2023 Music Production Hardware: A Rundown of the Best Options For This Year

This 2023 list of hardware for music production is by no means exhaustive and each of the headings here could deserve a list in its own right. However, to kick off 2023, this article is a snapshot of the BEST hardware to consider across multiple categories. To make this list, gear had to be both affordable for the average home sound designer or producer, as well as stand out somehow in its niche. Read on for a brief look at ways to inject some new energy into your studio for 2023.

2023 Music Production: Best Hardware Drum Synth – Korg Volca Drum

This is a really affordable and staggeringly sophisticated little drum machine which makes the bold decision to generate its kick and snare sounds through digital FM synthesis as opposed to via samples. This isn’t the only drum machine in the Volca series but it is the most creative. Billed as Korg’s bold experiment in introducing you to new sounds on their website, it lives up to the hype there by totally delivering on its unusual features whilst still making them sound great. The Volca hits the sweet spot between innovation and crowd pleasing, which is no small feat and at a low budget is a seriously exciting and compact drum machine.        

Features: 

  • Sound produced digitally from a six part DSP engine 
  • Automate up to 69 parameters
  • Wavesculpting and waveguide resonator effect 
  • 2 layers per part for lush, sonorous undertones and overtones 
  • Slice and accent features 
  • Clean and intuitive LED screen to keep track of your work 
  • Layer isolation capacity to give you total control over undertones and overtones 
  • Compact and intuitive control matrix with connection to LED screen 
  • Can produce both drum and synth sounds 

Availability and price:  circa 150 USD from Korg’s website. You can also scoop a great deal on Reverb.com by clicking here.

2023 Best Hardware Sampler – Elektron Digitakt MKII

At over 600 USD, this isn’t a cheap sampler. Yet despite the fact it’s in the higher range of the price spectrum, it absolutely delivers on what it promises. The ability to use both internal tracks and external MIDI sources means that you have limitless creative possibilities, especially in terms of tonal and textural variety. This is a sampler which has the processing power to cope with your wildest sonic imaginings. 

Like with most Elektron products, the sequencer is also top notch and the Digitakt MKII could have taken a spot on this list based on that alone. However, where it really shines is its workflow, opportunities for streamlining your music making, and ability to encourage creative sampling due to how it seamlessly blends internal and external audio. 

Features: 

  • Cutting edge power and processing 
  • Combines 8 internal tracks with 8 external MIDI sources 
  • Over 400 factory samples
  • 23 drum kits 
  • Two LFOs for double the modulation 
  • Full processing for external audio sources including stereo capacity, reverb, and delay 
  • One basewidth and multimode filter each per audio track for ultimate variation of parameters
  • Stereo compression 
  • Ability to send reverb and delay 
  • Smooth yet gritty high quality overdrive 

Availability and price: arround 800 USD, and available from their website. Also available on Reverb in both new and second hand options – click here.

Best Music Production Hardware Sequencer 2023 – AKAI Professional MPC One

AKAI actually developed the term MPC, standing for MIDI Production Center. The MPC One is basically a standalone sequencer and workstation, which can create beats and loops plus also lets you compose melodies both from built in samples and from your own sample uploads. Where it stands out is in its compactness and versatility; it really shines even when away from the rest of your studio equipment.

In fact, AKAI are adept at making gear which helps you be flexible. Their products are easily adaptable to the rest of your gear and always high quality at great value for money. Indeed, they’re still relatively underrated and you can check out another of their best offerings here where we cover the MPK mini MKII MIDI controller. The MPC One offers the same level of connection and fluidity in a standalone workstation.

Demos show how it can be used to create full fledged, seamless, and modern beats but there’s a lot more to it than just that. The MPC One Standalone lets you access you Splice library and other sound files too, so you can take your favourite sounds with you. Just remember it needs to be plugged in at a socket.

Features: 

  • Looping, sampling, and arpeggiation 
  • 16 backlit pads for playing at all venues 
  • Ability to sync with your MIDI technology in the studio 
  • Totally modern up to date sounds capable of producing trap beats or old school melodies 
  • The single most compact MPC from AKAI yet
  • Standalone capability makes it an ideal workstation for on the go 
  • Built in drum programs with a leaning towards urban and dance music but with real creative potential for all musicians 

Availability and price: Ranging from 700 to 850 USD. Not available on their site but can be purchased from all good retailers such as Andertons and Thomann. If you want to support the channel, use this link to buy from Reverb – we get a small kickback. 

Best Overall Synth – Uno Synth Pro From IK Multimedia

If there had to be one lesser-known modern synth to make this list as the absolute best recently updated machine, it’s the Uno Synth Pro from IK Multimedia. Although not a synthesis heavyweight such as Korg or Behringer in terms of output, this affordable and intuitive little synth has been met with rave reviews despite or perhaps because of features like it’s potentially polarising capacitive touchplate keys.

Plus, IK Multimedia also offers the Uno as a tabletop synth, which is a great dealbreaker if you have limited space or a small studio. 

Features: 

  • Variable waveshape oscillators 
  • FM and ring modulation 
  • Hyper-connectivity including midi inputs and outputs plus ability to connect audio input directly to FX and filters 
  • Studio grade delay and reverb 
  • Weighted keyboard
  • Free mac/pc editor 
  • Comes in black or red 

Availability and price: 300-350 USD for the desktop version and available from their website, and also on Reverb.com – click here to see the deals.    

Final Thoughts

This music production hardware roundup for 2023 obviously doesn’t cover every great bit of gear out there – just some of the most interesting in each category. Some entries could have easily taken a different spot, and the beauty of music is there are no hard and fast rules. However, these were chosen due to both their high quality, value, but also for their potential for inspiration to ensure new musical beginnings for the upcoming year. Happy music making!

Love music hardware? We have a whole section here.

80s Music Synths Re-created – The Best Modern Gear Inspired by the Golden Age of Synthesis

80s music synths range from the classic Yamaha DX7 which pioneered FM synthesis, to the Roland 808 drum machine. Most of the legendary synths which defined the era are now discontinued. However, these modern machines which weigh in at budget prices to top-of-the-range will have you feeling similarly inspired.

80s Music Synths – Best FM synth: The Korg Volca FM

When FM synthesis entered the market, it changed the course of music and gave rise to a reputation for being difficult to understand or work with. Decades on, FM is now a staple part of the synthesis and the Korg Volca FM does an amazing job at resurrecting the heyday of FM, especially the sounds of the classic Yamaha DX7. In fact, a short introductory video on their website from chief engineer Tatsuya Takahashi reveals it is fully DX7 compatible, meaning DX7 patches can actually be loaded onto the Volca. 

Important Specs: 

  • 3 voice polyphony
  • Multi-touch keyboard
  • 16-step sequencer with warp, pattern chain, and active step controls 
  • MIDI connection and ability to convert files created on the Yamaha DX7 
  • Ability to edit modulator, LFO, carrier, and algorithm parameters
  • Brilliant, DX7-inspired FM synthesis 
  • 9 arpeggiator types
  • Poly, unison, and random voice modes

Price and Availability: 194 USD, available from Korg’s website or dealers. You may also get a great deal on Reberb.com by clicking this link.

