Stompboxes

    The FX-Loop

    updated: 5/2021

    Stompboxes are also popular with synthesizers, however rather in smaller quantities than with guitarists, as synthesizers already have filters, waveshapers, etc. With the effect boxes, exciting colors and a significant individualization of the instrumental sound can be achieved.

    For the pedals I built myself a Pedalboard - however, I mostly don't switch it with my foot, but with my hand and via MIDI. The stompboxes allow a much improved and more multifaceted shape of the synthesizer sounds.

    In my system, the pedalboard is placed in the "Aux path" of the synthesizer, e.g. in the Buchla as an insert in the Matrix Mixer or in the 2600 between VCF and VCA. Therefore, the sounds first run back into the synthesizer - hence they are still required to pass a VCA or LPG before they are delivered to amp and speaker. The board has Boost, Overdrive, Fuzz, Compressor, EQ, 2x Delay (analog and digital) and Reverb. The effects are organized in two loops and are mono. The Stereo Phaser (top right) I use only on the 2600 Gray Meanie (behind the Main Stereo Out), because I already have Phaser modules available in the MOTM and Buchla.

    With the arrival of the 2600 Gray Meanie (March 2021), the pedalboard has come back into focus for me, because the Gray Meanie (a re-interpretation of the ARP 2600 "Gray Meanie" from 1971) will not be integrated into my computer synth setup in the way MOTM and Buchla are, but more towards "standalone" and as a completely independent instrument (without computer). I therefore expanded my stompbox setup and built a slightly larger pedalboard with a better power supply. I noticed that a lot has also evolved in the pedals during the past 10 years!



    Looper

    Lehle D.Loop

    It is not an " Audio-Looper " (Sampler). The term "loop" is also used for send/return paths. The D.Loop has two loops (A+B) and a Buffer, which is provided with a Booster (up to max. +12dB). In addition, the D.Loop is equipped with MIDI, allowing the switching to be sent, or - for me a blessing - the eight possible switching states (presets) can be recalled via MIDI. Three switch combinations (buffer and looper A/B on/off) can be set (saved) for the big switches. The small buttons next to the LEDs can be used to manually activate or deactivate buffers and loops individually.

    The D.Loop is switched via relays and, in order to keep everything clean and crisp, the signal is muted in ms range when switching (which is not audible) before it is released again in the new configuration. I once measured it: to avoid MIDI messages being swallowed, there should be 75ms between MIDI PGM change commands. For me it''s quick enough in any case!

    Lehle Boxes are little masterpieces! This can be perceived immediately. The whole - modular - concept quickly reveals that everything has been thought through to the end and the design was uncompromising. The box accepts Mono ( bal./unbal.) or Stereo signals (TRS) - even CV signals can be routed, which makes the D.Loop also interesting for modular synthesizers. The D.Loop is also variable in terms of power supply: 9 to 20 volts DC may be connected.

    Presets can easily be stored on the D-Loop - the operation is kept very simple and intuitive. On the device itself, 3 presets can be called up (3 switches). Up to 3 Lehle Boxes can be connected and thus all large switches can be used as program buttons. With two of these boxes, 6 presets can be called up via the switches, with three boxes, 9. The switches can send either MIDI Pgm 11-13, 14-16 or 17-19. However, all 8 possible switching states of a single box can also be stored and recalled via MIDI. If they are stored e.g. as Pgm 1-8, own configurations (Pgm 11-19) can still be stored in the boxes.


    In order to enable bidirectional MIDI communication via TRS cable, Lehle uses a trick: Lehle-Boxes are always in "receive mode". A "PGM-Send" is triggered only by pressing a switch. To extend this bidirectionality to my Max patches, I made a dangerous-looking (and only for this application to use) cable, so that the menu in Max (with all 8 switch positions) will be updated to the current position if a switch is pressed on the D.Loop.

    Since the MIDI cable built by Lehle (left in the picture) came with my D.Loop (second-hand purchase) and D.Loop both receives and transmits program change - depending on whether the (DIN) MIDI plug is in an In or Out MIDI socket - and because I can look at the MIDI processes in detail with Max, I built a TRS jack to 2x MIDI. For this purpose the three needed wires of both DIN plugs are simply connected together, so they are identical. Together with the MidiLink Mini Interface it works - however, I also have a cheap USB to MIDI interface cable with which it doesn't work. With the MidiLink I can both press the three switches on the D.Loop and Max receives the current position, or, I can recall all eight possible positions of the D.Loop from Max.



