Cheap guitar pedals that actually work well are hard to find. Often times they just make your signal sound like absolute garbage. There are a few exceptions though. If you look hard enough you can find the diamonds in the rough. The cheap guitar pedals that actually do what you want them to, and alter your sound in a pleasant way.
For this list I will be including both ultra cheap and moderately cheaply priced pedals. This is because sometimes you just simply cannot get the sound you want for under $50, but none of the pedals on this list will be super high priced like the Strymon Big Sky that comes in at about $500. They will all be moderately cheap. Something that the vast majority of people can afford.
I will also put an emphasis on if these pedals are something that can last you for your whole life, or if they are low quality and known to break. Because no one wants broken gear, and you are going to save yourself money by buying higher quality pedals anyway because otherwise you would likely upgrade anyway.
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Must Have Guitar Pedals List
Mini Tube Screamer
7 best Cheap Guitar Pedals
The Tube Screamer is one of the best guitar pedals of all time, and is an absolute must have guitar pedal. Guitarists like The Edge, John Mayer, Carlos Santana, Gary Clark Jr, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Steve Vai all have used one form or another of a tube screamer. If that many of the greats have used something, you know it has to be of good quality.
The Tube Screamer is a classic overdrive pedal. It is often used for the dirty and gritty blues sound that people like Stevie Ray Vaughn and John Mayer are famous for.
Why I really like the Mini Tube screamer is multi faceted. The first reason is that its cheap. This pedal comes in at a price that almost anyone can afford. It is really awesome to find a pedal for a reasonable price that can be a staple in almost anyone's playing.
The next reason is that it is nice and compact. The Mini Tube Screamer can fit on a pedal board in the smallest of crevices. It is really great for maximizing the amount of space you have on your board. There are some overdrive pedals that take up 5 to 6 times the space of this one. Why use one that big when you can get a pedal that does the same job, and lets you put more cool pedals on your board?
One thing to note about this pedal is that it is not true bypass. We explain more about true bypass, and exactly what it is in the FAQ section of this article.
Overall though this is a very high quality pedal that comes in at an affordable price. It can last you your whole life, and it is super small to maximize your pedal board. One of the best cheap guitar pedals on the market.
Amazon Basic's Distortion Pedal
7 best Cheap Guitar pedals
For the price this pedal is pretty killer. The amazon basic pedals are some of the best cheap guitar pedals on amazon. It is probably the cheapest possible distortion pedal you can find that could actually be used as a functioning pedal. There really isn't much to this pedal it just creates a pretty classic distortion sound.
Some negatives I have noticed about these pedals include that sometimes the knobs don't really do much. You can turn them all you want, but the sound doesn't really change much. Another issue with them is that the distortion sound they create is a little muddy. Which isn't great, but for the price is totally okay. It really isn't that big of a deal.
There isn't much else to say about this pedal. For its price it absolutely get the job done. Amazon has a whole line of these pedals and they all are pretty good. This one in particular though is one of the two best ones.
Amazon Basic's Delay Pedal
7 best Cheap guitar Pedals
The Amazon Basic's delay pedal runs about $15 more than their distortion pedal. With that being said, it is still super affordable. On the pedal it says "timer" which is a little strange. I have never really heard that term, but it's just a delay pedal.
All the upsides and downsides of this seem to be very similar to the upsides and downsides of the distortion pedal they offer as well. Sometimes the knobs don't really do anything. Because of that it is kinda just a what you see is what you get kind of pedal. Obviously the overall quality is a little sketchy. They are prone to issues mechanically and electrically.
Even though they certainly have issues, you cannot really beat the price of these pedals, and of course the simplicity of them. These things make it the best cheap delay pedal.
Dunlap Cry Baby Wah
7 best Cheap Guitar Pedals
This cry baby wah has kinda become an industry standard. It is THE wah. Almost every guitar player has one, and for good reason. They are well made pedals that do their job, and they don't cost a whole lot. This is another pedal that you won't ever really have to upgrade. It is a top of the line product. but yet comes in as a budget guitar pedal.
There is also a Cry Baby Mini available. Normally the mini pedals cost less than their full sized counterpart, but that is not the case with these pedals. The mini wah runs anywhere from $20 to $50 more depending upon where you purchase it from. So if you are really looking to save some space on your pedal board, looking into the mini could be a good option for you.
There isn't much unique about these pedals, they are kinda just a standard wah. They are meant to emulate a more vintage sound. This makes them great for emulating Hendirx's sound. Although Jimi himself did use a Vox wah. These wahs are able to capture his sound very well.
Overall I think this is a super worthwhile pedal to buy. The Dunlap Cry Baby Wah has been proven to be a great pedal year over year. It comes in at an affordable price, and is a pedal you can use for the rest of your life. Just a great all around wah pedal. A very good cheap guitar pedal.
Tiny Tune Pro Stage
7 best Cheap Guitar pedals
The Tiny Tune Pro Stage guitar tuning pedal is a great cheap option for guitar players that play live, or simply want a tuning pedal for the convenience. Every guitarist that plays any sort of live music needs a tuner pedal. There is simply too much noise going on during a live performance to ever tune properly. That is where a tuning pedal comes in handy.
