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Signal Chain: Drawer 1: Demeter COMP-1 Compulator, Wampler Ego Compressor, Analog Man Juicer, Wampler Paisley Drive, and two Boss GE-7 Graphic EQ. Drawer 2: MXR Distortion III, T-Rex Alberta Overdrive, B.K. Butler Tube Driver, and two Klon Centaurs. Drawer 3: Early ’80s Pro Co Rat, MXR GT-OD, XTS Custom Pedals Precision Overdrive, and Boss CE-2 Chorus. Floor: Custom Audio Electronics RS-10 MIDI Foot Controller and RS-10 Expander Module, Boss FV-500H, Ernie Ball volume pedal, and Boss FS-5U Momentary Switch. Photo by Andy Ellis
For his ripping brand of arena-filling country, Keith Urban sets up with three rack drawers full of pedals that range from pedestrian to the stuff of legend. The heart of his effects setup—not surprisingly—is compression. Urban uses a few different compressors, which guitar tech Chris Miller likens to different flavors. “Is there a bad flavor of ice cream? No.” he says, pointing out that they often mix the compressors as well. “There’s no wrong way to do it—if it sounds cool, it’s right.”
The compression mainstay in Urban’s rack is the Wampler Ego Compressor, which Miller says is set to be a bit brighter and is occasionally run in conjunction with a Demeter COMP-1 Compulator, set warmer. When we caught up with Urban in Nashville, he rounded out his setup with an Analog Man Juicer—a replica of the old Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer.
Other permanent fixtures in Urban’s ever-changing setup include the MXR Distortion III and MXR GT-OD, which Miller says sound great at all settings, though they are some of the more affordable pedals in the setup. But Urban makes up for any savings with his duo of Klon Centaurs. “I’ve yet to hear an amp they sound bad with,” reports Miller of the venerable overdrives.
Other members of Urban’s collection of overdrives include a Wampler Paisley Drive, T-Rex Alberta Overdrive (which Miller describes as a more refined Tube Screamer tone), B.K. Butler Tube Driver, XTS Custom Pedals Precision Overdrive, and an early ‘80s Pro Co Rat— “Noisy, but boy does it sound good,” notes Miller.
The racks are rounded out by a Boss CE-2 that wasn’t in use at the time, and a duo of Boss EQ pedals that Miller says are an underrated part of the signal chain. “Nobody ever thinks about them, but they’ll do so much for you.”
The pedals are powered by a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus in each drawer and routed through loops in an RJM Effects Gizmo, which sits in the effects loop of Urban’s Radial JX44 signal manager so they can be sent to any of his amps. The pedals are controlled on the ground by a Custom Audio Electronics RS-10 MIDI Foot Controller with RS-10 Expander Module, Boss FV-500H, and Ernie Ball Volume Pedal. Urban has this setup at his feet, but Miller has an additional RS-10 to handle effects switching since Urban spends a lot of time at mics on opposite sides of the stage.
Watch the Rig Rundown: