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Custom Junctions, Patch Bays, Guitar Pedalboard Interfaces - whatever you call them - tend to be a point of confusion for a lot of musicians.
I don't blame you.
These are not a common item in the sense that every pedal company has their version of it like they would an overdrive or delay pedal.
These are niche, not for everybody, and many people don't know if a junction is something that might make their life easier or is a waste of money entirely.
In this blog I'll talk a little bit about who would and wouldn't benefit from a Junction Box on their pedalboard, what we typically build for customers and the new Custom Junctions we have made more widely available through our website!
What is a Patch Bay / Junction Box / Interface for Electric Guitar?
A Junction Box could be described in a few different ways. To keep things simple, here are a few pointers.
1. A junction box doesn't tend to make any sound by itself or add new sounds to your guitar. It won't add repeats like a delay, clipping like an overdrive, or de-tune like a chorus.
2. It typically performs a function (or multiple functions) in the one physical box. It might switch your guitar input from your first overdrive straight to your amp, it may give you parallel signal paths for your wet effects, mute your signal, buffer your inputs and outputs, convert your signal from balanced to unbalanced, give access to your amps FX Loop and many more things.
If a junction box is doing its job well, it will make your board more reliable, flexible, easier to set up / tear down and to troubleshoot if any issues come up.
It can be as simple as a central place to plug in your guitar and amp, up to a single box taking care of buffering, muting, balanced outputs, order switching and ground lift and phase correction!
Who are junctions for and who's just wasting their money?
Since when did playing guitar become so complicated anyway? Back in the day (whenever that was) a single fuzz pedal was considered a huge step forward for the world of guitar!
Now - if your pedalboard isn't complex enough to put a man on the moon, "what are you really doing with your life? Get it together and buy a bunch of gear whether you need it or not."
Contrary to popular belief, I don't subscribe to the 'PAMOMP' (put a man on the moon pedalboards) approach. I think a pedalboard is a tool (sometimes an instrument in and of itself) and it needs to suit the job it is required to do. Sometimes this means 2 pedals, other times it's 12, other times Elon is calling you directly and needs your pedalboard tech for the next Mars launch... Just make sure your pedalboard suits your needs, not someone else's!
I apply this same logic to junction boxes.
Some people will benefit from them, others won't.
If you run a single guitar into a single amp, have pedals with quality buffers on board and don't try new pedals very often, a junction box is going to be hard to justify.
Essentially - if it ain't broke, don't fix it. As hard as this might be to accept, if you're happy with your board, don't go looking for problems that don't exist and new ways to solve them. Play your guitar intead!
On the other hand. If your rig is a bit more complex and a couple of the following situations describe you...
You play multiple venue types (amp on stage at one venue, amp simulator at another, amp further away and off stage at another etc)
Use a midi controller
Switch guitars during sets
Try new pedals often
Use pedals in parallel
...a junction box might make your board easier to use and give you more options for the different scenarios you find yourself in.
What can these Custom Junctions do to make your life easier you ask?
What are the most common features in a Custom Junction / Patch Bay?
The most common features we get asked about (the main things people want as options) are:
Buffers and Always On Tuner Out - The term 'Buffer' is a four letter word to some and a saving grace to others. To those that tend to subscribe to needing a quality buffer in their chain it is typically accepted that a buffer at the beginning and end of your pedalboard chain is a great place to start (and often end) the buffer debate.
With this in mind a junction can buffer your guitars input and/or output for a strong, reliable signal.
Always on tuner out means whether you're playing live or muted, your tuner will always be tuning.
Stereo Summing - Run your left and right outputs from your last stereo pedal - let's say it's a stereo reverb - into the junction. At this point you can send stereo out to two amps OR sum your signal and send that same stereo signal to one amp.
Two types of summing come standard to help with any phasing issues that might happen when summing modulation effects.
Whether this is a full master mute, dry mute, muting with trails or without, muting is a great way to control the signal to amps and silently tune.
This is where you need to use your imagination. Often this is the most customizable part of a Junction Box. Routing signal in different ways is one of the most powerful ways to get more out of your existing pedalboard.
As most of you know, something as simple as changing the order of your pedals can make a huge difference in the final sound or tone coming out of your pedalboard.
1. Having the option to run wet effects in series (one into another) or parallel (multiple signal chains happening at once and 'mixing' back into one output to your amp).
2. Changing the order of pedals without repatching.
3. Bypassing entire sections of a pedalboard and just as easily being able to re-incorporate them.
4. Multiple guitar input switching (AB and ABY switching)
5. Re-amp outputs. This is when you take your guitar input and immediately send an untouched signal back to the sound desk for capture. This signal will be used later to do multiple takes with different effects, amps, EQs etc.
This is a huge topic, but you get the idea. Signal routing is a powerful tool and a junction box can open this area up in entirely new and customisable ways!
This is one we have covered in detail in the past so I won't go into too much detail here.
An isolation transformer is something that typically comes in handy when running multiple outputs. It will get rid of loud hums when running two or more amps (called a ground loop) and phase cancellation between amps (when two amps are out of phase they cancel frequencies - typically low end - and sound a bit 'honky').
Balanced XLR Outputs
With the release of new amp simulators like the Strymon Iridium and Walrus Audio ACS1, balanced outputs have become increasingly more common.
We incorporate balanced outputs most often as an addition, not a replacement. What I mean by this is that you still have the ability to have a 1/4" (unbalanced) output as well as a mirrored balanced XLR output.
These balanced outputs can also act as an SGI replacement. You can convert your signal to a balanced output, plug in an XLR cable that is up to 300 feet long, and then run this signal to your guitar amp. This amp, now that it's not on a live stage, can be cranked as loud as you want it to be. You're now squeezing every ounce of tone out that this amp has to offer without destroying the stage volume.
Convert signal back to unbalanced right before your amp using RCV (converts balanced XLR to unbalanced 1/4".
In short, this one conversion from unbalanced to balanced can be used for multiple purposes.
There are plenty of other features people get, but these are currently the most common!
Where Do I Go Next If I Want To Know More?
This is where we have recently made some improvements to the Custom Junction Box area of Goodwood Audio.
Up until this point if you wanted a Junction Box you would have to decide from our limited options on the website (All features pre-determined like any other guitar pedal) and if nothing fit your needs, you could book a free call with us to get a Custom Junction made to your exact specifications.
Buying direct off the website had limited options but is cost effective and fast. Getting a Custom Junction has limitless options but is more expensive and slow.
Now we have a third option.
We have created multiple Custom Junctions with a base set of features already determined - the most common ones we get asked about every week. Also, on a select few of these you can add additional options to suit your needs.
Since the base set of features is already decided and we have basic outlines of design structure and drill patterns already done we can charge less, build them quicker and pass on the savings to you!
These are still technically Custom Junctions so the cost is more than a pre-built mass produced product, but it is less expensive than getting a one off, Custom Junction through our Custom Shop.
Instead of waiting 10-12 weeks for a Custom Junction built as a one-off, you will be waiting closer to 4-8 weeks for a junction with these set base features.
If you want to see more about these three options, check out these links below:
Price - Low
Wait time - 3-7 days
Flexible features - Low
Custom Junctions w/ Base Features:
Price - Medium
Wait time - 2-8 weeks
Flexible features - Medium
Built To Spec Custom Junctions:
Price - High
Wait Time - 8-12 weeks
Flexible features - High
To give you a quick overview of what each of these Custom Junction with base features includes, take a look below for an overview.
This gives the player an easy way to keep their wireless unit connected to their pedals while also giving them an easy and fast way to use an instrument cable instead.
Keep your wireless always plugged in to this junction. Plug in a cable when you'd rather use that. Done.
If your wireless goes down mid set or you like to use a cable in studio and wireless live, you have an easy way to re-route your board without unplugging any patch leads.
Use your acoustic and electric for the same board. Share a tuner. Route to the correct outputs and pedals. All with the push of one button.
Typically you don't use an overdrive (dry effects) on an acoustic.
For electric you do.
With this box route your electric to your dry and wet effects and on to dedicated electric outputs.
When your acoustic is being used signal will automatically bypass your dry effects, go straight to the wet effects and out dedicated acoustic outputs.
One of the most popular junctions from the last couple of years, this box allows you to to have a dedicated dry out for your electric pedalboard and stereo wet outputs.
Now you can have more flexibility, definition and individual control over your dry and wet effects between stage and FOH.
This is a simplified approach to the Wet Dry Wet Junction above. Isolator gives you easy access to a dedicated dry output to take a step into the world of Wet Dry or Wet Dry Wet.
If you want to use a dry amp, plug in to Isolator. If you want to just use a mono pedalboard, don't plug in to it! Easy!
Comes with a few other handy features to make this even easier.
Run your clean and dirty effects in parallel and keep your low frequencies in tact!
A lot of gain pedals will destroy what your bass is all about - the low end! Fight this by running your effects in parallel and getting more control over your different signal chains.
Do you use an amp simulator? Something like a Strymon Iridium or Walrus Audio ACS1?
Plug in LongLine after these and convert your signal from a TS (mono) patch lead to a balanced XLR. Now you can bypass that on-stage DI and go straight to FOH with even more control!
You can also use LongLine and RCV to send your guitar signal up to 300' away to your amp in an isolation booth. Now you can run your amp at full volume in a far off room of the venue and squeeze every last ounce out of those tubes!
Any junctions you think we should add to this list? Questions, comments? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org