can anyone tell me what a rack mounted effect actually does?

i don't understand the difference between them and regular pedals?

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The casing is designed to fit in a rack. They tend to be of higher quality as well. Otherwise they're the same as their pedal counterparts.
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Also, rack effects are often effects that can benefit from more power/processing. For example, rack delays are used because you can pack a lot more digital processing power into a 19" box than a 3" one.
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