It’s no secret that I’m a fan of mini pedals and feature right now 6 of that type in my active studio pedal chain (of 35). All of these are exceptional at what they provide, and they all sound great, and are amongst my favourites. Somewhat ironically, of those 6 - one has already been marked for replacement. My much-loved Mooer Blues Mood which is a clone of the celebrated Keeley-modded Boss Blues Driver BD-2 - has somewhat added competition in the guise of the new Boss Angry Driver JB-2 - which combines the Blues Driver with JHS’s Angry Charlie circuit.
I would much rather have the Mooer Blue Mood than a Keeley-modded original BD-2 as it is largely the same thing near enough, but smaller and lower-cost - and I love the sound of it and its range. However, the JB-2 gives you 2 separate circuits in a single compact pedal - which you can play independently or stacked either way in series or in parallel - for an even more incredible range of tones. What I tend to look for is a combination of tone, versatility and form-factor - where I tend to lean heavily towards the more compact. So that if I can get a pedal with the same functionality at a smaller size, then so much the better. In the case of the Mooer Blues Mood vs the JB-2 - the latter matches the former and raises the ante a lot further - giving you incredible variety in a compact enclosure - this is for sure one of Boss’s best drive pedals to date and amazingly the Blues Driver and Marshall-esque circuits complement each other really well.
With the other 5 mini pedals in my chain, I cannot ever see my needing anything larger or better than the TC Electronic PolyTune Mini Noir - that’s just my perfect tuner. I have stated before that I don’t see the point of getting a more than mini-size booster, but that was before I came across the Jackson Audio Prism - which does all manner of tone sculpting and boosting - I may just step up to that at some stage, for my immediate needs the Xotic EP is always fantastic. The same really goes for the Mini Ego Compressor which I equally love, if I were ever to replace that it would be with the Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe.
The Wampler Tumnus is one of my all-time favourite overdrives, but the J Rockett Rockaway Archer (also a Centaur Klon clone) gives you a really clever 6-band EQ onboard which allows you to do a lot more tonal sculpting than you could with the Tumnus. The Tumnus has a lovely low-end enhanced core tone which certain Klon purists don’t like at all - with the compact-size Rockaway Archer, you should be able to replicate any style of Klon pedal from Zen Drive through to Tumnus. My final of 6 mini pedals is the Xotic SL Drive - which gives me a wonderful slightly more compressed and heavier low-end Marshall sound - which I really like - I don’t have anything currently in mind to replace that.
What the above highlights though is that for me at least - if I can get the same thing or better in a more compact enclosure - then it’s a win for me. The mini pedals tend to be lower cost - the most expensive of mine are the 2 Wampler ones at £179 each - while the typical Mini price as you can see in the below listing is around £40 to 60 - and usually below £100. You can also get some really sophisticated mini pedals - like the Mooer Micro Pre-Amps which I have not included in this current selection, but also the Wampler Mini Ego and Pigtronix Disnortion Micro which are featured. The one thing you almost never get with Mini pedals is stereo outputs - so almost without exception, Mini = Mono.
If you want Stereo, then you typically have to go to at least compact / regular enclosure size - some of these could experiment with a TRS style output jack, but none really do (though the Xvive Looper is stereo out). Moreover it’s really only important for some of your modulations, delays and reverbs to be stereo - for that full wall-of-sound effect. Almost without exception though as far as I can gather in my research, near enough all mini pedals currently available are of the mono variety. So you have Modded Boss Blues Drivers vs Mooer Blues Mood vs Boss Angry Driver in one example - and if space is really a factor I go with the Mooer, otherwise it’s an easy win for the new JB-2 Angry Driver.
If you find yourself in the market for a mini pedal - there is only one maker that covers all bases really and that is Mooer - with its 81 varieties - here follow the top 10 mini makers (or so) by variety as far as I can gather (note that I have excluded a number of alternative Chinese clones of which there are dozens) - I've tried to go for the best / most reliable quality currently available:
Mooer = 81 varieties (China)
Rowin = 39 varieties (China)
Tomsline = 29 varieties (China)
Xvive = 27 varieties (Designed in USA, made in China)
OneControl = 24 varieties (Japan)
Donner = 23 varieties (China)
ENO EX = 22 varieties (China)
BYOC = 20 varieties (USA DIY pedals but can be ordered assembled also)
TC Electronic = 15 varieties (Denmark)
Tone City / Movall = 15 varieties (China)
F-Pedals = 14 varieties (Designed in USA, made in Italy)
Only Mooer though really has a pedal for every occasion - and in fact more options in this area than Boss has in its current compact range (c.57) - and has twice the varieties of its nearest competitor. Obviously Ibanez, MXR and Wampler have started to introduce mini pedals of their own, but the original pedal minimizer Boss (inventor of the 'compact' pedal) is notably absent in this category.
