Between 2001 and 2011, my rig was pretty much the same. I used a 3 channel Marshall JCM2000 60 or 100watt head into a 4 x 12 cab, My only effects were a cry baby wah, Boss tuner and a Boss overdrive or laterlly a RAT 2 pedal for solos. On the amps FX loop I would use a delay, in my last band this eventually became 2 delays a Line 6 DL-4 Delay Modeller and a TC Electronics Novadelay, sometimes these would be synched together for rythmic passages. I banged the whole lot into an Electro Harmonix Pedalbag which was lightweight and reasonably durable.
The rig was fine, it sounded good and was fairly reliable, The JCM2000 tsl 60 is quite a quiet amp in terms of a Marshall head. So I was able to drive her quite hard at gigs and get that mix of front and rear end distortion, but the big problem playing gigs was the sheer amount of cables to worry about. Even after I had a dedicated FX loop send/return cable made by a friend. There was still the consideration of running cables to a pedalboard as well as the FX send/return, besides that, the TSL’s 5 way footcontroller also had its own dedicated cable attached to it, and that did like to go wrong quite often. So thats 5 cables to worry about. The rigging time was a a pain in the arse, if you were on a 5 band bill, as soon as you had the otherbands gear onstage it was like being trapped in a bowl of pasta. it was just awful. Id gone through a Marshall tsl 5 way controller every 2 years. The amp is great, but the footswitch not so.
So the thought of playing a gig and having to worry about 5 cables failing got to me.
When I had a break from bands 2009-2010 I wasn’t worried. I played guitar occasionally at home and it was no hassle.
However when I started to think about gigging again. I began to reconsider my whole rig. I really wanted to go down the route of a combo amp, maybe something single channel, keep it and let the pedals give me distortion and overdrive tones. But I wanted a pedalboard that would be ready to just plug in and go, no messing, no fuss, no endless power supply issues or cable problems.
Along the way I sold my TC Electronics Novadelay, it sounded great but the pedals multifunctionality was clumsy and awkward and meant I often changed presets by accident onstage. So it had to go.
I replaced this with a EHX #1 Echo, which always sounded good and transparent in my amps fx loop. But as soon as I started to use it directly with other pedals it just seemed to suck tone once distortion was added.
The main consideration was generating amplifier quality distortion, I had intended to use my Trusty Sansamp TRI AC, however this seemed inconsistant from amp to amp. It sounded great into my brothers Marshall JCM800 and we’d had good results both into a desk direct or running it into Random Studios Mesa Studio 22 combo, but in a modern Marshall it was awful, just tinny and buzzy.
After some searching I tried the Blackstar HT Dual. This basically gave me a Marshall JCM2000 front end in a small box. I was sold. The ISF voicing control allowed me to tighten up the low end which i thought would be invaluable if I had to plug into an unfamiliar amp. The fact I could actually overdrive the front end with a Boss overdrive like a real valve amp was a big selling point. Im not sure the HT is a pure valve circuit, but if the shoe fits wear the sucker….I settled on a Clone of a Keeley SD1 and its been great.
After trying out a few delays without being inspired. I chanced upon and settled on the Line 6 M5 multi FX stompbox, this gave me access to all the line 6 modeller pedal tones in a simple to use format with 24 user defineable presets. One minute it could be a secondary delay, the next a reverb or tremelo pedal, chorus etc etc…
In a bit to get away from Marshall JCM2000 type tones tried a John Suhr Riot Pedal and besides being knocked out by it workmanship and build quality. I decided it was different enough to compliment the Blackstar, after rehearsing with a new band, I realised the Blackstars hi gain channel was a bit over compressed with a noisy band so the Riot gave me high gain with added prescence at the top end to cut through the mix.
The big headache for me was wondering how to power it all in total I had 7 devices on the board. 4 of those basic traditional 9volt-DC pedals, but the Line 6 pedals are both digital and hi drain, the Blackstar is 18 volts AC at 800 MA?
Looking around I was expecting to have to buy 2 different varieties of Voodoo Lab Pedalpower(s). But even then Id still have struggled and possibly had to run one or more device on a wallplug. The whole idea of this was that I could turn up, drop the board on the stage plug a guitar in at one end, into an amp at the other and just plug in one mains plug in. No messing.
Enter the CIOKS AC10
The AC10 is probably the best “all in one” power solution on the market. Its able to handle valve based AC pedals as well as high drain digital devices as well as your commonal garden 9v boxes. A quick email to the delightful Poul Ciok explaining my rig was returned 35 mins later with a complete guide to setting up the AC10 and what cables to use.
Then theres the question of the board?
In the end I opted for a Pedaltrain 2, its 2 foot by 1 foot dimension seemed to offer me the same level of space as the EHX Gigbag, rather than use the supplied velcro I went for a variation of 3Ms Dual Lock adhesive (basically a posh hook and loop fastener).
All in all Im pleased, the Line 6 DL4 did have a habit of falling off, but by rebonding it with smaller sections of dual lock and combining that with cable ties, its now firmly seated. The AC10 offers enough flexibility in its design to allow for a radical retweaking of the board.
Soundwise. Im pleased. I still sound like me, but the M5 gives me more flexibility and also its not been too difficult getting used to it all. I bought a Planet Waves cable kit and cut the cables to size for the cleanest signal path possible.
The main issue with this board has been deciding when to stop, at one point I was going to isolate the modulation and delay effects on their own loop, using a Robert Keeley FX Loop pedal. But there was simply not enough space for cables to do it cleanly. The there was the added headache of powering…….
Here is the finished project