In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Last updated: June 17, 2021
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Amp simulator pedals are a growing trend in the music industry today. From beginners to professionals, everyone realizes that amp simulator pedals are impressive pieces of equipment that shouldn’t be easily overlooked. They offer vast tonal range in a compact, pocket-sized solution to many sound concerns from the studio to the stage. The market is full of pedals that will imitate classic, vintage, or modern amps, or add some sonic distortive effects to your sound. But what makes the best amp simulator pedals the ones you want or need to have in your arsenal?
We’ve tested and tried dozens of amp simulator pedals to come up with a list of the five best pedals that are currently available. We’ve sorted through and found that our top pick and Editor’s Choice is the Radial Engineering JDX. This amp simulator pedal packs a lot of punch in an arguably small package, and comes with such a wide range of useful, intuitive features, with a great simulation of the tone and feel of a real guitar amp, that we had to highlight it for you.
We’ve also chosen four other models of pedals, and they all get their unique nomination based on several factors. The criteria we used to judge all of these pedals, to determine the absolute best amp simulator pedals around, were extensive. They included power sources, input and output capabilities, size and weight, and of course, the extra features. In this guide, we’ve got a convenient comparison table with our rating of each product, an in-depth review of each, and an informative buying guide at the end. By the end of this, we expect you’ll love these simulator pedals as much as we do.
"This model features three large LCD displays with an intuitive interface which allows you to create, save, and rearrange chain effects, plus, it offers Edit&Share and Steinberg Sequel LE recording software."
The Radial Engineering JDX Direct-Drive Amp Simulator is another great guitar amp simulator. It made our list for producing the best, most realistic sound during use, and many regular users agree wholeheartedly with that assessment.
Unlike other direct boxes, which just transfers the sound of the pedals to a PA or amp, this model simulates the actual tone and feel of a real guitar amp. This allows it to produce a much more realistic sound without any extra effort or adjustments on your part. The combo setting in either normal or bright, in particular, produces a clean, clear, natural sound that has surprised many who have used or reviewed this simulator.
It’s much lighter and easier to carry into a show than a full-blown amp is, and is extremely rugged and durable. The switches and controls are simple to use and clearly marked, so there’s no guesswork in setting up this amp simulator.
Why is it special?
Simulates the tone and feel of a real guitar amp, producing a more realistic sound
Five different settings with three amp choices
Uses easy slide switches to select the overall tone of the JDX Direct Drive
Also functions as a high-quality DI box and signal splitter
Lightweight but durable and great for guitar amp simulation
What are the flaws?
The JDX 4x12 setting reportedly needs to be used along with a preamp to sound proper, according to one reviewer
Some reviewers felt that this model is a bit limited in what it can do, and has a limited tone-shaping capability but makes a great basic simulator
The Zoom G3 Guitar Effects and Amp Simulator is our top pick for the best guitar amp simulator pedal available. It has an abundance of great features that make it stand out from the competition, and will run for up to six hours on four alkaline AA batteries. Alternatively, you can use the supplied AC adapter for continued use.
This amp simulator pedal offers a range of over 100 great-sounding, high-quality guitar presets. It also provides three stompbox-style displays that have individual and dedicated footswitches. It features a tap tempo function, an onboard chromatic tuner, 41 integrated rhythm patterns, and a 40-second looper mode. It also had two output jacks that you can connect to either amps or headphones. This unit has 94 guitar effects which include distortion, compression, phasing, delay, chorus, and reverb. It also has 22 popular amp and cabinet models.
All-in-all, this is a fantastic amp simulator that can easily meet and exceed your expectations.
What makes it special?
Three large LCD displays with an intuitive interface
22 amp or 94 stompbox models
Over 100 built-in ZFX-IV DSP effects
The intuitive design allows you to create, save, and rearrange chain effects
Easy-to-use share and edit software
What cons did we find?
The looper mode has some limitations; during looping, the rhythm cannot be started or stopped using the footswitches
Some reviewers have complained about wearing out their keys, while others have commented that after multiple years of use, their keys and buttons are fine
The choice for the best kit goes to the Digitech CabDryVR Dual Cabinet Simulator Pedal Bundle. It’s designed to be easy to use and takes up a very small portion of your pedalboard alongside whatever other equipment you might opt to use.
This unit features dual inputs and outputs, one of which allows you to run a connection to your amp if you choose to mix the two signals for a different sound. This can produce excellent results both live and in-studio, so it’s definitely worth giving it a shot to test the waters.
It has fourteen impulse responses, seven for guitar and seven for bass, and each of these can be tuned to different cab “sizes” based on your preferences and the sound you’re looking to achieve. Overall this is a well-built pedal with a lot of potential and it’s durable enough to survive a lot of heavy use.
Why did it make our list?
Offers studio-quality guitar and bass cabinet impulse responses in one unit
14 cabinets total: 7 guitar and 7 bass cabinets that can be mixed and tuned to your specifications
Dual inputs and outputs with separate cabinets for each
Reasonably priced and reportedly easy to use
What is not ideal about it?
The overall feel of the cabinet simulation may not suit everyone’s needs or tastes
There are no reviews on Amazon for this pedal, but it’s reasonably priced and worth a shot if you’re feeling adventurous
If you’re looking for the best simulator pedal at a great low, budget-friendly price, then you’re going to want to check out the Tomsline ADR-3 Dumbler Dumble Amp Simulator Pedal.
This pedal offers a dynamic overdrive and a true bypass for your signal. You can use it as a standalone unit or alongside a series of different overdrives to achieve varying levels of distortion. It is lightweight but has a slip-resistant bottom which will help you to keep it firmly in place during use.
Additionally, it has a stop bar in its design to prevent any accidental button-hitting that may occur when you step on it. It has volume, voice, and tone knobs at the top along with a gain knob in the center, which will allow you to adjust and control the sound you’re looking to get.
What are our favorite features?
Low cost, very budget-friendly
Great dumble amp simulator with a lot of good reviews
Offers dynamic overdrive and true bypass for your signal
Multiple, easy-to-use knobs to customize your sound quality and tones
The slip-resistant bottom keeps the pedal in place while the stop bar keeps you from accidentally hitting any buttons during use
What could be better?
There may be some quality-control concerns, as some customers received units that did not work properly or stopped working properly after a very short period
Some customers felt that it did not have a proper dumble sound but still found the unit usable for other needs
The 9V DC adapter to power this unit is not included, and you will need to purchase one separately
Power source: Optional DC Power Supply, 9V Battery, Phantom Power
Output: an effected XLR, effected 1/4” and parallel, unaffected 1/4″
Dimensions: 5.8″ x 4.2″ x 2.5″
Weight: 1 lb.
Other features: multi-function, multi-application pedal dials up big vintage tube tones, bright modern slap sounds, gnarly distortions, and all in between; switch to adjust the bass frequency; mid-range control and a switch to adjust the frequency
This particular amp simulator pedal is an impressive, versatile piece of equipment that many users have found to be multi-functional and great for a multitude of applications and uses. This pedal gives off great vintage tube tones, bright modern sounds, and any kind of noise in between.
You can use either a 9V alkaline battery or the optional DC power supply to power this unit. It’s the best based on customer reviews, and that can be attributed to its impressive versatility and the range of uses and tones you can elicit from this effects pedal. It can do tube circuit and speaker emulation using the dedicated Drive and Presence controls, and by using the Blend knob, you’ll be able to balance the emulation you want to add to your dry signal. The Bass and Treble controls can boost or cut your respective frequency as well.
Additionally, with the increased popularity of 5- and 6-string basses, the manufacturer added a switch specifically to adjust the bass frequency so that it extends into the lower registers.
Why is it special?
This unit has an impressive amount of versatility and it can be used for a variety of playing styles and genres
Offers both tube circuit and speaker emulation for a range of sounds, tones, and uses
Designed and intended to be used without an amp, though you can use this simulator with an amp if you choose to
Six adjustable controls for Level, Blend, Treble, Drive, Presence, and Bass with three outputs
Added switch to adjust the bass frequency to accommodate the lower registers of 5- and 6-string basses
What are the flaws?
One customer had a problem with the packaging of their unit, saying it was open, but this has no bearing on the unit itself
Some customers received units that did not include a DC power adapter, but most did so these may be outlying incidents
Things to Consider
If you plan to buy an amp simulator pedal it is useful to be aware of all the information about the quality and options such devices offer before making a purchase. And our buying guide will try to answer all the questions you might have.
Advantages of amp simulator pedals vs overdrive amps pedals
Different pros and cons may affect your buying decision when it boils down to amp simulator pedals versus overdrive amp pedals. First, you need to understand what each of these options does.
Overdrive pedals are typically confused with distortion pedals, but they function differently. These pedals drive your valves to the point of distortion or at least mimic the sound of what distortion would sound like coming from a solid-state amp. The purpose of these pedals is to mimic the sound of you turning up your valve amp as loud as it can go, but the overdrive pedal is a much safer option than actually blasting your valve amp. It provides the same dynamics and offers a softer clipping sound that’s meant to be smooth and versatile.
Amp simulator pedals, on the other hand, are designed to be amps that are more portable and cost-friendly. A good enough simulator can replace an amp entirely, and may even sound better in live performances than a standard amp because they can transfer the sound more evenly through a PA system. They can also handle a range of effects such as reverbs and delays, distortion and overdrives, flangers and compressors, and many more. They aren’t limited to one kind of sound alteration, and that’s what helps to make them stand out as the preferable option over overdrive amp pedals to many.
