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: November 19, 2022
Prime Sound is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here
Musicians are always looking for exploring new musical sounds to experiment and make the music they create more vibrant and creative. In the last fifty years, effects pedals have been increasingly used as a way of musicians manually controlling the effects through their feet. Pedals are most commonly used by guitarists and keyboard players. Expression pedals are a type of effect pedal that controls sound. They most commonly focus on volume but can be manipulated to control for other sound effects.
So, what are the best expression pedals currently available to purchase? This article attempts to answer this question as purchasing the best expression pedal for your musical needs can be a difficult task. The buying guide highlights various features that we consider important in the process of purchasing an expression pedal, these include dimensions, material, capacity, weight and price. It is always good practice to read up and do as much research as you can before buying a guitar expression pedal or an expression pedal for other instruments. They are technical and temperamental pieces of equipment that need some knowledge to operate effectively.
The article starts with a comparison table of the seven product reviews. The in-depth product reviews include the key features, pros/cons and description to give you all the essential information on each product. This is followed by the buying guide and FAQ section. The article uses a variety of online sources including manufacturers websites and customer reviews, to provide highly informed content about the best expression pedals.
The MeloAudio EXP-001 Volume Expression Pedal is an affordably priced expression pedal that perfectly suits the needs of the majority of guitar players. The greatest benefits of using the pedal include the comfort and control that players feel when using it in either live or studio performance. Comfort is guaranteed through the extra smooth design and its slim size.
An aspect of the pedal that ensures fantastic control is that the product has been designed without damping. This means that when the pedal is not stepped on, it will not deviate from its specific angle. This ideal particularly for live performers, who want that guarantee that the pedal will not manipulate the sound when not being stepped on.
The EXP-001 is constructed with a cast aluminum housing, which is renowned for its precision response when musicians apply pressure with their foot. A common complaint about using pedals in live performance is their tendency to moisten up and being unable to guarantee a sure-footing. The rubber top of the EXP-001 is perfectly designed to prevent any slip action.
Another great feature of the EXP-001 is its usability. The pedal is compatible with virtually all well-known effects models and brands such as MIDI COMMANDER and TS MEGA. Purchasing the EXP-001 is not a significant investment either, for the price you certainly receive amazing value. The highly durable product design gives users guarantees of long-lasting performance. The EXP-001 is a worthwhile option for those looking for enhancing their musical sound.
What makes it stand out?
Rubber top for non-slip
Compatible with most effects
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
Requires an inverted polarity cable for some effects
Measuring at 3-7/16” × 7-7/8” × 2-3/16”, the Roland EV-5 Expression Pedal is one of the smallest guitar expression pedals currently available to purchase. Known for being useful with reverb and delay pedals, the EV-5 is a great and reasonably priced expression pedal for those wanting to experiment with sounds on the guitar or keyboard.
Although not as robust or ergonomic compared to premium expression pedals made by manufacturers such as Yamaha, the EV-5 is widely respected among musicians. The small pedal is better to be used in studio conditions as the plastic will be unlikely to survive the rigors of touring for long periods. That said, purchasers of the product have had over 20 years of use out of the same EV-5 pedal. If used properly and maintained well, the EV-5 can certainly serve musicians a long time.
The pedal contains four different expression curves programmed. This gives you a decent variety of expression effects to play around with. If it is being used with a keyboard, make sure that the expression curve of the keyboard controller is compatible to ensure a smooth connection with the pedal.
Although some may be deterred by the plastic design, the EV-5 gives an affordable option for players who are unsure about investing significant sums into more expensive expression pedals. The EV-5 is there to give players a cheaper option and on balance gives great value for money. As the design is plastic, it requires greater care to ensure it can perform over a long period of time.
The DigiTech Dynamic Guitar Expression Pedal is precisely engineered guitar expression pedal that allows guitarists to get natural feedback from their strings at both loud and soft volumes. Available at a more premium price, the DigiTech Dynamic Guitar Expression Pedal is renowned for preventing any unwanted distortion when the effects are applied. It is suited to those who are focused on achieving a clear and crisp expression effect.
The DigiTech Dynamic Guitar Expression Pedal is ideal to be used in a studio where the volume can be controlled as if using the large studio decks and ear monitors. The ability for the pedal to deliver high-quality low-volume performance is a great asset for those wanting to experiment with expression effects in a practice setting.
Although it is the best choice for a studio recording, the DigiTech Dynamic Guitar Expression Pedal is also able to stand up to the rigors of live performance. The pedal can focus any feedback that is out of control and can apply the best harmonics no matter what position you are located on the stage. The pedal is equipped with several onset delay and level balance controls and gives players decent harmonic capability with 7 feedback options.
The DigiTech Dynamic Guitar Expression Pedal is a fantastic option for musicians looking for an investment in the quality kit to improve their sound quality and variety. The pedal is designed specifically for guitarists and provides a great number of expression effects options.
