8 Best Expression Pedals In 2021 (Mini, Budget & High-End)

Best Expression Pedals

If you own a keyboard or a number of guitar pedals, you more than likely have noticed an input labeled “EXP” and are looking for a way to take your effects to a whole new level.

Whether you’re looking to unlock the potential of your favorite effects pedal, expand the possibilities of your DJ/Keyboard rig, or if you’re looking for a new way to get inspired, expression pedals are a fantastic tool for unlocking creativity and getting the most out of your pedals.

If you’re new to expression pedals or looking for an upgrade, we have the best expression pedal waiting for you in this list.

Snapshot: Top 8 Expression Pedals in 2021

  1. Roland EV-5
  2. M-Audio EX-PBest Budget Option
  3. Boss Dual Expression EV-30
  4. Mission Engineering EP1-KPBest for Amp Modelers
  5. Dunlop Volume X MiniBest Mini
  6. Lehle Dual Expression PedalBest High-End Option
  7. Hotone Audio Bass Press (BP-10)Best for Bass
  8. Electro Harmonix Dual Expression Pedal

Shopping For a Great Expression Pedal to Expand Your Effects

Expression pedals change parameters within other pedals via a rocking foot pedal similar to a wah or volume pedal. They typically don’t create their own tone and rarely require power as they are a passive effect.

So what makes a great expression pedal if they don’t make any sound of their own?

It all depends on the feel, weight, size and price of pedal you are looking for.

In compiling this list of the best expression pedals, I made sure to include a number of expression pedals that come in a wide variety of sizes to fit any pedalboard. I also made sure to include options that have adjustable resistance/mobility.

Expression pedals are typically inexpensive and rarely cost beyond $150, but as with all effects there are manufacturers who have pushed the envelope of what expression pedals can do if you’re willing to pay a premium.

This article only covers expression pedals – meaning I don’t cover any effects that come in an expression pedal format like wah pedals, or the Ernie Ball Expression Series to name a few. Some expression pedals on this list have extra effects built in, but they all include the basic EXP functionality and are sure to help you unlock sounds from your pedals you never thought possible before.

The 8 Best Expression Pedals in 2021

1. Roland EV-5

BOSS EV-5 Expression Guitar Pedal
226 Reviews

This classic expression pedals was originally designed for use with keyboards and is many guitarists’ first expression pedal for it’s simple design and modest price point.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Size provides some stability
  • Easy to use – great for beginners
  • Budget friendly
Cons
  • Little resistance on pedal – can result in accidental changes
  • Plastic construction
  • Requires anchoring to board or floor for stability

Build/Design

I decided to review the EV-5 first because it has stood the test of time and it has the bare essentials for a good expression pedal. It has a foot rocker, a single output, minimum volume control, and that’s just about it.

It has an all plastic construction, which keeps cost and weight down, but results in a less than robust design. It’s perfectly suitable for home studio use, but I would recommend another pedal on this list if you intend to gig or tour with an expression pedal on your board.

The pedal has a hardwired TRS cable that is 2 meters in length. This may be convenient for some that don’t want to buy an additional cable, but it also means that you can’t customize the length of the cable. Also, if you take this out to gigs and the cable experiences any kind of wear, you will have to pay for the pedal to get repaired or pay out for a new EV-5 entirely.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Single Output Expression Pedal
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Requirements: Passive
  • Dimensions: 9 x 4 x 3”
  • Special Features: Hardwired TRS, Minimum Volume Control

This classic, standard expression pedal is perfect for beginners

Final Thoughts on the Roland EV-5

The Roland EV-5 is a bare bones and inexpensive volume pedal that gets the job done. It’s a great option for beginners or musicians that plan to use the pedal at home. It work with most pedals, keyboards, and solid state amplifiers. All that being said, the EV-5 lacks the features or build quality to support professional, performing musicians.  Overall, the EV-5 is the standard for expression pedal designs.

2. M-Audio EX-P – Best Budget Expression Pedal

M-Audio EX-P | Universal Expression Pedal for Keyboards, MIDI Keyboards/Controllers and Supported...
  • Express Yourself - Expand and unlock the full creative scope of your controller or keyboard with M-audio's universal EX-P expression pedal

If you’re looking for the same straight-ahead functionality of the EV-5 but need an even more budget-friendly option, look no further than the M-Audio EX-P.  This award winner does what most expression pedals do at an unbeatable price point.

Pros
  • Simple Design 
  • Unbeatable price point
  • Works with most devices
  • Polarity switch built in
Cons
  • Build quality reflects price point
  • Hardwired TRS means cable length can’t be changed

Build/Design

The M-Audio EX-P takes a lot of influence from the Roland EV-5, as it is about the same size and incorporates a similar aesthetic in addition to its bare bones feature set. It is a single output expression pedal with a minimum volume wheel, but it also features a built in polarity switch for optimal functionality across devices.

The only downside to this feature is that it is located on the bottom of the pedal. So, if you anchor the EX-P down with Velcro (which you will need to do as the pedal is not very sturdy) you won’t be able to access the switch easily.

The pedal has an aluminum bass with a plastic foot lever and has rubber on the top and bottom to reduce slipping. As with the EV-5, the build quality makes this pedal best reserved for light use in the studio as opposed to live gigging.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Single Output Expression
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Requirements: Passive
  • Dimensions: 8.27 x 3.54 x 2.24”
  • Special Features: Polarity Switch, Minimum Volume

A simple expression pedal at an unbeatable price

Final Thoughts on the M-Audio EX-P

While the M-Audio EX-P may be lacking in features and build quality, it can’t be denied that this pedal gets the job done at half or even a third of the price of its competitors. Many of the pro’s and cons of this type of expression pedal are shared with the EV-5, which honestly does less than the EX-P considering the EX-P has a polarity switch.

Single output expression pedals are great for learning on, so if you are new to this kind of effect or are working with a razor sharp budget, then this is the ideal choice for you.

3. Boss Dual Expression EV-30

BOSS Dual Expression Pedal (EV-30)
  • Space-saving expression pedal with a rugged die-cast aluminum body

Single output expression pedals work for many applications, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could control two effects pedals with one expression unit? How about two parameters at once? Then you need the Boss Dual Expression EV-30.

Pros
  • All metal enclosure means it will last forever
  • Compact design
  • Independent controls for each output
Cons
  • Expensive for the value
  • No grip on foot pedal

Build/Design

The Boss EV-30 is a dual expression pedal housed in an all die-cast aluminum enclosure. Though not quite small enough to be considered a “mini” pedal,  the EV-30 is certainly on the small size and is worth considering if you want something that’ll save you space on your board – not to mention it does the work of two expression pedals.

That being said, this pedal is heavy and sturdy, making it more than worthy for gigging. It also has what many describe as a “silky” feel and can be set to very specific positions and will hold its spot even with extensive use.


Both of the outputs are isolated, meaning its low noise and that they will work independently of each other even when both sides are in use. Each output has its own range control so that you can set each output to cover different sets of parameters. It works with most devices due to its universal polarity switch and comes with TRS cables.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Dual Output Expression Pedal
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Requirements: Passive
  • Dimensions: 3.5 x 7.5 x 2.5”
  • Special Features: Isolated Outputs, Polarity Switch, Min Value for each output

Two isolated outputs and built like a tank

Final Thoughts on the Boss Dual Expression EV-30

The Boss EV-30 is built like a tank and is more than likely to give you years upon years of service. Though it is competitively priced, the EV-30 is more expensive than the other pedals covered so far on this article, as it offers more features and a higher build quality. This is a great option for professional musicians to consider buying if they need control over multiple pedals, or if you’re just looking for a pedal that will last.

4. Mission Engineering EP1-KP – Best for Amp Modeling

The most commonly asked question about expression pedals is “Will this pedal work with “X” device? Usually, most expression pedals are rather universal and work well with a wide array of pedals, but amp modelers are more advanced and often require dedicated expression pedals like those from Mission Engineering.

Pros
  • Gets the best out of your Amp Modeler/Profiler
  • Road worthy, professional build quality
  • Feels like an analog wah or volume pedal
Cons
  • May not work as well with other devices
  • Features dependent upon amp modeler

Build/Design

For this review, I’ll be going over the Mission Engineering EP1-KP, which is specifically designed for the Kemper Profiler. However, Mission Engineering makes expression pedals for many amp modelers in its EP1 line, like the Line 6 Helix, and they are all equally as phenomenal. Most of what I explain about the EP1-KP goes for the rest of the EP1/SP1 pedals.

When using the Kemper, you want to use an expression pedal like the EP1-KP, as it is finely tuned to the exact specs of the Kemper through its linear potentiometer. This results in a natural feel like you would have using analog tech. In addition, the EP1-KP has a toe bypass switch built in, making it a great option for emulating wah-wah pedals.

