12 Best Guitar Synth Pedals in 2021 [Synthesizer Stompboxes]

In most musical genres, it’s hard to imagine a world without the guitar. The sound of the 6-string is quintessential to blues, rock, metal, jazz, country, and folk music. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine the world of electronic music with the guitar. Pretty much all musical styles that lean on electronic elements hardly ever feature the guitar. 

Thanks to guitar synth pedals, that’s all about to change. With a guitar synth pedal, you’ll be able to unlock all the otherworldly tones you’ve only dreamed of being able to achieve with your guitar. These effects are an excellent tool for jamming along to your favorite songs, taking cover songs to the next level, or pushing the envelope with your original songs. 

Today, we’ll get to the bottom line on these incredibly unique pedals. We’ll also check out a dozen of the best options on the market if you’re looking to add one of the best guitar synth pedals to your rig. 

best guitar synth pedals

What are Guitar Synth Pedals?

Synth pedals are traditional stompbox-style guitar effects that allow your guitar to take on the sound of a synthesizer. Thanks to the wonders of digital signal processing, these pedals can transform your raw signal into something that sounds entirely different from the guitar. No keyboard player? No problem!

A quality synth pedal provides the same granular control that an actual synthesizer would. Most pedals allow you to control things like the waveform shape and sound characteristics like attack, decay, and release so you can dial in a synth sound that’s as unique as your guitar playing. 

There are more quality synth pedals on the market than ever before, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Pop music is undergoing an 80s resurgence, with artists like Bruno Mars and The Weeknd relying heavily on synthesizers for their signature sound. With a guitar synth pedal, you’ll be able to harness some of those incredible synth-like tones all from the comfort of your guitar. 

How Do Synthesizer Guitar Pedals Affect Tone?

Depending on the particular model, a synth pedal completely changes your guitar’s sound and replaces it with that of a synthesizer. These pedals do a fantastic job of capturing the classic synthesizer tones of the 80s while also allowing you to dial in more modern tones akin to current dance and electronica styles. 

These pedals use digital signal processing (DSP) to alter the sound of your instrument. Inside, the DSP synth engine detects what you’re playing and uses it to engage the oscillator inside the pedal to transform your guitar sound. Interestingly enough, the process occurring inside the pedal is quite similar to how an actual synthesizer creates its sound. 

The Top 12 Best Guitar Synth Pedals

Since effect manufacturers first began using DSP to drive their effects pedals and modeling products, the technology has been improving in leaps and bounds. Today’s best synth pedals offer incredibly realistic and effective synth tones that you have to hear to believe. In just a moment, we’re going to dive into a dozen of your best options. 

Depending on what you’re hoping to do with the pedal and the tones you’re hoping to unlock, some of these pedals will undoubtedly be a better fit for you than others. Take your time, do your research, and play as many different options in person as possible, and you’ll be well on your way to select the best synth pedal.

EarthQuaker Devices Data Corrupter Harmonizing Pedal

Best analog monophonic synth pedal

EarthQuaker Devices certainly got the name right with the Data Corrupter synth pedal, which sounds a bit like lighting a hard drive on fire (in the best way possible.) This synth-module offers all the fuzzy square wave synth anarchy you need, and then some, while providing players with plenty of tonal flexibility to create some genuinely excellent sounds.

This synth engine offers three voices, with a master oscillator handling the higher voice and a subharmonic synth covering the low end. Each voice offers plenty of flexibility, with multiple harmonies per voice to provide fifths, thirds, minor sevenths, and much more.

The voice mixer allows you to dial in how much of each voice makes it into your sound, and there’s also a master level control for dialing in the perfect amount of synth weirdness. There’s also a glide mode for portamento-style effects and a vibrato mode, which adds pulsing vibrato to your tone. 

Features & Specs

  • Analog monophonic synthesizer
  • Three voices 
  • Choose from several octave up/down harmonies
  • Glide and vibrato modes
  • Dual-function momentary footswitch
  • Bypass: true bypass
  • Requires 9V power supply

Who Should Use This?

The Earthquaker Devices Data Corrupter is an ideal synth pedal for guitarists looking for a wild, fuzzy, and unpredictable synth that will send their guitar into entirely new sonic territory. 

