state of the stomp

Isolated power supplies like this 1 SPOT Pro from Truetone helped silence the groans, whines, and ticks once common to pedalboards.

All 9V blocks are not created equal. Here's what to look for to avoid hiss, hum, and crackle.

(Originally published April 22, 2020)

At the dawn of the guitar-effects age, powering pedals was relatively simple. If an effects pedal didn't take a standard 9V battery like your AM transistor radio, it plugged into the wall like your avocado-green toaster. Forever dissatisfied, guitar players eventually grew weary of changing batteries, and plugging stuff into the wall was kind of a drag, too.

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State of the stump: Our columnist built this dub-inspired oscillator inside the shell of an old walkie-talkie bearing Radio Shack's Realistic brand name.

How a walkie-talkie, a tiny city of circuits, and Shrinky Dinks became a mind-blowing dub box.

My phone has become a repository of gut shots and glamour shots of my pedal builds. Once a year or so, when it gets full, I dump the photos onto a hard drive for safe keeping. Every time I do, it turns into an all-day trip down memory lane. I go back—all the way back—to when I first started building pedals, and I look at my progression from then until now. I find it so rewarding to have a visual journal of all the work, love, and intention that I put into them. It's a representation of my learning journey and a reminder of how many friends I have made along the way.

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The literal Mastermind behind the high-functioning communication between these effects is at lower left.

It may be 40-year-old technology, but a slew of affordable high-quality controllers and stellar MIDI-enabled effects—as well as an ever-flattening learning curve—make this a great time to consider bringing your board into the future.

MIDI is a technical standard developed in the early '80s to allow equipment of a variety of types and functions to communicate as interconnected music production tools. The term Musical Instrument Digital Interface describes both the protocol and the hardware necessary for manufacturers to build compatible systems, and the standard quickly replaced most manufacturers' proprietary communication methods—making the world of synths and effects modules much more universal. Not many digital standards have remained relevant for 40 years, but MIDI is still kicking around and growing in users and market segments.

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