Grey and Black Mixing Board for Studio Recording

Simple Tips to Get Your Mixing Off to A Quick Start

You’ve completed your recordings and now it’s time to put them all together. If you ask any experienced mixing engineer, they will tell you that they have a system they use every time they want to mix a project.

A system?

Yes a system helps you get started on every mix quickly. If you are just attempting to mix for the first time, you are likely going to be overwhelmed with the different tracks you need to work on. In many cases, you find inexperienced engineers touching one track and then touching another and another and another. Basically trying to do everything at once.

I am here to share with you a few simple tips that can get your mixing process off to a quick start every time. With these tips, you won’t be overwhelmed when you get ready to start a fresh mix because you will know exactly what you want to do in stages.

Organize Your Work Area

This is very important when you get ready to mix. Ideally, this should have started even from the recording stage. However, even if you did not handle the recording and the data you have was not very organized, start by organizing the space.

What exactly does this mean?

Let’s assume you have 4 vocal tracks, 5 drum tracks, a bass guitar track, 2 guitar tracks, an acoustic guitar track and a keyboard or piano track. This is about 14 different tracks. Yeah I know this is pretty scanty for many. However, whether you have 48 tracks or 10 tracks, the principle is the same and will work perfectly in any case.

Look at your drum tracks. You do not want your snare drum to be on track 1 and your kick on track 10 with the bass on track 2 and first vocal on track 3, piano on track 4, toms on track 5 etc. I am sure you get the picture now. Keep everything nicely organized.

You have 5 drum tracks, arrange them sequentially for easy management. You could take up tracks 6 to 10 for your drums, 1 to 4 for your vocals, 5 for your keyboard or piano and so on and so forth. Notice that similar instruments are kept close together so you can quickly access them.

Group Your Tracks

Okay, you’ve organized your tracks.

Next, organize the output of the tracks. Create a number of group tracks.

Let me tell you how I handle mine.

In all my mixes I always create two basic groups – vocals and instruments.

Depending on the kind of recording I did, I may have other groups that feed into the two group tracks listed above. I do a lot of group recordings with between 6 and more singers. Let me use this as an example.


In a case where I recorded a group with about 6 singers, I first created 3 group tracks (group track labels in italics) which I label soprano, alto and tenor which is how most of these groups are split. The outputs for the soprano tracks were set to the soprano group track. Same for the alto and tenor tracks.

Since most songs have lead singer(s), I also create a group that I name lead vocals and another that I name BGVs (background vocals). I then create a sixth group which I name vocals.

The outputs of the soprano, alto and tenor group tracks are sent to the group track I named BGVs while the output for the lead vocals and BGVs group tracks are set to the sixth group which I named vocals.

Though this may sound a bit confusing, it actually makes things very easy during the mixing process.

  • 2 sopranos -> soprano
  • 2 altos -> alto
  • 2 tenors -> tenor
  • soprano, alto, tenor -> BGVs
  • all lead vocals -> lead vocals
  • BGVs + lead vocals -> vocals


Like I did with the vocals, I look at my instruments and group them based on similarities. For example, I create a group track I call percussions. The output for the drums and any other percussive instrument I may have recorded are sent here.

I do same for guitars especially if I recorded a number of guitar tracks like in the example I gave above. I set the output of the percussion group track to the instrument group track. I do same for my guitar group track, too.

For other instruments that I may not be able to group, I just set all their outputs to the instruments group track. Now let me explain what this does.

If I decide that I want to hear only the instruments, I do not need to begin to mute all the vocals individually, I simply mute the vocal group track and all the vocals are muted regardless of how many they are. If I want to hear just the vocals, I just mute the instrument group track and I can listen to just the voices.

  • all percussion -> percussion
  • all guitars -> guitar
  • all other instruments -> instrument
  • guitar + percussion -> instrument

Overall Mix and Individual Tracks

I can focus on just the percussion and balance everything within that group. I ensure the volume relationship between the kick, snare, hihats, cymbals and toms are okay. While playing the entire music, if I feel the drums are too loud, I can simply reduce the volume of the entire drums from the percussion group.

For me, this makes it perfectly easy to control individual components of my mix with ease. You actually get to really appreciate the ease this affords you when you are mixing a project with a lot of tracks.

This does not mean I do not work on the individual tracks again. I still work on each track. I handle my spatial settings on the track level, I do some EQing, volume automation, compression and a few other edits on the track level.

However like the example I gave with the drums, when I have worked on each of the drum components on the track level until the entire drum section sounds good to me, I now only approach the drums as a group.


So when I sit to mix, I organize my workstation and then I create my groups. After the groups are created, I pick a group and begin to work on its constituent components. I have simply broken the entire project into smaller, more manageable groups so it does not look as intimidating as trying to take on the entire project as a whole.

Every engineer develops his or her style which affects his or her effectiveness and sound. I have just shared a few of mine with you. I do hope you can pick up some points from here to help you create a system that will make you more efficient.

You are also welcome to adopt this system that has served me well for many years.

Check out DAW Techniques: Signal Routing, Sends, and Busses to learn more.



Chimerenka is a musician and writer with over 30 years of active music experience. He has performed actively as a bass guitarist, music director, trainer and producer. He currently doubles as a producer and music consultant, operating from his private studio in Lagos, Nigeria.


Psychological benefits of playing an instrument

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words
and that which cannot remain silent”

Victor Hugo

Can you determine one common thing between the simple clap and today’s DJs? These two may seem very distant, but in fact, they have the same basis – the rhythm, which is one of the essential music elements. Through the entire history, people enjoyed music, just like we do today.

Our antecessors used to shout and dance around the fire. Although we don’t do that anymore, we do go to concerts and play different instruments. Unlike our antecessors, today we have sophisticated instruments that we can use to produce complex sounds. You can consider these as different ways of expressing the same thing – the urge to experience and create music.

Where this urge comes from? Why do we need music so much?

One of the main reasons can be the fact that we have a lot of psychological benefits when we play music. Some of them you can spot without much effort but others you can’t; either way, all of these have positive effects.

Intellectual benefits

Brain Training

Just by intuition, you can probably sense this one. In order to play an instrument, you have to train not just our hands, but your brain as well. A lot of processes occur in your brain when you play an instrument. You have to separate your hands, to control your fingers, to play a specific note at a specific moment… and all of that at the same time! Not an easy job, right?

