Tips and Tricks

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Intro to Effectsblog

March 16, 2014
  • Aclam: Building Your Pedalboard the Easy Way

    Building pedal boards is fun, but it’s also often frustrating. The de-facto method of fixing pedals with Velcro is simple and inexpensive but I don’t know, something about it doesn’t feel like a real engineering solution. It’s also kind of messy. When you need to rearrange pedals or swap them out for new ones, removing the goop is a pain. If you have expensive vintage pedals you probably won’t want even to do that anyway. It’s really fiddly with very small pedals too.

    You’ll also need to power your pedalboard and connecting power supplies presents similar challenges. The hook and loop solution may not always work, and some other methods such as drilling the pedalboard may be challenging for some people.

    Aclam Smart Track is a properly engineered solution rather than an odd series of workarounds. It’s a track-based system with small movable brackets that slide up and down the track to position the pedals where you need. The brackets screw into place and can easily be moved with no drilling or adhesives required and protect the pedal finish while holding it securely in place. For me, laying out a new board typically involves a fair bit of trial and error, and this just makes it so much easier.

    Aclam have addressed the challenges of the underside of the pedalboard with a series of custom brackets for power supplies that easily slot into the board. They’ve included support for the Mission 529 power supplies too, so you can simply put together a fully wireless pedalboard. If you are a pedal board neat freak, Aclam Smart Track is a beautiful solution.

  • How to Clean Your Guitar

    Previously, we went over how to clean your strings and the best tools to use for cleaning them. This time, we will be going over the best way to clean the body of your guitar, so you can keep your favorite instrument nice and shiny!


    The Basics

    The best thing you can do for your guitar, much like your strings, is to wipe it down after every play session with a microfiber cloth to get off the fingerprints and grime. This holds true for every kind of finish and every kind of guitar; you can never go wrong with a microfiber cloth for cleaning. Microfiber cloths are easy to come by, too, and won’t take up much space in your bag. You can get them here. Be sure to always use either microfiber or 100% cotton; never use a paper towel, because it could damage and scratch the finish on your guitar.

    If you do that every time you play, your guitar should overall stay looking pretty nice and clean. However, every once in a while, you should dig a little deeper and give your guitar a good cleaning with the appropriate products and methods to keep it at its best. While simply wiping with a dry cloth is great for spot cleaning and general maintenance, it is still inevitable that grime will eventually build up on your guitar, especially if you play very often.


    Cleaning Your Guitar

    First, let’s get started with a few basic tips.

    • Absolutely do not use any random household cleaner on your guitar. The cleaner is very likely to have chemicals in it that will damage the finish. You will want to use guitar cleaning products only.
    • Be aware of the material your guitar is made out of. If you have a vintage guitar made of nitrocellulose, you will have to be very careful with cleaning it, as the finish is easy to damage. Matte and satin guitars also need care when cleaning, and should generally only be cleaned with a dry cloth.

    This guide will work best for modern guitars with a shiny (polyurethane and polyester) finish, which tend to be the easiest guitars to clean.


    The Fretboard

    One of the most important things to clean on your guitar is your fretboard. This part, of course, takes the most abuse and will likely have the most build-up of grime and dirt.

    To give your fretboard a deep clean, you can scrub it with some very fine steel wool, like this. However, you need to be sure that your fretboard is not finished with lacquer first, because steel wool could damage the coating. If your fretboard is a darker wood, they are generally unfinished, so the steel wool will be safe.

    Be sure to use steel wool sparingly, and only when your fretboard needs a deep clean. You can reduce your use of steel wool by cleaning the fretboard with a microfiber cloth frequently, which will help slow the buildup of grime.

    You will also want to use a fingerboard cleaner and conditioner, like this D’Addario Hydrate Fingerboard Conditioner. You will want to rub it in to your fretboard with a microfiber cloth. This will both hydrate the wood on your fingerboard and remove any remaining gunk.


    The Body

    Cleaning the body of a guitar is a pretty simple process. If you have been wiping the body down with a microfiber cloth after every play session, you likely won’t have too much work to do here. For this, you will want to pick up some quality guitar cleaning solution (remember, no household cleaning products). There are many cleaners available out there and you have a lot of options. One choice is the Music Nomad Guitar Cleaner. https://amzn.to/3msc7Vy This cleaner is well-trusted and comes with a convenient spray bottle, which you can then spray on to your microfiber towel and clean your guitar with. Doing this over the entire body of your guitar should make it nice and shiny.

    You can also polish your guitar, if necessary. You will need to pick up something like this Ernie Ball Guitar Polish or this Music Nomad Polish to get started on this step.

