The Future of Pedalboards

Discussion in 'The Rack Space' started by Husky, Nov 18, 2017.


  1. italo de angelis

    italo de angelis Member

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    That depends on what you need, the types of effects, their quality and how many at the same time.
    Be aware that pedals are not exactly line levels frendly! You can expect a max input headroom of +8 or 9 dBu... which is very poor in an FX loop-
    In the mid '80s the average rack devices would handle about double than that!
     
  2. Husky

    Husky Gold Supporting Member

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    Yes I know and I had no issue with the Eventide factors in a loop. Also my loops are switchable instrument and line and I know line is the way to go but they perform well at instrument too. I like the typical pitch shift, delay and reverbs for the most part. I tend to use pitch shift harmonizing instead of chorus or I will use my sons Alexa chorus. I used to have an H3000 but I would like something that switches pretty quickly. H8000FW I'm not familiar with but it does seem to be more than I can justify unless I sell some gear ;-)
     
  3. Anje

    Anje Supporting Member

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    Interesting topic to share and read through other experiences and ideas, as it seems we've all been at least one day wondering what kind of rig would best fit our tone dreams while still being manageable per our various unique constraints; at least I've been, more than once I have to say :)

    I find the challenge is really starting when you want to add some delay-reverb and other spatial or "ambiance" type effects to a core tone, especially if it has some level of drive/distortion; as to me if you're fine with just a straight "dry" tone from your rig there is not the same kind of "issue" to overcome and rigs area easier to keep simple.

    That being said and considering we're talking about one of this challenging tone quest, I personally also wonder those days what is the point in having monster pedalboards that would be more difficult to carry than your amp.. I did try at some point to go the "all on the pedalboard in front" route for the big main rig, and stopped when I reached the point of a fully loaded PT Pro in hardcase on wheels that was weighting a tone, not practical at all any more. At that time I was playing a multi-amp setup ala Eric Johnson, 2 old Twin Reverb for the clean in stereo and an old Marshall Plexi Halfstack for the dirty tones.. sounded glorious but not an easy one to carry around indeed, and as John is saying the dirty tones were limited anyway in what kind of delay/ambiance-spatial effect you could throw in.
    I'm also really not a fan of computer based rigs, just not my thing; as much as the new techno have evolved the last few years, I'm a classic analog amp guy when it comes to guitar live rigs.

    Since then I've always favored what I would call an "hybrid" approach, based on a few principles that work for me:
    1) always start with finding the core dry tone
    2) use best sounding/feeling type of gear possible for each "function" required in the rig, regardless of the "format" (pedal, rack...)
    3) Dry core tone: old style simple tube amps cooking combined with a few well selected good old pedals in front (Fuzz/boost/Wah/Phaser/Flanger/Vibe/OD/Comp..) are unmatched to me in the way they sound and feel (I'm an old Marshall guy).
    4) I need also to feel a minimum of volume when playing live and get this instrument-amp lively interaction + the amp "in the zone" (as Pete T would say :) ); so I need at least one good guitar cab behind me with that dry tone.
    5) select amp model according to the venue so that I can have the amp working "in that zone" at a manageable volume; avoid external attenuators as much as possible (they're another box to move around, and unless used with a light touch I've often preferred a smaller amp played loud than a bigger one attenuated).
    5) At that point everything else I'll do must preserve as much as possible that core tone & amp feel, while adding the spatial flavors & effects I'm looking for.
    6) rack units are 99% of the time unmatched for those spatial/ambiance effects -> I'll use best selection of rack units I can per size constraints.
    7) decide how the "wet" rack effected sound will be mixed with the dry core tone: I tend to prefer wet/dry or wet/dry/wet type of setups. As much as I like to sometimes get some real "wet" complex tones without much "dry" in, which can be more challenging to get in a wet/dry kind of rig, that's a minority of what I play and I more often end to miss the punch and clarity of the wet/dry rigs than the opposite (knowing that most of the amps I like to play don't have effect loops). So most of the time I'll take a line out off a speaker jack of the dry amp.
    8) use Stereo "wet" as much as possible, so much better than mono wet for 99% of my applications. Line level also as much as possible.

