A Beginners’ Guide to Guitar Pedals

beginners guide to guitar pedals

The world of electric guitars opens up new horizons of expression in music. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that it’s one of the most popular instruments out there. After all, there are so many different things that you can do with an electric guitar, making it a very potent musical tool for almost all of the genres that we can think of today.

The fact that it’s an electric instrument that sends a signal to an amplifier opens up new ways for further altering and improving its tone. With the development of guitar effects, guitarists worldwide were given a new tool that would help them to more easily convey their artistic message.

So it’s not unusual to know that many guitar players have dedicated their time and effort in building elaborate pedalboards. Some of them even feature very complex loops and even external controllers to create different combinations of sounds.

huge guitar pedal board

If you’re new to guitar pedals, some things might get a bit confusing. Well, you’re definitely not alone in this, and even the most experienced guitar players have been there. After all, with so many different pedals and effects, it does get difficult to keep up with how things work.

With all this said, we figured we could help clear things up for beginners and do a detailed guide on guitar pedals. We sorted them out by categories, explaining what these effects do, and how adjusting their parameters affects your tone. At the end of this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of guitar pedals and enough knowledge to start building your pedalboard.


Peterson Stomp Classic Strobe Tuner

Tuner pedals are not effects, but we still need to include them in this guide. Essentially, they are like regular guitar tuners, only in the form of guitar pedals that you can put in your signal chain.

What’s important to note here is that they have a display or an array of LED lights along with a display so that you can easily see when the open string hits the desired note.

They’re nothing fancy, but they serve their purpose for live settings. You just hit the footswitch, mute the tone, and tune your guitar. That’s it!

However, tuner pedals usually have buffered bypass, which can serve its purpose in the signal chain. Essentially, they can balance the signal and sort things out, but that’s a whole other discussion that we’ll touch upon some other time.

Read a review of one of our favorite tuning pedals here


DigiTech X-Series Synth Wah Envelope Filter review

Up next, we have filter pedals that serve the purpose of filtering out certain frequencies in your tone. This means they can also pronounce certain frequency ranges of the audible spectrum by filtering out everything else. One of the examples of filter pedals is the wah-wah.

Wahs can change the peak frequency, pronounce it, while everything else stays the same or gets filtered out. By moving its rocking part, wah pedal sweeps over the spectrum. We also have automatic wah pedals that change these frequencies according to the input signal, or the dynamics of your playing.

Other types of filter pedals are “static” and keep the tone according to your parameters. As a result, they can emulate some quirky synth tones. An example would be Line 6 FM4. However, these are usually more advanced “toys” that you don’t exactly need as a beginner.

Check out our review of the DigiTech Synth Wah Envelope Filter Pedal here



Just like your guitar amp has a 3-band equalizer with bass, middle, and treble controls, there are standalone pedals that can further shape your tone.

The simplest form of an EQ is a tone control on your guitar, and the most complex examples would be things like 30-band EQs or parametric EQs.

EQ pedals for guitar usually have anywhere between 5 and 10 frequency ranges that you can control using sliders. By turning the pedal on, you change the tone according to the set parameters, and then go back to the original tone when it’s turned off.

This is pretty useful if you need to change the tone for a certain section of a song, like pronouncing mids for a solo. MXR’s M108S is a good example of a 10-band EQ pedal.


Fulltone Fulldrive2 MOSFET Overdrive Boost review

We could say that these are the simplest types of pedals out there. All they do is boosting the guitar signal without creating distortion in their circuit. If you need a slight volume boost without changing your tone, they come in handy.

However, they are also very useful with tube amplifiers or other tube pedals and devices in your signal chain. Tube amps tend to “break” their tone and cause that “natural” or “organic” distortion when reaching their limits.

A simple booster can help you achieve that vintage-sounding distortion with a tube amp or another tube-driven pedal.

Check out our review of the MRX MC401 Boost Pedal here



Compressors often get overlooked, which is quite a shame as they are pretty useful. The proper name for them would be dynamic range compressors as they turn up the volume of quiet parts and keep the louder parts quieter.

Of course, you’re able to set parameters and intensity of this compression. They can also boost the signal when needed, but the main purpose is to keep everything in check and prevent anything from popping up in the mix.

This is why they’re very useful for bassists and rhythm guitarists.

Read our review of the BOSS CS-3, one of our favorite compressors

Expanders, aka noise gates

Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor Pedal review

An expander is the opposite of a compressor – quiet parts get quieter, and louder parts get louder or just stay at the same volume.

This effect is perfect for dealing with high gain distortions that tend to add that hissing sound when you’re not playing. While it can’t filter out the hissing during your playing, it does keep things quiet in between the notes.

They usually have just one control that sets the threshold at which the effect is activated. They’re simple to use but still require some experience to implement properly without soaking up your tone.

