Ten Stompboxes That Changed Our Music

December 7, 2013

Effects pedals are our drug. We’re surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of different stompboxes here at PGS and we don’t even carry everything there is to carry! However, there are a few definitive units that changed popular music forever once they got into the hands of some creative guitarists. Today in the corner, we tip our hat to these iconic pedals and the artists who turned them into legendary (mythic, even!) pieces of gear.


Arbiter Fuzz Face - Jimi Hendrix

An unstoppable experimenter, Hendrix picked up a Fuzz Face when he arrived in England in the late '60s and, said as modestly as possible, the world was never the same. With his incredible chops and creativity, Hendrix put fuzz in the forefront of rock music and it has stayed there ever since. 



Digitech WH-1 Whammy – Tom Morello

When Tom Morello showed up on the scene in '92, the world finally understood what the Whammy was for. The pedal had been on the market a couple years already but hadn't made a huge splash -- that is until Morello, half shredder half DJ, put the Whammy to work in incredibly inventive ways and cemented a place for himself in the pantheon of badass guitarists. 



EHX Electric Mistress – Andy Summers

In a sea of gritty, dirty, overdriven rock n roll, Andy Summers stood out by keeping it clean. His masterful clean tones, enhanced by the EHX Electric Mistress flanger, filled the space in the songs of the Police and redefined what guitar could do/be in a power trio. 



EHX Deluxe Memory Man – Edge

A man known almost as much for what he doesn't play as for what he does, the Edge practically made his Deluxe Memory Man a fifth member of the band-- pushing and pulling against the delay times to create textured rhythms that came to completely define the sound of one of the biggest bands in the world. 



Ibanez TS9 – Stevie Ray Vaughan

Before the Klon, tone purists everywhere spent their nickels and dimes on hunting down the fabled TS-808 thanks to its masterful use by Texas bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughan. SRV upgraded to a TS-9 for a slightly grittier tone with tons of midrange and bite, which led to almost everyone adding this green machine to their board at some point or another. 



Maestro FZ 1A Fuzz Tone – Rolling Stones

This, one would hope, needs no explanation. 



Musitronics Mu-Tron III – Bootsy Collins

With the Mu-Tron III, Bootsy took the electric bass, previously considered only a foundation instrument, and put it in the spotlight. Under Bootsy, bass was a solo instrument capable of taking center stage in any jam. 



MXR Phase 90 – EVH

The brown sound has both been a) dissected to death  and  b) a mystery that can never quite be cracked. In addition to using the purest, most saturated tube amp distortion ever, Eddie added just a smidge of slow, swirling phase to his signal to thicken things up and provide some sonic dimension to his signature sound, often imitated but never, ever duplicated. 



Sola Sound Tone Bender MK II – Jimmy Page

Page asked Roger Mayer to help him get more sustain from his guitar and this is what they came up with-- the sound that launched (literally) millions of guitar players and is still pretty much untoppable. Even Jack White and the Edge can't wipe the grins off their faces watching Page play through this box.



Vox King Wah – Curtis Mayfield

When 'wah' left trumpeteers behind for the greener pastures of electric guitar, it was mainly used in rock and blues soloing. Enter Curtis Mayfield and his guitarist, Craig McMullen, who turned the wah into an indispensable part of the soul/funk lexicon. #brownchickenbrowncow




  1. Abbacus says:

    Golden gear, wa wa wa, golden gear, nothin’s gonna stop you with this golden gear.

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 10:21 am
  2. mrbluebass says:

    The first time I heard a wah wah pedal was Cream at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit.

    I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 12:30 pm
  3. Chris says:

    You did die. You were in Detroit.

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 12:35 pm
  4. ADHDguitarist says:

    David Gilmour… Big Muff, EXH Electric Mistress, Phase 90, and pretty much anything to do with delay

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 12:42 pm
  5. blaine says:

    Thanks for laying out my new pedal board.  So after 40 years - this is still about all one needs.  Funny to then look at the Effects tab and realzie there’s well over 200 pedals list and the selection listed above can still do it better than most.

    Sometimes its hard to make improve on something that is already perfect.

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 1:40 pm
  6. Ivan says:

    Totally agree with ADHDguitarist: where’s David Gilmour?

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm
  7. Rowdymoon says:

    How about Kurt Cobain and the Electro-Harmonix - Small Clone - Chorus pedal.

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 2:13 pm
  8. Misisipi Mike says:

    Even though this list is heavy on the classic rock, Waylon Jenning’s use of the Phase 90 should me mentioned here too. Go to any message board that talks about fundamental pedals for country guitar and a phaser will be listed almost every time.

