Best Guitar Sustain Pedals – Top Sustainers for the Money!

Author: Santiago Motto | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

I know what you’re thinking: “Sustain pedals; isn’t that a keyboard thing!?” Well, it is a piano invention but if you haven’t plugged your guitar into one of these, you’re missing out on an amazing new universe that can help you take your playing to a very different level.

I was once in your shoes and luckily for me, a fellow musician got me started in this magnificent world and now I’m fully into it and can’t get enough.

Allow me to be your fellow musician showing you the path to the best sustain pedals in the market. There’s an entire sonic universe within these artifacts and we’re on a vessel straight to its core.

Put your helmet on because you’re in for a ride!

5 Best Sustain Pedals for Guitar

1. Gamechanger Audio Plus - Piano-style Sustain Effect Pedal

The first thing that strikes you about this pedal is that it truly looks and feels much like a piano sustain pedal. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a real one in action or played one, but the action on this pedal is very similar to the real thing.

But what does this oddball of a pedal do for your tone? Well, it’s a very complete, complex, and reliable tone machine that can extend the duration of one, two, three, or multiple chords for as much time as you want (yes, that includes an “infinite” setting).

To control all the possibilities this pedal offers you can manipulate four knobs and a pair of sliding switches. 

But before we go to the specifics of the controls and their technicalities, let me tell you that the sound of this apparatus is incredible. Yes, it’s as musical, natural, and organic that you can maintain the exact tone of your favorite instrument even if it’s repeating endlessly behind your solo.

But let’s go to the important stuff, which is the audio test.

To begin with, I used it in the “Single” mode which captures a single sound you’re playing. I set every knob at noon and pressed the pedal after the chord to play some notes over it. Boy was I impressed with the results! The decay is completely seamless and musical and the natural harmonics of my Telecaster were preserved to the last bit.

Next, I set the pedal to “Group” mode and gave the “Blend” knob a little push while cranking the “Tail” and “Sustain” knobs. Finally, I kept the “Rise” knob at noon. The result was a lush sonic landscape full of intricacies and natural harmonics that worked like a wash around my playing.

My final setup was with the (not included) WET footswitch that helps you kill the dry signal. As a result you can do some amazing fade-ins and fade-outs that are cinematic to say the least.

Perhaps, the only drawback of this amazing pedal handmade in Latvia is its size. Yes, it won’t fit most pedalboards and might require being left out of your pedal family. For example, here’s The Tallest Man On Earth using his, outside his mammoth pedal ensemble.

You can also check this Reverb video for more sounds.

2. Electro-Harmonix Freeze Sound Retainer Pedal

The EHX Freeze is a pioneer in the guitar sustain pedals niche. Yes, this pedal was released more than ten years ago and it generated a big hype when it came out. I remember trying it out at a music store without a thorough understanding of its functions and thinking: “why would anyone buy this?” Here I am, a decade later telling you it’s a great invention.

But old man stories aside, the freeze is a compact pedal that’s cool to keep on your pedalboard for some details here and there. It’s got simple controls and rock-solid construction that ensures it can endure more than a tight touring schedule.

The fairly simple controls are a toggle that allows you to choose between “Fast”, “Slow”, and “Latch”. The “Level” knob lets you dial in the desired volume of the frozen signal.

So, the first thing I did was to use it in the “Fast” mode which is the first. The result was a sampling of my sound that remained behind my playing while I held the pedal switch down. As soon as I released it, the sound faded away almost instantaneously. This was the mode I liked the least because decay isn’t entirely natural.

The second mode, the “Slow” one, helped me do some beautiful fade-ins and fade-outs with a nice decay that worked great, especially when playing diminished, seventh, and ninth chords.

Finally, my favorite was the “Latch” mode which allows you to capture a sound and repeat it indefinitely until you press the switch again. This way I was able to play the root chord and play an entire scale over it without having to hold my foot down or anything like it.

