Ever spotted a set of ‘Send and Return’ ports round the back of a guitar amp and wondered what they’re for? These jack ports make up the effects loop, which is an infinitely useful feature when you’re trying to make external guitar effects sound as good as possible. In this article, we’ll tell you exactly which effects you should incorporate into your FX loop and why.
What’s the Benefit of an Effects Loop?
The main advantage of a built-in effects loop is that it simply makes various effect pedals sound better, especially modulation (e.g. chorus) and time-based effects (e.g. reverb). Sticking these types of effects through your effects loop keeps them from being coloured by the preamp, resulting in clearer, more defined sound.
Which Effects You Should Include and Exclude
Next up, we’ll share a number of tips on which effects to include in your effects loop and which you might want to keep out. Bear in mind that none of these tips are set-in-stone rules.
Effects to Include: Modulation and Time
You’ll usually want to include modulation effects such as chorus, flanger and phaser pedals in your FX loop. Effects like these help create a more spatial, natural sound and sound better when unleashed on the amplified signal after the preamp. The same goes for time-based effects like delays and reverbs.
Effects to Stick in Front of Your Preamp: Distortion
On the other hand, distortion effects such as overdrive, distortion and fuzz are often placed in front of the preamp. This is not only because they sound better when they’re applied to the signal before it gets boosted, but also because they can give the preamp a helping hand and enhance the overall sound.
Compressors and Equalisers
Compression and EQ pedals can be set up in front of the effects loop or integrated into it depending on the kind of sound you’re going for. Compression effects can be kept out of the FX loop to get a better response, while equalisers can be kept out so that they’re only applied to the original guitar signal, or integrated into the FX loop to enhance certain frequencies, think a mid-boost to give your guitar solo more mix-cutting potential.
How to Connect It All
The image above illustrates a simplified overview of a combo guitar amplifier hooked up to a guitar and a pair of effects. The guitar signal is first fed through the distortion pedal before being routed to the input of the amp where it’s processed by the built-in preamp. Next, the signal is sent out to the delay pedal via the Send port of the effects loop and is finally led back to the amp via the Return port, after which the internal power amp section boosts the signal and the built-in speaker brings the sound to life.
While this little blog should get you pretty far, don’t hesitate to experiment a little bit. Drop a comment below and let us know how you’ve set up your FX loop.
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