ProGuitarShop

7 Space Saving Micro Pedals

January 17, 2017

Written by PGS Staff

The pedalboards of the world have become dangerously overcrowded. With pedal companies multiplying like wet mogwai and pedal geekery spreading like a virus from every dark corner of the Internet, it's really no wonder. If pedalboards were like densely populated cities, the problem could be solved by expanding them upward, but this is a less than practical solution (for obvious reasons), and no one really wants to see their pedalboard turn into some kind of towering, overstuffed Kowloon Walled City. The only realistic solution, as I see it, is to make the pedals tinier. Apparently, I'm not the only one who has come to this conclusion, as the world of guitar effects has been positively inundated with microscopic pedals over the last several years. Despite their size, many of these pedals have all the features of larger units, but squeezed into a much more compact box. However, the best and most useful of these micro pedals are often very simple and utilitarian devices, like tuners, buffers, and clean boosts. These kinds of pedals typically have few, or no, controls, and are more like general-purpose tools than vehicles for creativity. They are ideally suited to the tiny format, both because they are simple and lack complex controls, and because few guitarists are willing to swap out a favorite full-sized overdrive, fuzz, or delay just to save a little space. Guitarists tend to get particularly attached to those kinds of pedals, and because they are used often and settings are tweaked frequently, the itty-bitty knobs of a micro version would be especially unsuitable. This is not always the case, of course, but in picking out a few of my favorite micro pedals, I did notice that most of them were of the sensible and serviceable, rather than sexy, variety. Without further ado, here are a handful (literally) of my favorite micro pedals.

TC Electronic Polytune 2 Mini


A miniature pedal enclosure is the perfect home for a straightforward, no-nonsense pedal tuner, and TC's Polytune 2 Mini is that and then some. There's really no reason that a stage tuner should have to be any larger than this. It features TC's amazing polyphonic tuning technology, which lets you strum all the strings at once, while the pedal's highly visible LED display lets you know which strings are out of whack. It also has a standard chromatic tuning mode, and a super accurate (± 0.1 cent) strobe tuner mode that is plenty precise for setup and intonation adjustments. It's also great for dropped tunings and capo tuning. It features true bypass switching and a tiny price tag to match its footprint.

Outlaw Effects Lock Stock & Barrel Distortion


The Lock Stock & Barrel from Outlaw Effects packs a surprising variety of classic big amp tones into a pocket-sized box. With three modes that cover the tube-flavored dirt spectrum, from naturally driven cranked-amp tones, to classic rock crunch, to tight, modern chunk, the LS&B can fulfill just about any need one might have for burly rock sounds. Outlaw Effects pedals are all analog, ruggedly built, and feature true bypass switching, and when considered in tandem with the feast of useful tones generated by this micro distortion box, the LS&B's 49-dollar price tag seems like an insane bargain. Get one.


SolidGoldFX Buffer

Almost every guitarist with a pedalboard of any size can benefit from a good buffer, especially if that pedalboard is loaded down with all true bypass pedals, or alternately, a pedal or two that have poor quality buffered bypass. Either situation can leave one's tone a bit dull and weak as it enters the amplifier's input, and a high-quality buffer, like this one from SolidGoldFX, is perfect for restoring power and liveliness. Because a buffer is a simple, always-on device with no controls, it's perfectly suited to the micro pedal format. Several companies have mini buffers in their product line, but I like this one from SolidGoldFX. It's small, inexpensive, sounds great, and is even available in a Custom Shop “Maple Leaf” version, perfect for Canadaphiles (or actual Canadians).


Xotic Effects EP Booster

Most pedalboards house a boost of some kind. Many of these are simple designs, usually with just one knob, for "more." In most cases, there's no reason a boost pedal such as this should be much larger than the space required to comfortably house a single knob and footswitch. The EP Booster from Xotic Effects is an excellent example of this marriage of functionality and wise space management. Its 1.5-inch-wide enclosure houses a 20-decibel clean booster based on the preamplifier circuitry of the Maestro EP-3 Echoplex, with a single knob and a single footswitch on the face. The pedal also features two internal DIP switches; one for switching between a flat EQ setting and one with extra high-end sparkle, and another for selecting whether the fully counter-clockwise knob position is set at zero or plus-three decibels. It's a remarkable sounding pedal, and its size and price should appeal to every tone-loving pragmatist with a lack of precious pedalboard real estate.


