NAMM 2024: Fender launches its own loop switcher, the Switchboard
Fender’s pre-NAMM product launch has landed, with plenty of new guitars, parts, accessories and so on. But amongst all of those, there’s only one effects offering: the Switchboard Effects Operator. And, despite not really being an effect, it’s perhaps the most intriguing product in the whole launch.
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The Switchboard offers similar functionality to things like TheGigRiguit’s G3 Atom or Boss’ ES range. It features five stereo, true-bypass effects loops that you can toggle and rearrange into any order. Once a patch has been made, you can save it into a bank for instant recall. Presents are made via a small LCD screen and a rotary encoder.
Like other high-end switchers, there’s MIDI support for sending control messages through a more complex digital rig, as well as a footswitch jack for things like amplifier channel switching or tapping a tempo into an analogue delay. This means that you can completely switch up your sound at a single button press, rather than having to engage in the traditional pedalboard tap-dance.
Alongside the five loops, you can also add an internal volume pedal to your signal chain, which can be pre-set or, it seems, controlled by plugging in an external expression pedal. There are also switchable input and output buffers. So, no per-loop buffers like on some units, but enough to keep your signal strong after going through five loops’ worth of patch cables.
As with the Tone Master Pro, this looks like Fender’s done its homework before entering a new product category – all of the bells and whistles that you’d expect on a high-end switcher – MIDI, stereo and so on – are present. We don’t have a price just yet, but it’d be reasonable to assume a similar ballpark to, say, the Boss ES-5.
The launch notably spreads Fender’s influence out to another common style of modern pedalboard. The Tone Master Pro, of course, is aimed at those who want to replace their pedals – and maybe their amp too – with just one multi-effects unit. But the Switchboard way well find its way onto the bottom row of the kinds of boards that almost necessitate some kind of MIDI-capable stereo loop switcher due to an abundance of Strymons and similar pedals.
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