Scientific Proof

So, practicing your scales and technique won’t beneficial just to your playing abilities, but also to your brain. Having all of this in mind, it probably won’t surprise you that scientists have found out that playing an instrument activates the entire brain. Not only that, but it will also strengthen the connection between the left and the right brain hemisphere. Scientists believe that this connection can improve different executive functions (planning, predicting the consequences of a particular action, etc.).

It can also benefit your cognition in general, but also the creativity and divergent thinking.

Better Concentration

I myself have found that now I can concentrate better than I could before I started playing my guitar. Also, I often come up with great ideas that are not necessarily related to music (sometimes I even surprise myself!).

Positive influence on the mood

Not just that playing an instrument will improve your cognitive functions, but it can also affect your mood. In my experience, when I have a bad day, nothing can calm me down as playing my guitar. I just sit and play for a while. It helps me to forget my problems and worries. Also, after this “therapy session”, I feel much better and relaxed.

Music Improves Mood

Of course, I’m not the only one with this conclusion. Psychologists investigated this relationship between playing an instrument and emotional state. Their findings will encourage you! Playing an instrument can lower the level of depression, help you cope with the anxiety, and boost positive mood.

When I tell this to people, some of them have doubts. They say: “How can you know the direction of this relationship? What if happy people choose to play an instrument more often? ” This question does make sense. However, you shouldn’t worry. Psychologists thought of this, and they arranged these experiments properly so they could determine the direction of this correlation. The conclusion: Playing an instrument can positively affect your mood.

Flow experience

Have you ever been so involved in your playing that you forget things such as time, your problems, and even to eat? If you have, then you know what flow experience means. Flow experience shares a lot of similarities with meditation. However, in meditation, you focus on breathing. In this case, you are focused on playing.

Music and Flow

If you have experienced this, I believe we can agree that flow can ensure us a lot of benefits. After the flow experience, we feel relaxed and fulfilled. Like in the previous case, psychologists have discovered that people who experience the flow regularly tend to be happier than the ones who don’t.

Playing an instrument represents probably one of the best ways to ensure flow experience. Trained musicians don’t have to think about the actual process of playing; they can just relax, improvise, and have a great time.

I can confirm this based on my personal experience. Sometimes I play for hours, without even realizing it. I could describe this state as “no self-awareness”. Of course, without self-awareness, you can’t be aware of anything!

Flow experience can help you calm your mind, relax your body, and at the same time, practice your guitar skills.

So, keep on practicing; in no time, you will play your instrument without even thinking about it.

Say the inexpressible

Sometimes when you feel bad or stressed-out, and it seems like you can’t find the words to express your emotional state, take your instrument and start playing. Play anything, whatever comes to your mind. You don’t have to play a particular song, just improvise.

Soon, this process absorbs you. The stress, the worries, and the negative emotions – it will all go away. Even though you can’t verbalize these emotions, you can express them, and thus, get rid of them. Just like when you talk to your best friend; only, in this case, you don’t need words.


I believe that anyone who plays an instrument already knows all of this intuitively. It simply feels good to play. Nothing can compete with that feeling when you play a great solo or when you come up with an interesting riff. Creating music really is one of the best things in the world, so you should start playing as soon as possible; or, if you already have your instrument, keep on practicing.

By playing music, you will ensure a whole list of positive psychological effects. It’s a win-win situation – you do what you love, you feel great about it, and it is good for you.

Aleksandar Mratinkovic is a psychologist and musician. He has been engaged in different fields of psychology (Clinical, Developmental, Educational, and Industrial psychology) and has published several scientific papers. Currently, he interns at the Institute for Psychophysiological Disorders and Speech Pathology in Belgrade.

He plays guitar, bass, and drums. Besides playing, he also has an interest in composing, writing about music, and teaching.

Those Loud Volumes May Be Hurting Your Hearing

Musicians and music lovers have been known to enjoy really loud volumes. From concert halls, to clubs and even to the studios where the music is created. Many are exposed to very loud volumes without knowing that they could be hurting their ears.

Let’s look at a few statistics. In the U.S alone, about 40 million persons suffer from hearing loss. Of this number, a quarter of them (10 million) were caused by noise related issues. This is called Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).

Noise Induced Hearing Loss can be caused by a one-time loud noise or a continued exposure to loud noise. If you are a musician who has been exposing his or her ear to loud volumes, you need to begin to pay close attention.

The Concert Hall

No one loves concerts that don’t rock! The energy of the thumping bass excites the crowd and performers alike. Ask any live sound engineer and you will learn that musicians can be a pain when they are not okay with their volume levels.

With everyone pushing volumes, the volume just hits the roof which excites the crowd. But wait! Have you ever looked at the back of those huge speakers (and amps)?


Image from Heidi Music

The warning you see on the back of the ’64 Custom is behind many professional speakers and amps. Of course many do not see it and even those who see it seem not to pay too much attention to it.

When you leave a concert hall where the music was really thumping, if you feel a ringing in your ear or if speech sounds a bit muffled, then you likely have what is called temporary hearing loss which reverts after a while.

However, continued exposure to these loud volumes can cause permanent hearing loss. Here’s what I try to do when I go for concerts. I stay far from the FOH (front of house) speakers and I go with ear plugs. My hearing is too important to me and my work.

Using Headphones

It’s now a common sight to see people with headphones of all sorts everywhere. Many enjoy turning up the volume so the music pounds in their heads. If you use a smartphone, have you ever noticed that when you increase the volume, at some point you get a warning regarding the harm it can cause to your hearing?

Once again, a lot of people see this but do not pay attention to it. If someone close to you can hear the music you are listening to on your headphone, then it is too loud. Continued exposure to loud volumes on earphones is a sure way of damaging your hearing.

Volumes In the Music Studio

Mix Well

A music studio is a professional setting where it is assumed that everything is done professionally. When I am mixing, I turn down the volume really low and listen for a while, I then turn up the volume pretty high and also listen for a short while.

My aim is to hear how the mix sounds at various levels. Some frequencies and sounds may get lost at some volumes or get too pronounced at others. I listen and make necessary adjustments. I also listen on my reference headphones for a short while.

