Guitar Pedals vs Rack Units – Which Works Best?


When compiling a variety of guitar effects for using to play live shows or recording, it is important to dial in the specific tones, tonal combinations, and functionality of the setup. There are always two options for a guitar effects rig: pedals and rack-mounted units. How do they compare?

Guitar pedals are less expensive than rack units, but they are less versatile. Setting up a pedalboard is much easier than setting up an effects rack, but an effects rack is more functional and can be controlled more easily. There are various pros and cons for each type of setup.

Choosing between pedals, rack units, or a combination of them both is an essential part of setting up the perfect guitar rig for you.

Take the time to understand the options, and you will build the best rig for your own requirements. Let’s compare guitar pedals and rack units to better understand the ins and outs of both options.

Pedals Vs. Rack Units 

There are always two ways to set up a guitar effects rig.

Guitar pedals and rack-mounted units are both good options for building an effective guitar rig for both live and recording purposes, but there are advantages and disadvantages of both setups.

Guitar pedals are more accessible than rack units for most guitarists. There is a very large variety of guitar pedals available on the market, ranging from simple and very inexpensive pedals to very pricey high-end pedals. 

All guitar pedals can be used in combination with one another, and there is an almost unlimited number of combinations that can be used.

The only limits of using guitar pedals are your budget and how much space you have. 

Rack-mounted units are much more expensive than even high-end pedals. These units are very versatile, and there are rack units that can do as much or more as guitar pedals.

However, these units are difficult to calibrate and set up, and they require additional hardware such as racks and mini foot controllers to operate effectively.

Both pedals and rack units are effective for recording and live performance purposes, but which set up to use depends on the personal preferences and budget of the individual guitarist.

Why Use A Rack-Mounted Unit Rather Than A Pedal?

Guitar pedals are very convenient, less expensive than rack units, and there is a much wider variety of pedals than rack units, so why would you use a rack-mounted rather than a guitar pedal?

Rack units are more expensive and less convenient than pedals, but they can be much more versatile than guitar pedals, and once the system is set up, rack units become more functional and much easier to combine than guitar pedals.

Guitar pedals must be run in tandem with other pedals to combine effects, and using multiple pedals at once to achieve a specific sound can be a challenge. This also makes switching between sound combinations very inconvenient.

To switch between a tone that uses multiple pedals at once to another tone that uses multiple pedals, the guitarist must disengage and engage pedals one at a time with one foot. This can be a complicated and time-consuming process, especially when performing live.

Rack-mounted units can eliminate these problems, as most rack units have multiple effects built into them, and all rack units can be controlled with a midi foot controller.

This means that rack units can be programmed to be engaged or disengaged by one touch of a midi button, and multiple units can be synchronized to one button. This functionality means that the guitarist can engage and disengage multiple effects and tones by pressing only one button.

Once a rack-mount setup is fully configured, it becomes far more versatile and convenient than using a large pedalboard.

Check out this YouTube video that explains the setup.

Pros And Cons Of Using Rack Mounted Units

Rack-mounted units are a valid option for setting up the perfect guitar rig, but there are some pros and cons to using these types of units. 

Let’s examine some of the pros and cons of using rack-mounted guitar units:

Pros Of Using Rack Units:

Some of the pros of using rack-mounted units are:

  • Rack units can be programmed for use by a midi controller for easy use.
  • Multiple rack unit effects can be programmed to be activated by one midi button.
  • Multiple rack units can be used simultaneously and in any combination without losing any signal strength.
  • Using rack units reduces the number of cables that are run along a stage.
  • Rack units are very versatile.
  • Rack units are very stable and very unlikely to fail.
  • Rack units are easier to pack, store, and move in a rack than disassembling a pedalboard.

Cons Of Using Rack Units:

Some of the cons of using rack units are:

  • Rack units are very expensive.
  • Rack units are cumbersome.
  • Rack units are difficult to set up well.
  • Rack units require additional hardware such as racks and midi controllers to be used effectively.
  • Rack units are difficult to understand.
  • There are fewer rack units available than there are guitar pedals.
  • Rack units can be quite fragile.

Pros And Cons Of Using Pedals

Just as there are advantages and disadvantages of using rack units, the same is true for using guitar pedals. 

Guitar pedals are very commonly used, but there are pros and cons to using pedals exclusively in a guitar setup.

Let’s examine some of the pros and cons of using guitar pedals:

Pros Of Using Guitar Pedals:

Some of the pros of using guitar pedals are:

  • Guitar pedals can be very inexpensive.
  • Guitar pedals are small and easily transported.
  • There is a vast number of guitar pedals available on the market.
  • Guitar pedals can be versatile.
  • Setting up a pedalboard is very simple to do.
  • Using guitar pedals is very convenient.
  • Guitar pedals are very durable.

Cons Of Using Guitar Pedals:

Some of the cons of using guitar pedals are:

  • Guitar pedals are difficult to move without dismantling the entire pedalboard.
  • Guitar pedals use a lot of cables and can be untidy.
  • Guitar pedals are less functional than rack units.
  • Guitar pedals are difficult to activate and deactivate in combinations.
  • Cheaper guitar pedals are not very good quality.

Conclusion

Guitar pedals and rack units are both good options for building a guitar rig that best suits your needs.

Pedals and rack-mounted units can be used in tandem, and there are plenty of options available. 

Take your time to decide which option is the better for you and your requirements, and build the perfect setup for you.

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