How to Activate Multiple Guitar Pedals at Once


Most guitar players love assembling an army full of pedals on a trusty pedalboard. However, most pedal heads face a problem when requiring to instantly switch to a different tone. 

The problem being, it is impossible to activate and deactivate multiple pedals simultaneously (unless you’re an expert tap dancer.) 

Although this problem is common the solution is simple. Fear not; this article will detail how to switch on/off multiple guitar pedals with a simple press of a footswitch. 

So let’s jump in quickly with a quick answer.

How do you activate and deactivate multiple guitar pedals at once?

The best option is to utilize a ‘pedal switcher’ to turn on/off a group of pedals simultaneously. These devices sync with your guitar pedals, enabling you to create custom patches. It allows you to enable and disable a selected group of effects, condensing your switching to just a few pedals.     

What is a Pedal Switcher? (Video Tutorial)

Pedal Switchers – 101

To put it simply, pedal switchers (also known as “loop switchers“) are primarily designed to condense your pedal pressing by assigning ‘patches’ of your favorite pedals.

A pedal switcher simply creates ‘loops’ of your assigned pedals. In turn, they enable and disable groups of pedals, all controlled from one device.

Giving you the freedom to effortlessly switch to different pedal combinations with a single press of a footswitch. Thus, providing complete control over your tones so you can concentrate on your playing.

Instead of hiring someone to switch your effects for you (like big rock stars do) or doing extreme pedal dancing routines, these specialized devices can come in handy. 

These devices are widespread among experienced semi-professional and professional guitar players.

Ultimately, they are an essential tool for any frequent gigging player who requires to seamlessly transition to different tones without the need for ‘tap dancing.’ 

Not only that, there are many more excellent reasons why you should add a pedal switcher to your rig.  

5 Pros Adding a Pedal Switcher to Your Setup

1. Polish Your Live Performances

As mentioned, managing and compressing all of your complicated pedal switches to just one footswitch is a game-changer. 

You can simply order and create pedal patches for your preferred guitar tones for different sections of songs. They allow you to seamlessly switch to your desired guitar tone with a straightforward press of a switch. 

With a pedal switcher, there’s no need to navigate a complicated pedalboard in the dark, and hope you step on your trusty mini pedal. 

Therefore, a pedal switcher ensures you can concentrate on the most important aspect of a live performance. That is…your playing! 

This device is excellent for polishing up your playing and therefore improving your live on-stage performances.  

2. Seamlessly Order Your Pedals  

Some complicated pedal switchers allow you to change the order of pedals in the signal chain, which can completely change the tone with the same collection of effects. 

Therefore, you order your pedals in any order disregarding the typical ‘pedal order rules.’ 

The reason why is because most pedal switchers come with individual send and return jacks for each pedal. These are located on the back panel, along with input and output jacks. 

By plugging them in and out individually, this device manages to put them all into individual channels. This allows different switching options but also other orders in the signal chain. Pretty handy if you ask me! 

3. Gig Reliability / Failsafe 

The traditional pedalboard method of daisy chaining guitars pedals together via mini cables is common. However, the problem is, if one mini lead breaks or a pedal dies….the chain breaks as a whole. 

Causing a catastrophic guitar cutoff (loss of signal) and, unfortunately, a red face on stage. 

Not to mention how annoying and difficult it is to locate the faulty cable or pedal with a long, complex chain of pedals and leads. 

However, with a pedal switcher, each pedal is isolated within a loop. Therefore, if a pedal or cable dies, you can quickly locate the culprit and replace it or remove it from the signal chain altogether.

Having a pedal switcher saves the embarrassment and panic of ripping out cables and pedals from your board to locate the fault.   

4. Assists Tone Preservation 

A big complex pedalboard requires a lot of cables to connect multiple pedals together. The problem is, the more cables used in a signal chain, the more ‘high-end’ is lost from the signal. A term commonly coined as “tone suck.”

However, with a pedal switching device, this problem is reduced significantly. This is because a pedal switcher engages that specific pedal needed at that very moment. 

Therefore, when a pedal is not engaged, the cable connecting that pedal is not involved in the chain (bypassed.) Again as mentioned, because every pedal is isolated in its own loop.  

Meaning, there is not a long chain of cables sucking the high-end from a signal. This helps preserve high-ends by reducing the amount of unnecessary cable required in a pedalboard setup. 

Furthermore, it is also worth mentioning that pedal switchers come with built-in buffers to improve tonal performance. 

 5. Valuable long Term Investment 

Granted, a complicated pedal switcher can be an expensive investment. On the other hand, the value, functionality, and versatility you attain from these devices areis well worth the cost in my opinion. 

A pedal switcher is a must-have for any frequent gigging guitarist who wants a professional and organised live pedalboard. 

The main reason is the ability to seamlessly switch to different pedals and thus assigned presets. Without the vulnerability aspects of a conventional pedalboard setup. 

The other reason is that this device will last for years and will act as the brain and control centre for all of your pedals. Thus giving you more control and flexibility over your sound. 

The Cons of Traditional Pedalboard Setups

Don’t get me wrong, a simple traditional pedalboard without a switching device works extremely well (I have adopted one for many years.)

With that said, the main problem with a pedalboard with single-operated guitar pedals creates a problem. That being, you cannot transition to different tones without many taps of multiple single-operated footswitches.

Here are some examples of the common situations you face with a traditional pedalboard without a pedal switcher.

  • Example 1. – during a live performance, you may want to engage your trusty boost and delay pedal for a guitar solo. Giving your sound a lift within a band mix and added dynamics for technical sections.  
  • Example 2. – Lets’s say a song requires you to go from a mild distorted tone to a clean picking tone. Ideally, you will need to turn off your distortion pedal and engage your chorus and reverb pedal for this clean section.

Obviously, these examples above require multiple pedal switches in a split second which is hard enough in a dim-lit stage setting. Added to the fact your concentration is taken away from your playing.

These examples alone are the reasons why a pedal switcher is an essential tool to any frequent gigging guitarist pedalboard. Allowing you to program these tone transitions with one press of the footswitch (instead of 3 or 4.)

How to Use a Pedal Switcher

To integrate a pedal switcher to your pedalboard, you’ll first need enough patch cables to make it all work. Pedals are plugged in individually into “send” and “return” jacks of individual channels. 

The “send” jack should be connected to the pedal’s input and the “return” to the pedal’s output.

Of course, you can do the same not with an individual pedal but with a few pedals plugged into one loop. Just bear in mind that you’ll be switching multiple pedals on and off in your signal chain at the same time. 

The use of pedal switchers depends on its type. If we’re talking about simple ones, like line selectors and loop boxes, then they are operated simply using these devices’ one or two footswitches and additional level controls in case that the device has them. 

Regular pedal switchers are more complex and feature multiple switches for programmable presets. Using the switcher’s onboard computer and additional controls, you’ll be able to create different presets that involve the pedals plugged into its loops. 

Aside from combining different loops, you’ll also be able to switch their order in the signal chain, which can also help you change the tone. 

Switchers usually come with dozens of presets (or more) which are accessible through the preset “bank” switching.

By accessing any of the pre-programmed presets, the switcher immediately calls in the desired loops and shuts off those that aren’t part of the preset. 

Additionally, they also come with bank up and down switches, allowing you to use different banks of presets for a given song or a part of the set.

Some switchers also come with the tap tempo features for individual pedals, expression pedal inputs, and other controls that make the experience fuller. 

Recommended Pedal Switchers

Electro-Harmonix Super Switcher

Aside from making awesome distortion pedals, as well as other effects. Electro-Harmonix also has some other useful devices in itstheir arsenal.

For instance, their Super Switcher provides a lot of functionality and versatility. for guitar players who prefer complex pedalboards with numerous effects units on them.it. 

First off, the EXH Super Switcher comes with eight individual and completely independent loops or channels. All featuring true bypass, you’ll be able to call in any combination that you want with a flick of the switch. 

But with such a complex device, there are additional features aside from regular switching. The device also comes with MIDI connectivity, giving you some pretty advanced operation modes. 

For instance, if you’re playing with your band completely synced to a click track, this device will have its queue and will switch between modes automatically, without you even stepping on it. 

Additionally, Super Switcher also comes with a tap control, a switch for your tuner that completely mutes the signal, a simple volume boost, as well as bank up and down switches. 

While we’re at it, the device comes with 16 banks of 8 presets, summing up to 128 programmable presets. Electro-Harmonix’s Super Switcher is a fully professional device for experienced guitar players. 

Voodoo Lab PX-8 Plus Pedal Switcher

But in case this one seems a bit complicated, yet you still prefer a quality device with great features and options, then Voodoo Lab has a great one for you. 

The company’s PX-8 Plus Switcher also comes with 8 loops, although it’s more compact and has fewer switches, making it a bit simpler to use. Of course, just like with the previous example, these are all true bypass loops. 

Using buffered or true bypass devices is a matter of personal preference, and you can always add a buffer after the switcher in case you prefer it that way. 

Overall, Voodoo Lab’s PX-8 Plus is pretty straightforward and easy to use. You have a total of 36 presets to access, all available through preset banks and individual preset switches. 

Creating presets will maybe take some time to getgetting used to, but it’s far from a complicated task.

The most important thing about the PX-8 Plus model is that it’s practical and that it can easily fit any standard pedalboard, making things pretty tidy and ergonomic. 

However, despite this pedal switcher’s overall simplicity, it still comes as a great option for professional guitar or bass guitar players.

Aside from amazing build quality and durability, we also have MIDI connectivity that makes it suitable for bands playing to click tracks who want to have everything synced up. 

Joyo PXL-8 

Of course, it’s obvious by now that making elaborate pedalboards and signal chains is an expensive endeavor.

This is especially the case with complex and intricate devices such as pedal switchers.

But in case you truly want to get into this game yet feel like doing it on a limited budget, then there’s some stuff by Joyo that’s worth checking out.

Here we have their PXL-8 model which brings basic features and functionalities in a more affordable package. 

This particular pedal switcher is fairly compact, despite bringing almost the same features that you’d find on a more expensive one.

The PXL-8 model, as its designated name suggest, comes with 8 individual loops for either single pedals or groups of multiple pedals. 

On the front panel, the device has only the essential footswitch controls. There are presets labeled as “A, B, C, D” and two additional ones for switching between banks of presets. 

On the left-hand side, there are two switches that allow you to store and edit presets, as well as a small display that shows you which preset is currently engaged.

It comes with a total of 32 presets and has a true bypass. Overall, this is a fairly straightforward switcher for only basic features and without any advanced stuff like MIDI connectivity. 

Accel FX22 Command Center

But in case you need a comprehensive fully functional package without having to purchase different components separately.

Then you can get a hold of an Accel’s Command Center pedalboard with an integrated switcher, also labeled as FX22. 

Once again we have a somewhat simplified switcher without any super-advanced features like MIDI connectivity. Nonetheless, it still brings enough functionalities for a standard and fairly practical setup.

The pedalboard surface itself is made of metal and features holes for hook-and-loops to attach your pedals.

As far as the switcher part goes, we have four switches for four presets, as well as two bank switches on the left side, along with a small but very visible display. 

On the far right side, it features a switch for a tuner that immediately mutes the output signal. Overall, it’s much simpler compared to some other examples on this list, although it comes with 80 presets in total. 

But if you need a full package with a pedalboard and a switcher in one, then definitely look into Accel’s Command Center. 

Boss MS-3

The innovativeness of Boss can be seen in pretty much all of their devices. When it comes to switchers, they took things to a whole new level with a unit like their MS-3. 

From the very first glance, we can see that this is both a compact and an advanced switcher.

Although it has only four basic footswitches on the front panel, the company came up with a very practical way to switch between banks and call in any of its numerous presets. 

In addition to switching and its three loops, the unit comes with an integrated effects processor that features a total of 112 different great-sounding effects. 

You can mix them in with any of your preferred loops and create countless different tones in combination with its onboard effects.

It also comes with a MIDI out which allows you to control parameters of some pedals in combination with expression pedals and other footswitches. 

Final Thoughts

Pedal switchers are a very useful tool for every performing guitar player who prefers to have multiple pedals over multi-effects devices. By bringing a lot of functionality and features, you won’t have to do the classic “pedal dancing” routines. Sure, you might take some time getting used to it all, but it will make your performance a breeze.

Adam

Adam is the founder and author of Tone Topics and dedicated to providing the best guitar content for like-minded gear nerds. Please enjoy all the content on the site and support us by sharing these posts with other people. It would really help us out!

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