Limit Loud Playbacks

The point here is that I expose my ears to loud sounds ONLY very briefly. I am usually shocked when I go to a studio and the music is consistently blaring. I just know the engineer has no idea what is happening to his or her ear.

Though continued exposure to loud sounds can lead to hearing loss, in most cases it does not happen suddenly so many are not immediately aware of it. Yes, sudden exposure to extremely loud sounds can lead to immediate hearing loss but those are not common cases.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

The more common thing is for hearing loss to occur gradually. If you are a musician or a sound engineer, this is a terrible thing. Here’s something that many musicians are not aware of.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss begins with the high frequencies. As you continue to pound your ears with loud volumes, the high frequencies begin to disappear from your hearing spectrum. You will hear the low frequencies, but not the very high ones.

As you continue, the hearing loss moves lower. Can you imagine a musician or sound engineer who cannot hear frequencies above 10Khz? Let me explain what this means.

You will not hear your cymbals. You will not hear those high frequency instruments. Your ear will filter out high frequencies in vocals, making them sound bland.

Actually, every sound you hear will be bland because since sound is made of several frequencies, you will only hear the low ones. I will sure love to hear what the mix from such a sound engineer will sound like.


It’s one thing to point out errors but a more important thing to show better ways of doing something. Regard everything up to this point as a preamble that has led to this point.

The aim of this article is to help musicians understand the risk of loud volumes and what they can do to manage it.

Live Performances

I have already shared what I do when I attend a concerts. That was from the audience perspective.  Here’s some tips for performing live:

  1. When I am on stage performing, I try to keep volumes down. This can be pretty difficult when you’re not in charge.
  2. Using musicians’ ear plugs can help cut down the volume that gets to your ears without cutting off the sound too much so you can still jam with the band.  (see the ear protection section below)
  3. You should also learn to rest your ears as much as possible between performances. This will give the ear time to recover.
  4. Get your band members to understand the danger of loud volumes. If they do get it, managing volumes on stage will become much easier.

Use of Earphones

One of the things we mentioned regarding the use of headphones is that if the person beside you can hear what you’re listening to, then it is too loud. This may not always be very helpful because the person beside you may not tell you they can hear what you’re listening to.

Safe Range

To stay within safe listening range, try to enjoy listening to music on your headphones at not more than 50 to 60% of the volume. Below is a safe listening guide for iPod users:

  • If you listen to your iPod at 70% volume, the safe listening time is 4.6 hours per day.
  • At 80% of the volume, the safe listening time is 90 minutes per day.
  • At 95% of the volume, the safe listening time is 5 minutes.
  • If you’re going to listen for many hours, then do so at about 50% of the volume as already recommended.

Rule of Thumb for Earphone Use

When I use an earpiece, I try to ensure I can still hear conversations around me even while listening to the music. This tells me my volume level is very safe.

As a rule however, I do not spend too much time listening on headphones.

The Music Studio

Studio Monitor Levels

When setting your reference monitor volumes, ensure it is at a level where you can still talk normally even with the music playing. If you have to shout over the music to be heard, then it is too loud.

Like I noted earlier, you may want to listen to a music at a higher volume for referencing purposes. This should not be for long periods of time.

Reduce the time you spend listening on headphones

When you do listen on headphones, keep the volume low.

If you are using the headphone as a monitor while recording (as a singer or as an instrumentalist), learn to listen at safe levels. 50 to 60% of the volume should be okay unless of course the volume from the mixer is already too loud or too low in which case you should adjust appropriately on your monitor control.

Rest and Refresh

We know it is a music studio. This does not however mean that something has to be playing from your speakers all the time. Learn to rest your ears. This is good both for your ears and for your mix.

Peter Townshend, lead guitarist, main song writer and also backing vocalist for the rock band ‘The Who’ who has been on stage for over 50 years and is now over 70 suffered a permanent damage to his hearing and now advices young musicians to take care of their hearing. According to him, he now takes 36 hour breaks between recording sessions.

Ear Protection

Musicians’ Ear Plugs

For playing/listening in louder live environments, consider buying earplugs specially designed for musicians.  These earplugs provide some good decibel reduction and also provide an more even response rate across the sonic spectrum.  In other words, you’ll still hear everything (maybe even better), while protecting your ears.

Custom Earplugs

An even better option: custom earplugs.  Go to an audiologist, get a hearing test and some custom molds for your ears.  Then wait a few weeks for the custom plugs to arrive in the mail!

Isolation Headphones

You can also get Isolation Headphones for Hearing Protection (these are different from noise-canceling headphones). They may not look as cool as in-ears but they’re great for practicing, setting up gear and as back-up ear protection.  There are also some closed-back studio headphone with decibel reduction, but are more pricey.

Decibel Meter

Furthermore, consider installing an app on your phone that measures decibel levels.  Or you can buy a Digital Sound Level Meter.  I occasionally set one up on the bandstand to monitor sound levels and then will adjust my ear protection accordingly.


One thing everyone should know is that once you begin to make yourself listen to music at low volumes, you will begin to enjoy music at that volume. After a while, you won’t be able to stand those loud volumes you so loved and did not think you could do without.

Start today and save your hearing so you can enjoy music for the long haul.

Chimerenka is a musician and writer with over 30 years of active music experience. He has performed actively as a bass guitarist, music director, trainer and producer. He currently doubles as a producer and music consultant, operating from his private studio in Lagos, Nigeria.


The Ego Compressor by Wampler

Another Great Wampler Pedal

I own two compression pedals. The Ego Compressor by Wampler and the Black Finger by Electro-Harmonix (check out JTPedals article about best tube compressors).

Both effects pedals earn their keep. I currently use the Wampler because the Black Finger started getting noisy. Why? Probably the tubes got bumped around over the years in transit. I liked the Black Finger and the tube sound, but it took up a lot of space, started buzzing a lot and needed repairs a couple of times. The custom power source kept on falling out.

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Should you get a Compressor Pedal?

A compressor pedal isn’t necessary. But it adds sustain and can help the guitar maintain a steadier, clearer position in the mix.

After the standard pedal pack (overdrive, tuner, delay), compression may come in handy. Depending on your amp, you can get some compression from a tube amp. If you play a lot of rhythm guitar, a compressor will clean up your signal sound. If you like to add a bit more sustain on leads, compression can be a good option, too.

