Having invested so much time reading about the making-of of an effects loop system, it would be unfair to not see where it is going to use. Here's Khalil's small pedalboard rig in it's entirety, with the down-stage board. (Warning: Get comfy. It's a long read but there are photos in case you get bored.)
Signal Chain - Main Board
A/B/Tuner Box and Tuner
First in the chain, once the signal reaches the board, is a custom A/B/Tuner box. This box allows me to select which guitar is active, as well as allows me to tune the inactive guitar with my trusted Turbo Tuner. This tuner is definitely one of the best out there. It is super sensitive and uses strobe tuner technology, showing me more accurately how far off pitch the guitar is. Not only can I tune an acoustic guitar while the stage is blasting with music (which is usually quite a chore as the top of the guitar is constantly vibrating, throwing most tuners out of whack), an electric guitar can also be tuned deaf (since the guitar is muted) and still be pitch perfect with confidence, without hearing the guitar at all.
ISP G-String Decimator II
The ISP Decimator and the Wampler Ego are staples on Khalils rig, not matter big or small. Noise is always an issue on live stages, so all the effects sit in the loop of the Decimator to keep noise at a minimum, except for the G-Lab Dual Reverb. The ISP does this better than any other noise reduction pedal we've tried out there. It works well because it senses the input source and learns how much to gate the noise, unlike most noise reducing solutions that just gate the signal regardless of the input source.
Wampler Ego Compressor
The Ego compressor works wonders to Khalil's live sound, as it keeps his tone consistent. The Ego is one of my favorite compressors as it allows me to dial in a compressed tone, then mix it into the dry signal using the mix knob, giving me simple yet flexible control over how much compressed tone we want mixed in.
Signal Chain - Down-Stage Board
Dunlop Crybaby Wah
Next in the chain is the down-stage board. The wah pedal we are using on this rig is a standard off the shelf Dunlop Crybaby with LED indicators installed and modded for true-bypass. There are LEDs on the top face and side to make sure Khalil can see the status of the wah, whether on a bright stage outdoors, or a dark stage in a concert venue. The switch's height has also been adjusted higher, to Khalil's preference, to make it easier to switch on and off.
Keeley Katana Boost
The Keeley Katana boost is a stock pedal, one of Khalil's favorite boosts. Given the position of the pedal in the signal chain, the Katana acts as a gain boost for dirt pedals further down the chain. He rarely ever uses boost pedals on stage, but it's a useful tool for him to have on his board if needed.
Signal Chain - Back To The Main Board
After the signal travels through the down-stage board, it comes back to the main board into the EHX Pitchfork. We grabbed one of these once they were released because it packs a bunch of features in a small package and sounds amazing! Since Khalil has some new songs he wants to perform that were recorded with a baritone guitar, we're going to be using this little guy to emulate that sound with it's pitch shifting features. We've tried Boss and Digitech pitch shifters in the past but decided that this was the best for it's size. The octave mode also works wonders with the next pedal.
Bearfoot Pink Purple Fuzz
Khalil and I have been on a search for a fuzz pedal that works well with his playing style for the longest time. We've tried numerous fuzz faces, silicon fuzzes, germanium fuzzes and are temporarily settling on this one. The octave feature on the Pitchfork really emulates the sound of an octafuzz very well. We've considered octafuzzes in the past before but since most of them are very sensitive to what comes before them, we've decided against those for now. On top of that, the combination of the Pitchfork with this fuzz eliminates all that trouble as the Bearfoot is buffer-friendly.
Next up is an overdrive we built custom for Khalil. It's based on a tubescreamer but with separate gain modes, controllable via the 'UMPH' toggle, and a larger sweep on the tone control. This is interchanged with another overdrive pedal we built custom for Khalil, based on a Marshall Bluesbreaker, for a 'clean but dirty' sound.
G-Lab Dual Reverb
Although the reverb is next in order on the pedalboard, it actually sits in the effects loop of the Ethos Overdrive Amp. This reverb is quite amazing in how it allows one to have two presets of dwell and level. This allows quick changes for different reverb settings, depending on the song. Despite this pedal having digital components, the reverb sound is very analog-like; the convenience it offers makes it a front runner for reverbs on Khalil's board.