The switching of the relays is, by the way, clearly audible/perceptible. People with an affinity for technology will like this because it is an indication of the good innards of the unit, but for quiet chamber music, e.g. violin and live electronics, it could be a hindrance. However, with such quiet music usually no distortion pedal is used and therefore this problem is rather "very relative".

In the video the Buchla can be heard. The Lehle D.Loop is switched via MIDI. If you listen carefully, you can also recognize the slight distortion of the booster (part of the D.Loop) at the beginning.

    Booster

    Lehle D.Loop

    A Buffer is probably rare in synths, but the Buffer of the Lehle D.Loop can also be used as a Booster - and this creates a very fine, harmonic distortion. Especially before the good, but still "somewhat lifeless" digital delay or reverb boxes this makes the difference! Suddenly these boxes sound like 1965 and they get character! But totally controlled - not by chance and also completely without noise! This brings a massive appreciation, at least from my perception.

    Because the Booster position is very "fine-tuned" in most cases, the flat-shaped potentiometer is ideal because it does not move as easily as a potentiometer cap - it is more like a trimmer that is turned manually ( instead of a screwdriver).

    Such a (good) booster seems to be the appropriate tool for moving digital delays and reverbs into one's own sound. The +12dB boost is much too much for me, since the signal already arrives relatively loud - maximally I boost about 3-5 dB.

    Since I got the Lehle D.Loop, I'm also really happy with my TC Electronic boxes, because now I can boost the signal and distort it a bit. Suddenly it sounds more "proper" to my ears. Before, they were plugged directly into the synth and I was fine, but far from happy. It was just too clean (clean) and a bit boring. With the Lehle Booster, the sound gets its own (wonderful) coloring and contrasts so much better in the overall timbre! I do not see any reason, especially with stompboxes, to invest into extremely expensive devices, which are available in large numbers. Nevertheless, however, my pedalboard should burn! The D.Loop makes it possible (for me)!


    Lehle Website




    EQ

    Source Audio SA 270 - One Series EQ2

    This EQ is truly spectacular! It is designed in stereo, but the two curves can also be used in parallel or in series. With ±18 dB (on each band, it can be a bit more punchy than you'd expect. It has a switch, respectively pedal connection, combines the clarity of a graphic EQ with the advantages of a parametric EQ - incl. variable resonance! Even the EQ band frequencies for the sliders can be determined freely, like the Q Factor, or they can be adjusted via pedal or MIDI. In addition, Noise Gate, Limiter, an extra adjustable +12 dB Clean Boost and even a tuner are included in the EQ2. The EQ2 has four preset buttons, but offers 128 presets via MIDI or USB. An editor can be connected via USB (Mac, Windows, iOs and Android) and there are - very instructive - presets for download. My list is incomplete - the EQ2 is really impressive!

    An EQ on a synth pedalboard is really worth its weight in gold - even more so when it can do as much as the EQ2. It is probably the most "influential" pedal on my board! A kind of frequency corset can be applied to the synthesizer, allowing for completely new timbres. The character of the synth can be completely changed, the "illumination" makes everything much more detailed. The havoc of the fuzz can be brought out better, or the input of the overdrive can be fed with a tuned frequency package to get the desired timbres. This often makes the sounds more reminiscent of instruments rather than a synth - the "sound" of the instrument becomes much more nuanced and individual. On my board, therefore, one mono block sits between the Fuzz and Overdrive, and the second between the output of the D.Loop and the Reverb, before the signal is sent back to the synth's VCA.

    The EQ2 reminds me of a Max patch I had made for my Buchla (input with parametric EQ) before I got the "Model 227e" ( System Interface / Mixer) - and for me the EQ2 is a bit, like a Max patch in a box, and that's good, because that way it works without a computer. The sound characteristic of the synthesizer can be taken to the heart of things much better with the EQ2!


    A glance at the editor: very clear and concise, it shows a bit more clearly what is inside the EQ2. The curves can be "swapped" or faded back and forth by a pedal - for each preset there are two curves after all! For pedal control, a maximum of 4 parameters can be selected and moved together. This allows for very precise wah adjustment, for example. The ±18 dB, Resonance, Booster and Limiter can also make the Wah a bit more aggressive if desired. The control can also be performed via MIDI instead of the analog pedal.

    Because I liked the EQ2 so much, I had also ordered the Switch and Tap Pedal from Source Audio. The pedal has a short control path, which I like for a Wah better than the long path of the Yamaha Pedal, however, there were many negative points that made me doubt: the whole construction, with toothed belt (!), seems rather, like from the 60s. Questionable seems to me the "poor" potentiometer on the side of the pedal. I do not like the use of the 3.5mm mini cable (TRRS) on the pedal, as well as the quality of the plugs, cables and sockets - the supplied 6.3mm TRS cable sits so loose that one is afraid it could "fall out". The unstoppable squeaking of the pedal actually does the rest for me.


    Nevertheless, I have kept the "Source Audio Dual Expression Pedal" (for now), because it controls "more aggressively" - which is welcome when using Wah. The alternative 6.3mm TRS output unfortunately controls in the opposite direction, as do all the other expression pedals I've tried. I am afraid it is a bug in EQ2, because TRS is no alternative to TRRS in this way - I have to check this with the company. Of course the Wah can also be controlled using a MIDI pedal - this works very well, but is not as aggressively executable as via an analog 50k pedal (which is processed in 10bit by the EQ2). If you want to control " just a frequency" instead of Wah (also with Q and Vol., but not as a Wah effect), this is better done via pedals with larger control travel - also via MIDI. It feels a bit more indirect - similar to a MIDI keyboard.

    The Source Audio pedals are probably mainly interesting for guitarists / bassists, because keyboard players usually already have "enough" pedals to operate and in addition MIDI in the instrument. I mainly need Presets, Bypass and Tuning - that is uncomplicated to switch via MIDI. Only the "Wah" control, which is also very important to me, I prefer to control with an analog 50 kΩ pedal.

    The Source Audio Switch is also quite expensive at € 45, but its appearance is perfect - and it operates without a "click" sound. In the Editor it can be set the way it should behave ("Momentary" or "Latching"). This switch will remain with me, but as a Portamento-Switch for the 2600 Gray Meanie. My previously used, € 6.- Mini Sustain Pedal always slipped away, suddenly lying upside down and making noise during use due to the resonating plastic housing. The Source Audio Switch is much smaller, much heavier, does not slip away as easily and makes no noises when operated. I will even improve it a bit with a Lehle Switch BTN. The Lehle Switch is even smoother and has a wider and more rounded head, which doesn't drill into the foot as much when you operate it like a sustain pedal.


    About the MIDI control of the EQ2: the resolution is of course significantly limited compared to a 50 kΩ pedal (MIDI=7bit=128 steps). While the app and the 50 kΩ control make 0.2dB steps at the "EQ band levels", the MIDI control has only 36 steps here, i.e., at ±18dB that's exactly 1dB per step, only one fifth of the 50 kΩ resolution. It's not audible and seems to be prevented by a "slew", but I think it's nice to know. For the Q there are 95 steps available (from 0.5 to 10.0) and for the Frequency all 128 steps available for the range 20-20,000 Hz. However, one works over a predefined spectrum with the pedal, e.g. from 300 - 2000 Hz, and there everything is put into perspective again with the resolution.

    The software is well intended, but still seems to be unfinished and it reveals some "weird" bugs. For example, if you try to call the MIDI address "Source Audio EQ2", it is not recognized. The reason: behind the name there are eleven blanks that are not visible, but are required to be there. This doesn't look too confident. Also the firmware update from 1.14 to 1.15 only worked on the eighth try. Before that, it was aborted by an "upgrade failed" message. When 1.15 was finally installed, the message came: "Please install the current firmware 1.14.". It requires a lot of patience..

    However, the EQ2's benchmarks and functionality are "sublime":

    • Maximum Input Level: +6.54 dBV = 8.76 dBu = 2.12 V RMS = 6.0 V pp
    • Full Scale Output Level: +6.54 dBV = 8.76 dBu = 2.12 V RMS = 6.0 V pp
    • Input Impedance: 1 Mega Ohm (1 MΩ)
    • Output Impedance: 600 Ohm (600 Ω)
    • 110 dB DNR Audio Path
    • 24-bit Audio Conversion
    • 56-bit Digital Data Path
    • Universal Bypass (relay-based true bypass or analog buffered bypass)


    You can clearly see from the picture that nine sockets are quite a lot for a Stompbox.

    Conclusion:
    the EQ2 is a real blast!
    The software still needs to be improved.
    The pedals are not necessarily needed to be from Source Audio.

    The EQ2 can be a true "secret weapon"!

    The term "EQ" is a profound understatement.





    Delay (analog)

    MXR Carbon Copy Mini

    This is a really great sounding Delay! And it sounds huge! I don't want to let it out of my hands anymore. Especially at shorter delay times, most digital delays sound a bit metallic, cold and rather unpleasant. This is where the old analog Bucket Brigade Circuit scores. The time warping and feedback also feels "true". This feels good.

    The main difference to the digital delays, apart from the sound, is certainly the significantly shorter delay times: the Carbon Copy Cloner has a maximum of 600 ms - one tenth of the maximum delay time of the Flashback Mini (digital delay).

    The larger, sonically identical "MXR Carbon Copy" has spread within a very short time and has become a " standard ". The newer "Carbon Copy Mini" in addition has a miniature switch on the side, with which it can be set to the more treble-emphasized "Bright Mode".

    I'm not sure if I'll find a use for it, as the switching is fiddly and only feasible with a small tool. Especially on the tightly built Pedalboards, this switch is also pretty much out of reach. Sonically, I locate the need of Bright Mode also rather in the Rockabilly Scene.

    In "normal" mode, the pedal has a decidedly warm and naturally organic sound. The modulation, which can be activated manually, works modestly and does not make the delay „wabble". However, if you like that better, you have the option to change the depth and speed of the modulation inside the pedal. The tiny blue LED under the switch is brutal - if you don't tape it off, you'll probably go blind. There might be an option to simply replace it, though.


    Especially if you just want to give some space to the sound - which a synthesizer basically doesn't have - a good Bucket Brigade Delay is much more helpful and vitalizing than a Reverb. From the first time I heard it, I knew I wasn't going to send this Delay back. A great-sounding Bucket Brigade Delay that also exists as a mini pedal - what more could you want?!



    MXR Carbon Copy Mini Website


    Delay (digital)

    tc electronic Flashback 2 Mini

    The trigger for the return of pedals was years ago the Flashback Mini from TC Electronic - I always wanted a reverse delay in the synth, just before the sound gets into the audio interface.

    These little TC Electronic " Mini " boxes are already incredibly amazing. Qualitatively without sacrificing compared to the larger variants of the same manufacturer, they are on the cutting edge. There is a mini-USB input located on the side and the devices really allow a lot of settings via the associated editor! The various settings can then be saved as presets and one can be dumped into the device via USB.

    This may limit the joy of experimentation somewhat - for "tinkering" you need an iPad or computer with USB connection to the pedal. However, the editor is very easy to use and the parameter and algorithm abundance is more than you would expect. For playing, I actually always use the same four or five Presets.

    Meanwhile I have moved to the Flashback 2 Mini. It has 2 new algorithms and also new is the "Mash" function - which I don't use though.

    Because of its versatility and the maximum delay time of 6 seconds, this delay is indeed quite useful.




    Reverb

    tc electronic Hall Of Fame 2 Mini

    What would all the effects be without a Reverb! After the positive start with the Flashback Mini I also ordered the HOF (Hall Of Fame) Reverb, then still mkI. Also remarkably good! Without booster roughening maybe a little boring - too clean. For me, the discovery of the Boost effect of the Lehle D.Loop on the "HOF" was redeeming: there was that "old" reverb sound I had been looking for.


    For editing the "TonePrint" editor is needed again: All the parameters of the connected pedal can be seen here - and there are a lot! Very well is that also multiple assignments for the hardware pots can be set up - e.g. "Kill Dry" for the max. Position of the controller - well thought out and really practice-oriented!


    Meanwhile I got the successor model "Hall Of Fame 2". The HOF mkII is clearly better, if only because it now has three knobs instead of one. However, I don't use the new "Mash" function of the new TC generation: to pull out a whole arm to press a button for a certain effect, would be too much - I don't operate these things with my foot... The three controls "Decay", "Tone" and "Level" were decisive for the purchase - and the replacement of the old "HOF".

    On my Pedalboard the HOF Reverb sits behind the output of the D.Loop, so it is not in a loop, but behind both loops. It "glues together" the very different sounds of the two loops (A: Distortion, B: Delay) better during rapid switching. For "Live" it is certainly sufficient and in the studio I can use the "True Bypass" of the pedal to use a better Reverb. Since I added the Carbon Copy Delay, I use both TC Minis (Delay and Reverb) significantly less often.


    tc electronic Hall Of Fame 2 Website





Overdrive

Zvex Channel 2

Finally, an overdrive pedal that I really like for synthesizers. ZVEX's Channel 2 produces a rather "warm" overdrive that works even at low volumes - and doesn't "kick in" like a fuzz or tend to sound too much like an electric guitar. With the volume pedal connected in front of it, a sound similar to woodwinds can be created: the louder it gets, the stronger the harmonic overtones occur. Ideal if there is an EQ between the Volume Pedal and the Overdrive. Duduk, oboe, bassoon or (bass) clarinet come to mind.

The cozy sound of the overdrive has a slightly narrowed frequency spectrum and a midrange boost. With the synth it is already a bit nasty at full volume. Again, an preceding EQ is like seasoning. Also a Compressor (still before the EQ) is of interest. Channel 2 allows for some fantastic timbres.

Previously, I also liked to have Channel 2 before the Fuzz - not to overdrive, but to eventually lower the volume! I keep the Fuzz and Overdrive in the same FX loop because I almost never need them to distort at the same time. Channel 2 addressed the "fuzz volume problem" by closing the volume almost completely. Actually, I had no problems with the fuzz even without the Channel 2, but by turning the volume down to an extreme, you can get even more broken sound out of the Fuzz - in other words: more destruction. Perfect. Today I am again using my Yamaha FC9 (Volume and CV pedal) as a volume pedal - there is no need for the Channel 2 and it is so much more pleasant to control the volume by foot!

On Channel 2, half the control range (7-12 o'clock) of the Volume control is available to attenuate the signal. If volume and gain are set to "0", signals will no longer pass through "Channel 2". So it is indeed a real "channel".



Fuzz

Zvex Fuzzolo

With this kind of distortion, the probably most sensitive point is reached, because there are sound overlaps with the synth (waveshaping/rectifying) and there are far more Fuzz pedals than possible Fuzz tastes. Everything is based on two basic Fuzz types: silicon and germanium. This is a Silicon Fuzz.

It is from Fuzz mega specialist ZVEX and is called Fuzzolo. Not only does it fit perfectly with the size of my mini pedalboard - the sound also corresponds to what I expect from the Fuzz.

A fuzz transforms the incoming sound into rectangular waves, but not as elegant as a (mirrored) waveshaper, but rather brutally. With the Pulse Width knob (right), it has a modulator that can be used to compress the square wave so that the positive and negative parts of the sound ("up and down") are no longer equal. At maximum setting this can go into phase cancellation, which then acts as a gate. The sound dies, breaks or is torn off. A beautiful destruction!

The fact that the Fuzzolo works better with the synth than other Fuzz pedals is mainly due to the fact that a jumper sits inside the pedal, which can be implemented to work with the values of active pickups, which also suits the Synthesizer very much better.

The common problem between Synth and Fuzz is the input impedance of the Fuzz, which is mostly set to passive pickups. With this setting the incoming level of the Synth is much too high.


Fuzz sounds particularly good (destructive) 1. at the beginning of a device chain - 2. when the current is "not quite enough" (about 7V) or/and the signal is as low as possible. Guitarists like to play the Fuzz over the volume control on the guitar. This is not quite as good as with Synths - but with the Channel 2 the volume can be adjusted very well.

I already had many Fuzz pedals (EHX Graphic Fuzz, Flying Tomato Fuzz, Spaghetti Western Fuzz and various Clones). Many pedals, that sound fantastic with guitars, were, however, with E-Piano, as well as with Synth, absolutely unsatisfactory! Fuzz on the Piano or Synth is a completely different construction site and good/famous Fuzzes do not necessarily sound well at the Synth. While Fuzz is more "evil" on the guitar, on the Synth it's rather "broken".




Phaser

tc electronic Helix

Due to the Toneprint Editor settings, which make it much easier for the synth and effect box to work together, I also quickly had TC Electronics' "Helix" in mind when looking for a phaser. The trigger for the purchase, however, was the feedback control knob - which is found only on very few stompboxes and allows significantly more "live electronics" sound. The Helix also fulfills my requests and is very versatile.

At the time I would have taken the Helix Phaser also as a mini device (then in mono, like all TC-Minis) - but this was not available. It was to my luck, because in the meantime I use the Helix no longer in the Mono FX loop (in, or at the Lehle D.Loop), but it is now directly behind the Stereo Main Output of the 2600 Gray Meanie - and now of course in Stereo Mode. And here (in stereo) Helix not only shows better its capabilities, but I also prefer it much more in the position behind synth, effects and reverb, because the reverbation tails are the best fodder for a Phaser!

It's really amazing how well the TC effect pedals are built - very "worthy", without anything being negative - also the concept behind the TonePrint pedals seems to be well thought out.Only the graphic "design" - the visual appearance - I find fundamentally atrocious at TC-Electronic due to the many logos. But it is, after all, impossible to hear.