The two brands I tend to look to first for Mini Pedals are of course Mooer, and then TC Electronic - who give you the added smarts of their TonePrint technology. In fact it's usually a trade-off between having a 3-way Mooer voicing toggle on a pedal versus having TC Electronic's TonePrint technology on board - which allows you to magically dial in any really complex tone variation, but only one at a time - while on the Mooers you are usually limited to 3 dials and a 2 or 3-way mode / voicing toggle.
I could easily have completed the whole Mini selection above using just Mooer and TC Electronic, yet for my taste the Tumnus, Disnortion Micro and EWS Little Fuzzy Drive - excel for Overdrive, Distortion and Fuzz respectively, and being able to get both Classic and Script MXR 45 and 90 pedal circuits within a mini enclosure - means that you would have to go for the MXR Mini Phase 95.
For all the modulations, delays and reverbs - it was really a face-off between Mooer and TC Electronic, although other pedals did come into the frame for specific occasions - previously I have gone with the Mooers - because of their voicing toggles, in this instance I prefer the TC Electronic pedals because of their greater inherent variety - I do think all of those could be improved with some sort of 2-way toggle - whether by footswitch or otherwise. There are so many players that classically have short and long delay and corresponding reverb - no Mini pedal allows you to easily toggle between those two presets, which surely must be the holy grail. Whoever cracks that one first is going to have a serious advantage - whichever way it goes though, TC Electronic's TonePrint technology is still genius.
I think my PolyTune Mini is only ever likely to be replaced when TC Electronic bring out an updated version. The equivalent Sonic Research Mini only does one string at a time, as does the recent D'Addario I believe - for my it has to be Polytonic tuning, and TCE is the leader of that pack currently. A really great, quick and easy-to-use tuner.
In my 'compact' pedal article I have selected the Dunlop Mini pedals (which I own), here I go for the even shorter Mooer equivalents. The Mooer does not do Volume + Expression, though the Donner does cover Volume and Wah in the same pedal. The Mooer is a really clever solid metal alloy pedal, and the obvious choice here really. Note that short video is in French - most suitable thing I could find!
Same reason as above Mooer Leveline Volume pedal really, although the Plutoneium Chi-Wah-Wah is really cool - kind of touch-and-go between those two. The Donner - which combines Wah with Volume is the same as before. Generally I will always check out Mooer and TCE first to see what's out there in mini-land! And then sweep through the broader categories.
I already have the Sub 'N' Up's bigger brother which gives you one more sub-octave as well as a 3-way toggle for additional modes / voicings - the mini strips it down to a single TonePrint at a time. The Mooer Octave gives you 2 up and 2 down, which is double the power of the Mini Sub, but it does not have that genius TonePrint functionality. Finally, the ENO gives you a cheap 1 Up, 2 Down Octaves alternative.
My EP Booster is the Alchemy Audio modded version with exterior toggles - really warms up your core tone, gives it a slightly wider soundstage somehow and increases dynamics. The Spark Mini is almost as good - with the inclusion of a smart momentary footswitch. The Wampler adds a buffer into the mix to for extra utility. Check my article on 12 Mini Boost Pedals for plenty of options at this size. I had long thought that you really did not need to go beyond the mini size for a decent booster - which is mostly true, although the Jackson Audio Prism compact pedal does give you quite a lot more at the slightly larger size. If I ever were to swap out the EP Booster it would be for the Jackson Audio Prism.
My compressor of choice used to be the Xotic SP (Alchemy Mod), which I latterly switched for the Mini Ego which I find slightly easier to dial in. I really like mini compressors, and the Micro Philosopher's Tone is next on my list in that category for A/B trialling. Similar to the mini boosters, I can't see myself changing anytime too soon, but if I did I would go up a size for the now industry standard Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe.
The Akoustikar is a pretty fine clone of the Boss AC-3, and the Tomsline AC Stage is a very slightly lower cost alternative. Otherwise there really isn't much else of quality in this category. There generally seem to be very few acoustic simulator pedals at any size. The Boss AC-3 is obviously the standard, yet Mooer always manages to dial in something special too. As on most occasions - with a mini pedal you save space and you usually save money too, often you may also prefer the specific core tone of a mini pedal - and although many, even most are clones, there is some seriously fine engineering at work here.
Overdrive is such a broad category - you need to decide what your core tone preference is here - whether klon-esque, screamer, OCD etc. - each has its own variation of frequency accentuation, 'transparency' and saturation. For me the Wampler Tumnus is pretty perfect and generally my most used overdrive. For a Tube Screamer -alike the OneControl Persian Screamer is my favourite, then the Keeley Red Dirt Mini and Ibanez TS Mini (£55). I also really like the £40 Tone City Sweet Cream and the Mooer Hustle Drive (£37) which is a pretty cool near clone of an OCD. The Tumnus is pretty secure in its slot in my own active pedal-chain - I am though looking to acquire a J Rockett Rockaway Archer at some stage which may be a significant threat - the Tumnus will of course still sound fabulous regardless.
