YOU MIGHT HAVE FOUND YOURSELF WONDERING EXACTLY ‘WHAT IS A PEDAL SWITCHER?’ AND ‘DO I NEED ONE?’ WE LOOK AT THE BOSS MS-3 MULTI EFFECT SWITCHER, BOSS ES-8 AND MORE OF THE BEST PEDAL SWITCHERS ON THE MARKET
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 and a range of other different brands like Electro Harmonix you too can make use of a pro-quality effects switcher, which can greatly improve your performance on-stage.
WHY WOULD I USE A PEDAL SWITCHER?
Picture this; 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 BUT WITH 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. It is also known as an:
Guitar pedal switcher
Effects loop switcher (incorrectly)
SOUNDS COOL BUT IS THAT ALL THEY DO?
Not at all! They’ve become a lot more sophisticated and the likes of the Boss ES-8, Boss MS-3 and Electro Harmonix Super Switcher are all game changers which make it particularly easy.
WHAT IS THE BEST PEDAL SWITCHER?
There's a selection of different options out there that could take the crown for best pedal switcher, including offerings from Voodoo Labs, Boss and Electro Harmonix. Let's take a closer look at a few of our favourites.
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).
2. BOSS MS-3 MULTI EFFECTS SWITCHER
The Boss MS-3 multi effects switcher changes the game when it comes to pedal switchers as it actually includes a host of built-in effects from Boss’s impressive back catalogue of effects pedals.
We think this is one of the best pedal switchers out there as it can run up to 6 internal pedal effects at the same time whilst also allowing you to integrate 3 of your existing standalone stompboxes into the chain.
If you already have an array of Boss effects on your board (don’t we all) or you’ve always wanted a selection, but didn’t know where to start, then you’ll love the fact you can not only save a LOT of room with this but now have access to a whopping 112 different internal effects including overdrives, distortions, delay and reverb effects from BOSS.
This also includes a host of professional appointments including connections for external footswitches for the likes of tap tempo and parameter adjustment, Control Out jacks for switching amp channels and MIDI connections to send MIDI info to your PC (should you need it) and MIDI-enabled pedals.
In addition, you also get two audio outputs that you can use to set your effects to stereo or mono. And this is just the tip of the iceberg!
Check out the video below for a full review.
3. ELECTRO HARMONIX SUPER SWITCHER
If you have a particularly large amount of pedals or a lot of combinations of pedals that you need to engage at a certain time, then the Electro Harmonix Super Switcher is a great option.
This is definitely aimed at the professionals out there, but designed for beginners to be able to use and set up easily. The key benefit of the Electro Harmonix Super Switcher lies within its massive bank of presets.
Each of the 16 banks (switches) can store up to 8 presets, which is a total of 128 presets – that’s a full set’s worth of sounds AT LEAST! There is also an array of useful features such as a tuner footswitch which cuts off the signal whilst you tune-up, a Boost footswitch which adds boost on both left and right channels as well as a Tap tempo footswitch for locking in with any MIDI or tap tempo pedals you may have.
A perfect option for those who need total control over their pedals and effects.
This is yet another incredible pedal board must-have from the team at Voodoo labs as it dramatically reduces signal loss and signal noise issues. It does so by bypassing all the numerous buffers, switchers and plethora of cables you may have by utilising the 4 true bypass loops and sending a signal only to the pedals you’re using at the time.
All relays have been built with gold connections sealed in nitrogen so your tone is preserved and pure. If you want to extend your board, you can easily add more connections with the likes of a Voodoo Labs Commander or an additional VL-PX Pedal Switcher.
Simple and easy to use – exactly what we need when we’re performing on stage. Its time to stop pedal tap dancing and get the most out of your board!