Electro-Harmonix MicroSynth XO

Most user-friendly synth pedal

The Electro-Harmonix MicroSynth XO is one of the first and still one of the best choices on the market if you’re looking for a guitar synthesizer from Electro-Harmonix. The EHX Micro Synthesizer was the go-to pedal for Eddie Van Halen on the band’s moody instrumental “Sunday Afternoon in the Park” from their Fair Warning album. 

This pedal is incredibly well-designed and easy to use, and its functions make sense to the player almost instantly. Within about five minutes of tinkering, you’ll know exactly how to use the MicroSynth to get the most from your playing.

This monophonic synth from Electro-Harmonix provides four voices: sub-octave, your actual instrument, octave up, and square wave. You can control each voice with a slider similar to what you’d find in a graphic EQ pedal, so you can blend the voices perfectly to your liking. On the other side of the pedal is the filter stage, which offers resonance, rate, stop, and start frequency adjustments. 

There’s also a trigger control, which sets a threshold for the filter stage and an attack delay, which allows you to fade the voices into their full volume. 

Features & Specs

  • Analog monophonic synthesizer
  • Four voices
  • Independent filter section 
  • Input trigger and attack delay controls
  • Bypass: true bypass
  • Includes 9V power supply

Who Should Use This?

The Electro-Harmonix MicroSynth XO is the ideal synth pedal for guitarists who want an easy-to-use and highly musical synth that’s predictable and versatile.

Source Audio C4 Synth Pedal

Best compact synth pedal

A true paradox, the Source Audio C4 synth is both the most simple and most complex pedal on our list. It takes the form of a simple four-knob stompbox, but lurking behind its brushed metal shell is the powerful Neuro Editor, which opens a world of possibilities, including up to 128 MIDI presets.

The Source Audio C4 tracks effortlessly, providing incredibly realistic synth sounds that you’d never think were coming from a 6-string. Four separate oscillators offer polyphonic tracking and all the filters, oscillators, envelopes, and effects you could ask for. Plus, there are even two sequencers. 

You can control each aspect of the pedal from the desktop or mobile versions of the Source Audio Neuro editor and save up to six presets to the pedal itself. If you run MIDI, you’ll be able to enjoy an incredible 128 presets ready for you to call upon them at a moment’s notice.

Features & Specs

  • Digital polyphonic synthesizer
  • Tons of oscillators, filters, envelopes, effects, and sequencers
  • Controls for input volume, mix, waveform shape, and two additional parameters for each preset
  • Bypass: Switchable buffered bypass
  • Exp pedal jack 
  • MIDI compatible

Who Should Use This?

The Source Audio C4 is the ideal choice for guitarists looking for a compact and simple option that provides tons of functionality via the Neuro Editor app. 

Boss SY-1 Guitar Synthesizer Pedal

Best guitar synth pedal for crowded pedalboards

A compact and versatile synth pedal that packs a ton of features, the Boss SY-1 Synthesizer is a true plug-and-play option that’s incredibly easy to use. 

The Boss SY-1 Synthesizer provides an impressive array of 121 different sounds. There are 11 core synthesizer sounds, and each type offers 11 different variations, so there’s virtually endless tonal territory for you to cover. There’s also a hold mode that continues to play your last note as a pad that you can continue to play over.

Equally at home with guitar and bass, the SY-1 has a mode switch that tailors the tracking to either the guitar or bass to provide latency-free and accurate tracking. This pedal also offers an effects loop which you can either use to feed other effects into the synth or as a direct out to send your sound to a second amplifier. 

Features & Specs

  • Digital synthesizer pedal
  • 11 different synth modes
  • 121 total sounds
  • Onboard effects loop
  • Bypass: Buffered bypass
  • 9V battery or power supply (not included)

Who Should Use This?

The Boss SY-1 is the ideal pedal for space-strapped pedal junkies who want to add a simple and effective synth pedal to their rig without having to sacrifice half the space on their pedalboard to do it. 

Electro-Harmonix Superego Polyphonic Synth Engine Pedal

Best guitar synth pedal for sound design

The Electro-Harmonix Superego is tailor-made for any guitarist looking to unlock the angelic pad tones and far-out dreamscapes of the 80s. This pedal offers some of the most convincing synth sounds of any pedal and three different operating modes to make it one of the most musical and unique effects on the market.

The Electro-Harmonix Superego aims to do one thing exceptionally well, and it succeeds to those ends. This pedal provides a single synth sound that’s reminiscent of the classic keyboard synths of yesteryear, and there are three different ways to use the pedal. 

