Music Industry How To is supported by readers. When you buy via a link on our site, we’ll possibly earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.
The guitar is already cool on its own, but there’s no denying that guitar pedals have their own cool factor. These little devices can color the guitar’s tone to taste, sometimes completely changing its entire sonic picture.
Many worthwhile guitar pedals that you could put to good use can be found for under $100. Whether you’re a beginner or a longtime player, give the following pedals a good looking over for your own rig.
MXR M102 Dyna Comp – Best Overall
You wouldn’t initially think it, but the Dyna Comp is one of the most famous compressors in guitar pedal history. Since the 1970s, the Dyna Comp has been enjoyed by the likes of David Gilmour, Eric Johnson, and many more.
The Dyna Comp will thicken up your tone and provide more sustain, proving especially useful for single-coil pickup-equipped guitars. It’s part of the reason why so many country guitar players have used it in the past.
TC Electronic Ditto – Best Premium
You simply won’t find another loop pedal at this price point that offers the ease of use the Ditto provides. Loop pedals are especially useful for practicing improvisation and for writing guitar parts.
The pedal has a few simple sequences that allow you to record loops on the fly, stacking as you go. There’s a reason why it has maintained a high reputation ever since it was released in 2013.
TC Electronic Spark Mini – Best Budget
Are you on a budget but looking for a little aid in pushing your tube amp to the goldilocks zone? The TC Electronic Spark Mini (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) could be the secret tool you’ve always needed.
This boost pedal can be utilized in so many different ways depending on what you need it for. Its simplicity cannot be overstated, having 1 knob (level) to provide a boost in volume of up to 20dB.
It has 2 modes (momentary or latching), providing more flexibility than you might have thought possible from a boost pedal. Plus, one of the best aspects (aside from price and capability) is that it comes in a miniature sizing.
JHS 3 Series Harmonic Tremolo
Tremolo might have had widespread use in 1960s soul music, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used today. If I’m being honest, upon this pedal’s release, it has been one of my go-to pedals.
2 modes of operation provide a standard tremolo, as well as a “harmonic” mode emulating vintage Fender amps. Whether subtle or extreme, slow or fast, tremolo can provide that magic touch of motion you’ve been looking for.
An EQ pedal is often overlooked, despite being a crucially important tool for shaping a guitar’s tone. The MXR M109S (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is both affordable and more than capable of getting the job done.
This pedal has a rugged housing with a simplistic design featuring a 6-band graphic interface. If you’ve ever played around with the settings on a car stereo’s physical EQ graphic interface, you’ll feel at home.
The M109S can be useful in just about any position in the signal chain you might put it. Many use it to shape the tonal characteristics of their overdrive/distortion pedals.
TC Electronic Sub ‘N' Up Mini
This mini pedal has the capability to provide pitches that are both an octave above or below the played pitch. It utilizes note-tracking that is extremely accurate in translating the pitches to the appropriate octaves.
How good is the tracking? You can utilize TC Electronic’s TonePrint mobile app to broadcast custom settings through the guitar’s pickup.
In the pedal’s tone analysis, it will decode the signal and change the pedal’s settings unique to the TonePrint setting. This also expands the pedal’s capabilities far beyond what’s initially provided out of the box.
Chorus has gone through phases over the years of being popular or completely unpopular. Today, it’s worth having if you’re a fan of a quasi-rotary speaker sound or that signature watery Nirvana tone.
For the price, this analog chorus pedal offers a massive amount of controls, including stereo output. This is more than capable of recreating all of those watery tones from the past records you know and love.
MXR M193 GT-OD
The M193 GT-OD is modeled after the legendary Ibanez Tube Screamer, though some feel it is a superior choice. In comparison, this pedal has a bit more crunch and pairs well with other overdrive pedals.
Despite having a similar interface and color design, the M193 GT-OD is often overlooked compared to other overdrive pedals. Try one out and you might wonder why this doesn’t have as much widespread use.
Ernie Ball 6180 VP JR 250K
You would be surprised at how effective and tasteful the effect of a volume swell can actually be. When combined with a delay or reverb, this signature effect becomes increasingly elevated.
Whether you want to be ambient, mimic a steel guitar, or control your rig’s volume, give this a shot. It does have a large footprint, but the pedalboard real estate it takes up is worth it.
MXR M101 Phase 90
Out of all the phaser pedals on the market, none is more famous or legendary than the Phase 90. The MXR M101 Phase 90 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is today’s current iteration of the classic design.
This is a very simplistic pedal, offering only 1 knob to control the speed of the phaser effect. No matter how you choose to use it, you’ll undoubtedly reap tones you have probably grown up enjoying.
