How to Activate Multiple Guitar Pedals at Once?

Having a guitar pedal collection is awesome until you realize that it is super difficult to operate them simultaneously during a live performance. Well, fear not. The modern music industry has the solution for how to activate multiple guitar pedals at once.

Pedal Switcher is the magic word. This is the best and most convenient option for activating or deactivating multiple pedals at once. It also allows you to choose several combinations of pre-configured pedals during live performance.

Pedal switchers are also referred to as “loop switches”. Nowadays, it has become really popular and common to use during live performance due to its convenience of usage. Stick to the end of this article, and you’d be tempted to use one for your Pedalboard as well!

What is a Pedal Switcher?

You probably have seen Pedal Switcher or Loop Switches used by guitarists for live performance. It is the footswitches on their pedalboard that they use for changing their guitar tones.

For someone who absolutely has no idea what that is, let me make it as easy as possible.

A Pedal switcher is a module that connects all the guitar pedals on the pedalboard. And you can turn on or off more than one pedal using its footswitches. Moreover, you can pre-program it to turn on or off selective (or all) guitar pedals just by the press of just one footswitch.

Let’s say you have 8 guitar pedals on your pedalboard, but you need only 5 (for convenience, let’s say guitar pedals 1,2,3,4,5) of them for the next song you are going to play. Moreover, you would need guitar pedals 1,3, and 5 ‘on’ during the whole song, except for the guitar solo, where you need pedal 3 to turn ‘off’ and pedal ‘2’ and ‘4’ to turn ‘on’.

You can easily preprogram your loop switch or pedal switcher and save them as banks (yes, that’s what we call the saved programs/configurations) where one bank would enable pedals 1,3, 5 and another bank would enable pedal 1,2,4,5.

And this transition could be done with just a press of a single footswitch.

How to Effectively Use a Pedal Switcher

Assuming that you have a collection of some kickass pedals and a killer Pedal Switcher. All you need are the connecting jacks. These connector jacks are usually quite short in length for convenience. pedalboard.

These short-length connecting cables (patch cables) are usually referred to as “send” and “return” jacks (or simply input and output jacks): “send” jacks are connected to the input terminals and the “return” jacks are connected to the output terminals of the guitar pedals.

Point to note that, you need to have a Pedal Switcher that has enough room for all of your pedals. And it is always better to get a Pedal Switcher that has more room than the number of your guitar pedals because oftentimes, you’d need more pedals to add it to your fleet. Say, you have 5 guitar pedals right now, so it would be prudent for you to get a pedal switcher that has 8 ports for pedals.

Some of the must need guitar pedals are distortion pedals, reverb pedals, compressor pedals, delay pedals, overdrive pedals, and noise gates. There is no limit, so you can always add an external pedal into your guitar pedal chain.

After connecting the pedals in loops (using the send and return jacks, a loop is created: hence called loop switches), you can keep all the pedals “on” and control their involvement in the signal chain using the loop switches.

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Even the simplest loop switches or pedal switchers have the option to save presets into preset banks. To save a preset, simply turn on the switches for the guitar pedals that you want to use and then press the save button on your pedal switcher.

Some loop switches have the option to choose the order of the pedals while saving the presets, no matter in which order the pedals are connected in the loop.

Depending on the type of pedal switchers, you’d be able to create a preset for your desired pedals for designated songs/tunes, change or revert the signal chain, switch between several presets using the Bank selection option, and so on.

Almost all the pedal switchers come with “bank up” and “bank down” switches. In addition, some have the bypass switch (which bypasses all the pedals in the signal), tap tempo feature, tuner, expression pedal inputs (such as wah, volume, boost pedal and other effects control pedal), and other convenient features.

Pros of Using a Pedal Switcher

All the modern musicians having regular gigs are using Pedal Switchers. Why? Because it is a huge support for a smooth and killer performance. Let’s look into some of the benefits of using a Pedal Switcher during live performance.

Convenient Control Over Your Guitar Pedals

Of course, this is the primary reason why we need the pedals switcher in the first place: to switch on and off multiple pedals at the same time according to our needs.

Not only that, but it is also very convenient for switching “on/off” a specific pedal because, when you have several pedals on your pedalboard, it becomes difficult to reach out into the pedalboard with your foot and turn on/off the specific pedal or multiple pedals. But with a loop switch, it is a piece of cake.

The pedal switcher is also conveniently designed so that you won’t have trouble finding the footswitches even if the stage is dark. It also enhances your live performance by letting you play with lesser distraction and swift switching of pedal combinations according to your needs.

Perfectly Desirable Ordering of Pedals

There are some Pedal Switchers that offers you to form customized order of your pedals, no matter in which order they are physically connected to the switcher. That way you can get a wide variety of tones with the same setup of pedals.

The best part is, you can change the order of your signal chain with a stomp of a switch in no time. You can also save the order of your pedals as a preset in the bank.

Since the pedals are individually connected in loops or channels, they are not affected by the order they are connected. From the loop switch, they can be arranged in any order of your preference.

Some Pedal switchers also come with built-in signal chains that are used by professionals or popular musicians. That would make your work even much easier.

Fail Proofing Your Performance

It is a nightmare for a guitar player that his/her pedals stop working in the middle of the performance. If the pedals are connected in series with each other, the whole signal chain can stop working if one pedal’s circuit gets fried up.

Not only the pedals, one of the patch cables can stop working as the worst part is, but it would also take forever to figure out which guitar pedal or wire has stopped working if that happens.

But if you get a pedal switcher, all the guitar pedals are connected individually in loops into it. This connection can be referred to as parallel connections. And in this connection, even if one of the pedals/cables stops working, it won’t affect the rest of the setup.

That way, even if there is some problem within your pedalboard during the live performance, rest assured, your signal chain won’t be totally cut off and put you in an embarrassing situation.

Refines the Tone by Reducing Noise

I’m pretty sure you’ve experienced the annoyance when you connect multiple pedals in a series, they end up producing noises, especially when a distortion pedal is on. It is quite inevitable even if we use high-quality patch cables.

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The more pedals you have in your signal chain, the more noise it tends to produce. And even if you use a noise-gate (another guitar pedal to filter the noise), the tone you are desire gets filtered as well.

However, if you use a pedal switcher for connecting the pedals, such noises are significantly reduced. Since the cables are all connected in parallel, they do not interfere with each other’s signals.

Also, during the bypass mode, the signals are totally isolated, hence there remain no noises during tuning or simple bypassing into the clean channel. Besides, most of the loop switches have in-built buffers to boost the tone simultaneously while reducing the noise.

Worth the Investment

Pedal Switchers can be really expensive, especially the ones that have more switches and numerous handy features. But your investment would be totally worth it when you realize its benefits.

We’ve already discussed some of its advantages. Some other advantages are such as, the health of your pedals would be better since there would be no direct connection among them. Hence no fluctuation of signals will be there in case one or more pedals have higher gain outputs. They will always receive a stabilized current/signal input from the pedal switcher itself.

This way, your pedals will last longer, as well as the pedal switcher. Also, it is built robust as well as intense switching frequency. So, it would last for years even if you use it for heavy-duty and professional gigs.

Cons of Using Pedal Switchers

This is a very useful tool to use for live performance and in your long-term music career.

Nevertheless, the cons of using pedal switchers should be taken into account as well.

Extra Weight to Carry

Pedal switchers are quite sturdy built. As a result, they are a bit heavy. I can imagine all the pedals on the board itself would make it as heavy as it is.

Moreover, when you add a Pedal Switcher, the pedalboard becomes heavier and reduces its mobility.

No Access to Pedal’s Configuration

The Pedal Switchers or Loop Switches are super convenient, but only for turning on/off the pedals connecting in the signal chain. It cannot change the configuration of the pedals on the pedalboard.

So, if you have to change the configuration of any pedal, you’d have to do it manually by hand after the one song you are playing.

This is also important because different electric guitars have different configurations. If you use just one electric guitar for the whole performance then it shouldn’t be much of a problem.

You will be able to set the pedal configuration before the gig starts and change it if necessary, during the intervals between the songs.

An Alternative Solution

I know a lot of guitarists would judge me for suggesting such an alternative, but here it goes. Considering the practicality and budget-friendly way, Multiple effects processors could be a good option.

The reason is, multiple effects processors come with built-in digital effects and footswitches that can be used in a similar manner to the pedal switcher.

The added advantage is, you can save the different configurations of your effects for different banks, which is not possible in the case of analog pedals combined with a pedal switcher.

Of course, the tone will not be exactly as rich as the ones produced by guitar pedals, but there are lots of High-end multi-effects processors that sound almost as good. And they won’t break your bank either.

Besides, there is often an amp’s effects loop (or simply fx loop) of which you can take advantage of in order to fine-tune your tone.

