This post I am going to talk a little about my experiences with owning too many different makes and sizes of pedalboards and the 2 boards I have finally settled on as best for me and for folks that have similar gig lives. So you finally get some of the sounds you like, and you need to organize them in a fashion that creates smooth accessibility and convenience, together with a quick set-up time.
For those of you who are like me, there is no such thing as a multi-effect unit (Why doesn’t someone make a boutique handmade custom multi effects unit? There is an idea!) and when you play, you have to string your collection of boutique pedals in the order you see fit for your gig life. The phone rings and you are playing gigs across the board. One day you are a sideman, the other you are the only act for the night, and you have all the time in the world to set up for your evenings 2 sets. On another day you are one of the 10 acts at a festival where you have 10 minutes tops on either side of your show to plug in and plug out. (And hope that everything sounds the way it sounded at the rehearsal space!)
It is hardly practical to carry a string of pedals connected by loops of cable and power connectors and expect everything to fall into place while the stage manager is giving you the 5 finger 5 minute warning sign.
So through the years after trying a lot of pedal boards and I have come up with 2 that work for me and I will share the reasons why.
The first is the ultimate and I think, quite frankly the best:
One year, about 5 years ago, I literally stumbled across the Trailer Trash Pedalboard website while surfing the web, looking for a manufacturer who might have their sights on making the real deal. It was like a light at the end of a long and frustrating tunnel. Prior, I had spent mucho time making, buying trying, plugging in, ripping apart, cutting, setttling. I had a box filled with Velcro attachments and plugs and cables that were just for pedalboard-related geeking.
I decided that my requirements were:
1. Must be light!! Too many years of carrying around a pedalboard that was the weight of an amp!
2. Power supply must be underneath: Well… it only makes sense, use the top for the pedals! Best use of real estate!
3. Must allow me to wire up from underneath: Well I guess that is just an esthetic thing..no clutter.
4. Velcro!!! Must allow me to easily change pedals..hey, what was I going to do with that box of bulk velcro in my closet? In addition, there just might the rare, rare, chance that I find another pedal that I like that I want to add to the mix… right? (Ok… Usually once a month… I confess… but it happens very rarely now!)
5. Must have a gig bag with a handle and a carry strap. For the average sideman gig, my guitar is on my back, my pedalboard is in my left hand and my amp in my right. If I park far from where I play, I dolly the amp, depending on size. No road case for the pedalboard for me! Working musicians don’t need more to carry!
6. Must be angled. Easier access to the pedals on top.
Trailer Trash Pedalboards pretty much sealed the deal for me… It really is unlikely to find lighter and still be able to stand and dance on it… Rooster (the owner) makes an amazing product and does any number of custom options. Of course the custom options are simply the icing on the cake but the basic construction is as rock solid as it gets. His custom work is spectacular, anything from boards that match your amplifier finish to boards that have lighting, various shapes and sizes and materials. In addition, if you know what you are using for pedals and have been using the same set-up for a long time, you can have Rooster do the entire custom wiring and installation for the whole board. Just send your pedals. and voila, back comes your baby. No job is too small or too large.
With my board, I option for installation of the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power Plus under the unit. I have an input and an output on the right side; 2 Neutrik connectors that lock your cables in… no tripping up on a cable and pulling out or damaging the inputs. The board plugs directly into the wall via a power inlet on the right side. In the event of losing or having problems with the power cable, I can run to the corner store and grab a generic power extension cord and make it through the gig. No proprietary stuff here.
I also opted for a courtesy power outlet on the left side of the board, so if I have a pedal that needs a wall wart, I can just use the power on the side of the board to make it through the gig. Of course, if I were using one permanently, I would install the wart under the board. It would be a rarity, since one of my recs for pedals that make it to my board is that they use standard 9v battery or DC… just my thing. I can even plug my board into the wall and use the courtesy plug to run my amp, in the rare situation where there is only one AC input on my side of the stage.