    Look over your guitar’s body and see if there are any swirls or scratches that you want to buff out. Put the polish on the cloth, and gently rub it in to the finish with a microfiber cloth. This should restore your guitar to a shine if it was looking a little dull.

    Note that you should not polish your guitar all the time, because polishing does involve removing some of the finish. You will only want to do this every once and awhile, and only if it is necessary.


    What About the Hardware?

    Guitar hardware (bridges, etc) is made of metal, which can be corroded very easily by sweat. Be sure to always wipe down your hardware after you play to prevent as much of this as possible.
    If your hardware needs a cleaning, you will want to be extremely careful. Do not use anything that could leak down inside, because that could damage the electronics of your guitar.
    Use a small amount of polish, like one of the two previously linked, applied to a microfiber cloth and wipe down the metal parts of your guitar. Never spray polish directly on to the metal parts, as it is easy for it to go in to places you do not want it to go and cause damage.
    If you have particularly bad corrosion or rust, you may need to remove these parts and clean them with something stronger, like WD-40. Do not use this while the metal parts are still attached to your guitar body, as WD-40 is not good for the finish of your guitar.


    Taking good care of your guitar is very important, and you should never ignore grime building up or corrosion. Keep your guitar clean and it will serve you well for many years to come.


  • Guitar String Cleaning Guide

    Strings are one of the most important parts of your guitar. The quality and overall shape of your strings can have a huge impact on what your music sounds like as a whole. Over time, though, as we play on them, a layer of grime will build up on your strings. This grime actually affects how your guitar sounds. Because of the build up, it changes how your strings vibrate and can dampen the sound so they no longer sound as bright and crisp. Strings are, of course, replaceable; but you can actually quite easily prolong the life of your strings by cleaning them regularly. Read on to learn how to give your strings some TLC!


    How to Clean Your Guitar Strings

    As previously stated, your strings will build up grime as you run your fingers over them while you play. The first step to cut down on this is a really simple one (and is something we should all be doing frequently these days anyway); wash your hands before you play your guitar. Getting all the day’s grime off of your hands should help cut down on the residue left on your strings (and fretboard, as a bonus). Of course though, that isn’t quite enough. You may get sweaty as you play, or you may not be able to wash your hands every single time you play your guitar. Don’t worry, there are still ways to clean your strings!

    Cleaning With Cloths

    One of the easiest ways to keep your strings clean is to wipe them down with a cloth. The ideal kind of cloth to use for this is microfiber, because it won’t leave any lint behind to further clog up your strings.

    There are a couple ways to do this:
    ♦ Use a plain microfiber cloth
    ♦ Use a specialized-string cleaning device (made with microfiber cloth)

    If you want to do it the simple way and just use a plain microfiber cloth, it will be slightly more time consuming, but not by much; this process is quick no matter which way you do it. To clean your strings with the microfiber cloth, you can put your cloth under the string and pinch it so it is covering the string you want to clean. You will then pull the cloth up and down the string to remove all the gunk build-up. Repeat this process for each string, and you should have removed most of the gunk! You can purchase a quality microfiber cloth by clicking here.

    This way is convenient, because all you need to do is carry around a small microfiber cloth. However, the next way is a bit faster.

    You can purchase special cleaning devices for your guitar strings. These are often in the form of a microfiber pad that fits under the strings, or a clamshell-type device with microfiber in it that clamps around your strings, covering all sides of every string all at once.

    One tool for this use that is highly popular is the Nomad Tool, which you can pick up online. The tool is small enough to fit in your guitar case, so carrying it around should not be too much of an issue. It will allow you to easily clean all your strings in one go by sliding the pad under the strings, and then on top of the strings. Alternatively, here is a link to one that clamps around your strings. With this kind of pad, cleaning is extremely simple. You clamp it around all of your strings and clean all sides of them at once by pulling it along.

    Cleaning With String Cleaner

    Another way to clean your strings is to use specialized guitar string cleaner. This is often sold in stick format, but also comes in a liquid form with an applicator that you simply slide over your strings. You do want to be aware of what is in these products however; avoid lemon oils and alcohol, as this can damage your fretboard. You can put a cloth under your strings to protect your fretboard from your string cleaner, but it is much simpler to just get a cleaner that does not contain ingredients that will harm your fretboard. Wiping excess off with a microfiber cloth, however, is still a good idea, even if your cleaner is fretboard safe. GHS Fast Fret is a very popular string cleaner that you could use as a starting point to find a string cleaner that works best for you.

    No matter which method you use, keeping your strings clean is a great way to keep your guitar sounding better longer, and it won’t take more than a few minutes out of your day if you keep up with it. It is always worth it, so get to cleaning those strings!


    Sources:
    https://guitargearfinder.com/faq/how-to-clean-guitar-strings/
    https://www.sweetwater.com/sweetcare/articles/how-to-clean-guitar-strings/
    https://www.dummies.com/art-center/music/guitar/how-to-clean-your-guitar/

  • How to Pick a Pick

    Plectrums, or picks as they are most commonly known, are an essential item for every guitar player. They are one of the first things you should purchase when you’re new to playing guitar, and one of the things you should always have on hand when you’ve been playing guitar for awhile! For those that are new to guitar, though, picks can be confusing. There are many different shapes, sizes, and types of picks and a new player may not know which one to start with, or why there are so many different kinds of picks to begin with. So today, let’s talk about picks!


    Thickness

    One of the first things you will notice when you look at picks at the store is that they all have varying levels of thickness. Here are the different levels of thickness you may come across as you browse picks. These numbers may seem irrelevant to playing, and a lot of choosing a pick thickness comes down to personal taste, but it can actually make a difference in your playing. Note that these measurements tend to vary and are an estimate.

    Extra light: 0.45mm and under

    These picks are often the choice of acoustic guitar players. They are great for strumming, and offer a softer sound than a heavier pick would. This is a great choice when you are playing an acoustic guitar as a background accompanying instrument.

    Light: 0.46mm to 0.70mm

    Light picks are very similar to extra light picks; they are excellent for acoustic strumming, and are gentle on your joints. They will give you a bit more volume than extra light picks, so this is a good choice if you want a flexible pick but also want more sound than an extra light pick could give you.

    Medium: 0.70mm to 0.85mm

    Medium thickness picks are the most versatile of the bunch. They will produce, overall, more balanced tones than the previous two options will, but their strength lies in their ability to be used for both strumming and single-note play. Medium picks are a great choice for someone who is brand new to guitar because of this.

    Heavy: 0.86mm to 1.20mm

    Heavy picks are great for electric guitar players that want to play songs with a lot of single notes and heavy sound. Because of that, they are used on electric guitars much more often than acoustic guitars.

    Extra heavy: 1.20mm and over

    Extra heavy picks offer the same benefits as heavy picks, but to a more extreme extent. They will give you a powerful, heavy metal sound that is excellent for lead parts. These picks are not particularly suited to acoustic guitars, and are best left to be used on electric guitars.

    While this may give you a good idea of what thickness would be best for you, the best idea is to pick up multiple picks in varying levels of thickness to see what you like the most. Picks are overall very cheap, and it is not hard to grab a few of them so you can experiment and see what sounds and feels the best to you.


    Material

    Now, there is another thing to consider when looking at guitar picks; their material. Material is very largely down to personal preference, and there are endless types of material to choose from; you can find picks made from stone and metal!

    The most widely used materials, however, are plastic-based, like nylon. Nylon picks are very popular and are well known for being durable while still being flexible. Regardless of thickness, nylon picks will generally always be more flexible than picks made of other materials of the same thickness. You will find that nylon picks are very common, and it is easy to pick some up from a shop to try out. These are great to pick up as your very first pick.

    Delrin is another material you will come across fairly often is another. These picks are much stiffer than nylon picks, which make them great for electric guitar playing. You will get a clean, crisp sound out of these. They also tend to have a more grippy texture than nylon picks do, both on the strings of your guitar and on your fingers.

    Other types of picks, such as stone, are worth trying out too if you can get your hands on them. The best thing to do in the case of pick material is to experiment. You may be surprised at what type of material ends up being your favorite!

    Here’s a variety pack of quality picks to get you started on finding your favorite.

    Overall, if you are new to guitar (or even if you have been playing awhile), you should experiment as much as you can with picks and see where it leads you.


    Sources:
    https://guitargearfinder.com/guides/ultimate-guide-to-guitar-picks-materials-thicknesses-faq
    https://sixstringacoustic.com/how-to-choose-a-guitar-pick-thats-right-for-you
    https://www.musicindustryhowto.com/how-to-choose-a-guitar-pick-for-acoustic-and-electric-guitarists/
    https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/choose-guitar-pick/

  • How to String Your Electric Guitar

    Changing strings on an electric guitar may be intimidating for some new guitarists. They may feel like they could damage their guitar, or never get strings back on again! But, it is not actually that difficult of a task and will make a big difference in your playing if your strings are worn down. It is also useful knowledge to have, so you can put a new string on if one breaks!

    So this week, we will go over how to change out the strings on your electric guitar. With some helpful tools and preparations, changing strings is not as scary as it may seem.

    First, pick up the following supplies. While the wire cutter and new strings are the only truly mandatory items on the list, having these other things on hand will make changing out the strings much easier for you.

    Supplies:

    After you have your supplies on hand, you’re ready to start!

    Step 1-

    Prepare to remove the strings. If this is your very first time de-stringing your guitar, it might be a good idea to take a quick photo of how things looked before you removed the strings. This will give you a good idea of how things are supposed to look if you get lost or if you just simply need a reference, and it will only take a second of your time to do.

    Step 2-

    Pick the first string you want to remove and loosen it with a string winder. You can also do it by hand, but using a string winder is much more efficient and will save you a lot of time. If this is your first time changing strings, you should remove only one string at a time to make things a bit easier. Once you have had some practice from changing strings a few times, you can remove all the strings at once and use the opportunity to clean your guitar with cleaning products.

    Step 3-

    Remove the string. You can do this by either loosening the string enough to just pull it out, or you can use your wire cutters and chop it in half once it is loose enough. Generally, you can remove the string by turning your guitar over and pulling it out through the back. With some guitars, you may pull the string out in the front. If you choose to not cut the string in half first, take your time with this step to make sure you do not damage anything. If you have cut the string, this step becomes easier, as you can just push the string through the hole.

    Step 4-

    Get the new string ready to put on. Remove it from its packaging, and check that you have the correct string for the hole; usually you can tell by the color-coded ball ends. Go ahead and insert the string into the bridge entry where you pulled out the old string. Take your time with this step as you guide the string through, and try to keep it from grinding too much on the bridge hole.

    Step 5-

    Now that the string is on the guitar, we need to get it into the tuning post. Turn your tuning post so it is parallel to the frets. This will make getting the string in there properly a little easier. Once that is done, go ahead and pull the string through the post, making sure it is facing downwards along the post. Be careful to not pull it too tight just yet.

    Step 6-

    Bend the string against the tuning post so it stays in place. Then, to really hold things down, wrap the loose end of string clockwise around the post and under the string where you fed it into the guitar. Then, bend the loose end over the string tightly and pull it towards the top of the guitar, essentially creating a loop. This will help keep things from moving around. Still be careful to not over-tighten the strings.

    Step 7-

    You’re almost there! Check over the string for any twists or bends that may have appeared while you were putting the string on. This might also be a good time to take a look at your reference pictures.

    Step 8-

    Grab your string winder and start winding. Gently hold the string in place as you wind it, and make sure it is winding in a uniform manner. You’ll want to be turning your tuner counter-clockwise. Go as slowly as you need, and don’t wind the string too tight.

    Step 9-

    Use a tuner to slowly tune your string. Be gentle to make sure the string doesn’t break. It may take several attempts before the string holds its tone over the course of a couple of days as the strings stretch. You can also tune after you finish swapping out all the strings instead of tuning one at a time.

    Step 10-

    Cut off excess string from the tuning post. You can leave a little bit extra if you want to be able to down tune your guitar.

    Step 11-

    Repeat these steps for each string, until your guitar has a shiny new set of strings on it!

    Here is a great video for reference if you need a visual guide, along with a few alternative techniques.

     

    Congratulations, you successfully changed the strings on your electric guitar! Be sure to tune the guitar frequently for the first couple of days to minimize issues with tuning as the strings stretch. Now, you can get back to rocking out in no time.

  • 5 Great Guitars For Beginners

    Do you look at guitarists with envy and wish you could play guitar too, but have no idea how to get started? Well, the first step of your journey, without a doubt, will be picking up your very first guitar to learn with! There are often so many choices that it is overwhelming when you step into that music store, so a little guidance may be helpful. Here, will we list some of the best electric guitars for beginners.


    Yamaha Pacifica

     

    The Yamaha Pacifica series of guitars is great; the PAC112V in particular is widely regarded as one of the best for new players. These guitars have their pickups set up in a way that allows great tonal variety, and this aspect allows beginners to see what kind of sounds they like the most.

    These guitars also have a great body shape that is ergonomic, and look very similar to a Stratocaster, which some people may see as a cool bonus. The neck of the guitar is smaller in width than average electric guitars, which will be excellent for people who have small hands and for new players in general. They also have a great build quality, and are overall an excellent value for the price.


    Squier Affinity Stratocaster

     

    If you won’t settle for anything less than a Stratocaster but still want something affordable to start your journey with, then this guitar is for you. This guitar features the styling of the iconic Stratocaster, and could be considered the Stratocaster’s “little brother”. It has a lightweight body that makes it comfortable to hold for long hours of practice.

    You will ultimately outgrow this guitar as you practice and learn more, but it will serve you well at the start of your musical journey and you will certainly look back on it fondly long after you move on to more advanced-level guitars.

    Check it out here for more information plus an awesome bundle deal.


    Epiphone Les Paul-100

     

    Do you want to start out with a Les Paul? Then this guitar is for you. It is known for holding its tuning very well, so you spend less time tuning and more time playing. You will also get a classic, vintage sound out of this guitar due to the type of pickups used, making this a great guitar for people who enjoy classic sounds.

    The Les Paul-100 also has a slimmer body than the big boys of its family, so it is very comfortable and easy to hold and play. It is, however, still a bit heavier than most Stratocasters, so keep that in mind.

    You can pick up one of these awesome starter guitars here.


    Squier Bullet Mustang

     

    The Squier Bullet Mustang is one of the smaller guitars on this list; it has a smaller body and a shorter neck, which makes it a little easier to play for someone who is learning. But, because this guitar is smaller, it is absolutely perfect for kids to learn with. And despite this guitar being small, it still packs a punch with its sound when paired with a quality amp. Overall, this guitar is great for a young aspiring rockstar!

    Click here to check out this great little guitar on Amazon.


    Ibanez Gio Series

     

    If you are looking for an axe to play fast metal on right from the start, then these guitars are absolutely perfect for you. These guitars are a well-priced entry into the world of metal, and are unmatched for this purpose.

    However, it is important to note that these guitars are not quite as versatile in tone as the other guitars listed here and should really only be picked up by people who want to play this specific type of music.


    What was your first guitar? Did it work out well for you? Let us know in the comments!

  • 5 Essential Items For Beginner Guitarists

    Learning to play the guitar can be overwhelming with its plethora of concepts; from handling techniques to music reading. It also is not just as simple as buying a guitar and freestyle jamming! There are other things that you need to pick up with your shiny new guitar. Some of these things are absolutely essential to getting started on the right path. Here, we will go over a list of essential and useful items worth picking up, whether you are a new or experienced guitar player.


    Tuner

    Picking up a tuner is probably one of the most important things you will do, as learning to play while out of tune is not going to be productive or enjoyable. It is possible to tune a guitar without one, but beginners may struggle to do it by ear. Having one of these around will be extremely helpful, regardless of your skill level. There are many different types of tuners to choose from such as pedal tuners and hand held tuners! Some can even clip on to your guitar for convenience. You can pick whichever kind you like the most.

    Picks

    These are an extremely useful item for strumming on your guitar, and are often quite inexpensive; picking some up should be a priority. Getting a variety of picks will also be your best bet; picks come in varying levels of thickness, and both thin and thick picks have their uses. Each level of thickness will be useful for different play styles, and you can also find out what kind of pick works the best for you this way. Thick picks are good for powerful, singular notes and thin picks work great for chords, which is certainly what beginners should learn first. Nylon picks are a good choice to start out with, as they are generally the most versatile. Overall, picks are more in-depth than you would think; you can check out our blog on how to choose your picks if you are seeking more information!

    Extra Strings

    Having spare strings on hand is quite important, as guitar strings can and will break, or may even need replacing due to corrosion or other factors. If you keep spares on you, you won’t experience any interruptions in your playing because you won’t have to run out to the nearest music store or wait for an online order to ship to you. The type of strings you will need to get will depend on the type of guitar you have, but getting coated strings is a good idea as they will resist corrosion better. You will also want to stick with a lighter gauge of string, as these are easier for beginners to use.

    Guitar Case

    Having a case may not seem necessary at first, as you can just put your guitar up against the wall or your furniture and forget about it to store it. However, this is not a particularly safe way to store a guitar. It could not only fall and easily get damaged, ruining your investment, but it could also become damaged by the environment. The materials guitars are made out of are quite susceptible to humidity and temperature damage, and that is certainly not something you want to deal with. Humidity issues can create problems such as swollen wood and damaged glue joints. Uncovered guitar strings will also dull much faster compared to a covered guitar. Something as simple as utilizing a guitar case will prevent these things from happening. Hard cases are best for long-term storage and there are even options to control the humidity in these, but soft cases work great too and are certainly better than nothing.

    Capo

    A capo is a useful tool that looks like a clip. It goes over your strings on a specific fret on your guitar to raise the pitch that you are playing in. It is not something you will need immediately, but you can often find ones of good quality for cheap, so it is useful to pick one up so you have it when you’re ready to start using it. Capos also help because you can play songs in different keys without needing to adjust the tuning of the guitar and without changing chord shapes. This will help you play more advanced songs sooner.


    Whether you are learning acoustic or electric guitar, these items are all beneficial to the guitar playing experience. Let these items augment your journey to becoming a guitar legend. What are you waiting for? Go get to jamming!


    Sources:
    https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/10-essentials-every-guitar-player-needs/
    https://www.fender.com/articles/gear/the-11-essential-tools-for-any-guitarist
    https://www.justinguitar.com/guitar-lessons/what-guitar-accessories-do-you-need-bc-012

  • Miking a Cab the Easy Way

    There’s a mixture of science and Mojo in miking up a guitar cabinet. As long as you have the time, space, and equipment available, it’s all part of the tone. However, unless we are setting up shop for a few weeks to record the new album, most of us are much more usually trying to get as much done as possible in the fastest time, with the least amount of gear. We just don’t have the resources for dragging around mics, stands, cables, phantom power supplies, replacement batteries, gaffer tape etc. The INTEGRAL Close Miking System fixes this, because the mic is IN the cab.

    Integral

    Here’s how it works. The INTEGRAL is a small super cardioid dynamic microphone mounted in the center of a thin circular frame. The frame simply installs between the speaker driver and baffle in your combo or speaker cabinet. There are both 12” and 10” versions available. Since it’s a conventional dynamic mic, there is no phantom power or batteries required. A balanced XLR output jack is provided with some interchangeable enclosures for installing in the cabinet. Now you just connect a mic cable from the jack to FOH, mixer or your audio interface, and you are done.

    This is great for on stage cab miking because you don’t have to worry about setting up an external mic, getting it secured, and avoiding spillover. The super cardioid design is ideal for this because the mic is always in a fixed position very close to the speaker. The strong side rejection means you are less likely to pick up room noise and other instruments and it is fairly resistant to feedback.

    For use around the Mission lab, this is a winner. There’s no setup time, so when I need to do some quick testing I just connect the cabinet directly to the computer audio interface and I can do frequency analysis and take other measurements much more quickly and easily than using an external shotgun mic. This is also potentially a great solution for use with cabinet simulators. With the INTEGRAL connected directly into the computer audio interface, I can easily create impulse responses. It can also be connected directly to devices such as the Kemper Profiler for quick and easy profiling.

    Integral Box

  • Choosing a USB Power Delivery Power Bank

    USB was originally designed as a replacement for the various serial and parallel connectors for computer peripherals. Back in the mid 1990’s, portable computers were becoming more popular and the industry wanted a standard interface that used a smaller connector.

    As well as carrying data, USB also added the ability to carry power. A single cable could be used both to communicate and power a device. In the first version of the USB specification, power was limited to a quite small 100mA at 5V. The power limits of USB have been gradually updated with new versions of the specifications, but they have still been quite limited for modern devices such as battery packs. To address this, the USB standards body introduced a new USB specification called Power Delivery (USB-PD).

    Power Delivery brings two big upgrades.

    1. Maximum power increases from 7.5W to 100W.

    Although the previous generation has an additional specification called Battery Charging (USB-BC) that can support 25W, this isn’t available on all devices. Even then, PD still brings four times as much power.

    2. Variable voltages.

    Previous generations are limited to 5V, and getting to higher voltages from a USB connection required additional boost converters. USB-PD can support different voltages such as 5V, 9V, 12V and 20V.

    Getting here required a couple of significant changes. Firstly, Power Delivery requires a USB-C cable. Secondly, there needs to be some intelligence in the devices, and in some cases the cable too, to negotiate the power features.

    Previous to USB-C, you’ll recall that a USB cable has different connectors at each end. You usually do not see a USB-A – USB-A cable. One of the key reasons for this is to prevent two power sources from being connected together. A USB-C cable is the same at both ends. To prevent two power sources being connected together, PD devices communicate with each other to determine which should provide the power. The specification provides for role switching which means if your device supports it, it can be both a power source and a power sink. Think about connecting a power bank to a laptop. With role switching, the power bank can either power the laptop, or the laptop can recharge the power bank – with the same cable. Nice.

    Voltage is also handled by the Power Delivery negotiation. When you connect a power bank to a charger, the charger communicates it’s capabilities to the power bank. It may say that it can support 5, 9 and 12V and what it’s current limit for each voltage is. The power bank then tells the charger what it prefers. For example, it may confirm that it requires 12V @2A. The charger then enables this and the power bank begins charging at the requested voltage.

    An important thing to remember here is that although the specification supports a range of different voltages and currents, most devices will not support all of them.  100W chargers are still rare, and most battery packs will only support a subset, depending on their size and price point. So when you are choosing a battery or charger, it’s important to check that it can provide the voltages and currents that you need to power your device.

