Updated: Aug 15, 2020
I have decided on a preliminary order to the pedals.
Stay tuned for more. . .
I added a wah wah pedal - scroll down to read more about it.
I've been spending time testing pedals and guitar effects systems and am getting close to picking some of my favorites.
NOTE: If you are new to pedals and have no idea what all the fuss is about, I have a very short, basic primer at the end of this post that will at least get you into the ball park.
While my budget is not unlimited, I decided if I am going to do it, I am going to do it right. So for me, that means picking the pedals I like regardless of cost, with one exception. If there are two pedals that do the same thing and I like them pretty much the same, I will default to the less expensive pedal.
I have everything from pretty expensive pedals to the bare bones stuff. But if I like it, I like it. I'm not concerned whether or not I made the cool choice. I am concerned with making the right choice for me. Your mileage may vary.
Before I describe what's on the pedal board, it seems to make sense to describe the pedal board. I am using the Temple Audio Trio 43. (Most people opt for the next size down, the 24 - https://amzn.to/2WAEkPa) The 43 is certainly larger than I need right now but in the event I add new pedals (I probably will) it gives me room to grow. I like the modular system and the quick release plates make it easy to install pedals securely. There's room to put the power unit(s) below which means only pedals on top.
I decided to start with the power supply. If that sucks so does pretty much everything else on the board. The power supply is also the only thing (other than the actual board) to interact with everything in the system so I went with the Strymon Zuma 9-Output Pedal Power Supply. It has nine high-current 9V outputs. If you have nine pedals or less this is all you will need. Since I will have more than nine pedals, I added two Strymon 5-output Ojai R30 Expansion Kits. This gives me enough power to get started and I can always add another R30 kit if I need to.
The power from this system is as good and clean as it can be in this price range. Short of industrial quality power supplies costing many times more, this is the one. It's well designed and it executes on its promises.
Speaking of clean, there's one more important element I want to discuss before I get into the specific pedals. You need clean power but you also need clean signal from unit to unit. I have tried cheap patch cables before and they just don't cut it. They can be noisy. So for this build I am using EBS PG-18 Gold Flat Patch Cable.
You can buy more expensive cables, but I do not think you can buy cables that are that much better given the difference in cost. I mean, look at the specs on this cable...
Contact house: 24 Carat Gold Plated
Double Shield: Conductive PVC and Copper shield protect effectively from both LF and HF interferences.
Conductor: Flexible copper conductor low voltage audio signal system
Operating Temperature: -15ºC to +70°C
Outer Insulation: PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
They save space because they are flat and VERY quiet.
Before I detail the list of pedals I want to mention one little pedal hack I've found. I use Barefoot Buttons on all my pedals. They make it easy to find and press the foot switch. They come in different colors and are about $9-10 a piece. Expensive, I know, but they are worth it to me, anyway. If you do play barefoot, they make it a lot more comfortable to press the foot switch. It can hurt to do it barefoot when you use the standard button so this little item was invented to help stop that. But I use them even when wearing shoes. They come in different colors and sizes and the colors can be used to help sort out which pedal button you are hitting when the light is dim. There are similar products on the market I haven't tried, but I am sure they work the same way. It's a small thing, but I figure anything and everything you can do to make it easier to play is worth a look.
I have not settled on an order for my pedals but I have come to the place where I have all the pedals I think I want to start with. Accordingly, from time-to-time here on the blog I will update this post.
But for now, here are the basic pedals I plan to use: (In no particular order.
I wanted a compressor because it gives me that element of squash and squeeze of a driven amp, but can control the effect so my playing can shine through with that great feel. I like it a lot. I researched many alternatives, but this one met my basic goals of being affordable and simple to use. It does introduce some noise into the chain so the next pedal is designed to fix that.
While this is a dual function pedal, I will primarily use it as a noise gate that I can tweak to your desired settings. Threshold, Reduction, and Release controls let do the job and the pedal doesn't impact your sound other than to kill noise. For now, I plan to use it as an inline noise gate.
Like most everything I have tried from Electro-Harmonix, it's affordable, easy to use, and it just works.
By the way you will see several Electro-Harmonix pedals on this list. They are a long-standing favorite with me. And while I know that there are "cooler" pedals, these are right up my alley so when I can use the Electro-Harmonx pedals, I will.