The EP1-KP is extremely well built and can be trusted to go anywhere in the world. Even though it is specifically built for the Kemper, it remains a passive effect and does not require extra power. Not to mention, it’s black and green paint options make it a pretty snazzy looking unit.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Dual Output Expression Pedal
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Requirements: Passive
  • Dimensions: 10.8 x 4.25 x 4.2”
  • Special Features: Bypass Switch, Two Outputs, Tuned for Kemper or other profiler

This makes your amp modeler work to its full potential

Final Thoughts on the Mission Engineering EP1-KP

Anyone who has read my reviews knows that I am avid fan of the Line 6 Helix family of products. It’s because I own the rack unit that I needed to get a Mission Engineering expression pedal, as my other pedals weren’t cutting it. The EP1-KP is sure to make the Kemper work to its best, and if you use another amp modeler like the Helix, Kemper, or Eventide, I will highly recommend you pick up one of the Mission Engineering pedals.

5. Dunlop Volume X Mini – Best Mini Expression Pedal

Sale
Jim Dunlop Volume X Mini Pedal (DVP4)
110 Reviews
Jim Dunlop Volume X Mini Pedal (DVP4)
  • Controls volume levels and FX parameters

Many of us are trying to downsize our pedalboards, which means we have to choose between less pedals, or buying more mini pedals. I know which option I’d prefer, and thankfully Dunlop has a dual Volume/Expression pedal in mini format that is well worth picking up.

Pros
  • Dual volume/expression pedal
  • Programmable settings via internal dipswitches
  • Small size without compromising usability
  • Noiseless
Cons
  • Single Output may not be enough for larger boards

Build/Design

The Dunlop Volume X Mini is not only one of the smallest expression pedals on this list, but it also packs quite the punch as it works as either an expression or volume pedal. It has an all metal enclosure, making it really sturdy for its size, with rubber grips on the top and bottom for added stability.

There are three jacks across the top of the pedal – an input and output for use as a volume pedal, as well as an Aux output for use with a tuner or an expression pedal, which can be set via an internal dipswitch. The only improvement I wish this pedal had is for the switch to be located on the outside of the pedal, that way I could easily route the pedal for either volume or expression use, and then make my setting at the flip of the switch instead of having to dig around inside the pedal.

The minimum and max settings for the expression and volume settings are also accessible via internal dipswitches.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Volume/Expression Pedal
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Requirements: Passive
  • Dimensions: 6 x 3.5 x 3.5”
  • Special Features: Dual Volume/Aux, Internal Dipswitches

Volume and Expression combined in one miniature pedal

Final Thoughts on the Dunlop Volume X Mini

Most mini pedals require some kind of compromise, and in the case of the Volume X Mini, the dipswitches provide much appreciated features that are slightly less than ideal. That being said, the X Mini saves you space, as well as cash, by combining two utility effects in one mini enclosure. This is a great pedal that belongs on pedalboards big and small.

6. Lehle Dual Expression Pedal – Best High-End Expression Pedal

Lehle Dual Expression Pedal
  • 2-output Expression Pedal with Magnetic Sens

Didn’t think there was a market for high-end expression pedals? Neither did I, but the brilliant minded folks at Lehle have created a revolutionary new expression pedal that may become the industry standard in years to come.

Pros
  • Magnetic sensor results in no-wear over time
  • Dual Expression
  • Minimalist design/footprint
  • Adjustable Mobility
Cons
  • Requires power source

Build/Design

What separates the Lehle Dual Expression pedal from its competitors is its use of magnetic sensor technology. Utilizing what they call the “Hall Sensor”, the pedal makes precise measurements in conjunction with digital potentiometers. In other words, the Lehle has a wear-free design, meaning that this pedal can easily last you a lifetime.

This also freed up the space for customizable mobility, meaning that the footswitch can feel/react however you want it to.

You can even use the Lehle Dual Expression for MIDI control via the USB connector, making this a great partner for amp modelers or in use with instrument software programs. It has an optimal weight for its size and can find its place in just about any rig. Each of its two outputs are independently calibrated for 10K and 50K, giving the 10K output the ability to work as a momentary/latching switch.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Dual Expression Pedal
  • Signal: Digital
  • Power Requirements: 9-15V DC (100mA)
  • Dimensions: 7.9 x 3.5 x 1.9”
  • Special Features: Magnetic sensor, USB/MIDI, Dual Output

Lehle is pushing expression pedals into the future

Final Thoughts on the Lehle Dual Expression Pedal

This was a pedal that blew me away with its innovative design. It may be overkill for some, but if you’re a guitarist that uses a complex, digital rig, this expression pedal may offer solutions that you thought weren’t possible. The only downside I see is that this is an active pedal, so it will require a power source, but that is a small price to pay for innovation.

