SEEING THE NEED TO GIVE GUITARISTS A COST-EFFECTIVE and easily expandable system for controlling effects pedals, Voodoo Lab recently introduced the Commander, Control Switcher, and Pedal Switcher. When combined, these units allow you to automate your stompboxes and amplifier functions without the need for a full-tilt MIDI switching rig (such as Voodoo Lab’s Ground Control Pro and GCX Audio Switcher). One Commander can control as many Pedal Switchers as needed, and as these units are intended to work with board-mounted pedals, you get all the benefits of automation without having to stash your boxes in a rack drawer where they’re inconvenient to access for onstage tweaks.
The Pedal Switcher is basically a box with four relay-controlled effects loops activated either by the footswitches on the unit, or by the Commander (more on that later). So to configure a layout with four pedals, you need one Pedal Switcher and enough patch cables (eight) to connect the input and output jacks on each stompbox to the Pedal Switcher’s Send and Return jacks. Power up the Pedal Switcher with its included 9-volt adapter, and you can now switch the effects on and off individually with the footswitches. Each loop is activated with a gold-contact, nitrogen-filled relay, so you may notice that your sound is suddenly clearer and punchier due to the fact the Pedal Switcher provides a true bypass for each pedal—even if the pedals themselves are vintage units and/or not true bypass.
The Pedal Switcher also gives you choice of buffered or non-buffered inputs for your guitar (the manual details why you’d want to use one or the other), and an Insert jack is provided so that you can patch in a volume pedal or additional effects between loops 3 and 4. MIDI In and Out jacks provide the connections between the Commander and additional Pedal Switchers (you can control any number of Pedal Switchers by daisy chaining them together), and multiple units can be powered via the optional Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus or Pedal Power AC power supplies.
Designed to tell the Pedal Switcher which effects to activate, the Commander is the system’s master switcher that can store and recall ten different user-definable effects presets. Programming it is super easy. Activate the pedals you want via the Pedal Switcher’s buttons, press the Commander’s Bank/Store switch to select either the upper bank of presets (1 to 5) or lower bank of presets (6 to 10), and then hold down the same switch (an LED quickly starts blinking) while simultaneously pressing the footswitch on the Commander you want your preset assigned to. Now you can you turn on, say, your fuzz, compressor, and delay with the press of one button. Even better, the Commander lets you do single-button toggling between presets on adjacent banks. For example, you could switch between a chorused rhythm sound that you stored in preset 1 of bank 1, and a lead tone with flanger and delay that you configured on preset 6 of bank 2 by simply pressing the far left button on the Commander— the next button toggles between presets 2 and 7, the next between presets 3 and 8, and so on. So with a little planning, you wouldn’t even have to look down at the Commander to be sure you’re hitting the right button needed to bring on that gut-shaking tremolo for the chorus of the song. Awesome!
So now that you’ve got all your pedal combinations automated, wouldn’t it be great if you could have the channels or boost circuit on your amplifier switch automatically too? If your amp is MIDI enabled, great, because the Commander automatically sends MIDI program changes. But for standard footswitching amps, you’ll need the Control Switcher—a compact unit that connects between the Commander and your amp (or amps) to provide relay controlled switching of up to four footswitchable functions. The Control Switcher sports four 1/4" outs for interfacing with standard footswitch jacks, as well as a DIN connector for amps with modern-style footswitches. You can also activate each relay individually via the frontpanel buttons on the Control Switcher. The unit is powered by the included 9-volt adapter (or via phantom power though a MIDI cable connection to a Pedal Switcher) and can be mounted practically anywhere— inside youramp, in a rack, or on your pedalboard.
To audition these devices in a gig-ready setup, Voodoo Lab sent us a preconfigured pedalboard that contained eight effects pedals, two Pedal Switchers, and a Pedal Power 2 Plus to power the whole shebang. The board itself was constructed from materials purchased for about $30 at Home Depot, and included a 5/8" melamine panel measuring 18" x 24" along with the extruded aluminum pieces that were miter cut to fit around the board’s edges to protect it from dings. All components were secured with 3M Clear Dual Lock (an industrial strength adhesive tape that interlocks like Velcro). The Commander was kept separate from the pedalboard, however, to make it easier to position everything around a mic stand. If desired, you could even put the pedalboard by your backline, and have just the Commander by your feet.
It almost goes without saying that the convenience of being able to activate multiple effects so easily and efficiently is a pretty cool thing—as is having your amp’s channels and/or other functions switch in tandem when you press a button on the Commander. Getting our new Vox Custom Classic combo to change channels in sync with presets on the Commander only required connecting a standard mono guitar cable between the Control Switcher and the Vox’s footswitch jack. If your amp’s footswitching scheme requires a custom cable, Voodoo Lab can provide you one for an extra charge (contact the company for details).
It’s no secret that pro players have long been enjoying the advantages of automated control over their effects and amplifiers, but compared to the custom-built switching systems that many of them use to accomplish such switching feats, a Voodoo Lab Commander/Pedal Switcher/Control Switcher rig is a far less expensive proposition, and it basically does the same thing— all without losing any of the instant access to your pedals. If you’ve ever wanted to stop doing all those tap dance moves necessary to switch a bunch of stompboxes on and off, this is a super cool way to make the leap. See for yourself how these Voodoo Lab switchers can reduce your onstage workload, and let you focus more on your playing than your pedals.