Lead Playing

During solos, the Wampler increases the sustain in loud settings. And I’ll occasionally use the box to boost the volume, which usually results in a nice, fat tone.

Rhythm Guitar

If I’m playing rhythm parts, the Wampler adds sparkle to the guitar part. Does a good compressor add sparkle and spank? Yes, in moderation, I can hear the difference. It seems to help clean up the signal, though I allow most of the dynamics to pass unencumbered.

I avoid using the compression all the time because sometimes I’ll find myself fighting the pedal when pushing the volume levels within a phrase.

Ego Compressor and Mini Ego Compressor

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The Ego Compressor and Mini Ego Compressor both contribute to high-quality electric guitar tone and playing. Of course, like most gear, your skills and playing remain the key factor.

The blue case looks great. Wampler constructs sturdy pedals. The knobs feel solid and react well. Your options? Sustain, volume, blend, attack, and tone.

The Mini Ego Compressor employs Volume, Blend, and Sustain knobs. Instead of knobs, it uses switches for Tone and Attack. It sounds great, as well.

If you have the money to invest in your component pedal board, I believe the Wampler Ego Compressor will be money well spent.

Other Compression Pedals

Other options (in a similar price range) for compression: TC Electronic, Exotic FX Compressor, the MXR. Another possibility would be to utilize a multi-effects. Many have compressors.

My favorite multi-effects (that I don’t own): the Eventide H9 and the TC Electronic G-System. After individual reverb, delay, boost, tuner, and compression pedals, I probably would have saved money and time with the G9.

Check out our post on multi-effects.

The Eventide sounds great, too. Line 6 just came out with a multi-effects that cost $1500 – the Helix. It’s tempting, but I’ve never gotten Line 6 that much. I would definitely like to check it out at Guitar Center sometime. Guitar Center? Always a dangerous proposition haha.

Electric Guitar Tone Guide

Getting great tone will always be an important part of any musician’s musical experience.  If you’re an electric guitarist, you’re probably looking for ways to improve, create and maintain consistently great guitar tone. I know I am.

I have found through trial and error and/or by advice that these will help improve my guitar’s tone.

I hope it gives you some ideas.  I’ll hopefully be adding more when I get the chance. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to suggest.

Here’s my current list of ideas for solidbody electric guitar tone that I try to follow.


The fingers and the person are really the most important thing – check out 11 ideas for improving musicality

  • A great player will know how to make “cheap” gear sound great
  • If you don’t think you’re sounding good, don’t be mad at yourself, just try and take a step back and figure out why and what you can to produce “sweeter sound.” Also, consider practicing positive self-talk.

Take of yourself so you can play well for many years

Remember YOU create the good tone

  • Good gear (pedals, guitar, cables, picks) helps
  • Focus on playing well and sending out good vibes
  • Try to get the gear to be “transparent”, so you’re playing the music as opposed to doing workarounds to get gear to “play right”

I try to remember to send out good vibes and feel good vibes when I’m playing



  • Make sure they work
  • Bring backup cables
  • Better quality cables do make a difference, but usually not the biggest factor
  • Shorter cables usually are better because there’s less room for signal decay


  • Amp in good shape
  • I try to get my amps serviced once a year.

Power Strip


Make sure the amp is working well

  • No buzzing before anything plugged in
  • I usually get an amp check up once a year.  Unfortunately, I don’t know how to do this myself.


  • I recommend tube amps for most uses. I think they sound warmer and fuller.
  • Let the tubes warm up for 10+ minutes before playing


  • All knobs set to approximate locations
  • Amp EQ isn’t too exaggerated but set to improve tone.  I use pedals to hone in the EQ.
  • I usually keep everything around 12 o’clock, then boost the presence. It really depends on what you’re going for.



  • Using a tuner, in many cases, will help because it’s hard to tune quick enough by ear between songs.


  • In good shape for intonation and tone
    • Quick lock tuners definitely help me to change strings quicker, which means I’m more likely to change the strings
  • Preferably thicker gauge for thicker sound – I usually use 12s and try to use 13s for jazz or really anything if possible, but I haven’t found the right set of 13s for “rock” stuff.  I’m looking for a set with heavy E, B and G string but relatively light D, A, E strings.


  • I usually clean the neck with orange, cinnamon and clove essential oils.
  • I wipe down the guitar when I get the chance
  • It’s good to wipe the strings after playing, though I usually forget

Guitar Intonation

  • It would be advisable to do intonation before every gig, but I usually just check general intonation once in a while
  • Probably would help to have a good quality case to prevent the neck from getting warped
  • Make sure the neck is intonated correctly
  • I use a strobe tuner to get good accuracy when intonating

Electrical Stuff

  • Usually, I’ll resolder the connections to the 1/4″ cable jack once I start hearing crackling.
  • 1/4″ connector well fastened to its nut and bolt harness
  • Pots cleaned or rotated to remove crackle
  • I also used copper tape to cover the interior of pickup cavity of the guitar. It seems like it reduces the buzz/hum


  • Enough backup picks, so I’m never without a pick
  • Picks have a clean edge (sometimes my picks get scratchy from playing) – if they don’t then I’ll get another pick, or file down the edge with sandpaper


  • I think good quality pickups help
  • This is a personal preference, but I prefer humbucker or double coil
  • Make sure the pickups are shielded correctly (I need to do this) to minimize buzz. You can get copper tape to shield your pickups.
  • Make sure the pickup treble and bass sides of each pickup sit at the proper height. This will help balance between highs and lows.
  • Possibly adjust the individual magnets?


  • Make sure your guitar is well-protected when in transport. This will help produce a more consistent tone day-to-day


I’m not a pedal expert, but I generally go by ear and other’s reviews/opinions

  • Finding the best overdrive – I usually use some of the overdrive from the HotRod Deluxe and then use another overdrive pedal. I just ordered the Tube Works Blues Pedal!
  • I use the Xotic EP Boost pedal, which gives a warmer mid-range
  • Good reverb and delay will help the tone, as well as compression.
  • I am actually between compression pedals because my Electro-Harmonix Black Finger developed serious hum, and the cable keeps falling out when I play. I’m planning to fix it (it sounds great otherwise), but may get a Wampler compression pedal, the Xotic mini or a TC Electronics pedal.
  • Sometimes getting an EQ pedal will help. I’ve used the MXR 10-band (they have a new silver version that looks cool, too).  It sounds good, but you do need to dial in the right sound.  I’m going for the classic tube sound, so sometimes this pedal may be at odds with that. Once I get the Tube Works pedal, I may reintroduce.
  • A filter that cuts out the hum/buzz between songs and during quiet passages.  I use the TC Electronic Sentry Noise Gate.
  • A good tuner.  I use a strobe tuner .  A lot people like the TC Electronics tuners, too.