The M-Audio EX-P Expression Pedal is an affordable expression pedal that despite using cheaper design materials provides musicians with great sound options for those looking for exploring different effects. The plastic surface is known for being smooth and responsive when pressure is applied, giving guitarists great control over effects and volume. The molded construction is pretty durable provided it is well-maintained.
The M-Audio EX-P Expression Pedal is compatible with most effect variables, which give purchasers great options to explore a variety of different effects. The pedal best serves M-Audio products and may not work as efficiently with other effects pedals. The cable is hardwired to the pedal unit which adds good stability for the connection but may be a hindrance to those wanting to explore non-TRS connections. Using an adapter can add to the number of potential effects connections.
No matter what it is used with: a guitar or a keyboard, the M-Audio EX-P Expression Pedal is a very decent, affordable option that generally works well. The pedal can hold a wide range of MIDI values and holds the position of a certain effect, when the foot is removed from the pedal. For most instruments, the M-Audio EX-P Expression Pedal works at a base level as a volume adjustment controller.
The M-Audio EX-P Expression Pedal is an ideal expression pedal for musicians to play around with. It can be easily manipulated to fit into your desired musical context. Available at an affordable price, many agree that this pedal gives you some of the best value for money across the whole expression pedal market.
The SONICAKE Wah/Volume Guitar Pedal is a slick mat black, small-sized pedal that delivers fantastic sound options to your pedalboard. The remarkably compact design is ideal for musicians who already own several effects pedals and need small pedals to fit onto the pedalboard.
The volume dimension to the pedal is an active circuit which is a great asset as it reduces the chances of having difficulties with any impedance or mismatch problems. In addition to active volume control, the SONICAKE Wah/Volume Guitar Pedal also has a vintage wah effect, which is an appeal for musicians who like the wah effect. This effect is ideal for funk musicians and guitarists who play an experimental solo. The wah effect mirrors the renowned Crybaby style which is both highly responsive but also dynamic.
The SONICAKE Wah/Volume Guitar Pedal is constructed from a hard plastic which is protected by a super lightweight casing. Although very light, the pedal construction is incredibly robust and expertly designed. The strength of the materials is certainly able to withstand the inevitable battering of touring life. The SONICAKE Wah/Volume Guitar Pedal is also ideal for live performance as two LED lights indicate which mode the pedal is operating in. In the madness of live performance, it is ideal for players to have a visual indication of which setting is being operated to reduce chances of confusion.
The SONICAKE Wah/Volume Guitar Pedal requires a 9V DC power supply and weighs approximately 250g. Although a little more expensive than other pedals, this pedal is an investment in quality.
Boss expression pedals are known for being the best. The Boss FV-500H Foot Volume Pedal is a premium-priced guitar expression pedal that delivers high-quality sound and durable performance. Constructed from heavy-duty aluminum with a die-cast body, the Boss FV-500H is known for being one of the most durable expression pedals in the market and caters for different foot sizes.
The surface of the pedal is made with rubber which is perfect in preventing any slipping when playing. This a common issue among pedals that may become ineffective or malfunction when the foot is unable to secure proper connection to the pedal surface. The Boss FV-500H has two main expression effects, the FV-500H which provides a mono sound with high-impedance levels. The other main expression effect is the FV-500L which is a stereo effect containing low-impedance.
The movement of the pedal is very well designed. It is ultra-smooth and provides players first of all with a great level of comfort but also allows for a much stronger degree of control. For expression pedals to work effectively, musicians have to trust the pedal movement. If there is unable stiffness or insecure connection, the control of the musician over their output is significantly reduced. The quality of the Boss FV-500H pedal in terms of movement is far superior to rival products. The feel of the pedal can also be adjusted which is ideal for those wanting to customize the feel.
The Boss FV-500H also contains a convenient tuner-output jack, which allows players to plug in different instruments to the expression pedal. The Boss FV-500H is certainly an investment in comfort and smoothness.
The Fender EXP-1 Expression Pedal is an expression pedal that caters for the Fender amps and offers a fantastic sound variety. Although the pedal is only compatible with Fender products, the sound quality of Fender EXP-1 is superior to many other expression pedals currently in the market. When used in conjunction with the FUSE software, the richness and variety of sound is particularly evident.
The two modes of the Fender EXP-1 expression pedal are volume and expression. Depending on the signal chain used to connect the pedal, it can also be a controller for reverb, delay, modulation speed and gain levels, giving musicians the full array of effects to control. The Fender EXP-1 is large enough to be operated by either the toe or heel for the majority of the foot size.
The red and green LED lights to indicate which mode is being operated. This is a great feature to give the player a visual indication of the mode, particularly when playing live as knowing which effect is on is crucial in preventing playing the wrong effect at the wrong time.