Check out our review of the Boss NS-2

Pitch-altering pedals


This is where the fun stuff begins. Pitch shifters can alter the pitch of your whole output or add one or more intervals to what you’re playing.

For instance, the famous example here is the Digitech Whammy that can alter the pitch of your tone as you rock the moving part of the pedal back and forth.

Kind of like a wah pedal, but it changes the pitch. You can hear this one in Rage Against the Machine’s famous song “Killing in the Name.”

Octaver pedals are also pretty common on pedalboards, and they usually have settings to add two additional tones to what you’re playing, one and two octaves below.

They can find uses in lead sections or anything that doesn’t involve playing more than one note at a time. Boss has some great Octaver pedals, like the OC-3.

We also have harmonizers that add the desired interval above or below notes that you’re playing. These can either work chromatically by adding a fixed interval (i.e. major third) or diatonically where they work “smart” and accommodate the intervals according to the scale that you’re playing.

To use these “smart” versions of harmonizers, you need some basic music theory knowledge. Examples of harmonizer pedals include Boss VE-2, Boss VE-8, TC Helicon Harmony, and many others.

Read our review of the Digitech Whammy 5


Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion review

Now we get to the most important part of every pedalboard – distortion pedals. In the world of guitar, the distortion effect is divided into three categories, which are overdrive, classic distortion, and fuzz.

They create this effect by intentional boosting and clipping of the signal. Different types of clipping create different types of distortion.

There’s something for everyone’s taste these days, and the most attention is usually dedicated to finding proper distortion pedals for certain styles of music and playing.

Some of the famous examples include Ibanez Tube Screamer with all of its variants, Boss DS-1, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, MXR M75, the legendary Klon Centaur, Pro Co Rat, and many others.

Read our review of the Pro Co Turbo Rat distortion pedal



Modulation effects include everything that adds the copy of your signal, alters it a little, and blends it in with the unprocessed signal.

The most famous modulation effect is the chorus that adds a very short delay and alters the pitch up and down according to the set amplitude and speed.

We also have flanging and phasing, which are in some technical ways similar, but in practice produce completely different effects.

Most of the modulation pedals have a “mix” or “blend” control that determines the ratio between unprocessed and processed signals.

There are also depth and speed controls, along with a few other things. Strymon has a great chorus pedal called Ola. MXR has the M134 stereo chorus that’s pretty great too.

Check out our review of the MXR M134 Stereo Chorus Pedal

Atmospheric effects: delays and reverbs

electro harmonix holy grail reverb

To keep your tone more interesting, you should think of different “atmospheric” effects. After all, you can’t keep it “dry” all the time. For this purpose, we have delay and reverb pedals. Both of these add repeated copies of your tone to create an illusion of a bigger or smaller room.

Delays add simple repeats according to set parameters. You can control the time distance between these repeats, the number of repeats, and the mix between the original and repeated signal.

It’s the classic echo effect. In some cases, pedals also have separate EQ controls for shaping the tone of the repeated signal. There’s anything from the simple stuff like the MXR carbon copy, up to very complex pieces like the Empress Echosystem.

Reverbs also repeat the signal, but in a more “shimmering” manner, giving the impression of one prolonged atmospheric continued repeat. It’s as if you’re playing in a large hall or a cathedral.

They also include blend or mix controls, just like delays. Strymon’s Big Sky is a great example of a very spacious-sounding reverb.

Read our review of the TC Electronic M3000

Volume pedals


While they could be the most boring part of one pedalboard, volume pedals should be an essential part of every signal chain, especially if you’re playing in a bigger band or an orchestra.

They’re pretty simple – you use them to control your output volume. They have a rocking part that you use to turn the volume up or down. There’s usually the “minimum volume” switch that sets the volume when the pedal is at its minimum position.

There’s a common misconception with beginners thinking that the volume pedal can do the same thing as the booster pedal. The thing with volume pedals is that you’re reducing the volume to the desired level. You use it when you’re supposed to keep quiet in the mix.

There are high impedance and low impedance volume pedals, but we’re not going to get too much into technical details about this. Low impedance pedals are more common and they go at the very end or near the end of the signal chain. Ernie Ball has its MVP volume pedal that’s very reliable.

Expression pedals, tap pedals, and sequencers


Some of the effects we mentioned usually support connectivity with external control sources. For this, we have expression pedals, which are just multi-purpose potentiometers in the form of a pedal.

Automatic wah-wah, certain modulation pedals, or even delays can work with an expression pedal, but only if they have a separate input jack for it.

On their own, expression pedals do nothing, although many volume pedals also have the expression pedal functionality.