As with Overdrive you have plenty of options for Distortion too, although most tend to have a preference for Marshall-esque tones, there is much in favour of going for the hugely versatile Disnortion Micro - with its six voicings and parallel/series switch. The Xotic SL Drive provides excellent Marshall tones as does the One Control Plexifier and Xvive Golden Brownie (£55). For something with a little more grit you can try the F-Pedals Edstortion or DarkLight ($119) and Rat-clone Mooer Black Secret (£42).
I wrote a piece about the best 9 Mini Fuzz Pedals, and have listed 3 of the strongest of those - between them they cover most bases. If you need an octave fuzz, then the Malekko Omicron Fuzz (c£100) is your best friend. Otherwise you have the usual flavours of fuzz face, muff and more velcro-style. If you're into really weird try the Rainger FX Freakenstein Dwarf Bleep (£119).
I love my compact size Boss NS-2, and am not really looking to change that. Were I to change, I would probably move to the TC Electronic Sentry, and if space was really tight then I would make the Mooer Noise Killer do. As you can see in the above video, the Hotone Skyline Gate may even be preferable to the Mooer, but strangely I find the Skyline range a little 'too' small even and somewhat fiddly in its layout - you would really need to velcro that one down hard on your pedalboard - I also like the clearer visibility of the more standard top-loaded dials..
There are lots of mini EQ pedals of varying quality. The ENO's advantage is that it provides 7 bands, while most minis only accommodate 5. My mini EQ pedal of choice though would still be the Mooer Graphic G.
For my taste, the very best choruses are stereo, so going with a mini pedal already puts you at touch of a disadvantage. That said all three main choices here are amazing for the size of pedal - you should also include the Mooer Soul Shiver (£57) and Tone City Angel Wing (£45) in your consideration. The Corona pips it because of TonePrint - which gives you more power to dial in exactly what you want.
On this occasion I've taken a preference for the TonePrint feature of TC Electronic - which really allows you to sculpt your tone, while the Mooer pedals then to have the standard 3 dials alongside a mode toggle with 2 or 3 options. There's not much between the TCE and Mooer, and Xvive provides a pretty decent alternative.
This is the one modulation that TCE does not currently cover in a mini pedal (i.e. no Mini Helix), even if it did, it is unlikely that you would put it above the 4 mode MXR Phase 95 - which gives you both Classic and Script modes for its legendary Phase 45 and 90 pedals. Mooer Liquid gives you some interesting variations here, as does the F-Pedals PhazeVibe.
Another modulation where TCE does not have a mini option - I don't doubt that there will be a Mini Pipeline here eventually. In the meantime I have no hesitation in recommending the optical Mooer Trelicopter, with the Xvive Undulator giving you stereo out, and the Tony City Tremble providing you with another decent alternative.
Once more you have the trade-off between the 3 toggle modes of the Mooer and the TonePrint of the TCE - which on this occasion wins it for me. If you're a fan of the EXH MemoryMan, then the Xvive uses the same chips as the current one for a very similar tone. I have frequently said that ideally delay pedals should offer easy delay mode switching between the classic short and long delay types. There are so many players who alternate between a short and long delay for most instances, and few pedal makers seem to have cracked that at this level so far.
Much the same as for the delay, with the HOF giving you that TonePrint advantage, while Mooer gives you the 3 directly switchable modes. Xvive once more with an excellent alternative.
The Xvive is no doubt the smartest looper here with stereo out and the ability to record on two separate channels as such. I would still probably go with the TCE Ditto - just for bulletproof simplicity and reliability, with the Mooer Looper another decent alternative.
There's no contest here really, the mini version of my well loved Mimiq is the clear winner with a cut-down version of that really clever algorithm. The Mooer Pitch Box and Tomsline Harmonizer can do a similar type of effect - obviously for a lot less money too, so reasonable alternatives at that.
My current mini pedal collection numbers 25, as with my compacts, most of these are drive / dirt pedals of some description. I don't know why the key pedal makers don't have more options here - Boss, DigiTech, EHX and EQD do none, while MXR have a paltry 3. Xotic have done very well with their 3 minis, as I believe Wampler have with theirs. And the only mainstream manufacturer who is truly mixing it up is TC Electronic.
In the areas I currently have mini pedals - I think there could and should be more competition - for Boost, Compressors and Tuners in particular. I also like a number of mini fuzzes - several of which I have still to acquire.
Beyond the 25 I already have, I have eyes on the following top 20 mini wishlist additions: