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multi-instrumentalists and rack rigs

Hey Gang,

I play a fair amount of gigs on steel, Tele, dobro, mandolin. To cut down on the stage mess (cords and stompers) I need to put together a small rack that has enough inputs for all the instruments and send them to efx, preamp/DI, tuner, etc.

If any players here are in the same boat I'd love to see what they are running. I've looked at Radial's line splitters but $1K+ is a bit much for my budget.



Supporting Member
I feel your pain. I juggle a flatop, a National, electrics and a keyboard. Luckily I'm too crappy a mandolin player to worry about playing out (and my National mando is so friggin loud I doubt I'd need the PA anyway). Best answer I've found to date has been my Shen Pro acoustic amp plus or minus a tube amp. I can run a digital piano into the line out and an acoustic to either channel. I've also been experimenting with amp emulator pedals for the electrics. My V-stack works pretty well to make the rig sound tube -ish and I have a Tech 21 Liverpool en route to get another flavor. The amp only has two channels, but so far, short of my own mixer, it's the best I've found. Not quite the rack rig you're asking about, but a working approach. I would suspect this amp and a similar pedal would sound stellar for pedal steel.


Supporting Member
I think a lot of your rack rig requirements will depend on the pickups you're using in your acoustic instruments and the preamp requirements for each. I used a Twin for years - were you planning on running everything through yours? I used to run an acoustic through my twin with the help of a parametric EQ pedal which helped, but I never could get a tube amp to give me the full range of acoustic tones I was after, but I can get this solid state acoustic thing to get pretty reasonable electric tones. Getting an Evans type of pedal steel amp tone would be easy. This particular one works in large part due to the 12" speaker - don't think a 2x8 kind of setup would be the same.

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Here's what I envision:

pedal steel + tele > tuner

pedal steel + tele > efx > 1/4" out amp

dobro/flattop/whatever > preamp/DI > XLR out to board


2-Voice Guitar Junkie and All-Around Awesome Guy
Source your signals separately... then mix them together on stage with a little Mackie 1202 or such... then monitor through a good acoustic guitar amp. you can model for the electric, or mike an amp and run that into your onstage mixer and send THAT to the house--that's what I'm doing with my electric/acoustic/both rig and it works great.


Supporting Member
Source your signals separately... then mix them together on stage with a little Mackie 1202 or such... then monitor through a good acoustic guitar amp. you can model for the electric, or mike an amp and run that into your onstage mixer and send THAT to the house--that's what I'm doing with my electric/acoustic/both rig and it works great.
Yeah we're saying pretty much the same thing. A small mixer is helpful, but I'm using my pedal board to route signals - ie I step on my Pitchblack to mute and switch guitars and run a separate pathway for the acoustics or run directly into the amps pre's. A couple of ABY boxes or something like a Voodoo amp switcher might save cord swaps but the board is busy enough already. The acoustic amp is loud enough (wattage is key) as a stand alone for a lot of venues and with stereo outs, it hooks up to a PA nicely - no mic required - and is a top shelf monitor. So graphically;

Archtop and tele > pedal board (with amp emulators, analog delay, tremelo, compression etc) > line in (or tube amp depending)

Collings and National > Channels 1&2 with individual effects and EQ (clip on tuners cleanest, but can add in line tuners)
or> tuner and parametric EQ pedal on board > single channel on tube amp (set for National, eq tweaked for National)

Genz Benz lines out > two channels on board
> Stage monitor
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Lots of steel guys rack everything (power amp, pre amp, tuner, efx), and out to a cab.
Or rack > loop on a Peavey Nashville 400 or 1000. I can't use a pedalboard because my feet are busy already with pedal steel.

Can I run the rack into the front of a Twin Reverb if I run the guitars thru a pre-amp so the efx see a hotter signal?

I don't want to use a board. I'd like a rack mounted pre, or line mixer or splitter with inputs on the front.


Silver Supporting Member
....the little Mackie 6 channel with effects....(DFX6..?)....is an excellent little mixer thats perfect for such an application.....

Tim Bowen

For my weekly gigs, I use acoustic-electric standard guitar, and either twelve string or high-strung guitar, electric banjo, lap steels in two different tunings (one with a humbucker, one with a huge single coil), mandolin, and a Jerry Jones electric sitar.

I've looked at mixers and such, but abandoned it because of the routing requirements, and because I want everything to pass through my master signal (a pedalboard) which contains a tuner, an excellent boost or two, light overdrive, compression, analog delays and a digital modulated delay, and either a reverb unit, trem, or chorus (fast "Leslie") unit. I've been doing the multi-instrumentalist acoustic-electric thing for the better part of ten years, and my preferences are based upon trial and error as to my approach and material on a weekly basis over that period of time.

I need to get on quickly with little fuss in the often distracting and less-than-optimal live environment. I suppose it's possible to get ABSOLUTELY OPTIMAL tone from every single instrument that one plays (I think about it daily with my pot of coffee) - but as a staff of one, I'm mostly looking for a really good compromise.

I do use a small "acoustic amp", but it functions as monitor source behind me, not as primary source. For all its drawbacks, DI/PA is the best fit for my instrumentation. The way I get different instrumentation to work live is to be intimately familiar with the output and EQ of each (learning the pots), and if I had to name THE ONE thing that allows me to get my mojo on, it'd be a high headroom, reasonably neutral boost with exceptional bass and treble pots (Xotic RC is my first call). The other requirement of note for myself is the last circuit before the chain. Everybody raves on the L.R. Baggs Para DI (maybe it's awesome for a single instrument - "set it and forget it") - but... with my instruments, I wind up attenuating bass, mids, and treble not only at the DI itself, but additionally at the instruments. I find the Baggs unit to be far from neutral. I much prefer the Radial J48 as an active live acoustic-electric DI, not to mention the fact that it has internally stepped up rail voltage that doesn't create problems with phantom power from voltage-starved units such as Mackie powered mixers.

Anyway, the only "fix" is to get in there and screw with it. Everybody's fix is different, according to the parameters of their situation. I've done electric guitars and full bands live for over three decades, but as it stands, I'm an "acoustic-electric" musician.

Thanks for weighing in. I've looked at the Radial gear.

A friend of mine who plays similar acoustic/electric instruments and pedal steel runs everything thru a small board to the PA.