You are here

Rack Effects Build

For all things relating to guitars, basses, amps, pedals & accessories.

Rack Effects Build

Postby Luke W » Mon Sep 10, 2018 1:58 pm

For the last year or so, I've been slowly working away at building a MIDI controlled rack effects rig. I've got pictures of the whole process, and thought it may be of some interest to fellow pedal/cable geeks... If it's something anyone would be interested in, then I'll get some pictures of the various stages up with some details of the process, and continue as I carry on with the build (it's nowhere near complete yet). If not, I'll shut up :thumbup:

As a bit of an idea, it currently looks like this...

Image
User avatar
Luke W
Regular
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:00 am
Location: Northamptonshire, UK
Techie/Musician Of Sorts
 

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Wonks » Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:21 pm

We're always interested in builds, so please do post more pictures! It looks intriguing.
User avatar
Wonks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6375
Joined: Thu May 29, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Reading, UK
Now even grumpier than Ivan in his heyday.

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Luke W » Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:38 pm

Sure, I'll have a sort though them when I get home and start from the beginning! It's been a fun project so far, totally unnecessary but that's what makes it interesting. That's my excuse anyway...
User avatar
Luke W
Regular
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:00 am
Location: Northamptonshire, UK
Techie/Musician Of Sorts
 

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Humble Bee » Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:59 pm

Please post!
Always fancied a good rack!
:thumbup:
User avatar
Humble Bee
Regular
Posts: 153
Joined: Mon Jan 08, 2007 1:00 am
Location: Switzerland/Germany/Sweden

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Martin Walker » Mon Sep 10, 2018 5:48 pm

Nice one Luke!

Looking forward to seeing more photos :thumbup:


Martin
User avatar
Martin Walker
Moderator
Posts: 12812
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:44 am
Location: Cornwall, UK

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Hewesy » Mon Sep 10, 2018 5:54 pm

Yep another vote for pics here - I've always wanted a full on rack (big 80's geek).

Looks very tidy mate.

Hewesy
Hewesy
Frequent Poster
Posts: 700
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 12:00 am

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Luke W » Mon Sep 10, 2018 11:06 pm

Cheers! :thumbup:

So, from the start... This is around a year ago when I’d finally gathered enough parts to get started on building. 10U rack case fitted with a power distro, Korg rack tuner, Voodoo Lab GCX switcher, and a heavy duty sliding shelf.

Image

I tried a few different layouts for the pedals, and settled with this arrangement. Although it’s a fairly snug fit, I wanted to make sure there’s enough room to un-patch pedals without tearing everything up from the tray in case of any failures with cables or the pedals themselves. The box mounted on the back of the tray is a Kenton MIDI Thru 5, which feeds the MIDI inputs of the GCX and the 3 Strymons.

Image

The idea is that pedal bypass, patch changes on the Strymons, and amp channel switching can all be programmed to a single footswitch, as well as real time control over any parameter on the Strymons via an expression pedal. Fun times.

I’ll keep digging through the photos and getting them uploaded each day. I’m still yet to start the pedalboard end, so hopefully I’ll catch up with myself before I get any further with the build.
User avatar
Luke W
Regular
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:00 am
Location: Northamptonshire, UK
Techie/Musician Of Sorts
 

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Hewesy » Tue Sep 11, 2018 8:40 am

Looking very nice "under the hood" there mate. Very clean.

Without jumping ahead (hopefully!) how does this interface with the rest of your rig? I presume the tuner and drive pedal is pre-amp (from guitar) then the Strymon pedals sit in an FX loop?

Hewesy
Hewesy
Frequent Poster
Posts: 700
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 12:00 am

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Luke W » Tue Sep 11, 2018 9:56 am

Thanks, much appreciated.

That is indeed the case, the GCX has inputs and outputs for every loop, the only internal connections are via a relay when the loop is inactive so it's possible to patch loops to and from anywhere and in any order you fancy. The way I've set it up, is that the first loop feeds the tuner input, but with no return, so when that loop is active the tuner fires up, and the loop breaks the signal path and mutes the rig. The sends/outputs of each loop can also function as N.O/N.C switches, so the second loop is patched into the amps footswitch input to switch channels via the MIDI controller. The third loop is where the Moog drive lives, and then that's sent off to the front of the amp.