    The Mission 529M is a USB-PD power converter for guitar effects and similar devices. The 529M performs the PD negotiation with a power source such as a portable power bank or wall charger and provides the power on a 2.1mm center pin negative connector. You select the voltage that you want the 529M to provide on the effects pedal power output using a small switch on the underside. The factory default is set to 9V. The 529M can support 5 different voltages and you’ll need to check these against the battery or charger that you want to use.

    • 529 6V – requires USB-PD 5V
    • 529 9V – requires USB-PD 9V
    • 529 12V – requires USB-PD 12V
    • 529 15V – requires USB-PD 15V
    • 529 18V – requires USB-PD 20V

    If we check the specifications for the Mission 529 USB battery pack we see it supports the following voltages on it’s USB-C PD output:

    • 5 V, 3 A
    • 9 V, 2 A
    • 12 V, 1.5 A

    So, with this battery we can select 6V, 9V or 12V using the voltage selector switch on the 529M. This battery does not support 15 or 20V so we won’t be able to use those. If we request a voltage on the 529M that the source does not support, the output will remain at the nearest voltage level below that it does support. In this case if we select 15V or 18V, the output will remain at 12V.

    Also be aware of the current limit. We can see that this battery pack supports 2A at 9V, so we would need to make sure that the total current draw from our connected devices does not exceed that.

    If, we want the 529M to provide higher voltages or more current at the output, we’ll need to use a battery that can support it. The Naztech 60W Super Speed which we also recommend has the following specs:

    • 5V, 3A
    • 9V, 3A
    • 12V, 3A
    • 15V, 3A
    • 20V, 3A

    So this battery would support all of the available 529M voltages up to 3A. It’s larger and costs a bit more though, so you’d need to decide if the extra cost and weight is acceptable. If you are building a small fly rig and don’t use any pedals that require anything other than 9V, then you may choose the smaller battery. If you are building a large pedal board and need 18V or 3A, then the larger battery is likely the better option.

    So before you buy a PD battery pack or charger, just remember to check the specifications to make sure it meets your requirements. Hopefully this arms you with the information to choose the best one for your needs. One of the great things about USB batteries is the features keep increasing and the price keeps lowering, so if your needs change in the future, all you’ll have to do is just swap out the battery.

  • Building a Small Pedalboard

    I thought it would be a fun project to see if I could quickly and easily assemble a full pedalboard of tuner, distortion, delays, modulation, and reverb with a small footprint and for a low cost, just using parts I could get on Amazon Prime with a Mission 529 power supply. Here’s how I did. There’s a full Bill of Materials at the end in case you want to build your own.

    The Pedaltrain Nano was the easy choice for the base. The 529 Power supply was designed to fit it, and since we would have it on display at NAMM and I had a limited time to do the build, I really wanted something that was a known quantity and quality. At 69.99 for the soft case version, it’s not the cheapest. The Stompbox Pedalboard Mini was also available on Prime with a $45.99 price tag, so if lowest cost is your priority, you could save a bit there.

    First up on the board is a GuitarX X9 Tuner. At $18.97 it was one of the lowest cost pedalboard units, and looked to have a nice clear display. It doesn’t have the features of the TC Electronic Polytune 2. I would have gone for the TC if I was building my own board, but at $89.99 it was over budget for this cost optimization project.

    For the rest of the pedals I went with the Donner range. There were a few others at a little lower cost, but the difference was a few bucks at most, and I wanted to have the best chance of everything working together the first time. The offset input and output jacks on the Donners all looked to be the same, which would make for easy wiring in the tight space on the Nano.

    First up was a compressor, and I went with the Donner Ultimate Comp. I love the MXR Dyna Comp and use one on the front end of just about everything, even digital rigs. My hope was for this to do something at least approximating it. Again, if I was building my own board I’d go for the MXR M291 Dyna Comp Mini, but the hundred dollar price tag is too much for this bargain basement project. The Ultimate Comp came in at $37 delivered.

    For gain I went with the elaborately named Donner Blues Drive Classical Electronic Vintage Overdrive. I was intrigued by the product description of ‘classical electronic overdrive with plump, warm and sweet effect’. I think it should have been green or red, though. The metallic blue color is going to confuse me with a Chorus. However, it has switchable hot and warm modes (sadly no selectable sweet and plump mode), and tone, level and gain controls so it should provide a decent range of tones. At $29.99 it met the budget constraints. An alternative at the same price is the Morpher Distortion Solo which even more bizarrely auto translates the description to include a ‘high degree of metal’. I’m guessing that would be an option if you needed a higher gain distortion, but I stuck with the overdrive for this one.

