Other Equipment

Pedal Order on Your Board


Does it really matter the order of new pedals on your board? I have new, Strymons, TC, Exotic E, that I switch around but I can't tell the tonal difference. I read that pedals should go in some type of order , and I get that, especially with my older pieces.
I know pedal boards are an ongoing process of change, but am I hearing things right?


Oh man. It matters. It matters a lot.

There are basic principles, but experienced pedal guys even argue about those.

So nothing is etched in stone, but there's general agreement that pedals that modify gain should come early in the signal chain, and pedals that modulate or work in the time domain should come late. This is where most guys start, anyway.

So, early in the chain (in no particular order): tuner, overdrive, distortion, fuzz, boost, compressor, anything that says it's a "preamp."

Late in the chain: tremolo/vibratro, phase, flange, chorus, rotary speaker, all manner of delays, reverb. Reverb is often the last pedal.

Wah, volume pedals, and EQ are harder to place, because it depends on exactly how you want them to work.

There are many (sometimes conflicting) rules of thumb about the details of placement, along with complicated decision trees to go through (like, if you want this sound with these two pedals, hook'em up in this order).

Final choices end up being personal anyway. I doubt you can blow anything up by connecting pedals in whatever order you like, so feel free to experiment.

But if you told us what pedals you have already, and which new ones you just got - along with what music you play, and the kinds of tones you're looking for - we'd be better able to help...

... or at least give you a variety of opinions based on our individual experience.

Since you're asking about new pedals you're adding to your board, my guess is you're annoyed by the thought of rearranging everything - so you'd like permission to make it easy on yourself and just hang them anywhere.

But no - sorry man! Anyone with a pedalboard more than 3-4 deep has spent more hours than they'll admit figuring out what should go where, and then redoing everything when they get a new pedal.

It's awful.

I know pedal boards are an ongoing process of change, but am I hearing things right?

They certainly are. You're hearing that right.


It's very rare that I use more than 2 pedals at a time, but I sequence mine like this:

Morley Distortion/Wah/Volume --> MXR Stereo Chorus --> Mutron Phasor --> MXR Uni-Vibe --> Boss Digital Delay.

The three modulation-based delay effects (chorus, phasor, uni-vibe) are in the middle, and so far I've only ever used one of them at a time. I have the distortion pedal in front of them because I get a different sound sending the distortion into the chorus/phasor/univibe than vice versa. This arrangement gives me both options --- for a sound with overdrive after the modulators, I leave the Morley distortion off and use the dirty amp channel.


From pedal designer and guru Robert Keeley:

Order of pedals – Robert Keeley

Which Chain Of Effect Pedals Makes Life Easy?

  • Wah -> Which,
  • Compressor -> Chain,
  • Overdrive -> Of,
  • EQ -> Effect,
  • Pitch -> Pedals,
  • Modulation -> Make,
  • Level -> Life,
  • Echo -> Easy.
  • I like to see wah pedals and sometimes even phasers as the first effect after the guitar. We'll call these Wah effects (yes even the phaser). Wah pedals boost a frequency you sweep to with your foot and phasers cut or notch a frequency that is swept to electronically. Distortion pedals make interesting response changes to the boost or cut from these sweep pedals.
  • Compressors typically go next although I like them after distortion pedals in many cases if the compressor is clean and transparent enough. Compression after distortion has two effects that I really like. First, the noise floor is lower because the noise from a compressor isn't being amplified and distorted by the overdrive pedal. Second, there appears to be more sustain. There is one draw back that some people notice and that is a darker, warmer tone. Some folks might prefer a more conventional, brighter tone.
  • Next comes Overdrive or distortion.
  • Equalizer pedals can go next. They are commonly used for a boost pedal if they can be turned on and off, or used to shape the tone of the distortion pedal.
  • Pitch changing pedals, Vibrato for example; go next for the simple reason that many distortion pedals can't handle the many pitches at one time. Try strumming a complex chord with your distortion pedal on, say a C7#9#11.
  • Modulation effects such as chorus and flanging go next.
  • Level pedals that control the volume go next in many cases. This would include tremolo, volume pedals (great at this point in the effects chain because it cuts all the hiss going to your amp), noise gates and limiters. Since compression is a limiter in many cases and this is why it works post-distortion by the way.
  • Echo effects go last. These include delay and reverb.
  • A sample effects board might contain these effects: Guitar -> Wah, Compressor, Overdrive, EQ, Vibrato, Chorus, Tremolo, Volume Pedal, and Delay-> Amp. Note – these “rules” are meant to be broken. Use what sounds best in YOUR rig.

For me:

  1. Tuner.

  2. Atomic Brain.

  3. Fulltone Supa Trem.

  4. MXR Carbon Copy.

Pretty much follows Proteus' guide.

My kids have much more sophisticated boards, and I'm not sure they adhere to any blueprint, but they're getting some mighty cool sounds from them.


Use what sounds best in YOUR rig.

What adept says is the truth. Whatever sound you want, and the order of pedals that give you that sound, is what is the correct order.

My order currently is:

tuner -> Atomic Brain (in green sparkle, 'cause the colour is what makes it) -> BYOC Classic Delay.


when i had a complicated board, i followed the general rule of thumb as outlined in some of the posts above, with the one exception being the microPog -- which gave a blend of both octave up and down -- as the first thing in the chain, then folllowed by the wah, because what the wah did with the micro pog was pretty cool... then it went preamps, distortions, tremolo, chorus, delay, reverb... i forgot where the phaser was.

i utlimately couldnt control the tap dance it started taking for certain songs, so i went with a floor modeller. Much simpler.


Great info. It seems that there are consistancies here. The order that Proteus and audept mention, which is close to what I have set up. However, I was not sure why they had to go in a certain order, which audept clarified. My thought was for example, Strymon. They make compressors, delay, reverb, modulation pedals. They are all New, meaning that they are technology wise, more advanced than my early 70' MXR Phase 90, so would the order make a difference. Now I know that the inherent frequencies and boosts, cuts and sweep has an effect on order.

More importantly, Way too many pedals on the board for what I play now, which is Chet, Hank Marvin, rockabilly, a little surf, and standards. I play Gretsch, 6120T and 6122-59 through a Gretsch Executive and modded Fender CVR. Just tore the thing down and starting over and I'll let you know where I end up.

FYI Pedal Inventory

  • MXR Dyna Comp,
  • Xotic Effects BB Plus, MXR Blues Driver
  • Strymon Deco, Danelectro Dan-Echo,
  • Strymon Mobius
  • Micro POG -TC Electronics HOF Reverb -Sonic Stomp Maximizer -Diamond amp switcher -70's MXR Phase 90 and Distortion+

Thanks to all for your input and keep you posted.


I havent seen Frank Giffen here in a bit,but if you wanna talk Pedal Boards and Effects He is the Mad Scientist of Effects ,power supplies and the Routing of all those boxes in a playable Unit. I once saw Proteus's pedal board and I thought it was NAMM show display or a Guitar magazine Pedal board shootout,Wow what a sight.

Either way, I go the same route as suggested earlier, and have my pedals in a similar order mentioned by Proteus and Audept.

What I recently picked up this week was a TC Mini Spark which is a boost pedal. I figured it would be best to put it at the very end of my board since there is not alot of mention of pedal order for that type of pedal. Mini Spark and then the amp, so far so good. I like it.


Here's my most recent pedalboard which is configured as an FX Loop board. I have used buffers at each end to avoid signal loss when too many units are engaged.


This one is one of my "drive" pedalboards before the amp inputs:


Well nowsir, audept: far be it from me to point out apparent redundancies and other such mysteries on another's pedal board - and I applaud your sensible split into two boards, before-the-amp and in-the-effect-loop.

But let's talk.

If I decipher aright the cables on pre-board, the order is...
Bonafide buffer
Fuzz Ray
Nail Head trem
Ubangi dirter
Mystwy Bwain
Abbey reverb
Buffer out

And OK. I get having the highest gain pedal (Fuzz Ray) before the lower gain (Ubangi). But if I've guessed the order right, why trem between the two?

Further, is the 301 used more for preampery or for delay/mod? Even with your deployment into a before-amp board and an effects-loop board, I guess this is the best compromise location for it. You need the preamp early in the proceedings, delaymod almost always works better after dirt, and we're certainly used to delaymod before the amp (Echoplex, Space Echo, Dlx Memory Man, etc).

And then there's a reverb! So this board could obviously double as your only board. Or do you find a significant difference in the function of a reverb before the amp as opposed to in the effects loop where you also have one?

On to the loop board, where I can't read cable runs at all. Except I'm sure you come into the buffer at right, and the order of the others wouldn't make a vast difference. Assuming the Big Sky comes at the very end.

But here's where I must ask about duplication. Pedal minimalists might archly observe that you have FOUR delays of one sort and another, two at least of which have substantial if not extensive overlap in function. The BS301 on pre-board and at least the El Capi on loop-board can be used very similarly. (Arguably the Deco as well, with its doubletrack mode.) All three emulate various sorts of analog delay. So how do you use each of those differently?

The DIG is an extensively featured dual digital delay - which I'll assume you use for the pristine long delays, interval delays, etc which it specializes in. Having that, do you still use the analogs for longer (messier) delays?