So, this is an alternative you can take into consideration if you don’t already have a collection of guitar pedals. I’ve used several high-end multi-effect processors like Zoom G9, Line-6 POD GO, and FireHawk FX, etc. They were all A-class in their performance.

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Some of the Recommended Pedal Switchers

There are lots of excellent pedal switchers in the market, so you can be easily overwhelmed. If you don’t want that trouble, then you can get one of these three loop switches recommended.

Voodoo Lab PX-8 Plus

Voodoo Lab PX-8 PLUS True Bypass Programmable Pedal Switcher
8 Reviews
Voodoo Lab PX-8 PLUS True Bypass Programmable Pedal Switcher
  • 8 independent true-bypass audio loops using the finest gold contact relays
  • Access to 36 user-created preset effect combinations
  • Stand Alone Instant Access Mode available for simple on/off pedal switching function
  • Insert point between loops 6 & 7 for volume pedals and more
  • Audiophile-quality output buffer preserves tone even with long cable run to amp

One of the most compact and fairly straightforward switchers in the market is the Voodoo Lab PX-8 Plus. It has 8 independent loop channels but 4 bank selection switches.

It also features a true bypass system that can be activated via a footswitch. Among other footswitches, there are Bank up and down, and save.

In total, the PX-8 Plus switcher has 36 presets where you can save your customized presets and access them through preset banks and individual selector switches.

Last but not least, it has midi connectivity which is always a handy feature to have.

Electro Harmonix Super Switcher

Electro Harmonix Super Switcher Switching Control Center w/EHX Power Supply!
3 Reviews
Electro Harmonix Super Switcher Switching Control Center w/EHX Power Supply!
  • - Extensive I/O maximizes flexibility and control.
  • - Features mono and stereo send/return, insert send/return and mono/stereo out
  • - Equipped with tuner and tap tempo outs, MIDI In & Out and more.
  • - Features eight mechanical-relay controlled, true bypass loops.
  • - Provides 128 presets: 16 banks with 8 presets each.

You might have heard of Electro Harmonix because they make awesome distortion pedals and other guitar pedals as well. Also, they have a versatile and Super Switcher for us that we can make good use of.

The Electro Harmonix Super Switcher comes with 8 independent channels or loops with a true bypass feature. It also has midi connectivity with advanced operation features as well.

It has 8 individual switches which make it more convenient for switching between banks and presents. In total, EHX offers 16 banks, each containing 8 presents, that is in total 128 programmable presets for you.

Among the other useful switches, it has the ‘save’, ‘tuner’, ‘bank up & down’, and ‘boost’.

Boss ES-8

Sale
BOSS Effects Switching System, Eight Loops (ES-8)
42 Reviews
BOSS Effects Switching System, Eight Loops (ES-8)
  • Programmable switching system with eight loops (plus an additional loop)
  • Analog circuit design to protect your pure tone
  • Unprecedented routing flexibility With the ability to change the routing order and create parallel effect chains
  • Onboard memory for storing external control parameters such as delay time for each patch
  • Buffers can be turned on/off individually each for input and output and stored in each patch; level variability for output buffer

Another very professional looking and functioning Loop Switcher is the Boss ES-8, feature 8 footswitches for the convenience of selecting individual loop or channel among the 8 independent ones.

It has an analog circuit design in order to maintain the integrity of the tone from the effect pedals. In its memory, it is capable of storing 800 presets or patches. Not only that, it also has the capability of storing external control parameters such as reverb or delay.

Like the other Pedal Switchers, it has a bypass feature that can be activated through the ‘mute’ footswitch. The buffer feature can be individually added to each of the patches if necessary.

FAQs

Do You Need a Power Supply to Power up Guitar Pedals?

It is better to use a power supply in your pedalboards along with the effect pedals. This is an essential part of the pedalboard if you ask me. It would save you a lot of hassle from replacing the pedal batteries and embarrassments that might occur when the batteries run out during a live performance.

How do you Power Up Multiple Guitar Pedals?

There is a type of cable known as “daisy chain cable”. All your pedals can be powered up using this type of cable. First, figure out the amount of power required by your pedals. Then find the appropriate daisy chain that could be connected to your power supply and guitar pedals.

Final Words

Pedal Switchers or Loops Switches are the real deal nowadays. Modern guitar players are using it for their best performance and you can use them as well. Find your suitable one and rock out the live performance!! Cheers !!

Last update on 2021-12-08 at 17:29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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