Tap switches work the same way, it’s just that they have one control switch that sets the tempo of the effect. For instance, you connect it to a delay, and when your delay pedal is turned on, tap the switch pedal twice and the tempo of your repeated tones will be set according to the tempo that you tapped.

Sequencer pedals are a bit more complicated, and they’re definitely not something that a beginner would use. It’s a complex controller that has a sequence of adjustable steps.

It controls any effect with the expression pedal connectivity feature, but it does nothing on its own. An example here would be the well-known Electro-Harmonix 8-Step Program Analog Expression Sequencer.

What’s the correct order of pedals in the signal chain?

First off, there’s no such thing as the “correct” order of pedals. There are, however, some standards in arranging your pedalboard that may help you get the clearest tone without any unwanted noises or hisses.

This is the usual order, but you’re free to experiment. The whole thing is open for discussion.

From guitar to the amp, it goes like this: tuner – filter – EQ – compressor – boost – pitch altering – distortion – modulation – volume pedals – delay – reverb. Volume pedal can also come after the delay and reverb.

We Review the Best Distortion Pedals For Metal

Zvex Super Hard On Boost Pedal Review

The electric guitar players usually love to collect all sorts of pedals. Well, unless they’re really into the good old guitar in the amp with no added effects setup, or if they just don’t have enough money.

Either way, you’ll often see guitarists with all sorts of stuff in their signal chains, put within unusual loops, connected to different pedal controllers, expression pedals, and all sorts of wacky and fun stuff. However, there are certain pedals that just get easily overlooked, despite their importance.

Some of these pedals might just seem boring and uninteresting, or players usually don’t know how to properly use them, as is the case with a compressor.

There is one pretty simple pedal that people tend to overlook, and that’s a boost pedal. Yes, a stomp that just boosts your signal – nothing more.

But if guitar heroes like Tony Iommi, Ritchie Blackmore, and many others have used these over the years, then they must be worth it, right? Well, here we will be examining one of these boost pedals, the Zvex Super Hard On.

Zvex Effects is a relatively smaller pedal manufacturer that offers a whole variety of products. Everything from distortions and overdrives, over wahs and volume pedals, all the way to those super quirky step sequencers.

Aside from focusing on making good sounding products, Zvex also cares a lot about the design and overall aesthetics of their products.

But let’s find out more about this weirdly named Super Hard On booster pedal and what exactly makes it stand out from similar products by other companies.


The Super Hard On – just like any or most of other booster pedals – is pretty straightforward. There are input and output, one switch, and one control knob.

Well, this one is just a little bit more complex as it features an additional output jack which can be used for an additional amp or a tuner or a DI box or anything that you might have in mind like, for instance, separate effect loops.

But while it is fairly simple, Zvex definitely dedicated some real time and effort in making the pedal’s circuit. The input has a really high impedance and the output goes over the 8-volt peak.

What this actually does we’ll discuss more in the “Performance” section of the review. The transistor in Super Hard On are also very sensitive so it was required of the company to install a protection circuit in order to further prolong the life of the pedal.

Super Hard On can either be powered by either a standard classic 9-volt battery or a 9-volt DC adapter or a pedalboard power supply.

Since it takes only about 20 mA of power, it won’t really cause any trouble if you’re running multiple pedals through one single power supply.

It should also be noted that Zvex Super Hard On features true bypass.


There are two different versions of this pedal – the regular Super Hard On and Super Hard On Vexter. From the technical and practical perspective, they’re both pretty much identical. But when it comes to the design, the regular Super Hard On is hand painted. And more expensive.

Both have that lovely gorilla holding a guitar painted on it, although these are in different colors on these two products. The regular Super Hard On is painted gold and has no labels on the front panel.

The Vexter version is gray and has the printed labels for input and outputs and has “crackle okay” written for the only knob on the pedal.

The switch, which is a classic one you see on most of the pedals, is located right at the very center of the front panel, something that is a bit strange but doesn’t really matter as it doesn’t interfere with the pedal’s operation.

The overall dimensions of the Super Hard On are relatively small and you won’t have any problems fitting it into a standard pedalboard.


While the entire concept of a booster pedal might seem a bit too simple, this pedal is pretty useful and serves its purpose. The manual states that the pedal will allow your pickups to sound like they did the day they came out of the factory.

The output that exceeds 8 volts, what we mentioned in the “Features” section, distorts the sound in a way that resembles triode overload and does not create fuzz.

It gets the best results when used with a vintage or a vintage-style tube amp, pushing the signal and creating that organic distortion. It also helps up thicken the sound of single-coil pickups, especially going through tube amps.

The Super Hard On can also help in those cases where you go from the clean sound and stomp on your distortion only to realize that you’re actually sounding weaker. By pushing your signal, this pedal can help you overcome the problem.


