I love effects pedals, and I appreciate a neat pedalboard. I like the ease of being able to quickly set up a tight and solidly constructed pedalboard and have everything work the way I like it—no fuss, no muss, and nobody is going to accidentally step on a stray pedal to knock it out of whack. When Randy Mills of Badaple sent me his Hydra model effects pedalboard I was a little apprehensive. Although I like a pedalboards with features, I also like to keep things simple. I’m no rock star with a crew, and as technically inept as I am, I had a feeling this would be interesting.
The Badaple Hydra comes inside a rock-solid ATA road case (a padded soft case with a pocket is also available). You lift off the larger, heavily padded topside of the case to reveal the pedalboard inside. The pedalboard rests securely inside the padded shallower side of the road case and sits securely on the floor— you don’t have to take it out of the lower portion of the case. The pedalboard measures 26"x17.5" and is made from powder coated lightweight aluminum. Mine came in black, but they also come in green.
You get eight true-bypass loop stations, plus a station for your wah and one for your tuner; it also features one input, one output, a removable power cord, an external 9V jack for slave, and a ton of extra Velcro for your pedals (the hook side of the Velcro is already attached to the board). There’s also a Buffer circuit with a switch located at the front edge of the board. Also included is a “Goodie Bag,” which contains George L cables and various plugs, grommets and a handy instruction sheet. The total weight of the pedalboard and the flight case fully loaded with effects pedals is around forty pounds.
To get this baby up and running you have to unscrew the underside of the unit and plug in your own power supply inside the unit. The pedalboard (AC Panel) powers the power supply, but you need your own power supply to run the pedals. You attach it to the inside top of the pedalboard with a big piece of Velcro that’s provided. Then you need to figure out how many pedals you’re going to use and attach that number of DC cables to the power supply. Next, feed those DC cables through the holes that run through the top of the board. Use the grommets to secure them in place and then reattach the bottom plate of the pedalboard.
After cutting and attaching the Velcro to the bottom of your pedals, secure them in place and plug in your DC cables. You can use your own effects cables or use the George L cables that are provided. The George L cables are convenient because they allow you to tailor the length of the cable from your stompbox to the inputs and outputs. This keeps everything nice and neat.
Starting on the right at the top tier, you have loop stations 1 through 4. On the bottom tier from right to left you have loop stations 5 through 8. On the upper right side of the board you have a single input to place your tuner. Below that is a space to put your wah. Your tuner and wah come before loop station one in the effects signal chain. This wah space has four holes so that the rubber feet can fit snuggly inside. If you have something wider than a traditional Vox style wah, you’ll have to remove the rubber feet and Velcro the bottom of the unit to the board. A volume pedal can be used in place of the wah in this space.
Start Your Engines
After inserting the power cable and plugging it into the wall, I connected my amp into the right side of the board marked “Amp” and ran a guitar cable from the input marked “Guitar” to my guitar. For effects I used a Fulltone Clyde Standard Wah, a tricked-out Boss Turbo Overdrive, Vox Satchurator, EVH Flanger, Voodoo Labvoodoo Micro Vibe, and a Boss DD-7 Digital Delay. Unused loop stations must be daisy-chained with a short cable in order to run the pedals. All my pedals worked perfectly. They sounded clean, articulate and super cool. I had to get use to the idea that all of the effects have to be on (except the wah) so that the pedalboard buttons could turn the effects on and off, but I quickly got over it. The top tier effects light up with bright green LEDs and the bottom row light up with blue LEDs. The buffer worked very well—though its main function is to help drive long cable runs, it also gave me a subtle boost with more clarity and shimmer. Over all the board made my effects sound better, very lush. The tuner location only has one input, but it worked fine with my Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner. You just can’t use the mute function. The buttons are logically laid out at the bottom edge of the board and easy to remember once you get the idea.
The Final Mojo
The Badaple Hydra allows you to lay your pedals out in a neat and orderly fashion and switch effects effortlessly. It’s a good-looking unit, but it seems a little big if you’re use to the less expensive, flat, single-tier pedalboards. This feeling quickly passes as you experience higher functionality and ease of use. Although this pedalboard is set up to plug in and play through the front end of a single amp, you can have it modded to run pedals through your effects loop or add an extra input to incorporate a second amp. Randy Mills of Badaple told me that each pedalboard is custom-made to fit the needs of the guitarist. There is no stock version of the Hydra.
The downside to this board is that it doesn’t power your pedals. You must add your own power supply and attach it to the inside of the board with Velcro. My concern is that the power supply could shake loose during transit to a gig, potentially causing your pedals to malfunction. While less expensive pedalboards don’t have the space, the features, or the second tier, they usually have their own built-in power supply. I was told that future models will have extra Velcro and foam to solidly secure your power supply, so components being jostled around in transit won’t be a problem. Other than that it’s a good-looking pedalboard with great features and superior construction.
you want to step up your stompbox game.
you’re on a tight budget.