To achieve great tones, you don't have to spend a fortune on pedals and other gear. If you aren't a gear snob, or if you don't mind buying used, you can find some good pedals that are more than adequate to give you what you need. Let's dive into how to build a respectable pedalboard affordably.
THE PEDALBOARD ITSELF
Go to a hardware store that carries plywood. Most of these places will have smaller pieces, or a service in which they will cut any size for you. For most folks, a 1ft x 2ft piece of 15/32 (1/2") plywood is more than big enough for a simple pedalboard. Then go get some ebony wood stain. After you do that, go to the cabinet hardware section, and get a pair of these drawer handles:
Don't forget about some velcro. Gotta hold those pedals down!
Now go home out in your front yard, and grab a walmart bag and a cheap rag (it can be an old t-shirt). Use the walmart bag as a make-shift glove, and coat the pedalboard with the ebony stain using your cheap rag. Make sure you have on old clothes, and don't let the stain get on your hands (it's hard to get off).
Once that's dry, get a drill (borrow one from a friend if you don't have one), and drill holes for your handles on each side of the pedalboard. The drill bit should just barely be larger than the screws that go into the handles. Use your handles laying sideways on the pedalboard for a drilling template if need be. Once your stain is dry and your handles have been attached, you have a cool little pedalboard. Total cost isn't more than about $20-$30.
Other options could include:
Some would argue that you HAVE to have a pedalboard power supply that has isolated outputs. While this is a nice option, it's not totally necessary. There are thousands of guitarists right now that are using the Truetone One Spot. Super affordable & Super reliable. For my main pedalboard, I use a Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2 Plus, but for my 2nd pedalboard, the One Spot has done a stellar job.
For years, I have been on the hunt for the ultimate overdrive. I keep buying all of these boutique OD's in hopes of finding something that can beat my Boss SD-1 Super OverDrive. Still hasn't happened yet. I know that everyone's tastes are different here, but the SD-1 is one of THE most popular overdrives on the planet! One of the reasons is because it sounds really great, and the other is because at $49, it's a steal.
There are actually some really solid affordable delay pedals out there if you know what to look for.
To me, a good delay should have the following:
Not all of the pedals on this list feature tap tempo, but they have the two most important things down:
Good Tone & Reliability
So with that said, let's jump right in:
A. The Boss DD-7. I had the DD-5 when I was playing a lot of live gigs in the late 90's and early 2000's. I loved that pedal. The DD-7 is an upgrade. Once Boss decided to return back to the external tap tempo jack of the DD-5 and abandon the goofy DD-6 one pedal thing, they were back in business with a decent delay pedal at a fair price.
B. The discontinued Boss DD-20. This is one of THE most recorded delays in modern history. It's versatile, sounds great, and it can be bought for a fair price used.
C. The butt-ugly Ibanez DE7. Ugly shell. Great delay tones!
D. The MXR Carbon Copy Delay. Gorgeous analog delay tones with some internal trimmers for more tonal options.
E. It's really hard to beat the TC Electronic Flashback Delay in terms of price vs. features. Rock solid performance and a stellar reputation puts this pedal in a definite spot on this list.
If you have the cash ($149 Street), the Boss RV-6 is a solid choice for a versatile and affordable verb pedal. If you have a built-in reverb on your guitar amp, you may not even need a reverb pedal. For a lot of stuff, a good old fashioned spring verb can be more than adequate. Some other affordable options would include the EH Holy Grail, the Danelectro Spring King, and the EarthQuaker Devices Dispatch Master.
I am convinced that the most affordable & greatest fill-in-the-gaps type pedal is the Zoom Ms-50g. Nothing can come close to the price/feature set of this pedal. It can do just about any effect you throw at it, and it does them all fairly well! This pedal is a total sleeper. If you know what you are doing with tone, and have a good ear, it's a killer economical choice. The only negative about this pedal is the user interface (and the manual is no help). At first there is a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it's actually very easy to navigate. This pedal features EQ's, Compressors, Modulation Effects of every type, Reverbs, Delays, Pitch shifters, Amp Simulators, etc.
I really love tremolo. I have a Fulltone Supa-Trem & a Seymour Duncan Shapeshifter. They are both really nice, but are a little pricey (unless you get them used). For an affordable tremolo, i'd have to say the BBE Tremor is the best option. The fact that it has two switchable speeds (you can control each speed separately) is really neat. It's built tough & it sounds really good.
The cheapest and most effective tuner would be a clip-on. It stays out of your signal path, and you can tune silently if need be. They are super cheap, and won't take up any extra pedalboard real estate. I personally own a Korg Pitchblack (not a clip-on), but it may not be worth it to you to throw down another $80 for a tuner in a pedal format. Good clip-on tuners are made by Planet Waves ($12), Korg ($12), and Fishman ($15).
Well hopefully we this article will have you on your way in building a super effective and affordable pedalboard!
"OOOOOOO look at me, I can save a scene where all of my knob locations are stored for the next time I power up the console!"
"Well isn't that precious, we've had that 'feature' built into analog consoles for the last 70 years."
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