Features to consider when choosing amp simulator pedals
When searching for the best amp simulator for your particular needs and sound goals, there are a lot of factors that you should consider and take into account before committing to a purchase. That’s because these units can be pricey, and the costs will most certainly add up if you haven’t done the necessary research. So here, we’ll give you a run-down of things to look for when you compare units.
Even the best amp simulators need a power source. Most units will run off of either batteries or a power supply, and some will even have the option to choose either or. You may need to purchase an adapter separately, like with the Tomsline ADR-3 Dumble Simulator. However, most units, such as the Zoom G3, will come with an adapter included in the purchase. If you go for a model that can use batteries instead, like the Tech 21 SansAmp, you’ll want to make sure to purchase the appropriate battery size and voltage, and avoid using any that may have shipped with the product, as they may be damaged in transit or near the end of their life after being tested before shipping.
Inputs and Outputs
The input of your amp simulator pedal is where you’ll plug in your guitar or bass, and the output jack will be connected to whatever system you want the sound to play through, be it a standard amp, a PA system, or some other outlet. Some amp simulator pedals will have multiple input and output jacks, which will allow you to connect multiple instruments, outlets, or even other pedals.
Variety of tones
You can use a high-quality amp simulator pedal to achieve a plethora of tones when you play. Some will provide equalization, which will boost or cut the proportions of your frequency response entirely.
You should look for pedals that can equalize as well as compress your tones, which will reduce the variation of volumes between the peaks and troughs of your signal. This evens out the average volume, making it more consistent.
Many amp simulator pedals will also have options for distortion, fuzz, and overdrive effects, which will also affect your sound.
Switches and controls
If you want the best, most customizable and unique sound you can get, you want an amp simulator pedal that has intuitive switches and controls that are easy to use, easy to read, and will give you a wide range of factors to tweak to your liking. Some pedals will have more options and features than others and may have more controls as a result. Keep in mind that the more controls, switches, or knobs on a unit, the larger it will be and the less space it will leave on your pedalboard, but that it will ultimately give you more control of the sound you’re putting out.
Size and weight
The entire point of an amp simulator pedal is to increase not only your productivity and the quality of your sound, but also to do so while offering unparalleled convenience when compared to a full-sized amplifier. Different models of simulator pedal will come in different sizes and weights, so you need to find one that you would be comfortable working with. Some, like the Tomsline ADR-3 Dumbler, are lightweight but have slip-resistant backing on them, so they won’t be easily moved or disturbed while in use.
The durability of an electronic piece of equipment should always be one of your top priorities when shopping. That is especially true when you think about an amp simulator pedal – these units will endure a lot of abuse. From adjustments to being stepped on, you want to be sure the unit you’re looking to purchase is durable, rugged, and dependable under stress. All five of the units reviewed in our guide here have been regarded as dependable by the people who have bought and used them, but it’s something to keep in mind if you look at other pedals.
Whenever you buy a product, especially a piece of electronic equipment like these amp simulators, you should always check for a manufacturer’s warranty or any kind of relevant buyer protection initiative. Some may not be listed openly on Amazon, but if you check the manufacturer’s website, many quality, reputable brands will offer some kind of warranty for the products they make and distribute. You always want to be cautious and take the extra step to be sure your purchase, especially one potentially related to your career, is protected.
No matter your skill level, you can benefit from using an amp simulator pedal. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, hauling around a full-sized, heavy amp along with all of your equipment, sometimes up and down flights of stairs or in inclement weather, is inconvenient. Using an amp simulator pedal instead is much easier and more convenient for transportation purposes, but will also allow you to more easily explore a variety of tones, effects, and sounds.
Some amp simulator pedals are programmable and will store or save settings. For example, the Zoom G3 that was highlighted at the beginning of this guide as the best amp simulator is capable of storing settings and being programmed and customized to fit your uses.
Now that you’ve looked over our buying guide, you should have a pretty good idea of what to look for while searching for the perfect guitar or bass amp simulator pedal. Our top pick among the best amp simulator pedals, the Radial Engineering JDX, meets every basic criterion for a great amp simulator while also hosting an array of fantastic features, which include its expansive range of effects, easy slide switches, and additional DI box and signal splitter functionality. The Zoom G3 comes second, with its three large LCD displays and intuitive interface, which make it easy to create, save, and rearrange chain effects. The Digitech CabDryVR pedal can’t be overlooked either, with its combination of seven guitar and seven bass impulse responses, and the adjustable cab sizes for each. All of these units on our guide are remarkable pieces of equipment, and each has its unique benefits and features that make them the best in their bracket.