My Favorites

  • Very important pedals for me (assuming amp has no “effects”): overdrive, tuner, reverb
  • Important pedals for me: delay, wah, eq, tone boost pedals
  • Also important: boost, compression, chorus, phaser, fuzz, distortion, octave,

Pedal Order

  • Set up the pedals in a good order


  • Use good quality connector cables
  • Find and consider replacing pedals with buzz
  • I like to make sure the pedals have a very clean “clean” or “dry” signal – the whole true bypass thing
  • Consider getting a brick or something that “cleans” the power.

Pedal Buying Strategies

  • Depending on the budget, it’s probably more important to have a few good pedals than lots of sort of good pedals
    • Consider buying some pedals used
    • Also, consider DIY


  • Get or make a good quality pedalboard
  • Make sure pedals are well protected when transporting – I put bubble wrap around my pedals, though I should probably just get a better case
  • You can put the pedals back in their individual cases or have some good shock absorption material
Fishman Platinum Pro EQ/DI Analog Preamp, front view

Fishman Platinum Pro EQ Acoustic Guitar Preamp Review

Looking for a heavy-hitting analog acoustic guitar preamp? The Fishman Platinum Pro EQ/DI Analog Preampdelivers reliable, sparkling sonics for acoustic guitarists and bassists.  Any acoustic musician dreaming of serious quality sound will appreciate the Platinum Pro EQ.

Using the Platinum Pro EQ/DI

Fishman Platinum Pro EQ/DI Analog Preamp, front view
I purchased the Platinum Pro from Amazon in early 2015. I use it in two setups.

One, to provide extra boost and EQ when playing on the street with a Roland Bass MicroCube.

Two, when playing indoors, I’ll run an XLR from the Platinum Pro EQ/DI to a self-powered speaker. I run the TC Electronic Hall of Fame reverb pedal through the effects loop.

You can also use the Platinum Pro as a DI to connect directly to the sound system.  Other musicians have been happy with the DI.  Though I don’t usually do this, I did run a musician friend’s upright bass through the Fishman. It sounded pretty good.

Features of the Fishman Platinum Pro

17-volt, high-headroom, discrete Class-A preamp
5-band tone control with brilliance, treble, mid-range sweep, bass and bass cut
EQ mode options EQ for bass, guitar or many other acoustic instruments
Phase control and notch filter for feedback control
One dial-knob adjustable compressor
Chromatic digital tuner
Volume boost foot switch with adjustable level control (up to+12 dB)
Balanced XLR D.I. with pre/post EQ setting and ground lift
1/4" input, output, effects loop input/output, XLR DI
6.2” L x 5.6” W x 2.2” H
(158 mm x 143 mm x 54 mm)
optional 9-volt battery powered
Fishman 910R power adapter - You need to buy this separately!

Pros and Cons of the Platinum Pro PreampThe Fishman Platinum Pro EQ/DI Analog Preamp - left side


  1. The overall sound of the pedal.  It helps produce clean sound.
  2. The boost pedal helps when switching from ryhthm to lead.  You can also adjust the boost level.
  3. A little bit of compression will usually help tighten up an acoustic guitar’s boominess. (Of course, combined with EQ)
  4. The compression does sound pretty good, too.
  5. I appreciate the effects loop and the DI/XLR output. It provides good versatility
  6. I haven’t really used the feedback reduction, but it could come in handy.  It may have a steeper learning curve.
  7. Can use a 9v, so it’s portable.
  8. Works for bass and guitar.


  1. Sometimes it can sound a little tinny.  You can figure out how to reduce the tinny-ness, but it can sound a little weird if it’s not adjusted correctly.
  2. The power cable is a little cheap feeling.  And, you have to buy in addition to the pedal.

The Fishman Platinum Pro EQ/DI Analog Preamp - right sideOverall

Overall, I think this is a very good pedal. Sure, there’s better preamps.  But they probably cost twice as much and may not be as versatile.




The Ambisonic Logo. Basically a 3D-level sound system

My Dream Pedal Board

The Unofficial February 2017 Dream Pedal Board!

The Ambisonic Logo. Basically a 3D-level sound systemAmbisonic Delay

  • Includes a 2D/3D expression pedal to create panning effects on the fly.
  • Multiple Echo patterns. Different filters for EQ, Reverb, etc.
  • Multiple input/output jacks. For example, front overhead, main overhead, left, right, back, left side, right side. Learn more about ambisonics at Wikipedia. Ambisonics is like Surround Sound.
  • A surround sound delay pedal (and reverb pedal) would be awesome.  Even just listening to delay and reverb in stereo with a couple good speakers really creates an amazing mood.

Old-school Tape Delay

  • I love the TC Electronics mini-delay and the Nova Delay pedals.
  • But, I always dreamed of an old-school, tape delay.

Ambisonic Reverb

  • Much like the ambisonic delay, perhaps they would be integrated.

Universal Pedal Control

  • A little “remote” control that you could put on your guitar so you could cue up lots of awesome effects on the fly
  • Similar to having the clutch and gas pedals to the steering wheel like in a Lamborghini

Rotating Pedal Decks

  • Many pedals would be a lot thinner and would be stacked on a rotating carousel.
  • For example, instead of having to replace pedals, you could have multiple overdrive pedals in one deck. Then, you’d just spin through the carousel to the box you wanted

Universal Power Adapter

  • The adapter would sense the voltage/amp requirements of the pedal and adjust on the fly.
  • The adapter would provide clean, high-quality, filtered current

Pure Gold Cables

  • Yup.

Optional Flying Carpet

  • The carpet would very safely fly you around, even while you played guitar.
  • The pedalboard could “link up” with the carpet
  • Very comfortable to sleep on.

Optional All-Wood Casings

  • Pedals and the pedalboard would be available in durable, non-flammable wood cases.
  • Wood looks beautiful.
  • Check out these beautiful wooden guitar pedals.

