Musicians, professional and hobbyist alike, who are enthusiastic about effects pedals understand how collecting them can become a passion within a passion. There’s so much variation out there: you have mass-produced effects, boutique, hand-wired ones, those that produce straightforward and conservative sounds, and those that are innovative and outrageous. As a collection expands, it’s important to be able to call up the ones you intend to use and house them in a ready-to-play structure. Whether it’s a permanent fixture or you swap out sounds from gig to gig, a pedal board for guitar/bass effects is the best way to organize and transport your collection from the studio, to the stage, and in between.
Why Do I Need a Pedal Board?
Pedals are messy. There’s just no way around it. You have to have input and output cabling in addition to power, and that’s just for a single stompbox. As soon as you have more than a few effects running at a time, the clutter gets out of hand quickly. Consider using them for a live performance, in which you’d be kicking different effects on and off throughout the show. If they’re not mounted to something, you’d be chasing pedals around the floor all night, not to mention tripping over tangled cables.
At minimum, a pedal board serves as a platform to attach your effects. You can place them in close proximity to another and take advantage of short patch cables to wire them together. You can even affix a power supply to the board to juice all of your individual effects in the most efficient and organized way. A board just makes using, transporting, and even storing stompboxes a much more practical endeavor.
Powered vs. Unpowered Pedal Boards
Some boards come with a built-in power supply. The benefits are twofold: 1) You don’t need to purchase a separate power supply, and 2) Integrated power is typically discrete, for a better organized board overall. Now, of course, a powered board is going to be more expensive than an unpowered one. However, if you find the benefits valuable, it’s well worth going the powered route from the get-go.
On a slight aside, there are companies and small businesses/techs for hire who specialize in optimizing pedal boards for their clients. Services range from streamlining and tidying up a board with tight, unobtrusive cabling, to wiring up complex switching systems that trigger preset combinations of effects on/off with a single footswitch. All of this to say that some people, especially professionals, take their boards and effects very seriously. A clean and organized board is easier to use, and reduced clutter leaves more room for creativity. If you think purchasing a powered board from the onset would make life easier, then it’s worth the initial investment.
Things to Consider When Shopping for a Pedal Board
Size is the biggest consideration for most folks. That’s an individual decision that comes down to the number of pedals you currently have, the number you intend to have, and how many you actually intend to use at any given time. Apart from size, you might also consider whether the board lays flat on the floor or angles upward for easier foot access.
Other considerations are powered vs. unpowered, and also what sort of (if any) cable management the board comes with. We’ve talked a lot about tidiness and organization already, and it’s so important with pedal boards that certain makes and models will come with an integrated cable management system.
The 7 Best Pedal Board Options for Guitarists [Any Budget]
Pedaltrain is one of the most popular names in the biz. Their Novo 18 is a small to mid-sized board that comes with velcro and zip-ties to attach your pedals and discretely bundle cables. The aircraft-grade aluminum could take a bullet, so there’s no questions about durability, though it’s lightweight enough to carry around without hassle. It also comes with its own soft carrying case for portability and storage.
The Boss BCB-1000 is an awesome suitcase-style board. The internal rail system is built to stay inside the case, so when it’s showtime, you just remove the lid and you’re ready to go. Its outer casing comes with handles and wheels for easy transportation, and there’s extra room underneath the rails inside the suitcase for cables and other wiring to stay out of the way.
Warwick’s RockBoard 3.1 is a straightforward board with a 10° angle and enough space to accommodate five to 10 pedals depending on size. The rails are forged from a single sheet of aluminum for toughness and reduced weight, and the soft carrying case makes portability a breeze.
Purchasing a Temple Audio board is an investment in their modular ecosystem. The board itself works great for four to five standard stompboxes, with unique cutout holes for easy cable management. But Temple Audio also lets you purchase separate modules, like IEC power and more, that optionally mount to the side of the board.
Schmidt Array pedal boards are the choice of gigging pros who want an elegantly designed product that’s both practical and portable. They come with internal IEC power sockets for seamless external power connection, and two connector box holes in which you can mount separately sold Schmidt Array socket plates for XLR I/O, MIDI, USB, or whatever other connections you may need.
This system by Gator includes a wooden 16″ x 30″ pedal frame and a G-Bus-8 power supply with eight 9V outlets and three 18V outlets and all of its appropriate power cabling. Apart from that, this is a relatively no-frills solution to pedal organization and power. Looks-wise there isn’t much to mention, though it most certainly gets the job done. The included nylon soft case helps carrying your board to and from that much easier.
Voodoo Labs offers the Dingbat in bundles with the company’s own Pedal Power Plus power supplies. This particular bundle comes with the Pedal Power 2 that features eight 9V power outlets. Pedal Power mounts cleanly underneath the frame and an IEC connection comes straight out from the board to the nearest wall outlet. This self-contained unit provides everything you’d need for building out a pedal board.