80s Music Synths – Best Drum Machine: The Roland TR – 08

The Original Roland 808 drum machine has been the subject of many clones over the years. Its legendary status as the first drum machine which allowed users to program their own rhythms means it is a popular source of inspiration, though not all homages are created equal. However, the TR-08 really succeeds in reviving everything which made the 808 special as a drum machine in itself – not just as the first machine of its kind but as one of the best. With its own character which came through tone variations and analogue warmth. Roland’s Analogue Circuit Behaviour means the TR-08 does it’s predecessor justice.

Important Specs: 

  • Directly modelled after the 808 with the original design sheets. 
  • Powerful sequencer with 16 sub-steps per step
  • Deliberately built to capture the quirks of the original 808 such as tone variations
  • 16 kits and 11 instrument types 
  • Inspiration from both the 808 and the Tr – 909 drum machines 
  • 16 pads and LED display 
  • Assignable analogue outputs and full parallel outputs via USB 

Price and Availability: Find a dealer feature on Roland’s website and also available on Reverb.com – click here.

Behringer Deepmind 12 – Best Emulation

The Behringer Deepmind 12 takes inspiration from the classic Juno 106 for a versatile beginner synth to get creative juices flowing. It’s modelled off the 106, and Behringer has indeed made a name for themselves by emulating classic synths with high quality and at a fraction of the price. However, the Deepmind 12 is a hybrid which stands out with its fully analogue signal chain which differs from the Juno with its two digitally controlled oscillators.

In some ways, the Deepmind 12 can sound more 80s than the most famous 80s music synths themselves. It has the ability to switch from super fat, lush, warm tones to futuristic, space-age arpeggiation. Ultimately, it fully deserves a spot on this list as a power-packed synth, ready for inspiration from both classic 80s synth pop and descendant genres.

Important Specs: 

  • FX from Klark Technik and TC Electronic, including delay, flanger, comp, EQ, phaser, plus room, hall, plate, rich plate and the 80s classic gated reverb 
  • Two VCOs and 12 independent voices 
  • Variable pulse width and modulation depth 
  • Three-octave range
  • Unison mode
  • Mono, poly and spread modes on LFOs
  • Stereo VCA
  • Modulation matrix
  • Arpeggiator
  • Chord and polychord features 
  • 8 banks of 128 programs

Price and Availability: Available from Behringer’s dealers, but you may also find a great deal on Reberb.com by clicking on this link.

Best Bass Synth: The Moog Minitaur

Moogs have made a well-deserved comeback with features which perfectly suit the sub-genres spawned by New Wave and goth at the tail end of the 80s, plus the current 80s revival in general.

For the pulsing bass and memorable riffs of much of New Wave, the Minitaur totally delivers a great value-for-money synth which has all the quality and nostalgia of a the old Moog Taurus without breaking the bank. The ability to poly-chain with other Moogs is a big plus, as is the Minitaur Editor which allows parameter control by MIDI. Ultimately, the Minitaur manages to be technologically intuitive whilst still having a creative, driven sound that will completely draw you in.

Important Specs: 

  • Polychaining ability
  • Pitch bend, mod wheel, after pressure, and velocity
  • 2 VCOs, square and saw waveforms
  • oscillator hard sync
  • ability to integrate with your DAW with the librarian feature
  • space for 128 presets
  • ultra fat analogue bass with tons of character
  • super snappy ASDR
  • 20 hidden parameters such as Note Sync
  • Ability to control all knob features by MIDI

Price and Availability: Coming in at 599 USD, this is Moog’s most affordable synth and is available from all good retailers such as Thomann, Andertons, or Sweetwater. You may want to also explore Reberb.com – click here.

80s Music Synths – Best Hybrid: The Arturia Minifreak

The 80s were a decade which saw many musical innovations including the change from just analogue to digital options after the introduction of FM synthesis in 1983. To emulate the range of sounds available in the 80s, a hybrid synth is always a good choice. We’ve covered the Arturia Microfreak as one of the best beginner synths specifically for guitarists getting into synthesis. However, the Arturia Minifreak is a step-up hybrid synth which means you have the best of both worlds. 

Important Specs: 

  • Dual digital engines and analogue filters 
  • Destroy features offers the ability to replicate classic retro video game sounds  
  • 14 modelled filters 
  • Analogue modelled strings
  • Blend frequency and ring modulation 
  • Saw, square, sine, and triangle waves 
  • 6 voice polyphony (compared to the microfreak’s paraphonic capacities)

Price and Availability: Ranging from 599 to 699 USD and available from all good retailers such as Sweetwater and Andertons. Also worth checking options available on Reverb by clicking here. And if you buy using that link, we get a small kickback so you will be supporting our work and this website.

Final Thoughts

Many of the legendary synths of the 80s are now discontinued and can only be found second-hand at a high price. However, these modern synths will give you a similar sound and feel whilst still being accessible. In this way, you can take inspiration from one of the most important decades for innovations in music tech – and fall in love with new gear which will open up a wealth of different creative routes to go down.  

Love physical hardware you can really play with? We have a whole hardware section dedicated to just that.

Best New Hardware Synths: A Guide to the Top Three Instruments released in the recent years

The best new hardware synths call is a difficult choice to make. Finally rounding it down to three options, this article looks at what makes these synths stand a cut above the rest. To find out the results of this difficult choice and draw in some inspiration for the new year, read on.

Teenage Engineering OP-1 Tenth Anniversary New Edition

Ten years ago the OP-1 made waves for its unparalleled creativity and now it’s been re-released for its tenth anniversary. Modelled off a pocket calculator, it has more unique points than possible to list. The Op-1 has ultimately become one of the most talked-about releases of recent years – so let’s take a look at why…

Teenage Engineering Op-1 Tenth Anniversary Edition: Features Included

Don’t let the size of this little synth mislead you! Courtesy of the classic creativity of Teenage Engineering, it has a neat and efficient selection of features, including the following…

  • mixer and FX – it has a four-channel mixer with 7 distinct stereo FX to apply to your sound, giving effortless numbers of sonic permutations.
  • a wide range of synthesis options ranging from string synthesis (physically modelled) to FM Synthesis – 10 in total
  • unique fingerprint to EVERY OP-1 due to the fact its ‘DNA synthesis’ feature is modelled on a machine’s unique processor ID. No two machines sound the same! This is broken down further in one of their blog posts and is essentially a noise synth, but with a difference.
  • works as both a synthesizer, sampler, and sequencer
  • controller mode changes the synth into a portable MIDI controller
  • disc mode allows the export of sounds made on the OP-1 as separate tracks to be stored on your computer

Best new Hardware Synths: What Makes the OP-1 Stand Out From the Rest?

