A Beginner’s Guide to Mini Guitar Effect Pedals

The mini pedal craze has proved it’s here to stay. While Dan & Mick have toyed around with some of the biggest and best guitar gear — like a full size Leslie cabinet or vintage Echoplex delay unit — this week on TPS, they explored how small pedals measure up to their full-size counterparts. With mini pedals offering advantages on several fronts, from economics to ergonomics, this blog distills the best of Dan & Mick’s experience to give you a place to start with mini guitar effect pedals.

Case Study Comparisons with the Ibanez Tubescreamer Mini and Ibanez ADMini Delay

One of the big questions about mini effect pedals is how they stand up to the tone and functionality of larger format stompboxes. In Dan & Mick’s a/b testing, two famous effects by Ibanez illustrated the surprising range and innovation of small format pedals.

The Ibanez Tubescreamer has a deeper heritage and more duplicity of clones than any other effect pedal. In the last few years, however, Ibanez innovated this circuit by shrinking it into the Tubescreamer Mini. So how does it sound against an original? Both TPS anchormen observed how the tiny pedal sounds a bit fatter by rolling off the bottom end of the frequency spectrum. Despite this and other shades of variation, Mick commented that “you could make a case that the Tubescreamer Mini sounds more like a classic 808 than [the reissue Keeley Mod version on the board]. I would be absolutely happy to run that mini pedal on my board, I don’t think there is any compromise there.”

In Ibanez’s expanded range of mini pedals, the ADMini Delay channels the delay sounds of the vintage Ibanez AD9. As Dan described, the mini pedal is fully analog, features bucket brigade circuitry, and is “a bit brighter than the original.” In this instance, however, the mini pedal in fact means more. Whereas the delay time was relatively limited in the original (ca. 280 ms), the ADMini extends this up to 600 ms. Dan remarked, “it’s impressive that in such a tiny little unit you have at least double the delay time.” In this case, the advances in circuitry design since the original meant optimizing the old school while extending it into new territory.

Dan & Mick’s Top Picks for Mini Pedals

At the top of the episode, both gents commented on the ever expanding range of mini effect pedals. If you aren’t in the market for tiny Tubescreamer or impish analog delay, then where might you look?

For Mick, he recalled that “the first mini pedals I remember taking seriously were the TC Electronic Hall of Fame and Flashback Delay because they seemed to offer a lot of functionality in a small footprint.” In these cases, the functionality far exceeds the format due to TC’s TonePrint technology. To which Mick added, that “every human being alive should own a TC Electronic Ditto Looper.” While Dan agreed on all these fronts, his other faves included the Mooer Trelicopter, Mooer Elec Lady, Sonic Research ST-300 Turbo Tuner Mini, and TC Electronic PolyTune Mini.

Whether you’re new to mini pedals or are simply looking to zap a few of your go-to effects with a shrink ray, this roster gives you a great place to start. The question now, however, is how to integrate these tiny effects into your existing rig.

Practical Considerations for Mini Pedals on Your Pedalboard

While sound must reign supreme in any effect selection, in the case of mini pedals it is essential to also consider the form and space requirements of the pedals when integrated into your rig.

First, be aware of the potential challenges of cramped effects. As Mick demoed, when they’re tucked in too close it’s easy to inadvertently engage multiple pedals. So be sure your mini pedals are good neighbors and allow for a bit of turf between them.

Second, watch for accidentally toppling your mini pedals by engaging them from an angle. Due to their taller-than-wide type design, mini pedals generally aren’t as rooted as regular format effects. So be sure they’re secure and stationed appropriately on your board.

Third, mini pedals can be a great solution for effects needed in your set in small doses. As Dan commented on the usability of the Mooer Trelicopter he noted, “while it isn’t my first choice for an all-around tremolo, for instances where I need it for a certain part of a song it’s perfect because I can squeeze that on my pedal board anywhere.

As Dan drew the show to a close, he emphasized the importance of individual experimentation with mini pedals. “The important thing to remember is that you can’t just group all these things into one genre, they’re all different. Whether they’re designed from scratch to fit into that enclosure or if they’re something that’s been shrunk down are all things to consider.”

Whether you’re looking for a complex multi-effect solution or a streamlined mini pedalboard, head over to Riff City for a huge selection of tiny pedals!

TPS Rig Rundown:

Guitars: Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster, Fender Custom Shop ’63 Telecaster, Gibson Memphis 1958 ES-335, Gibson Custom 1958 Les Paul Standard.

Pedals: Sonic Research ST-300 Turbo Tuner Mini, Jim Dunlop JHF1 Fuzz Face Distortion, Jim Dunlop FFM3 Fuzz Face Mini Distortion, Ibanez/Keeley Mod+ Tubescreamer, Ibanez Tubescreamer Mini (also available as Preowned), Suhr Riot Distortion, Suhr Riot Distortion Mini, NRG Purrer, NRG Purrer Mini, Ibanez AD9 Analogue Delay, Ibanez Mini Analogy Delay.

Amps: Mesa Fillmore FL-50, Supro Black Magick.

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