A True Bypass Strip features user-configurable, footswitch-activated loops. (Pricing is $39 per loop for the first seven loops, $32 per loop thereafter.) You simply place each pedal in its own loop using two patch cables, and leave the effect on. To hear a stompbox, you step on that loop’s footswitch. If the Strip is supplied with standard 9-volt DC power, LEDs will light up wherever loops are active, although the Strip does not need to be plugged in to use the loops. Now all you have to do is memorize which pedals are in which loops. There is space on the Strip to write down or affix pedal information, but not much.
Ordering a True Bypass Strip is fun, because Pedal-Racks founder Tom Peck (who handcrafts each Strip in his company’s Long Island, New York, facility) lets you choose overall length, button spacing, and number of loops. He also offers useful options such as stereo loops ($6 extra per loop), a momentary switch for tap tempo ($18), and a footswitchable buffer ($65) to keep your signal strong through long instrument cables. (Some players use the buffer as a lead boost.) If you want to use a loop to switch channels on your amp, Peck can also install a red/green indicator LED.
I chose a passive Strip with eight mono loops ($305 direct), and had it sized to leave just enough width on the lip of my pedalboard for a wah pedal. Housed in a tough fuselage of square aluminum tubing, my test model has now been stomped on at various gigs in more than 50 different cities, and it still works flawlessly. The Strip’s CIC true-bypass switches are very tough, and they make a satisfying ka-chunk when stepped on. (If you perform on quiet stages, in orchestra pits, or at church, you may want to opt for Pedal-Racks’ nearly noiseless soft-touch switches.)
The obvious advantage of a True Bypass Switch is a pure, fat, unimpeded guitar signal when all pedals/loops are bypassed, but another plus is that with a Strip in place, your pedalboard’s signal chain is no longer only as strong as its weakest link. If a patch cable or pedal suddenly shorts out mid-song, your whole pedalboard doesn’t go down, just one loop. So, at a packed gig in Boston, when one of my digital pedals suddenly started hissing static at a jet-engine volume level, I was able to silence it by simply deactivating its loop. Gig nightmare averted!