October 14th, 2022 | John Dines
After being invited to contribute to a recent thread on The Gear Page entitled “Pedalboards of the Pedal Makers”, we at Origin Effects realised that there is some interest in how those in the pedal business choose to build their own rigs. It makes sense – we’re all nerds that love gear, so we should have some good ideas about how to put it together. One such nerd is Origin Effects Product Manager, John Dines, whose recently completed spaceship of a pedalboard ticks a few boxes for the rig spotters out there: Wet/Dry/Wet, direct-to-PA, full MIDI control and, of course, a few Origin Effects pedals. While he might not be a famous rock star, there are certainly some very professional elements worth looking at on this build – it’s even got a clock! If in-depth pedalboard geek-outs are your thing, let John take the floor (see what we did there?)…
“Believe it or not, I’m not into complicated guitar sounds. I just like a good amp tone, compression and some delay and reverb. I also like bias tremolo, which I think is allowed because it’s technically part of the “amp sounds” category. As much as I’ve tried to ignore it, I also couldn’t resist a chorus. I try not to over-use it but no ‘80s-inspired rig would be complete without one, so I chose a TC Electronic 3rd Dimension because it fits under the board. “
“In a way, that’s what this is – an ‘80s-style rack rig but in pedalboard form. All the complexity is in the signal routing and presets, rather than in whacky sounds or experimentation. It’s all about having a finished, studio-ready sound that can be plugged straight into a recording interface or PA, as well as used live with loud cabs.”
“Three RevivalDRIVE Compact pedals serve as the “amp tones” on this board, which I’ll come back to later. First, I suppose I should justify the Wet/Dry/Wet signal path, as I’m sure it looks a bit self-indulgent. I love stereo guitar sounds but Wet/Dry/Wet makes more sense for the studio stuff I’m doing – either my own productions or remote sessions. With a normal stereo signal (stereo delay and reverb mixed with the dry guitar signal), you’re limited on what you can do after the recording. Trying to change panning or levels when mixing means you end up compromising the stereo image or going back to mono signals. With Wet/Dry/Wet, you have three outputs: a dry “amp tone” as well as the effect-only stereo outputs form the delay and reverb. This means you can pan the dry signal wherever you like, while keeping the width of the effects, just like running an aux send to outboard effects in a studio. You can also change the wet/dry balance when you’re mixing, just by changing the levels of the different tracks. You can see why ‘80s session players ended up with this configuration.
“There’s also an advantage to using a Wet/Dry/Wet rig live, compared to a traditional stereo setup. With stereo, you need two equally good cabs for the left and right channels. With Wet/Dry/Wet, you only need one good cab for the dry output. The wet signals are different enough from the dry that any cab will do or, in my case, a couple of full-range wedges – made possible by the way cabinet simulation is implemented on this board (see signal flow diagrams below).
“I’ll get into the specifics of how it’s all hooked up, but the loose concept is this: a volume pedal at the input (because I’m a Knopfler nut), then a Voodoo Lab Hex switcher that selects the tremolo and chorus, as well as selecting between two RevivalDRIVE Compacts and an RD Compact Hot Rod. They’ve got blank front panels from our prototypes but they are otherwise stock. Being complete analogue amp recreations, these are acting like three amp heads in a big rack, with a line out feeding a compressor before splitting into outputs for a power amp, cabinet simulation and the wet effects channels.
“The wet effects take their signal from my Two Notes C.A.B M’s line out. By sending a cabinet simulated signal to the wet effects, it’s like running the effects “in post” – after a mic’d cab sound. It also means I can use small, full-range monitors on stage for the Wet channels, rather than needing more cabs and power amps. This cab sim signal feeds a Wetter Box from TheGigRig, essential for running this kind of rig. Because my Strymon Timeline and Big Sky are set to Kill Dry, neither is outputting any dry signal. The Wetter Box lets them run in parallel, avoiding the issue of “no reverb until the first delay repeat”, which you’d get if they were connected in series. The Wetter Box also means I can change the reverb/delay balance. Setting the main knob to “mix” keeps the delay level constant while blending in the reverb signal, which is a very useful feature. The Wetter Box then mixes the outputs of the Strymon pedals into a pair of stereo outputs. These run to a Radial Shotgun Splitter and a Palmer Line Isolator, which gives me a pair of balanced outputs for the studio or PA, as well as a pair of unbalanced outputs for the stage, with all the ground isolation taken care of – no hum problems here!
