Posted by: kubiakl | January 10, 2011

A/B/Y

Now that I have two good amps, I decided that I should get an A/B/Y pedal to switch between or combine them.

Have you ever looked for an A/B pedal?  I spent a long time filtering through results and reading about ground loop hums and signal loss.

Apparently some people have trouble with passive A/B pedals, especially with the “Y” part.  If your amps are on two different power sources it can create something called a ground loop hum.  Lifting the ground plug on one of the amps can solve it… but then you might become the ground.  Not a pleasant sensation from what I gather.

Splitting the signal has also caused tone issues for some folks.  This can be solved with buffered active pedals, most of which can also isolate and lift the ground, or reverse the phase, to counteract problems.  The Radial Engineering Twin City switch was very highly rated as far as these go.

I wanted something as simple as possible.  Keep in mind that lately my idea has been to go straight from guitar to amp without pedals.  That was the whole reason for buying the Jet City amp.  If I could avoid any of the issues that people were complaining about then a passive A/B/Y pedal would be ideal, since it wouldn’t dick with my tone.  This also allowed me to go for some less expensive options than the active pedals.  Morley makes one (but many said it had popping issues with the switches), as does Whirlwind (which uses optical switching to eliminate any switching noise).

To test my setup I found a $5 solution:  a mono Y-cable from Radio Shack.  Guitar cable goes in the female side, and out come two male 1/4″ outputs.  One went directly to the Jet City, and the other (with some help from a 1/4″ female-to-female coupler) went to the Blues Junior.

It worked!  So I focused my shopping on passive A/B pedals and eventually came across Brian Price.

Loop-Master

This guy is a one-man shop in Kentucky that builds his pedals by hand.  The pedals themselves are simple – no capacitors or resistors, just wires and solder for signal routing.  He uses high quality components and allows you to customize the LEDs you want (he also makes non-LED versions).  The only thing that requires power is the lights so it can work even when it’s not plugged in.

I chose the A/B/Y pedal with Tuner Out:

Everything is simple and intuitive – you have A/B switching on one side, a combination of A & B on the other, and the tuner switch in the middle.  This allows you to mute the setup and plug your tuner directly into the box for silent tuning.  It wasn’t strictly necessary, since I’m not gigging with this setup, but it seemed like a nice option to have.  The tuner out can also be used as a “C” option, allowing a third amp to be connected but without the option of combining all three.

The downside is that it takes 6-8 weeks to build the pedal, so I’m looking at some wait time.

So, knowing that I would have to wait an incredibly long period of time, why did I choose Mr. Price?  First was quality – everything I read from his customer base was positive.  Second was simplicity – nothing in the circuit that didn’t need to be there.  Third was customization – I liked the idea of choosing my LED colors.  A blue for A & B, an amber for Tuner, a green for A, and a white for B.  And lastly, price – while I am willing to pay for quality, it turns out that with Loop-Master pedals I don’t have to.  My A/B/Y box with tuner out was among the more expensive pedals offered and still only $80.

In the meantime I will continue to use my cheapie Radio Shack solution to run both amps simultaneously.  It doesn’t allow switching but it does give me some damn fine tone.  Yup.

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