    -> at that point the model/size of the amp, the way I layout the pedal config, and the size of the rack effect part will be selected & designed based on the mobility requirements I have for a given rig.
    A pedalboard is worthless to me if it's not easily moveable in a case in one hand.

    If I need an easy portable setup to move around frequently myself in the car, I'll lean towards the following:
    - a small combo for the main dry amp (typically 1x12 max)
    - a small easy carry pedalboard for the few pedals in front of it as part of the core dry tone, simple layout all in line, fixed signal path and no switcher most of the time (I've been using an old PT 1 for years); that pedalboard also has a small MIDI controller to command the racks only.
    - 5U max for the rack, as to me it's the real max I can manage if you need to lift in/out of the car and move it around yourself on a regular basis.
    - small guitar cabs for the wet (2 1x12 if possible)

    If I have the room and logistics to manage bigger, meaning being able to load & roll heavy cases on wheels and have other people to help me carry stuff, the main big rig has been as follow for some years now:
    - head+4x12 for the main dry amp
    - few more pedals in front, all housed in a 5U rack in switcher loops
    - 10U rack on wheels for the wet effects + separated 2U power amp
    - MIDI controller only (but bigger one) on the floor
    - wet comes in 2 vertical 2x12 guitar cabs

    One of the advantage of such "modular" approach is that I can easily combine stuff around if needed, for instance use the 5U pedal rack of the big rig with some other amp/rig.

    Here are a few concrete examples I can share of how these principales materialized over the years:

    One of the most compact wet/dry/wet rig I've used yet very "powerful", based on 3 killer small Pro Junior combos:
    [​IMG]
    (the MIDI controller on that picture was my big one but I could also use a smaller one if needed).
    Reasonable footprint, not giant heavy box to carry, lots of killer tones available. The Pro Junior were setup mostly clean / on the edge of breakup, sounded great with racks in front.

    In a similar approach, a very compact stereo rig I've used for years, also based 90% of the time on 2 of the above Pro Junior:
    Small pedalboard in front on the floor for the dry tone + MIDI control of the wet rack:
    [​IMG]

    combined with a small wet effect rack:
    [​IMG]


    On the other side of the spectrum, the creaziest wet/dry/wet rig I've used years ago, 3 full stacks o_O :
    [​IMG]

    Yet no giant pedalboard on the floor :D

    And finally today's big rig as described above that's been quite steady the last few years, with the pedals in front of the head in the top 5U rack, all controlled by the Axess MIDI controller on the floor:
    [​IMG]

    Worth noting that I had an ancient version of that rig based on a different head (old early custom Bogner 100B) that was blasting most of the time into a single 1x12 for the dry (old ported Pacific cab with V30), sounded killer also (so you don't always have to use the bigger cab for the dry).

    Currently working on updating the small rig, going away from the Pro Juniors back to 1x12s, to be continued... :beer
     
