Often overlooked, a good ABY pedal should cover your switching needs, and should allow you to enjoy the best of both amps or rigs. Read on to have an idea what to look for, and what are some of the names you can consider.
If you’ve been playing guitar for quite some time now, then you must already be aware that guitarists love exploring new sounds.
Some spend time exploring so much, that they easily get hooked on checking out several different guitar types. Of course, there are different guitar body types, different pickups, and yes – different colors and finishes!
To some, amplifiers are the ones that catch their attention. Different types, tonal characteristics, stacks, all of that good stuff. Some even chase the ones that were manufactured years ago!
Lastly, there are also those who get GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), and plunge deep into the world of effect pedals.
Ah, yes. Pedals.
There’s just something about it that makes you want to get more! It’s like it’s in nature to make you want to purchase them and try them out for yourself!
Musicians have always been fond of experimenting with tones to make them sound better. Effects pedals help you do exactly just that! Whether it be improving your tone, or helping you be inspired and spark creativity, it can always be a good thing to try a new pedal out.
Now, you’re most likely aware of distortion and overdrives and delays and reverbs. After all, these are some of the sounds that you can almost instantly recognize the very second you hear them!
We also use these sorts of effects pedals to produce our signature sounds. Whether it be pristine repeats, spacious blankets of ambiance, or watery chorus tones, these pedals help bring a completely new dimension to your sound.
But today, we’re going to talk about a specific pedal that not many of us use. Probably because, simply put, it doesn’t produce a noticeable sound like your chorus or flanger pedals!
In this feature, we’re going to be talking about ABY pedals.
Let’s get right into it!
What is an ABY Pedal & How To Use It
An ABY pedal looks simple, feels simple, and just works simple.
To give you a better idea, allow me to walk you through a specific scenario. So you’re in a rock band. Ever since you were a kid, you always dreamt of playing in an arena filled with people, chanting along to your song’s verses and choruses.
In order to do this, you always wanted to produce a big sound from your guitars. You also have two separate pedalboards. Great.
You somehow manage to book a show filled with enough people to meet half of your initial dream. Fair enough, right? So of course, just like any band, you would rehearse for hours, days, months, prior to the main event.
During these rehearsals, you try and try to make your amp sound huge. You try and make your guitar scream and shrill during those solos. You crank your overdrive and distortion pedals all the way up, but you still end up being unsatisfied with your sound. You are also struggling to make the most out of your two pedalboards, as you find it severely time-consuming plugging in and out of rigs and switching from one build to another.
Quite the hassle, right?
This is where the magic and genius of the ABY pedal comes in.
The ABY pedal simply allows you to control and switch between amps and pedals all in one stompbox. It takes the original output from your instrument and splits it into two paths.
Let’s say for example you have two amplifiers, whether completely different or totally identical.
An ABY pedal (or switcher) allows you to select and toggle and switch between two amplifiers, or even have them engaged altogether. This allows you to have access to a plethora of tones and mixes between two amplifiers. This can also be useful when you have two pedalboards with you, or two guitars during a live performance.
Fairly easy, right?
In a live setup, you can use this pedal to switch between two amps in-between your songs, or even use them both and mix them according to your preference. This could work perfectly well for guitarists who are into chasing a specific tone that a particular amp can only replicate. It may be advanced for some, but it can work wonders if used correctly. Think of it as a utility tool for when you have two guitars, two amps, and two rigs.
Active vs Passive
Simply put, active pickups require external power sources, can help strengthen your original signal, and often come much more expensive compared to passive ones. They can also add a small amount of coloration or subtle difference to your original signal.
Passive ones on the other hand come in true-bypass function, meaning that your original tone from your signal source is still unaffected with little to no tonal alteration. It also comes cheaper than its active counterpart.
Achieving A Stereo Setup
One of the main reasons why many musicians go for the ABY pedal is because they are into having stereo setups. This means that you will have the option to make use of two amplifiers during your performance.
This can work if you’re into exploring and pushing versatility during your live sets. After all, mixing and switching between two amplifiers can introduce a plethora of tonal options that you can use both in live setups and studio recording sessions!
After all, it doesn’t hurt to keep exploring and experimenting, am I right?
ABY Pedals Buying Guide
If you’ve been reading our features quite a lot, then you know one of the most important recommendations to consider is your budget. There are companies that offer high-end components at budget-friendly price points, so feel free to check them out.
Another thing would be functionality and use. Some units offer ground lift, isolation transformers, all of which we will be discussing in this feature. Lastly, pedalboard real estate. Luckily, there are some ABY switchers that come smaller than others.
When I use an ABY pedal, I see to it that I get to enjoy the benefits of both amps that I’m using without experiencing any form of muddy characteristics. This goes the same for when I use an ABY pedal to run two pedalboards.
With all the nitty-gritty out of the way, let’s get right into the list!
Spearheading our roundup is an offering from Radial Engineering.
The BigShot ABY pedal is a sturdy and compact unit that offers everything you need from a signal-splitting pedal while still having your precious tone in mind.
One of the things that makes the BigShot stand out is its built-in isolation transformers to fend off unwanted hiss or noise coming from your signal. It also boasts a ground lift feature – something that can help in fending off any digital noise produced by any of your electronics.
To top it all off, the BigShot houses a polarity reversal switch, allowing you to play between two amps without having to worry about frequency cancellation.
MXR M196 A/B Box
Coming in at number two is from a brand that has been around long enough for it to earn the respect of thousands of musicians worldwide.
MXR offers the M196 A/B box for all of your switching and dual amp needs. It houses a separate footswitch for each output, with clear LED indicators to make it visible even in the darkest of venues.
It’s also one of the most affordable units in our roundup.
Lehle Little Dual Amp Switcher
The Little Dual packs big features up its sleeve.
Aside from housing everything you need in an ABY pedal, it also offers two inputs. This allows you to make the most of your stereo setup. It also offers two footswitches – amp switching in the right click, and engaging both in the left.
You can also take care of unwanted hum or noise thanks to the built-in Lehle LTHZ transformer.
Electro-Harmonix Switchblade Plus
Coming next in our roundup is from the company that brought you the Soul Food, the Micro POG, and the Big Muff!
The Switchblade Plus is the smallest on our list. But that doesn’t mean it sacrifices features and controls!
Its target market is players who have what they need in mind – a simple switcher. It also houses a function to use both amps at once, all while having a tuner out and bypass functionality. No need to power this baby – it has a passive audio path!
Radial Bones Twin City
Completing our roundup is another fine offering from Radial Engineering.
The Twin City can easily be noticed on your board thanks to its eye-catching aesthetics and simple controls. It also comes loaded with useful features, such as your usual switching options, and a class-A input offer. This allows you to power up multiple amplifier outputs.
To top it all off, the Twin City also boasts drag control load correction. This means you are given the option to recreate the tone you would obtain from being connected to a tube amplifier – something we all know a lot of guitarists love.
The Wrap Up
Experimenting and exploring should never stop. Your journey to becoming a better guitarist is often fun and inspiring. Gear and pedals like the ABY switcher should offer a new dimension to your playing, and are made for you to be able to have an idea of what it’s like using and switching between rigs, guitars, and amplifiers with little controls.
With so many available on the market today, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the options!
This is why it’s important to do your research and know all about your gear before deciding to purchase them. Hopefully, this feature helps you out in any way! Keep on creating!