“Going back to the C.A.B M, its multiple outputs also take care of the dry path. The balanced output runs a cabinet simulated dry signal for studio or PA use. At the moment, I’ve settled on a Victory Duchess 2×12 virtual cabinet from Two Notes, although I’ve got a few RedWirez IRs loaded in there too, including an EV-loaded cab for Knopfler tone-chasing. The Thru output from the C.A.B M routes a non-cabinet simulated output to a powered guitar cab for stage use. I have an Orange Pedal Baby 100 mounted in a custom open-back 2×12 from AF Custom Cabs, fitted with a pair of Celestion Red Backs. This gives me an all-analogue dry signal with the trouser disturbance of a real cab.
“Everything is controlled via MIDI, using the Morningstar MC8. This sends programme changes to the Strymon pedals, as well as control changes to toggle their bypass states. I don’t bother with presets in the Voodoo Lab Hex, just control changes to engage and disengage the loops, patching in the tremolo, chorus and the RevivalDRIVE Compacts and RD Compact Hot Rod. These are set up as “clean”, “crunch” and “heavy” channels – imagine having two Plexis and a modded Plexi in a rack, this is what I’m going for. The output from the Hex feeds an optical compressor, which I built before my time at Origin Effects, from scratch using a blank PCB from Orgone Machines (the bias tremolo – the other suspicious black pedal – has the same mysterious heritage). The compressor also has a 3-band EQ, which is switched remotely by the Hex and acts as a post-drive solo boost.
“I like to make “home screens” on the MC8, which have access to the three “amp channels”, a modulation sound and some delay and reverb presets appropriate to genre. These are handy when jamming or recording, and combinations of these “instant access” footswitches can be turned into presets for more serious usages.
“One handy item I’m particularly proud of is the patch box I made for the underside of the pedalboard, which changes the order of signal flow. With the switch in the down position, the signal flow is as I’ve described above. Flick it upwards, however, and the cab sim and wet effects swap places. In this position, the wet effects run in mono, before being split by the C.A.B M into cab sim and non-cab sim signals. In non-self-indulgent situations, this gives me a single “dry + effects” feed to my cab on stage and a separate, cabinet simulated “dry + effects” feed to the PA. Once I get round to making labels for everything, I think this switch will be called “Pay/Play”. There is also a jack input on this patch box. When in “Play” mode – Wet/Dry/Wet – it allows any signal to be patched into the wet effects path. It can be fed from an amp’s FX send, line out or even from an aux send on a mixer, allowing the Timeline and Big Sky to be used as outboard effects. And there’s enough clearance for an angled Neutrik jack.
“If you’ve stayed with me this far, you’re probably interested in the housekeeping stuff too. The board itself is a Temple Audio Duo 34, chosen for the nifty removable end panels where the connectors are mounted. All the board-mounted connectors are Neutrik, with Rean pancake jacks, Switchcraft 380s and Van Damme Pro Patch used for the patch leads (Klotz cable and Squareplug TRS jacks for the stereo stuff). Power is provided by Cioks DC10s with custom leads and Rean RCA connectors. There are external USB connectors for managing presets and firmware updates on the C.A.B M and MC8, and the whole board is driven by a high-headroom buffer from JPF Amps – this allows the Sonic Research Turbo Tuner to run off the Boss FV500H’s tuner output without signal loss.“
“But the one pedal that turns heads more than any other is the About Time clock from Kossek FX. A one-man operation who makes – amongst other things – MIDI interfaces for the Origin Effects RevivalDRIVE, Kossek FX’s coolest offering is this footswitch-controlled clock, stopwatch and countdown timer. Well, it’s rude to look at your watch on stage.”