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OK, maybe not how many pedals are too many, but, how many pedals strung together are too many?

I'm not a big pedal player and normally just have 1 or 2, and a maximum of 3 pedals connected at one time.
If I want a different effect I just swap pedals in and out and keep things simple.

I have recently been trying different effects and have a rapidly growing collection of pedals. I'm now thinking of building a pedal board to keep them organized and quickly moving everything between my rigs.

However, every time a pedal is added into the signal path another cable is added, and two more 1/4" jacks are added. At some point this adds up and will adversely affect the signal/sound quality.

What are your thoughts/experience on the maximum number of pedals before the signal starts to deteriorate noticeably, and, how do you get around it when you use more pedals?
 

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There are a few other factors involved, like how many of those pedals are buffered and how good are the interconnects? A well placed buffered pedal or two will help with passive tone suck.

Anyways, I prefer smaller boards, mostly because the places I usually play don't have the space for huge boards. My largest board has 8 pedals, two of which are buffered and the other 6 are true bypass. That's fewer than some people have in their bottom row. So it's definitely a YMMV situation.
 

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Thx. Bzrk. Best laff so far today.

Looks like some of those guys are too chubby to leap to safety. "The Gear Trap"

You know your in trouble when you start identifying the pedals!
 

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At some point this adds up and will adversely affect the signal/sound quality.
I highly recommend you speak to Mike Vegas at Nice Rack Canada. If you're in the Toronto area, book some time with him. He's on Carlaw Avenue. His knowledge of this stuff blows me away. He builds systems used by major touring bands like Metric and Blue Rodeo, and systems used by movie soundtrack musicians.
 

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Consider something like a Loopmaster true-bypass loop switcher or maybe a Boss ES-5 or ES-8.

Having a long chain doesn't seem to bother most people. I find that some pedals that are not true-bypass pedals suck the life out of the sound if they are on or off. The general wisdom is that it is a matter of having the right pedals with the right buffers in the right positions.

Take your favourite guitar and a couple of pedals down to The Guitar Shop and plug the guitar directly into the Vintage 1965 Twin Reverb. Get a nice huge, expansive sound out of it. Now plug in a pedal.


 

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Every pedal in series adds just the teensiest bit of hiss. One at a time, it can be negligible to inaudible. But it can add up. One of the things that true bypass and TB loop-selectors were meant to address is cumulative noise. Where electronically-switched pedals are always in-circuit (even when the effect is not "on", TB pedals are effectively removed from circuit when bypassed. If we're talking about 3 or 4, then the difference in noise between the one and the other may be negligible. Once we move up into 8 or more, the difference may be quite audible.

TB loop-selectors - whether stompswitch or relay-based - can effectively turn an e-switched pedal into a TB pedal, by completely bypassing the circuit. The trouble is that one is obliged to run cables to and from the pedal to the loop selector. And even though the pedal is bypassed, the cumulative cable length going to and from all those pedals can degrade tone. If everything is properly buffered it won't, but then how many of us skimp on buffering.

I hope to be posting a video in the next week or so, of an alternate pedal-selector system. Many (though not all) e-switched pedals are amenable to remote switching, as I illustrate in this nugget from 5 years ago:
I was given a bunch of pedals as a birthday gift, so I decided to mod many of them to use that remote-switching, and put together a selector unit with 6 momentary switches that can be assigned to any pedal using a single thin cable. Since the audio signal is not running back and forth to the selector unit, there's a) no worries about the quality of the cable used, and b) the pedals can be placed together with the shortest possible audio patch cables between them.

Note that this ONLY works on e-switched pedals, and only for those which use a momentary to short out a connection to ground. Some e-switched pedals use a different momentary connection. I'll provide more technical info when I'm done.

In the meantime, my stance is that the definition of "too many pedals" is a function of whether or not one has a sound-guy to operate them for you. Plenty of big-name players will have cabs on casters with drawers of pedals. But the player themselves only provides instructions to the sound-guy, or else has some sort of combo selector on stage, and doesn't do any tap-dancing on pedals themselves. Ideally, if there are no impediments to getting the tone you want when you want, then there's no such thing as "too many". But all control is obliged to be in your feet, then once you have to think too hard about hitting the right button or reaching too far over, it's too many.

I might point out that some pro players have multiples of the same pedal, where that pedal has no means for presets, but is capable of delivering a variety of sounds. Each copy of the pedal is set for a particular sound. Whether that provides more convenience by not requiring the player to futz around, or provides inconvenience by having a bigger spread of pedals to attend to, is another matter.
 

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Every pedal in series adds just the teensiest bit of hiss. One at a time, it can be negligible to inaudible. But it can add up. One of the things that true bypass and TB loop-selectors were meant to address is cumulative noise. Where electronically-switched pedals are always in-circuit (even when the effect is not "on", TB pedals are effectively removed from circuit when bypassed. If we're talking about 3 or 4, then the difference in noise between the one and the other may be negligible. Once we move up into 8 or more, the difference may be quite audible.

TB loop-selectors - whether stompswitch or relay-based - can effectively turn an e-switched pedal into a TB pedal, by completely bypassing the circuit. The trouble is that one is obliged to run cables to and from the pedal to the loop selector. And even though the pedal is bypassed, the cumulative cable length going to and from all those pedals can degrade tone. If everything is properly buffered it won't, but then how many of us skimp on buffering.

