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Troubleshooting a pedalboard

March 28, 2017

    1. Always troubleshoot by working your way from the amp to the guitar, never the other way around.
    2. Try to change your mindset – don’t look for the faulty device, find out what's working correctly. This way the broken link in the chain will be found in the end.
    3. Make sure all plugs are firmly inserted.
    4. Find out if every pedal is powering up properly by switching each effect on and off in turn. Listen for any strange noises or odd behaviour.
    5. Use the good spare cable that is long enough and connect the guitar straight to the amplifier. Does the amp work properly? If the sound is right, and there is no crackling or hum due to the guitar’s output or the amp’s input jack (wiggle them slightly), disconnect the spare lead, and put it back in storage.
    6. Detach the guitar cable from the pedalboard, and use it to connect your guitar straight to the amp. Does that cable work?
    7. Localize the last effect in your signal chain. We have numbered all effects on the board, so the pedal with the largest number is the last pedal in the chain. Find that pedal.
    8. Use your (now tested) guitar cable to plug your guitar straight into the last effect. If everything sounds right, you have determined that your guitar cable, the last effect, and the board’s output cable work properly.
    9. If you use a large board with many effects, locate an effect situated halfway  in the signal path. If you’ve been very clever, you have planned for a fixed insert point on your pedal, that allows you easy access. Let’s say pedal number six is the pedal in the middle.
    10. Plug your guitar cable into number six. If you get a signal to your amp, and if everything works as it should, you can be sure that the last effects, your guitar cable, and the board output cable all work fine.
    11. If plugging into effect six produces the fault you are looking for, you can be sure that it is one of the last pedals that is faulty. No need to spend precious time with the first half of your signal chain, then.
    12. If you’ve determined that the fault occurs in the latter half of your signal path, plug into the second to last effect (we’ve checked the last one already), and look for the fault. If that pedal is working, move to the one before it, and so on, until you’ve localized the fault.
    13. Detach the broken pedal from your board. Then use a female/female-jack connector to bridge the gap in the signal chain.
    14. Make sure the faulty effect’s power supply cable doesn’t make contact with any other piece of equipment. Better make sure with some insulation tape around the power plug.
    15. Repair or replace the effect at the next convenient point in time, and reattach it to the pedalboard, in place of the female/female-connector.

                  Splitter cables troubleshoting

                  • If you’re using a splitter cable to feed two pedals from a single power supply output, you could be facing hum problems, if you have to detach one of the effects.
                  • The splitter cable is connected in such a way that only one of the pedals is connected directly to ground (earth). Removing one of the two pedals can cause another pedal to lose its power supply, turning that effect off.
                  • We have labelled the power supply’s split output for example like this: Overdrive/Booster.
                  • Plug the power cable of the detached effect into the power input of the effect that won’t turn on. The pedal should now work properly.
                  • Your board is up and running again.

                  The reliability of switches in pedals

                  The largest part of effect pedal failures can be traced to faulty footswitches. Most pedals use 3PDT-switches, which should last about 10,000 switching actions, but not all switches are created equal. Custom Boards cannot vouch for the reliability of the switches used in all effect pedals on the market, even though we clean each pedal before installation. This is why we try to circumnavigate any obvious problems during the planning phase, even if this sometimes means not using a specific pedal because of a notoriously bad switch type.

                  The cleaning of switches and contacts

                  Switches, as well as the contacts of connectors, are prone to moisture condensation, and the build-up of dirt and dust, all of which is easy to clean with PRF 6-68 spray.

                  Spray the cleaner onto any plugs, and then wipe them clean with a clean, lint-free cloth, before reinserting them. In extreme emergencies you can also use your bare finger instead of a cloth. You should be aware, though, that this alcohol-based spray will dry your skin very quickly. The PRF spray is an easy way to eliminate many crackles and buzzes, while adding mileage to your gear.

                  PRF 6-68 isn’t conductive, which means that you can even use it while your board is plugged in. Please remember to switch your amp to standby, to avoid any loud noises when disconnecting signal cables.

                  If cleaning doesn’t do the trick, you will have to pinpoint the fault by going through your board systematically.

                  Some extra tips to concider

                  – If you’re playing festivals with insufficient roofs, your board will be in danger of getting wet due to rain. Plastic wrap (aka cling film) put around your pedalboard is a suitable precaution at outdoor gigs, or if your stage show includes liquids and sprays.

                  – Strive to coil up long cables without any kinks or knots. In winter the copper in your cables might stiffen to such an extent that any bends could leave a mechanical memory in the cables.

                  – Make sure not to put too much strain on the part of a cable right next to the plug. Secure your strain relief first, and then have the cable settle in a natural curve next to the amp.

                  – Your cable loom should not be put in a strained position next to the pedalboard either.

                  – This may seem like a given, but: Always disconnect a lead by gripping the plug, not by pulling on the cable. This is especially true of AC-cables, which tend to have mechanical connections. No strain relief can prevent a cable from being pulled out of a connector over time, if you pull on the cable.

                  – Ninety percent of all problems are due to badly connected cables. If you’ve checked all your connections after transportation, you can exclude this possibility.

                  – The last ten percent are mostly due to dirty connectors or faulty pedals, which means you must learn how to troubleshoot for them.

                    *****

                    If you have purchased all the parts and components but get a feeling that you might not be up to the task after all, we can make your pedalboard for you, using the components you have bought from us. Don’t worry, we won’t let anything go to waste.

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