For those of your that are working on a budget and to whom the thought of custom pricing makes you recoil, consider Rooster’s budget version of the Trailer Trash Board for around $150. This is the same basic foundation for the custom board, but you can trick it out yourself! You don’t need to know much about wiring to drill a few holes to run some cable and to install an inlet yourself that you can buy either on line or at your local supply store. Use velcro to install your power supply under the board, and voila, you have the same reliability and rock solid performance in the pedalboard that I have. There is something for every pro musician at the Trailer Trash website… You wont regret it!!!
I highly recommend George L cables for all your connection needs. They are solderless and deliver much better audio quality to my ears than many of the other high priced cable options that seem to have cropped up in the past few years. I have done many A/B blindfold tests with many folks who instantly hear the difference in audio quality. George L has pre-packaged pedalboard kits with cable and plugs that you can custom fit to whatever your pedalboard requirements might be. The cables are small enough that you can drill very small holes in your Trailer Trash Pedalboard and wire your entire board from below, keeping the top free from all clutter.
There are many pedal power supply companies that make great products. I use the Voodoo Lab Power Plus pedal power unit and it is quite sturdy and reliable and has a few different power options in addition to Sag (low battery) control. However it does add a little weight, so if you are a simply pedal user and all of your pedals require 9v only, then you can get away with a smaller budget 1 Spot Pedal Power Supply unit This works like a charm!
For those of your who are wondering what my pedal choices are in the photos and what the signal path is:
1. Guitar into Neutrik input on the Trailer Trash Pedalboard: Locked solid!
2. Neutrik into
a) Ethos Overdrive for normal use
b) momentary use with a Samson Airline Wireless if I decide for this song I am playing, I will solo and walk out into the crowd or maybe crowd surf..yknow..showmanship stuff but I usually plug back directly after this visual effect, since there is nothing like the real thing when it comes to signal path!
3. Lovepedal Babyface Mini Tremolo. (After I saw Oz doing his thing, I had to get a tremolo that could chop the wave! Thanks Oz…) I use it here for interesting choppy sounds with OD or just with clean rhythm.
4. Wah Wah Crybaby 95Q: So I can Wah my OD solo sound. I use the 95Q because it is switchless and I need to get back to singing instead of figuring out if I turned my wah off correctly, no not true bypass, but hey, works fine. Sounds great with a volume boost too.
5. Envelope Filter: Electro harmonix Micro Q-Tron (simply the fattest sounding and easiest to use… I sold my original Mu-Tron III when I bought this!)
6. Fulltone Deja-Vibe: Well the original Uni-Vibe is too large and too expensive. Fulltone makes a great product. (See my previous post about the Jetter Gear Vibe for an even smaller alternative that sounds great too. I use that in my mini pedalboard.)
7. Korg Pitch Black Tuner: True Bypass, for whatever it’s worth, so It does not really matter where this goes in the chain for me. As long as it shuts everything off when I tune. Hey, after seeing the Vin Diesel movie with the same name, I had to get this…oh, btw way…it really is a great pedal and the display options are amazing…probably visible for miles…)
8. Tuner into Neutrik output under the board to the Amp.
So that’s it for my dream pedalboard rig. I have a velcro top custom board, with a vintage wheat grill cloth that matched one of the Groove Tube Amps I used to use. George L connectors and power connectors from the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power Plus unit, that is fixed under the board. The connectors snake through the two openings at the top of the board. I have had this set up for some time now and it feels pretty permanent, so at some point, I will permanently wire everything from under the board!
I am also posting a photo of my Baby Pedalboard. This is the Pedaltrain Mini. This is one for really quick gigs where I want the basics, usually for side-man gigs that don’t require much in the way of effects, so this board has a basic coloring pedal line up. Simple and battery operated, I can throw this on the floor and be up and running in 10 seconds.
Here is the signal path on this one.
1. Korg Pitch Black.
2. Cusack Screamer Version 2.
3. Lovepedal MagicBoy Vibe.
4. Dark Echo Analog signal path, Digital Echo (really lush). See previous post for a review on this one!!
5. Fulltone Fatboost.
I use a rechargeable 9v power supply that I built specifically for this board (pictured second from the left). It lasts for about 2 weeks, playing it for a couple hours each night.