A couple of weeks ago I broke down and ordered some guitar pedals. The idea was to create a selection of pedals I could use both with my amp and running directly into a mixer for playing at our church and/or for recording (been doing some writing again lately).
I haven't spent extensive time fiddling with each one on its own, but I have been playing a lot with them as a unit. What follows are my initial thoughts and the reasons I chose the ones I did. My default choices were going to be Boss pedals, because they're a good industry standard, and they make solid stuff. I stuck to that default sometimes; other times, I didn't.
Going in order of my effects chain, the first pedal is overdrive - specifically, the Boss OD-3.
I suppose the main question to answer is "why the OD-3 over the SD-1, which is about half the price?". I did debate this quite a bit, but after watching several comparison videos on youtube and reading reviews, it seemed that the OD-3 was reputed to be a bit clearer, warmer, and less harsh - and I wanted "overdrive", not "super overdrive". There's also a little of "you tend to get what you pay for" in my thinking.
I don't have any personal experience with the SD-1, but the OD-3 sounds great. It gives a nice, warm, blues or classic-rock style overdrive crunch to the signal on its own, and if I run it into my distortion pedal or drive channel on my amp, I get a really nice, jagged, high-gain metallic distortion. It's just what I wanted from overdrive.
This was the pedal that I agonized over the most. There are a lot of different distortion sounds, and they all have different characters. My original plan was to go with the good ol' DS-1. It's a well respected pedal, and it's cheap - and I still might pick that one up - but I really wanted something versatile.
In a couple of distortion pedal lists and videos, I found the Fender Pugilist Distortion pedal - and I really liked the sound of it. This one has two different distortion circuits, the sounds of which you can use seperately, blend together, or even run one into the other (I do think it would have been cool if they would have made the blend/series switch a footswitch). It's not a super-high-gain pedal (their Full Moon Distorition is more aimed that way), but you can get a pretty wide range of drive from using only channel A with just a little gain, to a pretty heavy sound running channel A into B with both gains cranked. Add my Overdrive onto the front end, and you can get some pretty wicked gain (albiet a bit noisily) as mentioned above. The Fender tone also does a bit to mitigate the midrange exaggeration of my SG+amp combo (which I've mentioned before).
The Fender pedals are solidly built, look great, and I have to admit, I loved the name of this one. "Pugilist" as the name of a drive pedal is pretty awesome.
Next up is the compressor. Once agan, I initially figured on picking up the Boss CS-3, but read several articles sayng it was a bit noisy. I know there is some misconception with compressors and noise, but I saw this concern often enough that it affected my choice. Since I'd already gone with one Fender pedal, I decided to take a look at their compressor, The Bends.
This was another pedal with a good look and a cool name, but that wasn't going to sell me on its own. The reviews on this compressor were very positive though, and a couple even commented that this particular compressor was quiet and subtle. Compression is one of those effects where, if you're doing it right, you don't really notice it - so this sounded good to me.
The controls on The Bends are a little different from those on the CS-3 and more "standard" compressors, but ultimately they do the same thing and give you a fair amount of control (moreso than the much-loved MXR Dyna Comp, which has one knob for "compression"). Also, I like the feature where the jewel LED on top of it actually changes color to show when/how the compressor is affecting the signal. I tend to leave this on all the time, but its effects are most noticeable when playing clean - tightening up the dynamics and giving a little boost to sustain.
So then there's the Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble. This pedal is different from the others in that I've had it for about 20 years. It's probably not one I'd pick out these days, but I got a lot of use out of it in the past - and I have it, so I threw it in. It performs its chorus functon well, but it's not an effect I use super often - and when I do, it's usually fairly subtle. I think these days, if I was going to pick up a modulation pedal, I'd probably look at a flanger or phase shifter. Like many modulation pedals, it will take you all the way from "barely noticeable" up through "unusably bizarre".
The biggest reason I wanted a reverb pedal was for amp-less playing. My amp has a decent spring reverb built in, and I'm not super picky about my reverb sound - I just know I don't like the sound of an electric guitar without a good dose of it.
For whatever reason, reverb pedals tend to be some of the more expensive effects. I went ahead with the Boss RV-6 on this one, as it was well-liked and seemed to have a decent selection of reverb types/effects. I also liked the fact that it has a +delay mode to play around with without buying a dedicated delay pedal. Whle I may not be picky, I have enjoyed playing with what this pedal can do - and it's reverb is quite a bit juicier than what's in my amp - so it's usually always on.
It sounds good. Like I said, I'm not super picky on reverb in particular.
Last in the chain is the MXR 10-band EQ pedal, which I've talked a little about before - it's good for guitar and bass, and it has +/- sliders for volume and gain. It does a good job of taming my amp in a couple of ways, and it should give me more control over my tone for direct inputs.
So that's about it. I'm pretty happy with this setup. Nothing super fancy, but it gives me a solid sound and some versatility. If I get good mileage out of this stuff I might eventually pick up other toys - perhaps wah, volume, phaser, delay, some more drive pedals - but most of that stuff is all secondary at best.