Nigel Hendroff’s Rack Explained

Feb 23, 2015

Nigel Hendroff’s Rack Explained

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Tired of the “tap dance” Nige decided it was time for an upgrade to the humble pedal board.

Why Rack?

After touring for many years with a large pedal board and a mechanical looper, Nigel felt it was time to upgrade to a rack system to take advantage of MIDI and one-touch presets.

Because rack systems can be as simple or as complicated as the player needs, I’m not going to get into the over arching theme of what makes a rack system and how they work.  Rather, I’ll explain the idea behind Nigel’s rack and then itemise the components that were used to achieve the end result.

Previously I mentioned something called “one touch presets”; the driving force behind Nige’s decision.  Utilising a RJM Mastermind GT in conjunction with a RJM Effects Gizmo, he is able to program the system where by pressing one button on the Mastermind GT will activate any number of audio loops within the Effects Gizmo.  What this means is songs can be programmed into system, with intro, verse, chorus, bridge, solo etc all on their own buttons.  This is especially powerful for touring artists because a set list can be programmed into the GT and within each setlist will be each song programmed with every change needed.  Simply bank up to the next song, hit “intro” and the entire system reconfigures itself – instantly!  Because Nigel is also the music director on stage, calling cues and giving direction to the rest of the band, being able to hit one button to achieve a sound involving multiple pedals has proven to be invaluable.


Components in the Rack

1x RJM Effects Gizmo

I’ll explain how we connected everything after I’ve gone through all the individual components.

1x RJM Mini Line Mixer

This is cool because it allows the option of, A. having trails on pedals that don’t have that option and, B. setting up a parallel system where your dry tone is split separately to each device.

In a typical pedal board setup you have overdrive into modulation into delay into reverb, and each pedal sees everything that comes before it.  Your reverb pedal is processing the signal that comes from the delay which is processing the signal that comes from the modulation etc.

A parallel system means that (in Nige‘s case), the signal splits directly after the Mobius to both the Timeline and Space.   The Space never actually sees what the Timeline is doing.  The Space and TL are set to kill dry (or 100% wet) and they send their signal to the mixer which then combines it with dry signal that it gets directly after the Mobius.  It might seem complicated and it’s REALLY hard to explain what all this means in terms of what you hear (unless you attended our inaugural Stomptown event), but you’ll have to take my word that it sounds massive.

1x Sound Sculpture Volcano

In it’s simplest form it’s a digital volume circuit that can be controlled via expression pedal over MIDI or TRS cable.  It means that we don’t have to run cables from the rack to the board and back again to have a volume pedal in the middle of the signal chain.  Initially we had it connected into the system through MIDI and used an Ernie Ball VPJR as an expression pedal plugged into the Mastermind GT which would control the Volcano.  Unfortunately the Volcano and GT weren’t playing along (since writing this, I believe the midi issues between the GT and the Volcano have been addressed) so we ended up still using the VPJR as an expression pedal, but it’s connected to the Volcano directly via a TRS cable.  It’s worked great ever since.  What makes the Volcano really amazing is that when controlling it via MIDI it can be used as a boost as well.  So you can set up a preset involving a few pedals and tell the Volcano to boost by 3dB.  All the while still being able to control it with an expression pedal just as you would a volume pedal.

1x RJM Tone Saver

Directly after the Volcano we used the Tone Saver to take a split of the dry signal.  This is used in a Wet/Dry/Wet setup where this split goes directly to it’s own amp, while the Left and Right out of the Mixer go to two other amps.  In this scenario the Mixer is set to kill dry so the only thing coming out is 100% wet effects signal.  W/D/W does require three amps, and as such is impractical for a lot of players, BUT, it sounds incredible.  The clarity and “spaciousness” of effects like delay and reverb make the entire sound very immersive.

1x Midi Solutions Quadra Through

This is a very practical little box that takes the MIDI signal from the “out/thru” of the Gizmo and splits it into separate lines for all the other MIDI devices.  In this case the Mobius, TL and Space.  It’s well documented that daisy chaining MIDI from device to device can cause all sorts of issues – particularly in bigger systems.  The Quadra Thru eliminates all this.  It’s powered by MIDI so doesn’t need a separate power source.

