Tracking down affordable good sounding pedals used to be a real challenge but that’s certainly not the case anymore. Most of what you find these days within the budget range offer great sounds and high quality. In this feature we’ll look at some of my favourite budget pedals, with David Gilmour’s tones in mind.
It’s not that long ago that you had to pay serious money for good tone. Now you often see high profiled guitarists favouring cheap gear over having to take all of their priced items on the road.
They also know that even a $80 pedal will provide the tones they need. Let’s just put the whole debate to rest. Price or origin doesn’t say anything about quality or tone. It’s a new era and even though there are many good reasons for supporting local jobs and small entrepeneurs (yes, low scale production gear made in high cost countries, will cost more), from a guitarist’s standpoint, the options are limitless.
Having David Gilmour’s tones in mind (or any other for that matter), I would start with a small handful of the very basics: distortion/fuzz for the solos, overdrive for rhythms and the more mellow stuff and a delay. Don’t worry about compressors, EQs or modulation at this point. They’re a big part of David’s tone but not crucial.
What’s important is that you get pedals that goes well with your amp. A Big Muff won’t sound like it’s cranked on a huge stadium if your amp is a small Vox or Fender. For those amps, a pedal with more mid range and compression, like a Rat or OCD (or a cheaper clone as listed below) will be a much better match. Read more about how to choose the right pedals for your amp here.
Equally important is that you get to know the gear you have. A tight budget shouldn’t limit your quest for great tones. There is no reason why you can’t have killer tones on even the cheapest gear if you know what to combine and how to use it. Read more about how to get great tones on your bedroom setup here.
Obviously, rather than building a pedalboard with single pedals, you could go for a single multi processor. There are lots of different models on the market in all shapes and sizes. Most of them, regardless size and price, sound really good. With a bit of tweaking you can set up some really nice tones and maybe that’s all you need. Some amps also come with built in effects.
Keep in mind though that these processors are not designed with your amp, guitar or specific preferences in mind. Although most of them include a vast collection of sounds, they will never cover all of your needs. At least not as well as handpicking single pedals.
All pedals listed below were tested on typical Gilmour inspired setups, including Stratocasters and Hiwatt and Fender amps. Please note that the pedals may sound and behave differently on your setup. I’ve set $100 as the maximum price.
Mooer Yellow Comp
Based on the Diamond Compressor, the Mooer Yellow has the qualities of those classic optical units for a fraction of the price. Transparent tone, super smooth attack and, like the original, an onboard EQ allowing you to fine tune the tone after the compression. Works equally well with single coils and humbuckers, clean tones and gain.
Gilmour tones: Animals to present
MXR Dyna Comp Mini
The new mini-sized Dyna Comp offer the same classic transparent tones as the original, with a switch for fast or slow attack. Compared to an optical model, the Dyna Comp has a more noticeable compression, which is particularly suitable for single coils and clean tones, although it works nicely in combination with dirtier pedals as well.
Gilmour tones: Animals/DG78/Wall/Final Cut
Electro Harmonix Green Russian
The Green Russian is a faithful reissue of the early 90s Sovtek Big Muffs and the Civil War and green models in particular. Like the originals, the Green Russian has a fat low end, a hint of mid range and fairly moderate gain. Of all the Big Muffs, this is probably the most versatile for most amps and Electro Harmonix has done an impressive job recreating the tone in a smaller footprint. Regardless of the budget or price, this is easily one of the best Muffs on the market today.
Gilmour tones: Division Bell/Pulse/Rattle That Lock
Mooer Triangle Buff
The Triangle Buff is based on the early version of the Big Muff, with a distinctly mids scooped tone, massive low end and moderate gain. It needs a booster or EQ to really open up but it’s a versatile Muff and Mooer has done a great job with replicating the classic model. Although David rarely used the triangle, it can easily double for his Ram’s Head and Sovtek Muff tones.
Gilmour tones: Animals/DG78/Wall/Final Cut/Gdansk/Rattle That Lock
Custom Pedal Boards Muff War
The Muff War is based on the first generation Sovtek Big Muffs, the so-called Civil War model, from the early 90s. This was David Gilmour’s main Big Muff unit during the 1994 Division Bell/Pulse era and again during the recent Rattle That Lock tour. Like the EHX Green Russian, the Muff War goes a long way in replicating those huge tones, with a fat low end and a hint of mid range. Looking for mini pedals? This is possibly the best mini Muff out there!
Gilmour tones: Delicate/PULSE/Rattle That Lock
Dunlop FFM1 Silicon Fuzz Face Mini
The blue mini version of the Fuzz Face feature the same BC108 transistors David favoured during the Live at Pompeii/Dark Side of the Moon era. It’s got all the gain, harmonics and sustain as heard on songs like Time and Money. Silicon transistor fuzz can easily double for a Big Muff, especially with a booster behind it. Do check out the grey mini FFM3 as well!
Gilmour tones: Pompeii/Obscured/DSotM
Mooer Grey Face Fuzz
Like Hendrix, David used the red Fuzz Face with germanium transistors in the early days of Pink Floyd. This model is known for its warm overdrive-like fuzz that cleans up nicely when you roll back the guitar volume and the Mooer does an impressive job replicating the qualities of the original late 60s model. Good sounding germanium fuzz is hard to come by in the budget range so this one is well worth checking out.
Gilmour tones: SoS/Ummagumma/More/Atom/Meddle
Custom Pedal Boards Mini Driver
The Mini Driver is a versatile booster featuring controls for volume and gain. Use it as a transparent volume booster or, add a bit of dirt for tube-like compression and grit much like the EP preamp. The Mini Driver can either be used to boost other pedals, drive your tube amp or as a stand alone mild overdrive. Excellent alternative to the Colorsound Powerboost or for simply adding a bit of life and sparkle to your tones.
Gilmour tones: all eras
Boss BD-2 Blues Driver
Capable of producing anything from clean boost to near fuzz, the BD2 is an incredibly versatile pedal that works equally well on larger amps and typical bedroom setups. Its transparent tone makes it a great alternative for David Gilmour’s 70s Colorsound Powerboost and the more recent Tube Driver. Use it as a stand alone overdrive or as a booster in combo with an overdrive, fuzz or distortion. Regardless of your budget, the BD2 is hard to beat.
Gilmour tones: all eras
Electro Harmonix Crayon
The Crayon is a versatile full range overdrive very similar to the Tube Driver. Like the Tube Driver, the Crayon can deliver anything from clean boost to tube-like overdrive and distortion and its two EQ controls allow you to shape the tone to any amp. The Crayon can also be tweaked for more vintage tones similar to the Colorsound Powerboost that David Gilmour used during the mid 70s. Dont’ get fooled by the two designs. The circuits are identical!
Gilmour tones: all eras (Tube Driver especially)
Electro Harmonix Glove
An excellent version of the popular and versatile Fulltone OCD. The Glove offer the same huge tones, with a distinct tube-like character, fat lows and a smooth mid range that will match any amp. The Glove has enough gain on tap to serve either as an overdrive or distortion and it’s an excellent alternative to David’s more recent Tube Driver tones.
Gilmour tones: Division Bell to present
Mooer Black Secret
The Black Secret is an excellent version of the classic Rat distortion. It even feature the legedary LM308 chip for those super smooth tones! Its compressed and midrangy character makes a perfect match for any amp and smaller bedroom setups in particular, where the more demanding fuzz and Muffs can be a challenge.
Gilmour tones: Delicate/PULSE
Boss DS-1 Distortion
The Boss DS-1 might not seem like an obvious choice for your Gilmour tones but add a bit of chorus and delay and you’re pretty close to David’s 80s and 90s tones. There’s plenty of gain on tap but rolling it off a bit turns the DS-1 into a convincing overdrive too, with a smooth amp-like character.
Gilmour tones: Delicate/PULSE
Mooer Ensemble King
Based on the legendary Boss CE-2 that David used throughout the 80s and 90s, the Ensemble King deliver warm analog chorus based around the same MN3007 chip as featured in the original. The pedal is perhaps a tad darker than the CE-2 but an onboard effect volume/mix control allows you to dial in just the amount of chorus you need. An excellent alternative to the much sought after CE-2.
Gilmour tones: About Face/Momentary/Delicate/Divison Bell/PULSE
The E-Lady sounds like a cross between the late 70s 9-18V and the later big box Deluxe Mistress. Not as liquidy as the original but a bit more open sounding and a tad brighter than the Deluxe. The control knobs can be challenging to dial in properly but once you find the sweetspot, this thing will be hard to tell apart from the real deal. Spot on David’s late 70s tones and I even retired my beloved 1999 Deluxe in favour for this one!
Gilmour tones: Animals/DG78/Animals/Wall/Final Cut/Rattle
Mooer Ninety Orange
The Ninety Orange is a great sounding clone of the MXR Phase 90, with that classic creamy swirl. A small switch allow you to select either the original “script” model or the slightly more aggressive sounding 80s “block” version. David featured the Phase 90 on the WYWH album and the pedal can also be used as a convincing rotary effect on songs like Any Colour You Like.
Gilmour tones: DSotM/WYWH
TC Electronic Flashback Mini
This is easily one of the best delays you can buy regardless of what budget you have. The Mini offer a basic exterior but the Tone Print feature allows you to beam in pretty much any type of digital delay, echo or tape simulation you could think of. Like its bigger counterparts, the Mini offer studio quality tones in an impressive footprint.
Gilmour tones: all eras
Electro Harmonix Memory Toy
Like the legendary Memory Man, the Memory Toy deliver warm analog delay tones in a much smaller footprint. The delay ranges from 30-550ms and with the feedback all the way up it will self-oscillate like those old analog units. There’s also a toggle switch for adding a bit of tape warble, with an internal trim pot for adjusting the depth of the modulation.
Gilmour tones: SoS/Ummagumma/More/Atom/Meddle/Obscured/Pompeii/DSotM/WYWH