In my last post, I mentioned that I got a new pedalboard for all of my guitar effects. For those who might be interested, I will go ahead and give you the lowdown to what I had before, what I changed, and how I wire up my whole rig including power and signal path. For those that don’t know or care much about this kind of thing, this post isn’t for you, but I will say that even you ought to be able to appreciate the LOOK of my new board vs. my old one. While it certainly doesn’t break the record for most pedals used (unlike the picture to the left), it sure is pretty!
Anyway, I had been wanting to replace it for awhile, and this year, when I was doing my budget, I finally allotted some money to do that. My old board was getting pretty bad. It had been around the block. My old youth pastor got it for my cousin and former bandmate Hans when he was first starting accumulate a large number of effects, and when Hans peaced-out to Dallas for seminary, I inherited it. It is from some now-defunct online start-up pedalboard company (I don’t even know the name). It had some great features. It was tiered, so you got two levels for your effects, making the ones in the second row easier to trigger because they were elevated (the one thing I miss about it) and it had a hidden compartment up top to keep all sorts of stuff–power supplies, spare batteries, cables, strings, etc. That was a great feature too, but it mostly ended up being filled with junk like trashy cables and dead batteries and random scraps of paper with old set lists on them, so it wasn’t a huge loss. Anyway, here it is:
I didn’t think to take a picture when it still had all the pedals on it, but you can get the idea of how it looked. The board had a lot of downsides to it. It was all wood wrapped in black felt, which made it super heavy and awkward to carry. It was difficult to run wires through it attractively, so you had to drill big holes into it to pass the cables through. Also, the felt eventually wore out, so velcro worked less and less each time you pulled off a pedal. Eventually, I was screwing in the pedals to the wood so they wouldn’t fall off when I would pack it up and transport it places. The rear latches broke almost immediately after Hans first got it. So by the time I got it, it was pretty much just bungie corded together. A couple times I installed other types of latches to try and keep it connected, but those eventually broke under the weight of it.
Worst of all, when fully loaded up, this pedal board was HEAVY. Talking around 60 lbs. I installed some casters on it and another handle to help transport it, but with the top coming off all the time, it didn’t help that much. That board probably made it eight or nine years, which is pretty good, but it became less and less reliable to where I was afraid to travel with it. Then last Sunday, it went out during the last two songs of the second service because of some bad cables. The cables were always cheap. But the pedals were constantly moving and shifting and falling all over the place, making shorts that much more likely. I was also using cheap, substandard power technique called “daisy-chaining” that was giving me a lot of noise even when the rest was working well. So, that pedalboard was put out to pasture. It was literally falling apart, so there is not much to salvage.
I had known for awhile what I wanted to replace it with: a Pedaltrain Pro Pedalboard. These boards are made of some aluminum alloy and everything is welded together. It is designed to be as strong and lightweight as possible, and there are no moving parts to loosen or wear out (pretty much the opposite of my old board). Also unique is the open-framed, angled design. There are open gaps between the aluminum bars where you mount your pedals so that your cables can be neatly routed under and through the open slots of the board to minimize the risk of accidental disconnection. This is also sweet because pedals can be added, removed, rearranged, or bypassed quickly and easily. It comes with adhesive velcro so that you can secure the pedals to the board. It is pretty strong, but the cool thing is that if you have a particularly bulky or heavy pedal that doesn’t hold too well to the velcro, you can use zip ties to secure it down by weaving them under the bars through the openings. They also include small zip ties to help gather your cables neatly under the board, but I recommend using velcro cable ties or twist ties in case you have to pull out a bad cable. You don’t want to be hunting for scissors or a knife to cut your zip ties. So here it is, the finished product. Below, I will tell you how I wired her up.
So there she is. She’s a beauty, is she not? Here is the signal path starting from the guitar: the Boss Tuner, the Radial Big ShotABY Switch Box (from output 1 it continues on to the rest of the pedals and to the amp, from output two, it sends the signal to the little black box at the top, the Sonuus G2M Midi Converter, which goes via midi to USB cord to my MacBook where I can select pretty much any synth sound I want in Logic and make my guitar trigger that noise), then to the orange MXR DynaComp, the silver ZVex Box of Rock, the green Line 6 DL4 Delay, the green Ibanez Tube Screamer TS9DX (with the Analogman 808 mod), the Vox Wah, the blue Boss Superchorus, the Ernie Ball Volume Pedal, the silver bypass switch box which is connected to my Boss DD6 Delay and then out to my amp (which is a Fender 410 DeVille). Also pictured on my board not in my chain is green Danelectro Fish & Chips EQ and Whirlwind DI which I typically use for my Mandolin.
To get rid of the noise, I also upgraded both my power supply to my pedals and my patch cables. For the power supply, I got the awesome Voodo Lab Pedal Power 2+. That thing is great. Not only does it give you 8 connections for 9v Boss type pedals, each is output isolated to create a super-low noise power solution. Before, I daisy-chained all my pedals together from my Boss Tuner. It caused wicked hum and noisy transitions between effects. It has totally cleaned up my sound. PLUS, Pedaltrain boards come with custom mounting brackets for this particular power supply. You can actually see it mounted underneath my big green Line 6 delay. Mounting was not difficult, but it did require me to drill four small holes into the underside of the board with an 1/8 in bit. After that, it screwed right in. It also powers my line 6 pedal through the standard Line 6 adapter (which plugs into a standard wall plug). There is not a pedal on my board that needs a battery. Here is the unit:
For my patch cables, I opted for the Planetwaves solder-less pedal board cable kit. They are very similar to other solder-less cables like George L’s. I got these because I could cut them to the lengths I needed and just put the ends on and tighten them with a screwdriver. They are high-quality, low noise cables with nice, well-made connectors. I used two of those kits to cover my board and had extra cable leftover, but no connectors. Out of all of the cables I made, I only had an issue with one. I just re-clipped the end, and made a more secure connection, and that fixed it with pretty much no fuss. All of the plugs are angled which is good for most pedals, but I wish one or two sets of connectors had been straight. It would have made some of my connections a little easier on the board. But I got it all working, and I couldn’t believe how noticeable the difference was in volume and tone. It was great. That will teach me to use radio-shack brand cables. I can never go back now! Here are the cables:
I guess the last thing to show is the flight case that stores my board. Gone are the Godbold-Lowes-Special casters and hinges. This is a hardcore, heavy duty flight case. And it is great. Pedal train makes the same board with a soft “gig bag” type case for a lot a cheaper (around half the cost of this model), but transporting my pedals was really what was causing a lot of the problems. I didn’t want them knocking around in some soft shell case. That wouldn’t have been any better than what I had before. I wanted to feel like I could just close it and not worry about. So here are a couple pictures of it:
The pedalboard fits snuggly into the foam bottom and the road case hinges closed and latches tight, with very little clearance for any pedals to move or wiggle if tossed around. It is truly great.
When it is all packed up, you can carry it like a suitcase (if you are super buff like me… what?) or you can wheel it on its built-in casters. All in all, a great design. The only bummer thing about it is that you can’t really leave it in its flight case without the lid to play it like some other brands. It isn’t really built that way. You have to lift the board out and stow the case somewhere. That doesn’t really bug me at all though because the board is light.
To sum it all up, I am extremely happy with the new set up. So is Henry, our engineer, who says my tone is better and that I am a lot less noisy. I’ll take it. Not having the second tier is gonna take some getting used to. I may even try to modify some important second row pedals so they are little taller than the others so they can be more easily triggered without risk of stepping on something in the first row. Also, I currently still have two of my old patch cables on the board. They work fine, and not my super cheap cables, but ideally, I would eventually like to replace them with the Planetwaves ones. I just need 4 more connectors or so. I still have plenty of leftover cable, so that will probably be done in the next week or two. In all honesty though, I could probably not do anything for awhile and be completely happy. I am a whole lot less concerned about my sound completely stopping mid-service like it did two weeks ago. The upgrade was well worth it.
Now I just need a new guitar and amp… what? It never ends I guess :-)