Best Guitar Pedalboard: 2017 Edition
In this guide, we'll help you research and buy your guitar pedal board. Whether you are a first time buyer just beginning your pedal collection, a seasoned veteran looking to upgrade your existing pedalboard, or just pedalboard-curious, we'll guide you through the process!
Don’t need a gentle intro to pedalboards? Jump straight to the list of our 5 recommendations. For those that want to cut right to the chase as to what pedalboards to consider, we've summarized our findings in the following chart. However we encourage you to read on for our full reviews!
- Bottom Line:A great all-in-one solution - portable hardshell case, included power supply, room for 6-7 pedals. A bit pricey, and perhaps not well suited to control freaks who want to separate all the components. Still, just like their reliable pedals, Boss has a dependable winner on its hands with the BCB-60.
- Bottom Line:One for the hardcore pedal-heads, the Pedaltrain Pro is nearly 3 feet wide and accommodates a large number of pedals. Soft case option may not be sufficient to protect your coveted pedal collection, leaving you to throw down extra cash for the hard case. Still, this sturdy, quality board is a great value.
- What is a guitar pedalboard?
- Why do you need one?
- 5 Best Pedalboards
- A note about pedalboard Velcro
- Building your board & guitar pedal order
What is a guitar pedalboard?
In its most basic form, a pedal board is essentially a flat board that serves to hold your guitar effects pedals in place. Guitarists typically have a variety of pedals - from tuners to reverb to fuzz and much much more. If you think of your pedals like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the pedalboard is the table the puzzle is built on. The pedalboard allows you to configure the pedals, chain them together, power them, easily take them from one gig to the next, and make sure they stay put.
So, why do you need one?
- Stability - Whether you’re just starting out with a couple effects pedals or have a collection of dozens, you will want a sturdy, portable surface where you can configure them once and not have to worry about it again. We’ve all been in the situation where our pedals are moving around all over the place, or you accidentally kick one across the room.
- Power Supply - Your pedals all need to be powered. Without a pedalboard chances are you are messing with a bunch of different power supplies. But some pedalboards come with their own power supply, which means you will simply need just one power outlet to power your entire board!
- Portability - Having all your effects pedals together in one place and easily portable is one of the best parts of investing in a good pedalboard. You might be thinking “I don’t play any gigs, why would I need one?” Well, I did not start out playing gigs either, but my home studio became about 100 times more organized when I invested in a pedalboard. My pedals were arranged in aesthetically pleasing right angles, I just needed one power outlet, and my mess of cables became nice and tidy. If you do play gigs or jam with your friends, having your pedals on a pedalboard makes your setup super portable, and even more compact. When you get to your gig or your friend’s house, you simply lay down your pedal board, plug your guitar in, and you are good to go!
- Versatility - Pedal boards come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Part of why I love them so much is because there are models available to suit all sorts of sizes and budgets. From the small Pedaltrain Nano to the large Pedaltrain Novo 32, and everything in between. Say you start out with a small pedalboard, and eventually your collection of effects pedals grows bigger, you can always sell your small pedalboard on eBay or trade it in to your local Guitar Center, and buy a bigger and better one!
- Protection - Guitar effects pedals are not cheap. The average price of one pedal is around $150, but you could spend up to $800 for a rare/boutique/vintage pedal! No matter how many pedals are in your collection, chances are you’re at least looking at hundreds of dollars worth of equipment. And even though certain pedals like Boss for example are known for being built extra-tough, a pedalboard with a cover or a case provides protection and peace of mind. Keep in mind that not all pedalboards come with cases or covers! In those cases, you might need to buy one separately. Click here to check out some pedalboard covers and cases.
5 Best Pedalboards
Buying your pedalboard can be tricky. On the surface, a lot of them look very similar - typically gray and black rectangles of varying sizes. You have to dig a little deeper to find out all the features that make each one unique, and pick out the one that best fits your needs. Lucky for you, this guide exists to help you find the right one. We gathered opinions from far and wide, from bedroom warriors to professional gigging musicians, and compiled a list of the dozen most-recommended guitar pedalboards. We then purchased those models ourselves, and put them through some rigorous testing over several weeks. So, without further ado, here are the winners and our reviews of the 5 best pedalboards.
The Pedaltrain Nano 18" Pedalboard with Soft Case is an enormous value in a small package. Its size and straight-forward design make it easy to transport, but don’t be fooled by its stature; the Nano punches above its weight class. With room for 4-5 standard Boss-pedal-sized stomp-boxes (or 6-7 Mooer-sized pedals) on top, and a secret storage space underneath big enough for an oversized pedal or power supply, this pedalboard offers a wide range of options. If you're a gearhound with a large effects pedal rig, however, the space available can feel a little tight (especially if you have several large pedals or a hefty power supply). When you start adding the connecting cables - which tend to take up more room than you might think - the size may pose some problems for some buyers. Make sure to heed this warning from one reviewer:
“...it needs a small or thin power supply if the power supply were to be mounted on the bottom. I got a Fuel Tank Jr. and it did not fit under the board out of the box, so I attached some furniture pads to the legs to raise the power supply off the ground. It's a subtle modification when done neatly, and everything continues to fit nicely in the pedal board case.”
The 18" wide frame is durable enough to withstand a night in a crowded venue, yet simple enough for a beginner to set up. Like many larger boards it also includes versatile Velcro strips to truly customize your layout. One of the more unique features of the Pedaltrain Nano+ is the included carrying case. In addition to handles, the case comes with shoulder straps that can be attached to most guitar cases, giving you a free hand while simultaneously making your bandmates jealous! On the other hand, some owners may lament the complete lack of outer storage and pockets on the carrying case.
We can’t review the Pedaltrain Nano+ pedalboard without talking about purchase value! Coming with a lightweight metal frame and a carrying case, it easily out-values any other pedal boards in its price range. It has less storage than pedalboards one step up in cost, but it will also keep an extra $50 (or more) in your pocket.
In summary, we recommend the PT-NPL-SC by Pedaltrain as a great buy for an entry-level pedalboard if your collection is small, for a seasoned veteran looking for a secondary compact pedalboard setup, or the musician constantly on-the-go. This board will definitely get the job done. Free yourself from the extra bulk and hassle and check it out.
NOTE: The Pedaltrain Nano+ is actually the upgraded version of the original Pedaltrain Nano. The original is very well reviewed and still available (model PT-Nano-SC). The most significant difference is the length in the newer “plus” model has been extended by 4”, going from 14” to 18”. The extra space definitely helps squeeze one more pedal onboard. As of time of writing, they are priced exactly the same, so it's really your choice whether 14” is ample space and you'd rather have the more compact one, or you'd make good use of the extra 4” of the Nano+. For a quick visual comparison, here are example pedal configurations for both (images copyright of their respective owners):
Boss BCB-60 Pedal Board
Pros Using the Boss BCB-60: Michael Palmer of We Were Promised Jetpacks
The Boss BCB-60 pedalboard is a very popular and well-rounded board. It comes at a rather premium price-point, but considering the features it has, it is well worth the cost. It comes permanently set into a hard-shell case, and comes with its own built-in power supply. Along with the power supply you get internal mono and stereo channels for an even larger array of soundscaping options. The set up is straightforward and the guitar players that own it seem to really love this piece of equipment.
It has room for four oversized pedals, or 5 to 6 regular size stompboxes, on top. As for the case, the thick plastic shell does a great job of keeping your gear safe. It's durable and tough enough for any bumpy band trailer, and also fits sleekly under most backseats. The latches however, have a tendency to break off over time, so pay close attention how you load it in said trailer.
The built-in power supply and stereo in/out jacks are an added bonus. However, like many permanent hardcases in its price range, if the jacks stop working for any reason your board will be without input/output and a few useless pounds heavier than non-powered boards. Thankfully this doesn't happen very often, and if the power supply breaks, you can rearrange the panels and replace it pretty easily. The panel system is another unique part of this board and it comes in very handy. Just another way to customize your already funky setup! Here's an example configuration of the BCB-60:
All in all this is a great board. While it's the most premium price point of the pedalboards we recommend, its pros far outweigh its cons. The Boss BCB 60 would be an excellent board for a beginner as well as a veteran. Its simplicity is sure to please any musician, and its unique layout will offer an array of tone-shaping options to the experienced pedal nerd. Definitely recommend checking out this safe full-featured hardcase.
Behringer Pedal Board PB600
The Behringer PB600 pedalboard is another great value in the world of permanent-hard-cases. The PB600 comes with a built in power supply, mono and stereo outputs, and space for up to 6 regular sized stomp boxes. All the components sit in a permanent hard-shell case with noticeably more room than some of its other peers. Its long "hotdog" design offers a lot of surface area for some oversized pedals as well. You can get some awesome chained effects going in a space this size. For a visual of what this board is capable of, here's an example configuration with someone getting a lot of milage out of the PB600:
The hardcase is durable and has some real lasting power. You can load it in the band van anywhere you want with a general sense of comfort about your gear inside. The plastic is surprisingly thick and provides excellent protection from bumps along the way. Although some small plastic pieces have been known to break over time, the benefits still definitely outweigh the let-downs.