Dunlop Fuzz Face Mini

Have you ever looked inside of a full-sized Fuzz Face? If you have, the first time was probably quite a shock, right? As it turns out, there's hardly anything inside of that big-ass flying saucer shaped enclosure. You could probably pack a lunch inside there and still have some room left over for chewing gum. Apparently, the crew at Dunlop took notice of this and decided that they could probably do well by putting the thing in a more pedalboard-friendly flying saucer shaped enclosure, which they have done with the Fuzz Face Mini. It is about 3.5 inches around, comes in Germanium, Silicon, and Band of Gypsys versions, and features a status LED, DC power jack, true bypass switching, correctly-oriented jacks and a battery door, which pretty much solves all of the issues anyone ever had with the Fuzz Face. Get the germanium one.


TC Electronic Flashback Mini

TC is kicking ass at the micro pedal game, and the Flashback Mini is just one of several examples of the company's dominance. While it's probably too limited for real delay nuts, it's perfect for the more casual delay user who just needs one great general purpose delay sound for most gigs. On its face are controls for Feedback, Delay, and FX Level, and it features TC's audio tapping technology for setting delay tempo—just like the bigger Flashback—that is engaged by holding down the footswitch and strumming in time. It is TonePrint enabled, which means you can quickly download (or Beam, with TC's smartphone app) new sounds all up in it to suit your fancy. Switching between delay sounds necessitates downloading or beaming a new TonePrint, which is inconvenient if you switch tones a lot, but for players who just need one good tone for most of what they do, the Flashback Mini is a big winner. It's a superb space and money-saving device, as well as a very inspirational tone tool.


Xvive V8 Chorus/Vibrato


This tiny, all-analog pedal from Xvive combines warm, viscous true-pitch vibrato and chorus in one pedal, with a blend knob that musically morphs between the two effects as the user turns the knob from left, where the vibrato resides, to right, where chorus lives. Blending the warbly tones of the vibrato with the lush, glassy chorus can result in some truly unique modulation sounds, and the V8's speed and depth knobs offer a wide range of control, from slow and seasick, to rapid-fire psychedelia. Xvive is helmed by Chief Designer Howard Davis, of Electro-Harmonix and Pigtronix fame, and the company's design team also includes Ray Heasman, who worked on the Pigtronix Echolution 2 Deluxe and Infinity Looper, so it's no wonder Xvive's micro effects are a few notches above the rest.

Comments

  1. Pete Staines says:

    Some nice pedals in there, but be wary of small cheap pedals. I’ve done some research for you and some are complete crap in terms of sound and reliability (Biyang baby boom, Mooer Shimverb…)

    posted on January 17, 2017 at 11:00 am
  2. Neutral Observer says:

    Hi Pete, sorry to say that your ‘research’ is completely off. The Biyang Baby Booms are among the most well-made Chinese pedals, with the Compressor being much more silent than the MXR Dyna Comp it’s based on.

    Mooer Shimverb lacks the true octave up required for a Shimmer mode, as it only does 5ths, which isn’t what we associate with Shimmer. Build-wise, my Mooers have actually outlived my boutiques.

    Anyways, the Outlaw FX pedals featured here (and perhaps the Xvive?) are made in OEM factories in China. Perhaps a touch lower than the quality of Biyang and Mooer, which are excellent. I had to return an entire shipment of Outlaw FX back to the States as some were hissy. Hope this has been rectified with the newer batches.

    posted on January 17, 2017 at 12:59 pm
  3. Alex Breyer says:

