What factors to consider when buying a pedalboard
Buying a pedalboard is a tricky endeavor. Honestly, at first glance they all looked the same to me. Yet, there are a lot of factors which will help you to identify the difference in pedalboards, and what kind of pedalboard you need.
- Size – most simple and straightforward factor. There are a few basic size types: compact/nano, standard/medium, large. You can identify what size you need by the number and kind of stamp boxes you have. If you have large ones like wah wah, make sure that the weight of the pedal is long enough to fit them. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a large one, most standard pedalboards fit the wah wah just fine. If you only have a handful of pedals you use on gigs – nano is your best choice. Though I personally prefer having two boards: a standard for storing, and a nano for gigs.
- Power Supply – not every pedalboard comes with a power supply, it’s more like most of them come without one. It’s obviously very convenient to have power supply mounted in the pedal board, which frees you from the task of buying a separate one. However, the power supply might end up being noisy or have the wrong specs, not suited for your pedals (some pedals require non-standard 12V or 18V). So unless you already have some extra power supplies, I’d recommend buying a board with them included, but check the power specs carefully.
- Material – there are four most common materials used in pedalboards: plywood, aluminium, plastic and rubber. Plywood is a classic choice used for dozens of years and is still a favorite among many musicians. It’s easily customisable, yet heavy. Aluminium is more popular nowadays, as it is most durable, with a heavy-impact and is lightweight. Plastic is even lighter and cheaper, but isn’t too rigid. Finally, rubber – which is relatively new and cheap, but just as durable and light as aluminium.
- Profile – pedalboards can be of two different profiles: flat & angled. Flat is the classic profile, it’s very straightforward and easier to store, however, it’s not too practical, especially during live shows. Angled, however, is getting more popular as it’s easier to hook the pedals and use them. They also have a compartment underneath the board for accessories and supplies.
- Case – most pedalboards include a carrying bag (soft or hard) upon purchase. I, personally, prefer the soft ones, as they are lighter and easier to carry. Hard cases, obviously, offer more protection, but considering that pedalboard themselves are pretty rigid, you don’t always need extra protection. Also, pay attention to the quality of the included bags – there is a high chance it won’t be excellent.
- Pedal fastener – this is the pedal closure system. Basically, this is what makes the pedals stick to the board. The most popular fastener is the hook and loop – it’s basically a tape that attaches to the board and the back of the pedals. Then you can stick it together and move it around as you wish.
How much does a good pedalboard cost?
The price of a pedalboard depends on so many factors: size, materials, included accessories, cabling. Technically, what you need it to do is to be sturdy and secure pedals – that isn’t that complicated to make, right? The pedalboard itself doesn’t cost too much (unless it’s made of aircraft aluminium like Pedaltrain Metro 16), so you can aim at $80. But if you require additional accessories and don’t want to spend extra time and money on wiring, a bag and other stuff- buy it altogether. Then, a $150-200 deal with all accessories included should be pretty solid.
That being said, I’m talking about good quality, not budget pedalboards – there are some that sell for around $60, and they are still pretty decent. Yet, if you want to make sure the pedalboard will serve you 5-10 years, do spend some extra cash on it; this won’t hurt you in the long run.
Do I need any accessories?
As I’ve mentioned many times – absolutely. Not every pedalboard comes with the power supplies, power cords, cables, adaptors and bags. Unless they are included, you should certainly buy them, or your pedalboard will be useless.
Can I craft my own pedalboard?
Technically – yes. Grab yourself a piece of wood or plastic, buy Velcro hook and loop tape and stick it on top – and voila. As simple as that. But you also need to buy cables, accessories, and find a suitable bag. Screw the holes in the surface to set up the wires. Unless you are a crafty handyman, it will end up being quite a complicated task, but it will be perfectly suited to your needs. Yet, if you are a beginner or don’t have/want to spend time on building things – I’d rather buy the pedalboard. It will end up costing less anyway.
In what order should I set up pedals on the pedalboard?
You, of course, can always set up pedals to your liking. If you want to have the wah wah in front of the distortion or boost in front of harmonizer – by all means go for it! If it works for you and your style of play, you are the only judge!
But if you don’t know your pedals too well, or prefer to stick to the classic sound, there is also a universal way of doing that. It follows the classic sound chain set up and is the most efficient and less noisy way to chain the pedals.
- Filters // Harmonizers // Dynamic Pedals (compressors)
- EQ Pedals, Distortion, Overdrive, Boost, Fuzz Pedals
- Modulation Pedals: phaser, chorus, etc.
- Time-based pedals: echo, delay, reverb, tremolo, etc.
You, obviously, do not need to use all of them at once. Just use one or two from each group (or from only three groups) and attach them to your pedalboard in the order above.
So here you have it: pedalboards for every pocket and every need. I, personally, prefer the compact pedalboards like Pedaltrain Nano, which is easy to take with me on a gig or to the studio. It’s not like I need a whole collection with me every time I leave the house. Though I know most musicians prefer standard sized boards, so I recommend Gator Cases Aluminium Pedalboard – sturdy and lightweight – it covers the needs of every musician and will serve you for years. My standard size board is a bit more basic – SKB PS8 – the one that my friend gave me, but it is also pretty sturdy and practical. I’ve being using it for about five years and I can’t complain.