What Are Guitar Synth Pedals?
These are the unsung heroes of the pedal world. Often overlooked for being too diverse for the bog-standard rock guitarist, synth pedals are used by many modern players that wish to expand their sonic horizons.
A synth pedal does what it says on the tin. It makes your guitar sound like a huge, engulfing synthesiser! Great examples available today can closely emulate the sounds of real synths, but when applied to guitars, some can sound almost like a hybrid - which is a totally unique and usable sound in itself.
Despite their wonderful weirdness, these effects pedals let guitarists transcend the gap between rock and electronic/pop genres, and have even more of a place in the music world than ever before. And here at Andertons Music Co. we have a great selection of these peculiar guitar pedals available. But first, we’re going to explain all of their details and functions. This is so that we can provide you with a better idea of how to get the most out of them, so you can integrate them successfully into your rig.
What Does A Synth Pedal Sound Like?
A synth pedal will provide you with a nostalgic range of tones, taking you all the way back to the heyday of the '80s! Emulating a classic synthesiser sound to make it possible for guitarists to attain a variety of electronic-style tones, synth pedals have become increasingly popular. With the renaissance of mainstream electronic music and acclaimed series' such as Stranger Things using synths exclusively in their soundtracks, there's a reason why these pedals are more in demand.
So, how does a synth pedal work? Most synth pedals work by detecting the pitch of your guitar's signal, and using that to tune and engage an oscillator. So whereas something like a modulation pedal modifies and processes your signal, the synth sound will actually be generated by a functioning synthesiser circuit within the pedal.
A good synth pedal will therefore give you loads of tonal flexibility similar to their full-fat counterparts, with a variety of controls that let you tweak the waveform shape, attack, decay and more. As a synth adds loads of extra harmonic content to notes, guitar synth pedals will often feature octave up/down functionality, and sometimes further intervals to give you the thickest and fullest sounds possible.
Where Does A Synth Pedal Go In My Signal Chain?
Just like filter pedals, you will get the most out of a synth pedal when it’s placed early in your signal chain. This is to ensure that the rawest amount of signal is being fed into the pedal’s input, giving it the best chance to process that signal for ultimately the best and most genuine tone it can achieve.
Setting it up early in the signal chain will also mean that the tracking of the effect will be better. "Tracking" is a term used to denote how well a pedal identifies a signal and how quickly it can affect it. If a pedal tracks well, that means that it will pick up notes and idiosyncrasies with great detail, with little to no audible latency. Something that tracks badly will have noticeable latency, making it difficult to use successfully. That’s why placing it as early as possible in your pedal chain will give you the best results!
What Are The Best Synth Pedals?
There are plenty of synth pedal options available out there, and here at Andertons Music Co. we have many to choose from and compare. Electro Harmonix lead the way when it comes to synthesiser pedals for guitar. Boss also have a couple of high-end guitar synths, offering even more tweakability.
So, whether you’re looking for a soft pad-style synth or a dirty and abrasive-sounding lead synth, there are many pedals from these brands that can get close to the real thing!
The SuperEgo+ is the flagship synth pedal from Electro Harmonix, with numerous controls and modes to let you find multiple synth sounds and timbres. With this feature-packed pedal, you can create not just pumping synth waves but also immersive pads with infinite sustain, letting you achieve engulfing soundscapes and textures.
With a built-in effects section that gives you 11 different effect types, you can further sculpt and experiment. An expression pedal input can also let you adjust parameters on the fly, to bring out more of a particular effect or control the attack of the synth, for example.
Electro Harmonix SuperEgo+ Official Demo
Another noteworthy unit is EHX’s Micro Synth, a fully-analogue synth pedal for guitar. Giving you truly old-school Moog-esque tones, the Micro Synth has a number of sliders to let you carefully craft your optimal synth sounds. Although not as versatile as the SuperEgo+, the Micro Synth has that super-nostalgic synth vibe, letting you attain smooth synth pads to pulsing lead lines.
Boss’ SY-300 Guitar Synthesiser unit is an even more spec’d out machine, with an incredible range of features. Whereas previous Boss/Roland systems required the use of a special guitar-mounted pickup, the SY-300 can be plugged straight into with virtually zero latency. With 70 synth presets built-in, you can also create and save a further 99 sounds for almost endless possibilities. And with MIDI compatibility, you can easily switch between your patches via an external MIDI controller such as a pedal switcher.
Boss SY-300 on Andertons T.V.
Which Guitar Synth Pedal Should I Buy?
After all of that, we hope that this guide has enlightened you. These pedals certainly aren't for the faint-hearted, and they can be difficult to integrate into your setup if you're quite unfamiliar with synths in general. But, they can also be very inspiring and capable of giving you some outside-the-box ideas, which is important in a time where originality is tough.