Pedal Switchers and my Pedalboard

Posted: January 8, 2016 by phanson in Tips & Tricks

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 1.20.04 PMI just put together a new pedal board so I thought I would tell you about it.

If you want to use one pedal click to do multiple pedal switches, in the past you had to get a very expensive Bob Bradshaw, CAE system. But nowadays Boss and other companies make switchers that do it for much less money. They work very simply, you insert each of your pedals or rack effects into the switcher’s separate loops, then program which loops you want activated for your different preset patches. (Don’t confuse this with looper pedals, those are for making audio loops. These switchers loops are just individual sends and returns.)

Boss’s new ES-8 switcher, on my pedalboard (above) is the one I use. It competes with the CAE switchers and others like Voodoo Labs GCX and Ground Control. The CAE and Voodoo Labs units come in two pieces, a rack box that you plug your pedals into, and then a midi-floorboard where you do the switching. Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Steve Lukather and other pros run systems like this. Their pedals live in drawers in a rack, then the floor unit is either run by the player or their tech. A rig I’ll never forget is Vivian Campbell’s of Def Leppard. Viv’s rack is insane, check it out at the links.

Companies including Boss, One Control, RJM and Rocktron make “all-in-one” switchers and can sit on the floor along with your other pedals. I do contract work for Boss so it’s easy for me to try out their products prior to purchasing. The only catch is that I have to give the product back to Boss after a year… or pony up the dough and buy it.

I have never tried the other switchers but the ES-8 works excellent. I’ve carried Boss gear all over the US and it rarely breaks. As a in-store demo, I used to take a Boss GT-8, drop it on the floor, then stand on top of the knobs! Then I’d plug in and play and I never, ever had a problem with it. I don’t mean this to sound like a Boss commercial but I am sold on Boss’s reliability and durability. There are lots of other great brands out there too.

In my last post “Reality Distortion” I describe my DS-1X Distortion, (the orange distortion pedal in the middle) it’s revolutionary. I also really like the RE-20 Space Echo, if you notice it’s on a platform. That’s because I use the RE’s right pedal to tap in the delay rate and I don’t want my foot to bump into the ES-8′s switches.

Even though people know me as a gear expert because of my years of doing gear profiles for Guitar World Magazine, I really like simple setups. A quote from Scotty (Star Trek): “the more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.” So, at the moment I’m using only five of the eight ES-8′s pedal loops.

My pedals at the moment are: DS-1X for full-on distortion. A Keeley mod-ed Boss SD-1 for a milder tone. My V-Wah for either Univibe or Wah (I use the V-Wah’s heel switch to toggle between a Wah and the Univibe effects). I like both Univibe and wah before distortion. Pretty sure that’s how Robin Trower runs his. I’m a huge Trower fan! The V-Wah is discontinued but you can usually find them on eBay. My last two pedals are a CE-5 for clean chorused tones and the Space Echo for a vintage tape delay. The Space Echo really makes a tape-type sound, I love it! A tape-delay is not as perfect as a digital delay so it gets out of the way of my main guitar tone and adds a warmth. I ran Echoplexes for years and always missed them until I got my Space Echo.

Out of the pedalboard I run into a Peavey 5150 set to a clean sound, this way I don’t have to use the amp’s effects loop. This makes a very clean and simple setup. Also if I have to fly to a gig I can just bring the pedalboard and my guitar, then plug into any clean amp. Though it’s running clean the 5150 adds a cool tone. I also run the 5150 into both open back and a closed back 1×12 cabinets, so I get the best of both worlds. I mic the closed back for extra thump.

One more thing, if you notice in the pic above I inserted my TU-3 Tuner first in the chain before the ES-8. This allows me to mute my guitar to tune, or switch guitars. Also my TU-3 provides power for all my other pedals except the ES-8.

The ES-8 can do a lot of pedal switches and amp channel switching, but most of my presets on the ES-8 are set to turn off one pedal and turn on another. This would normally require at least two pedal taps, but by eliminating even one pedal tap, it makes my life so much easier! I’m singing, playing, remembering lyrics and cueing the other band members… the ES-8 pedal switcher is well worth it! I guess I’ll have to buy it. 


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