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Planning your pedalboard

March 28, 2017

This guide takes you through each step of our planning process, helping you to understand how your pedalboard will be made, and how the final cost is determined.

    At Custom Boards we use a strict planning process, which helps us to put together the pedalboard that stands rigours of touring. Each musician has their own special needs, and only by taking every detail into account can we be sure that your wishes will be fulfilled.

    1) Effects

    To start off we would like to know what pedals you’re currently using, and what problems you might be experiencing at the moment. This question shows up in our planning form, but we will take a closer look at your current setup during our scheduled planning meeting with you.

    We will look at each of your current pedals, trying to find out what role each pedal plays in your signal chain, and whether your pedals suit your playing style. If necessary we can swap pedals, or change a pedal’s order in the signal chain. We will also discuss if any of your effects should be swapped for a upgraded version of the same effect type.

    It’s also important to give a thought to what the board is going to be used for. If you’re after a lightweight pedalboard for plane travel, concessions will have to be made regarding the board’s size and the number of effects. If you’re looking for the “mother of all pedalboards” for your home studio, on the other hand, only the sky’s the limit. We will focus on your specific needs.

    If you want to add new effects to your current board, but you’re unsure which pedals to use, we will try to find out whose guitar sound you admire, and suggest pedals accordingly. Audio clips are a great way to find out which sounds you like, if you’re not quite familiar with all effect types. A good place to start is Custom Boards tutorial "How to connect guitar effects pedals for best results?".

    There are also few other thing to consider, like:

    • If you’re using lots of gain, a noise gate might be a good idea. A gate is easy to integrate into your board, and we will look for its correct place in your signal chain.
    • We will also discuss, whether some of your effects might benefit from being run in your amp’s effects loop.
    • If you’re using many true bypass pedals, we will assess the need for a buffer.
    • If you have too many buffered effects on your board already, and your sound suffers as a result, we might suggest solutions, too.

    It’s also important to find out which pedals you regularly use simultaneously, and what types of sounds you are looking for from these combinations. In some cases we might go through your effects to find out if their order is the right one. We don’t need to go through all of your song-specific sounds. The idea is rather to come up with the best possible signal chain, based on your own past experience, as well as well our established standard practices.

    We will plan the physical placement of your pedals in a way that the most frequently used effects are the easiest to step on. Once the placement is set we will suggest the best way to hook up the pedals. On virtually all of our pedalboards the effects have a different physical placement to their order in the signal chain. Once the placement is established we will number the pedals with masking tape.

    You can browse our effects selection here >

    2) ABY-boxes, True Bypass Loopers and MIDI-switchers

    Once we know what pedals will be used on your board, we can give further thought to how to get the guitar signal to the pedalboard, how the signal travels between all the effects, and how the signal will be delivered to your amp /(or amps).

    We will take into account special requirements, such as these:
    • Mounting jack connectors to a separate patch panel or placing them underneath your board, to make hookup easier. For example, if your last effect is placed in a tight spot on a crowded board, connecting your amp might be easier by using a jack mounted beneath the board.
    • Using an effects looper, which allows you to switch multiple effects on and off with a single footswitch.
    • A MIDI-controller to adjust digital effect parameters and for remote effect and/or amp channel switching.
    • Using an A/B-box for connecting two instruments.
    • Using an ABY-box for connecting two amplifiers.
    • Mounting a DI-box to the board.

    Our product range includes some of the best controllers, loopers and switchers on the market, making it easier for you to control and switch your effects. We will also help you with your MIDI-controller, and even take care of programming it if you wish.

    3) Power Supply

    One of the most common mistakes found in amateurish pedalboards is not taking the power supply into thorough consideration. Many people simply gather their pedals together and slap them onto a frame, before giving a thought to powering it all. Even if you can manage to fit all desired pedals onto a certain pedalboard frame, you can’t use that frame if the necessary power supply won’t fit.

    You shouldn’t use pedalboard models with an integrated power supply, either. In our experience, the vast majority use underpowered or noisy power supplies, which is why we never use them.

    • Should you already own a power supply, we will try to integrate it into your new board. If your old board has been suffering from hum and buzz, we might be forced to replace the power supply with another model.
    • Keeping in mind the holy trinity of effect pedals, additional devices, and pedalboard frame, the technician will calculate the required current.
    • Should you need a board that can travel with you outside of Europe, the choice of power supply will have to reflect this.

    We know most people aren’t fond of counting amperes and volts, or checking for an effect’s polarity. If you’re not technically inclined, we can handle this phase of the project for you – we will recommend the best possible power supply for your board, and install it on the frame. In our view the power supply unit is a pedalboard’s engine, which is why it should fit the purpose.

