Pedalboards versus rack-setups

This blogpost is the first in a series of three about pedalboards versus rack-setups

At the moment I normally use a single amp and a rather fully fullpacked pedalboard, when I’m playing live. My rack stuff is mostly used in the studio. This blogpost is about my thoughts thru these changes and my pro’s and con’s concerning pedalboards versus rack-setups.

When I started playing in a band I had an electric guitar and borrowed my big brothers amp and a fuzz-face type overdrive from him – this worked fine for a long time.

My big brothers Gayatone Sustainer
When I started playing in a band a borrowed my big brothers Gayatone Sustainer

When I started to become a little more serious about my music and gear, I bought my own amp and started flirting with pedals. But still I had a very simple setup compared to the 20 unit stereo rig I later on used for years while I did tv-shows and sessions as a hired gun.

I’ve always been interested in gear. When I started buying pedals I also started spending days in stores trying out the latest gadgets. I started dreaming about new stuff the moment I had mounted the newly bought pedal to my board. Even though I spent days exploring pedals and amps, and I bought some real good things, I was never really content.

One of the first pedals I bought ... if not the very first - a Roland CE-1
One of the first, if not the very first, pedal I bought … a Boss CE-1

One of the biggest reasons for this was the fact that the original sound of my guitar going directly into the amp was ruined no matter how expensive the pedals and cables I bought were (I don’t think the buffer was invented back then). Another reason was that I couldn’t find an overdrive that sounded as good as an overdriven amp. At the same time I also loved the crispy clean sound from my amp and back then it wasn’t common with 2 or 3 channels with different settings within the same combo.

My big brothers amp - an Ampeg VT-22
My big brothers amp – an Ampeg VT-22. Again a killer amp – it sounds so great … clear and warm. But I wouldn’t try to dial in an overdrive sound from this

I was also getting really annoyed at the problems with the volume levels for the different sounds for different parts and the more pedals I bought to solve this problem the worse my overall sound was … It was getting thin and artificial.

Therefore I thought that the solution to this was to move to a programmable rack-setup

Soren Reiff tuning up in the 80'ies
Back in the 80’ies – I got my first serious pedal board … and I still got hair

My first rack setup

I bought a Mesa Boogie studio 22 preamp, a Roland GP-16, a 50/50 Mesa Valve power-amp and 2 cabinets with a 12” Celestion in each.

And what a change. The stereo setup was pure love. At last I could get this broad sweet soft stereo sound that I knew from the studio. And I had a really good sounding overdrive from the tubes in the lead channel. And I could have different levels for the different presets in the GP16. I loved my setup … for several weeks. Then I became annoyed about my clean sound … there was something artificial about it – and I realized it was the GP16, that did something to the pure guitar signal.

I also started getting annoyed that I couldn’t have different levels of overdrive for different tunes.

One of my colleagues introduced me to the TC 2290 and the idea of effect-loops – and I was lost. When I heard his clean sound with just a little delay or something – it really sounded like his guitar directly into his amp.

I had also realised that Mesa Boogie did a Quatro preamp, that would solve my problems with different levels of overdrive – and they also did a 295 power-amp that would solve my lack of power from the 50/50 that was cracking up, when I played bigger concert halls.

I had a plan, but I also had to pay for this stuff … it definitely wasn’t cheap.

Luckily I was saved by the bell – I had started doing a lot of TV shows and also toured a lot, so suddenly music stores and distributors/makers of guitars and equipment were interested in having me play their guitars and gear – if that hadn’t happened, I really wouldn’t have known how to afford all the stuff I was using.

A little further down the line I started playing with 2 fully packed 10 unit racks and 2 road-ready 2×12” Boogie cabinets. I’m still thankful for all the help I got back then from the backline guys … it was some heavy stuff.

Next time I’ll write more about what I had in those rigs and the setup I used for more than ten years on National TV and for sessions.

Till then, remember it’s not the amount of gadgets you own that’s important – it’s more important that you know the gadgets you got well!

All the very best

Soren

NB – you can also read more about my gear and guitars at my official site – here

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2 Replies to “Pedalboards versus rack-setups”

  1. I play a Vox AC30, and most of the time I play direct using a little of the amplifiers reverb. But for solo playing I’m in constant search for the right effect, that gives me just a litte boost and a little delay in one switch that I can control wiht my hand (on a little stand?), because I want my hands to control my music, not my feet (except for a volume pedal). Any good advice out there?

    1. Hi Peter.
      Thanks for sharing … I totally understand why you love the sound of your guitar directly into the amp – me too!! I’ve started to use a booster for changing the level from rhythm to solo parts – the booster also add a little more drive, if you amp isn’t a real clean one, since you’ll give it a little more gain in the input stage – Personally I Like that.
      Considering delay … there are several good pedals that also has option for expression pedal … or that might be changed to a thing you can have on a stand next to you.
      Have a nice weekend
      Soren

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