2x Penn-Elcom R12901U Sliding Trays

These held all the components used to make up the system.  Pedals, power, mixer etc.

1x GigRig Generator, 2x Distributor, 2x Isolator, 2x TimeLord, 1x Evenflo.

The Generator is powering the entire rig EXCEPT for the Gizmo which needs it’s own supply.  This is because it also powers the Mastermind GT via Phantom Power over the 7pin MIDI connection.  Ultimately we went for the GigRig system because it’s light yet flexible and powerful.  The whole rack HAD to come in under 32kgs and a hefty rack mounted PS would have pushed it over the edge.

From the Generator we start with a Distrubutor.  This is supplying power to the two Timelords for the TL and Mobius, the Evenflo for the Space, and then the other Distributor and the two Isolators.

An Isolator is powering the Mixer, Tone Saver, Selah Interface and Volcano.  NOTE: the Volcano takes centre positive which is a simple matter of swapping the cables around when connecting them into the Isolator.

For the overdrive tray we used a Distributor for the Comp, Mulholland, Scream, Scruzz and the two Scarletts.  An Isolator is powering the POG, DM2, PS-3 and DD-5.  It may not have been necessary for these four pedals to be on an Isolator, but because they’re digital (besides the DM2 of course), I didn’t want to take any chances.

1x Pre Punched Rack Panel to suit Neutrik style locking jacks

When we built the rack we used the panel with locking jacks as an interface for the Amps, Volume Expression and Tuner connections.  This keeps all the connections at the front but more importantly and it saves wear and tear on the critical jacks in other parts of the system.  As you can imagine it’s MUCH simpler to replace a stand alone locking jack, than to have to pull apart the rig to get to a jack built into another component.  Plus locking jacks stop cables accidentally coming out – which ALWAYS happens at the worst time!

This interface was later replaced by the Selah Effects interface which provided options for phase and ground lift as well as transformer isolation.


Signal Chain

It starts with the RC Booster (always on), and this is where Nige plugs in.  From there it goes directly to a junction box which also includes connections for the Tuner return, TRS send for the Volcano and  7pin MIDI from the Gizmo.  We put all of the cables that connect to this junction into one loom (or snake).

From the RC Booster to the junction on the board and then directly to the IN on the front of the Gizmo.  We took advantage of the buffer at the beginning of the Gizmo because this is where the Tuner send gets it’s split. The first four effects are, COMP – POG – Scream – Scarlett #1.  Loops 5 to 8 were Scarlett #2 – Mulholland – Scruzz – PS3/DD5 (he uses them together for one sound only so they’re in the same loop).

Between loop 8 and 9 we inserted the Volcano and Tonesaver.  This is where the Dry send is taken and it’s after the volume control so, in a wet/dry/wet setup, all three amps are effected by the volume control.

Loop 9 contained the DM-2 and so was left mono.  We then went stereo to loop 10 which is the Mobius.  This sends stereo to loop 11 and loop 12 which are the Timeline and Space.  Their outputs went directly to the mixer.  The outputs of the Mobius also go to the “dry in” of the mixer which means that in a left and right setup the Timeline and Space are still running in parallel with the dry signal.

Not having any intention of ever running a wet/dry/wet setup doesn’t mean the mixer can’t be used.  It’s something worth considering for sonic reasons.  Using this method of wiring up a system allows trails from an effect like the Stereo Wet that can’t be controlled by MIDI.  When you activate that effect what your actually doing is opening the send from the Gizmo to that effect.  Because it doesn’t return to the Gizmo, when you deactivate that effect all your doing is closing the send.  The effect will continue to send to the mixer and on to your amps.

If you haven’t built a rack before, spend time searching images and looking at how others have done it.

Here are some tips that might help:

  • Make sure the drawers are extended when you measure your cable, and keep in mind where the excess will go when the drawers are returned.
  • One or two cables together are quite flexible, but a whole loom becomes much stiffer and unwilling to do what you want.
  • Velcro ties are good for looming because they have some give.
  • Label.  Label.  Label.  Seriously.  Label every jack, and every connection point.  This goes for power too!  It will save you a world of pain and misery in the future.  You can even take it one step further and designate left and right with different coloured heat shrink for quick and easy identification.


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