    In some cases we can:

    It is always more cost-effective if you can run a board using just a single power supply.

    We will also find the best possible power supply placement underneath your board, in order to minimize any danger of extraneous noise seeping into your precious audio signal.

    4) Pedalboard

    We use a large table with templates of our range of pedalboard frames to assess which frame has the correct size for your chosen effects and additional equipment. We simply lay out all your equipment on top of our template to check for fit. You can cut out your own cardboard template at home, by using the pedalboard frame dimensions given on our website. Use the template to make sure everything fits.

    The pedalboard frames we use are all raised models, allowing us to install the power supply from underneath the frame, which saves valuable space for pedals. Additionally, these frames make it easier to step on the pedals in the back row.

    Before committing to any frame model, we take a fistful of Evidence Audio SiS-plugs and insert them into the effect pedals. We use these plugs to make sure that none of the pedals sit too close to each other, and to check that the patch cable plug, too, sits inside the pedalboard’s perimeter. At home you could use the combined width of your index and middle fingers to measure a fitting space between the pieces of equipment.

    Thought should also be given to your most common way of transportation. If your equipment is hauled around in a band bus, a road case is the most sensible choice, but if you’re going by bike or public transport, you will appreciate a lightweight gig bag.

    Before moving on we will also consider the need for leaving space on the board for possible effects added later down the line.

    5) Pedal risers

    Next we place all your equipment onto the actual board frame. In many cases the effects in the back row may still sit a little too low or too close to the next effect’s controls, even though we’ve selected a raised frame.

    We want to make sure that stepping onto the switches is easy for all your effects, which is why we might suggest the use of additional pedal risers to fine-tune the elevation of your effects.

    6) Attaching effects to pedalboard

    Once we’re satisfied all the equipment is in working order, we will count all the effect pedals and other devices going onto the pedalboard.

    We mount all our pedals with 3M Dual Lock tape, an industry-standard material, widely used on pedalboards.

    We at Custom Boards don’t use velcro’ed board frames. We also always avoid punched metal flats, cable ties, or anything similar, because we believe that you should be able to remove a pedal without the need for tools.

    Mounting a pedal is always a balancing act between durability, roadworthiness and ease of removal. In our view, 3M Dual Lock tape is the best way to guarantee your pedals will stay on your board in even the most demanding circumstances, while still being relatively easy to remove for repair or maintenance.

    7) Patch cables

    We at Custom Boards pride ourselves at our special expertise in the field of patch cables, which are at the heart of our Custom Board´s designs. Our custom-made patch cables guarantee a clean and crisp signal transfer from pedal to pedal. Noise-free sound quality and reliability are paramount.

    Off-the-shelf patch cables are mostly impractical on our boards, due to the effect placement, signal routing, and available space on our boards. We also wouldn’t want the risk of failures due to faults in cheap patch cable. We may try to incorporate some of your old patch cables in your new board, but for the most part we will make the necessary cables in our Custom Boards workshop.

    Our patch cables are made using Evidence Audio’s Monorail cable and SiS plugs. These plugs offer superior strain relief and oxide-free connection. In our experience, Evidence is the best solution for all cabling needs on a pedalboard, thanks to its ruggedness and small size.

    Even though each and every patch cable is custom-made to measure, we don’t want the price of patch cables to influence a signal chain decisions. This is why all our patch cables cost the same, regardless of whether the cable in question is 5 cm or 90 cm long.

    Should you require stereo cables (TRS) for expression pedals or MIDI-cables for your setup, we will also assess all the option during this phase.

    8) Cable loom from pedalboard to backline

      Getting all signal and power connections up and running on stage can prove problematic in some instances, which is why we have come up with our range of Custom Boards cable looms. Our cable looms have proven very popular, which is no wonder if you take a look at all the advantages a cable loom can offer a gigging musician:

      • Fast and easy connection and disconnection of your pedalboard.
      • All your cables – guitar signal, FX loop, amp channel switching, MIDI, and power supply – are bundled in a single rugged and clean strand running between your amp and your board.
      • The strong cable sock protects all your cables from damage, even when you drive heavy equipment racks across it.

        Altough your pedalboard will function perfectly well without a loom, but if you’re doing plenty of gigs, you should really consider getting a cable loom. We will need to know some basic dimensions, like the height of your amp’s input jack, or which side of the stage you’re playing on. We will then make a cable loom with all the cables required with professional strain relief in place based on your data.

