This article is about pedals that simulate the tone of guitar amps and cabs but are not able to power a speaker cabinet. If you are looking for a pedal that can do that, see our article about the best power amp pedals.
Once upon a time, most electric guitarists (i.e. those with a limited budget) had to pick an amplifier and a cabinet that would pretty much define their tone – until they got tired of it, and bought new gear. Settling on one amp/cab combo wasn’t easy, and generated a fair amount of anxiety.
Luckily for them, today’s six-stringers don’t need to face that conundrum, because technology has developed systems that allow them to carry dozens of amps and cabinet tones in a very small (stomp)box.
A Buyer’s Guide to the Best
Amp Modeling Pedals and Cab Simulators
This is a guide to the best amp modeler pedals and cab simulators on the market, today. The article is focused on regular stompboxes and doesn’t cover board-size multi-effect units nor tabletop devices.
Updated onSept 27, 2023
Before we dive into the various offerings, a little bit of history is due…
A Brief History of Amp Simulation Devices
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As usual, in our guides, we make an effort to organize the categories in ways that are useful to our readers. Here’s how we decided to lay out the content of this article, you can click on any of these titles to jump to the category’s list of pedals:
• Amp + Cab Modeler Pedals with Two Footswitches
• Amp + Cab Modelers with One or No Footswitch
• Multi-Mode, Full-Size Cab Modeling Pedals (No Amp)
• Mini Cab Modeling Pedals (No Amp)
• Single Mode Cab Emulators (No IR, No Amp)
• Stereo Amp/Cab Modelers
Amp + Cab Modeler Pedals with Two or More Footswitches
The devices in this list allow you to switch between presets right with your feet, thanks to their dual footswitches. They will all provide you with tonal options in both the amp and cab simulation realms. The more pricey ones also include third-party IR compatibility, XLR out, headphones out, and, in some cases, dual outputs. With the exception of the Two-notes Revolt, they are all DSP-powered (digital).
Amp + Cab Modeler Pedals with One or No Footswitch
If toggling between presets is not a priority for you, the pedals in this list are excellent options in all price ranges. (Some still allow switching between presets through a separate switchboard). They all offer both amp and cab simulations, some through digital circuits, others through analog ones, while some employ hybrid circuits. A bunch of them feature an on/off footswitch, while many do not – at the end of the day, electric guitarists never need to bypass their amp and cabinet! The pricier ones include handy features like third part IR compatibility and XLR and headphone out.
Multi-Mode, Full-Size Cab Modeling Pedals (No Amp Simulation)
Considering that cabinets affect the tone a lot more heavily than amps and that many guitarists use overdrives that emulate amps, some of you may want to stick to pedals that only offer cab modeling options. If that’s the case, this is your list.
Multi-Mode Mini Cab Modelers (No Amp Emulation)
If size and budget are limited, and you only want a spectrum of cab sonic flavors, the tiny devices in the list might be just what the doctor ordered.
Single Mode Cab Emulators (No IR, No Amp Emulation)
The devices in this list provide cab emulation (no amp) without modeling technology: rather than emulating specific existing models, they provide the player with controls that allow to creation of original tones by experimenting with various settings affecting several sonic elements.
Stereo Amp/Cab Simulators
For the forward-thinking guitarists, we thought it would be handy to group together all the Stereo options from the previous lists!
Relevant Video About Cab/Amp Emulating Pedals
Where does an Amp Modeler go in the Effects Order? (Chords of Onion)
Impulse Response Cab Sims Explained (Wampler)