    Modulation comes from the Tutti Love Chorus that is both ‘stable and strong’, and ‘gentle and plump’ at the same time. I swear I am not making this up. I paid $35 which has to be a bargain if it turns out to be all those things.

    For time effects, I went with analog delay and digital reverb. The Yellow Fall, also at $35, provides analog delay with Time, Echo and Feedback controls that should be simple enough to use. I’m looking for something with no learning curve that can easily be demonstrated by anyone on a show floor. There’s no room here for anything that requires programming complex presets. If you want to go digital with the delay, there is the Echo Square pedal at $45.

    Bringing up the tail is the Verb Square digital reverb. This has seven different reverb modes including the standard Studio, Spring, Plate and Hall, as well as Church, Room and Mod. For each mode, there are controls for Level, Decay, and Tone. The graphic chosen for this pedal appears to be a ship’s wheel. I’m still trying to work that one out.

    Assembly was straightforward. All of the pedals have offset input and output jacks, so you can squeeze them pretty tightly together on the top of the Nano. The non-slip bases on the Donner pedals work great on the floor, but the Velcro didn’t stick to them very well. A little adhesive on the bases held the tape in place.

    I used a Mission solderless pedalboard wiring kit for the audio connections. The very low profile of the connectors in this kit let me position the pedals with just 20mm between them so that all six pedals easily fit on the Nano. If you didn’t mind a little overhang at the edges, you could probably fit a seventh pedal.

    Since this rig is designed to run on rechargeable battery power, I fitted it with a Mission 529 and a 10,000mA/h battery. Current draw for all the pedals is around 470mA. Add 130mA for the power supply and the total current requirement is 600mA. That would give a battery life of about 16 hours, which is pretty decent for a six pedal board with all the basic effects, and a tuner.

    At just 5.25lbs for the complete assembled board including the soft case that can be strapped to your guitar bag, this would be a really nice and easy fly rig. With the battery power, you would not have to worry about carrying long power cables, and international adapters for touring.

    How does it sound? Actually, pretty good. I was expecting one or two DOA’s for low cost pedals like these, but they all worked out of the box. The isolated battery power from the 529 means there are no issues with power noise or ground loops, and with no really high gain devices, it’s remarkably quiet. I ran it through a Marshall DSL40C and with all pedals bypassed there is almost no increase in noise. If I dimed the gain and volume controls and put my ear to the cab, I could just hear a faint click, probably coming from one of the clocks, but certainly nothing abnormal. With the effects enabled, there was a little hiss from the compressor and digital reverb, but again nothing more than I would expect from these types of devices in general. I’ve heard more noise from certain much more expensive devices.

    All the effects worked well together, and with a little tweaking of the level controls, it was very easy to get the levels balanced when switching the pedals on and off. There is a little pop when hitting the stomp switches to turn some of the pedals on and off. This is not uncommon for True Bypass pedals. There may be some simple mods we could do to mitigate that.

    The small size of the pedals, and the layout of the Pedaltrain with the opening between the rails for cabling, means there is not a lot of surface area for the supplied hook and loop tape to get a hold of. The first and last pedals get twisted a little when the input and output cables are connected. Using something stronger such as 3M Dual Lock will probably fix this, so I may do an upgrade to this if I get time.

    There are some optimizations you could do depending on your requirements. If you didn’t need the battery power and could live without isolated power outputs, a low-cost daisy chain switching power supply would keep the price down. The Donner DP-1 ($13.99) or Truetone 1 Spot ($19.99) would be able to provide the 470mA required for this particular combination of pedals. This will likely increase the noise a little. You could drop the tuner pedal, and use a clip-on tuner (or just your ears) which would also save some bucks

    Many pedal companies are producing small form factor pedals these days. I already mentioned Dunlop (MXR) and TC Electronic. Both these companies have quite a range of small pedals, and there are quite a few others that would allow a Boutique version of this board with more premium pedals.

    If you’d like to recreate this board, here’s the list of what I used. Most of the parts are available on Amazon. I listed the price I paid, or current price at time of writing. Prices may vary.

    • GuitarX X9 Mini Guitar Tuner – $18.97
    • Donner Ultimate Comp Compressor – $37.00
    • Donner Blues Drive Vintage Overdrive – $29.99
    • Donner Tutti Love Chorus – $35.00
    • Donner Yellow Fall Analog Delay – $35.00
    • Donner Verb Square Digital Reverb – $45.00
    • Pedaltrain Nano Softcase – $69.99
    • Mission 529 – $155.00
    • Mission Solderless cable kit – $79.00

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