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The Rise in Near Equivalent Mini Guitar Effects Pedals

Big Muff Style FuzzBoostBoost and OverdriveBrown Sound DistortionCompressorDistortionDriveEWS EffectsFuzzFuzz-Drive and FuzzstortionIbanezKeeley EngineeringKHDKKlone and Transparent OverdriveMarshall Style DistortionOverdriveSuhrTubescreamer Style OverdriveUtilityWampler+-

There is a very apparent trend in pedals at the moment - which sees several makers consolidating some of their offerings into smaller enclosures. As part of this, and what we’re interested in for this articles - is those makers who offer some of their key pedals in different formats. One of the most successful mini pedals of late has been the original Wampler Mini Tumnus whose uptake has been quite incredible really, and which still appears on a significant number of pro pedalboards. I believe it is currently the best-selling Wampler pedal.


What’s unusual with the Tumnus is that usually the standard version comes first, and then the pedal-maker introduces a mini version at a later stage. In Tumnus’s case it happened the other way around - as illustrated in the above visual. The above image features 9 pairings where I either already have the mini pedal, or have it on my wishlist - i.e. all really decent mini pedals - many of which I prefer to their larger-size equivalents.


Mini pedals these days are getting increasingly smarter, and for various reasons (including smaller footprint and price) can frequently be preferable to the standard-sized version. For Wampler, both the mini Tumnus and mini Ego have been runaway successes and are now two of the leading pedals for that company. For the Tumnus I have both sizes of pedal, for the Ego I have the mini, and have no intention of getting the larger standard version. As mentioned, for certain applications I infinitely prefer smaller pedal sizes - and if there is little or nothing to be gained from a larger enclosure, I will always go with a more compact format.


First on this list is the Suhr Riot and brand new Mini Equivalent - by all accounts the mini sounds pretty much the same, and only yields a single voicing option - having 2 modes vs the standard pedal’s 3 - I already have and love the original, and will definitely be adding the mini at some stage.


KHDK Ghoul heads the first of 3 Tubescreamer type pedals in that middle row - where I already have the Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini and Keeley Red Dirt Mini. The KHDK Ghoul combination is probably the most interesting of these as both pedals come with a number of voicing options - the larger has 5 voicing toggles, the mini has 2 - which take the Ghoul somewhat beyond original Tubescreamer territory, so I may consider both Ghouls at some stage as I think the Ghoul Jr could be my preferred Mini Screamer, while the larger size pedal would be a really interesting alternative and sometime swap out for the JHS Bonsai and Foxpedal The City V2 - which are my main Tubescreamer pedals of choice. The Red Dirt Mini is a really interesting pedal too as it has 2 internal dipswitches which activate 4 of Rober Keeley’s best-known Tubescreamer mods.


The bottom row of the image starts with the two versions of the Keeley Katana Boost, the smaller of which I have often considered, but for which I have other preferences already in place, and even though the Katana here sounds wonderful, it is the least likely pedal in this listing for me to acquire. The listing ends with the two EWS pedals - Brute Drive and Fuzzy Drive - for both of which I have the original mini versions - I can see the Little Brute Drive has recently been updated to become identical in format to the Little Fuzzy Drive - much better than fiddling with internal trim-pots - I may well acquire this improved Little Brute Drive version at some stage, the Little Fuzzy Drive is one of my all-time favourite Fuzz pedals - at any size! I have no intention of ever getting the larger EWS pedal versions, for me their smaller equivalents each with 2-way voicing toggle are infinitely preferable.

Suhr Riot and Mini Riot - £199 & £139


This is one of the best loved Marshall-style distortions with lovely searing and richly harmonic tones. The standard pedal benefits from a 3-way voicing toggle which takes you from vintage, through open and organic, and into high gain gain territory. The mini version gives you the same core tone as its larger sibling, but only with the vintage and high-gain voicing options available - which are the preferred modes from the original. I already have and love the larger pedal, and will most definitely be adding the mini probably some time later this year.

Wampler Tumnus and Tumnus Deluze - £149 & £189


I don't really need to say too much about the Wampler Tumnus - I've already sung its praises in probably too many posts already. The original mini was already one of my all-time favourite overdrives and easily favourite Klon-type. The new larger Deluxe version just gives you more of everything you already love - more tone-shaping and more gain via 'Hot' mode toggle switch - highly recommended in any variety.

Wampler Ego and Mini Ego - £189 & £149


For compressors for a while I thought I might explore the larger variations a la Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe etc.. But I've come down firmly on the side of the mini compressors, which may not give you quite as much functionality / features as the larger versions, but give me everything I need. For the Mini Ego - Brian simply swaps out 2 of the dials for 2-way toggles - so we get flat/bright Tone and slow/fast Attack instead of a range - it suits my purposes entirely and is a really smart compromise. The Mini sounds fantastic in my setup, and I don't need or want the larger sibling here.

KHDK Ghoul Screamer and Ghoul Jr - £199 & £139


KHDK (Kirk Hammett + David Karon) pedals have largely passed me by until very recently - including this incredibly versatile Tubescreamer-type tone-shaper. On the larger pedal 5 x 2-way toggle switches give you exceptional tone-shaping possibilities - Bass | Highs | Body | Compress 2 : 3 | Compress 1 : 2/3. The Mini if anything has more clever tone-shaping via just 2 x 3-way toggles - for Voice - centre is default, up accentuates the lower frequencies, down gives you more mids; for Style you get 3 levels of gain and headroom, with up as default and then increasing amounts as you move the toggle down. The tone-shaping abilities of each pedal are slightly different here, but the mini somehow makes more sense to me - so that's the one I will be going for.