The OP-1 is billed as ‘the portable wonder synthesizer’ by Teenage Engineering and it’s not hard to see why. It is versatile enough that it has been used by both Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails as well as French ambient and electronic musician Jean Michel Jarre.

A real innovation is how you can use its FM radio feature as a form of input, meaning you can sample real radio stations and then modulate them with the synth’s effects. the possibilities are endless – ultimately, this is just a snapshot of what has made the OP-1 so popular.

Price and Availability:

At the time of writing, the Op-1 Tenth Anniversary Edition costs 1683 USD and is available from Teenage Engineering’s official website. You can also check the options available on Reverb.com by clicking this link.

Best New Hardware Synths: Behringer 2600 – A Much Needed Gap in the Market

The Behringer 2600 is a version of the 1970s classic ARP 2600, updated for the modern age. This is a synth which plays with nostalgia yet remains innovative. It comes in three colours – black and orange, also known as Christmas Tree, Blue Marvin, and Grey Meanie. The synth is semi-modular, so if you’ve always wanted to get into modular synthesis it makes both a great intermediary as well as a fantastic value high-quality synth in itself.

Behringer 2600: Features Included

For a full breakdown of features, visit Behringer’s website. However, the below is just an example of what the 2600 offers for different purposes…

  • 3 VCOs which also double as LFOs, VCA, and VCF
  • Completely analogue circuitry modelled off the original ARP 2600
  • Semi-modular synthesis possibilities don’t require patching, although the Behringer 2600 also offers the option of 83 patch cables for those who really want to shape their own sound
  • Attenuator, mixer, inverter and post-filter distortion, and other interesting creative options
  • Noise generator
  • ring modular, lag processor, sample and hold modules and much more

What Makes the Behringer 2600 Stand Out From the Rest?

Ultimately the Behringer 2600’s only competition is the Korg 2600, which is much, much more expensive, clocking in at over 1000 USD. The original ARP 2600 was responsible for classic seventies tones and fat bass sounds. If you want a budget replica, the Behringer is your only real option, but it’s a very good one.

However, this synth also stands out on its own merit. It manages to be both a crowd-pleaser and an innovative homage, and its semi-modular capabilities and technical possibilities make it an option for modern styles of all kinds too.

Behringer 2600 Price and Availability:

Currently, the Behringer 2600 sits in the 400 to 600 USD price range and is available from a variety of retailers including Andertons, Thomann, and Sweetwater. For other options including second hand, click here to check out our partner Reverb. We get a small kickback if you use this link to buy so you will be supporting this website.

Arturia MiniFreak: Best New Hardware Synths – Keyboard Synthesis

And to round up the list, we have chosen the Arturia MiniFreak, adding a keyboard synth to the top three. The MiniFreak has been subject to rave reviews and when you take a look at what it includes for the price, it’s not hard to see why.

The Arturia MiniFreak: Features Included

The MiniFreak excels at being intuitive with its keyboard and OLED screen, however, it has many other draws to it such as the following:

  • two LFOs
  • 6-voice polyphony
  • ability to modulate everything up to and including filters, FX, and sound engines
  • FX ranging from bitcrusher, multi-comp, 3-band EQ, phaser, flanger, distortion, reverb, and delay
  • randomisation capacity for all new permutations of sound
  • chord mode which turns notes into chord stacks
  • scale mode ensures effortless harmonisation
  • OLED display
  • USB capability
  • stereo outputs
  • can work with MacOS 10.13+ as well as Windows 10+ (64-bit)

Best New Hardware Synths: What Makes the Arturia MiniFreak Stand Out From the Rest?

Described on Arturia’s site as producing sounds which are ‘curious, beautiful, and chaotic’, this keyboard synth generates stunning results at a low price. The MiniFreak is clearly branded as non-linear and creative, with a ‘modulation matrix’ which can modulate virtually any part of the signal. Basically, this synth is designed to give you fluidity and intuition. If you want high-quality sound and an artsy, left-field bias, the MiniFreak offers plenty of possibilities.

Price and Availability:

The MiniFreak can be bought from Arturia’s website for 599 EU (628 USD) but alternatively you can get it from Reverb.com by clicking here.

Final Thoughts:

Choosing the top three new hardware synths was not an easy task. However, this roundup offers both the pinnacle of classic mini synths with the OP-1 as well as two other options which won’t break the bank.

if you liked this but still want to look at more options for hardware synths, we have a whole selection here in our hardware section.

Best Pedals For Punk, Pop-Punk, and Post-Punk: A Rundown For 2023

The best pedals for punk aren’t easy to choose. Since the inception of the genre in the 1970s, its underground values meant that musicians prized inventiveness, and this remained true in their use of pedals and other FX. For the end of this year, here are both old classics and new innovations which will inspire you to continue this independent spirit.

Best Pedals for Punk: MXR Billie Joe Armstrong Dookie Drive for Classic 90s Pop-Punk

Although this pedal has been discontinued, it remains extremely popular and deserves a spot here. This is a signature pedal which MXR created for Billie Joe Armstrong of Greenday, and it is based on the sounds he used for the pop-punk band’s classic album Dookie. Now, with the Dookie Drive, you can give the sounds of this seminal album your own spin.

The 90s were a golden age for guitar-driven, power-chord-based rock. The sound of this pedal is a tribute to its heyday, and it is even covered with Greenday’s album art. To achieve what it does, it combines the sounds of both the amps Billie Joe Armstrong used on the album in one pedal. Ultimately, this is a classic, pop-punk drive pedal you cannot go wrong with and deserves it’s legacy continued this year.

Dookie Drive Contains:

  • Output, blend, gain, and tone knobs for mixing the perfect sound
  • Scoop option to sculpt your sound even more

Price and availability: The Dookie Drive was limited edition and had multiple variants, but can still be bought online from Reverb. Click here to check the price and offers!

Best Pedals for Punk – Distortion and Best Outside the Box Pedal – JHS3 Series Compression and JHS Series Distortion

The new JHS3 series is so exciting it deserves to include two pedals. To kick off, the JHS3 distortion pedal is a warm, gritty distortion. It sounds deliciously heavy down at the low end of the neck. Simultaneously, it adds messy noise when played higher up the fretboard. As a result, this slick little pedal is perfect both for punchy, post-punk riffs and for giving your tracks a more tangled, DIY flair. 

What about compression? Distortion and overdrive both involve a bit of compression. Yet, if you want to add solos or high harmonies, a compression pedal can be indispensable to prevent your lower parts drowning others out. This can especially be a risk when playing punk and related genres live. The JHS3 series Compressor is a great compressor which doesn’t sound too polished or neat. At the same time, it ensures all parts are audible- perfect for performing in even the most acoustically challenging venues. 

JHS3 Distortion Contains:

  • Volume, filter, and distortion knobs
  • Gain switch

JHS3 Compressor Contains:

  • volume, attack, and sustain knobs
  • bright switch

Price and Availability: Both pedals can be purchased new or used on Reverb by following these links: compressor and distortion. Plus, you will be supporting our website if you buy using our links (we get a small kickback).

Best Pedals for Punk and Post-Punk FX – Fender Hammertone Fuzz Pedal

Fuzz pedals can be polarising. Nevertheless, although it brands itself as 60s and 70s-focused, the Fender Hammertone series fuzz pedal has made this list because of its heavy, wild sound. It’s a great way to add some really dirty tones to different parts of your tracks. Especially for pop-punk, post-punk, and emo, which have sometimes taken inspiration from rock ‘n’ roll, it’s worth trying out pedals like this to shake things up. To help this, the Hammertone fuzz pedal is versatile enough that it is capable of adding noise yet also adapting to quieter moments.

Fender Hammertone Fuzz Pedal Contains:

  • Treble, bass, level, and gain knobs
  • top mounted in and out jacks to ensure it fits easily into your pedalboard
  • octave switch

Price and Availability: Check Reverb.com by clicking here.

Wampler Moxie Mini Pedal: Best Innovation of This Year

Wampler released the Moxie this year, yet it takes inspiration from the classic Ibanez Tubescreamer. In fact, after it hit the market, this pedal stood out for attracting even those who disliked the original Tubscreamer. How? For starters, this pedal is a bit warmer, more punk, and less metal oriented than the original Tubescreamer. Tone switches for voice and fatness allow greater mastery of different subgenres. In addition, its sound is more rough and ready, which it does through a modified EQ curve. This is not an easy sweet spot to hit, and, as a result, the Moxie really deserves a place on this list.

The Wampler Moxie Mini Pedal Includes:

  • volume, gain, and tone knobs
  • two switches for voice and fatness
  • design based off the Ibanez TS10 with a modified EQ for a richer, more transparent tone

Pricing and availability: It is on Reverb new or second hand, click here to check the deals.

Best All Round Drive Pedal – OCD Drive Pedal 

And to round up this list, we have a classic drive pedal which holds up year after year. This is for when you don’t want super heavy distortion but still need some edge. The sound blends well into many variants of the punk, post-punk and pop-punk spectrum. However, this can be a plus, as it gives your sound something distinctive that you can then repurpose.

Another big selling point is that the AmpliTube set of FX includes it as a digital VST. As a result, you can have the same sounds as both software and hardware, keeping your sonic signature consistent. 

OCD Drive includes:

  • Internal switch to choose between enhanced bypass and true bypass. True to its name, this pedal allows guitarists to choose the specifics of their sound at a level of perfection close to obsessiveness
  • output buffer which prevents pedals which come after it in the signal chain from affecting its sound

Pricing and availability: Can be purchased from Reverb.com, in all the versions. Click here to get the price.

Final Thoughts

This roundup focuses more on certain FX than others to get you that classic, heavy punk sound. However, these cover everything from gritty, classic underground 70s punk to the best modern-day pop-punk. From old favourites to new innovations, these pedals have proven to be the most inspiring this year.

Liked this article? We have way more on pedals in our hardware section, where we cover classics, new innovations, and creative alternatives. Find them here

Build Your Own Synth: Intro to Erica Synths mki x es.EDU Series

Ever wanted to build your own synth? Erica Synths’ mki x es.EDU series allows you to do just that. In this way, it’s both a project and a way to learn modular synthesis from a hands-on perspective. In this way, you can really familiarise yourself with how signal chains and sound design works, too. Read on to find out more about this exciting new way of getting to grips with modular synthesis.

mki x es.EDU: What Exactly Is Involved?

Modular synthesis has a reputation for being challenging. However, it’s ideal to learn with as it breaks down the signal chain. Moritz Klein has been providing accessible synth-building information for a while now, but their collaboration with Erica Synths is like nothing they’ve done before. It helps bridge the gap between technical knowledge of synthesis, and using it fluently as a musician.

Any modular synth is comprised of different modules which are then patched together by connecting cables to alter the signal flow. These include LFOs, VCAs, and envelope generators. Together they give the input a number of interesting pathways through which to travel, altering the soundwave as it goes. The mki x es.EDU series allows you to build each of the 9 models separately. As a result, you end up with a fully formed modular synth which you are ALREADY super familiar with – inside and out.

What makes the series so great for hands on learning is it doesn’t introduce any technology of its own. Instead, it just picks from the best available. This means as you go along, you learn familiar components of modular synthesis AND get a snapshot of what modules are out there for future reference. The sample and hold module, for example, is less commonplace than an envelope generator, but after building it, you will have this in your arsenal to be able to freely experiment with. 

Build Your Own Synth: Technical Specifications

  • What does it include? 

The mki x es.EDU (Moritz Klein x Erica Synths) system includes a Eurorack case for the synth as a whole plus three sets of braided patch cables comprised of 5 pieces each of different lengths. In addition, the synth modules included are as follows:

  • VCO (voltage controlled oscillator)
  • VCA (voltage controlled amplifier)
  • Envelope Generator
  • VCF (voltage controlled filter
  • Sequencer
  • Mixer
  • Noise Generator/Sample and Hold module
  • Wavefolder
  • Output

So, How Does it Fit Together?

Erica Synths released each module alongside a detailed instruction manual every 4 to 6 months. Now all modules are out, you could in theory order them all in one go. However, it could also work to build each module separately and really get to grips with it. Either way, you end up with a fully working modular synth.

  • What’s it like as a synth?

The series is meant to be educational, as opposed to a game-changing modular synth. However, the mki x es.EDU modular synth is both creative and high quality. The wavefolder module, for example, is designed to make simple waveforms more complex. ES is great at introducing musicians to concepts not found on the mainstream market. The sample and hold module is also a great addition. Here, the company knows how to create interest in a way which is both simple and educational.

The kit is also value for money. As you build it yourself, its quality is obvious, but Erica Synths have a history of creating well-designed synths which are value-for-money. The mki x es.EDU series lives up to this.

How Does the Learning Process Work?

On the Erica Synths website, the page for each module has a selection of videos. These are both introductory but also take you through some of the construction processes. They include official ones from Moritz Klein, as well as samples of users putting the synth together themselves.

The instruction manual for each module is available for download as a pdf. It does a pretty good job at approaching the topic, both for absolute beginners – and for those with prior experience.

The manual includes the absolute basics, such as an introduction to using a breadboard. Additionally, it breaks down the fundamental concepts that synth building requires. Even if you’re completely new, it’s approachable and breaks down what comprises a synth internally. Between this and the variety of resources out there, Moritz Klein and Erica Synths have left no stone unturned when it comes to making something which works for everyone.

Build Your Own Synth: mki x es.EDU Pros and Cons

  • Pro: Suits multiple styles of learning

Moritz Klein has been making accessible introductions to synthesis for a long while. In fact, they have posted plenty of videos online on this topic.

