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YOU know those connections on the back of your amp marked ‘send’ and ‘return’? That’s your effects loop, that is, and with a little experimentation, you can use it to unlock new sounds, or if it’s switchable, turn a whole group of pedals on or off with just one stomp. Blow the dust off the sockets and learn how to make the most of it.
Effects loops usually come in two flavours: series or parallel. Both operate at switchable levels, which enables you to place either line-level (rackmount/studio processors, etc) or instrument-level (pedals) devices into your chain and feed them at the correct level.
Series loops work by ‘interrupting’ the signal chain after the preamp stage. Your guitar signal leaves the amp via the send socket, goes through whatever pedals you place in the path, then goes back to the amp via the return socket before continuing
to the power amp. One advantage of using a series effects loop is that it can give you greater control of your effects order – particularly if you’re using your amp’s dirty channel as yourmain source of distortion. By putting your effects in the loop, you can place effects after your distortion. This works well with delays, filters and modulation effects that can sound radically different depending on their position, but you can try using series loops with any effect.
A parallel loop splits the signal in two at the same point as a series loop – after the preamp but before the power amp – and sends it to the pedals in your loop. Your original guitar signal stays in the amp and continues to the speaker as normal. When the loop signal returns to the amp, it’s blended in with your original signal, rather than interrupting it.
This can give you a lot of flexibility, because your original signal will remain untouched, no matter what’s in the effects loop. You can use this type of routing to create more complex sounds and layers that are then blended with your original signal. Experimentation is key here, and while convention suggests saving your loop for sounds that are typically blended (reverbs, delays, etc), you can try other groups of pedals, too.