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The Premier Guitar Pedalboard Survival Guide

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The Premier Guitar Pedalboard Survival Guide





  1. The Boss BCB-30 is a molded-resin case with a built-in handle and slots for three Boss Compact pedals or similar-sized stompboxes.
  2. The Road Runner Pedalboard All-in-1 Gig Bag measures 21 3/4” x 12” and features zippered utility pockets and a top cover that folds under to act as a nonslip pedalboard bottom.
  3. The SKB PS-45 measures 27” x 15” and features 11 power jacks (eight 9-volt DC and three 120-volt AC) and a hardshell case.
  4. The Gator GPT Pedal Tote Pedalboard with Carry Bag measures 16.5” x 12” and features a built-in handle.
John Chandler from pedalboard manufacturer Pedaltrain suggests, “Before even considering a pedalboard size or layout, line all the pedals out in a straight-line signal path and use whatever power source you plan to use on the board. Experiment by trying the various pedals out and seeing how they interact with each other. The goal is to try to get the cleanest signal path with every pedal off, and then on, in the order that sounds good to you.” Chandler says to be sure to write down the ideal signal path so it’s not lost once you inadvertently move something in the arrangement.

“Next, lay the pedals out in an imaginary pedalboard on the floor or on a tabletop,” Chandler continues. “Keep in mind the pedals you will be switching on and off more than others—you’ll want to keep tap-tempo pedals close to your feet and spacey weird things you may not use as much further from your toes.”

The Pedalboard Landscape
Once you’ve laid the stompboxes out in an optimal arrangement, you can search for a board that will accommodate that configuration. A good resource for getting a visual sense of how things will fit on a board is pedalboardplanner.com. This useful site features virtual pedals that you can layout on virtual boards—and all for free. Chandler has a useful analog method, too. “Cut a piece of cardboard that will fit everything, and then research which boards have dimensions that may work for your pedal setup.”

If you’re not a total pedal junkie but still crave a pedalboard’s conveniences, the Boss BCB-30 (Street $39, bossus.com) offers three pre-sized slots for Boss compact pedals (or those with an equally diminutive footprint) and comes in a self-contained, molded-resin case. However, the most common pedalboards consist of a flat surface covered with the “loop” material used in Velcro-style hook-and-loop fastening systems. The most basic examples of this type of pedalboard include the Road Runner Pedalboard All-in-1 Gig Bag (Street $39.99, roadrunnercases.com) and Gator GPT Pedal Tote Pedalboard with Carry Bag (Street $59.99, gatorcases.com).

As you move up in price, you get features such as a power supply and effects-loop patch bays. The SKB PS-45 (Street $249, skbcases.com) features eight 9-volt DC jacks, three 120- volt AC plugs for “wall-wart” adapters, and a hardshell case, while the Furman SPB-8C (Street $349, furmansound.com) includes eight 9-volt DC jacks, four 120-volt AC plugs, a stereo effects loop with amp outputs, and a wheeled hardshell case with an extendable handle.

The tricky thing with these types of pedalboards is that, because everything must fit onto one flat surface, it can be hard to keep things tidy and ergonomically practical. This is because the more pedals you use, the more real estate you can lose to unwieldy wires or alternate power supplies. In addition, footswitches on the devices in that row of pedals furthest from your feet can be difficult to activate without hitting the knobs of pedals in the first row. Recently StageTrix addressed this issue with its Pedal Riser (Street $11.99, stagetrixproducts.com), which creates an elevated surface for pedals to create room underneath for wires.

Pedalboard manufacturers aren’t unaware of these issues, and many take cable-routing considerations into their designs. Pedaltrain offer pedalboards in various sizes—including the PT-JR (Street $99, prostagegear.com)—and all feature an open-framed, angled construction that facilitates both easier activation of second-row pedals and unobtrusive routing of cables and power supplies. MKS Professional Stage Products takes a slightly different tack with its Pedal Pad MPS II Tour Series boards (Street $299.95–$349.95, pedalpad.com), which have a modular, stair-steplike design that uses interchangeable metal panels to let you arrange and fasten pedals in just about any configuration—including flat or angled.

Many pedalboards, including most of those discussed here, come with an option for a gigbag or hardshell case. A hardshell case virtually guarantees pedal safety, and it’s the only real option if you’re flying to a gig and need to check your pedalboard as baggage. However, keep in mind that a large board loaded with pedals can rival an amp’s weight once you factor in the case itself. If you rely on public transportation to transport your whole rig, then a gigbag is the more practical option.
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