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This article was originally published in issue #9
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The PedalSnake is one of those devices that solves a problem that you didn't realise you had... until someone points it out. Once you get the idea you wonder why you haven't had one all along. Tom Quayle gets thoroughly wired.
Pedalboards are a really great solution to getting lots of very cool tones from a simple amp and can really help you to find your own sound amongst the vast number of guitar players out there. They come with quite a few problems though and these problems tend to multiply as your pedalboard gets bigger and bigger. Multiple, lengthy cables crossing the stage and noisy power supplies will suck away your tone and look awful next to your prized pedals. If you use some pedals in the effects loop and others in the front of the amp, even more cables are required and the power supplies must be kept close to the pedals, creating potential for noise and interference in your signal, often leading to long extension power cable runs at the front of the stage. Foot controllers and MIDI switchers can require even more cables leading to seriously complex set-ups and potentially dangerous runs of cables: that sprint across the stage to high five your bass player after your solo may end up being the most embarrassing moment of your life, as you come crashing down to earth and wrap yourself in a sea of cable madness!
The PedalSnake, designed by ex-NASA inventor Jody Page, hopes to solve these problems by providing a single, loom-style, cable to carry all of your audio, power, MIDI and foot controller signals in self contained package. The system is surprisingly simple, relying on tried and tested DIN cables normally associated with MIDI-type cabling. For those not in the know, a DIN is a type of connector with multiple pins protected by a metal case surrounded in a plastic coating. As such, the cable ends are very durable and well protected giving the PedalSnake an extremely solid feel.
The main component of the system is the 'Base Snake' consisting of a main, multi-channel cable with an 'Amp End' and 'Pedal End'. At each end you find the DIN connectors with the 'Base Snake' coming in four variants -18 and 24 feet with either four or seven channels. Each of the available channels can be converted to a guitar/audio (G-Line), power (P-Line), or Midi/Foot controller channel using 'Pig Tails'. These pigtails plug into the available DIN connectors on the 'Base Snake' to allow them to connect to pedals, power supplies, MIDI hardware or amplifier footswitches that use standard guitar jacks or TRS connectors. Single channels can even carry dual audio streams using dual 'G-Line' pigtails and a single power line can power multiple pedals with a daisychain or dual 'P-Line' connectors available from PedalSnake's website. All of the internal channels are isolated and shielded from one another and have no cross talk or interference between the audio lines and power lines.
The system is highly flexible because of its modular nature, allowing you to tailor it to your individual needs. For example, rather than running multiple cables for a set of pedals in the front of the amp and another set of cables for pedals in the FX loop, you can now run the single 'Base Snake' from the amp to the pedal board with one channel for the pedals in the front of the amp and another for the pedals in the loop. No more need for multiple cable runs! If you have a MIDI switchable FX unit in the loop, you can now run the foot controller at the front of the stage and avoid lengthy midi cable runs across the stage - the PedalSnake will allow you to run the MIDI data through one of its available channels. Jody has even designed multiple converter pigtails to convert power from 2.1mm jacks to 2.5mm/3.5mm or reverse the polarity of a 2.1 male power plug. Almost all of your power needs can be taken care of from a standard 'wall-wart' supply. Each channel is colour coded for easy matching at the amp and pedal end and the white channel can carry phantom power and hi-current power for special pedals that require a higher current draw or controllers that require power.
In use the PedalSnake does its job superbly and is surprisingly easy to set up and operate. Each channel is completely noise free, thanks to the shielding and the main loom cable is flexible but very sturdy. Custom Base Snakes can be ordered for users requiring more than seven channels but for the average pedal board the four channel version with dual G and P Lines should more than suffice. Because the pedal power supplies can be plugged into the same power socket as the amp, you can eliminate ground loops too, with all the power being isolated to one area of the stage or studio.
I must admit I was majorly impressed with the PedalSnake. The modular nature is extremely flexible and I couldn't perceive any tone loss at all from the cables. I run a very complex pedalboard with nine or more pedals on board and a switching unit. The ability to ditch the power supply on the board and run a single cable from the pedals to the amp is very attractive and, since all of the channel ends can be hidden and tied off underneath the board, it looks great too! It's no more expensive than buying multiple quality cables so represents fair value for money too.
If you've been getting annoyed at all the cable runs you've been using to connect your effects to an amp I thoroughly recommend checking out the PedalSnake - it could solve a great deal of issues for you.