There’s only one small drawback to this pedal that’s the lack of a knob to adjust the decay when in “Slow” or “Fast” mode. Other than that, it’s a cool addition to your board that won’t take too much real estate.

Check out this rather funny, old-school EHX video to learn more about the pedal. The internet has come a long way!

3. TC Electronic Infinite Sample Sustainer Pedal

TC Electronic is famous for making some of the most sought-after delay, reverb, and modulation pedals in the market. The brand’s name is a synonym for reliability as much as it is for innovation. Pedals like the Ditto, Polytune, and Flashback x4 were instant hits most of us owned at one point or another in our careers.

This pedal is no exception to that commitment to excellence and great sound the company is known worldwide for. Plus, the clever layout allows you to have instant control over key parameters just by turning knobs. Also, the toneprint capability lets you store up to three different settings that you can download or change from the free app.

So, let’s go to the juicy stuff. I plugged this thing in and was instantly blown away by the quality of the sound but that’s no news when you’re playing through anything this brand does. 

Anyway, after I came out of my awe, I went straight to the “infinite” setting on the “FX Type” knob and set the “Fade In” and “Decay” knobs at noon. Finally, I turned the first switch to the “Reverb” setting and the second switch to “Momentary”. The result was a mellow, enjoyable trail for everything I played.

I went to the “Decay” knob and cranked it all the way to see just how far you can take this pedal and the result was a little too much. Nevertheless, it stayed perfectly clean for the entire afternoon. Moreover, I downloaded the app and tried changing settings with it which resulted to be very simple and intuitive.

If I would have to say just one thing I didn’t like about this pedal is that it feels a little cluttered and seems like something you can’t really maneuver under the dim lights of a club.

Here’s a great video by the brand showing off the wonders this pedal can help you achieve.

4. Electro-Harmonix Superego Polyphonic Synth Engine Pedal

With such a psychoanalysis-friendly name, you would expect the Superego to be the almighty father of all sustain pedals. Well, we can say in a way that it’s not a traditional sustain pedal because it has a synth engine inside. 

According to the company, the Superego is a granular synthesizer that was designed to capture particles of sounds and turn them into beautiful “soundscapes and clouds”.

Yes, I agree with you, it got me interested as well.

Yet, all that complex jargon and hippie-friendly imagery are true because this pedal sounds like no other sustain pedal can. Indeed, you can achieve some hybrids between guitar and synth that might seem impossible with a single instrument. Yes, let’s hear it for these folks; EHX did it again.

The moment you plug this pedal in, you have to make a decision with a toggle switch in the middle to go for “Latch”, “Momentary”, or “Auto”. The first mode is infinite repetitions until you stop it. The second one works while you have your foot on the button, and the final one reacts to the attack of your pick.

But that’s not all, because this pedal also has four knobs: “Speed”, “Gliss”, “Dry”, and “Effect”. Three of them are kind of self-explanatory, regulating the speed of the fades, the amount of dry signal, and the volume of the effect. The “Gliss” knob comes from the word glissando which is the continuous slide from one note to another in classical music language.

I did what you would do and cranked the “Gliss” knob and the result was an amazing movement between chords that filled every bit of sonic space with musical noise and sweet overtones. I also tried the pedal with “Gliss” at noon going from latch to automatic and the results were very musical in every position.

Perhaps, the only caveat with this pedal is that it has a sound of its own and will color your instrument’s tone turning it into a modern synth-like tone machine. If you’re looking for a pedal to go a little crazy with and experiment, this is the ideal one; otherwise, just keep looking.

Here’s a cool video for bass players and one for guitar players to hear what it can do.

5. DigiTech FreqOut Natural Feedback Creation Pedal

The Digitech fellows had a great idea calling this pedal a FreqOut because it sounds like freak out and that’s exactly what happens to most people with feedback. Yet, what if you could get the beautiful sustain that happens right before mayhem occurs and just keep the note there?