It’s pretty obvious that the pedal is pretty well built inside out. In addition, Zvex being a small independent pedal company and all, the support is great, but you probably won’t have any issues or unexpected failures.

At the same time, it’s pretty weird to pay so much for a booster pedal. In this day and age where everything is going digital, it might seem weird to some that you have paid around $200 for such a product.

However, if you’re into the classic stuff and really care about your tone being 100% organic, then it’s definitely for you.

Either for boosting the clean channel of a tube amp and bringing it into natural distortions, boosting your amp’s lead channel, or just beefing up the sound of your distortion and overdrive pedals, Zvex Super Hard On comes as a great solution.

You just need to know what you’re looking for.

Video Review

Denmark’s TRex Engineering Continues to Clamp Jaws On Boutique Guitar Pedal Market

When it comes to modern guitar effect pedals, and music gear in general, there are quite a lot of companies out making it.  Some companies are large, and some are small.  Some suck, some are great.  We all know how it goes.

To the end user, aka the music gear consumer, there are advantages to dealing with both big and small companies, as well as cons.  

On one hand, large companies are trusted and have years of experience doing what they do, and can back up any of their products (usually) with guarantees and warranties that protect the musicians buying them from lightning storms, jam hall fires, irresponsible siblings getting their slimy mitts on your pedal board, etc. 

These big, established companies that have household names make pedals that are the go-to gear of working musicians, and the cycle of rock continues.

On the other hand, you have companies that run a slightly smaller, tighter ship, but have more creative freedom, and are able to experiment. 

They also have the ability to keep a meticulous eye on everything that goes on, and their customer service has the potential to be a lot better, as they can offer things the big companies can’t, and come up with technology that is mind-blowingly inventive.

A company of this sort that is small but spunky would be T-Rex Engineering, a company out of Denmark  who manufacturers a number of guitar pedals, including distortion/overdrive, tremolo, looper, delay, reverb, octaver, wah, and more. 

They also make power supplies, boards, bags, cables, brackets, and tape cartridges.  

Basically, TRex makes a lot of what your average musician will need to get through the next show, plus a bunch of stuff that a lot of musicians wouldn’t mind getting for their birthdays if only their friends, family, and loved ones knew a thing or two about cool music gear.

Lars and Sebastian, childhood friends who both have a passion for music, and who founded the company back in 1996, always make sure the components with which they use to make their pedals and gear is of the utmost quality.  They have a small but dedicated team who work together to keep on top of things.

Being music gear nerds here at YTMS, and fans of boutique guitar pedals and crazy/cool effects, we managed to set up a little Q&A with TRex, with the hopes to get a better idea how their business works, and also so we can learn more about their pedals, which we are big fans of!

You gotta figure, if their stuff is good enough for the likes of Steve Lukather (Toto), Marc Tremonti (Alter Bridge), Martin Gore (Depeche Mode), Carl Verheyen (Supertramp), Patrick Matera (Katy Perry) and Luke Potashnik (Katie Melua), they must have their shit together.

And in the following chat, we find out exactly how TRex goes about things!  Enjoy!

Can you, in a nutshell, describe what TRex Engineering does?

We design and manufacture effects, amps, power supplies and accessories for guitar players, as well as other musicians that need useable tools for real-world applications.

What inspired you to get into the effects pedals business?

Lars (founder) is an electronics guy and for his graduation project, he made a switching system for pedals, so they could be turned on and off in presets. Sebastian (childhood friend, founder) did the digital part, since he was also graduating in electronics, although back then, you did either analog or digital.

They had both between the two of them, so it worked quite well.

A few players saw it and wanted to buy it, so the guys started a small production.

So really, it was as simple as a “good idea” that people bought into, which is still very much the philosophy around here – ask and listen to the players and see if you can come up with stuff that they feel is useful, not just impressive or “en vogue”.

How was the guitar effects pedal world different back when you guys started in 1996?

First of all, there weren’t that many competitors (or should I say colleagues?). The boutique thing was just happening and things were still pretty old school regarding the setups/rigs.

Nowadays, programmers can make the planet rotate the other way using a chip that costs 0.02USD, it seems.

In many ways, the pedal world hasn’t changed one bit since Hendrix tracked “Hey Joe”, because there seems to be an incredible interest in “classic” effects and sounds, but at the same time, we embrace new technology like there’s no tomorrow.

The requests we get are sometimes physically impossible to meet, but I get why the question is asked because from the outside world, it certainly looks like anything’s possible.

One guy wanted a pedal that could detect what key the band was playing in, so that he could pick the right harmonica for the song – I don´t want to put the guy down at all, but a book on music theory is 5 bucks and needs no power.

In short, we are all a lot closer to each other now and manufacturers must listen harder and react faster on the market demands.

What are some of your top sellers these days…and why?

The Soulmate Acoustic and our tape echos are doing pretty well right now. I guess they serve a purpose that players can relate to.

With the ASM, it sort of takes out all the guesswork of playing live with an acoustic, because everything is there – effects, signal conditioning, pre-amplification, D.I. box, etc.

The tape echo units seem to be “fun” and offer something completely different to what else is out there, good AND bad. But most customers like them for the exact same reasons.

Shoot, who doesn’t like to press a switch and watch stuff turn, roll, slide and blink? And then it also puts out sound!!

We all connect to our inner 3-year old child when we see such a thing, which I think complements the precise, predictive and controlled nature of a modern DSP-based effect.

These speak to the grown-up part of our brain and provides safety in use, but they are not as lively or random.

I think music that has some irregularities in it speaks a bit louder than something that’s maybe slightly too polished, and I guess that’s why there’s room for a tape echo on the market, also.

You’re obviously into more than just pedals.  For those who don’t know, what other stuff do you make?

We make some power bricks called FuelTanks, that share a common topology but differ in size, total power and in the various options for powering pedals.

We also make ToneTrunk pedalboards, which are also available in various sizes.

These differ from the competition by being two-tiered, so you get to turn on a pedal in the back row without hitting knobs or switches on the goodies in the front row.

I know you take pride in your components.  From where do you source the materials?

It depends. Where “standard” stuff gets the job done, we use it.

If a certain design calls for some special component, we try to track one down that might fit the purpose or simply have them made according to our specs.

So the philosophy is that the customer should only pay extra if extra is needed.

We have several custom made parts in our products – some are from Danish manufacturers, others from the US or Asia. It all depends on who can make it for us.

We source mechanical parts for the tape echo locally (because of high tolerance), we make custom knobs right at our factory in China, and our custom made transformers and coils come from our transformer supplier in Denmark.

What’s the main factor in making a more durable pedal?

Obviously, the parts have to be connected tightly and the parts that see the most stress should be up to the task.

Honestly, I don’t think there’s much more to do for mankind here – do we really need a design that can be run over by a truck and still work? I mean, who plays gigs involving running their equipment over by trucks? (I’d love to go see this band, though).

Basically, it’s about sticking to the laws of physics. Making sure that the parts stay connected during use.

As for the components, humans don’t even know how long, say, a resistor will last, because they haven’t been around long enough for us to even know.

Some drift or fail, but as a component “species”, they work forever (so far) as long as they don’t run too hot. So staying cool is always preferred.

And then you test, to try and catch the “lemons”.

Maybe if we all stopped kicking those poor circuits they would last longer?

Pedals are about the only piece of delicate electronics that are purposely made to be stomped on all the time. Food for thought.

Is there one type of pedal you feel that you specialize in?

I don’t think we necessarily excel at a certain type of effect, but I do believe we have gotten pretty good at finding the sweet spot between “one trick pony” and “it can also make you a smashing café au lait and take your kids to school”.

Musicians can’t always manage 200 choices at a gig/rehearsal when they feel something ain’t quite right, but a few choice options are quite valuable because you wanna get the music going, not fiddle around for hours on end.

But for a certain effect TYPE, I don’t know. Delay? We’ve had good success with the Replica.

What do you think is your dirtiest pedal of all?

Easy: Michael’s Mudhoney. Or his Soulmate. Both have seen numerous stages and, being Michael’s, it shows. Not even a chisel helps. It’s like a superman mix of beer and epoxy glue.

Even Mike doesn’t know how he did it…

Seriously, I would pick the original Mudhoney. Not in terms of gain levels but in terms of “sound”.

What do you consider to be your niftiest pedal?  The one that strikes you as being most ingenious?

That would probably be the tape echos.

We sort of made them because we couldn’t help ourselves, but I think we managed to incorporate some not-seen-before features, making them not only a fresher version of some long forgotten technology but also something that peeked into the new millennium.

Then there was the Spindoctor, which had motorized pots for preset storage of settings. That was pretty “nifty”.

How has Danish music in general influenced your approach to making guitar pedals?

The Danish music scene has changed a lot, too, since T-Rex started out. I guess it’s not that much different from the rest of the western world.

We can’t ignore the power of “computer music” or the change in gear requirements – it´s been ages since I’ve seen a 4×12 stack in a club, for example.

But that fuels the creativity at the same time, because there´s a need for new gear.

And we’re not about to do another TS clone, so for us, it’s cool.

How often do you sell out of certain products? 

It’s actually a situation that one tries to avoid, because it means you can’t send out products to your distribution chain.

But it has happened many times, mostly because we misplaced our crystal ball that we used to keep track of future orders.