    I have to say, I wish you would feature more of the Mooer pedals. I’ve really enjoyed the few I’ve tried. The build seems to be sturdy. The sounds seem really nice. I won’t pretend that everything they make is excellent, but especially for someone starting out with limited knowledge and budget for trying out everything, they really are a nice option. And they are really offering such a full lineup of options, getting more creative by the year. I have the Funky Monkey (okay), the Trelicopter (pretty great), and the Pure Boost — which is so great I’d put it up against several boutique models. Curious about their LoFi Machine and Micro Drummer.

    posted on January 17, 2017 at 2:19 pm
  4. Jeff says:

    My 2 cents, having worked hard to build a complete but compact board for several years now.  Connectors alone can make a difference when used right (twin-male connectors instead of cables).  Dunlop’s new Volume X Mini is awesome and deserves mention.  I’ve tried all the small Xotic pedals and actually the one I liked most was the SP compressor which I know lotsa folks use.  But for boost I prefer the new Wampler dB+ over the EP.

    posted on January 17, 2017 at 4:08 pm
  5. Stratowhore says:

    Nice article and pedals, but all this is a bit late for those who have already bought normal-size pedals that satisfy their sonic urges. Was it really worth writing, except to advertise some nice pedals (I do have a couple of TC tune mini tuners, BTW)?

    posted on January 17, 2017 at 7:37 pm
  6. Steven says:

    Small pedals are perfect for adding some more sounds to a cramped pedalboard. I´m using the Xotic Mini Fuzzydrive, One Control Sonic Blue Twanger, Henretta Octopuss and TC Mini Polytune on my board along with other bigger pedals. But I think its a lot easyer to use mini pedals if you have a switcher of some kind. I´m using the MusicomEfxIII.

    posted on January 17, 2017 at 8:59 pm
  7. Stratowhore says:

    Steven:

    True dat. I just bought the MXR Phase 95 and the Xotic SL Overdrive, but for their sounds rather than their size. Mini pedals, lke the Phase 95, often have those small, small buttons that you could never find with your foot so your comment makes a lot of sense. I’m a home player and have lower back issues (I’m 63), so I keep the main part of my board raised to about waist high, like a key board, and adjust pedals by hand as needed. Of course wahs are on the floor and hooked in with a 3’ cable. This way I can alternate playing/ practicing while standing or sitting without undue spinal strain.

    posted on January 17, 2017 at 9:11 pm
  8. tomc says:

    Just want to put in a good word for the SolidGoldFX Buffer. Have had that pedal on my board for years. Great! Also have their Rosie pedal, covers all sorts of fuzz sounds in one pedal. Love their stuff!

    posted on January 17, 2017 at 11:45 pm
  9. Mark Huizenga says:

    You folks forgot the Cusack More Louder. Plus, Cusack offers a whole line of mini “never off” pedals meant to function with a switching system, including the worlds smallest modulated tap tempo delay!!

    posted on January 18, 2017 at 2:03 am
  10. CranioVoid says:

    I just bought and am in the process of setting up a pedal board made entirely of minis! I’ve got something to cover almost every base. A lot of TC’s, a couple of Hotones, and others, but the most impressive in “effect” and subtlety is a BBE Sonic Stomp Mini. Makes everything just so much fuller! Here’s another article that covers a lot more than here…http://www.musicradar.com/news/guitars/31-of-the-best-mini-guitar-effects-pedals-630816

    posted on January 18, 2017 at 7:10 am
  11. Peter Mahoney says:

    I can’t help but notice that in this article about space saving pedals, every one of them has the connections on the sides, forcing you to allow space for the jacks. Whether you use straight jacks (!), right angle jacks, compact right angle jacks or male to male connectors, you can not mount these pedals on your board with them placed tightly against each other. I have pedals by Caroline Guitar and EarthQuaker Devices that have all the connections on the rear of the pedal, so they can be packed tightly. OK, they may be fairly wide pedals (about 3.5 inches each), but even my Rainger FX ‘Dr Freakenstein’s Dwarf’, at about 1 7/8”, has all four connections on the rear of the pedal.
    So why do pedal designers insist on squandering our precious board space with side mounted jacks? Do they really think that their ‘Super Duper’ pedal is the only one we have on stage?!?

    posted on January 18, 2017 at 2:02 pm
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