What is a pedalboard?
Guitar pedalboards keep your assortment of guitar pedals, preamp pedals, multi FX and whatever other gadgets you might use in your instrument signal chain attached to a compact and portable panel. Most pedalboards are layered with strips of Velcro used to stick the stompboxes onto the frame. They are usually constructed of a light and sturdy aluminium alloy, so even if you bash the board about, your gear will remain intact as you placed it.
And there really isn’t much more to it! Some pedalboards made by the likes of Boss contain a power supply fixed in place, but most you’ll come across from Pedaltrain, Pedaldeck and Rockboard provide you with the simple framework, a strip of Velcro and cable ties.
Why are pedalboards useful?
Pedalboards are extremely convenient, regardless of your chosen instrument and whether you play at home, at shows or in a studio environment. By keeping all your pedals in one smaller footprint, you can pack them away and set them up more efficiently than if they were all separated.
They’re also useful for organising your pedals in formation, allowing you to group them by type as your electric signal runs along the effects chain. If there were any downside, it might be that it’s a bit more hassle if you like regularly experimenting with pedal placement in your chain. But in any other circumstance where you’re set on the order of your pedals, your setup will benefit greatly from a pedalboard.
How to build a pedalboard
Building your pedalboard can be quite the fun DIY project. First, you have to decide how to organise your sequence of effects pedals to create the sound you want. Next you need to attach the pedals to the board. This depends on how your chosen pedalboard takes on pedals. Usually it means a bit of cutting and sticking Velcro to the back of your pedals or tying them to the board with cable ties.
The last step is plugging all your pedals into a power supply, of which some pedalboards can house on the underside of the unit using brackets. If not, you can stick the PSU to the top just like the rest of your stompboxes – or keep it completely separate.
What are patch cables?
Patch cables are a fundamental piece of kit used to connect guitar pedals. If any of the circuit between your instrument and amp is incomplete, you won’t be hearing any amplified sound. A pedalboard helps keep patch cables firmly connected so there’s a reduced chance you accidentally pull out a cable. Raised pedalboard styles encourage you to connect pedals with patch cables running underneath the unit, keeping your setup neat and tidy.
What are pedal power supplies?
Guitar pedals require power to work. Power supplies deliver clean electricity to a number of pedals, depending on how many outputs the unit contains. Smaller PSUs provide four or five outputs, but for larger setups you might be looking at eight to 12.
Power supplies also have the added benefit of minimising humming noises caused by the mains or a lack of grounding. They also yield varying voltages and currents at which certain pedals run at optimally. Voodoo Lab, Strymon, Cioks and The GigRig are your go-to brands for tried and test power supplies.
It’s possible to integrate a power supply into a portable pedalboard setup to ensure your precious pedals are running on safe, isolated power at all times. Many pedalboard packages provide mounting equipment. Check out our dedicated power supply guide to learn more about pedal voltage, current and daisy chaining.
What are the best pedalboards?
Pedalboards come in all shapes and sizes. Some contain power supplies, others don’t. Some are raised of the floor with feet, others lie completely flat. You’ll need to make your choice based on the size and state of your existing setup and if you plan to expand in the future. Let’s dive right in…
By far and away the current most popular pedalboards for players of all backgrounds, Pedaltrain provide a simple titanium chassis and leave the creative stuff up to you. The biggest advantage of Pedaltrain pedalboards is their raised design. This allows you to keep all your pedal and power supply connections under the board and out of sight. Pedaltrain also work with a number of power supply brands to make appropriately sized PSU mounting brackets. It might take a bit of DIY drilling, but it’s worth it.
Pedaltrain make boards of varying size with the option of a hard case, soft case or no case at all. The smallest is the parallel-to-floor design Nano that fits six standard size guitar pedals at max. Next up is the three rail Metro ranging from 16-24 inches in width, followed by the medium Classic with room for larger volume and expression pedals. The impressive Novo has space to spare for switching systems best placed closest to the feet, while the gargantuan Terra is aimed at players who want to set up a floor-based amp rig.
If you’re new to the whole pedalboard schtick, Tourtech is the way to go. The most affordable on the list, Tourtech offers everything you need to get started when assembling your first pedalboard. The all-metal construction is unwaveringly sturdy and the raised profile makes it easy to hide all connections and activate pedals up to the back of the unit.
There are three available sizes: small, medium and large at competitive prices and all come with a matching soft carry case, Velcro strips and zip ties. If you’re looking to beef up the protection of your pedalboards, Tourtech also make compatible flight cases to protect your gear from firmer bumps and scrapes.
If you love Boss pedals (like we do) and plan on making them the key component in your setup, Boss pedalboards are the perfect choice. The BCB60 is the complete deal. It’s designed to fit Boss compact and twin pedal shapes, as well as pedals from other manufacturers, including larger wahs and funky effects. It includes an onboard 1,000mA AC adaptor with seven outputs for a handy powering solution.
Because of its all-encompassing design, you can put the lid on top of the BCB60 and you’re ready to take it away with you. The same applies to the smaller BCB30, which fits just three pedals. Boss also mmake high quality solderless patch cable kits, allowing you to cut cables to your desired length.
A stylistic competitor to Pedaltrain, German brand Rockboard make rugged pedalboards that feature a unique, seamless aluminium construction ideal for customised pedal layouts and PSU brackets. Bedroom player and pro musicians alike can get on board with the schematics. There’s an array of Rockboard sizes to choose from.
The innovative slot-based design works especially well when dealing with pedals using different jack placements and players opting for a simple cable tie connection. There’s a host of tray mounting solutions for all different PSU sizes. The large open slot on the back of board can be used for two things. Number one, it lets you run all your external cables into the pedalboard neatly as is. Secondly, it’s the perfect fit for the Mod 1 Rockboard patchbay, which acts as a central point to your setup and groups all your cable connections.
Your premium pedalboard selection. Friedman are a company known for their high-end tube amps and electric guitars, and they apply the same build quality to their pedalboards. All the pedalboards we’ve seen so far have one single tier to place your pedals – but the Friedman Tour Pro offers two. This grants greater foot access to pedals at the back of the board, as well as reducing the cable stretching you have to do to get them all connected.
The Tour Pro has a few other tricks up its sleeve. The detachable riser is for your wah pedal and you can place it either side of the board – a handy feature for lefties. Next up is the built-in buffer. This is to keep your signal running at full strength and full volume all the way through your pedal chain. It also acts as a patch bay, allowing for tighter pedal placement and neater cable runs leading from the board to the amp.
What pedalboard should you buy?
If you’re a musician with a small pedal setup and you plan on keeping it that way, then a miniature size board will do just fine. They’re light and do the exact job you expect of them. This kind of pedalboard is ideal for busking, where you don't want to haul around something too big or simpler Swiss army knife setups. If you could see yourself expanding on your array of effects, it’s worth investing in something slightly larger – even if it means you don’t fill the full board space for the time being.
Regular gigging musicians will benefit from a medium-size board. They’re not excessively heavy and you can pack in plenty of effects. Those of you who like to use expression and wah pedals will need a mid-sized board just to fit it one on comfortably. PSU mounting to power several pedals is also an important factor you simply couldn’t address with a smaller pedalboard.
And finally, those players who want everything at their feet. You’ll need either a premium board such as a Friedman Tour Pro or a larger option from Pedaltrain or Rockboard. Modern digital pedals can be quite bulky and take up the space of two or three standard stompboxes. Preamp pedals are also hefty things and you’ll need the space to accommodate.