Pedal Order 101 with Catalinbread
We’ve all been faced with this situation: you have a floor littered with pedals and patch cables and you’re mulling over the combinations. And if you’re like me, there are tons of combinations, with over six billion combinations at just 13 pedals. But if you follow a few simple rules of thumb, you can pare down the options and get your rig dialed in like a pro.
Generally speaking, you can put pedals in four categories: Dirt, Modulation, Spatial and “other.” We’ll talk about them in the order they should be placed on your board.
1. Believe it or not, “other” is first. This includes all pedals that play off either pick attack or sound best when fed a relatively clean signal. Compressors, filters, synth emulators, pitch shifters and other things like this go here. If you have a dirt pedal that demands constant fiddling with the guitar’s volume, this might go here. Volume pedals can essentially be placed anywhere, including here or at the end of the chain.
2. Dirt boxes are next. There’s really no rhyme or reason to this, whichever order sounds best is best. For headroom’s sake, you might want to place pedals that run at higher voltages near the end of this section.
3. Modulation pedals notoriously accept very hot signals with ease, including effects loop outputs, so running them after dirt just makes sense. Like dirt, order within the category isn’t crucial.
4. Spatial pedals include delay and reverb. Typically, delay comes before reverb because natural reverb occurs after the sound is produced or mechanically within amps, which is typically the last stop for your signal before it hits your ears.
Some devices such as Catalinbread's Belle Epoch and Epoch Boost are meant to emulate a very specific piece of equipment that was typically placed in a very particular position. The Maestro Echoplex that serves as the inspiration for both pieces was primarily used in studios as a piece of stationary outboard gear, rather than placed in the middle of a signal chain. Usually the Echoplex, and by extension, the Echoplex’s preamp was placed right at the end. The preamp fattened up the entire signal path while the mechanical bits generated the echoes. Of course, as the Epoch Boost is technically a gain pedal, you can run it in the gain section, or because it outputs a fat clean tone, it won’t wreck up your dynamics if you place it right up front.
Eric Johnson used to run his Echoplex before his BK Butler Tube Driver, preferring the sound of a saturated echo, while East Bay Ray of the Dead Kennedys put it right on top of his amp, dead last in the chain. With that said, no rules are ironclad, so feel free to experiment!