Best Multi-Effects Pedals for Tube Amp – Suitable Options!

Author: Dedrich Schafer | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Multi-effects pedals are fantastic pieces of gear. They offer all-in-one solutions to guitarists looking to expand their pedalboard without spending a fortune. Larger multi-effects pedals can even act as a full pedalboard replacement.

However, digital effects can be a problem if you’re using a tube amp. Finding a multi-effects pedal that plays nicely with a tube amp can be a headache.

Top 3 - Multi-Effects Pedals for Tube Amps

That is why today I want to introduce you to three multi-effects pedals that work great with tube amps. For the purpose of this article, I used a Marshall DSL40CR as my test amp.

4 Best Multi-Effects Pedals for Tube Amps

1. Boss ME-90

At first glance, the Boss ME-90 looks rather intimidating. All the knobs and switches resemble the cockpit of an airplane and make the ME-90 seem about as complex.

Fortunately, everything is very nicely grouped and labeled. This makes the learning curve of the ME-90 fairly manageable, even if you aren’t too familiar with multi-effects pedals.

The labeling also helps with the readability of the pedal. I find it quite easy to quickly switch between patches and effects. The LED indicators also let me know what is active and what isn’t.

Speaking of patches and effects, there are a lot. From simple distortion to phasers and pitch shifters, you’re pretty spoiled for choice when it comes to effects. They can all be used individually or combined into custom patches and mapped to one of the footswitches.

I like having the analog interface with the knobs to select effects. Layering effects on multi-effects pedals can become complex pretty quickly. Being able to see all the effects you are using at the same time takes away a lot of that unnecessary complexity.

The pedal on the right side is also something I really like. Instead of just being a simple volume or wah pedal, it can also be used to shape effects while playing to add an extra layer of dynamics.

The ME-80 can also be used as an audio interface to record with a DAW like Pro Tools or Reason. It isn’t the best interface I have ever used, but is a great addition if you just want to do some simple recording in your bedroom.

With everything the ME-90 can do, I see it more as a complete pedalboard replacement than a pedalboard addition. There are certainly better multi-effects pedals out there, but those are also more expensive.

As a simple and affordable fully equipped pedalboard, I can’t recommend the ME-90 enough.


  • Fully equipped, very affordable pedalboard
  • Doubles as an audio interface
  • Easy to learn and use


  • A little bit bulky

2. Line 6 HX Effects

The Line 6 Helix is one of the best multi-effects pedals out there and a personal favorite of mine, which made me pretty excited to test out the HX.

The HX is a sort of stripped-down version of the Helix. The obvious difference between the two is that the HX doesn’t have the big LCD screen or an expression pedal.

On the inside, the HX also doesn’t have any amp, cabinet, or mic models like the Helix. This might seem like you’re losing out, but I think this makes the HX a bit more focused.

Having a pedal that only focuses on effects makes setting the pedal up much quicker and easier. I was able to get my custom banks set up much better as well since I didn’t have to worry about the amps and cabs in my signal chain.

Speaking of setting up patches, I found it to be very easy and intuitive on the HX. Tapping the footswitches opens up the edit menu for that patch and then the rotary knobs are used to scroll through all the effects.

Even though the large LCD screen is gone, I am glad that Line 6 has kept the smaller LCDs on top of the footswitches. Being able to clearly label each footswitch is one of the things that I like the most about the Helix. I think getting rid of that on the HX would have been a mistake.

The exclusion of an expression pedal isn’t a big deal either since the HX has enough inputs for two pedals at once.


  • Updateable with newer effects
  • Easy and intuitive to set up
  • Customizable footswitches and LCD screen labels


  • No integrated expression pedal
  • No amp, cab, or mic models

3. Eventide H9 Max

The Eventide H9 is one of the most modern multi-effects pedals I have ever used. Unlike other multi-effects that are controlled through onboard knobs and switches, the H9 is controlled almost entirely through software.

It's operated either through a Mac or Windows program with iOS and Android apps also available. I also appreciate that the H9 has both wired and wireless connection capabilities.

I was a bit concerned when I first booted up the H9 software. Often, the software for gear can be a bit complicated and confusing to use. The H9’s software is luckily very well laid out and simple to use.

Even the Android app is super easy. I don’t have an iPhone, but I suspect the iOS app is similar to the Android app.

Being software-controlled does make the H9 more of a studio pedal than a gig pedal. I had a bit of trouble just jamming with the pedal since I couldn’t quickly access any presets through the pedal itself.

As for the actual sound of the effects, the H9 uses nine algorithms to simulate all of the different effects. The engineers over at Eventide certainly know what they’re doing. These are perhaps the highest-quality effects simulations I have ever heard on a multi-effects pedal.

This high quality of sound is of course reflected in the price tag. The H9 is quite a bit more expensive than most comparable pedals. There is a cheaper base version, but that only comes with two of the nine algorithms.

The other algorithms can then be bought separately. I would probably just go for the H9 Max to avoid any headaches down the line.

I am always a bit wary of gear that relies on software to work. There is no real guarantee that you will still be able to use it in 10 or 20 years.


  • Highest quality sound of any multi-effects pedal
  • Software is very easy to use
  • iOS and Android apps also available for portable control
  • Wired and wireless connections are possible


  • More affordable pedals of similar quality are available
  • Heavy reliance on software to work

4. Boss GT-1

Don’t let the toy-sized housing of this powerful effects processor fool you. This is not something to let your kids play with, on the contrary, it’s a very capable multi-effects unit that’s as portable as it is powerful.

But perhaps the feature that makes it the perfect companion for a tube amp is the “Preamp” button on the front panel. With it, you can simply turn off the preamp section of the multi-effect and make it work as a chain of modulation, pitch, and time-based effects.

Speaking of which, the ability to make the expression pedal work on effects parameters, volume, wah, and pitch shifting is a welcome addition to an already powerful package.

But what does this ultra-portable Boss multi-effects unit sound like?

Well, in my opinion, no other company does modulation effects quite like its creator. Yes, in case you didn’t know, Boss came up with the Chorus effect in the 1970s.

So, to try out some of the modulation capabilities of this great unit, I tried plugging it through the effects loop. The result was instant The Edge sounds with effortless playability and stellar dynamics. My pick attack would drive the amp as much as if there was nothing else going on and the delay, reverb, and modulation sounded lush and clear.

Just to do an experiment (I could have played the entire afternoon with the GT-1 through the effects loop) I went from the guitar to the multi-effect and from there to the amp’s input.

With all EQs at noon, the sound was very Marshall-like with my humbucker-equipped guitar. The chainsaw-like distortion and screaming leads were impeccable while the delay trail followed tightly.

Finally, I tried using the unit’s preamp and distortion units but the result wasn’t as satisfactory as it was without them. They sounded kind of plastic through the amp’s input, and, as we all know, you don’t use the distortion through the effects loop of your amp.

I would say that if you want a multi-effects unit to add new sounds to your arsenal, this is a great choice. It sounds majestic through the effects loop, just don’t rely on it for distortion, overdrive, and amp simulation.

Using a Multi-Effects Pedal with a Tube Amp

There is some debate around whether you should use digital effects with a tube amp. Tube amps are just naturally better than most solid-state ones and many people think digital effects detract from tube amps rather than add to their sound.

In my experience, it all depends on the pedal you’re using and how you’re using it. Pedal makers like Boss and Line 6 really know what they’re doing when it comes to digital effects. If one of their pedals isn’t working with a tube amp then no one else’s will.

Applying your pedal correctly is the most important part, though. I usually avoid distortion on a digital effects pedal when using a tube amp. A tube amps gain channel will almost always be better, but you can use the pedal's overdrive to boost the amp’s.

I would stick with using the other effects like delays, phasers, EQ, etc. These effects don’t interfere with the amp’s sound and won’t result in a bad experience.

Most modern tube amps also have an FX Loop, usually at the back of the amp. Even though effects pedals can go through the front input of the amp, the FX Loop is really the intended way.

