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Connecting Effects Pedals with Cables

Avoid Cable Frizz

 

by Chris Loeffler

 

 

Wires are just wires, right? Well...not really, and there are several “best practices” to following when creating a chain of effects.

 

Power down first. When adding or removing effects pedals from your signal chain, first power down everything in the signal chain to avoid potential damage to your gear. This can happen if, for example, the system’s levels are up and you plug an AC adapter into a stompbox—which could produce a loud pop or click.

 

Turn up your amp last. Again, you want to avoid pops or clicks happening at loud volume, which can happen when you’re connecting or disconnecting patch cords or power supplies. However if you’re using a tube amp with standby, it’s perfectly acceptable to put the amp in standby when connecting and disconnecting effects.

 

Check input and output orientations. Typically, the right-hand side of the stompbox has the input jack, and the left side the output jack. But any orientation is possible, and more than a few players have scratched their heads at why their signal isn’t coming through—only to eventually discover they accidentally plugged into the wrong jack.

 

Set your amplifier’s “base” tone first. With all the effects bypassed, adjust your amp for the desired sound with respect to volume and tone. Introduce one effect at a time, starting with its volume control low and turning it up to match the amp level (or in the case of overdrive devices, exceed it somewhat) This will save your amp—and your ears—a lot of stress.

 

Troubleshooting. If you find odd volume drops or crackling, chase the noise downstream from the guitar.

 

  • Bypass or disconnect the first effect in the chain, then the second, and so on until you isolate the cable, jack, or effect that’s causing the issue.
  • Try “playing with” (shaking/re-positioning) the cable between devices where you’ve found an issue, as this might reveal a shielding problem in the cable or soldering issue at the plug. If this happens, the cable is likely bad and should be replaced.
  • If the cable is fine, it could be an issue with the effect; refer to “How to Repair Vintage Effects” later in this book for next steps.

 

Tip: Half a cable is better than none. If you do have a bad cable, and are handy with doing your own repairs, cut the cable in half. The odds are only one half will have the actual problem and the other half will be okay. Attach a new plug, and you’ll be able to salvage at least part of the cable.

 

Once you have these basics in place, you can begin experimenting to better find “your” sound.

    -HC-

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________ 

 

Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer. 

 

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