As long as guitarists have used effects, they’ve sought better ways to control them. In the digital era, that sometimes means playing through rackmounted multi-effectors. However, the current hunger for vintage tone and straightforward interactivity has prompted countless players to ditch rack systems in favor of pedalboards full of handpicked effects. Thanks to a new generation of pedal switchers, it is possible to have the best of both worlds: a custom pedalboard that can perform such digital tricks as storing presets and changing effect order.
Pedal switchers work by providing a number of effects loops (one loop = one send + one return). Each loop—which can contain one or more pedals—becomes its own switchable circuit that can be joined with other loops. For example, you might group your distortions into a single loop, your delays into another, or put each pedal into its own loop. The switchers let you save your favorite effect combinations as preset banks and recall them via footswitch.
That’s the basic concept—one that several builders expand upon with helpful features like MIDI support, effect order swapping, output switching, and other inspiring gadgetry. Let’s look at four cool options: OneControl’s Crocodile Tail Loop, Decibel Eleven’s Pedal Palette, Musicom Lab’s EFX MKiii+, and EC Pedals Custom Shop’s Super Switcher.
But fair warning: If you go the pedal switcher route, the first thing you’ll need is a lot of short 1/4" patch cables!
OneControl Crocodile Tail Loop OC10 With its slim 4"-deep design, the rugged Crocodile Tail Loop packs loads of options into a modest footprint, making it a prime candidate for guitarists with crowded pedalboards. It has 10 loops and offers 10 programs per bank and 7 presets per program for a total of 70 preset slots.
Rock Out With Your Croc Out The OC10 is remarkable for its intuitive control panel layout—I didn’t even need to consult the instruction manual to figure out how to create and select presets. You can run the OC10 in either manual or program mode, selectable via the PGM/DIRECT footswitch. I started in manual mode, where each footswitch toggles an effect loops. This is a great way to experiment with various pedal combinations on the fly as on a typical pedalboard setup.
Next I tried program mode, where you build and access your own presets. (Fortunately, the footswitches have dual labels explaining how they work in each mode.) In this mode, a quick tap of the PGM/DIRECT footswitch restricts signal to the tuner output only. In Program mode, the seven footswitches along the front edge of the OC10 select the presets within each bank, while the two footswitches at the unit’s top-right scroll up and down through the 10 banks. A large single-digit LED displays the current bank.
Storing presets couldn’t be easier: Simply dial in the effect combination you want, and then press any of the eight buttons next to LED screen. The buttons’ low profile guards against inadvertently changing them with your foot, and each button has a bright red LED indicating its on/off status. When switching presets, the status lights update accordingly, so it’s always easy to tell which effects are engaged. However, you need to use a fingertip to toggle an individual loop on or off within a preset.
All the OneControl’s loops are true-bypass. There’s also a separate buffered input that cleanly amplified my signal, maintaining the articulate highs that a long signal chain can compromise.
The OC10 is MIDI-compatible. You can control it via another MIDI device, or convey MIDI info to compatible effects such as the Strymon TimeLine or Eventide TimeFactor. It also boasts a LAN/Ethernet/RJ45 jack, which lets you link multiple units. (You might use one onstage unit to control an offstage unit housing your pedals.)
The Verdict The OC10 offers full features and intuitive design in a compact package at a decent price. It’s easy to program, making it a great choice for players new to pedal switching. It gives you plenty of room to grow, and its MIDI and Ethernet abilities can satisfy guitarists with advanced effects rigs.