But, how do effects loops work? Well, instead of hitting the amp’s preamp with the modified signal, what you do is place the multi-effects unit between the amp’s preamp and power amp sections.

This helps keep the effects cleaner and lusher. For example, delay, reverb, and modulation tend to retain their character better when they’re not modified by the amp’s preamp. Bear in mind that the preamp is where most of the tone shaping takes place. Therefore, it’s not the same to hit it with a delay-drenched signal as to add that effect after the signal is distorted.

Here’s a cool video with a practical demonstration of how this works:

I think the most important thing to remember is that tube amps react differently on low settings compared to high settings. Before adding any digital effects, set your amp the way you intend to play so that you can easily adjust your pedal later.

Losing Dynamics, Opening Up Choices

The first thing people will tell you when you’re about to place a digital multi-effects pedal in front of a tube amp is “You’re throwing your money away”. This is because of a simple mathematical reason: digital means zeros and ones mimicking the sound curve while the tube amp creates that sound curve at infinite resolution.

That is what I call a solid point, there’s a high chance of losing some of the dynamics, natural harmonic overtones, and sparkle of your tube amp if you go through a digital multi-effects unit.

Yet, that’s only the drawback of this approach, but there’s a huge gain as well. For example, you can use the amp’s tone platform to create different sounds that are only possible in the digital realm. For example, you can mix different delay times, add three or four modulations, and create a sonic landscape that’s completely unique utilizing the amp’s warmth and tube tone but adding a new color palette.

Moreover, I have to mention convenience and transportation. It’s far easier to just take your multi-effects unit to the gig along with your amp and guitar than a full pedalboard.

Furthermore, you can forget about the possibility of inter-pedal cables failing on the night of the big event and leaving you out of the game.

So, you might lose some dynamics going from digital to tube but you’ll also open up a myriad of different tonal options that only digital technology can provide you with.

Finally, that’s what the effects loop of your amp is all about, keeping the preamp tone as raw and beautiful as it is while adding colors before the sound hits the speaker.

The Signal Loss Myth

Before wrapping this section up, I would like to approach a common myth we all know as “the signal loss myth”. I know what you’re thinking: “Sound degradation is real!” Well, that’s something I already know and that I’ve experienced firsthand. Yes, I used to plug a Digitech RP-7 (with a small 12ax7 tube in it) and a Boss ME-30 in front of a tube amp. So, believe me, I know about signal loss.

Yet, what the myth doesn’t contemplate is the level of loss you’ll experience and what you’ll gain on the other hand. I mean, not everybody who owns a tube amp is trying to play vintage Rolling Stones tunes, some of us want to take our sound to a more modern territory.

In that scenario, the perfect mix of digital multi-effects units and the valve’s raw power give you an uncanny sound capable of the best of both worlds. Yes, it won’t sound exactly like the original, but that might not be your search either.

But that’s not all, because there’s another aspect of this combo that purists are not taking into consideration. Let’s say that you’re playing a gig at the local pub and the soundman tells you he’s going to throw an SM57 in front of your amp and its sound is going to come out of the PA system.

Do you think the small difference between your amp’s sound going pure or through a digital multi-effects unit will be heard by the audience? Me neither. Plus, you’ll usually play more comfortably and save stage real estate.

In other words, you can focus on putting on a better show for your soon-to-be fans than on the tone difference nobody will notice anyway.

Then, when you make it to the bigger leagues, you can get a couple of gleaming tube amps and a larger-than-life, Frusciante-style pedalboard full of analog gear to preserve the purity of your tone.

Final Word

There are many different multi-effects pedals out there. They come in all types of different shapes, sizes, and configurations.

The multi-effects pedals in this article are just a handful of the pedals out there, but I believe they are some of the best multi-effects pedals available today.

Avatar photo

About Dedrich Schafer

Dedrich is a guitar player, songwriter and sound engineer with extensive music production and studio experience. He mostly listens to classic rock and punk bands, but sometimes also likes listening to rap and acoustic songs.

2 thoughts on “Best Multi-Effects Pedals for Tube Amp – Suitable Options!”

Leave a Comment