7. Hotone Audio Bass Press (BP-10) – Best Expression Pedal for Bass

Hotone Audio BP-10 Bass Press 3 in 1 Vol/Wah/Expression Bass Guitar Effects Pedal
  • Hotone bass press is a 3-in-1 compact pedal designed for bass players

Good news for bass players – one of the most versatile and powerful expression pedal on the market is made specifically with you in mind.  If you play with four strings, definitely check out the Hotone Audio Bass Press.

Pros
  • Multiple effects
  • Specifically voiced/designed for Bassists
  • Small footprint
  • 3 in 1 pedal at attainable price point
Cons
  • Build quality is wanting
  • Can only use one effect at a time

Build/Design

The Hotone Audio Bass Press is yet another mini expression pedal, except this one is voiced specifically for bass guitars. That’s not it though – it also features Wah and Volume effects. There is a small switch on the side of the pedal that lets you choose which of these effects you want to use. There is also a small wheel on the other side of the pedal for range settings.

As an expression pedal, this means that the BP-10 is a single output pedal. It features true bypass and has an LED light, so you know when the pedal is on. This is another pedal that require power, as it is an Active volume controller, and it can be powered by either a 9V supply or battery.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Expression/Wah/Volume
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Requirements: 9V
  • Dimensions:5.4 x 2.4 x 2
  • Special Features: Wah, Active Volume, True Bypass

A small, versatile expression pedal just for bassists

Final Thoughts on the Hotone Audio Bass Press (BP-10)

The BP-10 is a clever and versatile little pedal. Depending on the gig, you may require a volume, wah or expression pedal and the fact that this can cover all of those is very impressive. You can only use one of these effects at once, but the fact that it has all of these effects crammed into one small enclosure is impressive.

8. Electro Harmonix Dual Expression Pedal – Best Expression Pedal Overall

Two completely independent outputs under one expression pedal with top notch build quality and an accessible price point. There’s no competition: this is the best expression pedal in 2021.

Pros
  • Great value
  • Gig-worthy built quality
  • Independent range, reverse, and polarity for each output
  • Two outputs means more versatility
Cons
  • Larger size gives foot stability at cost of space on pedalboard
  • Side jacks can cause cluttered cable routing for some

Build/Design

The folks at Electro Harmonix understand that the only thing better than one output on an expression pedal is two, but they didn’t stop there. Each output has its own independent range, polarity, and reverse function controls to give you maximum compatibility and functionality out of one pedal. All of the controls are located on either side of the pedal.

While having all of your cables running from the side of the pedal may get cluttered for some, it also allows for optimal pedal placement, giving you the opportunity to choose whether you want your pedals located to the right or left of the pedal.

With this design concept you can control either two pedals simultaneously, or two functions on a single pedal.

The Dual Expression has professional build quality with its metal construction and is the size of traditional wah pedals. This may dock points for those looking to save space on their board, but it is sure to make those with larger feel more comfortable. Even with this great build quality and size, the Dual Expression retails well under $100 brand new. It also comes with two TRS cables.

Spec Summary

  • Effect Type: Dual Expression 
  • Signal: Analog
  • Power Requirements: Passive
  • Dimensions:    9.92 x 3.4 x 3.0”
  • Special Features: TRS Cables included, Range, Reverse, Polarity

Versatility. Build Quality. Value. This pedal has it all.

Final Thoughts on the Electro Harmonix Dual Expression

While the cable management that this pedal requires will suit some boards better than others, the EHX Dual Expression offers essential versatility, professional grade build quality, and comes in at a price that just about anyone can afford. This pedal could be used by novices or professionals alike and is easily the best expression pedal available on the market today.

Express Yourself with an Expression Pedal

Guitars and keyboards are some of the most evocative and expressive instruments in the world, and picking out the best expression pedal for your needs can help take your playing and your creativity to places you otherwise may not have thought to go.

These pedals are really accessible, and the it’s the little details that separate one from another. My biggest piece of advice would be to pick a pedal that will work for you in the long term. There are cheap options out there, but because these pedals get so much heavy use, they can break down easily.

Thankfully, the manufactures who made the pedals above offer high quality pedals, and if there are compromises to the quality, they make up for it elsewhere.

Just because expression pedals don’t make their own noises doesn’t mean that you should overlook them. They might just become the most important part of your sound.

Happy Guitar Playing!

Further Reading: