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Getting started with rack gear

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  • Getting started with rack gear

    Considering a jump into high end signal processing for both recording and for weekend-warrior live use. This means either a floorboard or rack mount units with MIDI foot control. The floorboard is self-explanatory - navigate menus, program tones, save presets, hook to a PC for editor software. The rack units, though, are a little harder to get my head around. You need a case. The case needs a place to sit, and they're not small. You have to consider 2u, 3u, 4u, etc. You have to get a MIDI controller for the floor and program it to do what you want. Rack gear is safer on stage and during transport (heck I just had a kid run through my stage setup *during a song*), but bulkier and way more heavy. Rack gear is undeniably cool and I love the idea of not crouching to do my programming. My guitar heroes all use rack gear, and 80s-and-beyond studio guitar tone is the era of tone I'm always trying to emulate with my budget gear. For some reason rack gear feels like "the real deal" more than floorboards do, and I like the modular aspect of matching different pieces of gear.

    What I don't quite understand is how to learn about programming a MIDI floorboard to control rack gear without going insane from all the possibilities and the lack of templates or auto-mapping. How do folks do this? Youtube? Forums?

    Is there anything else I'm missing in the consideration for jumping into rack gear? Even basic advice is appreciated. Including "don't do it". I'm doing a lot of reading to get up-to-speed, but appreciate the insight of this board so posting this here as well.
    Last edited by alex1fly; 10-13-2021, 10:46 AM.
    Originally posted by crusty philtrum
    Anyone who *sings* at me through their teeth deserves to have a bus drive through their face
    http://www.youtube.com/alexiansounds

  • #2
    I literally had a thought this morning...rack gear is going to make a comeback. Then I see a post like this and I truly think that is going to be the case!

    Many neo-vintage pieces already command incredible prices and I think this trend is going to continue...grab those ADA's while you still can!

    I will say, some of the most "fun" I ever had playing guitar was with a Boss GX-700 (and later an original V-Amp Pro) through a Marshall 9100 50/50 (and later Mesa Stereo 2:50) power amp. So simple and I kinda always liked the look of the rack gear. Each piece was unique, sort of like pedals are today.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Masta' C View Post
      I literally had a thought this morning...rack gear is going to make a comeback. Then I see a post like this and I truly think that is going to be the case!

      Many neo-vintage pieces already command incredible prices and I think this trend is going to continue...grab those ADA's while you still can!

      I will say, some of the most "fun" I ever had playing guitar was with a Boss GX-700 (and later an original V-Amp Pro) through a Marshall 9100 50/50 (and later Mesa Stereo 2:50) power amp. So simple and I kinda always liked the look of the rack gear. Each piece was unique, sort of like pedals are today.
      You can definitely get into it for not a lot of scratch. V Amp Pro racks are going for $100 on reverb. Did you use anything to control the V Amp Pro?
      Originally posted by crusty philtrum
      Anyone who *sings* at me through their teeth deserves to have a bus drive through their face
      http://www.youtube.com/alexiansounds

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      • #4
        I believe with powerful gear such as Axe Fx you only need 2 to 3u rack at max. No need for a refrigerator rack like in the 80s.

        Do you have any idea on pieces of gear you plan for the rack? Are you going vintage with Lexicon, ADA and Yamaha stuff or new modern ones only?

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        • #5
          Rack gear is not making a comeback, it’s “here”. At least the good stuff is. Now here here’s the problem. A lot of the old stuff has so-so AD/DA converters, no analog dry through, a lot of button presses to get modify settings and things like Lexicons make programming a DX7 look easy. (The PCM80/81 has no chorus, flanger, reverb, etc. you use the 6 delay lines to build them yourself)

          First tip is to plan what you want and need. There’s a lot of stuff available and you don’t want a rack of stuff that’s not necessary. It’s heavy and a 10u rack weighs A LOT. I calculated how much my all-in rack would be and it was 140 lbs. I’m not touring but even moving it anywhere sounds miserable.

          Secondly, there is a lot of dumb stuff you really should have with rack gear. You need ground poop isolators, you need a powered splitter and a line level mixer, you need decent power, you probably also will want a good matrix switcher like a GCX. Oh yeah, lots and lots of decent cables.

          In terms of possible options and programming, I’ve dug in a lot and what I’ve found is that most of those huge racks had units that were doing one or maybe two things. So the maybe a couple of delays from a Lexicon, a Symphonic Chorus from a Yamaha SPX90, a Tri chorus, etc. You split it all up front and then use the GCX and mixers to bring it all back in. All the rack gear goes after the amp, so either a head with an effects loop or a pre/post setup. Your drive pedals are still in front.

          I’ve gotten to this point and my thinking is this… there are two realistic rack setups I’d like:

          1. A head or Pre/post with a GCX for about 4 pedals, a multieffects like a GMajor 2 and a MIDI controller out front. (I’ve got this now and it sounds great but it’s still hefty)

          2. A Fractal AxeFXIII with a midi controller. Honestly I think this sounds as good as any old rack setup, is smaller and easier to transport and get easier to program using a laptop.

          I’ve done an obnoxious about of research about this the last 18 months, feel free to shoot some questions. As an example I’ll post Michael Landeau’s rack Routing below. It’ll basically get you two (very well known) tones.

          http://www.italodeangelis.com/it/eve...l-in-a-box.asp
          Oh no.....


          Oh Yeah!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by PFDarkside View Post
            a GCX for about 4 pedals, a multieffects like a GMajor 2 and a MIDI controller out front. (I’ve got this now and it sounds great but it’s still hefty)
            The G-System literally combines all of these things into one, as well as working as a power supply for the pedals. The controller is quite heavy but really sturdy, and the unit itself adds next to no weight.

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            • #7
              I thought about going that route to replace all my pedals, but decided on a Kemper (they do make a rack version with and without power). The editor is solid and everything can be done via the front panel or via computer.

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              • #8
                BBE 482 Sonic Max is probably the dumbest rack gear in guitar history,

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                • #9
                  I've found MIDI programming to be not that big a deal. You choose a channel, and send a particular code which does something. Just 2 things to think about really.

                  As far as rack gear, I still have almost all mine from the 80's until now, but the problem is back then the noise floor was higher (-70db was the best you could do vs -90db and better than -100db in some cases now), not all the gear had the same kinds of connections (TRS vs TS vs XLR and +4 vs -10 vs -20). Certain pieces make a sound no other gear will make, but you have to have all the noise correction stuff around it to use it now. I've got pedals now that are much better sound quality, they just lack the precision of the possible settings the rack gear has.

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                  • #10
                    Using a rack and midi to control it is about the most un-ergonomic system around. A 19" rack takes up a lot of space, and effects don't need to be that big anymore. I'd take something like a Helix or Fractal floor unit and a few midi-controllable pedals over dragging around a rack anymore.
                    Dave, Ambassador/Writer/Artist for Seymour Duncan

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Mincer View Post
                      Using a rack and midi to control it is about the most un-ergonomic system around. A 19" rack takes up a lot of space, and effects don't need to be that big anymore. I'd take something like a Helix or Fractal floor unit and a few midi-controllable pedals over dragging around a rack anymore.
                      What I like about the rack is it lives safely behind you. A fractal rack with a SS 1u amp, controlled by a Ground Control Pro that you can find for $200 used is attractive to me now.
                      Oh no.....


                      Oh Yeah!

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                      • #12
                        An ART SGX-2000 is the cornerstone of any high-performance rack system.
                        I have moderate bilateral hearing loss in the upper midrange and lower treble. I tend to think sounds are quieter, darker, and bassier than they probably really are.

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                        • #13
                          Digging around the back of a dark rack at a gig trying to fix something is one of my worst memories. There are too many things that could fail. That is why I went back to pedals.


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                          • #14
                            The best part is when your head gets stuck.
                            I have moderate bilateral hearing loss in the upper midrange and lower treble. I tend to think sounds are quieter, darker, and bassier than they probably really are.

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                            • #15
                              Rack.

                              Yes.
                              LLL's Guitars & Amps Extravaganza

                              RigTalk FoS Forum

                              My Soundcloud

                              "Online guitar poseurs can't hide forever"

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