The Phase 90 is most famous for being in Eddie Van Halen’s rig, as well as that of David Gilmour’s. Utilize one yourself to create your own iconic tone that will stand the test of time.
Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Pi
There are times when a standard overdrive or distortion pedal can’t quite cut the mustard. In these instances, consider reaching for something like the Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Pi (see price on Sweetwater, Guitar Center).
The original Big Muff Pi completely revolutionized the fuzz effect, cementing its place as a legendary pedal. As its name suggests, the Nano Big Muff Pi is a miniature version of the original.
That means you get to reap the surprisingly wide range of tones without the associated pedal size or price. Whether emulating a fat, crunchy synthesizer, or something completely abrasive, the Nano Big Muff Pi has you covered.
Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini
As its name suggests, the Tube Screamer Mini is a pared-down version of the original Tube Screamer circuitry. Just by looking at it, you’ll notice that the only real difference in build is related to its overall size.
Slap this on your board and you’ll get the same great sounds as you would from a TS9. This just happens to be a little more inexpensive, which is a win-win all around.
TC Electronic BonaFide
The BonaFide will help to condition your signal to the proper levels so no tone loss happens. This not only maintains volume levels but emulates a direct connection to the amplifier without anything in the path.
What To Look For When Buying Guitar Pedals Under $100
For those who have never bought a guitar pedal before, you might be baffled about what to look for. Just because you’re on a tighter budget doesn’t mean that you don’t want the most value for your money.
Take the following points into consideration when you are doing research for the particular pedal you want. These basic concepts can help aid you in any guitar pedal-related purchase in the future.
Before you throw that money down on the counter, you better know exactly what the guitar pedal can do. There is a massive range of different types of effects, which generally fall into the categories of:
- Filters (EQ, envelope filters, synth pedals, octaves)
- Utility pedals (tuner, EQ, compressor)
- Modulation (phaser, chorus, flanger, tremolo)
- Time-based (delay, reverb)
It’s easy to become side-tracked by falling into the rabbit hole of what different pedals can do. Try to stay focused on the exact need you are seeking a solution for.
If you don’t have any pedals, first consider the essentials with regard to what you might use the most. Most guitarists tend to spring for an overdrive/distortion pedal or tuner pedal as their first pedal.
You must take the time to go to a shop and demo each pedal for yourself. Don’t feel shy, guitar shops will encourage you to bring your own guitar in and try out different pedals.
If you feel like you’re not good enough to demo pedals, you can always ask another guitarist with more skills. Regardless, savor the experience, because trying out different pedals is one of the most enjoyable aspects of buying new gear.
An important thing to always keep in mind is the size of the pedal itself. Pedalboards are notorious for having just slightly less room than you wish was available.
However, at $100 or less, guitar pedals are either standard or miniature-sized. Mini pedals do usually offer the same functionality as standard-sized pedals.
Because the scope of this article has a clearly defined budget of $100, we won’t digress much on overspending. However, it’s important to note that buying used pedals will save you quite a bit of extra money.
When buying used, you’ll often find that pedals that were outside of your budget are now affordable. Do your due diligence in ensuring that each used pedal is in working condition with a preferable cosmetic condition.
Best Brands For Guitar Pedals Under $100
There are more guitar pedal manufacturers today than perhaps at any other time in history. If you’ve never seriously looked at a guitar pedal, you might feel overwhelmed about knowing where to start.
In these cases, it’s best to familiarize yourself with some of the name brands that have established reputations. More often than not, boutique pedals take inspiration from legendary pedals created by reputable companies.
Buying used means that, if you don’t like the pedal, you can sell it for the price you paid. Selling a pedal you bought new will usually always result in a loss of resale value.
MXR has origins dating back to the early 1970s, creating some iconic pedals that have withstood the test of time. One major plus about MXR is that the company’s legendary pedals are all usually relatively affordable.
For instance, MXR is famous for its Dyna Comp compressor, chorus pedal, and the Phase 90 phaser. All of these have played significant roles in famous records and can be had for an affordable price.
Electro-Harmonix is one of the oldest guitar pedal manufacturers still around that hasn’t been bought by another company. Since 1968, EHX has been at the forefront of innovation, playing a role in the most cutting-edge music recorded.
One of the best things about EHX is that many of their pedals tend to remain quite affordable. The company’s line of fuzz and delay pedals have remained as iconic as the day they were originally released.
Best Guitar Pedals Under $100, Final Thoughts
There are guitar pedals available at just about any price point you’re willing to spend. If this article illustrates anything, it hopefully conveys that a fortune doesn’t need to be spent for a good tone.
As with anything, make sure you take your time to try each pedal out for yourself in a guitar shop. You can get a good feel for how a pedal truly operates while simultaneously supporting your local music community.