Guitar Pedals that Work Great with Synths

Guitar Pedals that Work Great with Synths

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Synths are awesome! But you are already well aware of this, that’s why you are currently here reading. And if you are like many other synth lovers out there, you probably love effects. A delay or reverb can take your pads and poly stuff to another level. And what’s a synth bass without a little drive? You get the picture, effects and synths are a match made in heaven.

While most effect pedals were designed for guitars/basses, almost all of them can work on synths as well. Now, you can definitely run into some issues doing this. And not all stompboxes will be as accommodating to synths as others. Below I have laid out a few pedals that will be excellent for use with synths. Maybe you have thought about adding some dedicated effects to your setup, or maybe you already have, either way, these selections will work great for you.  

 

Delays

A delay pedal is a great place to start building out your synth effects. There are plenty of ways to utilize echo to elevate your synth rig. Quick delays can be used for doubling effects while longer delays can make more ambient and lush textures. But, regardless of whether these uses sound appealing to you, I am certain that every synth player can find some application for this effect.

When choosing a specific delay pedal for yourself there are plenty of good options. Most any delay is going to play quite nicely with synth sounds. However, there are a couple of things that you can look for to take full advantage of. First and foremost, stereo. While no you don’t need stereo effects for them to sound great, it does take things to another level. If you are playing through a single speaker this won’t matter to you, but for headphones and other stereo setups, you will not want to miss out.

Another thing to look out for with delays is ones that let you run things at line level. This option usually signifies that the pedal was made with synths or similar instruments in mind. With the line level on, you will not have to worry about volume nearly as much. Delays that have this feature often do get up there in price but offer plenty of other great features in return. With the more expansive delay units like this, they can even include MIDI in and out. So, if you are syncing up a large setup, you will benefit from going with one of these larger options. Not to mention that the delay types and control over those types is greatly increased over many other units.

Below I have listed my top budget and best all-around pick for delays pedals.

  • Boss DD-8 - $159.9
    • Pros:
      • Has 10 high-quality delay engines
      • It’s full stereo
      • Built like a tank
      • Has a looper
      • Quick and easy to dial-in
    • Cons:
      • No line level option
  • Strymon Timeline - $449.00
    • Pros:
      • Has 12 of the best delay engines out there
      • It’s stereo
      • Has a line-level option
      • Has MIDI I/O
      • Contains 200 preset options
      • Too many more pros more to mention here
    • Cons:
      • It’s $449

Reverbs

Perhaps just as useful (if not more) than delays are reverbs. The combination of delay and reverb is where you really start to gain the ability to make rich soundscapes. If you have any desire to form pads or create atmospheres, you need to be taking advantage of these two effects in conjunction.

The range of reverb stretches to everything from open rooms down to the most subtle spaces. You can make your keys sound like they are in the middle of a cathedral or in a tight room with little reflections (to an extent). With many synths, you may very well already have some of these spaces covered. Yet, even if your synth already has built-in reverb(s), you still will likely be able to benefit from getting a dedicated effect box. Reverb engines like reverse, shimmer, gated, and many others are all going to add a massive amount of new textures to your rig. While getting multiple engines like this is, of course, going to be a more expensive purchase, it is still worth it for many individuals. However, something like a single type spring reverb pedal might not be the best buy if you already have some verbs in your synth.

When looking for a reverb pedal to use with synths, basically all the same things apply as with delay pedals. Below I have listed my top budget and best all-around pick for reverbs.

  • TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 - $148.99
    • Pros:
      • All 8 verbs sound great
      • The shimmer setting is very well dialed in
      • Nice and simple design
      • It is full stereo
      • Contains 3 TonePrint slots
    • Cons:
      • No line level option
  • Source Audio Ventris - $399.00
    • Pros:
      • Input 1 can be line level
      • It is full stereo
      • Has a lot of engines to choose from
      • Has MIDI I/O
      • Superb spring and ambient verbs
      • For how much it can do the layout is simple
    • Cons:
      • Could have more preset slots

Modulation

Choruses, flangers, phasers, vibe pedals and many more all fall into this category. Basically, modulation is any pedal that is altering the pitch of the signal to create the desired effect. There are plenty of very nice artful uses for these, but you can also go straight to out of tune warbly sounds. In the synth world, chorus has the most impact and notoriety of all the mod effect types. Dating back to several vintage synths, chorus has been used on synth sounds for decades now. But even flangers and phasers are used quite often and can create some pretty unique and interesting tones.

When looking to pick-up your first modulation pedal for your synth it is kind of hard to go wrong. You would be hard-pressed to find a mod effect that would not work well with a synth. The best practice for most is going to be to listen to the types of modulation and picking out what you like the most. While they will react differently than with a guitar you can still get a good sense of what the effect sounds like. Additionally, you can usually find someone using the pedal on a synth.

For these picks, I’ve chosen to go with some multi-effect options, this way you can have all the modulation in one unit. Below I have listed my top budget and best all-around pick for modulation.

  •  Deadbeat Sound Modulation Station - $99.99
    • Pros:
      • Has 11 mod effects
      • Has a very synth-like look
      • Great ring mod inside
      • Very fair price
    • Cons:
      • It’s not stereo
      • Some of the effects sound better than others
  • Strymon Mobius - $449.00
    • Pros:
      • Contains fantastic representations of every mod you could want
      • Also has some great propriety effects
      • It’s full stereo
      • Has MIDI I/O
      • You can dive in and deep edit
      • The presets are great
    • Cons:
      • It’s $449.00

Other Pedals

Delays, reverbs, and modulations are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to synth effects. Almost any guitar pedal will be able to work with a synth to some degree. The main ones I have not mentioned yet are things like filters and gain pedals. Be warned! These pedals are where the volume problems I mentioned early can arise. And very few gain pedals will have a line level switch to make things easy. But, don’t fret too much, all you have to do is be careful the first few times and then you will learn how to dial in the volume appropriately. 

The list of pedals can go on forever, so I am not going to waste your time. Just keep in mind that any of the effects a guitar uses can also be put on synths.


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