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  4. italo de angelis

    italo de angelis Member

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    John

    let me clarify my post as we seem to have some confusion here.
    I described HOW one could get the power (actually way more...) of a HUGE refrigerator rack of different units by having a small system based on single a very powerful unit. So... for those guys with plenty of desires for options, fx routings and even creating their own algorithms... the H8000FW or an Orville are unbeatable. The Kurzweil KSP8 is another fascinating unit!
    For somebody requiring a smaller number of effects, possibly 2 or 3, the H8000 would only have a reason because one wants truly superlative audio quality.
    I also gave you a couple of extra examples. A Lexicon PCM80 or 81.... better considering an 81 actually as it has the pitch algorithms on board. The 80 requires an extra card (PitchFX) to add them... and not very easy to find.
    With a single PCM81 you'd get unbelievable delays, pitch fx and reverbs... and you also have some routing control on them.
    The Eclipse is a similar choice, only more powerful as it's a more recent and current product.
    Do you need to spend all the money for....? A PCM81 (was 2999$) goes for the price of a Strymon pedal and definitely cheaper than an full expanded H9.
    You'll need a small mixer to run those in parallel and a MIDI pedalboard.
    Presets switching...
    All of these units do not change presets instantly, because they sond good!
    Yep... reality is you have a certain amount of DSP power that is crunching data to provide you nice sounds. A top notch device uses all its computational powers or all is needed to give you what you want. When you change preset the unit has to decompile the currently running algorithm and compile the new one. Waiting time there...
    Most of the fast switching units use very scaled down algorithms and they are always alive, even when you don't use them. You don't even actually see them as "alive" but they are running on DSP resources... limiting the size and quality of what you are using. So when you change presets the unit is simply doing some internal algorithms routing changes and recall parameters values... a pretty quick operation.
    It's like the cake! You cut it in 12 slices (all the available effects) and your slice will only and always be as large as a 12th of the whole cake. Whereas you could not cut the cake... and it eat all!
    You want reverb? What the whole DSP can give you is a much better one than what it can do when several other efx are "running" in terms of computation but not heard... as you are not using them.
    That's how many products cope with the madness of fast program changes!
    Now... a better designed unit could make both worlds happy! Provide smaller, inferior sounding algorithms for the fast switcher and also provide higher quality algorithms which will limit the amount of simultaneous fx and would not have "hidden running" ones. You want great delays and verb? Bang... you load more specialized algorithms for them and use the whole cake glory for them.
    Very, very few units do this... and they all belong to the high end wazoo!
    IN BETWEEN you find a bunch of machines that use some good DSP power, have a tradition of well designed and coded effects and sound great.
    The PCM81 is one of them. A two chips unit, with a DSP running effects and a Lexichip II running reverbs (and a few delays).
    It's based on an environment design of effects rather than on stomp box approach (which is a very limiting factor for FX quality... too many unused cut slices ruin your cake!).
    You could take a look at its user manual and to this very informative thread:
    https://www.thegearpage.net/board/i...cm81-questions-tips-tricks-solutions.1680751/
    and listen to a lot of audiclips here:
    http://www.italodeangelis.com/it/eventide_and_other_stuff/lexicon_pcm_80-81-91.asp

    You could easily cope with slow program changes times. I mean... the time it takes to change a preset isn't as long as you know from the H3000 anyway. I think it's definitely not a problem.
    But one could also use MIDI CCs from a pedalboard to on/off chorus or pitch, delays, reverb levels and to change their sounds by realtime control of their most important parameters.
    I always found switching between two presets based on the same algorithm... a dumb operation. Better changing what you need to (parameters values)... than the whole thing.
    The unit provides up to 10 MIDI patches per preset (controller > parameter assignment and scaling) and each one has up to 8 pivots points... meaning that you can have 8 different variations of that parameter by using a single CC with 8 different values. You can do a lot of things there... and sure enough all the simpler stuff as you asked and have 3 or 4 variations (tweaks) of your pitch/delays/reverb fx in a single preset. It takes some work... but a real display and the simple matrix design of parameters layout help a lot in programming your things.
    Find a 500$ unit for the floor, with such power and incredible tones, working at true line level, true stereo I/O and with such tradition of great sounds.... and I'll be the first to buy it!
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2017
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  5. Anje

    Anje Supporting Member

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    Agree with Italo on the unbeatable (power+tone)/cost ratio those days of some good old rack units like the PCM81.
    I don't see any contender in the pedal format to that kind of rack, and related to what we were talking about in previous posts related to size, portability and rig design I can't think of any incentive/interest to try to replace such rack by something on the floor; better have one such slim and killer sounding rack away behind me close to the amp(s) and a smaller pedalboard.
     
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  6. ctreitzell

    ctreitzell Member

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    Italo, if you would be so kind, how many midi cc routings can H8000 have? The manual is pretty vague about it and from working with VSig a little bit it seems like there is possibility to have as many as the programmer wants. Obviously I need to dig deeper, I wonder if you could offer up some advice on that :)
    ...now... where is that H8000 thread....hmmmmm:rolleyes:

    I misunderstood the OP, I mistakenly thought this thread was about a brainstorm on ideas for new technology. Anyway, there is some fantastic info here; thanks for keeping it public. I don’t know anywhere else on the web exists this depth of info exchange in public. It is all of massive assistance and interest to me. Thanks again:)
     
  7. italo de angelis

    italo de angelis Member

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    I'll give you a quick answer... and I'll make an H8000FW thread as it definitely deserves it.
    Since the platform is fully open and dynamic... there are no specific numbers of CCs you can have in a preset.
    You can build CCs inside the algorithms (Vsig) or you can bridge CC control from the system across algorithms parameters. First method is better.
    So the answer is.... number depends on the size of the algorithm.
    But do NOT get caught in A LOT of MIDI CCs control for any machine as they will slow down the action and make things risky.
    4 to 6 CCs is a reasonable amount. More than that... and you'll be taking chances.
    Learn how to use a CC in different ways! That is another unique aspect possible on the H8000.
     
