Life as a guitarist presents constant temptations to spend money, which means it’s easy to shop for the player in your life – if you know what you’re looking for. Below, we’ve rounded up 15 of the best guitar accessories in the vicinity that are $50 or less. There are cheap, easy-to-stock inserts, like picks and strings, as well as more bulky treats, like effect pedals. And if you’re looking for something a little bigger, be sure to check out our guides to the best guitars for beginners, and the best electric, acoustic and bass guitars for any budget.
Snark is one of those lucky manufacturers whose brand name has become an acronym for an entire class of products: in this case, affordable battery-powered tuners that screw onto the head of stringed instruments like a guitar, discerning if the instrument is in tune with the vibrations of the wood. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to Snark tuners compared to pedal tuners, another popular category of guitar tuners (which we’ll get to in a minute). It doesn’t require you to plug your instrument into anything, which makes it especially useful for acoustic guitars, or if you’re cruising on the couch without an amplifier. But most of all: they’re cheap, and they’ll work in a snag in almost any situation, whether it’s a solo jam session or a professional party.
All products featured on Pitchfork are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Snark synths are quite versatile, but in onstage contexts, more often than not you’ll see guitarists working with pedal-based synths instead. One big advantage: most pedal tuners will automatically cut off the signal from your guitar when activated, so you can spare the audience the unpleasant sound of a flat or sharp chord slowly brought to the correct tone. Some pedal tuners come loaded with extra features, and they can go well over the $100 mark. KLIQ’s TinyTune does everything you need a tuner to do, and nothing more. And the $30 price tag is hard to beat.
If you want to practice the tone of a real speaker, but don’t want to risk disturbing your roommates or neighbors, a headphone amplifier is a great choice. Vox’s amPlug 2 plugs directly into your guitar’s output jack, and has a standard headphone output for connecting earphones or cases. The tones it offers across a variety of models are remarkably clear and vibrant, and the option to connect an external audio source (like your iPhone, for example) makes it easy to practice whatever song you’re learning.
Aside from a new instrument or subwoofer—either of which can easily run $1,000 or more—there’s nothing more fun to play with as a guitarist than a new effects pedal, which changes your instrument’s sound in subtle or drastic ways as it passes toward your amp. In recent years, there’s been an explosion of options from entry-level manufacturers at all points on the price range, including some great options in the $50 range.
The delay pedals have a deceptively simple premise: whatever you play, it will repeat again (and maybe again after that) after a set amount of time. By adjusting the amount of time, number of repetitions, and volume of the lagging signal compared to the original sound of your guitar, you can get an extremely diverse range of tones: from the tight 1950s “slapback” sound to the complete psychedelic meltdown rockabilly. The EchoBrain from TC Electronic can do everything, but it especially shines in the dope breakdown zone; Just take a look at one of the many YouTube demos to hear the chaos it can conjure up.
The Mosky Golden Horse is one of several pedals being more or less explicitly marketed as a Klon Centaur imitation, a strong contender to the most in-demand pedal on Earth. The Centaur was handcrafted as a single operation by engineer Bill Finnegan from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, initially selling for $329; Now, you’ll be out of luck if you use one for less than $7,000. Centaur is an overclocking pedal, which means it provides some extra heat and emphasizes your tone; It is prized for the transparent and dynamic way in which it rises and reacts to the sounds of your guitar and the amplifier itself, rather than conveying a single tone that fits every note of its own. It’s undoubtedly a great pedal, but at this point it’s undeniable that the price has as much to do with rarity and cultural hype as anything else.
This is where pedals like the Golden Horse come in, in an effort to offer Klon-esque tones at significantly lower prices for those who don’t care about the exclusivity factor (or can’t stand it). Given that it costs less than one percent of what you can reasonably expect to pay for the real deal, the Golden Horse is surprisingly good at the job – and as such, it’s slowly developing a cult of its own.
Loop pedals, true to their name, allow you to record yourself as you play, then replay the recording in a loop. You can continue to play, now accompanied by the phrase you previously recorded, and add new layers to the repeating recording at any time. It’s a little hard to convey in writing, but it’s easy to understand when you watch someone do it. (For example, Ed Sheeran’s one-man band routine wouldn’t be possible without a lug pedal.) They’re useful for live performance, but perhaps more so as tools for rehearsing and songwriting, letting you play with yourself like you’re working on different parts of the arrangement.