Pedals have become somewhat of a staple when you consider the modern guitar tone. With all the crazy, shiny effects pedals around, people never tend to think about the pedals that do the grunt work.
We’re talking about Expression Pedals.
Expression pedals are awesome as they can be used to control and manipulate a wide variety of music equipment such as rack effects, MIDI controllers, keyboards, etc. These devices don’t have a sound of their own, though can control the audio and parameters of other devices that they are connected to.
While early pedals were clunky and a bit difficult to use, manufacturers have begun modernizing them and making them a bit more user-friendly. The question that you may be asking now is,
“What makes one expression pedal better or worse than the next?”
There’s no objective answer to that question, though what we can give you is a list of our favorites out on the market.
Let’s jump in and take a look at what we feel are the best expression pedals so you can stop reading and start expressing yourself!
Our #1 Pick
If you’re looking for the best possible mix of practicality, functionality, versatility, all wrapped up in a design that is compact and easy to travel with, look no further than the AMT Electronics EX50.
This pedal is easily the highest quality expression pedal on the market. It comes wrapped up in a tough-as-nails metal chassis that is unmistakable thanks to the bright red paint. The top side of the pedal has a nice and thick grip that’s perfect for those aggressive pedallers out there.
Inside the pedal is a top-of-the-line 50k pot that gives you ultra clean signal. This is probably the best pot we’ve ever seen in an expression pedal for guitar. The pedal is also completely passive, meaning you don’t need any extra power for it to do its work.
You even get a polarity switch to give it a bit more versatility, as well as the ability to use both TS and TRS outputs that can be used separately or simultaneously. All of this and the AMT EX50 is still one of the most portable pedals out there. They’ve stuffed everything great into a lightweight design that won’t eat up your pedalboard real estate.
Bottom Line: The AMT Electronics EX50 is easily one of the highest quality expression pedals in the game. It performs incredibly well and is wildly versatile compared to other competitor pedals.
While the fancy new designs of many expression pedals these days might be enticing, we’ve found that the old-school design is still the most reliable. This is why the Mission EP1 is one of our favorite classic-style pedals. It’s a new-school operation with an old-school look.
Regarding the look, it’s very similar to an old VOX pedal, though gives you that matte black, all-steel and aluminum chassis for a sleeker, more modern build. This also makes this pedal incredibly durable, something you’ll need after crushing it under your foot for a whole tour.
The pot in the pedal sounds excellent as well and has nuances that you’ll appreciate. Whether you want to use is with digital amps, effects processors, or MIDI devices, it’s ready to get work done for you. It has a full physical range with an extended sweep too so that you can hit the entire dynamic or effect range of whatever device it is attached to. It is fairly simple with the single TRS output jack, so if you’re one that doesn’t need the extra bells and whistles, it’s perfect.
Bottom Line: Simple, durable, and reliable, are three words to describe the Mission Engineering Inc EP1. It’s a bit retro, though gets the job done better than most modern pedals around these days.
Boss is probably one of the most popular pedal manufacturers around because of their products’ longevity and durability. The Boss EV30 is no different.
The overall design is very simplistic and is great for players who take functionality over form. That’s not to say that it doesn’t look cool, as it has that retro, Star Trek design, but I digress.
While some people might not like that it doesn’t have rubber pads on the foot surface or a bunch of added controls, for the low price and ease of use, it does an excellent job at what it’s supposed to do.
The sweep of the Boss EV30 is incredibly accurate and works pretty organically throughout the pedal’s range. You even have a polarity switch that is built on board so that you’re able to use it with a wider variety of instruments and gear.
With all that said, if you have a ton of Boss gear, we would highly recommend pairing it with this pedal. Have we mentioned that it has the silkiest feel ever?
Bottom Line: The Boss EV30 is a very versatile yet simple guitar expression pedal, and it comes at an incredibly inexpensive price. If you want something that will last you forever and get the job done without fuss, check out the EV30.
Morley is another company that makes both reliable and performance-ready pedals. Their M2 Mini is a simple little expression pedal that seems to have a pretty solid reputation throughout the music community.
Even though it’s fairly simple, there are a few things that make it unique to other pedals on the market. For starters, you have the large surface area underneath, giving you tons of stability when in use. It is also built with a very smooth taper to help you accurately control any device that you’re using alongside it. Regarding compatibility, you can use the Morley with just about any piece of gear that utilizes voltage control or has expression features.
We really dig the design of this pedal too. It’s housed in a sturdy, cold-rolled steel chassis, and is painted a matte-black to give you that professional, pedalboard look. It may be a bit too large for some if you don’t have tons of real estate on your pedalboard, but every pedal comes with its quirks.
It can accept stereo TRS and comes with an excellent, non-slip grip on the top to prevent any slippage when you’re in the groove.
Bottom Line: If you can afford to sacrifice the real estate on your pedalboard, this is one of the most solid expression pedals around. It’s built like a tank, has a smooth and accurate range, and has plenty of top grip to prevent your foot from sliding around.
The Moog EP3 is another no-nonsense expression pedal that is simple, yet elegant. It comes ready to rock with a polarity switch built in so you can use it for non-moog instruments as well, and is wrapped up in a durable, tank-like, black chassis.
It’s best for keyboards or synthesizers, as you could probably guess with the Moog stamp on it, though works just as well for guitars. It’s not only one of the best budget pedals on the market, but is easily one of the most reliable as well.
This is the perfect pedal for travel considering it is so lightweight, so if you’re going on tour, we highly recommend picking one of these up to cut down on your haul.
As for the performance, the pedal’s range is very smooth and very accurate. You have a scalable output knob for specifying the pedal’s musical range, as well as a ¼ inch output jack that is located on the front. It even comes with a 6.5” ¼ inch cable to get you started, though you can use whatever size you need.
Bottom Line: Whether you’re on a budget, or just want an expression pedal that can switch back and forth from guitar to keys, we would highly recommend this little guy from Moog. It’s a solid performance pedal overall.
Putting an expression pedal in your chain can completely change the way that you utilize your other effects. When put to use the right way, it can give you tons of control over parameters that otherwise seem difficult to control.
We love the AMT Electronic EX50 more than any other pedal, simply because of the quality hardware used and because of its versatility.
That being said, all of the pedals on our list will fit the needs of most anyone looking for an expression pedal.
We urge you not to overthink it and just get a simple one that will do the job right.