        Cable looms can be made to your specific requirements, although we’d suggest you factor in some extra length for good measure. Having the loom going to very side of the stage on top of the venue’s audio cables is a good idea. You should also factor in a little extra for the strain relief.

        We offer our cable looms in three different standard lengths:

          Six-metre cable loom – Club

            A good choice for small to mid-sized venues. Will give you enough length to run the loom along the stage structures, with enough slack to get to the amp comfortably.

              Eight-metre cable loom – Stage

                This loom is perfect for mid-sized stages, especially if your pedalboard is placed front and centre. Will give you enough length to run the loom along the stage structures, with enough slack to get to the amp comfortably.

                  Ten-metre cable loom – Festival

                    Great for larger stages, especially if your pedalboard is placed front and centre. Will give you enough length to run the loom along the stage structures, with enough slack to get to the amp comfortably.

                    We won’t make looms shorter than six metres. Eight metres is suitable for most users, while ten metres will be enough for many festival stages. Lengths above ten metres should be avoided, due to the susceptibility of unbalanced signals to extraneous hum and buzz.

                    The features of our cable loom models:

                    All of our models come with an AC power lead that feeds your pedalboard using an outlet behind the backline.

                    • One signal and AC power: This cable loom feeds a single output signal from your board to your amplifier. For use with a single amp.
                    • One signal, control and AC power: This loom will take your guitar signal from your pedalboard to your backline. Additionally, this loom features a stereo (TRS) lead or a MIDI-cable for remote channel switching or rack effects control.
                    • Two signals and AC power: This loom is meant for either a stereo setup or use with two different amplifiers.
                    • Two signals, control and AC power: This loom will take two guitar signals from your pedalboard to your backline. Additionally, this loom features a stereo (TRS) lead or a MIDI-cable for remote channel switching or rack effects control.
                    • Three signals and AC power: This cable loom allows you to carry three audio signals between your pedalboard and your amp. Such a loom is mostly used, when parts of your effects run into the front end of the amp, while others are fed into the amp’s FX loop.
                    • Three signals, control and AC power: This cable loom allows you to carry three audio signals between your pedalboard and your amp. Additionally, this loom features a stereo (TRS) lead or a MIDI-cable for remote channel switching or rack effects control.
                    • Four signals and AC power: This loom carries four audio signals simultaneously. Such a loom is mostly used with wireless systems, and when parts of your effects run into the front end of the amp, while others are fed into the amp’s FX loop.
                    • Three signals, two controls, and AC power: This cable loom allows you to carry three audio signals between your pedalboard and your amp. Such a loom is mostly used, when parts of your effects run into the front end of the amp, while others are fed into the amp’s FX loop. Additionally, this loom features two stereo (TRS) leads or a MIDI-cables for remote channel switching or rack effects control.

                    If you already own a pedalboard you can also order just the cable loom from us. We can also modify any pre-existing cable looms to better serve your purpose.

                    If your amplifiers channel switching uses a 7-pin DIN-plug, and you’d like to be able to remote switch from your board, please let us know in the planning form. We will then be able to take your requirements into account.

                    9) Instrument cable

                    The last step is to take a long hard look at your guitar cable, and its effect on your tone.

                    We only use the best, most neutral sounding patch cables in our pedalboards, and also apply a buffer, if needed. This means we’re sure that the sound quality of the signal sent to your amp is first rate. Nonetheless, it is also very important to take the first link in the signal chain into account.

                    Please take along all the guitar cables that you normally use to the planning meeting. But if your old cable isn’t up to snuff, we’d strongly suggest you get one of Custom Boards’ bespoke guitar cables, which come with a lifetime warranty.

                    We will supply any length from three to ten metres. We would advise against longer instrument leads to prevent signal deterioration.

                    We will equip your cable with the right type of jack for both instrument and pedalboard. The cable will be secured to the board to prevent accidental unplugging during use.

                    THE PLANNING PHASE is now completed. We will make sure, once again, that you are truly satisfied, and that all your requirements have been taken into account.

                    Should you decide, once you’ve purchased all the necessary parts, that making the pedalboard yourself is too much of a hassle, after all, or should you get stuck midway, we will happily finish your project for you, using the components you have bought from us. Don’t worry, we won’t let anything go to waste.

                    When you compare the price of all the required components with a finished board made by us, you will find the difference to be surprisingly small.

                    Our most important goal is to supply a board that makes your life easier, and inspires you to play even better. When you’re happy, we’re happy!

                    START BUILDING YOUR PEDALBOARD TODAY.

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