There’s nothing quite like pedal shopping for a guitarist. It seems every new pedal represents an opportunity to expand and develop your sound, taking you to that next level. But for the guitarist on a budget, that optimism can quickly fade when price comes into play. With the best-rated stompboxes going for hundreds – and in some cases, thousands – many of us are priced out of the market.
It can be especially daunting if you are just starting to invest in your gear and build your sound. Why would you spend $400 on a reverb pedal when you aren’t even sure that’s going to be your thing? You wouldn’t. But you also get what you pay for in a lot of cases and really cheap pedals can be very underwhelming. So we’ve done the heavy lifting for you! Save yourself the headache and heartache; this versatile budget pedalboard will set you up for just a few dollars over $500.
And if you’re working with an existing board, read on to see where you could make some savings with your next pedal purchases.
- 12 more killer cheap guitar pedals you need to try
How to build your budget pedalboard
1. Pedalboard: On Stage GPB2000 Compact
Funnily enough, the board part of your pedalboard is actually the least important part, especially if you aren’t gigging or transporting it regularly. You can effectively build your own out of a piece of plywood, MDF, old pallets – you name it. If you don’t want to DIY, this is a great option for the price as it will fit all these pedals (excluding the wah!) and comes with a gig bag. Easy.
2. Power supply: JOYO JP-02
Starting at the true start, one of the first things you should think about is the pedalboard power supply. It’s often an afterthought for many guitarists’ first board, but it does need to be given some respect as a power supply can make or break pedalboards. A good quality isolated power supply ensures that the current delivered to a guitar pedal is consistent, and will reduce the chances of hum and hiss creeping into your sound.
While there is a range of power options out there with varying degrees of sophistication, a Joyo JP-02 is a reliable unit that won’t chew up much of your overall budget. If (or when) your pedalboard becomes a little bit more complicated and you want to look at using voltage sags, then something like the Pedal Power 2 Plus from Voodoo Labs could be an option, but the JP-02 really will handle everything we’re throwing out here just fine.
3. Patch cables: MXR 3PDCP06 3-piece
One thing you shouldn’t skimp on is the patch cables. Much like the power supply, patch cables are not often prioritised but once you’ve had some experience with dodgy cables you’ll never look back. Not only can poor quality cables muddy your sound, but they are also more likely to just break on you, and it’s never fun working out where the fault in your pedalboard is coming from. Save yourself the pain, just get something reliable and reasonably priced like the MXR 3PDCP06.
4. Mounting tape: Donner pedalboard mounting tape
It’s not really that important what mounting tape you use, you just want to make sure you have something that grips well and holds for a long time. There are loads of suitable options out there. One thing to note: some pedals, like the Rat, have feet and you will need to either layer the mounting tape to fill the gap or secure the pedal with zip-ties instead.
5. Wah pedal: Vox V847
Some people will roll their eyes at a wah pedal being an essential item, as they do go in and out of fashion. But having a wah really does open your sound up and allows for more expression in your playing. While the signature wah sound is most commonly associated with lead work (think Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile, or 80 percent of Kirk Hammett’s playing), they can also be used more subtly to change the overall tone of your playing.
Not having any knobs or buttons to worry about makes the wah a simple and powerful addition to your board. There are hundreds of different wahs, so you might expect narrowing down options to be difficult… but the V847 is the choice. While some might be tempted to go with Jim Dunlop’s Original Cry Baby, the V847 offers a wider sweep, giving more tone options, plus it sounds much warmer than its counterpart.
6. Overdrive: JOYO Vintage Overdrive
An overdrive pedal makes a great addition to your ‘board, particularly if you are playing blues and classic rock, and ultimately gives you a range of options to sculpt your tone. How this one is used really comes down to the guitar amp you pair it with (they work especially well with a tube amp), but overall using an overdrive will give you a gain boost without saturating your signal.
They also help beef up the mid frequencies to give you a clearer, more focused sound. This is the second appearance of a JOYO product on this board and that’s largely down to the fact they make quality products at accessible prices. This pedal, in particular, is very comparable to the acclaimed Ibanez TS-9 and about a third of the price, so it’s a no brainer.
7. Distortion pedal: ProCo Rat
There was no chance it was going to be anything else. Not only is the Proco Rat one of the best distortions ever made, but it’s also one of the most versatile gain units you could possibly find. The Rat has found uses among players as a distortion, a fuzz, and even an overdrive. While some pedals’ performance varies from amp to amp, one of the best things about the Rat is that it’s consistent no matter what amp you play it on. While it can take a little time finding the right setting for you on a Rat, you ultimately will find it.
8. Delay pedal: TC Electronic The Prophet Digital Delay/ TC Electronic Echobrain Analog Delay
It was too hard to settle on just one here, so here are two options depending on what you want out of a delay pedal. Digital is certainly the most functional and versatile delay option. You can get a much cleaner sound, longer repeats, and more modulation options with a digital delay. However, the biggest criticism of digitals is that they can be a bit too sterile; analog delays offer warmer tones and have the ability to add a little chaos to your playing by going into self-oscillation.
Ultimately it comes down to what you want to get out of your playing. Both of these products from TC Electronic are well built, easy to use, and offer a range of options to color your tone. You would be hard-pressed to find any better delays at this price point.
9. Chorus pedal: Behringer UC200 Stereo Chorus
A chorus pedal is a great way to add some depth to your playing, especially when you’re playing clean. The results of choruses can vary, but essentially the sound is like doubling what you play and is perhaps most notably heard on Nirvana’s Come As You Are. While it would be safe to just grab a Small Clone similar to the one that Kurt Cobain made famous and throw it in here, sometimes the budget just doesn’t allow for it. For those occasions, there’s Behringer. Maybe not the most acclaimed pedal maker, but don’t rule them out!
As a result of their plastic casing, Behringers aren’t the sturdiest pedals ever made. Fortunately, a chunk of them sound really good and this is definitely one of the better finds among the Behringer range. It is basically identical to a Boss CH-1 Super Chorus but a quarter of the price. It’s honestly a bit of steal.
10. Reverb pedal: Valeton Coral Verb II
Finally, we come to the ‘verb. Regardless of the music you play, there is always a use for reverb. From adding some space to your playing to creating an otherworldly vibe, there’s so many options for you when you have reverb on your ‘board. This is one of those areas in pedals where there’s a huge disparity in price from model to model, so it can be hard to work out what a good starting point is.
Offering 11 reverb options, the Valeton Coral Verb makes a good first investment for somebody looking to explore the potential of reverb without busting the bank. The Coral Verb is based on TC Electronic’s Hall of Fame pedal, and while it’s admittedly not quite as refined as the HOF, it is half the price.
So, there you have it! For $500 ($505 to be precise) you can have a fully-functional board that will serve you well regardless of genre. From this point, you might add more specific effects like tremolo or flanger pedals, but ultimately this set up serves as your essentials pack. And with many of the pedals we’ve suggested being practically identical to the big names in the game, you would be hard-pressed to find a board that offered better value for money than this.