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 3:52 pm
  9. Alan Veil says:

    Fripp & Summers’ did 2 albums together that were really great. I’ve always loved that Summers could play so well w/out ever relying on distortion. Of course, he didn’t do many solos, but he put the sound of the music before his ego, and the sound of that trio was best served by his excellent rhythm playing. I’m a big fan of clean sounds, and I really love Summer’s sound. I like my dirt, too, I just think it has more power when used sparingly. I might have to check out that EHX Electric Mistress. For some reason, I thought he used a chorus mainly, not a flange. I think the LP called “I advance Masked” (I believe that’s the title) was the better of the 2 collaborations between these two masters, but both were great. I had them on vinyl, so it’s been awhile! This is a bit off-topic, but another great collaboration LP (from a similar time frame) came from Brian Eno & David Byrne with their masterpiece “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.” That album is about 30 years old but still sounds very innovative & novel today—much like Bowie’s collaborations w/Eno from even earlier (LOW, HEROES, & LODGER). Eno always seems to have the greatest synths & effects, & comes-up with amazing ways of sequencing them.

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 4:47 pm
  10. Topsy Krett says:

    We have 3 fuzzes listed (and why should we need 3 of the same effect anyway?) and no Big Muff. Heck, I never even played a Muff, but I know that they are iconic in the history of guitar music.

    And I know they have fallen out of favor, but I am old enough to remember that the chorus pedal absolutely changed the landscape of music in the 1980s. I recall the feeling in the mid-80s that, if you didn’t have a Boss Chorus in your gig rig, you might as well stay home. It was necessary.

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 5:12 pm
  11. Cage says:

    As a Japanese, I’m proud that Uni-Vibe was made by Japanese company, Shin-Ei.

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 6:08 pm
  12. Karl says:

    The Edge certainly used the DMM a lot but NOT for the song you’ve included here! “Bad” is played through two digital delays, a Korg SDD3000 and (I think) a TC 2290. The first few albums are analog delay - and well put to use they are! -, but on The Unforgettable Fire he started using digital units for the rhythmically precise stuff like “Bad” and “Pride”.

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm
  13. joe says:

    Sounds like you should have entitled the article “Thirty Stompboxes That Changed…”.

    Oh, and you left out Univibe.

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 8:03 pm
  14. MrK says:

    These effects keep appearing in these articles. How ‘bout doing one About cheap alternatives or currently produced pedals. Except for the happy few who already own or are too rich, your general public can only gaze in awe at these priceless collector pedals. While doing that they are spending their cash on cheap effects that won ‘t come close to the original.

    I’d like to know some settings for my boss bf-3 for example, maybe do a little gilmour and his effects special, his sound with currently produced, aversie costing pedals and their settings.

    The next time you bring up an arbiter fuzz face and telling me how it changed music, I’m going to stop listening to Hendrix and become a belieber. So, yeah…. Don’t.

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 10:05 pm
  15. Jim Moulton says:

    Jerry Garcia helped make the Mu-tron 111 popular too.  Became a big part of his electric sound.

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 10:15 pm
  16. Donaciano says:

    Great article that covers a pretty wide genre. Next time I’m up in Portland, I’ll stop in the store and say Hi. Cheers!

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 11:26 pm
  17. CBJ says:

    Not gonna argue about what is on the list or what/who should be included as it is all opinion anyway but I am going to make an observation. . .

    In all of the conversations about effects it seems that Steve Hackett is rarely if ever mentioned.
    Even the most cursory listen to any Genesis tune is laden with guitar effects of all types.
    Not saying that he deserves to be in this (or any) list but just recommending that some here should give his body of work a listen.

    posted on December 7, 2013 at 11:49 pm
  18. Syrus says:

    SRV used TS 808, 9 and the 10 version.

    Most famous 808 cascading into 9.

    posted on December 8, 2013 at 12:02 am
  19. Jim H says:

    So many fuzz boxes, so little time…but, yeah, I would have to include the Big Muff fuzz and the Boss Chorus pedals to make it complete.

    posted on December 8, 2013 at 1:03 am
  20. kj says:

    Boils down to “innovation” either creating tones or sounds that weren’t typically heard (e.g., tube distortion existed but adding box overdrive/distortion to the tube distortion) before or creating de novo tones (e.g., enveloped followers and or ring modulators). Makes me wonder what types of tones and sounds the next generation of guitar innovators will share with the rest of us? If I were to guess, they’d involve iPad/iPhone or some computer interface coupled with piezo pickups.

    posted on December 8, 2013 at 1:14 am
  21. Harry Dowling says:

    You didn’t mention the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff PI.

    posted on December 8, 2013 at 1:16 am
  22. Topsy Krett says:

    Joe and Cage are right…. the Uni-Vibe should be on the list. Maybe not every guitarist had one back in the day, or has one now, but for Jimi and Robin in particular it was an essential tool that shaped guitar music.

