The Ultimate Guide to Pedalboards: Choosing Between Individual Pedals and Multi-Effects Units

The Ultimate Guide to Pedalboards: Choosing Between Individual Pedals and Multi-Effects Units

Pedalboards are a neat and convenient way to transport and organize your pedals. Some pedalboards are as simple as a metal rack that you can attach your pedals to with either Velcro or zip ties. Others have foam that can be cut out to secure your pedal layout, keeping your pedals securely in place by simply closing the case. Additionally, some pedalboards come with built-in inputs/outputs, power supplies, and effects loops.

When using multiple pedals, you can power each one with its own battery or a power supply. To keep your pedalboard neat, consider purchasing one power supply with multiple outputs to power each pedal.

Two very popular pedals are the BOSS TU-3 and TU-3W. Both of these pedals function as a tuner and a power supply. They contain a power-in jack to connect to electricity and a power-out jack to run power to other pedals.

Should I Buy Individual Pedals or an All-in-One Multi-Effects Pedal?

Both options have their pros and cons.

Individual Pedals

Single pedals are very easy to use and don’t require much training. You connect an instrument cable from your guitar to the pedal's input and a second cable from the pedal's output to your amp. Step on the pedal’s on/off switch to turn the power on or off.

Most single pedals receive power from a battery or a power supply. Some smaller pedals only receive power from a power supply due to their compact size.

While most single pedals are simple, many have additional features such as multiple outputs for connecting to different amps, connections for expression pedals, output jacks for powering other pedals, multiple modes, and more. Some tuner pedals have a power-out jack used to power up to five more pedals. You can purchase a daisy chain cable that connects from the power-out on the tuner to the power-in jack on other pedals.

Single pedals are easy to operate and cost-effective when purchased one at a time. You can build up a collection, swap them in and out of your board, and rearrange the order to create different sounds. They are also colorful and fun.

Multi-Effect Pedals

Multi-effect pedals are versatile, have tons of features, and come in a neat compact format.

Many multi-effects units can be used in two different ways: manual mode or preset mode. In manual mode, you can set up your multi-effects pedal to function like individual pedals, assigning each foot button to call up the desired effect. Step on it once to turn it on and again to turn it off, just like an individual pedal.

In preset mode, you can design sounds containing one or more effects and call them up simultaneously by stepping on one button. This is handy, for example, if your lead sound requires distortion, delay, and compression. It's much easier to step on one button to call up three sounds instead of stepping on three separate pedals.

Like single pedals, some multi-effect pedals are simple, while others are complex. Features you will find on multi-effect pedals include multiple effects in one unit, programmability, built-in tuners, amp modeling, built-in rocker-style pedals for wah, expression, and volume, the ability to change the order of effects, many input and output jacks including ¼” and XLR for more expression pedals, effects loops, and the capability to send signals to an amp, powered speaker, or PA system.

Multi-effect pedals have a steeper learning curve.

In Conclusion

Both single pedals and multi-effect units are excellent choices. One is not necessarily better than the other; it depends on what features, size, price, and flexibility you are looking for. Consider your specific needs and preferences to make the best choice for your setup.

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