I tested several reverb units. Some of them were pretty good. But in the end, since I know I will probably use effects from this pedal the most often I splurged for the very best. Strymon products are top-shelf. They are the Mercedes of pedals.
It's built like a tank. Offers 12 different styles of reverb. It has lots of editing features and lots of presets. It's I/O is astounding. You do mono or stereo out, attach an expression pedal, It offers MIDI In/Out, etc.
This California-based company uses only the highest-quality components and powerful processors in their pedals. They are some of the most expensive and nobody is allowed to discount them. But there's a reason for all of that and it boils down to one word. QUALITY. No matter what changes I make to my pedal board, this will always be my main reverb unit. I am the most confident in this choice of all the choices I made.
Like I did with the reverbs, I tested lots of delay pedals. I liked most of them. I realize I may have two or three delay pedals on my board because it's possible to buy that many pedals that have unique delay sounds. But the DD-200 is a workhorse that will fit the bill almost 100% of the time.
It offers class-leading sound quality with 32-bit AD/DA, 32-bit floating point processing, and 96 kHz sampling rate. There are twelve versatile modes provide a wide range of delay types and there are four presets plus a manual mode leaving five different configurations available to you during a set at the hit of a button. There's even a looper built in.
It's quiet and sounds rich and lush.
This pedal is legendary. It really hits the spot for me. I love super simple pedals that don't require a PHD in science to figure out how to program. This thing has a DEPTH switch, a RATE knob and a status light to tell you if it's on or off. That's all. That's it. And the sounds? Well they are gorgeous, lush, rich, and spacey. If you've heard a Nirvana song you've probably heard this pedal. In my opinion it's the simplest and most efficient pedal you can buy. I continue to be impressed with the quality and character of Electro-Harmonix pedals. They are the class leader when it comes to this price range and frankly, I've never tried a pedal from them I didn't like. They won't break the bank and while I could have easily purchased a more sophisticated chorus pedal, this one more than meets my need and leaves money in the bank to buy another pedal.
I mentioned that I would probably end up with two or three delay pedals. This is number two. And yes I can sort of recreate the sound this pedal makes with a combination of my Strymon Big Sky and my Boss DD-200, it's too much hassle and it's not EXACTLY the same. There's just something about the simplicity of this pedal and how it sounds. I won't always use a reverse delay effect, but when I do, this is the one I will use. It has more utility than I thought because if you combine it with a compressor and just barely dial in some of the delay effect, it creates a fat, full sound that can't be replicated any other way.
Danelectro worked some sonic magic with this circuit, delivering some of the richest, tape-like reverse delay and echo effects ever created. It's not something I use all the time but I will absolutely reserve a spot on the board for it just the same.
This is an old-school fuzz - It features warm distortion or high-octane fuzz tones. The pedal sports a classic op-amp design to give you both warm, rounded distortion and high-octane fuzz. Set the pedal to mild values to preserve a moderately clean tone with low-level saturation, or crank the Drive dial to secure a hefty, classic 1970s fuzz.
I am not a metal player so this fuzz is very traditional and relatively conservative.
Most of you reading this won't be old enough to remember the mellotron. It was used extensively in prog rock songs by groups like The Moody Blues and King Crimson. It was a keyboard instrument that played taped, looped sounds. Think of it as the original sampler. Fast-forward to today, and you can get the same effects on your guitar using the Mel9. I was very impressed at how true-to-life the pedal sounds can be. They sound just like the mellotron to me anyway. You don't need a MIDI controller and you can turn your guitar into a synth! It's an acquired taste for some. It's primarily a special effects pedal for me, but I do love the nostalgia it brings me. I always wanted a mellotron when I was a kid and never could have afforded one.
The Pitch Fork transposes an instrument’s pitch over a +/- three octave range and features three modes which allow the pitch to be transposed up, down or both, simultaneously. The pitch shift amount can be set to a fixed interval or continuously varied by an expression pedal or control voltage.
It has simple, easy-to-use controls and I love the latch button which allows you to hold the tone. You can connect it to an expression pedal and control the pitch sift amount which is really cool.
I tried other pitch shifters, but this one seemed to have all the features I wanted and none of the ones I did not.
I did a lot of research on tuners. They aren't all created equal. On the other hand, it's not rocket science and I wanted to spend around $100 or less so I opted for the TC Electronic tuner. It's a solid pedal from a company with a solid reputation.
It's a small, polyphonic tuner that gives you fast, accurate tuning and a high-quality tone tool in a single unit. There are multiple tuning modes, e.g. polyphonic, chromatic and strobe tuning modes. There is a built-in, all-analog Bonafide Buffer circuit that is designed to preserve your tone through long cable runs and convoluted pedal boards.
Polyphonic tuning lets you tune all your strings at once. You get pretty much instant results using the fast chromatic tuner which offers 0.5 cent accuracy. Want something more precise? Use the strobe tuner which gives you +/-0.02 cent accuracy.
This is the kind of sustain pedal Superman would use - if he used pedals that is. It's a looper on steroids. Actually, I'd prefer to think of it as a time machine. It is often described as a looper but it's really so much more. It has real-time sampling that you can creatively impact in so many ways I'd have to write an entire page to describe it. Unlike many sustain pedals it preserves the character of each note. For ambient swells (paired with the reverb and delay) it is second to none. It has the ability to grab just one single note or a group of notes and it is available with an optional WET footswitch that allows you to do even more creative tricks with it.
Think of a standard piano sustain pedal and now apply that to your guitar. It's an over-simplification but it's the best I can do. I love this thing and can spend hours playing with it.
12. Wiretap TC Electronic WireTap Riff Recorder This pedal helps you with capturing ideas, riffs, and solos on the go. Intended for use with electric guitars and basses, its controls are relatively easy to use: simply hit the bypass switch to begin recording, and step on it again to stop recording. The pedal, which can store up to eight hours of 24-bit/44.1 kHz audio, allows you to play your captured material straight from the stompbox itself, and you can use the back and next buttons to cycle through your various ideas.
After recording an idea you find particularly satisfactory, you can sync it to the iOS WireTap app via Bluetooth. From there you can tag, name, group, trim, and share your various ideas, and thus, achieve a more structured and efficient workflow. The app also includes a voice recorder with an onboard peak meter to help you avoid clipping. Furthermore, via the app, you can send material to your DAW of choice for implementation in projects and mixes.
Some use it like a looper.
Think of this as a keyboard synth without the keyboard. You use your guitar instead and no special pickup is required. I don't know how it works but it does. You won't be shredding while using this pedal but normal play causes it to track well. Some stand out features are:
121 Synth Tones in a Compact Pedal
Leads, Organs, Pads, SFX & Sequences
Traces Heritage to SY-300 Pedal
Tone/Rate & Depth Controls
Independent Dry/Effected-Signal Knobs
Parallel Send/Return Loop
Control/Exp Jack for External Control
Mode Switch for Guitar or Bass
I think it's great because I want to have a very versatile guitar sound. Since I also play a lot of ambient guitar, it's good for background ambiance while playing chords and strumming. It has inspired me to make more music.
Several of my pedals can be used with expression pedals to control their inputs. Depending on which pedal I attach it to, it can be used for something as simple as volume swells all the way to reverb type. It's a no-nonsense pedal that does one thing. It's just for using with other pedals that can talk through an expression channel. Every board needs one and after a lot of research, I settled on this one.
UPDATE: I was using the expression pedal to deliver a wahwah-type sound but decided I wanted to free up the expression pedal to work with the delay or reverb so I added a dedicated pedal.
I will update this post from time-to-time if I make changes. I will also be posting a video with all the pedals on the board sometime later this month or early next month.
Lastly I have already started doing some videos that demo the sounds. You can listen to the chorus pedal here.
PEDAL BOARD PRIMER
Overdrive pedal heightens the frequency of the signal going to the amp - makes it sound like tubes being overdriven hence the name.
Fuzz pedals create distortion where harmonic overtones dominate the overall sound.
Delay pedal takes a signal and copies it and repeats it back according to settings programmed in by the guitarist.
Reverb pedals take a mono signal and widens it to give it a stereo feel.
Pedal boards are flat boards or panels that serve as a container, patch bay, and power supply for effects pedals for the electric guitar or bass.
If you do not see your favorite pedal on this list do not be offended. I am in no way saying these are the best pedals. I am saying they are the best for me. You may find something different that works for you and if so, fine. I am sharing what's worked for me and doing so in the hopes it gives people information and options.