As we await the arrival of the new Boss ES-5 effect switcher (the kid brother to the game-changing Boss ES-8) you might have found yourself wondering exactly ‘what is a pedal switcher?’ and ‘Do I need one?’
Many - perhaps even most - of the top guitarists in some of the biggest bands in the world tend to use pedal switchers, going to the lengths of having switchers custom-built to their needs. Names such as Noel Gallagher, Graham Coxon, Jimmy Page and The Edge are but a few who do so.
Now, thanks to Boss, you too can make use of a pro-quality effects switcher, which can greatly improve your performance on-stage.
Picture the Problem:
So you’ve spent the last few years slowly building your pedal board, meticulously adding each carefully chosen pedal one by one to build your dream setup. You’ve got two different chorus pedals because they ‘suit different songs’ and spent hours fine tuning the presets of your boutique delay unit so that the repeats sync in time with your song and you’ve shelled out for the expensive power supply that makes sure everything is powered with minimal noise. Sure you could just buy a multi-fx unit, but then you wouldn’t get to use that uber-cool £200 distortion unit right?
Next thing you turn up at rehearsal and find yourself spending the whole time tap dancing on your board; anxiously turning off one pedal at the right moment while trying to turn on another two at the same time to nail your solo! Then during the chorus while you are contributing your backing vocals you accidentally step on the wrong pedal whilst concentrating on singing and ruin everything! Finally at the end of the song you get angry stares from all of your band mates while you stand there banking through all of your delay presets trying to find the right patch for the next song, and they just don’t understand why you won’t keep things simple and buy a multi effects unit instead of all these flashing lights by your feet!
Surely there has to be a way around this? Can’t I have my sound and the ease of a multi-fx unit?!
Yes you can. You, my friend, need a Pedal Switcher!
What is a pedal switcher?
In its most basic form, a pedal switcher allows you turn on more than one pedal at once with one button whilst at the same time turning off other ones.
Sounds cool but is that it?
No at all! They’ve become a lot more sophisticated and the Boss ES-8 released last year was a bit of a game changer.
The ES-8 has 8 individual effects loops, which means you could have say 8 effects pedals connected individually in the most basic setup. The ES-8 then allows you to select which effects you have turned on, for instance at one press you may turn on loops 3 and 4, then the next press might turn those off and turn on just loop 6, then the next press may turn all the pedals on etc.
Not only that with the ES-8 you can re-order the pedals! So maybe on one song you want the pedal order to go 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and then 8, but maybe the next song you want to put your phaser in front of the distortion for a cool sound so maybe you’d order them 1,4,3,2,6,5,8 and 7 or whatever you like! Very cool indeed.
If you have midi enabled pedals such as the popular Strymon big three: Timeline, Mobius and Big Sky or the new Boss DD-500 Delay or SY-300 Guitar synthesizer, you can send a midi patch change with each patch on the ES-8. So when it comes to your solo not only does it kick in your delay it will change it to your preferred setting for that section which may be different to the rest of the song. You can even set it to send tap tempo signals for non-midi pedals that accept a tap input. Again very cool indeed and gives you that advantage of it being like a mulit-fx unit!
As well as being easier to select sounds the ES-8 also improves your signal quality because it only passes signal through the pedals being used. In a normal pedal board your guitar signal has to go through the whole chain of effects to get to your amp, and if you are running a lot of True Bypass pedals, your guitar signal will become weaker and weaker as it travels through all the patch cables to get to your amp. By the time it gets there it will probably have lost a lot of top end and be much weaker than if you just plugged straight into your amp instead of the board. Because of the ES-8’s setup, if only have one pedal on at one point in the song, you signal will only be sent through that one pedal and none of the others, improving your tone! Better yet you can choose if you want the ES-8 to be True Bypass or Buffered (which means the signal is given the strength to get through all the pedals to preserve your original tone).
Watch ES-5 video:
Excellent, what if my pedal board is a bit smaller though?
No problem at all, Boss have just released the new ES-5. This is a compact pedal switcher with 5 loops instead of 8, but it still has the same re-ordering/memories and midi capabilities of its bigger brother, but just in a smaller more compact unit.
Its time to stop pedal tap dancing and get the most out of your board!
For more information on the Boss ES-8 and ES-5 contact your local PMT store.