Main Board - Amp Section
Custom Mute Box
This little guy is invaluable during live shows. It's not exactly a 'mute' box but it can be. When it's in 'Live' (green) mode, it is purely a 'through' box, with the signal entering on the right side and leaving through the main output untouched. In 'Test' (red) mode, the signal exits through the secondary output at full volume (usually into an earphone amp for testing, but not plugged into anything at the moment), but also exits through to the main output as well, through a volume control situated on the side of the pedal. This allows me to turn down the volume (or mute it with the volume knob all the way down) without making adjustments on the Ethos. This is great for testing out sounds before soundcheck, where stage volume is undesired.
Ethos Overdrive Amp
The Ethos could be called the 'heart' of the board. This is the convenient solution to the problem of relying on rental amps, especially in China. Before we got our hands on one of these, we would rely on rental amps which varied vastly in selection and quality. We've had situations in the past where we requested a Fender Twin Reverb, with the expectation of a clean sound that would work well with pedals and that's widely available. Unfortunately, to our amazement, we've had Twin Reverbs on stage for us that clipped the signal, or faulty jacks, and all sorts of other problems that should not occur on rental gear. In frustration, we sought for a solution and found the Ethos Overdrive Amp to be a perfect candidate. It gives us consistently great tone every show. It's based on a Dumble Overdrive Special, and delivers great tones in a compact package. Despite the lack of tubes, the pedal still has characteristics of amps that do have tubes and sound just as organic. The two separate channels also allow settings to be changed on the inactive channel, in preparation for the next song without affecting the active channel's tone.
Radial JDX + Speaker I/O
The JDX was a more recent addition of Khalil's amp section. On live shows, we usually use a straightforward set up of a Shure SM57 'mic'ing a Marshall 1590B. But like a lot of rental gear, we've had experiences with faulty mics, and stage crews knocking mic stands over or bumping into the cab when the stage was dark. To further eliminate variables, we brought on the Radial JDX which sits in between the Ethos and a cab, and allows us to have a DI signal emulating the sound of an SM57 micing a cab. Despite having this amazing tool that delivers consistent tone for every show, we do still mic a Marshall 1590B cab with an SM57. However, the JDX allows us to use the real SM57 to 'mic' the cab in non-standard positions. The two different sounds can then be blended together, to create a fuller sound. The 'Speaker I/O' is just a passive through box with the signal from the JDX, to the speaker cab. It's purpose is purely just for reorientation and accessibility for the speaker cable.
Our cab of choice for most shows is a Marshall 1590B, for its availability and consistency. We use rental cabs almost every show outside of Hong Kong as it's not economical to bring our own cab. Since this is usually the lesser used between the A and B versions of the cab, we have a lower chance of receiving a faulty cab from the rental company. Nonetheless, we have had faulty cabs as well in the past, which is when the Radial JDX really comes to the rescue.
On this board, we have a fair number of pedals and tools with varying power requirements. All of the effects run off 9VDC, the Ethos 24VDC, and the JDX 15VDC. So we needed a high quality power supply that could handle all these different voltage and current requirements. That's where the Cioks DC10 comes into play. With a combination of special cables, we could power up the Ethos and the JDX using three of the power outputs, and the rest of the effects pedals can share the remaining 9VDC outputs with plenty of current to spare. It's important to have all the pedals' current draws measured before planning out which outlets will power which pedals because we're going to be pushing the capabilities of this power supply. And since the setup with the DC10 is a little more complex than normal, it really helps to have everything labelled, especially during troubleshooting on live stages. We also have a spare power cable with 9VDC hooked up and hidden away in the event that we do add a pedal or two to the board in the future.
All In All
The main objective of this board is to have a simple and quick set up time, and it will certainly cut down the set up time by over half of the tour rig. Since this is a board that is mainly used to music festivals and other smaller shows, the set up is bound to change to Khalil's varying needs in the future. This current board, though, allows us to get a large range of tones for the space it occupies.
Hope you enjoyed the long read! Feel free to contact us if you have any questions!