“Craig Hill” Guitar FX Pedalboard

First, a recommendation:

I’d like to announce that Craig Hill has just built me a proper pedal board. I hope you’ll give him a try next time; I’m very pleased to have his workmanship, after all the poor boards I’ve built myself in the past. Contact him at sph.org

pedaltrain top
Marshall “Trem-O-Verb”, Marshal channel switch (to Fender “Blues Junior” amp) MXR “Carbon Copy” Delay, MXR “Dyna Comp” Compression, Line 6 M5 DSP, Ibanez TS-9 “Tube Screamer”, Boss “Blues Driver” BD-2, Dunlop “Cry Baby” Wah-Wah pedal.

At last a guitar FX board robust and reliable enough for gigging. With a lot of knowledge, experience, and tender loving care. Craig used a pedaltrain junior and a modular power distribution system and a custom cable kit from The Gig Rig which means this board is made to specifications of NASA-grade electronics, V&A-grade aesthetics, and military-grade resilience. Even the Velcro is special stuff that they use to hold up the QE2 in dry dock. (I made that bit up, but anyway, it’s not that, “rip-off” Velcro)  Craig even sourced a special power line for the Wah-Wah which needed a long-throw plug to reach through the old-school cast-iron casing made by Dunlop out of recycled battleships.

A requirement was that no plugs should be protruding where they can be trodden on and broken (again). However, another requirement was for maximum use of space, so after negotiations, external signal cables will have angle plugs in from the guitar and out to the amp. There is nice gap under the dyna comp just big enough to squeeze in a little box for plectrums and stuff.

What’s underneath?

pedaltrain bot
Underneath the pedaltrain junior board, showing how Craig labelled the connections to the transformer (top) the two isolators, the distributor (centre) and the 500mV Timelord (bottom). All power cables are custom length, bound together, and velcro fixed for safety and reliability.

If you take a peek underneath, CH used five separate devices for transforming, distributing, and isolating the power to each pedal. The Line 6 M5 digital FX pedal has a “Time Lord” isolator to supply it with as many millivolts as it wants (about four or five hundred of them, that’s a lot of millivolts). Craig’s custom-made DC power cables to the pedals, and the signal cables between them, are all labelled and bound up beautifully to avoid confusion and damage.

pedaltrain-jr-bare-bottom
Underneath the bare board, before getting fully loaded and cabled up.

Craig advised me what I want, even (especially) when I  didn’t know myself. For example, where do the pedals go? In what order should the signal pass through the pedals? He even patiently and gracefully put them where I wanted them, until I realised they were unreachable, and then moved them to where he advised me in the first place. What a good guy!

The  signal sequence is: Wah >Comp >BD2 >TS9 >M5 >Delay >Trem

What’s On Board?

Everything is squeezed onto the smallest PedalTrain board possible, a PedalTrain Junior, to go with my amp, a Fender Blues Junior! We ditched the Digitech EX-7 because it takes up too much room with its remote controller and especially with its AC PSU. In comes a good old-fashioned Dunlop CryBaby. We made room for my (Marshall) amp channel  switch, and five analog pedals for drive, modulation and delay. Then I sadly ditched my beloved Korg sweep tuner, and replaced it with a Line 6 M5. The M5 is a tuner, but also emulates any single pedal from a range of 100+ including classics from the reverb, delay, chorus, and modulation families.

What’s Next?

I can add an EX-1 expression pedal to this, allowing me to morph between settings, a very practical option being a gradual shift from clean to crunch sounds. Another option is to use the M5 & EX-1 as a Wah, threatening to displace the Cry Baby. But I love the way real FX pedals work and sound different from computers, even if they degrade and break down.

Leftovers

So, I now have a “hybrid analog/digital board”, with my favourite real pedals, and a DSP computer that does “everything else”. But there’s some leftovers.. Anyone interested?

the lovely Korg Tuner – gone!

Korg

the versatile Digitech EX-7 – gone!

digitech-ex-7-expression-factory

 The Actual Board

I forgot to mention that Pedaltrain boards are popular for good reason. The frame is minimal in size and weight but very solidly constructed and beautifully finished. It comes in a flight case or a robust bag, which is nice.

pedaltrain-jr-bag

The bare board - you can see how it's raised for easy reach, and to keep the power supply underneath. I saw a cheap imitation in a gig - it would bend under pressure cutting out the power - ouch!
The bare board – you can see how it’s raised for easy reach, and to keep the power supply underneath. I saw a cheap imitation in a gig – it would bend under pressure cutting out the power – ouch!

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