It’s like buying beer kegs for your backyard party – if you don’t know who’ll show up and how much beer they can drink, how will you know how many kegs you need? And again, you definitely don’t wanna run out before midnight.

What do you think are the advantages of being a relatively smaller company in this day and age of mass production?

It’s easier to change a few little things here and there, design-wise or work-wise in the process and the very same developers that created the products are also somewhat involved in the sales/marketing side of things, which creates the glue that holds it all together.

Also, people would be surprised how many hats we all wear here.

We have to, being this small. It makes coming to work a lot more fun, because you can be an R&D guy one day, and a warehouse guy the next.

And this creates a mutual understanding of the whole organization, which I believe is a positive thing.

What do you think keeps certain artists like Martin Gore, Steve Lukather, and Carl Verheyen coming back to T-Rex Effects?

The coffee. It’s shit, but we have loads of it!

No, first of all I think the artist relationships we have ARE based on relationship rather than actual gear.

It’s not like those guys have their cases stuffed with T-Rex gear front to back, but they (and their techs) are always up for checking out our stuff and hear what we’ve got cooking.

And then we show up at shows and give them some support through our channels.

I have to give serious credit to my colleague Michael who is our A&R guy, because I think he manages to keep things on a “friend” level, and I think that is the main reason why guys like those you mention stick around. It’s all very down to earth.

Sure, they play bigger stages than the average guy, but the common interest in the biz, gear or life in general prevails.

And they are just so nice, friendly and helpful on all levels, and that´s the kind of people you want close by, right?

I hope that´s not too far from the truth.

Thanks for the chat!

Visit: http://www.t-rex-effects.com/

What Clean Boost Pedal Does John Mayer Use? – Keeley Katana Clean Boost Pedal Review

If you look at the state of music industry today, you will see that old school rock is slowly crawling its way back into the mainstream. John Mayer is undoubtedly one of the major contributors to this phenomenon.

Even though his music can hardly be categorized strictly as rock, the point still stands. One of the reasons why this is the case is Mayer’s ability to use modern equipment in order to bring back that retro tone.

His gear selection includes a number of awesome pedals, one which is Keeley Katana Clean Boost. Today we are going to check out this bad boy and see just why it is considered to be one of the best, if not the the best clean boost pedal out there.

Keeley Katana Clean Boost Review

Feature Pick

Keeley Katana Pre Amp Guitar Effect Pedal

Buy On Amazon

Clean boost pedals are definitely not the most popular piece of kit these days. For the most part, people are far more interested in using overdrives or even distortions over clean boost.

However, there is a substantial number of guitar players who are sticking with boost pedals in general. After all there is nothing better than pushing the amp so hard it starts biting.

That is something clean boosts do best. Keeley’s Katana offers slightly more than that, though. Even so, whenever it is mentioned the first question that gets asked is why would someone pay that kind of money for a boost pedal?

The answer is simple, because the pedal is insanely good. While there are certainly some tricks to using a clean boost stompbox, it can really make a difference in how your entire rig sounds.


Katana is about as humble as the weapon it was named after. There is nothing flashy about this pedal. You are looking at a standard die cast chassis that features a very clean look.

The finish is snow white and the only thing that breaks up its monotony is the Katana title as well as the Keeley logo at the bottom. In all honesty, that simplicity of design makes pretty attractive.

On a more practical note, you won’t have issues packing this pedal into any pedalboard. all of the ports are exactly where you want them to be. When it comes to durability and build quality, we couldn’t find a single flaw.

These pedals are hand made in USA, making them more than capable of withstanding the horrors of daily use. Just like John Mayer, you shouldn’t run into any issues should you decide to take out your Keeley Katana onstage.


The simplicity of its aesthetics expands to the features as well. There is only one knob on the entire pedal and a footswitch. The knob is used to determine the amount of boost you are adding into the signal.

However, it is a push-pull knob. Once you pull it out, it becomes more aggressive. More on that in the next segment. The real beauty of this pedal is hidden below the surface.

Keeley has designed a very clean and insanely transparent voltage doubling circuit. If you look closely, the pedal operates on the standard 9V power, however the circuit inside doubles that value meaning that you are actually working with 18V.

That translates to massive headroom that is every bit as transparent as you need it to be.


The performance of Keeley’s Katana clean boost is hard to criticize. Everything about the pedal is just great.

Once you link it into your signal chain, you won’t notice it is there until you punch that switch. Even with no boost applied, your signal remains unchanged.

Naturally, when we are dealing with higher end pedals such as this one, true bypass is a must. However, not all of them offer this level of transparency.

The amount of boost Katana delivers is impressive. When you reach for more, you will always get it. Pulling the knob really amps up the boost, which is designed to be used with your amp’s dirty channel.

If you happen to have a good tube amp, or a fairly decent one, Keeley Katana will really push it to its limits. Even so, there are numerous ways you can use this pedal.