We all know how some musicians can perfectly read music and follow along. Others have to take the song apart and get into the details before they can learn it from scratch. 

Luckily, the mki x es.EDU series caters to both. Its instruction manuals have good text-based explanations. Its handly flow diagrams make it useful for those who prefer to work visually, too. Additionally, the synth-building process itself really breaks things down if you prefer a hands-on way. And just to be on the safe side, there are plenty of video tutorials online.

  • Pro: Transferrable skills

One bonus of the synth-building project is it allows you to develop transferrable skills. By using it, you are understanding sound right down to the bare bones. This happens in a way which only comes from building a synth from scratch on a practical level. As a result, you gain the knowledge needed to work with sound more competently. This can extend to recording, mixing, mastering, and other music and sampling. Deeply understanding things like signal flow can make your production work smoother, too. Ultimately, the amount of extra skills you gain from the series is a real draw. 

  • Potential Con: Investment if unsure 

The only downside is that it is a big project. If you’re not sure whether it’s something you want to commit to, it’s probably better to start smaller. That said, it is also a unique birthday or Christmas gift. Its novelty factor is part of this. It’s also just really high quality – perfect for the synth lover in your life. so in many ways, rewards outweigh the risks.

Interested in the synth? You can check reverb.com for it by clicking here.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately this is one of the most exciting synths out there on the market. There isn’t much out there like it. Synthesis – and especially modular synthesis, can be hard to break into. High in technical terms, it can be daunting for a beginner. The combined creativity of Erica Synths, with Moritz Klein’s prior experience introducing newcomers, makes a powerful combination. This is a rare hands-on experience which provides fundamental knowledge. As a result, it makes a huge difference in developing your skills

Love hardware synths? We have a great collection which we’ve covered in our hardware section.

Guide to Using Plate Reverb for Guitarists

Any guide to using plate reverb needs to show you how sound works. Ever looked at the different reverbs on your DAW and wanted to understand them better? In this article, we go into plate reverb, why it is one of the most interesting kinds of reverb, and how to use it on guitar. Read on to find out more.

What Is Plate Reverb?

Plate reverb, like any reverb, is an effect which you add to a dry track. This is designed to give the dry recording a more natural sound, However, plate reverbs themselves don’t attempt to be true to nature. Unlike other kinds of reverb, no plate reverb ever tries to copy real-life reverb in a specific kind of space. Instead, plate reverb plugins are modelled off physical plate reverbs, where sound passes through a metal plate made of one of any different metals, often steel. The vibrations are picked up by a microphone, and they travel down the rest of the signal chain.

Guide to Plate Reverb: How Does It Work?

To understand more about plate reverb, it helps to know why mix engineers add reverb in the first place. When engineers mix sounds, the soundproofing of the studio ensures the sound is very dry. At this stage, it lacks both reverb, and delay.

However, listeners need reverb. It’s everywhere, regardless of whether you’re in a concert hall or a church. As a result, tracks sound strange without it. Therefore, in the first analogue recording studios. producers and engineers found ways to add reverb artificially, and one of the best-loved of these is plate reverb. This works by suspending a metal plate within a container via springs, which vibrates as sound hits it, and a microphone amplifies the resulting soundwaves. These then go back down the signal chain. Due to the way sound interacts with the plate, plate reverb at first very bright. It only becomes much dimmer and darker towards the tail end of the sound wave. 

You can hear plate reverb on many ’60s and ’70s recordings. In fact, Abbey Road studies actually contributed to their popularity. Their brightness adds an ethereal sound. Meanwhile, their character comes from the darker frequencies they carry. 

What Options Are On the Market?

Physical plate reverbs are incredibly expensive to own in real life. On their Dark Side of the Moon album, Pink Floyd actually used a version of the world’s first plate reverb, created by German company EMT, who called it the EMT 140.

However, like other parts of the analogue studio, they are now easy to mimic digitally. Below is a quick guide to plate reverb plugins which are affordable for the average musician:

Reverbs:

  • Soundtoys Little Plate – 99 USD
  • Arturia Rev Plate-140 – 100 USD
  • Valhalla Plate – 50 USD
  • Black Rooster Audio RO-140 – 29 USD
  • Variety of Sound epicPlate – FREE

Plugins which contain plate reverb:

  • Relab Development LX 480 – 99 USD
  • IK Multimedia T-RackS Sunset Sound Studios Reverb – 61 USD
Soundtoys Little Plate

Most plugins can be bought on Pluginboutique.com and if you use this link to make a purchase you are helping us a lot because we get a small kickback.

Plate Reverb in Recording: An Introduction

You may have most commonly heard of plate reverb used for vocals or drums. This is because of the high frequency of sonic vibrations in metal. In fact, this is where their smoothness and brightness come from. Another place you might hear them used is on strings. But what about for guitar? Plate reverb is best known for adding a spooky or ethereal tone. It’s great for psychedelic guitar, as well as for guitar solos. It is also very useful for creating a sense of atmosphere. Your guitar by itself might not sound hugely atmospheric, but if you’re working without much other gear or software, a good plate reverb plugin can do a lot can boost the levels of sonic interest infinitely.

Classic Psychedelic Sounds: Plate Reverb Ideas and How-To

When using plate reverb in recording, keep in mind its ethereal sound and its brightness. It is great if you want to add some shine to mid-frequency heavy guitar and riffs – perfect if you want your guitar to pop out in contrast to your bass frequencies to prevent things from sounding muddy.

However, plate reverb can really come into its own on softer lead guitar lines. Solos in slow tracks can benefit from it, and Dark Side of the Moon is a great example. It’s good for rock, pop, indie, and any experimental guitar. It’s not as great for metal, hard rock or punk, although it can be used. Its tendency to blur all reverberations together does give it a rather alien sound. Therefore, if you really want to get more out of it, the trick is to combine it with something else. Some good combinations are: 

  • plate reverb blended in at a low level with a chamber reverb. A chamber reverb has as much of an unusual vibe, but is a bit more natural.
  • plate reverb combined with hall reverb. To amplify the dramatic effect of the plate reverb’s otherworldliness, combine it with a big hall reverb.
  • plate reverb with room reverb. For a classic sound, especially on a more low key track, mix plate reverb with a room reverb. Blend the plate reverb in at a low level so as not to be overpowering. 

Guide to Plate Reverb: What Else Is Good to Know?

If you are more used to sound in the real world, think of plate reverb in general as an effect like you would get in your pedals. Don’t try to think of it as mimicking physical echoes and reverberations. Without getting into how it works, remember it’s the darkest, spaciest reverb. As it’s less natural, it’s best to use it when you want to modify your guitar for something more atmospheric. Alternatively use it in tandem with any of the reverbs which mimic a natural space (room, hall, chamber). However, plate reverb is a great gateway to using your plugins and DAW as an instrument in itself. This can be one of the most challenging things for guitarists, who sometimes feel more comfortable with a physical instrument. However, this is a great place to start.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it – a quick introduction to plate reverb. This is how it works, and the best contexts in which to use it. With more understanding and time, it can become a staple tool for your production. In fact, different reverbs really expand the range of sounds you can apply to your guitar during the mixing process. Just keep in mind their unique qualities. This means that you’ll be able to judge where this reverb, like any, adds to your guitar – or when to leave it. When used correctly, it is a very intense and interesting effect. As a result, even exploring it a little can totally alter the way you think about your sound. 

Liked this article? We have more in our tutorials section here.

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Amp

To get the most out of your amp, it’s good to understand it as a whole. Knowing how to think about music and about your sound is the most important part of working fluidly with your gear. While many musicians want better gear, here are a few hacks, fresh perspectives, and tips which will help you think about your amp differently – meaning you can make do with whatever you have and still have it sound amazing.

Get the Most From Your Amp: Know Your Tone

Every amp is unique. In fact, even with two different models, the condition in which the amp is kept plus other factors such as its age will affect the sound. Therefore, working out what the average tone of your amp is can be a lifesaver. Is it a rich valve amp? Does it tend to be heavy on the top end? If you get your knowledge of these parts worked out, knowing what to change when you dislike a sound becomes really easy.

Things to try: List five things you don’t like about your tone. Then, spend an afternoon or so playing around with your amp to see how and when these quirks vanish. It might be that you hit on the perfect combinations of settings to get rid of that annoying top end which has always bothered you.

Phase 2: Know the Rest of Your Gear

You might just be jamming, but things get complicated when you start adding pedals. Get to know all your gear inside and out. This isn’t just about being good with your gear. It’s about really knowing the ins and outs of everything plus how it connects. That way, you can separate what piece of kit is affecting which aspects of your sound. Ultimately, it also takes into account parts of your guitar such as the pickup switch and tone knobs. These can really affect the sound coming out of your amp. There’s actually a lot the guitarist needs to take into account to influence the ultimate sound. Being able to separate each piece of kit is key in order to craft the sound you want. 

Things to try: Think of every aspect of your gear, from your pickups to any pedals you have. Then, try improvising a guitar solo while varying each aspect and notice how the sound changes. This can help you tune your ear to all the nuances.

Understand Your Options – And How they Effect Each Other

This gets more into the nitty gritty of your amp itself. Most amps have a couple of tone knobs and a dial for distortion. Some brands such as Marshall geared more towards certain genres of music. Realise that distortion on one amp will sound very different to distortion on another. This might sound obvious, but this is one mistake beginners tend to make before they have found their sound. This fallacy is to treat every amp like an average fender or orange amp. Some amps also have delay and reverb. These can come in handy depending on the room you’re in. A room with a lot of soft furnishings won’t have the natural echoes you might desire when recording.

No option on an amp works in isolation. Cranking up both the distortion and the reverb at the same time can be overwhelming. However, another common first-time habit is to simply keep adding more effects when your sound doesn’t satisfy you. Instead, learning how all dials on your amp affect each other means you can achieve the desired sound with precision.

Things to try: In the same way your DAW allows you to save presets, once you find the perfect combination of settings on your amp, take a photo for future reference. You might be surprised how much of a lifesaver knowing your sweet spot on your amp can be in the stress before a gig!

Get the Most From Your Amp in the Studio: Know How to Record

It goes without saying that recording as opposed to playing live or just jamming takes some specialist know-how. However, the settings you need will be very different to those you want live. As a result, the options you use will change if you’re going from a recording session to a live gig. Keeping track of this means eventually you will spot patterns. Therefore, transitioning from one to the other will be very easy. It also gives you the subconscious know-how to create news settings for certain sounds and places. 

Things to try: The studio can be daunting. Research some of the gear you’re using beforehand. Does it favour rich, analogue amps? Taking this into account, mess around with your amp to see how you could adapt your typical settings to the quirks of recording.

When Things Seem Tough: Work With What You’ve Got

You may dream of having a huge Marshall stack, but with your setup, it’s probably not realistic. However, it can be very satisfying to work with what you’ve got in terms of recreating sounds. You may not sound like Dave Grohl, but if you really get to know your amp, you can fake it. Copy your favourite artists, listen to their interviews, and learn what settings they use. Then, find the closest approximation on your own amp. This will also help show you the difference between your gear and other people’s. And with this kind of experimentation in context, you will develop a broad, holistic overview of how sound works. In the end, this is much more useful than a narrow set of skills for your studio only. 

Things to try: Try restricting yourself. After all, tone is in the fingers. If you only allowed yourself to use the gain knob without touching the rest of your amp, what creative possibilities might you be forced to unlock?

Final Thoughts

Whilst these aren’t hard and fast rules, these hacks can help you understand how to work with your gear as opposed to simply getting it to work for you. It sometimes can sound a bit unusual, but the best musicians treat their music like a parallel world where they can really get into creative flow. Understanding how every aspect affects the overall result is the first step to getting that world to really fit together. As a result, these tips are the first step to thinking differently about your playing.

Like tutorials? You can find more here.

Access Virus Synths: Why these Vintage Synths Are Still Relevant and A Guide to Their Range

Amongst vintage synths, the Access Virus line is a real gem. These are highly versatile, with a varied cultural legacy. In fact, they have been used by Tool, Butch Vig, and Garbage, as well as Richard Barbieri of Porcupine Tree. Yet they have also graced the tracks of Neptunes and Mary J Blige, Stevie Wonder, Fatboy Slim, and Nsync. Even Hans Zimmer has used them. Read on to find out what makes these synths so appealing to musicians of all stripes.

What Synths Are Included in the Access Virus Line?

  • Virus TI: Desktop, Polar, Snow, and Keyboard

Perhaps the most publicised part of the TI series, these were released in 2005. Snow and Desktop are small enough to keep by your computer. Polar is larger with 37 keys and Keyboard is the largest of all with a lush 61 keys. They also have:

  • Two independent multi mode filters with an analogue filter modelled after the Minimoog
  • 3 LFOs with 68 Waveforms
  • Knob quantising which syncs to the Virus clock
  • 192 Parallel effects
  • 512 RAM patches
  • Virus A, B, and C series

These were early editions of the Access Virus line when customers first discovered its fantastic features. Unlike the TI series, these do not feature wavetable synthesis. However, Access Virus A, for example, features 12-note polyphony and all basic analogue waveforms. Yet, its gritty, analogue sound is what really makes it a favourite.

  • Virus TI2

Released in 2009, the T12 features faster DSP controllers and additional polyphony. Like all in the line, it is a virtual analogue synthesiser. Otherwise, it is roughly similar to the TI series.

  • General traits of the range

As a general pattern, the filters and oscillators of these synths help them hit a sweet spot between genres. Their high-quality german manufacturing means they can cope with many different oscillators and effects. All models use a mix of techniques from FM synthesis, phase distortion, and subtractive synthesis. This design on the part of inventor Christoph Kemper unifies customers through love for quality as opposed to genre. Indeed, it also allows for new, cross-genre experimentation and super creative composition all on the same machine.