In Conclusion

Maybe the dreamboard will exist one day in the future.  The ambisonic style delay would be awesome.  Also, I’d love to see more wood-cased stompboxes.

Disclaimer: I love my current pedalboard. Of course, I’d like to add a couple more items and make some tweaks.

Check out some pedalboards available in the year 2017.






The famous TC Electronic Hall of Fame Effect Pedal.

TC Electronic Hall of Fame Reverb Pedal Review

The very wonderful and beautiful red and silver TC Electronic Hll of Fame Reverb Pedal

Want beautiful, lush reverb? Want to add an extra dimension to your playing and tone? Consider the TC Electronic Hall of Fame Reverb Pedal.

The Hall of Fame (HOF) reverb pedal will thicken your rhythm playing with extra ambient depth. Add extra decay and FX for extra sustain with solos and lead lines.

TC Electronics creates beautiful time-based effects (reverb and delay).  The Hall of Fame Verb, the Nova Delay and the Flashback Mini Delay deliver the goods.  I also tried out the T2 reverb pedal, which also sounded wonderful.  But the HOF reverb settings seemed to sound a little more natural when I tested it with an acoustic guitar.


Pros and Cons of TC's Hall of Fame Reverb

Beautiful toneSlightly pricey
Stereo and MonoIf you are considering getting a TC Electronics multi-effect unit, this pedal might be redundant.
10 different reverb profilesIf you want multiple, far-out reverb options (besides TonePrint) check out the T2 or maybe something by Electro-Harmonix. The HOF consists of more classic reverb styles.
Battery-powered optionIf you want a very classic spring-sounding reverb, you probably need real spring reverb. I just use the spring reverb on my amp.
The Tone know allows you to slightly EQ the reverb
True Bypass

Hall of Fame versus T2 versus HOF Mini

Basically, I recommend the HOF for most people.  If you want more experimental sounds, check out the T2. If you want a smaller, slightly more economical pedal, get the mini.

All three use the same AD/DA converters. Both the T2 (Trinity 2) and the Hall of Fame have the TonePrint option which allows you create your own reverb or use custom-made presets from TC.  The Mini doesn’t include space for a 9 Volt battery.


The presets on the Hall of Fame cover all the classic reverb sounds. TonePrint opens a whole world of ideas.  At some point I’d like to play around with an extra spacey, edgy Print. For people who want to push the tonal envelope, TonePrint holds promise.

The famous TC Electronic Hall of Fame Effect Pedal.

Johnny Hiland, HOF pedal,and the Neon Blues TonePrint

Tested Applications


I’ve been using the Hall of Fame on my board for about 3 years. I would recommend it to anyone who likes the TC Electronic sound.  Per the suggestion of a fellow musician, I keep the pedal on continuously for ambient warmth. (Room setting with 1/4 Decay, 2/5 FX, Tone set to warm). For solos and more dubbed-out sections of songs, I’ll either use Hall or Cathedral for a longer bigger delay.

Also, with certain live setups, I’ll try to get the reverb and delay on a second, stereo channel connected to a DI. It allows the sound person to mix both a mic’ed amp and a direct sound.

On occasion, I’ll set up two amps.  This sounds great! You can literally play anything with a stereo delay and reverb and just sit there and say wow.

Acoustic Guitar

A few years ago, I reworked my acoustic guitar setup for live shows.  Basically my old setup consisted of a Roland MicroCube Bass Amp.  The Roland works well and sports battery-power which allows you to play anywhere.

The new setup raised the ceiling on sonic possibilities.  I currently use a PA speaker connected to the Fishman Platinum Pro EQ/DI Analog Preamp with the reverb in the FX loop. The Fishman feature optional battery-power, an effects loop and an XLR output. It was the cheapest, high-quality solution for me because I already had a PA with self-powered speakers.

Mobile Mixer

Last summer, when busking with a viola player friend, we use a battery-powered mixer (by Behringer) connected to 2 Bass MicroCubes.  The TC Electronic reverb added extra depth to the sound.  We stopped using this setup because the viola sounds better going directly to the amp, even though the guitar sounded better with the mixer.

YouTube Demo

TC Electronic Hall Of Fame VS Boss RV-6 Reverb

Another Reverb Comparison

This video compares the Strymon, Neunaber, MXR, Boss,  and TC Electronic reverbs. Thanks to Ryan Lutton.


Best Bass Compressor Pedal Recommendations

Looking For The Best Bass Compressor Pedal?

No effect pedals single-stompboxedly shows more love to bass players than a compressor.  Compression pedals can change dullness into warm, punchy, sparkling sound.

Turbo-charge your bass rig with compression. You can better drive the band. Everyone gets richer, groovier music.

Please read below for five excellent choices.

Why Use a Compressor Pedal For Bass?

With the bass, not all of your notes may be felt or heard in the mix, especially in the lower frequencies.

  1. A compressor helps by smoothing out the dynamic range.  In other words, compression can boost the quieter notes  and dial-back the louder tones, giving a more consistent and level sound.  With mixing and mastering (and some live effects pedals/racks), artists and engineers use multi-band compression for even greater sonic possibilities.  Multiband allows you to change the compression parameters for different ranges of EQ. (Just so you know, many compression pedals sound great without explicit multiband compression)
  2. Using compression alters the attack, or punch, of the individual notes. Bass lines can project more rhythm and groove, and lock in tighter with the drummer and/or percussionist.
  3. When you boost the decaying tail of note (by compressing or squashing the signal), you create greater sustain. Plucked string instruments like the bass, the guitar, mandolin and the upright doublebass all of have quick decay.  On the other hand, bowed instruments and horns can hang on notes for a long time. Boosting the sustain allows you to increase the vocal-quality of certain melodic lines.
  4. Many compressors, especially with tubes, act like preamps and can warm up the tone of the instrument.

In summary, more consistent dynamic levels and warmth usually help the ear to enjoy a particular melodic line.  Combine that with extra attack at the beginning of notes, and your bass lines will be more easily heard and felt by fellow musicians and listeners.