Being a clean boost package, you can add some spark to your clean channel without having to worry about tone discoloration or anything similar.

Then again, if you are hunting for a bit of overdrive, there’s enough gain in this circuitry to give you that as well. Keeley’s pedals are always a treat to play around with, but this one is on a whole new level of awesome.

While we might be a little subjective here, we will say that Katana is probably the best clean boost pedal you can score at the moment.


John Mayer’s affinity towards simple effects has left a mark on what we currently consider to be the standard when it comes to tone shaping.

Keeley’s Katana was around for a very long time, but it is arguable that the newly found interest many have for these pedals, has brought it back to the spotlight.

Now, we should address the elephant in the room. This pedal isn’t really cheap. It’s not overly expensive as some guitar effects pedals are, but being a clean boost makes it seem that way to many.

We are going to simply say that it is absolutely worth the investment. Reasons for this are numerous.

We can even put aside the fact that it is a hand made piece of gear and that it is produced domestically in US. Even with that out of the way, it is still worth the price.

For us, it’s all about that transparent boost, tonnes of gain that is easy to handle and most importantly, its clean nature. Where most pedals add a lot but also take something away, Keeley’s Katana only adds.

It doesn’t take away anything from the tone. That a pretty good deal in our book.

MXR M133 Micro Amp Review

MXR M133 Micro Amp review

Clean boost pedals are one of the simplest but ultimately helpful tools you can have as a guitar player. The idea behind a clean boost is to add more gain in your signal chain. Why would anyone want that? Well, there are plenty of reasons. To name a few of the most common ones, a clean boost can push your tube amp into that sweet spot without affect volume. It can also match the volume of different guitars, and lastly, it can give your tone a whole lot of girth that wasn’t available before. The MXR M133 Micro Amp is one of the better pedals of this type.


Design and layout of MXR M133 Micro Amp is incredibly simple. They have used their standard mini chassis for this model. For example, if you were to look at controls, you would find just one knob labeled as Gain. That is all there is to it. Its finish is also pretty simple. As you probably know, MXR is not too big on complex graphics and similar stuff. Instead, they pretty much color code their pedals while using the same logo/labeling pattern they have come up with ages ago. In case of MXR M133, it’s a beige color with a slightly rough texture.

Feature Pick

Mxr M133 Micro Amp

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Build Quality

Good looks might be important to some, but build quality is what you really want to know about. MXR’s pedal bodies were always known to be fairly rugged. After all, it is a die cast piece of pretty thick metal. Putting a serious dent on that would take much more than your feet can do. During a brief period of time, MXR had some troubles with their switches. Whether they used a bad batch or they sourced this component out to a bad manufacturer is unknown, but those switches were terrible. The stuff they use today is much better and goes in line the overall reliability of their pedals. You can easily have MXR 133 on your pedalboard, use it every day in harsh conditions, and have it work next time you push that foot switch. This is a professional piece of kit in every sense of the word.

MXR M133 review


As we have mentioned before, there aren’t many features on MXR M133 Micro Amp. The pedal features a single knob, an input and an output. The only other details worth mentioning is power management. You can use a 9V battery or a power adapter to keep this puppy fed. Aside from that, MXR M133 Micro Amp is one of the simplest and most basic pedals you will run into. As are most clean boosters out there. Let’s talk about its performance as that part of the equation is much more interesting anyway.



Clean boost are a powerful tool to have. They are very versatile, although the type of versatility we are talking about is a bit different. MXR M133 Micro Amp perfectly describes what a proper clean boost pedal should be like. The gain it infuses into the signal is extremely pure. You can easily use it on a clean channel and get no negative side effects. Speaking of which, if you were to pair the M133 with a proper tube amp, it could push those valves into that subtle overdrive.

However, the real fun starts when you pair this pedal with a good dirty channel. All you have to do is find a value of gain that isn’t an overkill and you are in for a world of fun. The first thing you will notice is the amount of added girth. Leads feel much thicker without there being more distortion. You just feel more weight to the tone. One good way to isolate the effect is to drop a couple of blues riffs. Rhythm is not the only area that gets better. Arguably, solos have much more to gain from a proper clean boost pedal.

Another thing that clean boost does, especially MXR M133 Micro Amp, is shaping up the performance of passive pickups. By hooking this pedal into your signal chain, you can get passive humbuckers to sound fairly hot, almost resembling an active setup. In other words, you can gain access to that active tone without losing any of the expression ability a set of passive pickups inherently have. In the right set of hands, this can turn out to be pretty effective.

If these words aren’t enough, watch this video demo of the MXR Micro Amp Boost Pedal from ProGuitarShopDemos to get a better feel for how this pedal sounds.