Well, that’s exactly what I tried to find out when plugging this pedal in. To begin with, the rugged metallic chassis is perfect for the road and the row of red LEDs to the left side is very convenient when playing in the dark. 

On the other hand, the dual knob to control the “Range” is not so handy, especially to make changes on the fly (with a cheering audience asking you to hurry up).

The controls on this pedal also include a “Momentary” switch you can turn ON and OFF and a “Dry” switch you can turn ON and OFF. The momentary switch allows you to use the pedal only when you press it or allow it to read your pick intentions. The dry switch kills the dry signal if you want to hear only the feedback.

Finally, the “Type” knob allows you to choose the pitch of the feedback which can be a sub-octave, a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 5th above, or the natural low and natural high harmonics.

My first attempt when I plugged it in was to go for a distorted solo and try to make the FreqOut recreate those epic feedback moments when you bend a string and make way for that high-pitch squeal that’s so amazing and arena-rock ready. Believe me, the tone was right there. 

Then, I switched off the distortion and tried to make it feed back. The result? Instant arena-rock guitar God solo moment in my living room.

Perhaps, the only moment I felt I was hearing the trick happening was in the 5th, natural high and natural low settings. You can definitely hear the generated tone there besides your original one (taking away all that arena rock dream magic).

Here’s a cool video with some great guitar playing demonstrating each position.

Common Uses of a Sustain Pedal

The most common use of a sustain pedal is to use it as a soundscape to build on.

For example:

  • Solo players can sustain a chord and play on top of it or maybe even generate accents in certain sections of songs.
  • As a harmonizer. Yes, if you know a thing or two about harmony, you can create layers that make the perfect combination of sounds to build a song, solo, or idea.
  • It’s a great songwriting partner allowing you to play small arrangements over simple chord progressions.

What’s the Best Place in My Signal Chain for My Sustain Pedal?

Although there’s no right or wrong for this, it is good to think about it in terms of what you want to achieve. For example, if you are after ambiance sounds and musical landscapes, I would place it before your modulation, delay, and reverb pedals so that those will affect the repetitions as well as the original tone of the instrument.

On the other hand, I would definitely place it after your distortion pedals so you can control what goes into the infinite repetition and what you can play above it. Remember, if an effects pedal is after the sustainer, it will affect the repetitions too. If you keep your distortions before, you can play a ripping solo over a bed of lush delays and reverbs.

My Sustain Pedal Has an Effects Loop; What is It For?

Sustain pedals are like samplers; they take a bit of your signal and then repeat it a set number of times. The effects loop in your sustain pedal allows you to add an effect to the repeated signal only. This means that, for example, you can add tremolo to a line you’re endlessly repeating behind your playing while you do your best effort to bend like Gilmour in front of it.

Another great use for this is reverb pedals with the “shimmer” setting. Activating the shimmer mode allows you to add an infinite layer to everything you play while keeping the dry guitar signal concise and, well, dry.

Finally, another great use is adding an octave pedal to the effects loop. This will allow you to dial in the desired amount of low-end to the repeating part while you can construct guitar-like tones on top. 

This is particularly interesting when you mix it with a pedal like the Superego which has a synth engine inside and can transform the repeating audio into a drone-like sound that’s great to build songs or grooves with.

The only drawback of the effects loop for sustain pedals is that the pedal you use for that effects loop will not affect your guitar’s tone when the sustain pedal is off. A great addition to the Electro Harmonix line is the Superego+ which allows you to dial in the effects from the pedal’s internal effects engine.

You can see it in action in this cool video.

The Bottom End

Sustain pedals are expressive pedals that react to your playing musically enhancing your instrument’s tone. As such, they can open the doors of your imagination to new sonic landscapes. If you haven’t already, try one; you never know where it can take you.

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About Santiago Motto

Santiago is a guitar player with over 25 years of experience. A self-confessed guitar nerd, he currently tours with his band 'San Juan'. Called 'Sandel' by his friends, he has a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music. San especially has an immense love for telecasters and all-mahogany Martins.

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