If you’re looking for the Plexi sound but don’t want to (or can’t afford to) buy a whole new amp head, the Plexi pedal may be the way to go. These effects pedals emulate the bark and power of the vintage Plexi head in a compact package, making you sound like you’re playing out of a far bigger amp without having to lug a full stack to your gigs.
If you’re in search of that vintage Plexi sound, the four pedals on this list are all great ways to get it. They are the very best Plexi pedals on the market.
Wampler Plexi-Drive Deluxe
This is an update of Wampler’s previous Plexi-Drive model, improving upon what was already considered to be one of the truest recreations of the classic Marshall sound available on the modern market. It gives you more tone shaping features than the original Plexi-Drive, with a pre-gain boost and expanded three knob EQ system. The pedal (see full specs) also features a bright toggle and a bass boost to further color your high and low end, respectively.
While the sound of course is more important than the looks, the aesthetic appeal is undeniable. The variety of features makes this an incredibly versatile pedal that can take you far beyond the classic British rock sound.
Tech 21 Hot-Rod Plexi Distortion
This pedal is designed to give you the power and overdrive of a vintage Plexi head. It has two emulation modes: Stock mode, that gives you the gain and overdrive of a ’68 Plexi, and Hot mode, that gives you pre-amp gain up to 28dB. It also has a Thump control to give you even more power from your low end, with a specialized low pass filter to keep the sound from getting muddy, even when you crank the gain. The drive knob lets you decide just how much gain and overdrive you want your sound to have. This pedal excels when you push it, perfect for harder styles. These should be on anyone’s list of the best Plexi pedals.
Carl Martin PlexiTone-S
If what you’re looking for is a pure Plexi sound in a pedal that won’t eat up all the space on your rack, check out the Carl Martin PlexiTone. It gives you the same gain structure that was used for the High Gain setting on the company’s original PlexiTone pro models, but is re-tooled to sound better with a wider variety of different amps.
The streamlined interface has a footswitch bypass along with knobs to control the level, drive, and tone. Other modifications tightened up the pedal’s lower end and softened the treble to smooth the overall sound to give you Plexi gain that sounds just as good throughout your frequency range.
Joyo JF-32 Hot Plexi
The Hot Plexi from Joyo is designed to emulate the sound of a Marshall JCM800 amplifier, giving you the famous Plexi “brown” sound from a compact pedal. It gives you a similar sound and tone shaping options to most Plexi pedals, including a true bypass for your signal and dials to control the tone, distortion, and volume.
However, what most distinguishes the Joyo is its price, which is an incredible value for the sound quality and tone control you get with this compact, sturdy pedal. It’s not the flashiest pedal on the market, but it delivers the classic Plexi power and sound at a price every guitarist can afford. It’s likely the best Plexi pedal for the money.
The main thing you’re looking for in a Plexi pedal is—obviously—a sound that emulates a vintage Marshall amp and gives you that iconic classic rock tone. Since Marshall is such a well-established company, though—and since many different styles of players used the Super Lead amp heads during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s—you’ll find differing opinions in the guitar world on just what that sound means.
Plexi heads were used by straight-up classic rockers like Jimi Hendrix and Angus Young, but they’ve also been used by more modern players, like Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day) and Matthew Bellamy (Muse), ultimately covering a pretty wide range of styles and tones.
The most consistent trait of all Plexi heads is its ability to give a player sheer dynamic power and killer gain. Many Plexi pedals, as a result, make these qualities their main focus, and the Plexi pedal is best-known in the modern day as a way to beef up your sound and add rich overdrive. If you want to delve into more of the subtleties of the Plexi tone (or you want to experiment with different modes of emulation) you’ll likely be looking to buy one of the higher-end Plexi pedals, like the Wampler (see full specs), that can give you that versatility.
Choosing the Best Plexi Pedal
All four of the pedals on the list will give you a consistent emulation of the vintage Plexi sound. As hinted at above, the main difference between models at different price points will be the range of features they offer. Deciding exactly what you want the Plexi pedal add to your sound is important in figuring out which model is right for you.
If it’s just the gain boost you’re after, you may not need EQ and tone shaping features. More streamlined pedals also have a correspondingly simpler layout, which can be better for guitarists who play a lot of live shows since it’ll be easier to make adjustments throughout your set—and since these pedals are more compact, they’ll lighten your load and fit more easily on your pedal rack.
If you play in a lot of different styles, on the other hand, versatility is likely to be a more important consideration. A pedal that offers a lot of different modes and controls will let you tailor your sound to your current genre, going from classic rock to country at the flip of a switch. In that case, the larger footprint and more complex controls will be well worth it, since it could save you the hassle of having different amps for different settings.
The vintage Marshall Plexi heads are iconic for a reason. Whatever kind of guitarist you are, one of these Plexi pedals can transform and expand your sound and can be a convenient alternative to a new amp or extension cabinet. Vintage Plexi heads may be hard to find, but thanks to today’s best Plexi pedals, getting the same sound for yourself can be as easy as toggling a footswitch.