Using Guitar Pedals As Studio Effects

Guitar pedals appear to be taking the composition and production world by storm. We’re thinking of them as the craft-beer of the audio industry right now… The thirst for individuality, for different, for signature-sound is greater than ever and the pedal industry has responded with gusto. Hundreds of independent boutique pedal designers have been bringing their weird and wonderful processors to the table and in return lots of the big players have had to up their game with pedal-shaped effects that comfortably rival the quality and breadth of unweildy rack units and generic plug-ins.

With all these boxes of sonic creativity at our disposal, why limit them to guitars? That seems to be what so many composers and producers are saying to us and a result we’re consulting on integrating pedals into studios more than ever!


I can just plug them up, right?

Well, not exactly… You might well hear something, but just connecting pedals straight to your studio signal chain (either via a patchbay or the line i/o on your audio interface) is unlikely to give you the sound you’re hoping for. In short, the pedals ‘expect’ to be connected to unbalanced, high-impedance equipment, like guitars and amplifiers rather than your studio equipment which is most likely balanced, and low impedance.

To get the pedals sounding great, the output from your audio interface needs converting before the input to the pedals; typically with a re-amp interface or reverse DI box. If you want to run the pedal outputs straight back into the DAW, they’ll then need balancing once more with something like a DI box. Of course, right now we’re only talking about mono signal chains. If you’ve got pedals with stereo outputs then you’ll need a 2nd DI box and if you’ve got pedals with stereo inputs, you’ll need a 2nd re-amp box!


We’ve been finding that the Radial EXTC-SA combines both of these tasks pretty effectively. You may choose to feed the output of the pedals to an amp, at which point, all you need to get back into DAW world is a microphone!

Putting the pedal to the metal…

We know there’s already a fair amount of cabling being mentioned here and of course changes to how your signal goes in/out of the DAW, and whether it’s mono or stereo etc. is likely require some careful unplugging/replugging.

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We’re by no means setting up a sales pitch but since we dropped a picture on our Instagram of our pedal desk a few weeks back quite a few of you have been asking about it. So to clear a few things up, here’s what it does!

  • Houses pedal board and associated cabling elegantly at working height;

  • Converts signals from audio interface/patchbay for use with guitar pedals;

  • Converts guitar pedal signals back again for input to the DAW;

  • Integrated patch panels allow alternative routeing to an amplifier;

  • Integrated patch panels allow alternative input direct from guitar;

  • Built in pedal power supplies;

  • Processes both mono and stereo outputs and inputs.

Filling up the board

Whilst we’ll stop short of listing new favourites, our friend Christian Henson had a go with an interesting take on a sustain pedal recently. You can watch/hear it here.