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But seriously, sometimes a small, inexpensive improvement, or two, can go a long way to freshening up your rig and making life onstage a lot easier. We’ve rounded up eight such improvements, ranging from items you won’t be able to live without, to a few more frivolous toys for the arsenal.
The Pedal Riser from StageTrix debuted at Winter NAMM ’09, and we were immediately struck by its simplicity and effectiveness. A discrete metal platform fitted with Velcro, the pedal riser has two purposes: cleaning up your pedalboard and making sure your stomps are accurate.
The latter is achieved quite simply. The Pedal Riser’s 1 1/16" height raises your back line of pedals just enough to keep your feet clear of the pedals in the front. The real value to the Pedal Riser, however, is in organization. It is designed to cleanly run your pedals’ cords beneath and through the product to eliminate clutter. To make the most of the Pedal Riser, you might want to look into custom cable kits (see below) for the cleanest board possible. The Pedal Riser is solid and well-built of 18-gauge steel, with cleanly-applied Velcro on top (female) and bottom (male). The company also offers compatible Velcro Pedal Fastener kits for $9.99 for a pack of three. The Pedal Riser is certainly a professional-grade product, though outfitting a board with four or five of these might become a bit costly.
The Batt-o-Meter is a new product from Keith McMillen instruments that they’ve dubbed, “the world’s first battery tester for musicians.” Outfitted with a special 1/4" plug called the Power Probe and a side testing panel, the Batt-o-Meter tests voltage, hours remaining, percent of battery life, and type of battery in any 9V pedal (or guitar).
When we first heard about the Batt-o-Meter, we were skeptical of its usefulness. When it arrived, however, we found ourselves grabbing every pedal in range (and thanks to this month’s pedal roundup, there were a lot) and testing its battery health. We can definitely see where a person who doesn’t use AC power would find this as a welcome relief from unscrewing back panels and licking batteries. For those who use active guitars, it is particularly appealing.
The product is easy to use—insert the plug into a 1/4" input jack, hold the Test button and read the display (a key to the abbreviations is found on the product’s packaging). The Batt-o-Meter also can test 9V and AA or AAA batteries externally on its side panel. The device runs on a 9V battery itself, which—of course—it can test by holding the power button.
Relentless tweakers pay attention—the Pedal Flex is up your alley. Fashioned with a knob on one end of a wire and a clasp section on the other end, the Pedal Flex transfers your tweaks to the pedal below. A mic clip is included to mount the Pedal Flex at a convenient height.
Even if you’re a dial-it-and-leave-it type when it comes to live shows, the Pedal Flex does have some studio or practice applications— you can dial in your sound without interrupting your flow to bend down and tweak the knobs. While it’s not for everyone, if you’ve got the cash and the drive, the Pedal Flex could change the way you look at using pedals.
P3 Phantom Power
Also announced at Winter NAMM ’09, the P3 Phantom Powered Pedal System is the first way to power your pedals without a power supply or battery—instead, the power comes through the cables connecting your pedals.
You can use the P3 system in a number of ways, but the least invasive method is an external kit. Produced as part of Fuch’s Plush pedals line, the external kit features a Power Station and Power Splitter. The Power Stationis a self-contained DC power supply that feeds power to the Power Splitter, which then distributes the power to your pedals.
Existing pedals and amps can be modified to run the P3 Phantom Power without the external kit by Fuchs, AnalogMan and Barber Electronics. Currently the P3 system runs only 9V power, but the company says they are working on 12V, 18V and 24V compatibility.
Plush Power Station MSRP $189
Plush Power Splitter $149
Full Kit MSRP $295
One of the best, easiest and least expensive ways to make your pedalboard clean and organized is with custom cabling. George L’s was an early pioneer in the realm of customizable cables. You can purchase George L’s cable by the foot in red, black, blue, purple or white, and with either brass and nickelor gold-plated 1/4" right angle or straight plugs. No stripping or soldering is required for the George L’s cables, and they offer a lifetime warranty on the plugs.
George L’s offers seven different colors of jackets, meaning you can mix and match colored cable and jackets to color code your pedalboard for convenience. They also have cable clippers and testers available.
Planet Waves also offers a Pedal Board Kit with 10' of cable, 10 right-angle plugs and a mini cable cutter. This is a simple plug-and-play solution with solderless 24K gold-plated plugs. The Planet Waves kit is as easy as cutting the desired length (cables are pre-marked in foot increments), loosening a screw on the plug, inserting and twisting the cable and tightening the screw. The company has a very simple and clear instructional video on their website.
In addition to the kits, Planet Waves offers a Cable Cutter/Tester ($30) and bulk cable (25', 50' and 250' increments) and plugs. George L’s Cable $1.95/ft. Plugs $31 – $33 for four georgelsstore.com Planet Waves Pedal Board Kit $96 Bulk Cable $32 – $304 Plugs $10 – $15 each planetwaves.com
We love pedalboard lights both for making your board stand out on stage and making it easier to see. For the latter, Mighty Bright makes the aptly named Pedal Board Light (pictured), which features two flexible arms, one with red LEDs and one with white LEDs. The red LEDs light the pedalboard discretely, while the white LEDs provide brighter light. The light is powered by either AAA batteries or an AC adapter sold separately.
If you’re looking for something a little flashier, a colored LED bar may be the way to go. You can buy LED rope lighting from Wal-Mart or Target (particularly around the holidays), but a company called Monkey Dream is making instrumentspecific LED bars. Also ideal for amps or cabs, the bars will also more than do the trick for a pedalboard. The bars run on 12V power and are attached by Velcro. They are offered in 10", 13" or 16" increments in either blue or green, and custom lengths are available.
Mighty Bright MSRP $34.99
Monkey Dream MSRP $20 – $30
Neutrik TRS Locking Connector
When you’re ready to get serious about your pedalboard, Neutrik locking jacks are a great addition. Used by many of the custom pedalboard companies, the Neutrik jacks protect you (or your bandmates) from accidentally unplugging your cables.
Available with either black or nickel metal housing and silver or gold contacts, the jacks lock automatically when the plug is inserted. Unlocking is as simple as pressing the red tab on the jack. Installation takes a little more effort than the other ideas presented here, but the peace of mind is worth it.
The Flip-Flopper from Pedal-Racks
The Flip-Flopper is a brand-new, potentially must-have product from Pedal-Racks. There are a number of DIY projects out there to create a box that swaps the order of your pedals in your signal chain. The Flip-Flopper puts that idea in a one-button box with six input/output jacks. At press time, a Flip-Flopper was on its way to us—we’ll have more information on its functionality when we get our hands on it.