Photo by Chris Hoyle
Q: Is it ok to plug my bass directly into my chain of effects pedals and out to my amp, or is it better to run the pedals through the effects loop, and plug my bass straight into my amp?
A: I seem to be on a roll with the topics I have limited experience with personally, and so I’m going to ask readers to share their thoughts as well.
I see either one or two clear advantages to using an effects loop depending on the configuration of your effects loop.
First, when you use the effects loop built into your amp, it is putting the effects AFTER the signal has run through the pre-amp, which can enhance the effected signal. I’ve been told that effects often sound much clearer when placed after the preamp as opposed to in between your instrument and the preamp.
I’ve also heard it said that running effects into an effects loop can help cure impedance mismatches caused by the use of different pedals. I’ll just have to take their word for it on this one.
Second, if your effects loop has a blend knob (you will often find this on high-end DI or stomp box effect loops), this also allows you to further sculpt the sound by blending an un-effected signal in with the effected signal. This can really help to keep things from getting too muddy, in my experience.
I would also imagine that if you are using a lot of effect pedals, an effects loop could help to minimize signal degradation and noise, although this is an assumption on my part.
I also like using switchable effect loops for certain sounds. For example, one can get a pretty nice synth-like tone by combining a good octave with a good envelope filter or auto-wah. This requires you to stomp on multiple pedals before getting your tone – unless you have the effects ready and running into a switchable effects loop. In that case, you’ll simply turn the entire signal chain on and off, which is quite handy. This also serves to retain the purity of your signal when running dry.
Although this doesn’t relate to effects loops, I would also encourage you to carefully consider the order in which you run your effects. For example, if you sometimes use an envelope or another effect that changes sound depending on velocity, you’ll want to run that ahead of any other pedal that changes your velocity – over-drive, octave, etc. – if there’s even the slightest chance that you will use both at the same time. I only use a few effects – if I use them at all – but when I do, I often run my limited effects in this order:
Envelope → Octave → Reverb or Delay
That’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge on this topic but I know readers have insight on this. Readers, what do you do with your signal chains? Please share in the comments.