This is my current guitar pedalboard. I am quite happy with it, but there is room for improvement. I am going to start by describing what is what in this one, why I chose these effects, why I put them in that order and so on. Then I will show my project for 2012 — no, it isn’t the end of the world, I guarantee.
Guitar pedalboard: Signal chain
My signal chain starts at the wah, a Dunlop GCB-95 Crybaby. Filters should always come first in the signal chain, as their effect over the raw signal is more predictable. This particular pedal is modified to shift the tonal range more to the bass side, as Dunlop Crybabies tend to be very bright when the pedal is fully forwards. I might end up doing the true bypass mod (this one is from the early 90’s, so it has a buffer), but I am not quite sure if it’s worth spending the time doing that. I don’t use the wah that much anyway — it’s just there to add some special flavor to some passages.
The signal goes to the compressor, a Marshall ED-1. Compressors sound better before the distortion because they tend to increase the loudness of noise the other way around. This is used mostly to compress the dynamic range of my ultra-clean tones, improving some artificial harmonics and chicken-picking techniques.
Next is the Ibanez TS9 Tubescreamer. First of all, this isn’t stock: it features the circuit of a TS-808 and I replaced some resistors to give it more bass. I also replaced the LED for a blue one, but that has no effect at all in the tone (side note: I always install a blue LED in my modified pedals to identify them). This pedal is very versatile. I can use it as a boost in leads, or to saturate the preamp and produce some nice crunch, or use it as a smooth overdrive.
Then the signal goes into the Boss DS-1 Distortion. First thing I must say is that the stock pedal is a big POS — the distortion is too dirty, not clear, almost a square-wave. This pedal features Robert Keeley’s Ultra Mod, which is the pedal he designed to Steve Vai. This changes completely the tone and the pedal becomes some kind of Marshall JCM800 in-a-box thing. Sure, it doesn’t have the smoothness of the real deal, but it’s much better than any digital emulation. The pedal’s output is so radically modified that you can actually use it as a preamp (it’s LOUD). And that’s what I use it for, when I need that Marshall-like preamp tones. Sometimes I’ll use it as a boost as well, like while playing Steve Vai songs. This pedal is key to all my dirty tones.
The next pedal is a Boss GE-7 Equalizer. This one is actually one of the first models released in 1981 and still features the TL022 op-amps. I used to play a lot of metal and this was very useful for getting that powerful distortion, combined with the modified DS-1. Now it’s off most of the time and I am probably gonna take it away from the board.
Before the post-gain effects, I use a Boss-FV50 volume pedal. This unit is set up so that when the volume is all the way down, the signal goes to its tuner output, so I can tune silently using my small Korg tuner (which is almost broken by now and will need replacement). I use the volume as a convenience device to keep the tuner out of the signal path, because it kills the tone, and also for some Steve Morse-like volume swells.
The only post-gain effect I use is a delay, a Danelectro Dan Echo, which is probably the best sounding digital delay pedal ever made. I’m going to replace it in the future by a Boss DD-3, however, since that’s more versatile and sound almost as good. I use the delay after the volume so that the echoes don’t cut off if I lower the volume.
Guitar pedalboard: future plans
That is now, and the future is the following:
Planned signal path and pedals. If you want to know the explanation about the order of effects, please read my full guide.
The signal path doesn’t change. It’s still filters » gain » volume » post gain. But the equalizer is gone and a fuzz and a chorus are in. And I’ll replace the delay, the compressor and the tuner.
My first choice for the fuzz was, of course, the Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face. But those are incredibly rare to find and take the space of 4 ordinary pedals. Then, I found this small gem, the Boss FZ-5. It’s no Fuzz Face, but a very decent fuzz which gets me that Hendrix-like tone and it fits my pedalboard. The fuzz will come before the DS-1 and probably before the TS9 — I still need to decide which sounds best.
The chorus will be an Ibanez CS9. Alongside the Boss DC-2 and the t.c. electronic Stereo Chorus/Flanger, it’s my favorite chorus pedal. It sounds great and is less noisy than the t.c. model. The Boss would had been my first choice, but its discontinued for so long that it’s very rare now.
I’ll replace the delay pedal, as I said before, and also the compressor. Although I like the noise-free Marshall ED-1 and its versatility, I find it too intrusive in the tone. And compressors should do their job seamlessly, in my opinion. The MXR dyna comp does that, and it’s my choice.
And finally, the tuner. I will probably get one of these Boss TU-12 units, but that’s still open.
I will post some updates as this thing gets assembled, so stay tuned!