The Virus family of synths are widely available as second hand purchases on Reverb.com. You can check the current prices by clicking here.

What Else Makes Access Virus Synths so Great?

  • Combination of sounds

Another way Access manages to encompass different facets of music is through its VSTs. These allow you to connect your hardware synth to your DAW and store data directly on the sound files there. It’s a revolutionary way of working, meaning Access keeps what’s great about analogue yet also keeps pace with DAW-based production.

These synths are capable of creating a level of depth and variety as good as the options on any DAW. It’s super impressive in its ruggedness and processing power and some models in the line have up to ten different oscillators. Filters and FX such as wah and fuzz add layers of sound without exhausting your synth. These are really, really high-quality synths which Access has done its best to keep compatible with modern musicians’ habits. 

  • Keeps the pace with modern technology

Access Virus first hit the market in the 90s during the boom in DPU chip usage. This allowed for greater processing power and ambitious sets of sounds which were bigger and bolder. However, this DPU processing can easily keep pace with the average CPU needed on a DAW-created project. As a result, they are super relevant even today. In fact, when rigged up to a VST on your DAW, the Access Virus synths can save processing power. How? They actually do a lot of the work at the hardware end. This condenses the sound so when it reaches your master bus there isn’t too much data to handle. 

  • Complex and creative sounds

The raw material the musician is given with these synths allows for exciting and complex sound. To achieve this, Virus’s virtual VCOs range from sine to square waves, with 63 synthetic, spectral waveforms, a programmable filter section, and matrix modulation. Its legendary processing power also supports (on the TI):

  • between 20-90 voices on it’s dual DSP system
  • 6 balanced outputs
  • 26 banks of 128 ROM patches
  • A unique business model

The last major bonus of the Access Virus line is that they occupy a unique market niche. They are the only line of synths on the market which offer total system updates. These upgrades, overhauls, and other innovations actually come completely for free. Here, you can buy a product made 20 years ago and get entirely new sets of filters charge-free. Access is only able to do this because they are upfront about the fact that they are a premium product. They don’t hesitate to price their synths high. Nevertheless, for those who are willing to make the investment once, this pays off with future rewards. 

The Virus family of synths are widely available as second hand purchases on Reverb.com. You can check the current prices by clicking here.

Are There Any Downsides?

Perhaps the only complaint against Access Virus is they are a risky investment. Some fans have found that little support from the developers leaves them adrift. Others have discovered that there is no support at all for the VSTs. This isn’t necessarily a huge surprise. Access also focuses on other products such as guitars and is also the mind behind Kemper, so they’re pretty busy. It does mean, however, if you’re about to shell out for one of these synths it’s best to be certain about it. At prices of about 1200 plus USD – it’s really worth having a bit of experience behind you and a working studio setup beforehand. 

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. This vintage product shows how relatively recently the approach to music tech and sound design was very different. In some ways, Acces Virus shows synths used to be made of deeper stuff. Although financially accessible synths like the Korg Minilogue still had great hardware, the Access Virus opens sound designers’ eyes. These synths create a whole new world of musical layering. This really is from-scratch sound design on a totally different level. Even if they’re not in your price bracket, these synths are worth investigating for inspiration alone.

Enjoyed this article? Read more about synths in our hardware section here.

Best Mics for Recording Electric Guitar 2023: A Market Rundown

The best mics for electric guitar of 2023 show some studio classics which can turbocharge your recording. Though there are lots of options out there, sometimes the choice can be overwhelming. When recording guitar, it’s especially important to use the right mic to ensure sound translates the way you want it to – and electric guitar needs very different recording techniques to steel or acoustic. However, if electric is your instrument, read on for a rundown of what’s out there.

Best Mics for Electric Guitar – Beginners: Shure SM57

This mic regularly makes the top ten or top five lists and for good reason. The SM57 is a classic which is durable and easy to learn. Many pro studio engineers recommend it for beginners, both for its intuitive capacity and the fact it’s under 100 pounds. As a result, it’s easy to replace if broken – however, it’s also unlikely to do so in the first place. It’s robust and its one drawback is sometimes it can pick up unwanted noise, but its quality is actually very high for a mic of its price. 

Many beginners pick up a Shure SM57 not knowing much about mics only to find it’s one of the most trusty bits of gear in their studio. It’s also proven to be great on tour, able to withstand the knocks and stresses of the road.

Price and availability: Check Reverb.com by clicking here.

Specifications: 40-15,000 Hz cardioid microphone

Best Overall Mic: Sennheiser e906

This is a great mic which works for drums and other instruments as well. Its versatility is good if you need to record multiple instruments and can’t afford a specialised mic for each one. Sennheiser created a unique shape designed for guitar amps, presenting a broad and flat surface which means you can use it without a stand. In addition, its presence filter helps you adjust the amount of presence – great if you have instruments which are sounding a little dull or lifeless. In fact, this mic is great at breathing life into just about anything. It’s extremely flexible and responsive as well, meaning fast it can withstand fast punchy riffs or jolts of sound.

The Sennheiser e906 is actually a super-cardioid mic, meaning it is hyper-sensitive to sound coming from the direction in which it is pointing. This means it can get crystal clear tones from this spot alone, filtering out unwanted noise from other areas. This precision makes it absolutely amazing in the studio.

Price and availability: Check Reverb.com by clicking here.

Specifications: 40 – 18,000 Hz super-cardioid mic

Best Mics for Electric Guitar – Heavy: Royer 121 / Peluso R14

The biggest challenge of recording heavy guitars is the fact mics can easily blow out. The full force of sound coming from a Marshall stack is often too much for many mics especially if placed too close. Hard rock and metal lovers recommend both the Royer and the Peluso for their durability and reliability, ensuring many tours and recording sessions without any problems. Both are on the expensive side, yet have very similar properties. As a result, if you can’t track one down, you might be able to substitute the other without too much change in the end result.

Price and availability: Check Reverb.com for a Royer by clicking here, and for Peluso click here.

Specifications: 30 – 15,000 Hz figure 8 ribbon mic (Royer 121), 30 – 16,000 Hz figure 8 ribbon mic (Peluso R14)

Best for Soft/Vintage Guitar: AKG C451 

This mic normally has a reputation as being a drummer’s mic and is especially good for recording cymbals, however, many musicians have begun to use it for acoustic as well as gentle, softer electric guitar. Why is it so versatile and how does it work so well? This is a mic which focuses on the high-end. It’s great at bringing colour to dull sounds. And as a result, it means that you can capture vintage or more low-key guitars in all their glory. The AKG C451 adds sparkle to this kind of guitar when undertones and overtones get lost in warmth and fuzz. 

Price and availability: Check Reverb.com by clicking here.