Best Bass Compressor Pedal Comparision Chart

Electro-Harmonix Bass Preacher Bass Compressor/SustainerOur top choice!Read Review
MXR M87 Bass CompressorAnother excellent option.Read Review
TC Electronic SpectraComp Bass CompressorSuper simple and awesome choice.Read Review
Aguilar TLC Bass CompressionExcellent compression tone.Read Review
Markbass Compressore Tube Bass CompressorImpressive!Read Review

1. Electro-Harmonix Bass Preacher Bass Compressor/Sustainer

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I am always on the hunt for a great compressor pedal for my Fender Jazz. I love rounding out the bottom with great pedal tones. That’s why I was very excited when EH announced the Electro-Harmonix Bass Preacher Bass Compressor/Sustainer Pedal last year. Rack mount compression units are now a thing of the past thanks to this pedal. EH packed this little piece of gear with some good-quality.

After playing with it for an hour or so, I realized that it’s the best compression pedal at its price on the market. Bass players that are new to using compression should invest in this effects unit. It is small, so it is not too cumbersome. It also is easy to manipulate. There are only two knobs on it, volume and sustain.

I like pedals designed this way. They do away with fancy bells and whistles and just give you great tone. Companies that focus on designing gear that just does one thing very well instead of a bevy of different things moderately are my preference. This pedal can squash the sound, unlike any other compressor pedal I’ve heard at this price. You can also give your bass tone just a light attack if that’s what you want.

Like all other EH pedals, the Electro-Harmonix Bass Preacher Bass Compressor/Sustainer Pedal comes included with a 9V power adapter. The Bass Preacher packs a lot of power and tonal variance in a small and affordable package.

Click here to check it out on Amazon!

2. MXR M87 Bass Compressor

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Dunlop creates some of the best guitar and bass products in the world. They make great strings, cases, and effects pedals. I recently had the opportunity to run my Music Man through their MXR M87 Bass Compressor. I like to test compressors using this bass because it can be quite noisy. The latest compressor from the Dunlop has a lot to offer. Here is what I found when I tested it.

CHT – CHT is a proprietary technology from the company. The acronym stands for Constant Headroom Technology. The feature ensures that your signal will always be clean by never letting it top out.

Five knobs – There are five different knobs on the pedal designed to help the player sculpt their tone. Having these many parameters available to adjust is something that you only see in rack units. You can achieve the exact tone that you want using the release, attack, output, input, and ratio knobs. This is one of the most powerful compressors ever to be put into a pedal. The MXR M87 is one of the first five-knob compressors to be put into a pedal.

Led screen – The LED screen at the top of the pedal tells the player when it is nearing the threshold. I found this to be a very useful visual tool to help me get the exact kind of compression I needed. It helps you get the attack you need without making it clip.

This is a forward-thinking bass compression pedal. Many people have been asking for something like this for years. You can unlock the full dynamic range of your bass with the MXR M87 Bass Compressor.

Click here to check it out on Amazon!

3. TC Electronic SpectraComp Bass Compressor

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Compression is a great way to get your bass signal to be less noisy and help it sit in the mix. The problem is, not every bass player has the room in their rig to for a rack unit. That is why TC Electronic makes the TC Electronic SpectraComp Bass Compressor Bass Compression Effect Pedal. TC Electronic makes some of the best rack compression units. I wasn’t surprised when the pedal version was excellent as well.

For those that are a fan of the System 6000 Processor that TC Electronics makes, this is the compression pedal for you. It uses the same technology as that compressor. The response on this compressor has been painstakingly designed to be suited perfectly for the bass guitar.

Another favorite aspect of this pedal is how simple it is. There is only one knob on the pedal. This knob determines how much compression you want to use. Simplicity does limit how much you change it on the fly when playing live, but compression isn’t a pedal where that’s utilized much.

The company has included their TonePrint technology in the TC Electronic SpectraComp Bass Compressor Bass Compression Effect Pedal. TonePrint allows the owner to connect the pedal to their PC or Mac via USB. Once they have done that, they can edit different parameters of the compression until users get the exact attack and response that they desire. The coolest thing about this technology is that you can even download and save compression settings that were designed by some bass guitar masters.

Click here to check it out on Amazon!

4. Aguilar TLC Bass Compression

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Compression can be a necessary evil when playing bass live. The dynamic range of the instrument sometimes make soft notes too quiet, and louder notes may have too much volume.

This problem is why compression exists.

Unfortunately, not every bass player can afford to take a studio compression rack on the road with them. Aguilar, one of the most famous bass cabinet companies in the world, recently introduced the Aguilar TLC Bass Compression Effect Pedal. I had a blast playing through it. Here are a few of things that I found.


I’m an effects enthusiasts. My pedal board is crowded. The diminutive size of the TLC Bass Compression Pedal was a welcome feature. I found a way to fit in snugly in my pedal board without having to disrupt the gain structure of my signal path. Despite its size, it is still very durable.


This pedal has almost the same ability to modulate tone as a rack unit. There are four separate knobs. One for level, threshold, attack, and slope. Each one of them has a distinct effect on the signal when used. You can crunch down highs and boost lows with the Aguilar TLC Bass Compression Effect Pedal.

The Instrument In – The instrument in makes it possible for you to run from your amp to the pedal without using adapters. Not many compression pedals have an XLR in.

The pedal has a 1/4″ out. It is powered via 9V battery or 9V adapter. I found that the tone was cleaner when I used the power adapter.

Click here to check it out on Amazon!

5. Markbass Compressore Tube Bass Compressor

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The Markbass Compressore Tube Bass Compressor Pedal is an Italian made pedal that packs some useful and very thoughtful features. I recently used this compressor pedal and here are some of its features and benefits.

Impressive Sound

The first thing I noticed about this pedal is that it has almost no noise. I had to put it through its paces and see how it reacts, therefore, I set it to high compression setting and the noise coming from it was very low. This tube pedal adds a nice thickness to the mids and produces very smooth and clean sounds. I did not experience any loss of lows and my low-end tones sounded big and full. The upper-end tones sound kind of dark and the useful highs are not rolled off.

Under normal compression and use, the tone is clean and articulate, but it sounds muddy under heavy constant compression. I was able to also get a smooth and remarkable range in tone by trying out the different threshold and ratio settings that the Markbass Compressore has. This pedal features a full range of controls that are all very effective.

No Distortion

The Markbass Compressore handles instruments level signals thrown at it very well without distorting. Therefore, you can use it as a peak limiter. However, its signal dips and swells when you hit the pedal with a strong spike over the threshold. To avoid this, play with less extreme spikes or a higher threshold.