Ibanez Tube Screamer TS808 and Tube Screamer Mini - £155 & £69


I was still going through the mental debate of figuring out whether I preferred the sound of the TS808 or TS9 - and JHS solved that with its 9-mode Bonsai pedal - so I won't be getting either larger Ibanez version here. The Mini version - which is actually more based on the TS9 I have had for a long while and really like it, even though I feel it could do with a little more output power / volume.

Keeley Red Dirt and Red Dirt Mini - £199 & £99


Here the Red Dirt Mini seems to make a lot more sense. It has 2 internal dip-switches which when used in combination allow you to activate 4 of Robert Keeley's best lover Tubescreamer mods. It's a cool mini screamer, but still probably comes behind the Ghoul Jr, OneControl Persian Green, and Ibanez TS Mini in my personal preferences.

Keeley Katana Boost and Katana Mini - £199 & £99


If you read my '12 Best Mini Boost Pedals' article you would have already seen the inclusion of the Keeley Katana. It's probably in my top 3 or 4 minis, so I would not really see any need to aim for the larger iteration here. Last year I switched up to the Jackson Audio Prism which does a lot more than any Mini Boost currently can. There is no shortage of exceptional mini boost pedals, where my current favourite is the Xotic EP Boost, followed by the TC Electronic Mini Spark - with its smart momentary feature.

EWS Brute Drive and Little Brute Drive II - £189 & £149


I really bought the original Little Brute Drive because of my exceptional experience with its amazing sibling - the Little Fuzzy Drive. Alas, even though it sounds pretty good, it only has one exterior dial - Gain, while volume and tone / treble are adjusted via internal trim-pots which make the original version too fiddly and slightly impractical to use generally. EWS have remedied this by introducing an updated version of the pedal - the MKII version pictured - which has all tone dials on the exterior now and has a 3-way mid frequency toggle selector which give you better control over those essential frequencies - it also has an internal headroom dip-switch selector now - 9V|16V. It also now looks and functions exactly like the Little Fuzzy Drive and is much the better for it - I will definitely be considering getting the updated version. The larger pedal version here is not really a useful alternative, even though it does have a separate boost footswitch - it comes in that annoying Zvex-like horizontal format which I so dislike! Note - hot off the presses Pete Thorn demo - now appearing above.

EWS Fuzzy Drive & Little Fuzzy Drive - £189 & £149


For a long while the Little Fuzzy Drive was my favourite fuzz pedal - with its Fuzzy Drive and Fat Fuzzy modes - sitting somewhere between a Fuzz Face and Big Muff in tonal profile - but ever-so versatile, and with plenty of gain and range on tap and being driven by an OpAmp vs transistors. I would not even consider the larger sibling - this is still by far and away the most versatile of the mini fuzz pedals currently available - actually, the OneControl Baltic Blue is pretty cool also, as is the Mythos Golden Fleece - but the Little Fuzzy Drive - would still probably be my go-to all-rounder mini fuzz!

Final Thoughts

I've long watched the evolution and improvement of Mini pedals, and the qualifier 'Equivalent' in the article title is of key importance. Xotic Effects have to a large extend led the charge for Boutique Mini Pedals, while the success of Wampler's Mini Tumnus has kind of solidified that approach and led to more 'Boutique' pedal-makers venturing down the mini route.


I have deliberately left out purely mini only pedals here, and I have excluded brands like TC Electronic - who do plenty of mini versions of core pedals, but they are largely far from 'Equivalent' to their larger siblings - a case in point being the Hall of Fame II vs the single-dial Hall of Fame Mini - they are nothing alike, and the only reason you would get the mini here is because of financial or pedalboard spacing constraints - the regular compact-size pedal is superior in every respect. I would have thought TC Electronic could do something more clever here by adding voicing or TonePrint option toggles and using its smart MASH / momentary and pressure-senstive footswitch technology! The only Mini TC Electronic pedal which genuinely matches its larger sibling is the PolyTune Mini as far as I'm concerned.


So this article serves to highlight where mini pedals actually perform just as well as their larger siblings, or as in several cases cited - are actually preferable to their larger versions and usually predecessors. In my current pedal-chain I have 3 first-choice mini pedals - the TCE PolyTune Mini, Wampler Ego Mini and Xotic SL Drive. I also make use of the TCE Mini Ditto - which though does not have the additional features of its larger siblings, and thus is not classified as an 'Equivalent' at least not in my book.


My preferred pedal format is the dual-footswith compact enclosure, but for single effect / utility pedals and where possible - particularly for always-on effects, I don't see why it would not be preferable to have a smaller enclosure. In many instances you simply cannot fit all the necessary components into the smaller enclosure - for instance for something like the dual-loop noise gates - like Boss NS-2 and TCE Sentry or in fact any stereo pedal - you need 4 jack sockets. And it's impossible to squeeze 7 EQ sliders onto a mini enclosure. So as with horses for course then, certain types of pedal will have to be significantly compromised in smaller versions, and therefore will not appeal to me. For Tuners, Boosters, Compressors, Drives and Fuzzes - the mini pedal is quite the perfect format.

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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