Boring gear post (pedalboard layout
Like any mediocre guitarist, I spend a lot of time rethinking my tone and my pedalboard. Like any experimental musician who likes to turn guitars into other sounds, I spend a lot of time trying to balance versatility and ease of use. Nobody likes to tap dance one-footed, even if you can perform an entire symphony.
Over the course of the last year, I've really landed on a layout that I like. In order of the signal chain, here it is.
Not much to say about this. Fancy tuners come around every once in a while, but for accuracy, visibility, and durability, it's hard to beat the classic Boss.
Pepers Pedals RAD
This is a Rat pedal. Pretty simple. It's made by Tony Pepers in New Zealand, and when you buy his pedals they come with this amazing gummy candy that's only available there. There are standard Rat controls and a switch that changes the clipping mode from standard Rat to Turbo Rat, or removes the clipping altogether. Without clipping, it's decidedly less Rat-like but it's still a very hairy fuzz. I don't stack overdrives and distortions anymore. I just crank up a Rat.
Morley Mini Volume
I love the size of this thing. I always put volume pedals after the distortion, even though I sometimes can't get total silence with it rocked down, because that way the tone doesn't change when I fade it up and down. I do waffle on whether to put it in front of or behind my preamp pedal.
Joyo British Sound
Yes, this is 100% a ripoff, possibly a stolen board design, of the Tech 21 British pedal, and it's probably unethical to buy this or any Joyo pedal because even the original designs have been more or less funded by this kind of stuff. But damn, it cost me $20 and it helps add that throaty, low-midrange roar to my plain sounding solid state amp. Plus I can dial in just the right amount of gain so that even the clean tone has a tiny bit of breakup. That helps make my cleans a little softer on the attack and less obviously solid-state.
Line 6 M5
Line 6 is not exactly the most prestigious brand to put on your board, but this pedal is ridiculously useful for keeping said board from getting completely out of hand. I use it primarily for modulation and special effects. I currently use the M5 for the pitch detune effect at the end of "We Are The Life of the Future," and for wah/filter during "We Live Inside." Both of these use the M-Audio expression pedal that's plugged into it (another not-great brand but it's lasted longer than the Roland one I used to have). Beyond the tremolos, choruses, flangers and other modulators, there are some fun (if not super useful) synth sounds and other random effects. Any effect can have its settings changed with the expression, which makes it doubly useful. And it's true-bypass, so even if you're worried about Patented Line 6 Tone altering your signal, it's alright. Personally, I would never use the preamp and distortion sounds, they're just not that good, but for single-use sounds you don't want to add a whole pedal for... why not?
Seymour Duncan Deja Vu
This is a little-known delay with a hugely useful feature set and a great, live-friendly layout. There's tap tempo that can be set to either delay at the exact tempo you press, or at measure divisions, e.g. you tap the quarter note but it'll delay on a dotted eighth. It has an analog circuit simulator (cuts a lot of highs out of the repeats) with variable modulation (warble, basically) and you can dial any combination between the digital and analog for a lot of tonal variation. You can switch between tails or true bypass (I usually leave tails on and it doesn't really suck tone at all). As a bonus, cranking the delay speed knob way over will give you a looper function.
As if all that wasn't enough, you can plug a TRS into its "insert" jack and put a whole chain of effects there that will only effect the repeats. That's what the Boss PS-2 is doing there: adding either compounding delays or pitch shifts to the repeats. Insane possibilities.
It's basically the best delay pedal I've ever used, and the right combination of simple and powerful.
I switch reverbs out sometimes but this one is too fun to leave at home. It's supposed to be an emulation of a Fender spring reverb unit. Yes, you can get some super wet Dick Dale sounds out of it. One of its more enjoyable features is that it's sensitive to volume and creates breakup as you feed it a louder signal. Made in Portland.
I may never figure out how to pronounce Hotone, but the Wally is a great little looper. You can stack a lot of loops of different times, you can change their pitch after you've recorded, and change the output volume of the playback. Great features for a tiny pedal. Unfortunately with its single button it's complicated to control and you can't end a loop at an exact time. And believe it or not, for most boards it's actually a little too small. I can't manage to get enough Velcro on the thing to keep it from moving around, and there's nowhere to zip-tie it.
TC Voicelive (not pictured)
The empty space usually has my vocal processor on it. This thing is basically just delays, but it has some sort of compression and possibly EQ in it because everything comes out of it sounding so polished. It was purchased by my bandmate from Mike Scheidt, so it's seen some action but it's really tough. Unlike many other vocal effects I've used, sound people do not hate it.
The board itself is a handmade wooden job that a friend built at a custom size for a pretty meager amount of money. I painted and velcro'd it, and even though it doesn't have a case and the slats can be a bit weird for the odd form-factor pedals like the Deja Vu, it's solid and really does the trick. The power supply is hidden out of sight and I have been able to velcro-tie the extra cabling. I just need to get an angled plug into that Topanga...