And how do you employ the Deco? Love to have one, but it seems one of those all-in-one pedals that does a couple things so well together that it could almost stand alone on a board (like the Flint). Do you use the tape saturation? It's really almost enough drive on its own - and could be seen as a gain pedal on the loop-board. But how does the saturation sound in the loop?

Last, do you not have TWO rotary speaker effects in the Lex and the Dyno-my-Roto? What gives there?

And all these pedals and no compressor!



OK, so I can see that thread is starting to get "out of my pay grade" so I'll read, learn, and enjoy. But may I ask: - why would you have buffers at both ends, of your boards? - on your FX Loop board, how do you power all that? with a V8? All those Strymons needs allot of energy.


Hogman, which of the pedals in that inventory are you presently trying to deploy?


Tim, on the Nocturne pedals board I consulted with Tavo for the best order and this is what he suggested. The Abbey chamber reverb is a simulation of one of Abbey Road Studios echo chambers. It gives a nice '60s feel to the sound. Sometimes I only use that without the other FX. As for the FX loop board, the signal chain is buffer/Deco/Dig/El Cap/Lex/DynoMyRoto/Big Sky/buffer. The order may have to be changed, still experimenting but my workload is massive and time is limited (I guess you know exactly how that feels!) The Lex is purely for Leslie rotary speaker sounds, whilst the DynoMyRoto is a really nice chorus sound.I like the Deco mainly for the tape saturation effect. I just like to play with different effects, born of my sound engineer background of always having racks of FX, sometimes a special unit only for a particular sound on 1 song. Lastly, there are 2 compressors on Pedalboard#3 (Drive #2) which is currently in transition stage, along with Pedalboard#4 (FX Loop #2) There are also plans for a Pedalboard#5 which will essentially be a Nocturne Showroom!



OK, so I can see that thread is starting to get "out of my pay grade" so I'll read, learn, and enjoy. But may I ask: - why would you have buffers at both ends, of your boards? - on your FX Loop board, how do you power all that? with a V8? All those Strymons needs allot of energy.

– Hogman

I started with a buffer first in the signal chain, but my technician friends here at work suggested I use buffers at each end which is common practice in our Sound System designs. Then it doesn't matter which units are in-circuit at any particular time, the load on the source and the output to the amp will be constant impedance. As to the Strymons, I originally only had 4 Strymon pedals on this board and a Voodoo Labs 4 X 4 power supply underneath (4 high-current outputs). When I added the Big Sky I changed the VL power supply over to a Strymon Zuma power supply (9 X 500mA high current outputs/universal input voltage)


Proteus, thanks for asking. After reviewing the thread info, tearing down the board, and deploying the pedals that makes sense to use, this is where I'm at so far. Note: order not yet finalized.

  1. MXR Dyna Comp
  2. BB+ (distortion)
  3. Visual Sound Dual Tap Delay
  4. Strymon Deco
  5. Strymon Mobius
  6. TC HOF Reverb

Gone are a ABY Switcher (Diamond), Sonic Maximizer, and Micro POG, which I'm not sure of right now. Old MXR's stay in the box for now.



Well, I was an early adopter of the DynaComp in the late 70s, and have always considered it a classic - but in my view there are much better compressors now. Especially if yours is as old as mine, you might want to consider some alternatives.

In terms of order, though, this looks pretty good overall, but I can see some details to fiddle with.

You might experiment with the compressor and the distortion, try'em both ways and see what you like better. Listen especially for pick attack, overall volume level, sustain, and noise when both are engaged. Choose your favorite config.

I think I'd move the Deco back at least before the delay, maybe before the BB+, depending on what you use it for. If frequently for tape saturation overdrive, try it both before and after the compressor as well. If more often for the delay effects, then, yeah, probably just before the VS Delay.

Personally I like modulation before delay - so that I'm delaying the modulated tone rather than modulating the delayed tone (which has its charm, but gets messier). Which means I'd put the Mobius before the VS Delay also.

So...gosh. I guess my revision (to try and see if you like it) would be:

  1. Deco or BB+
  2. BB+ or Deco
  3. Dyna Comp
  4. Mobius
  5. VS Delay
  6. HOF Reverb

(With the understanding that you might try the Dyna first in line before Deco/BB+. And if I was going down the rabbit hole, I'd try the compressor beTWEEN those two as well, trying both of them in the slots before and after it.)

One rule of thumb I've come across is that low gain pedals ought to follow high gain pedals (though I've also heard the opposite). In that light, depending on how you use the Deco, it might be either of those two.


Into the volume pedal, and then out of the volume pedal and into the amp.


Billy Zoom gear, Jan 17, 2009. NAMMaheim, CA.


Oh me achin' 'ead!

I envy all you bastids for even understanding the CONCEPT of an effects loop! It was a non-issue for me when all I had were old-school design Fender amps...BUT...both the JC-120 and the Vox AC-30cch head have those mystical effects loops.

"As if this $#!+ wasn't already hard enough!"

On the other hand, this thread DID answer a couple of questions I had, thankfully. Definitely moving my Dyna-Comp (I know I know, but still better than I deserve) down the chain from the Game Hen fuzzbage box.

One thing I do wonder (and I fear I may already know the answer) is regarding the EH Pitchfork. There's just enough latency to commit groovicide. I wondered if putting it in a specific spot in the order would alleviate at least some of it, but I suspect not.

What thinks them that knows what's what?

And can anybody kindly point me to a primer on loops?


Pitch devices: earlier rather than later. If you can't make the Pitchfork work, send it to me. My grooves are already cided.

Effects loops? You got this, man. Effect send to input of first pedal. Output of last pedal to effect return.


Thank ya, Protelicious. What's a return? And what's the purpose of loops, anyway?

(Uh oh, drift alert. My bad.)


Well, loop is a term needing some disambiguation. We're not speaking here of audio loops, like an endlessly repeating recorded bit either in a looping pedal or lazy-ass musically-bankrupt sequenced "music." (We'll forget for the moment I made you program same when we were recording 30 years ago.)

Then if you really want to get and stay confused, there are "loop pedals" that don't record audio loops, but instead create, oh, let's call'em "circuit loops". Say you picture the route from your guitar to your amp as a straight line (which it would be if you had just a single cord). Then say you have a few devices straight "in line" from guitar to amp (which is what we've been talking about as "pedal order.") Into one, out of that and into the next, out of that and into the next, etc, all the way to the amp. That's not a loop. That's a chain.

Now let's say there are two or three pedals you want to engage at once, without tap-dancing - or a few pedals you rarely use, so don't want them adding extra length and noise to your "signal chain," but you'd like them acessible when you want them. Well then you get this "loop pedal." It has an input and an output. It also has a "send" and a "return." And a stomp switch. Most of the time, signal just flows straight through it from the in to the out, like it wasn't even there. But when you stomp it, the input is shunted to the send, and the return to the out.

Let's talk about the send and the return. They're both 1/4" jacks like everything else. They're often on the back of the pedal rather than the sides - but physical location matters not. The point is that they provide a path to one or more devices you don't normally even want in your signal chain - or which you want to switch in and out together.

The Send from the looper is connected to the input of the first pedal "in the loop". Out from that pedal into the input of the next pedal "in the loop," out of that pedal into the next one, etc. Then out from the last pedal in the loop to the Return on the looper.

Now. Maybe that's an EQ set to sound great with a particular overdrive, then the overdrive, then some effect you always use with the overdrive. Turn all three pedals on. When the loop they're in is OFF (when the stomper on the looper isn't stomped), they're out of your straight signal chain (even though their lights are glowing). When you stomp the looper ON, the current is hijacked from the looper's input to the Send, out to all those pedals, then back to the Return and on to the Out from the looper and the rest of your signal chain. All three screamin-lead pedals are suddenly there at once, with a single stomp rather than a tapdance. When you've done exploited all your leaderly magnificence, you stomp the looper again and all three pedals (and their added noise) shut up at once.

You've just added a loop to your signal chain, then turned it back off.

The effects loop in your amp does the same thing, but is there for a slightly different reason. And I should have talked about that first, because that's what you axed about. You've heard my explanations before, though, and you know they meander.

The THINKING behind amp effects loops is that some pedals are quieter, have a lower noise floor, work more efficiently, generally sound better when they come AFTER the preamp part of the amp, and before the power amp section. Others work better where we're used to having them, before the preamp - ie, before the cord ever gets to the durn input hole. The usual thinking is that gain-dirt-boost-type pedals should precede the preamp - and modulation, delay, and reverb are those studio-ish effects which work well between preamp and power amp. (Just like they're used on busses or in channel inserts in the studio.)

So. The effects loop on an amp is positioned electrically between the preamp and the power amp. In effect (so to speak), the "Send" is the OUTPUT of the preamp, while the "Return" is the INPUT of the power amp. Thus, you connectorizes the Send from yon effects loop to the input of a mod/delay/reverb, then connecting the outs and ins of as many of those as you care to use, and finally connecterate from the Out of the last pedal to the Return of the effects loop.

Thus inserting a "loop" of effects between the preamp and power amp. Maybe they'll sound better there. I don't know.

That's all I know about that, and I made some of it up.


Jayzus and the baby jayzus, Tim. Promise you’ll never change.

If I could digress one more time: From what my feeble brain can glean from your kind explanation, would I be correct that if employing the aforementioned on-board effects loop, that nothing would be plugged into the amp’s normal input?

(Then I’ll get outta the way here and if I have anymore ?’s,I’ll start another thread.)

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