In the first installment, we covered selecting your pedalboard. And now that you have that empty pedalboard staring at you like a blank canvas, it’s time to start populating the pedalboard with a selection of pedals. In this installment, we’ll look at some utility solutions, starting with power supplies.
While the power supply doesn’t produce tones, a poorly made power supply can certainly alter your tone by introducing unwanted electrical noise and hum into your signal chain. That said, you’re going to want to look for a power supply that offers enough outlets for your pedals and uses quality components. Additionally, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for power supplies that support the various voltages to power just about every pedal under the sun as not all pedals operate via 9V. And finally, look for power supplies that accommodate different connection types. For example, Electro-Harmonix pedals use a 3.5mm connection for their pedals rather than the traditional AC connection. Some of the brands that we have tried in the past and liked include Voodoo Labs and TrueTone, which are standards in the industry and support several different configurations. There are also boutique solutions, such as the Walrus Audio Aetos and Phoenix. One that we really like and use here daily at ThePedalGuy is the Ortega Octopus, which powers 8 pedals and includes a chromatic tuner as well.
And speaking of tuners, did you hear the one about the guitarist that was in tune? Neither did I. Go ahead, let that punchline sink in for a minute. Tuners are that need to have item, pedalboard or no pedalboard. There are so many tuner configurations out on the market, one doesn’t quite know where to start. Personally, I’ve never been one to use a tuner that attached itself to my headstock, nor use an old timey traditional pitch pipe (well, at least not since I was 12), so a tuner pedal has been a much better option overall. When it comes to selecting a tuner pedal, the two main points to consider are durability and bypass. You want a tuner pedal that’s rugged and well-built since you will likely use it several times during jams, rehearsals, and on stage. The last thing you want is a tuner that craps out. The second point to consider is the type of bypass the tuner uses. As a good rule of thumb, we would suggest looking for a tuner that includes true bypass to ensure that it won’t alter your tone. For example, the aforementioned Ortega Octopus is a fine solution as is its’ little brother, the Sea Devil (see below). There are certainly exceptions to the rule, such as the TC Electronic PolyTune 3, which uses a technology called “Bona Fide Buffer”, which is an analog styled bypass buffer circuit. Furthermore, the PolyTune 3 also provides the ability to tune all your strings simultaneously in both standard and alternate tunings.
And now, close your eyes and imagine that the stage is dark and the audience is waiting for you to take the stage. After being led to your place on stage by your trusty roadie, you look down at your pedalboard only to realize that you can’t see the pedals you want to use for the first song. Ok, maybe I’m painting this on a bit thick, but you get the point. You want to see your pedalboard in the dark, so you should consider integrating a lighting solution onto your board. A couple of pedals to consider would be the Rock Stock Bright Switch and the Ortega Sea Devil. The Bright Switch has an extremely small footprint and includes two USB ports, one for the light itself, which is a gooseneck lamp, and the other can be used for an additional lamp or you can power your phone with it, which is handy. The Sea Devil is a little different, as it has a slightly larger footprint, and it includes two gooseneck lamps that plug into the supplied USB ports. One of the neat additions to this pedal is that it also includes a chromatic tuner, so it accomplishes two tasks.
As a final thought, please keep in mind that these are all mere suggestions on products to consider purchasing. When you get down to it, the final purchase decisions are yours to make, which is why we may offer somewhat generic guidance in selecting the actual products that will live on your pedalboard. Each product has their own pros and cons and certainly the manufacturers will have varying feature sets and buzz words, so you should use this guidance as a starting point rather than the final word as you will likely want to delve into the mechanics of each pedal and figure out what’s going to work best for you.
In the next installment, we’ll get dirty by covering overdrive/distortion/fuzz pedals and all points in between.