Auto mode automatically senses your playing and applies a healthy dose of synthesizer. Latch mode engages the pedal whenever you hold down the footswitch and immediately turns the effect off when you release the pedal, and there’s also a standard mode where you’ll need to engage the footswitch to turn the pedal on or off. 

Features & Specs

  • Digital synth pedal
  • Three different effect modes
  • Onboard effects loop 
  • Bypass: true 
  • Includes 9V power supply

Who Should Use This?

The Electro-Harmonix Superego is the perfect pedal for players looking for moody and atmospheric pads and a classic 80s style lead synth sound. 


Electro-Harmonix SYNTH9 Synthesizer Machine

Best synthesizer with onboard effects loop

Electro-Harmonix SYNTH9 is a compact powerhouse that offers incredible versatility thanks in part to its collection of nine different impressive-sounding synth models, including sounds from the renowned Electro-Harmonix Superego. 

From fuzzed-out high-gain madness to moody and atmospheric pads to tones that your guitar sound like it’s been sent straight from the heavens, the SYNTH9 offers a comprehensive tonal palette for guitarists to explore. 

A simple and intuitive control array allows you to control the dry mix, the wet mix, and two preset-specific controls that vary depending on which synth model you’re using. There’s also an effects loop for feeding your favorite effects right into the synthesizer to ensure reliable and hiccup-free operation. 

Features & Specs

  • Digital synth effects pedal 
  • Nine different synth modes 
  • Onboard effects loop
  • Bypass: buffered bypass
  • Includes 9V power supply

Who Should Use This?

The Electro-Harmonix SYNTH9 is the ideal guitar synthesizer pedal for guitarists who want a versatile effect with simple controls. 

Red Witch Synthotron 2 Analog Synth Pedal

Best analog synth pedal

A beautiful looking and sounding analog synth with the power to completely elevate your sound, the Red Witch Synthotron 2 is an excellent option for guitarists who would rather play with their new effect right out of the box instead of needing to study a manual for hours. 

The Synthotron 2 breaks down into four quadrants, making it easy to visualize and understand the pedal’s functions. The first two modules allow you to control the two synthesizers (octave up and octave down), each with independent level and decay controls. 

The next quadrant allows you to control the tremolo effect, covering tons of tonal ground from a slight warble to an all-out stutter. The final module is an envelope filter that also provides a sample/hold function for adding heavenly atmospheric pads to your playing. There’s an internal trim pot that controls the hold length, making it even more versatile.

Features & Specs

  • Analog synth pedal 
  • Two independent synth voices
  • Onboard tremolo and envelope effects
  • Bypass: True 
  • 9V power supply (not included)

Who Should Use This?

The Synthotron 2 is the perfect option for analog tone enthusiasts who want a warm and responsive synth that sounds as authentic as the real thing. 

Keeley Synth-1 Synth Wave Generator Pedal

Best budget synthesizer pedal

An affordable synth pedal that looks cool and sounds even better, the Keeley Synth-1 is one of the most simple and intuitive models available. The controls are straightforward; level controls the effect level, attack handles how quickly a note reaches full volume, and blend controls the mix between your wet and dry signals. 

A filter control adds tons of versatility, allowing you to dramatically change the synth’s sound, and a three-position switch will enable you to select between square, sawtooth, and triangle waveforms. Rounding out this synth pedal is the Chaos switch which transforms your rig into a chaotic and uncontrollable mess that you’ll need to hear to believe.

The Synth-1 also offers an expression jack input, which allows you to control the filter on the fly, which makes the pedal even more helpful for playing live. 

Features & Specs

  • Digital synth pedal
  • Chaos switch
  • Three selectable waveforms
  • Bypass: true 
  • 9V power supply (not included)

Who Should Use This?

The Keeley Synth-1 is a wise choice for any guitarist who demands a simple and intuitive guitar synth that’s compatible with an exp pedal. 

EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine V2

Best pedal for chaotic soundscapes 

The EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine is a genuinely wild device that’s perfect for players interested in the wilder side of synth sounds. This pedal isn’t exactly a guitar synthesizer, and it’s difficult to explain how it works. But, the tones it provides are a close relative of the wilder side of synthesizers. 

This effect is actually a polyphonic modulator pedal, and it takes your dry guitar signal and pitches it up a third and down a fourth, adding lush harmonies to your playing. Along with the harmonies, the pedal is capable of wild modulation and time-bending effects that are sent further into the stratosphere with the help of the magic knob (and accompanying footswitch.)

The magic control is so far-out and wild that it comes with its own secondary footswitch for toggling it on and off. When you engage the magic switch, the knobs on the pedal seem to communicate with one another, allowing for surprisingly interactive control and sounds as wild and otherworldly as any synthesizer could ever generate.

Features & Specs

  • Digital polyphonic modulator pedal
  • Analog dry signal path
  • Magic switch for extra harmonic movement
  • Exp pedal input
  • Bypass: true 
  • 9V power supply (not included)

Who Should Use This?

The EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine is the perfect pedal for the guitarist looking to create crazy and unexplainable chaos on their pedalboard. While this pedal can be musical and it produces some cool tones, it’s at its best when it’s completely misbehaving. The Rainbow Machine isn’t for the faint of heart. 

Seymour Duncan FOOZ Analog Fuzz Synthesizer Pedal

Best lead synth

If you’re looking to transform your ax into a snarling and aggressive squarewave analog synthesizer, the FOOZ pedal could be the one for you. This interactive pedal offers a layout similar to an analog synth, and there’s a world of different parameters you can manipulate to create a fantastic signature tone.

The FOOZ offers control over the LFO, fuzz, and filter sections of the pedal, and there’s also a knob to adjust the sensitivity of the filter. The filter is switchable between bandpass and low pass operation, and you can modulate the filter frequency with either the LFO or the envelope filter. There’s also a tap tempo switch that syncs the LFO to your tempo.

The fuzz section that gives this pedal its signature tone is warm and musical compared to the angry and untamable image of fuzz you may have in your head, and it offers a beautiful tone to leads and solo sections. 

There’s also an expression jack input, and a mini switch allows you to control any parameter on the pedal with an expression pedal, making this one of the most versatile synths in that regard.

Features & Specs

  • Analog fuzz synthesizer pedal
  • Full control over LFO, fuzz, and filter sections
  • Tap tempo footswitch
  • Expression pedal input
  • Bypass: true 
  • 9-18V power supply (not included)

Who Should Use This?

The Seymour Duncan FOOZ is the perfect option for the tone-obsessed guitarist who want a synth pedal that allows you to assign any parameter to an exp pedal. 

Meris Enzo Multi-Voice Instrument Synthesizer Pedal

Best overall guitar synth 

Guitarists looking for the most authentic synth sounds with a near-infinite amount of control have found their match with the Meris Enzo synth. This impressive pedal provides four different synth modes that sound every bit like the real thing. 

This pedal offers mono, poly, arpeggiated, and pitch shift modes, with the latter three doing most of the heavy lifting. No pedal on the market can replicate the wide range of synth tones as the Enzo, and it’s not particularly close either. 

On the face of the Meris Enzo, you’ll find controls for pitch, filter, mix, filter envelope, sustain, and modulation. There are mini-buttons for selecting the synth mode and accessing hidden parameters. Depending on the synth mode, each parameter takes on a litany of different hidden controls, so be sure to consult the manual to truly learn all of this pedal’s functionalities. 

A multi-function input handles MIDI functionality, exp pedals, or preset switching depending on your needs, and the unit is hand-built in Los Angeles.

Features & Specs

  • Digital synth pedal
  • Mono, poly, arpeggio, and pitch shift modes
  • Two-tap modulated delay
  • Full analog signal path
  • Bypass: Switchable
  • 9V power supply (not included)

Who Should Use This?

If you’re a guitarist with a fascination for synthesizers and are after the most feature-rich and authentic-sounding synth on the market, you’re going to love the Meris Enzo. 

Boss SY-300 Advanced Guitar Synth Pedal

Best synth pedal for deep editing

An epic powerhouse with tons of deep-editing capability, the Boss SY-300 is the perfect synth pedal for knob tweakers hunting for the ideal synth tone. 

This guitar effects pedal offers three different oscillator types with selectable waveforms for each and twenty effects for you to design each synth’s sound. You can apply up to four simultaneously, so you’ll have no trouble creating custom tones that are rich and complex. 

