FX Loop vs. Pedals in Front of Your Amp

FX Loop vs. Pedals in Front of Your Amp

As you dig deeper into your tone journey you may be starting to integrate effects pedals into your rig to get a range of sounds.

Many Blackstar amps come with an FX Loop but there is a lot of debate in guitar circles about how this should be used. In this lesson we’re going to take a look at that!

An FX Loop is essential an insert point in your amplifier circuit that allows you to insert a piece of gear after the preamp circuit, but before the power amp circuit. Some guitar players are happy to run everything into the front end of the amp, and others prefer to insert certain effects types into the loop.

The most common types of pedals to run into an effects loop are modulation or time based effects. This includes things like chorus, tremolo, delay and reverb. You wouldn’t tend to run boosts or drive based effects into the loop as this can overload the power amp section.

Check out the attached video to hear the main differences between running pedals in these two ways.

In the FX Loop

Running pedals into the FX loop means the amplifiers preamp circuit has no impact on the tone of the pedal. Think of this as adding the effect to your existing guitar tone. The amps preamp has processed the tone, it’s added EQ to your clean or overdriven tone, now you’re adding the effect ON TOP of this at the loop stage before going off to the power amp.

Modulation

In the FX loop modulation effects are applied to the entire tone. They are very clear sounding and full bodied. You can hear the full range of that modulation effect. Clean tones especially work here here, especially when using something like Chorus, it makes the tone shimmer and sound very present.

Overdriven tones take on a great 80s rock vibe.

Delay

Delay pedals run into the loop give pristine, sharp sounding delay repeats. This is commonly accepted as the best way to run a delay pedal.

Reverb

In an amplifier circuit, if the amp has reverb built in it will sit at this point. This means you’re taking your guitar tone after the preamp and placing that into a space. This gives you a full sounding reverb full of high end clarity.

In the Front of the Amp

When placing pedals in front of the amp, you subject them to the preamp circuit. Certain effects don’t work as well when going into the front of the amp. This of course is all subjective to your own tonal tastes. Think of this as different textures from the same pedals.

Modulation

When modulation is placed in front of the amp it changes the feel and overall reactiveness of the sound. If you use a chorus for example, it will make the effect more pronounced and boosted, especially on an overdriven tone.

The reason for this is you are applying chorus to your dry guitar signal and then putting it through the amps gain and EQ circuits.

Delay

Delay in front of an amp is perfect if you want a lo-fi or more retro sound. As you are distorting the delay repeats on the way in, you will get less of the pristine repeats and more distorted repeats. This can be a great effect if you love 60s style tape delays.

Reverb

Reverb in front of a driven amp almost never works except for creating something ambient or soundscape sounding. The reason for this is you are playing your dry guitar tone into a space, and then distorting both the guitar tone AND the space in which is sits. This makes the reverb sound overpowering and it can sometimes drown the overall guitar tone.

About The Author

Leigh Fuge is a professional guitar player from Swansea in South Wales that has written and created content for many high-profile guitar brands and publications such as PMT, RSL Rockschool, Trinity College London, Guitar.com and more.

He works with mgrmusic.com to provide high quality guitar content for guitar players of all abilities from around the country. To date, mgrmusic.com has successfully generated over 32,000 student enquiries for their network of music teachers around the country. Find a local teacher in your area today.

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