At the end of the day, MXR M133 Micro Amp is a much more impressive pedal that it appears to be. In the world of sledgehammers, it is a fine tuned scalpel. Many guitar players, especially those who are new to the world of guitar effects, have a hard time understanding what’s so great about clean boosters. If you are in that group, do yourself a favor and try this pedal out. It might just be the missing link you were looking for. In fact, Jack White’s discography offers all the proof you will ever need regarding what clean boost pedals can do. He has virtually mastered this particular effect, making it an integral part of his very unique tone.

young coconut musician

MXR MC401 Review

MXR MC401 Review

Today we review the MXR MC401.  The MXR MC401 is a simple and responsive boost/line driver pedal that was created by Bob Bradshaw. This man is the artist behind the artists, and, in fact, it’s not a secret that he designed entire pedalboards for bigger artists like Dinosaur Jr., The Black Keys, Queens of the Stone Age and many more. He has been doing that now for over 30 years and the funny part is he mostly drew these rigs by hand and didn‘t use a PC or any software. Of course, his special sauce is not available for everyone, and god knows else he’s using for the pros, yet the line driver/boost element is a part of almost any pedal or rig that he builds nowadays. More on that later.

Feature Pick

Jim Dunlop Mc401 Mxr Boost/ Line Driver

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MXR MC401 Basics

Usually a pedal is instantly judged by how it looks, or if it has a lot of fine tuning options and knobs – but this pedal is different. There is no “Okay now what?”  You probably don‘t even need to read the fucking manual.

There is one knob, no gimmicky things, and there is no equalizer… and yet the pedal invites you to experiment like no other. Sounds stupid? I call it SAB which stands for “simple and bulletproof” – Don‘t underestimate it, it is really versatile. Even I didn‘t realize at first just how many things could be done with this one knob wonder.

mxr MC401 boost pedal

Line Driver – How It Works, Why It Works

Let‘s start with the “Line Driver”. Essentially the “Line Driver” in this pedal is a circuit that will benefit everyone using long cables, a lot of pedals, or both. It will freshen up the signal that goes out of the pedal to the amp in a way that signal loss becomes a thing of the past. Careful with your ears though. It might get really loud if you turn this pedal up!

Signal loss occurs with a lot of pedals, even with true bypass you get a loss in the frequencies if the chain is long enough and you dampen the highs and the freshness of the signal.  In other words, your pure sound after the signal chain of pedals and cables will sound lifeless and eventually even bad.

You all know that awesome guitarist at a gig that just doen‘t have any clarity but dances on the pedals the entire gig. You wanna just jump on the stage and hand him over this thing, to clear things up. This pedal will totally make it easy for you because you will never have to think about it again!

Here’s a quick video demo of the MXR MC401.

MXR MC401 Review – Continued

Ah, but it doesn’t stop there.  The most obvious use is to use it as a classic boost to get more gain or natural overdrive out of an amp.  You can also use a boost to even out the loudness between guitars. A single coil guitar is usually a lot more quiet than a humbucker guitar.  If you’re using a single coil guitar like a Telecaster and a humbucker guitar like a Gibson Les Paul this is very useful, because you can get the same amount of loudness if you adjust the volume for the single coil guitar. Suddenly switching a guitar in a set won’t make you go unheard.

Many big rock legends use a boost to drive the input stage (V1) so they get a natural and sweet crunch out of the amp. You can drive your Vox AC15/30 to its sweet-spot where it sounds great and the amp pushes the preamp and the output stage which results in that golden tone, even if you further add some reverb or delay, you get this delicious and expensive sound that just wanna makes you eat the speakers if you have a good tube amp. It’s simply not possible without. And, how much you add is up to you. You could also just crank it up to stand out with super loud solos.


Pump Up The Volume!

Add this pedal behind your more quiet pedals to make em loud! Bring em up in the mix. Some pedals like phasers, delays and fuzzes can cut the volume a bit down. So you hit the phaser in the chorus and suddenly you are more quiet. The bassist in your band gives you that look and you just smile it off like nothing happened.

Now get this badboy behind these very same pedals, set the volume to the loudness that you desire, play a bit around and you can revive older pedals. I tested this and this is one of the reasons that this pedal is like 99% of the time enabled in my rig. The only time i turn it off might be when i finished the gig. Oh, and it also works great in front of a volume pedal which suffers from signal loss too.

It doesnt change your tone, the signal stays clear, loud and proud all of the time. What it changes though – you get an extra bunch of clarity that will make you stand out . It also works beautifully on acoustic guitars, who knows what else you can do with it, maybe you find other viable situations where you can use this pedal and it’s very sturdy so it wont let you down.

Here’s me with my band screwing around with the pedal.  Rough but fun to play with. 

Highly recommended.