That I have a Phaser-Box despite my Phaser-Module (MOTM), is because the Phaser behind the Overdrive and especially before a Fuzz sounds unique. Metal guitarists (I think) like to work with this combination.

The conspicuous "cleanness" of the TC devices is taken away extremely well by the Booster in the Lehle D.Loop. So the Stompboxes simply sound a bit more like Stompbox and they are also refined! Really very convincing. For me this is almost the most surprising finding of this whole pedalboard adventure.





Compressor

Mini Ego Wampler

With compressors it's like with raisins, avocados and olives: some hate them and others love them. A compressor can be very helpful, but it makes everything much more complicated.

On my board, it is located in front of the D.Loop, which is the easiest position - but for some applications it is required to be switched off. In particular, before the Fuzz it is the purest poison, because you can hardly adjust the Fuzz with the Volume Pedal and the Fuzz then "jumps“. It is better behind the fuzz - but that's playing with fire, because it leads to extreme noises during pauses - however, exactly that also encourages the "dirty atmosphere" of the Fuzz.

Also, the compressor is "dangerous" at very dynamic volumes. Here it quickly destroys the expressiveness. At the very front of the chain, it is therefore the most flexible in use. If the Fuzz would not be in an FX loop, I would place just the Fuzz in front of the Compressor.

A compressor is fantastic both before and behind the Overdrive (for different purposes). Since the Overdrive does not work with gated signals, like a Fuzz, but is just driven in and increased over the rising volume, the Compressor provides more harmonics, which makes the Overdrive stand out better.

Especially with solos in the upper dynamic range, the Compressor makes playing immensely more comfortable because everything comes across tighter - it's like a better backlight. The levels of the incoming frequencies are equalized, resulting in a "fuller" sound image. In rapid runs, the individual tones are distinguished from each other much better.

The "Mini Ego Wampler" was the only compressor I tried. In the videos I noticed that - unlike its competitors - it can be used better with synths, because it can handle the lower frequencies better. Originally I wanted to try the "TC Electronic Hypergravity Mini", which is available for half the price of the Wampler, but the Wampler had me already - also because it is analogue.



    Power

    Cioks DC 7

    After the 2600 Gray Meanie arrived in early 2021, the pedalboard suddenly became much more relevant again, because the 2600 likes some (mono) FX between Filter and VCA - and because I had an ARP 2600 40 years ago, I would like to recreate my "tried and true" setup, now with more modern devices. I therefore decided to finally rebuild my pedalboard, which had been overcrowded for several years. First, therefore, I fixed the main problem and replaced the power supply. For my purposes, the Cioks DC7 seems to be the only, just perfect solution, eventhough it is a bit "overpowered" at first and also just not that inexpensive. First I had tried the Cioks DC8, which is 70 Euros less expensive, but I immediately noticed that it is not suitable for the more modern devices with higher mA requirements. On the DC 7 all seven outputs are individually adjustable (9V/660mA, 12V/500mA, 15V/400mA or 18V/330mA) and are isolated from each other. Several devices can also be connected in DaisyChain method on each outlet of the DC7.

    But that is not all by any means! The Cioks DC 7 comes with 12 wires, including one double, one 3-way (daisy-chain), one with reversed polarity, and several with plugs other than the usual 2.1 hollow plugs. I also bought extra wires, one to extend, another 3-way, and one to combine two outputs and double the volt count - that is, to get 24V from the power supply (that's what the MXR 10 Band EQ wanted). There also is a doubler cable that keeps the voltage number and only doubles the mA. On top of that, there's a USB charging output on the DC 7 with 5V/1A - which is really real-world and convenient. In my case it supplies the iPad with electricity. For the 24V output socket, which can be loaded with another 2A, there are two "expanders" from Cioks - the Cioks 4 and the Cioks 8.


    On the right you can see the current state of rearrangement. The base is a disused "laptop holder" (36 x 24 cm) from a keyboard table. I have drilled a number of holes in it to attach the feet, the Lehle D.Loop and the CIOKS DC7 with screws. Should something ever not work, the first grab will be to lift the board on the right side and see if all indicator LEDs light up correctly.

