frills distortion that will likely outlive you, then you can't go wrong with the orange mean machine.
The Oceanic is a simple reverb pedal with subtle modulation that allows it to cover a lot of ground. NUX claim that they've carefully modeled the algorithm such that additional controls are unnecessary, hence it being single-knob. While we're not sold on that argument, it is true that with decay set at 9 o'clock it's a different pedal than with the decay knob dimed. The pedal goes from 'studio tiled bathroom' through 'concert hall' to the kind of huge, abstract atmospheric space that will get all the shoegaze space cadets all hot and bothered. There is a wet/dry control on the Oceanic. However, to access it you have to hold down the footswitch for two seconds, at which point the decay knob becomes a level knob.
You'll have heard the EHX Small Clone on any number of records, not least Nirvana's Nevermind. If you're looking for a glassy chorus tone, it may well be that the sound in your head is the Neo Clone. It's as simple and intuitive as the bigger-box original, with only a single rate knob and depth switch. Despite being more compact, it has the classic EHX looks and name to back it up.
The VD400 is Behringer's challenger to the Boss DM-2. If you can get over the plastic enclosure, then you'll find a decently made, good-sounding delay pedal. Again, like the SF300, there are guides online for rehousing it, should you be worried about its longevity.
The Steel Singer is a clone of a clone, Vertex's Steel String Singer. Vertex had a prolific period of pinching designs and writing lots of marketing copy about how they had actually designed them. In any case, the SSS was in reality a Jack Orman designed clean boost. Luckily, Jack Orman knows his stuff, and his amp-in-a-box boost pedal design lives on in this NUX offering. As an aside - Orman's list of mods for popular pedals are legendary, so if you own for example a Big Muff clone with mids control, that's probably Orman's 'presence control' mod in action!
A compressor is one of those pedals that you might not think that you need until you try one - then it’s something that won’t ever leave your pedalboard! The Mooer Yellow Comp Optical Compressor is one of the best cheap pedals out there and it’s incredibly useful for pretty much any style of player. Not only is it one of the best compressors in this price bracket, but it’s one of the best options under $/£100 too.
A compressor can level out your sound, so your really loud peaks are quieter, and your quiet bits are a little louder - you can still play dynamically, but it’s a great little helping hand. A lot of players have their compressor always on, but try it out and see what works for you. The Mooer Yellow Comp is small so it doesn’t take up much real estate on your ‘board, and it’s super easy to dial in a great sound. It’s also got a sturdy metal casing for durability and longevity.
Cheap guitar pedals: Buying advice
Are cheap guitar pedals a false economy?
It used to mean that if a guitar pedal were cheap, it probably wasn’t very good. However, that’s not the case today - there are quite a few examples of decent pedals for less than $/£50, from well known brands such as TC Electronic, Electro Harmonix and more, as well as lesser known brands that are on the rise like Mooer and NUX.
There are companies out there that own huge factories that make pedals on the behalf of other brands. Some of these companies have since gone on to create their own brands and sell directly to the consumer, meaning that you can get the same pedal, perhaps with a slightly different design, for a lower cost.
Pedal cloning explained
Cloning is pretty big in the pedal world too. Since you can’t actually copyright a circuit in the abstract, it’s possible to look at a pedal and ‘take inspiration’ from it - i.e. if you’re clever about it, you can copy it. The Klon Centaur is one of the most widely cloned pedals - largely because original units are rare and go for crazy money, but also because many companies have been able to make decent enough replicas. Even pro guitarists use a variety of pedal clones - they’re not just reserved for those on a budget!
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What makes a great cheap guitar pedal?
When it comes to analogue pedals, there’s not actually that much inside that can go wrong. As long as the PCB design is right, and it has been constructed properly then there’s every chance you’ll end up with a good pedal. Digital pedals are harder to get right on a budget, and they’re harder to clone, which is why our list of the best cheap guitar pedals is mostly made up of analogue models.
A good cheap guitar pedal should of course, sound great which because of all the above, is now easier to find than ever. You want it to last more than a few rehearsals too! It might not last a lifetime, but you should be able to get a few years out of it. Ideally, you want it to have an easy to use interface too - this boils down to how it’s been designed.
What are the benefits of buying cheap guitar pedals?
Cheap guitar pedals can be great as they allow you to try out a whole range of new sounds, without having to spend a lot of money. Times are tough, and for a lot of musicians there’s less disposable cash available. If you need a new overdrive, or you just fancy adding a new dimension to your rig, then one of the best cheap guitar pedals lets you do so without it hitting your wallet too hard.
Cheaper guitar pedals are also less valuable and therefore one less thing to worry about if you’re touring the country playing in bars and clubs. If you’ve got an original Klon, a Boss CE-1 and a Tone Bender on your ‘board and an over-excited audience member spills a pint over them, then you’d better hope you’ve got them insured. Accidents do sometimes happen, so cheap pedals can mean that you’re a little less precious about them, whilst still being able to do your job as a guitarist.
Are cheap guitar pedals built to last?
One thing to look out for when buying a cheap guitar pedal is the construction - plastic does keep the cost down, but is easier to break. You’re essentially going to be standing on your new purchase, so sturdiness is something to consider. If it’s a clone, then whoever has made it hasn’t had to put a ton of money into R&D, so you’ll probably be able to make a saving there.
Anything else I should know?
Some cheap guitar pedals, especially the smaller ones, can be noisy. If corners are cut, or if the PCB hasn’t been properly designed, then you can end up with some unwanted noise. It might not be super loud or obvious though, so it might be something you can live with.