The built in power supply and stereo outputs are a nice bonus, but like others in its price range they are a blessing and a curse. It makes things organized and compact, however some complain the electronics may produce a buzz or hum depending on the grounding in certain venues. Also like other hardcase peers, if the inputs/outputs stop working for any reason, you'll have to bypass them and deal with the slight, but useless, extra weight. Although this scenario could prove frustrating, thankfully it’s not all that common.
This is a great board for any level of musician and will survive a wild night almost anywhere - not to mention it is a very attractive looking pedalboard! If you have a need for 8 or more pedals, this might not get you there, but if you have a small to moderate stage rig, this board is a great option! Definitely check it out.
Pros Using the Pedaltrain Pro: Mike Sullivan of Russian Circles, Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event
Thus far we've only covered pedalboards that can hold a max of 6 or 7 pedals. Not so with this one! The Pedaltrain Pro pedalboard is durable, straight-forward, and huge! This board offers you room to grow. The 7 lbs aluminum frame is as tough as it is expansive. At a massive 32 inches (that's nearly 3 feet) there's not much you can't fit on this board (or in the soft case). In the effects pedals world of space management, this board offers totally free customization. One thing a lot of gearheads gripe about is lack of space for your power supply, but the Pedaltrain Pro does away with those concerns with added space on top and below the board. Check out this great photo from user @joobtherube's Instagram of just one of many possible configurations of the Pedaltrain Pro:
It seems that Pedaltrain heard some of the disdain from its customers and finally put some extra storage pockets in the nylon case, a much welcome addition. However, one main problem that still exists with a pedal board this size is its lack of protection, when you opt for the soft case. When you load this thing up with a barrage of cherished guitar or bass effects pedals, the fact that their only protection is a thick piece of fabric can leave you with an uneasy feeling. A handful of complaints about the quality of the Velcro strips only adds to this concern when you imagine pedals coming loose in the bag.
But don't let these qualms deter you. Sure, the price is indicative of a more premium pedalboard, but for its size and capabilities, the Pedaltrain Pro is actually a really great value. This product would be perfect for a home-studio with a sizable pedal collection, or for the gigging musician. If you gig or tour regularly the Pedaltrain Pro with the soft case might pose some problems in terms of protection. To remedy that, we recommend the Pedaltrain PT-CLP-TC Classic Pro with the hard Tour Case. You'll pay about $100 more for it, but the added protection and peace of mind might be worth it to you (after all, what's an extra $100 to protect a pedal collection that costs many times more than that).
All in all, the Pedaltrain Pro pedalboard can handle nearly anything your effect-pedal-heart desires; it's a definite stand-out for its quality and versatility, and truly worth your consideration, especially if your pedal collection is significant.
SKB PS-8 Powered Pedalboard
The SKB PS-8 is a straight-forward and versatile pedalboard at a very good price point. The overall design of the board is both excellent and unique, with all components existing internally for a sleek and compact addition to your stage rig. The power supply lies buried deep in the heart of the board to give you added space on top. Another unique feature of the PS-8; the entire surface of the board itself is covered with soft Velcro. This gives you a lot of area to work with. Unlike other rail-mounted boards, this means you can arrange up to 8 standard sized pedals in any shape or pattern your heart desires!
While the built in power supply makes things more organized, some have complained that it can produce a buzz or hum in venues with poor wiring. And if it ever dies you'll have to replace it externally, making the board inconveniently weigh a little more than an unpowered board for no reason. Thankfully this isn’t that common, just something to take into account.
The gig bag and its front pocket are a great place to store cables and accessories. The pocket is big enough to store a good amount of small gear or tools. However, like other "pedal-bags" in its price range, the nylon case can feel a bit thin at times. Although it will save you an arm and a leg in cash up front, be careful with tube-based pedals or any other pedals with delicate moving parts.
All in all, the PS-8 is hard to beat for the price. This board would be good for basic and eclectic gearheads alike. Just be careful what gets set on top of it in the van.
A note about pedalboard Velcro...
Several of the recommended pedalboards above come with Velcro strips to hold your guitar/bass effects pedals in place. One of the boards even has its entire surface covered in Velcro. Unfortunately, Velcro alone won't do the trick. Between guitar effect pedals that may weigh a lot, Velcro losing its "gripping" power, and your pedalboard being tossed around, there is a danger of your expensive pedals becoming detached from the pedal board surface.
To solve this issue, a company called Godlyke has made a Power-Grip Pedal Tape, which serves as a Velcro alternative to mount your pedals to your board. It looks like this:
The glowing reviews this product receives speak for themselves. People that have made the switch from Velcro to Power-Grip Pedal Tape seem to never look back. Some users claim the grip it provides is so strong, it needs a screwdriver to be taken apart! This means you might have to put a little more elbow grease into taking your pedals off to rearrange them, but the added security and sturdiness that Power-Grip Pedal Tape provides is well worth it. It works great, and comes strongly recommended all around as a replacement to normal Velcro. Check it out for sure.
How to Build a Pedal Board for Your Guitar
Alright, so you've picked out your pedalboard. Now what? If you are a seasoned guitarist, you might already have a pretty good idea of what pedal order works best for you and your desired sound. But if you are an amateur or casual player, you may be thinking about setting up a pedal board for the first time, and are unsure how to go about it.
Whether you play a few gigs a year or just play for your friends and family, setting up a pedal board for your guitar can be a fun and interesting project. Once your new pedal board is in place, you may even find that you are a better and more versatile player.
Choosing the Pedal Board
Some casual guitar players wonder whether they need a pedal board at all, but most players would benefit by having at least a basic board in place. If you use pedals frequently when you play, a pedal board will vastly increase your enjoyment and making playing easier. Even if you use your pedals only occasionally, having a board in place will hold the pedals securely and keep your equipment from sliding around on the stage.
One of the most important decisions guitar players must make is what size pedal board they will need. This is a personal decision, and it is important to shop around carefully and try various size pedal boards. You will also want to review various models and choose the one that works best for your playing style.
The size of the pedal board is largely a matter of personal taste and playing style. The more pedals you use, the larger the board you will need. A small pedal board is fine if you use five or fewer standard size pedals and have no plans to add any more. A medium size board can accommodate 5 to 10 standard size pedals, but you will definitely need a large size board if you plan to use more than 10 pedals when you play. The use of oversize pedals will influence the size pedal board you need, so make your choice accordingly.
You can buy a pedal board off the shelf or custom build one to your specifications. Most music stores carry a variety of boards, so your best bet is to see what they have. If nothing at the store matches your needs, you can have a pedal board built to accommodate your pedals and playing style. Most casual players do not need a custom setup, although some prefer having their boards built instead of buying off the shelf.
If you plan to play in bars and clubs, you might want to choose a slotted board. These boards are designed to let spilled liquids flow through, making post-show cleanup much easier.
Choosing the Power Supply and Cables
The power requirement is a big deal when choosing a pedal board, so you will need to do some basic research before you start shopping. First and foremost you will need to make sure the pedal board size is a match for the power requirements for each of your pedals. Check the specifications for the pedals to determine whether the pedals use 12, 16, 18 or 24 volts and choose your power supply accordingly.
You will want to check the power requirements for every pedal in your setup, then choose a robust enough power supply to handle the required voltages. It is also important to choose a power supply with isolated output sections, since this will eliminate hum and unwanted interactions between the pedals. For a complete rundown and help understanding pedal power, as well as our top recommendations, head over to our Best Pedal Power Supply guide.
Choosing the right cables is just as important. Even the most basic pedal board will require plenty of cables, so you will want to choose the best quality you can afford. Each cable must be cut to a the right length - doing so will keep the pedal board neat and tidy while you play.
Choosing cables with right angle plugs will make your life easier on stage. This setup is more compact than straight plugs, but it also lets you keep the cable length to a minimum. This reduces overall clutter and makes setup easier. Check out our top picks for the Best Patch Cables, and if you need help choosing a guitar cable no matter your budget we've got that covered, too.
Laying Out the Pedals in an Order that Makes Sense for You
Choosing the right equipment is important, but selecting the right layout can be even more essential. You will need to think about the way you play, which pedals you use most often and how you plan to use the setup on stage.
Practical considerations are important when laying out your pedals. For instance, placing the reverb pedal at the end of the chain provides a crisper sound, whereas placing the reverb pedal in front of the distortion pedal will create a muddy sound.
Some players like to place their wah in front of the distortion pedal, while guitarists who prefer a dirtier tone will place the wah after the distortion pedal. As a general rule, the pedals that amplify sound should be placed near the front of the signal chain. That means filters, compressor, distortion and overdrive pedals, tone modifiers, phase and flangers and then ambience effects like delay, echo and reverb.
The signal chain can have a big influence on the finished sound of the instrument, so players should be careful when laying out their pedals. The reason pitch shifts, harmonizers, compressors and other dynamic pedals work best at the start of the signal chain is that these pedals act on the pure signal from the guitar.
Distortion, overdrive and fuzz pedals are best placed after the filters and EQ, since they are designed to enhance the compression peaks and overtones in the guitar signal. Understanding the reasoning behind the layout of the pedals and the signal chain’s impact on finished sound will make it easier to create a layout that works well for your style of play.
Once your new pedal board is in place, you may wonder how you ever got along without one. A well designed and properly laid out pedal board can make your playing more fun, more interesting and more satisfying. If you do not yet have a pedal board in place, now is the perfect time to get started.