How to wire a guitar rack

Written by dan keen
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How to wire a guitar rack
Rack cabinets come in various heights. (Photos from www.Sweetwater.com)

In the music and recording industry, equipment “racks” are cabinets in which various electronic devices are mounted. The cabinets come in a variety of sizes in height, and each has mounting rails with pilot holes on both inside front walls, where equipment can be installed. The width of all commercial racks is standard, and all rack-mountable equipment is designed to fit the racks.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • rack cabinet
  • power conditioner rack-mounted strip
  • optional rack-mounted guitar processors

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Mount a power strip as the first piece of equipment in your guitar rack, and place it in the top position. Today’s electronics are very sensitive to power fluctuations (surges, spikes, and noise) in electric lines. Such power problems can cause poor performance and even damage delicate equipment. Rack mounted power conditioner strips “clean up” the electricity, while providing multiple electrical sockets along the back where other equipment in the rack can be plugged into. Using a power strip also makes it convenient, since only one electrical cord is needed to connect all the individual rack units to an AC source. Some power strips have pull-out lights on their front panels to shine down and illuminate other units in the rack.

    How to wire a guitar rack
    A rack-mounted power strip
  2. 2

    Tuning is a guitar player’s first priority, so it makes sense to include a rack-mounted digital tuner in your guitar’s rack set-up. It can go in any position in a rack.

    How to wire a guitar rack
    A rack-mounted digital guitar tuner
  3. 3

    Mount signal processing and special effects units next. Rack-mounted devices for guitars include preamps, amp and speaker cabinet modelers, direct interface boxes, equalisers, guitar-to-midi controllers, and a host of effects processors (delay, reverb, chorus, flange, pitch shift, compression, etc.). One or more of these units can be positioned in the guitar rack. Some effects processors contain multiple effects in one unit, which frees up more space in a rack for other devices.

    How to wire a guitar rack
    A rack-mounted multi-effects guitar processor
  4. 4

    Plug the AC power cord from each of the units in the guitar rack into the outlets on the back of the power strip. Use cable ties and wrap the cords together to make a clean and organised wiring system.

  5. 5

    Connect the signal output of one unit to the input of the next to create a series path. Use standard quarter-inch TRS (tip-ring-sleeve) patch cords, which only need to be one or two feet long. For example, suppose your rack units from the top down (after the power strip) consist of a guitar tuner, a reverb processor, and a guitar amp modeler. Plug your guitar into the input on the guitar tuner. Connect a patch cord from the tuner’s output to the input of the reverb processor, and the output of the processor to the input of the guitar amp modeler. The output from the modeler can then be connected to a guitar amplifier, PA system, a mixing console or a recorder. Many units have a “bypass” switch, so when they are not in use the signal will be fed straight through to the next unit, without any processing of the signal.

  6. 6

    The order that processors are connected in series in the signal path is important, because if a processor is set to alter the signal, any processors in the downline will add their effect to the previous effect. For example, consider a guitar’s path first through a distortion unit and then through an echo processor. The echo will be applied to the distorted signal. If the order was reversed, the guitar would first have echo applied, and then the echoed signal would be processed by the distortion unit. Each configuration produces a different sound.

  7. 7

    Install a rack-mounted patch bay if you have a lot of equipment in your rack. Patch bays give complete flexibility in routing the signal from the inputs and outputs of every processor. Rather than connecting each unit the rack in series using quarter-inch TRS audio patch cords, the input and output of each device is plugged into the patch bay, giving convenient access. Short TRS patch cords can quickly connect devices in any order.

    How to wire a guitar rack
    A patch bay

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