How To Prevent Tone Loss Through A Pedalboard

This article deal with simple ways you can prevent tone loss through a pedal board or effects.

Ultimate Guitar

It is a problem that many guitarists have probably faced - tone sucked up and lost through a jungle of tangled cables, pedals, and power adapters. All running to a messy surge protector. But I have seen the light and now I want to share my success story with other musicians who may still be having the same problems.


Cables carry your signal so you should use a good cable that is made by a reputable manufacturer. Aviod buying cables from your local music store that have their name and phone number on the side. They are just money pits designed to make them money and leave you with a mediocre product. Buy a good cable, but not too long. From Mogami, PRO CO, or Monster. My personal choice is Pro Co because quiality meets value. Not only should these good cables connect your guitar to effects/pedalboard, but they should also go to your amp. Many of these cables are gold plated and have many professional features that you will appriciate in the long haul. Many also carry lifetime warranties.

Patch Cables

Are you a victim of Heterocableonpedalboardus? Then you need to get organized and get some good high quality patch cables. If you are reading this you probably have a mixture of low-end patch cables on your pedal board. All you have to do (although it is a little expenisve) is go on the internet and buy George L's solid brass right angle plugs and .155 vintage red cable. Make sure you get the .155 plugs too. These custom cables options are solderless and sound great. Eric Johnson uses George L's for his pedal board and guitar. This will make you look very professional with the ability to make the cable the exact length you they sound god-like. The plugs themselves carry a lifetime warranty.

The Order Of You Effects In The Chain. Does It Matter?

Yes, it does. And anybody who tells you different is wrong. As a rule of thumb (and trust me this has been tested over several years) you usually want to have the general flow of the signal like this:

01. Volume Pedal 02. Wah-wah Pedal 03. Distortions/Overdirve. If you are using extreme types of distortions put those in front of all the others. Same with overdrive-distortion combination pedals. 04. Modulation. This is up to you to dictate. Personally I put my Chorus first, the flanger second, then my delay last. Ring Modulators should go before your delay also. These same principles apply for a Theremin too.

Powering Your Pedals

All I can say here is... If you serious enough about making good music buy the Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2. I know it seems like a lot of money but it is a good investment. Also, all of your pedal will have the same amount of power instead of one pedal having almost a dead battery and so on. A dying battery in a cluttered singal path will suck tone. There are also two SAG switches that can be used to emulate dying batteries (some effects sound good with batteries that are about half way depleted).

My Testimony And Personal Take On It All

I play Jazz, Blues, Latin you name it. I dont have alot of crazy effects in my chain but I am big on different kinds of overdrives. That can clutter up a signal. Applying the above stated tips made my pedal board sound and look professional. I can set up now in less than 2 minutes, because all of my effects remain plugged in. Here is my rig in full detail:

01. Fender 50's reissue strat 02. Ernie Ball Mono Volume (the big one) 03. T.C. Electronics Line Booster/Distortion 04. Electro Harmonix Linear Power Booster 2 (modified to have LED and True Bypass as well as DC jack.) 05. Nobels Overdrive Special (awesome German-designed pedal) 06. Ibanez TS9 Keely TS808 Mod 07. DOD FX60 Chorus 08. BOSS DD3 Digital Delay 09. Alesis Midiverb 2 Reverb Processor 10. Left output of midiverb: 1966 Vox Pacemaker or 1963 Haynes Jazz King 11. Right output of midiverb: 1964 Fender Princeton with the white knobs.

The Princeton drives a Leslie 18 tone cabinet.

I know all this sounds like a lot but it isnt really that much. I can set it up and tear it down in less than 10 minutes. If you have any questions you are welcome to email me. I just figured this page would help someone. Thanks for reading if you have gotten this far. Mail me if you have any questions, Eric.

20 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Tom Martin
    Wah should go after distortion/overdrive. You can put it before, but ideally it should go afterwards.
    u r a bit pf a jackass arent u y does any1 care wot u do about ure rig or wot rig u have pedals are shit anyway u only need 3 volume distortion and wahwah the others just arent required
    I should really work on some kind of order for my effects. I tripped over yesterday when I went for my wah.....kinda hurt my arse. Man, I'm a dick....
    Good article. But the order you place your effects not only affect the tone but it also affects your "playing personality". Some musicians prefer to place the distortion after the wah pedal; whereas, I personaly like to placethe distortion before the wah. And so on...
    Wah should go after distortion/overdrive. You can put it before, but ideally it should go afterwards.
    if you're using distortion it would smoothen out the distortion too much and it would sound weird, if you're playing clean it'll sound better your way
    im with the angry guy because im to broke to pay for fricken nice cables and all that article told anyone was to buy the most expensive stuff and youll be good
    Did anyone notice how he made a spelling mistake and typed "expenisve"? Hahah! Penis! Besides that, the article is not bad. Short and to the point.
    i agree with TGM, the only answer this article gives to get a good tone is buy expensive stuff and you're own list of effects? who cares really, that just showing off
    1st decent post nice article, useful for people starting to get into pedals...
    Good article, all this stuff comes at the right time seeing as I have a gig coming up pretty shortly and need this info...
    belch.....they say i have ADD, but they just dont understand. AHA! LOOK its a CHICKEN!!!!! good article besides the buy the best shit cables poop
    I hate all this, "You must buy the best/most expensive cable shit. Gold plated plugs only help alot if you sockets are glod plated. The gold can wear off at contact points too, so it's pretty much useless. With length, by the time your cable is long enough to noticable affect your tone, you're better off with a wireless system. Fat cable to carry the signal, honestly, how much output do you think a few small magnets can produce? The only things that make a real differance are; durability, shielding, warranty. Durability speaks for itself, you don't want the solder pionts to break, or the cable to break on the inside. Shielding also speaks for itself, but you don't need that much of it. Always get something that will block out background interferance, but unless you're playing next to a power transformer, you won't need a huge amount. Warranty, if the warranty only lasts for five years, that means that the manufacturer thinks it will break eisily after that period. a lifetime warranty is always good. Most people can't pick the better cable from the sound alone. It isn't worth spending the extra $10 that could be used for a longer cable, or more cables. Overall, it was just common sense. The order of effects was good, but too brief. The spelling/grammar wasn't too great, but it's better than many other articles'. The whole list of your equipment was just unneccasary, you could have just said, "I have 11 things to connect to each other and I've learned to set it up in under two minutes." You could have explained how you do it in more detail. Next time, post it in the colums forum, you'll get tons of constructive criticism and advice. Keep on writing though, this article wasn't too great, but obviously you have experiance you can share with us.