Tube Compression

Unlike in other tube compressors where the tube only serves as a gain stage, this pedal’s tube also performs compressions.

The Markbass Compressore Tube Bass Compressor Pedal is thoughtfully designed and produces great sound. I would recommend it to all guitarists.

Click here to check it out on Amazon!

What Are The Best Bass Multi Effects Pedals?

I typically like to play bass as clean as possible – maybe adding a touch of compression and that’s about it. But, there are times when adding some effects is good too! A bass multi effects pedal is a great option for this because it gives a lot of options for experimentation. Take a look below at our picks!

1. Boss ME-50B Bass Multi Effects

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After owning the Boss ME-50B Bass Multi Effects pedal for over a year, by far, my favorite thing about this pedal is that it can stand up to a lot of abuse. That’s rare for things that belong to me so I want to start out by saying that if you are a bassist who shares my problem with treating your things like the gas pedal on an Indie 500 car… you will love this model.

This feature is really cool. The Boss ME-50B Bass Multi Effect pedal lets me hold out a low note while I continue to play over it. This adds a whole new depth to your music and layering like this really sounds great live. It can be the difference in being “that band” and that band whose name they actually remember.

If this pedal is missing something… I couldn’t tell you what that is. With 23 knobs and 3 built-in foot switches, you can do a little bit of everything without the need for menu-surfing.

Whether you are a fellow stomper or just a fellow bassist looking for something to take your sound to the next level, the Boss ME-50B Bass Multi Effects pedal is a great choice that will stand up to your best critic… even if that critic is your own foot.


2. Boss GT-10B Bass Multi-Effects Pedal

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There is no way to adequately describe the awesomeness of the Boss GT-10B Bass Multi-Effects Pedal, so I will just call it great. I thought it was great because it wasn’t difficult to learn how to use it. I was a first-timer, and I wanted to grab something that wasn’t going to drive me completely crazy. This rig has a cool design as well as a display that I could easily read and understand. The construction of it is solid and sturdy, not flimsy like some of the other products I’ve seen out there. I needed equipment that I could abuse just a little bit.

I watched some other people operate it before I tried to operate it myself. Once I started with it, I found it very difficult to stop. The unit seemed to have an endless amount of effects, and they were all high-quality enough for me. It’s great for someone who likes to experiment with different sounds. It was killer as a plaything for me. I spent over an hour messing with it when I first got it. I actually have to force myself to quit tinkering with it at times.

The product has many positive aspects to it. One of them is its user-friendliness. Another plus is its abundant number of effects. I didn’t particularly like the price, but I thought the quality fell in line with it. One has to sometimes pay a little bit extra to get the right quality for a specific project.


3. Zoom B3 Bass Guitar Effects and Amp Simulator

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I am always a little hasty about trying new things. Being from the old school, this is especially true when it comes to my 8-string. However, I needed to fill in for a cover band’s bassist where a different tone would make or break the performance so I thought I would give the Zoom B3 Bass Guitar Effects and Amp Simulator a go. The first thing I noticed about the pedal was that it was really easy to navigate and that was important. This band was made up of friends of friends… and I am always a little anxious to get on stage with guys have been playing together for years – and I’m the new guy. So that easy navigating worked well with my nerves.

At home, I noticed that it was very responsive and versatile. Versatility was more important playing with a cover band than anything. I normally keep it simple when I play on stage – so the versatility of capturing the sound of an original band in a cover band is clearly something that must be considered when you are buying a pedal for that specific reason.

The tone held up great all through the show and I liked it so much that I have even began to work it into a few of my own shows. While I will always be the old school guy at the local bar, at this great price, sound and navigation… I just may be coming around to the 21st century.


4. DigiTech BP200 Bass Multi-Effects Processor with Expression Pedal

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As with most multi-function pedals, the DigiTech BP200 Bass Multi-Effects Processor with Expression Pedal comes with pretty standard features: tuning, rhythms, an often bewildering array of effects, presets, and parameters…

The difference with this pedal is that it is actually easy to use, like all DigiTech products I’ve used.

Where it differs a bit from other pedals is the addition of the so called Expression Pedal, which can be assigned to control three parameters to vary the effect as you play.

Those effects come in two models, cabinet and amp, so you can go from the studio to gig (where a more punchy sound is useful) without the need for another bit of kit.

The pedal feels rugged and durable, as it’s mainly made from metal, and the bright LCD panel is both large and readable. At first sight, the lack of knobs and buttons is a bit off-putting, especially if you’re more used to equalizers and arrays of knobs to control effects, but it’s refreshing.

In fact, the simple user interface, very well explained in the manual, actually makes the pedal easier to use.

Thanks to the clever electronics, with the AudioDNA DSP processor at the core, there’s also almost no hum, and less lag than you sometimes get from low-priced effects processors.

All in all, the DigiTech BP200 Bass Multi-Effects Processor with Expression Pedal is a great addition to any musician’s home studio or gig bag. And for the price, it offers the most comprehensive array of effects and rugged durability in its class.


5. VOX STOMPLAB2B Multi-Effects Modeling Pedal

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When it comes to signal chain effects, it can be all about the guitar players. Bass players also want cool sounds. The VOX STOMPLAB2B Multi-Effects Modeling Pedal for Bass Guitar provides just that to amateur and professional bassists. The Stomplab is the bass version of the popular guitar multi-effects unit.

I played with this floor unit for about 3 hours in my home studio. After that, I came to realize that the VOX STOMPLAB2B Multi-Effects Modeling Pedal for Bass Guitar is a great product for the beginning bass player that is new to effects. It gives a ton of options so that they can find something that they like and tailor it to their tastes.
The sounds on the 2B are categorized by musical genre. There are 11 different options including jazz, metal, and two different kinds of funk. Once you choose the category that you want, you can edit it from there using the digital interface. The sound can also be controlled via the expression pedal that is hardwired to the pedal. If you need a tuner, it has that too.

The digital interface makes it pretty easy to edit each sound and save it so it can be recalled live. There are 100 presets to get you started. Each preset has 61 different parameters that can be edited. It runs on an AC adapter or 4 AA batteries. I think it sounds a little better with the AC adapter. This is a lot of pedal for the low price this pedal comes at.