    With this configuration all stompboxes on the board - except the D.Loop, which runs with 18V - could be operated on a single DC 7 output! The only reason they are connected this "generously" is due to the existing cables and the limited demand of current - thus much more could be connected. The combined 9V devices only use 538 mA (3x TC = 4 x 100 mA, 2x Zvex, 10 and 15 mA, Carbon Copy 26 mA, Wampler 22mA and the EQ2 165 mA) out of the 660 mA at the 9V output of the CIOKS DC7. The Volume Pedal requires 12V - but just 5 of the 500 mA with 12V.The only output that is loaded with over 50% is the 18V output - the D.Loop needs 195 of the 330 mA available at 12V.

    Because I was curious, I also tried to connect my Eurorack Remnant Case (with TipTop power supply). Everything was working fine!

    This really is a terrific Power Supply! And should I run out of outlets or mA contrary to all expectations, I don't need a new Power Supply, I just need one or both of the Expanders: Cioks4 and Cioks8 - altogether 12 additional, equally strong outlets, as on the Cioks DC 7!


    Cioks DC 7 Website



    Expression Pedal

    LEHLE DUAL EXPRESSION

    Expression pedals have always been problematic - now Lehle has (finally!) released one - and it could be the "jack of all trades" device among all expression pedals.

    It immediately becomes obvious while reading the manual that the engineering skills of Burkhard Lehle are clearly evident in this pedal as well and they make up the difference: "This technology allows distinctly more accurate operation than is offered by conventional expression pedals with mechanical potentiometers. There is no mechanical wear, avoiding the need for maintenance or complicated adjust- ments. Both outputs can control nearly all com- mon devices with expression inputs from 5kΩ to 100kΩ, regardless if TS, TRS or RTS – the polarity can be switched and stored using the soft-push buttons. Alternatively, the 10K output can be set to work as a latching or momentary switch, if the pedal is pushed in fully toe position. Then, e.g. the channel of an amp can be changed or, connected to a switch-input of a digital device, any desired function can be controlled. Use the USB connector to send MIDI data to a computer to control Midi compatible software.."

    Yes, it actually has a USB output - unfortunately (at first?) only MIDI CC 11 (7bit/128steps). Of course I would have preferred Pitchbend, because it is also available in 14bit resolution (16384 steps). The hope remains for a future firmware upgrade that also allows to switch from CC to Pitchbend. The "calibration" of the pedal is also solved incredibly well - it is just pretty fiddly (with the mini push buttons), because you have to press the buttons with your hand and then set the minimum and maximum position of the pedal within 5 seconds. This could be done much more purposefully via software, so that the pedal can remain at the foot all the time. In addition, it could then be possible to save "ideal" calibrations and send them to the pedal as a SysEx message for various uses (e.g. added to a Program change). It would not require recalibration each time - and have a different approximations to the optimum each time. E.g. for " Volume" you want a maximum control path, for " Wah" a preferably short one. It would also be nice to be able to put a curve behind the (linear) course of the control path (in "Max" this is of course already possible), in order to adapt the pedal to the effect to be controlled. Nevertheless: it is already the best Expression Pedal I have ever seen!


    The design is pretty "modern". For a swell pedal it is quite small (20x9x4,7 cm), quite lightweight (766 g), and it is made of metal - and quasi wear-free. It can handle signals up to 10V - even CV. It produces absolutely ZERO mechanical noise during use (!!!). Power supplies can be between 9V and 15V, the polarity doesn't matter and is recognized by the pedal. And one more message for people with big feet: even with a shoe size just less than 50 it is fantastic to use! I am thrilled - and am already an avowed "Lehle-ianer" since the D.Loop. The picture shows the size comparison with the Yamaha FC-9.

    I ordered it as a pedal alternative for the Source Audio EQ2 - of course it can and will master any other tasks without problems.

    The term "polarization" only refers to the detection of the current-carrying conductor at the connector, not to the reversal of the min./max. values (i.e. the "control direction“).


    Lehle Website



    Volume Pedal

    Yamaha FC-9

    After a long break as a volume pedal, I reactivated one of my almost 30 years old Yamaha FC-9 for this task - the last years it was used solely as a CV pedal (without power) - and it sounds much better than I expected. Prior to going into the Pedalboard, the audio signal from the 2600 is required to pass through here. The FC-9 is also powered by the Cioks DC 7 (12V) and I (big-foot) have always liked it.

    Besides the CV capability, it has another good parameter: the minimum Volume can be adjusted via potentiometer on the side. This makes it perfect for a Pedalboard and it can be used as a volumizing Expression Pedal, driving only through the saturation levels. Very nice!