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  8. AudioWonderland

    AudioWonderland Member

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    You think a rack is more difficult to troubleshoot than a laptop? The i/o is still pretty fragile. I don't see a huge difference and the rack is a lot less tempting target to most than a laptop.
     
  9. tjontheroad

    tjontheroad Supporting Member

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    I always found racks a PITA to fix when something isn't working on stage. When there's trouble, you have to move it onto a clear space on stage to get behind it, find a flashlight to see in the rear of it, then you find yourself having to keep moving back and forth to/from the front panel to check the FX display(s) to see if it's working as you're tinkering with it. All doing so while holding your precious guitar.

    As I implied in my OP, currently laptops do require more technical expertise to run and troubleshoot. But, you don't have to break your back and neck or relic your guitar doing it. Long term the laptop UI, connectivity, and reliability is getting much simpler to use and manage for live music applications. The younger generations of players coming up are much more comfortable with it as well.
     
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  10. CarlGuitarist

    CarlGuitarist Member

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    Very interesting topic Husky. I agree that what we're doing with pedalboards right now (making them huge) makes no sense. IMO the benefit of a pedalboard is the ability to put some some cool sounds in a very portable package. My Novo 18 board has 9 pedals a small loop switcher, lots of great tones. Once you get to a certain size it doesn't make sense to me anymore. People want the tones and flexibility of a rack in a smaller format and something like a Boss ES-8 can get you close. But you're still relying on 4CM to route your fx properly which isn't ideal. Using an Axe-fx by the amp is a cool concept and something that Petrucci and Vai has done for the last couple of years.

    I really want to build a rack, but when you live in the city without a car it simply doesn't make sense.
     
  11. Luca79

    Luca79 Member

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    IMO the best solution is a pedalboard with a looper (MIDI) for overdrive, fuzz, wah, phaser, compressor... and a small rack in the loop for delay, reverbs, and some modulations if needed.
     
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  12. italo de angelis

    italo de angelis Member

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    I'm pretty good at troubleshooting ANY computer/system and any kind of rack.
    Been using racks for decades... and never had to troubleshoot one on a stage. If that happens is because you don't do the regular maintenance work of checking connections, cables, soldering, power feed and MIDI wiring.
    And I have been using computers for MIDI sequencing, along with racks... and never a problem there too.
    BUT... if I had to choose about disgrace... I'd much prefer to go to the back of a rack and fiddle for a few minutes than restarting a computer or have to deal with Windows registry or the crappy latests releases of Mac OS.
    MUUUUUUUUUCH faster than that!!!
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2017
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  13. italo de angelis

    italo de angelis Member

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  14. Saint Luminus

    Saint Luminus Member

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    I've done both, and using a laptop with an interface is not easier. Its just different. The worst is to be up on a stage and having to reboot because you simply can't find the issue right away. So you sit and wait. Of course, perhaps the interface needs to be rebooted. Hmmm, is your external drive plugged all the way in? Did you turn off Wifi? Do you need to reconnect on Bluetooth? Now that the laptop has rebooted, you must point and click away to reopen your program(s).

    Look man, I understand what you are trying to say. I've had to troubleshoot a rack in the dark in the middle of a performance and that was no fun either.

    Its not "old generation" vs "new generation". There are lots of young artists ditching the laptops and going full hardware to get rid of the complications of laptops. I'm talking electronic musicians in their 20s who would rather do hardware than deal with Ableton Live on a laptop. Of course there are others who rely on laptops rather than tons of hardware. Its up to them to figure out the way they want to do it.

    As someone who has done both, I'm more inclined towards racks for my guitar sounds and using a laptop for backing tracks and playing back samples. If the laptop should fail, or I just can't get solve a problem with the laptop, my guitar rig will still work, and I can at least make some music.