I hope to be posting a video in the next week or so, of an alternate pedal-selector system. Many (though not all) e-switched pedals are amenable to remote switching, as I illustrate in this nugget from 5 years ago:
I was given a bunch of pedals as a birthday gift, so I decided to mod many of them to use that remote-switching, and put together a selector unit with 6 momentary switches that can be assigned to any pedal using a single thin cable. Since the audio signal is not running back and forth to the selector unit, there's a) no worries about the quality of the cable used, and b) the pedals can be placed together with the shortest possible audio patch cables between them.

Note that this ONLY works on e-switched pedals, and only for those which use a momentary to short out a connection to ground. Some e-switched pedals use a different momentary connection. I'll provide more technical info when I'm done.

In the meantime, my stance is that the definition of "too many pedals" is a function of whether or not one has a sound-guy to operate them for you. Plenty of big-name players will have cabs on casters with drawers of pedals. But the player themselves only provides instructions to the sound-guy, or else has some sort of combo selector on stage, and doesn't do any tap-dancing on pedals themselves. Ideally, if there are no impediments to getting the tone you want when you want, then there's no such thing as "too many". But all control is obliged to be in your feet, then once you have to think too hard about hitting the right button or reaching too far over, it's too many.

I might point out that some pro players have multiples of the same pedal, where that pedal has no means for presets, but is capable of delivering a variety of sounds. Each copy of the pedal is set for a particular sound. Whether that provides more convenience by not requiring the player to futz around, or provides inconvenience by having a bigger spread of pedals to attend to, is another matter.
Thx for this. Are you a fan of solder free cables? What is the general consensus or your views on solder vs solder free in relation to tone?
 

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In the meantime, my stance is that the definition of "too many pedals" is a function of whether or not one has a sound-guy to operate them for you. Plenty of big-name players will have cabs on casters with drawers of pedals. But the player themselves only provides instructions to the sound-guy, or else has some sort of combo selector on stage, and doesn't do any tap-dancing on pedals themselves. Ideally, if there are no impediments to getting the tone you want when you want, then there's no such thing as "too many". But all control is obliged to be in your feet, then once you have to think too hard about hitting the right button or reaching too far over, it's too many.
Great stuff, Mark, but I would say it is usually the guitar tech and not the FOH 'soundman' that is operating the pedals off-stage.

The FOH guy is too busy worrying about what the other 19,999 sound experts in the room are thinking. ;)
 
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Thx for this. Are you a fan of solder free cables? What is the general consensus or your views on solder vs solder free in relation to tone?
I'm not a fan nor dismissive of them. I do think, however, that they require some skill to apply, and not everyone is always up to the task.

The cable itself is short enough that quality is almost a moot issue. The difference between, say, 50pf/ft and 35pf/ft is moot when the cables are often less than a foot. So, I'm not of the view that the cable used with solder-free systems has any audible impact on tone unless there is a LOT of it involved. On the other hand, whether the cable is high-end or dollar-store crap is entirely separate from the quality of the connection made by crimping/screwing on the plug. I feel more secure in knowing that a wire is soldered in place, but that doesn't mean that a good connection isn't one, even if there is no solder involved.

Let the record show that solder-free cables have been used for years, nay decades, in the realm of ribbon cables for computers. And keep in mind that a missing bit or handshake in the digital realm can be more catastrophic than a teensy bit of signal or bandwidth in the analog domain. So if pinched solder-free cables are good enough for your IBM-PC or Commodore 64, they're good enough for pedalboards.
 

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Great stuff, Mark, but I would say it is usually the guitar tech and not the FOH 'soundman' that is operating the pedals off-stage.

The FOH guy is too busy worrying about what the other 19,999 sound experts in the room are thinking. ;)
Yeah, I suppose it is the guitar tech. I was struggling to figure out what to call them.
 

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For me it would be two or three. I might add a pedal to some of the top FX units but I would doubt it.
 
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OK, maybe not how many pedals are too many, but, how many pedals strung together are too many?

I'm not a big pedal player and normally just have 1 or 2, and a maximum of 3 pedals connected at one time.
If I want a different effect I just swap pedals in and out and keep things simple.

I have recently been trying different effects and have a rapidly growing collection of pedals. I'm now thinking of building a pedal board to keep them organized and quickly moving everything between my rigs.

However, every time a pedal is added into the signal path another cable is added, and two more 1/4" jacks are added. At some point this adds up and will adversely affect the signal/sound quality.

What are your thoughts/experience on the maximum number of pedals before the signal starts to deteriorate noticeably, and, how do you get around it when you use more pedals?
Never too many Pedals...Haha
 

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Are you Kevin Shields?
OR
Are you in a band that relies on many sonic textures?
OR
Are you in a cover band that covers a wide variety of styles?

If the answer to all 3 above statements is "no", you probably don't need more than 4-5 pedals on your board
FWIW, the pro guitar players that have my favorite tones use only about 3-4 effects each.
 

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Ok, well...... Wah, tuner, fuzz, noisegate/loop, compressor,Overdrive x 2 or distortion, EQ, modulation (multi or Chorus, phaser, Vibe, tremolo), delay & reverb.
11 - 14 is all of them.
8 probably is more usable.
5 is gig-able.


So 27???? Oh, & then there's different styles of the same pedal....there's the (fade into the void)



"Best mediocre guitarist in Calgary!"
 
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