There’s plenty of stock presets to fool around with and room to save 99 user presets, so you’ll always have the space you need to save your synth creations for easy access with the SY-300. The rear panel provides every conceivable I/O option, including stereo outputs, sub outputs, MIDI I/O, an effects loop, and an expression pedal input. 

The front panel of the Boss SY-300 provides a large LCD workspace for you to adjust a wide range of parameters, control multi-effects processing, and much more. 

Features & Specs

  • Digital synthesizer pedal
  • Three oscillator types 
  • 24 bit AD, 24 bit DA conversion
  • Twenty onboard effects (up to four simultaneous)
  • 70 factory presets, 99 user presets
  • Stereo output
  • MIDI I/O
  • Bypass: buffered
  • Includes 9V power supply

Who Should Use This?

The Boss SY-300 is the ideal guitar effects pedal if you’re a guitarist who’s willing to spend some serious cash to acquire the most feature-rich and customizable guitar synth on the market.

How to Use Guitar Synth Pedals

Since guitar synthesizers are such unique pedals, there’s virtually no end to the wide range of tonal territory you’ll be able to cover when you add one to your pedalboard. These pedals are ideal for getting out of your comfort zone and tapping into a brand new palette of creative freedom. 

Many guitarists will use a synth pedal without changing anything about their playing at all. The cool thing about the synthesizer is that their tone and the space they occupy in the mix are pretty similar to that of the guitar. So, you can turn on a synth pedal, and the same licks and riffs you’d play on guitar will lend themselves just as well to the synthesizer.

Guitar synths are also immensely useful for creating moody and atmospheric soundscapes during breaks in your live show. Strumming chords with a guitar synth will provide you with the brooding pad tones that synthesizers are famous for. 

One of the many cool things about the guitar synth is that it’s such a new technology, so there’s no wrong way to use one. Guitar synths offer complete creative freedom and a new tonal palette for you to explore. Play what comes naturally to you, and don’t be surprised if a guitar synth is your key to unlocking a world of fabulous new tones.  

Guitar Synth Pedal Signal Chain Location

While there aren’t any hard and fast rules you have to follow regarding your signal chain, you’ll quickly realize that certain places in the chain are a better fit for certain pedals. A guitar synth is a great way to illustrate this concept because these effects can sound downright awful if they’re placed incorrectly in your chain. 

Most guitarists arrange their effects closely to the order below, and we’ll cover why in just a moment. 

  • Dynamics (compressor, sustainer)
  • Filters (wah, envelope filter, guitar synth)
  • Pitch effects (pitch shifter, octave)
  • Volume pedal
  • Gain effects (overdrive, distortion, fuzz)
  • Modulation (chorus, flanger, phaser, etc.)
  • Time effects (reverb and delay pedals)
  • Looper

Placing filter effects like a guitar synth at the beginning of your signal chain is the best practice here because these effects work their best when you feed them a clean signal. The only effects pedal you’ll want to place before a synthesizer is a compressor, as compression will enhance your signal’s strength without further processing to your tone. 

If you use many effects and place a guitar synth towards the end of your chain, any effects you engage in front of the synthesizer will make it more difficult for the synth pedal to process your signal. Doing so can degrade your signal quality or affect how well the guitar synthesizer pedal is able to produce its effect.

To avoid issues, place your synthesizer pedal at the very beginning of your signal chain. If you use a compressor or tuner pedal, those are the only two pedals you should consider placing before your synth. 

Bottom Line: Are Guitar Synthesizer Pedals Worth It?

Guitar synthesizer pedals are perhaps the most exciting and unique pedals on the market, and they can breathe new life into your sound in ways that no other pedal can. Having a synthesizer pedal is like having access to an entirely different instrument, which can significantly increase the amount of tonal ground you can cover. So what’s the bottom line? 

Of course, synthesizer pedals are a highly specialized piece of equipment, and there are bound to be plenty of guitarists who aren’t going to benefit as much from adding one to their rig. Plus, these pedals are pretty much the most expensive kinds of effects on the market, so you’ll need to consider your budget as well when deciding if synth pedals are a worthwhile investment. 

That said, there’s a myriad of ways to use these unique pedals. Whether you’re looking to tap into the lush dreamscapes of the 80s, add synth pads and leads to today’s dance hits, or enter completely different tonal territory altogether, adding one of the best guitar synthesizer pedals to your setup can be a wise call.  


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