    Note: keep an eye on that laptop when at a venue. That's the first thing to go with sneaky hands all around you. Guitar is probably 2nd.
     
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  15. ctreitzell

    ctreitzell Member

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    I remember seeing the Police in 1980 in Texas at SMU. Andy's rack had a failure and it seemed to take ages for the roadies to sort.

    When I played on stage or in front of people 20 years ago (yeah, yeah...the past again ;-) I only ever had one equipment failure that wasn't house gear. I had one (unimportant) gig where my guitar to rack input cable went bad mid gig. It was a lifetime warranty toaster cable, I don't remember which brand. Fortunately more guitar playing wasn't required from the point at which the failure occurred so I finished the night with sample hold games. The point is, it was a piece of the puzzle I never expected to go wrong because it was high end gear that I trusted implicitly. I actually didn't track down the culprit until later in the week. I do see the point of simplifying, though. That's why I chose, back then, to go one box does it all or straight to amp and downsized to Digitech GSP 2101 and later Fender Cyber Twin. So, for live, depending upon the event, I do agree with simplifying.

    Computers nowadays boot super fast with SSDs, so even more confidence using them. Taming OS software is its own vocation. You don't really want to have the tail waggin the dog. I remember seeing Cocteau Twins at the Warfield in San Francisco circa 1990 and between each song, Robin Guthrie would manually go to the sequencer to load the backing sequence for each song. Frankly, I was in shock, 3 guitar players, one singer and no drummer, the bandleader loading sequences!? I was so naive I expected to see 2 singers:crazy. I feel similar about computers on stage, something just isn't quite right for me. That said, I wasn't complaining when I saw Triumph playing with tapes. I suppose Rick Emmit didn't stop to load the tapes between songs :) No way would I want to play through a computer on stage in a tight gig...but for art installation or studio creation I think it's completely acceptable. Sending cv over cc from computer is fine too....it all depends upon how you want the event, installation or recording to work.

    Really, what you want live is complete redundancy, which is twice as heavy and bulky ;)
     
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  16. tjontheroad

    tjontheroad Supporting Member

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    We are mostly agreeing about of the state of things as they are now and in the past. But to the thread question, it asks about the future.

    And yeah, don't even think about snagging my sh1t Bro ;) I can still bolt my laptop to the stage lol.
     
  17. MrFalc0n

    MrFalc0n Member

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    Completely agree with this direction. As audio interfaces get better and better and cheaper and cheaper, I think most people are going to be making music in the box.

    My theoretical dream rig now consists of a powerful, custom workstation PC with a nice big rack of effects for the home studio but all in the box for performance. I'm not sure the interface tech is 100 percent there yet (at least not in the budget range), but I'm certainly looking forward to it.

    Not to derail the thread, but if you look up the Spectre Sound video of RME's flagship interface, he says he can get it down to ~3 ms latency over USB 3.0 with no glitches and huge bandwidth. It also has Thunderbolt, if 3 ms is too much.
     
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  18. Anje

    Anje Supporting Member

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    Damn, will our old Marshall Plexi and Fender Twin Reverb become the Ferrari 330P3/4 and Lamborghini Miura of the guitar gear?
    I think I'll hold on to them then ;)
     
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  19. Saint Luminus

    Saint Luminus Member

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    :p lol, nah I don't need your laptop. But bolting it down may be a good idea. Damn thieves out there. I swear man, I grab the laptop first after I'm done with a gig. Everything else is secondary.

    Though I wouldn't want a refrigerator size rack for a rig, I can say that I've never heard of a stranger simply walking off with one of those after a performance.
     
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  20. JMMP1

    JMMP1 Supporting Member

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    Re: stealing a fridge rack....

    That’s because they’d have to roll it away, or have a buddy. And even then you can’t run with it.

    My rack is going to weigh 200+ pounds (it’s a refrigerator meant for playing at my house), and if it weren’t for the built in casters, I wouldn’t even think about moving it. If I ever gig it, I’m just going to put a hitch receiver and pull it behind my car (just kidding, but I don’t think it’s moving without a trailer).
     

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