    Unfortunately, the FC-9 is no longer built. Behringer will offer a similar looking "FC100 MkII" for a third of the price in summer 2021. It can also be switched in polarity. However, the VCA of the previous model was lousy. As a CV pedal however, it is (at the price) already welcome. This already worked well even with the predecessor.



    Lehle Mono Volume 90

    I also had an eye on the Lehle Volume Pedals for a while, but never tried one because I had no use for an on-foot VCA. I'm pretty sure they are the best volume pedals out there. However, the Lehle Volume-Pedals are twice as heavy as the reviewed Lehle Dual Expression Pedal - and 35% bigger. My favorite for this task is the "Lehle Mono Volume 90", because it has two additional pots, the "minimal Volume" and a +12dB "Gain" (Booster). However, I would prefer it in the size and weight of the Dual Expression Pedal.


    Lehle Volume Pedals

    MIDI Interface

    Miditech MIDIface II Thru

    Years ago I bought a MIDI interface (mini) especially for the pedalboard: the MIDIFACE II THRU 1x1. It provides MIDI In, Out and Thru and can handle the Lehle I/O (MIDI short-circuit cable) - which not all cheap USB MIDI interfaces can do. Due to the design / housing shape it is easy to attach to a board and only one (USB) cable is required to be connected to the board- or disconnected for transport. A very clean solution.

    On the right you can see the bottom of my board - and the MIDI interface with the "special cable" (I/O) to the D.Loop. Meanwhile the Source Audio EQ2 ( using a different MIDI receive channel) is connected to the MIDI Thru output and it can be controlled comprehensively. That is, 128 programs, parameter real-time control, crossfade, channel switch and much more. The two MIDI controllable devices (D.Loop and EQ2) are the heart of the pedalboard. The lightweight interface sits bomb-proof underneath the board thanks to Velcro tape.

    I connect the iPad or the computer via the USB port. I'm very happy with this MIDI interface - out of 4 "little" MIDI interfaces I own, it's the only one that hasn't had a single problem in all these years. It is these little things that keep the joy going.

    However, I haven't transferred any sysex data yet - many "cheap" interfaces don't like that because they can't buffer the data. I'll try it on occasion, but I'm afraid it won't work. With this interface the design of the housing was crucial for me - and it was initially only intended to be used for MIDI program changes.




    4-way Jack Patch Module

    Temple Audio Design 4-way Jack Patch Module

    The Temple Audio Design "4-way Jack Patch Module" doesn't do a whole lot, but it provides the most compact solution for clean and extremely tight wiring on the board.

    Here we can see how the patch module unfolds in all its glory. Assignments: A+B = Synth Main Out (L/R), C = FX In, D = FX Out.

    A tidy house, a tidy mind.





    Pedalboard

    DIY

    Pedalboards also demand to be transported. It is therefore important that the pedalboard can be packed and unpacked with as little effort as possible. That means that the devices are pre-wired, fixed in one place and that as few cables as possible need to be plugged in in the most straightforward fashion.

    My pedalboard has already been seen, perhaps it is worth mentioning that it is not a store-bought Board - they are mostly too big for me or, if not, laid out in such a way that they do not come close enough to my requirements. However, I still had some "laptop holders" from days gone by and unceremoniously helped one such pad (36 x 24cm) back into existence - to serve a far more important purpose as a pedalboard. Two of my stompboxes are significantly heavier (D.Loop and Cioks DC7) and have a fixture for screwing in. For this I drilled holes in the metal plate at the designated positions (the drilling went very easily). I also drilled a hole at each corner for the legs. I also had a few things on hand - the white rubber feet are (I think) from Adam Hall. In order to get the board angled (and not horizontal) on the floor, I took longer screws at the rear legs and filled the space in between with another pair of legs (historical) and washers (see rear view at the Jack Patch Module).

    In order to raise the back row of boxes a bit, I fixed two aluminum rails (taken years ago from an old drawer before dumping it) to the base plate with Velcro - this also creates the needed wire channel below the stompboxes. The rails are completely covered with Velcro on top (about 0.6 cm wide), so that all boxes are sitting super tight. As passages for cables from the bottom to the top, the already existing vents have been sufficient.

    So there is little to say or show, other than my perception that the consistently executed "banishing" of certain devices to below the board had a massive impact in bringing order. In particular, the "all-handling" power supply and Temple patchbay block are really "life-saving".


    Using those, such extremely close placed mini pedals, it's almost impossible for someone with a shoe size just under 15 to operate the pedals using a foot. Since I operate it by hand or MIDI, I do not care - but in the long run I may still look for a base or longer legs to raise the board to about 40cm.