The ultimate guide: How to set up a pedalboard
If you’re a guitarist or bassist looking to build your own pedalboard, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re just getting started with your pedal journey or you’re an experienced player looking to upgrade your rig, this comprehensive guide will show you how to set up a pedalboard like a pro. Avoid making the most common mistakes that will result in an unreliable pedalboard.
3 important reasons to build your pedalboard like a pro:
• To have a portable and organized rig to move from place to place.
• To save time setting up.
• Your tone will be more consistent
1. Choose the best pedalboard for you
The first step in setting up a pedalboard is gathering all necessary gear. There’s plenty of pedalboard companies in the market, and you can even build your own pedalboard at home.When it comes to choosing the best pedalboard for you, there are a few things to consider and we’re summarizing everything you need to know so you can get the best pedalboard with no regrets.
Make sure it’s big enough to fit all your pedals and patch cables comfortably. Think about everything that may affect on this crucial decision: How many pedals do you own at this moment, how much of an effect-addict could you be (will you need more space for new pedals soon?), and where will you play (gigging and carrying it around or at home/rehearsal space?).
• Small pedalboards will offer you more comfort but less capacity, making them a great solution if you have to move around.
• Medium-Sized pedalboards offer great compromise between capacity and comfort are
• Big pedalboards will offer you more capacity but less comfort, making them a great solution if you’ll keep it home, at the studio, or you have someone to carry it for you.
• Modular pedalboards can be adapted to your needs over time.
If you want to learn more about pedalboard sizes, read our article: The secret to choose your pedalboard’s size
Material & weight
Look for a board that is made of strong, durable materials, designed to withstand the rigors of regular use. Additionally, weight is an important factor to consider, especially if you’ll be transporting your board often.
So: look for a board that is lightweight and easy to carry, while still being strong and durable enough to last. Aluminium and wood are great materials that will give you a good relation between weight and resistance. Especially if it is constructed with aluminium profiles that will give you sturdiness.
Design and construction
Slotted pedalboards are the old & most-common option, but there are many other designs that can help keep your board organized and easy to use.
Angled pedalboards are a great option as they make it easier to reach the last row of pedals, and also provide a secure space for the power supply under the pedalboard and a clean way to route the audio cables. You’ll also have more space for pedals in your pedalboard!
We strongly recommend a board with adjustable and anti-slip feet so it stays in place when you step on it. With the right design and construction, your pedalboard can be a reliable and convenient part of your setup!
When it comes to attaching your effects pedals to your pedalboard, there are several options. Hook and loop, plates, zip ties, adhesive strips, bikechains… all of this options are effective ways to keep your pedals in place. However, if you want to ensure your pedals stay pristine and in perfect condition, we recommend looking into adhesive-free alternatives such as our patented Smart Track® Pedalboard System.
Smart Track pedalboards securely hold your pedals in place without the need for glue, tape, or other messy substances. In addition, the system is designed to keep your pedals safe from wear and tear, ensuring that they retain their value for years to come.
Accessories & Customization
Your pedalboard will evolve with you, so you must be sure you can addapt it to any need you will have in a future. Check if the manufacturer is offering you accessories to help customize your board, such as brackets to attach the power supply, cable management clips to keep it tidy, and extra levels for adding more pedals... The more options you have, the more adaptable and custom will be your pedalboard! Also consider if the board has any extra features such as built-in power supplies, carry handles, or whatever you can imagine.
2. Choose your Pedal Power Supply
Powering up your pedals is often overlooked, but it’s a critical part of ensuring that your pedalboard is functioning properly:
⚠️ A mismatched powering to your effects can be the end of your effect pedal and/or your power supply. You wouldn’t be the first one to kill a pedal when powering with the wrong voltage or polarity, so carefully check the power requirements of all of your Pedals.
2.1 First Step: Check your power requirements
Some pedals require special power connectors or specific voltages and current draw, so the first step is to familiarize yourself with the power requirements of each pedal. Check all yor effect pedal needs before looking for a Power Supply that will provide you the correct power for all of them.
Here’s a refresh of some concepts so you understand why it is important to power them right:
Voltage measures the electric potential of to points of a circuit. To keep it simple, it’s the pressure that pushes the electricity of the power supply, and it is measured in Volts. The most common voltage required for pedals is 9V, but some run on 12V, 15V, 18V, or even 24V.
Make sure to check the exact voltage requirement of each pedal and match exactly the voltage your pedal needs.
⚠️If you power a pedal with a higher voltage, you can blow some components or totally ruin its circuit. ⚠️
Current is the rate at which electricity flows in a circuit and is measured in Amperes. Since the power consumption of pedals is relatively low, the ampere (A) is a large unit of measure, and therefore, the current draw of a pedal is typically specified using a fraction of that unit, known as milliamperes (mA):
1 A = 1000 mA so 0.015 A = 15 mA
This is important to know, since some power supplies indicate their max current in Amps instead of mA.
The power supply must be able to handle at least the current draw needed for each pedal, as each pedal will draw only the amount of current that needs to work properly.
For example: The Dr. Robert effect pedal needs approx. 40 mA so you could power it with a T-Rex Fuel tank as all of its isolated outputs are 120mA each.
Keep in mind that digital effect pedals require more current than analog pedals, so be sure to check the power requirements for each effect and make sure your power supply is capable of delivering it.
Connector polarity describes the direction of the current flow of the electrical circuit and indicates the way the positive and negative terminals of your pedal are wired. It is usually indicated by this drawing:
The most common polarity in effect Pedals is center negative. Even though, some pedals using vintage components like germanium transistors have reverse polarity (center positive) to alert you that circuit has a positive ground and must be powered using an isolated power supply.
⚠️ Make sure to double check the polarity before connecting your pedal to the power supply. ⚠️
AC or DC Current
Electrons can flow in a conductor in two Fashions:
AC or Alternating Current: Mostly used to transmit electricity in power lines and deliver current to homes, industry etc.
DC or Direct Current: The type of current that many electric and electronic devices such appliances, computers, amps and pedals work with.
The function of an effect power supply is to transform that relatively high AC voltage (110 to 240V) into a low DC voltage, isolating that source of voltage from the wall outlet avoiding electrical shocks for the player. While most effect pedals work on DC, some of them require to be powered with AC mostly because they have tubes (tube filaments normal run on AC) or they need dual rail (positive and negative voltages) to work properly.
Pedals like old EHX Tube line or Digitech’s Whammy 4 need to be powered with AC and while it’s not a risk powering them with DC (they will not work though)
⚠️There’s a potential risk to harm a DC pedal powering it with AC. ⚠️
Before using an unknown power adaptor make sure to check its specifications. Here’s what you need to know to identify a compatible power supply for any given pedal.
2.2 Summarize it
Use this handy template to jot down all the important info about your pedalboard power requirements. This will help you make an informed decision when it comes time to choose a power supply.
|Effect Pedal||Voltage (V)||Current Draw (mA)||Plug Type||AC / DC|
|Dr. Robert||9||≈40||Center Negative||DC|
2.3 Match a Power Supply with your pedalboard needs
Once you already know all your power requirements, you can now look for the best power supply unit for your pedalboard. There’s plenty of options in the market, but the most common solution for a pedalboard is using a multiple output power supply.
There are many well known brands that manufacture Power Supplies. We recommend go for one of these well-known brands as poorly designed power supplies can lead to noise, ground loops and intermitent issues.
There are two different architechtures for multiple output power supplies: