Guitar Stereo Pedals and the order in which they are placed is a critical factor when it comes to your guitar tone. Of course, anything that involves the manipulation of your guitar tone is subjective.
However, there are definitely guidelines to follow that can help you immediately.
After examining the theories and methods of three of the industry’s top pedalboard designers, I found some interesting points to consider.
One of the things I found interesting when using stereo pedals, is that every stereo pedal that comes after the first stereo pedal, has to be “true stereo” with “discrete stereo inputs and outputs”, otherwise you’ll experience undesirable mismatched results.
If you only use one stereo pedal and you placed at the very end of the chain, you’ll be good to go without problems. If you are using more than one stereo pedal you may have a problem due to the fact that most stereo pedals quite often have only a single mono input.
Also, many pedals with two inputs are often not actually “True Stereo” because the two inputs are summed to mono before feeding the stereo processor.
Even when using true stereo pedals, you still have to watch out for phase and other imaging issues.
I find this information to be very helpful because if you’re not aware of issues like this, you could easily find yourself spending tons of time trying to correct a phase or stereo imaging issue in other areas that aren’t related to the core problem. Then once you figure out where the problem is coming from, you’ll then wonder why… and it won’t make sense. Bottom line is you must use “True Stereo Pedals” if you are using more that one.
As far as pedal placement is concerned… this is very interesting.
Bob Bradshaw puts the distortion devices early in the chain, then adds filters, wahs, and other modulation devices. He adds all delays at the end of the chain. This is implementing the idea of a harmonically rich distorted signal being filtered, rather than filtering a clean sound going into an echo.
Normally you wouldn’t place your delays first before going into your distortion boxes, unless you were looking for a very specific sound.
Pete Cornish, uses compression first directly out of the guitar, steering clear of any volume pedals prior, as it would defeat any compression and leave the system with maximum noise if the volume pedal was reduced to zero.
He runs higher gain pedals before lower gain pedals, and has found that the higher gain pedals control the sustain better and the lower gain pedals control the tone better when connected in that order. He then incorporates the modulation effects.
It’s useful to use a volume pedal before delays, as you can control the swell better. If you use a volume pedal at the end of the chain it makes a great master volume and mute.
Any boosting devices are used at the very end, as not to overload any part of the signal chain.
Dave Friedman agrees with the concept of compressors before overdrives, and then adding the modulation devices towards the middle, and using all delays and echos at the end of the chain.
The wah-wah pedal is always a personal preference for its position due to the way it may react within your personal pedalboard design. Sometimes it’s placed early in the chain, and other times it’s placed after the overdrives.
In fact, Dave describes a situation where the the bass player of “Rage Against The Machine” likes to place his wah pedal at the end of the chain, after the delay. This method allows you to filter the delays and other effects.
I hope this information has been useful to you, as I found it to be very interesting. This could be a big “Ah ha” moment for those experiencing stereo imaging and phase problems, as well as helping to spawn new pedal placement ideas for enhancing “The Big Picture” of your sound.
*** Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts. Thank You.
~ Robert Lee Molton