Then there are a couple of spare loops, at some point in the distant future I can add a second pedal tray if needs be. The amps effects loop send is then patched into the input of loop 5, and the output from loop 8 heads back the the return. The 3 Strymons live in those last 3 loops. At the moment they're all running in mono, running them in stereo would require 2 loops of the GCX per pedal, and obviously a stereo rig to feed the output to. A possible future project, but for the moment this already branches quite far into the unnecessary!

I made up a custom I/O box to make all the various connections (sitting in the bottom of the rack in the first picture of the thread), again with a load of pictures along the way, so that'll all be up here before too long as well.
User avatar
Luke W
Regular
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:00 am
Location: Northamptonshire, UK
Techie/Musician Of Sorts
 

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Hewesy » Tue Sep 11, 2018 12:04 pm

Very nice Luke, you've clearly put some serious thought into the setup and that's some good future proofing there too in case you want to add additional pedals in between drive and the amp's loop.

Very very envious :clap:

One q though, unless I misread the way you have the FX loop patched:

Loop 5 - return used only (which would be the send from the FX loop)
Loop 6 -Strymon 1
Loop 7 - Strymon 2
Loop 8 - Strymon 3 and return to FX loop return.

How does the third Strymon sit in loop 8, do you use one of the returns for the pedal, the other as return to the amp? No doubt I have missed something!

What amp/guitars you rocking with this, or is that a separate thread?!

Hewesy
Hewesy
Frequent Poster
Posts: 700
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 12:00 am

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Luke W » Tue Sep 11, 2018 12:46 pm

Cheers. Because I slowly gathered the kit over a good few years I had plenty of time to sketch up ideas/wiring plans and make sure I was making something that would last. With my work being tech based I also decided to practice what I preach...

Just looking back, I don't think I was entirely clear with the description of the loops. Each loop on the GCX has an input, send, return, and output. The amp effects send goes to the input of loop 5, the send and return go to and from the Mobius, and then the output from that loop goes to the input of loop 6, send/return to/from the Timeline and so on... You have to manually patch outputs to inputs to use the loops in a row, that's what makes it really versatile in terms of signal path. Finally, the output of loop 8 heads back to the effects return of the amp.

My current amp is an Egnater Rebel 30 combo, which I currently gig with a different, simpler pedal setup. I plan to eventually get something different for this rig, but for now the amps going to be used for both.

I have three electrics that I play regularly, a Strat, a Les Paul Classic (badly named I think, nothing classic about it!) and a 72 Thinline Tele that I built from Warmoth parts.
User avatar
Luke W
Regular
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:00 am
Location: Northamptonshire, UK
Techie/Musician Of Sorts
 

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Luke W » Tue Sep 11, 2018 1:02 pm

A few more pictures...

With the pedals stuck down and an almost comic amount of cable tie bases stuck on, it was time to get some cables cut and soldered and get things plugged in. First up was the MIDI feeds for the 3 Strymons, and some power cables from the PSU to each pedal. The Moog is missing its power in these photos, that has since been added!

Image

And next, some signal cables from the GCX loops to each pedal. This is where things start to look a bit busy.

Image

A view from the back of the cabinet, things were a little rough looking here as it was still very much a work in progress. Everything is looped up and secured so that the tray can extend out fully for programming pedals and saving patches. One thing I didn't future proof very well, is that if I eventually add a second tray underneath, the signal cables will need re-routing to get them out of the way of the new pedals underneath.

Image
User avatar
Luke W
Regular
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:00 am
Location: Northamptonshire, UK
Techie/Musician Of Sorts
 

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Hewesy » Tue Sep 11, 2018 3:43 pm

Thanks mate that does clear it up - I've only seen loop systems with in/out not a 4 cable method, genius when you think about it.

