How do you deal with things like fuzz
pedals that have to have the guitar coming
directly into the input?
They are in a loop but I don’t buffer
before them. I rarely have any active circuitry
in the first five to seven loops. I
only put a buffered circuit in the signal
path where it needs to be—where you
would hear a difference if it wasn’t there.
For example: if you are running multiple
amplifiers, you have to transformer isolate
them so you don’t get a common ground
and a bunch of hum. A passive guitar signal
won’t feed a transformer, so you have to add
some active circuitry at the end of the chain
Or, in the rackmounted systems, there
might be three or four passive loops,
but then I have to send the signal
back to the floor—to a wah or volume
pedal. At that point I would add a buffer but
I am building a lot of two-board systems.
The trend is to mount the controller on one
board and the pedals on another board rather
than a rack tray; those sliding rack trays don’t
hold up. If you fly—and more people do
these days— the racks get creamed by the
monkeys loading them at the airport. So I
mount everything on boards in a suitcase-type
enclosure—suitcases come through the
ramps better than a rack tumbling down.
With a two-board system, at your stage
position you have a board with your controller
and maybe a couple of pedals like a
wah, or volume, and a tuner. The signal has
to be sent to a second pedalboard offstage
or back by the amps, where all the routing
is taking place, so on the first board I put a
little MC-401 boost/line driver I designed
On a two-board system, the buffer is essential.
Let’s say you have 10 feet of cable from
your guitar to the first board, plus the loading
from your wah and tuner, then 30 feet of cable
connecting to your second board back by the
amps. Now you have 40 feet of cable, and
maybe some passive loops in the audio router.
You need some sort of buffer or your tone is
going to sound filtered. The buffer has a hardwire-bypass switch, so you can turn it off if you
are switching on a fuzz that needs the signal
to be completely passive. You will have some
loading (or filtering) at that point, but you
probably won’t notice, because this raunchy
fuzz is on—it is all a compromise somewhere.
Do you have any advice for players who
can’t afford a custom system but want to
improve their rig?
The cleanest form of signal path you can
have is to put your stuff into some form
of looping system—as long as the looping
system is well designed, because not only
is it bypassing the pedal; it is bypassing the
cables connecting the pedal. And don’t get
me started on true-bypass pedals. If you
have 10 true-bypass pedals in your chain,
even with all of them off, you are going to
hear a difference.
Don’t be afraid of buffers. That term is so
misconstrued. People say, “I don’t want a buffer
in my signal path.” What does that mean?
Chances are you already have one—a Boss
Tuner is a buffer, even when it is off. A buffer
is nothing more than an impedance converter.
Theoretically it should have no coloration of
its own, but driving the signal with it is going
to color the signal, if only by restoring it to
what it would be before being “colored” by
all the cables and pedals in the path. If you
were to plug a three-foot cord and nothing
else between your guitar and amp, that would
be the purest signal you could get. But who
wants to stand three feet from their amp?
What other products, besides the buffer,
are you marketing with Dunlop?
I do some pedals and a power supply and
a wah wah with them. The thing is, you
come up with concepts, then you have to
build multiples of them—that is the part
that gets old for me. That’s why it is good
to partner with people like Rocktron and
Dunlop. Let them build the stuff—I am a
Bob Bradshaw's Advice
Pedals have come back from their initial popularity in the ’80s, says effects systems
designer Bob Bradshaw. “They’re great because it’s a self-containing little thing,”
he says. “There are tons of people out there making all kinds of different things so
it’s wide open in terms of the choice you have in sounds.” When he first started his
career in pedalboard engineering, there weren’t many rackmounted pieces—the
ones he worked with were studio pieces like Eventide Harmonizers, for example. “I
remember the first time I saw a rackmounted Roland delay that Buzzy Feiten had
and I was like, ‘Wow! Look at that,’ because it was like a space echo.”
While rackmounted pedalboards are very common now with touring guitarists,
Bradshaw’s innovation with two-board systems uses a controller mounted on one
board and the pedals on another board rather than a rack tray, which Bradshaw
says is easier on pedals and allows for for better upkeep and transport than
Here he gives some general advice on what to consider when designing your
own pedal setup, from streamlining your board to your specific needs as a player.
1 First things first:
How do you play?
When a player approaches
a custom-built product,
the first thing he asks
is, “What do you need?”
Rack or pedalboard?
That is the question.
Next he’ll ask you to
consider every effect
and element you want to
include, so that you can
consider order routings
of the effects. “Order is
subjective, “ Bradshaw
says, so it’s up to the
player to figure out what
order they are most comfortable
2 Clean up
Put your pedals into
some form of looping
advises. This is optimal
“as long as the looping
system is well designed,
because not only is it
bypassing the pedal; it
is bypassing the cables
connecting the pedal.”
3 Follow your
Bradshaw has just
about seen it all in his
decades of switching
system routing, and
through this he’s learned
that in the end, it’s all
about personal preference.
“Anything goes, it
doesn’t matter, as long
as it works for you.”