Specifications: 20 – 20,000 Hz cardioid mic

Best Overall Ribbon Mic: Beyerdynamic M160 

This is a ribbon mic with a difference. Instead of being a figure eight cardioid mic, it’s a hyper-cardioid. For those who are not familiar, your average cardioid mic pics up sound in a figure eight pattern. This means that you get lots of natural reverb but can also get some unwanted room noise if there isn’t good enough soundproofing. Supercardioid mics like the e906 focus the pickup of sound on one area, but hyper-cardioid mics are a type of super-cardioid which focus these even more tightly, meaning with the M160 it’s really easy to direct and point this mic to get the exact sounds you want.

This mic was actually the one which recorded the legendary drums on Led Zeppelin’s When The Levee Breaks and has been around since 1957 but it is also a favourite for recording engineers to use on guitar amps.

Price and availability: Check Reverb.com by clicking here.

Specifications: 40 – 18,000 Hz, hyper-cardioid ribbon mic.

Final Thoughts 

Ultimately these mics give good variety in terms of what you use them for. Although not all of them are specifically from 2023, they’re all highly relevant and useful bits of gear which will serve you well. You can use the Shure, Sennheiser, and Beyerdynamic for multiple instruments and styles whilst the other two are also adaptable based on your playing flexibility. One thing’s for sure – these bits of gear will be useful for years to come. 

Liked this article? We have more about hardware for recording here.

Best Hardware Guitar Pedals of 2023: A Guide to What’s on the Market

What are the best hardware guitar pedals of this year? Although it’s hard to choose, the greatest tend to hit a sweet spot. Great pedals balance staple sounds with creative circuitry. 2023 is no different and though some of these are on the pricier side, here are the best picks on the market. 

Best Hardware Guitar Pedals – Best for Blues: Boss BD-2 Blues Driver

The classic Blues Driver pedal from Boss has been updated for 2022 and is one not to miss. It has real versatility and it can be incorporated into many more genres than blues. The Blues Driver BD-2’s sound is kept fresh and modern. It can easily fit both favourite blues songs – as well as indie, hard rock, ballads, and alternative rock. But what about it makes it such an enduring pedal? 

The valve amps this pedal is modelled on add warmth and resonance to more genres than just blues. It also provides a sought-after sound associated with old amps, yet makes this accessible to the average musician. It has three simple knobs – tone, level, and gain, and that’s it. The ability to switch between standard and custom mode means you can either keep its original circuitry (standard) or add a richer, more modern overdrive with increased sustain (custom). All in all, the Boss BD-2 is everything you want in an easily available format, making elusive tones mainstream and resulting in its cult status.

You can check the Boss BD-2 price on Reverb (and if you buy via this link, you are supporting this website as we get a small kickback)

Best for Wah: Boss PW3 Wah Pedal 

One challenge of keeping pedals up to date is how musician preferences can constantly change. Wah is a classic effect, yet this pedal keeps to the cutting edge – Boss have really added something new. The Boss PW3 specialises in its ‘rich’ mode, which means that it retains low to medium frequencies. These are responsible for much of the tone and are actually lost in typical wah effects.

As a result, the sound is much fuller and has more depth. In fact, to do this, Boss had to alter the circuitry. This addition works especially well if you’re not after typical vintage sounds yet still want to experiment with wah. The setup is simple with one switch to toggle between rich and vintage, and the physical pedal to add either a tiny bit of wah or rev on full. Used to more current sounds but want to investigate this classic effect? The Boss PW3 is perfect.

You can check the Boss PW3 price on Reverb (and if you buy via this link, you are supporting this website as we get a small kickback)

Best for Overdrive: JHS Double Barrel

The JHS Double Barrel is on the chunkier-looking side. However, it is a combination of two classic pedals, the Moonshine V2 on the left and the Morning Glory on the right. The first of these provides a well-crafted overdrive with a difference. However, when combined with the Morning Glory, this pedal really comes into its own. 

The Double Barrel contains a toggle to switch the order of the two pedals in your circuit. There are three knobs (volume, drive, and tone) and a gain switch for the Moonshine; the Morning Glory has knobs for volume, drive, tone, and clean, plus a high gain toggle which works with the JHS pedals Red Remote. From this, the guitarist has a multitude of deep, rich noises to choose from. If something sounds a little tinny or top-heavy, all you need to do is tweak what lies underneath. With the sheer amount of combinations, there are plenty of options until your tone is as you like it. 

You can check the JHS Double Barrel price on Reverb (and if you buy via this link, you are supporting this website as we get a small kickback)

Best for Distortion/Crunch: Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 

The Tube Screamer is a fantastic classic pedal which does so much more with less. How come it makes the list? Tube Screamer diversifies itself by keeping things simple but refined. In fact, Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 is made in Japan and the well-known quality of Japanese craftsmanship definitely shows. It has three knobs (overdrive, tone, level) is very intuitive, and adds thick, warm overdrive to your signal chain.

Popularised by Stevie Ray Vaugh, it has been described as the ‘holy grail of tube screamer plugins’ and prioritises rich, full sounds. Since its inception, its analogue circuitry has remained largely unchanged. As a result, it is absolutely perfect at balancing out the top-end which often comes with shredding and guitar solos. Instead of just a wall of distortion, all the emotions and melody of your playing remain. Just be careful of knock-offs – there are lots of copies out there.

You can check the Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 price on Reverb (and if you buy via this link, you are supporting this website as we get a small kickback)

Best Hardware Guitar Pedals – Fuzz: EarthQuaker Hoof Reaper 

EarthQuaker launched the fantastic Palisades V2 in 2014 but it is unfortunately discontinued. However, EarthQuaker is still a really creative plugin manufacturer and the Hoof Reaper Double Fuzz goes to show this. This pedal was originally a limited edition but was so popular it was kept on the market. It features EarthQuaker’s Hoof Fuzz pedal and the Tone Reaper pedal as a two-in-one. However, what you also get is an octave-up switch. In this way, not only do you get great characterful fuzz, but you also have huge amounts of creative control over the sound’s overtones.

There are buttons to select either or both pedals and one for the octave. The Tone Reaper has three knobs for level, fuzz, and tone, whilst the Hoof Fuzz has four. These are level, fuzz, and tone, but also shift, which allows you to sculpt the mid frequencies. With this amount of freedom, you can find the perfect sound to express your musical ideas.

You can check the EarthQuaker Hoof Reaper price on Reverb (and if you buy via this link, you are supporting this website as we get a small kickback)

Final Thoughts

Whilst some of these pedals have been on the market before, all of them are making waves in 2023. This is due to either their repurposing, as well as the fact they continue to come out on top. That indescribable quality they add to your guitar playing has all helped earn their inclusion on this list. They also all include great craftsmanship and creativity in terms of really adding something new to your tone. Whichever you might choose, they will all present new creative possibilities and give you ample room to explore. 

Enjoyed this article? Check out more in our section for music hardware here.