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Buying Your First Guitar FX: Pedals or Processor? (Part 2)

In our last article, we took a look at some of the basic differences between pedals and processors, and why it makes more sense to buy an amp first if you’re just setting out on your electric guitar journey. In Part 2, we’ll go deeper into the pedals vs. processor discussion and help you figure out which one makes more sense.

Once you’ve become comfortable with the different settings on your amp— and even your neighbours have figured out the difference between reverb and delay— your natural instinct will be to explore and discover more sounds you can get from your electric guitar. This is where pedals and processors come into the picture. They allow for more specialization than an amp, and it becomes easier to find the sound you want for a specific song or playing style.

Pedals vs. Processors

Let’s revisit some of the differences between processors and pedals. As mentioned in our last post, processors are more convenient in the sense that they contain all kinds of sound settings in a single interface; whereas you might need to buy a range of pedals before you’re happy with the options at your disposal. They might also make more financial sense, since you’ll only be investing once with the guarantee that most of what you need will be covered by one device.

However, if you have a particular sound in mind, pedals are often the better choice since they’re customised to offer a certain effect. Pedals are also easier to operate in a pinch, like when you’re on stage and need to quickly change some settings. Since a single pedal performs far fewer functions than a processor, it’s also easier to make alterations to a specific element of the sound without compromising on the others.

But Which One Is Best For You?

Before deciding whether to buy a processor or pedals, however, the most important part to keep in mind is ‘knowing what you want’ and what you’re ‘going for’ in terms of tone/sound. Just from working with your guitar and amp, you’ve (hopefully) noticed that there are a LOT of variations in sound you can produce. Each additional element you add to this signal chain is going to multiply those possibilities.

Since a single pedal is easier to understand than a processor in terms of how it alters your guitar’s sound, we would suggest that you experiment with pedals first to understand how each of them affects the overall tone. This will give you some more time to figure out what different effects: distortion, fuzz, chorus, delay, and so on, bring to your sound, and how they work in combination with each other.

Of course, since pedals are more expensive to buy individually, a processor might provide more value for money based on your budget. If this is the case, we would still recommend that you work with it in the same way as pedals. It can be very overwhelming to see all those different knobs and screens, so go one effect at a time and make sure you understand what they do for the sound. There are also many informative guides available online that will help you navigate a processor. Or, you could just ask your neighbours for their opinions—they probably know what they like hearing most by now!

In Part 3, we’ll take a look at some of the best pedals and processors that you can buy across price ranges and skill levels. Stay tuned!

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