What is Guitar Amp Effects Loop?


guitar_amp_loop_effects

A guitar amplifier effects loop allows guitarists to “send” their signal to an effect unit such as a distortion, wah-wah pedal, reverb, or delay. The result is then sent back into the master output of the amplifier and heard by all.

In this article, I’ll go over the why and how of the guitar amp effects loop.

So without further ado, let’s just get straight into it, shall we?

What is the advantage of an effects loop?

When it comes to guitar effects, there are 2 types of effects:

  1. Time-based
  2. Spatial

Time-based effects include distortion, overdrive, delay, reverb, chorus, flanger; the list goes on. These effects use your guitar’s signal to process an altered version of it through analog circuits or digital algorithms.

Spatial effects like wah-wah pedals do not alter your sound but rather change its tone quality by controlling the frequency response in relation to the input signal (e.g., moving a pedal back and forth).

The difference between these two is that the time-based effect requires your input signal to be sent through them in order for them to work while the spatial effect only needs the input from your guitar which is then applied directly to the output signal.

What this means is that the time-based effects have to have access to your guitar’s input in order for you to manipulate it.

This is where the guitar amp effects loop comes into play. It allows you to send your guitar’s output straight into an effect unit but then re-enters the amplifier via its return inputs, which are normally placed after its master volume and gain controls (hence why these are described as post-gain/pre-volume).

How does it work?

Guitar pedals generally come with two sets of jacks on them:

  1. Inputs – To plug in your instrument cables
  2. Outputs – To connect your power supply

That aside, most pedals will also have a send and return jack.

The send jack is used to send the signal from your pedal to the effects loop on your amplifier while the return jack is used to bring the signal back from the amplifier to your pedal.

To use the guitar amp effects loop, all you need to do is connect your pedals in the following order:

  • Instrument > Pedal 1 (send) > Amp’s Effects Loop In > Pedal 2 (return) > Amp’s Output

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the advantages of using an effects loop:

  1. You can have more than one time-based effect working at the same time.
  2. You can use different time-based effects together to create unique sounds.
  3. You have more control over the level of each effect with the ability to adjust the send and return levels on your amplifier.
  4. You can use your amplifier’s EQ controls to affect the tone of the effects.
  5. It eliminates signal loss and noise that can be caused by long cable runs between your pedals and amp.
  6. It allows you to use pedals that don’t have an input jack, like a wah-wah pedal or volume pedal.

Is there a disadvantage to an effects loop?

Just like everything in life, nothing is perfect – and all of this comes at a cost.

You can’t process the signal going through the loop with its own independent effects unless the amp has multiple channels.

In that case, you’d have to run them separately, either by using two different amps or just having two amplifier channels available for use.

Your tone will suffer from loss of high-end frequencies due to long cable runs between your pedals and amp head.

This depends largely on how far apart they are and what type of cables you’re using (e.., instrument vs speaker), but it’s something to be aware of.

Pedals plugged into the loop will not operate at their optimum level if your amplifier is set too high or low.

The amplifier’s master volume will affect all pedals plugged into the loop, regardless of where they are in the chain.

FAQ – Guitar Amp Effects Loop

Q: Can I plug my guitar into the effects loop?

A: Yes, you can but it’s not recommended as you’ll lose some of the high-end frequencies from your tone.

Q: Can I use my amplifier’s effects with the pedals in the loop?

A: Yes, you can. However, if your amplifier doesn’t have multiple channels, you’ll need to run them separately.

Q: Will the pedals in the loop work if my amplifier is set too high or low?

A: No, the pedals will not work if your amplifier is set too high or low. The amplifier’s master volume will affect all pedals plugged into the loop, regardless of where they are in the chain.

Q: What’s the difference between an effects loop and effects send/return?

A: An effects loop allows you to send your guitar’s output straight into an effect unit but then re-enters the amplifier via its return inputs, which are normally placed after its master volume and gain controls.

An effects send/return allows you to process the signal going through the loop with its own independent effects, like reverb and delay.

Q: How do amp effects loops work?

A: A guitar effect loop is a useful tool for players who use time-based effects, like delays and reverbs. Rather than running your signal out of your amplifier, through your pedals, and back into the amp’s inputs on the other end – which would cause signal loss over long cable runs – you can keep it all in one place by plugging directly into the loop pedal.

 

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