Yes the Classic is an odd name for the model, I think they wanted to imply it was retro but not get hit with the vintage tag? Lovely guitar though.

Presumably the MIDI cables are a thru to each pedal, so they're all basically on the same loop? What kicks out the master MIDI signal, the GCX or do you have a MIDI board?

You're going to regret asking about posting this mate..!

Hewesy
Hewesy
Frequent Poster
Posts: 700
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 12:00 am

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Luke W » Tue Sep 11, 2018 4:18 pm

I've seen a few people complaining that you need to make up patch cables to join loops together rather than it being internally routed, but I think it's worth it for the amount of options it gives you, splitting the device between preamp/effects loop is just one example.

I've got a Voodoo Lab Ground Control as a controller. The MIDI out from that gets to the Kenton Thru-5, and is actively split out to the GCX and the Strymons. It's possible to run into the GCX and then chain to other devices from its MIDI Thru, but I decided to go for splitting the signal first and feeding all of the devices separately.

The Ground Control/GCX combo is very cool, it allows the pedals to be switched on and off on the fly like a traditional pedalboard, as well as saved into presets so multiple changes can be saved to a single button push, along with Program Change messages to change patches on the Strymons. It also has expression pedal inputs that it converts to MIDI CC messages, so it will allow me to control parameters on the Strymons remotely, and again, that can be saved on a per-patch basis.
User avatar
Luke W
Regular
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:00 am
Location: Northamptonshire, UK
Techie/Musician Of Sorts
 

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Hewesy » Tue Sep 11, 2018 4:36 pm

Very cool, I did presume you had a MIDI board to kick out MIDI CC as well as control the GCX when you showed the MIDI chaining on the Strymon's.

Best of both worlds, now really wanting a rack setup based around a GCX... I rather like the rig setup example they've got on their site for using it to control a mag/piezo system. Very tidy.

Must. Not. Buy. More. Kit...

Hewesy
Hewesy
Frequent Poster
Posts: 700
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 12:00 am

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby BigRedX » Wed Sep 12, 2018 9:24 am

I assume your band has a road crew?
User avatar
BigRedX
Frequent Poster
Posts: 569
Joined: Fri Sep 03, 2004 12:00 am
RockinRollin' VampireMan

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Luke W » Wed Sep 12, 2018 9:57 am

BigRedX wrote:I assume your band has a road crew?

The worst thing is I don't even have a permanent band at the moment :?

But it's actually surprisingly light, and fits in my car!
User avatar
Luke W
Regular
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:00 am
Location: Northamptonshire, UK
Techie/Musician Of Sorts
 

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Hewesy » Wed Sep 12, 2018 11:39 am

Lugging a Les Paul Classic, a 10u rack and a valve combo to gigs.

We've all just made a mental note not to upset Luke (or put him first in the queue for when we need a hand moving house) :D

I wonder if anyone has ever fitted electric motors to a rack case to drive it out to the car after gigs...

Hewesy
Hewesy
Frequent Poster
Posts: 700
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 12:00 am

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Wonks » Wed Sep 12, 2018 11:52 am

Hewesy wrote:Lugging a Les Paul Classic, a 10u rack and a valve combo to gigs.

We've all just made a mental note not to upset Luke (or put him first in the queue for when we need a hand moving house) :D

I wonder if anyone has ever fitted electric motors to a rack case to drive it out to the car after gigs...

Hewesy

Nothing compared to lugging 3 guitars, a HR deluxe, and a big PA to gigs!
User avatar
Wonks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 6375
Joined: Thu May 29, 2003 12:00 am
Location: Reading, UK
Now even grumpier than Ivan in his heyday.

Re: Rack Effects Build

Postby Luke W » Wed Sep 12, 2018 11:53 am

To be honest it's a nice change from manhandling PA gear. Someone, somewhere must have motorized a flight case, and I want to see it.
User avatar
Luke W
Regular
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:00 am
Location: Northamptonshire, UK
Techie/Musician Of Sorts
 

Next

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users