    I will also say that this list is about the *effects* and not the artists per se. I believe the idea was to have one effect listed along with one player who used this effect to great ability. It’s not supposed to be all-inclusive of guys who used the stuff.

    posted on December 8, 2013 at 1:37 am
  23. kj says:

    I’d add the talk box used by Frampton and then Glimour and Sambora

    posted on December 8, 2013 at 1:40 am
  24. DaddyMack says:

    I would have to say the Foxx Fuzz should be on the list, because it brought affordable fuzz so we could stop destroying speakers in the search for that sound…and the Phase 90 was around for ten years before EVH hit the big time. The Mutron III and Big Muff pi were game changers, as was the Univibe…and although not a stomp box, per se, the Echoplex (and later Roland Space Echo) were also crucial. The ColorSound Wah or the Crybaby was a tough decision in the 70s and when flangers went into stomp boxes, that was another paradigm shift. The advent of Chorus brought that nice blend of phasing/flanging to the masses in the 80s…but what no love for the MXR DynaComp? Compression was the greatest boon to power trio guitarists in the 70s!

    posted on December 8, 2013 at 2:45 am
  25. Ken says:

    I have to agree that the talk box needs to be on the list. It’s had an impact on Rock and Funk , and a quick check on Wkikipedia shows different forms of it being used since 1939. When done right it can add a huge impact to music, but for a time right after Frampton Comes Alive was released local bands used it for everything. It was looked down on for a while afterwards, at least on the local scene in my neck of the woods, but it’s one of my favorite effects. Someday I’ll have one in my rig.

    posted on December 8, 2013 at 8:49 am
  26. Astrodog says:

    I think that Morello’s contributions to guitar playing are undeniable, but for me, the whammy will be first heard with the king Dimebag Darrell.

    posted on December 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm
  27. Davis Turner says:

    Boss CE1 chorus ensemble, bought mine in 77 and still have it. Alex Lifeson on the early rush albums made me and a million others buy that pedal.

    posted on December 8, 2013 at 3:55 pm
  28. bone thug says:

    The Edge actually ruined rhythmic delay for everyone who messes around with from that point forward.  Anytime anyone writes some interesting riff with a memory man type delay, they have to scrap it cuz it “sounds too much like that d-bag The Edge.”  THanks a lot David

    posted on December 8, 2013 at 6:04 pm
  29. Frederick says:

    Uhhh…Eric Clapton, Thomas Italian CryBaby??

    Also, Gilmour-Muff…Electric Mistress etc.

    posted on December 9, 2013 at 4:12 am
  30. P staines says:

    Nice one. I’m going to call you on the Maestro FZ 1A Fuzz Tone though. Sure it was the first mainstream use, but it was pretty rude sound and not really used again. The EHX Big Muff is a more deserved fuzz IMO.

    posted on December 9, 2013 at 5:06 am
  31. Ezio says:

    Ted Nugent.

    A. Guitar.
    B. Cable.
    C. Amps.
    D. Attitude.

    posted on December 9, 2013 at 6:59 am
  32. Florian says:

    I think the Binson ECHOREC have its place in the list.

    With Pro guitar shop I always learn more about stompboxes.
    Thank you very much!

    posted on December 9, 2013 at 6:49 pm
  33. Richard says:

    Umm, didn’t the Maestro Boomerang Wah/Volume pedal used on the Shaft soundtrack pre-date Super Fly? I manufactured the Boomerang from 1970, onward, plus many of the other Maestro effects.

    posted on December 10, 2013 at 12:07 pm
  34. Joshj says:

    Yeah, what about David Gilmour and his big muff? Also, he actually used the mistress in a better way then the police. I mean im sure it was cool back then, but today its kinda silly. The way gilmour made it sound, in combo with his muff, is beautiful. But, if anything, Gilmour and his muff should be on this list, or him and his binson echorec…...come on now pgs. But a great list none the less. I hate those people who talk smack and say you dont have, taste. Dont they understand the definition of opinion? thats the idea here.

    posted on December 11, 2013 at 3:58 am
  35. Gerry says:

    “A man known almost as much for what he doesn’t play as for what he does, the Edge…” Polite way to say he can’t play a solo to save his life

    posted on December 12, 2013 at 12:44 am
  36. ed says:

    EH LPB-1,no mention ,but this gain boost is what kicked off the overdrive insanity.

    posted on January 5, 2014 at 8:40 am

Leave a Comment

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.