The great thing about tuning pedals is that they are almost all relatively cheap. This one finds itself in the midrange of prices for tuning pedals. Even though it isn't the cheapest pedal on the market, it is still super affordable. I always think that if you can afford the extra $15 to get something of much higher quality, you should. That is exactly the case with this pedal. There are cheaper alternatives, but they simply wont be as accurate or as reliable as this pedal is.
This pedal also is true bypass which is super nice because then it won't mess with your guitar's tone at all.
Overall this is a great tuning pedal, and almost everyone needs a tuning pedal eventually, so why not get this one?
Mooer Envelope Filter
7 best Cheap Guitar Pedals
This is about as close to a perfect effects pedal there is. The sound it produces is so authentic to what an envelope filter. It is actually kinda crazy the sound you get out of this pedal for its price. The only reason this is rated as 4.5 stars instead of 5 is because it isn't true bypass, and some people a big sticklers about that. Other than that it is the perfect weird cheap guitar pedal.
I for one, am not always. If you stack 8 or 9 pedals together that aren't true bypass then you will begin to see some tone loss, but just one or two in your chain isn't a big deal. You won't experience any tone loss with just a few pedals in the chain like this.
The sound that comes from this pedal is so funky, and is right up there in terms of quality with the Qtron. The Qtron is an envelope filter that costs about four times as much as this pedal does, but creates almost the same exact sound.
If you don't know what an envelope filter is, it is a type of pedal that is almost exclusively used in funk music. They are also called auto wahs. They create a sound that is kinda like if you very quickly pushed your toe down on a wah, and then lifted it back up again. I will link a video below so you can better understand what an envelope filter does.
Donner Compressor Pedal
7 BEST CHEAP GUITAR PEDALS
The Donner Compressor Pedal is a run of the mill, standard, compressor pedal. Some people tend to be a little confused as to what a compressor pedal does, so I'll explain.
A compressor pedal simply takes your low volumes and boosts them a little bit, while taking your higher volumes and lowering them a little bit. This makes your playing much more dynamically consistent, so they aren't crazy loud things, and super quiet things happening within your playing.
Many people like compressors while soloing because it brings the lower volumes up. This makes notes ring out longer which is a really cool, but simple effect for solos.
This pedal is a true bypass pedal which is pretty sweet for such a low priced pedal. We explain true bypass more below in the FAQ section.
7 BEST CHEAP GUITAR PEDALS
What is a True Bypass Pedal?
A true bypass pedal is a pedal that does not use a buffer to alter the signal coming from the guitar when the pedal is not engaged.
Buffers are used in pedals because the guitar outputs a high impedance signal while the effect pedal likes low impedance signals. So pedals have whats called a buffer within them to alter the signal. The buffer changes the signal from high impedance to low impedance. This allows the pedal to work.
True bypass pedals are seen to be more desirable because they wont alter the guitar's sound at all while the pedal in disengaged.
They also tend to be more expensive though. True bypass pedals are more expensive because for the pedal to be true bypass the circuitry has to be done in a way so that the buffer comes after the switch. This typically requires more complicated work, and more expensive parts.
In non true bypass pedals the circuit goes like this: Input to buffer to switch to the effect circuit to the output. This means that the buffer is always on, and always altering your guitar's sound.
In a true bypass pedal the circuit goes like this: Input to switch to buffer to effect circuit to output. This way if the switch is not activated the signal will bypass the buffer, and the guitar's sound will not be altered.
What should be your first guitar pedal?
This really depends on what type of music you like to play. However, the most common is a drive pedal. Something like an Ibanez Tube Screamer or a Boss Blues Driver would both be great first pedals.
This is because they are pedals that can be used in so many different genres. Also they are both high quality pedals that can last you for your whole life.
A drive pedal is also just an exciting pedal to get. Something like a compressor is awesome and super useful, but it isn't a very exciting pedal. You turn it on and now your louds are just a little quieter, and you quiets are just a little louder. Not too grand. A drive pedal though is super exciting. It completely transforms the sound into something super different and cool.
That's why I think a great first pedal to start off with is a drive pedal.
Are cheap guitar pedals worth it?
For a beginner they are a great way to explore tonnes of different sounds without having to spend a lot of money. Because of that I would say yes. However, if you are an experienced guitar player that is looking to get pieces for your rig that are permanent. I wouldn't recommend going for cheap guitar pedals.
You want to buy high quality items that create the best sounds, and will last you a very long time. Although it can kinda suck to pay $200-$400 for a simple pedal, if you want the highest quality gear, you'll need to. With that said, affordable quality guitar pedals are not impossible to find.
7 Best cheap guitar pedals
Cheap guitar pedals are an awesome tool for beginners or someone that just wants to dip their toes into new sounds. You can find every effect under the sun for under $100 as long as you look hard enough.
We hope we were able to help you find a pedal that you like. Let us know in the comments below.