The customizable elements of the Fender EXP-1 is the real draw: good connection to various signal chains allows the sound effects to be selective and suited to your musical style. Investing in the Fender EXP-1 is an exploration into the world of effects, and it will undoubtedly encourage further musical experimentation.
What are its best features?
Large array of effects
Toe or heel control
What could be improved?
Only used with Fender amps
Things to Consider
To choose the best expression pedal to add into your inventory you need to have a general idea of what they are and do as well as the features they have. There are a lot of pedals in the market to choose from. This buying guide will help you get value for your money by purchasing the best expression pedal.
Types of Pedals Necessary for a Guitar Players
If you own a guitar and want to take its tone to the next level, consider buying a guitar effects pedal. The following is a list of pedals that every guitarist should own;
Treble booster pedal
The purpose of this pedal is to boost and amplify the treble sounds which are produced by the guitar. If your guitar produces a more bass-focused or dark sound, this pedal is suitable because it balances everything out and let your guitar sing.
This is the simplest effect pedal you can find. Its main purpose is to increase the signal of your guitar. It allows you to hit the front end of the amp by adding more signal, therefore, providing more gain.
This pedal gives you control on how you can amplify the sound produced by your guitar shaping it in the end. It is better to overdrive the sounds of your guitar than to distort them, as it makes the sounds be warmer and inviting than when the guitar is in factory state.
Acoustic simulator pedal
This pedal allows you to enjoy both worlds of acoustic and electric styles without much effort. These pedals enable you to make changes even if you are in the middle of a song, which is a great way of captivating your audience.
This is a pedal commonly used by most musicians all over the world. Even if you are using a guitar pedal, you do not have to increase the distortion to the maximum level. Increasing a little bit can change the guitar sound bringing life to the tones.
The reverb effect is one of the earliest effects of a guitar to exist. They are commonly used in amps and pedals to provide a reverberating effect similar to a subtle echo. The main reason to add a reverb pedal to your inventory is that it adds depth to your sound making it more defined and with life.
This is the most basic pedal you can have which enables you to remotely control the volume. With the volume pedal, you have a lot of opportunities to shape the sound, depending on its position compared to other pedals. This pedal is good for gains and tones, as well as controlling the level of volume especially just before a drop.
Features to Consider when Choosing Expression Pedal
The following are some of the features that you should consider before buying an expression pedal.
Power cord length
This is an important feature when buying a pedal. If you are performing on stage to a huge crowd you will want to buy a longer power cord. This is to allow you to move freely on stage without tumbling down. Whereas, if you are playing indoors a shorter cord will work as well.
Pedals are made of different materials which can either be heavy-duty aluminum, plastic or rubber. The aluminum material as seen in the Boss FV-500H is more durable than the plastic ones. Pedals with plastic tops are cheaper as well. Most pedals will have an aluminum base and a plastic top. A more suitable pedal is one with a top made of rubber because it prevents sliding of the foot, which can be an embarrassing situation if you are performing.
This is the size of the pedal. A pedal that is small in size such as the SONICAKE Wah/Volume Guitar Pedal is more practical especially if you are moving around and have other pedals as it is easy to carry. However, if you have bigger feet, you will need to purchase a larger pedal to be able to control it well.
The pedals should be compatible with the guitar to be able to function. Make sure that they can work together before you can purchase the pedal. For example, the Fender EXP-1 is only compatible with Fender products. You do not want to buy a pedal that you will not use and could be non-refundable.
If you are looking into buying a pedal that does more than one job, then consider buying a model which is multifunctional. Some pedals have the Volume/Expression package while others have the Wah/Expression Combo. You should have a pedal that is suitable for your needs.
The prices of pedals vary from $40 to $160. If you are a beginner you do not have to spend more money to buy a pedal, buy a cheaper one which you can only handle. But if you are an experienced person with pedals, you can spend more money on a technical pedal which you can handle. There is a price in the market for pedals that fits everyone’s budget and specifications.
it is important to buy pedals with warranties which will give you protection as a customer in case of any damage. Always check with the manufacturer as different pedals have different warranties.
To help you choose the best expression pedal out there, here are the answers to your most frequently asked questions:
Yes, you can use an expression pedal for both your guitar and keyboard. But you will need to make sure that the pedal is electronically and physically compatible with the keyboard and the guitar. This is because some pedals are only compatible with keyboards and guitars of the same brand as they are.
An expression pedal controls the effects of other pedals. It can control the feedback level of the delay pedal, pitch of a whammy pedal, rate of phase pedal and gain of a distortion pedal. It can also control the volume pedal. On the other hand, the volume pedal is used as a master control of the volume produced by the guitar to create a sweeping and lush soundscape.
Before you start your purchasing process of the best expression pedal it is essential that you take time to research online or take advice of an experienced expression pedal user. To operate pedals effectively it is important to have some understanding of how they function to avoid any potential problems.