effects loop vs direct input

Effects Loop Vs Direct Input – What Is Best For You?

I remember when I got my first guitar amp as a beginner guitar player and saw in the back of the amp that it had something called an effects loop.  I had no idea what the heck that was!  And there was no internet at that time to be able to look it up!  But, over the years, I learned all about using an effects loop vs direct input into your guitar amp.

This is especially to know when using modulation effects like flanger pedal chorus, delay best guitar reverb pedal or the  best delay pedal ever. Fuzz, distortion pedal or overdrive gear or a volume pedal placement on the other hand may be better suited for your guitar sound to be put in front of the signal chain. And something like a wah pedals, phaser, etc can be experimented on as well.

So let’s compare the two.

First, we probably should talk about what these fx loop things are.

What is a guitar amp effects loop?

One of the best definitions of an effects look that I have found online is this one:

Should I Use A Guitar Amp Effects Loop? – Andertons Blog (blog.andertons.co.uk)

  • This is where an effects loop comes in because it means you can still use your drive and boost and compression pedals into the front
  • So essentially, an effects loop gives you the ability to use your amp distortion in the right place in your signal chain.

So basically, an effects loop gives you a way to add your guitar effects in between the power amp and preamp stages in your guitar amp.

What Is Direct Input?

This is just how it sounds.  You are plugging your guitar into your effects and then from the effects to your amp in a single chain.

When Should You Use The Effects Loop?

To give you a better idea on when you should be using your effects loop vs when you should just plug directly into your guitar amplifier, I would recommend reading the advice from an amp manufacturer itself:

 

To Loop or Not to Loop – Orange Amps (orangeamps.com)

So now that we have a basic understanding of what the loop is and does, why would you want to use it? There are a number of benefits to be gained when using an effect loop. The biggest advantage is that effects placed in the loop tend to sound clearer and more pronounced. Another bonus is that by placing effects in the loop there is less likelihood of any signal loss due to an impedance mismatch, which can occur when using rack-mounted or pedal-based effects (to help with this many effects loops have a level/gain control). (orangeamps.com)

What effects should go through an effects loop?

Personally, I tend to keep it simple:

  • Use fx loop – modulations like chorus, delay, reverb, flanger.
  • Plug in directly – all other effects!

This is me personally – you may find a better option for you!  We do have some related articles here as well like this one on overdrive in effects loop.

Looking for Opinions From Other Guitarists?

Reddit also had a pretty good discussion on the topic on whether you should be using your fx loop or plugging directly into your amp:

r/guitarpedals – Straight Into Amp vs. Effects Loop? (reddit.com)

Topics: Power, preamp stage, guitar pedals, steven wilson, biffy clyro, middle zone, digital effects, line level

  • I’ve never been one to use my loop much, so I’m not 100% sure, but I believe the FX loop will place the effects after the amps gain stages.
  • In the FX loop = after the preamp stage and before the power amp stage.

How Do I Use The Effects Loop On My Amp?

Are you thinking about experimenting with it and seeing what type of things to does to your guitar tone?  I’d recommend following the guidelines in this article to help you get the best sound possible:

 

How to Use Your Amp’s Effects Loop – inSync (sweetwater.com) – Jan 14 2018

  • In the decades before guitar amplifier effects loops, guitarists plugged their favorite tape delays and spring reverb effects directly into the front of their amps.
  • There are two main types of effects loops: series and parallel.
  • The second style of effects loop is known as a parallel loop.
  • You’ll find countless genre-defining uses of sludgy, distorted reverb throughout shoegaze and blackgaze rock, and even tonal gurus like Eric Johnson achieve their lauded tones by pushing their amp’s front end with their favorite vintage effects units.
  • One way or another, once you harness the power of your amp’s effects loop, you’ll have a vastly wider palette of tonal options before you.

Can You Connect To Both At The Same Time?

If you have been playing guitar for awhile, you may have heard about something called the 4 Cable Method or 4CM.  This is basically just a way for you to be able to plug your guitar into both the effects loop and direct to the front of the amp at the same time and get the benefits of both worlds.

Here’s a good detailed article on it from Roland Corp:

The 4 Cable Method (4CM) – What It Is and How To Use It Correctly (rolandcorp.com.au) – Oct 26 2017

To implement the 4 Cable Method, you’ll need the following: 4 best guitar cable for the money options. If you’re using pedals, you’ll also need patch leads for connecting them to each other. An amplifier with an effects loop. The effects loop jacks are found on the back of the amp. Look for the SEND / RETURN circuit. Your effects pedals OR a compatible Multi-Effects processor. So, to connect a Multi-Effects processor using 4CM, it will need to have EXTERNAL LOOP capability. That is, it needs its own SEND / RETURN jacks in addition to the usual INPUT and OUTPUT. A guitar! (rolandcorp.com.au)

Conclusion

And that’s really all there is to it!  I would recommend that you play around with your own guitar set up and see what types of tones you can create using either your fx loop or amp input directly in the amp.  Sometimes you come up with some happy tonal accidents!

It’s all about setting up the right recipe of guitar signal, amp sound, preamp signal, order of your fx, etc which can make all the difference. Now that you have some knowledge, have fun with your rig!

Related articles:

Any questions, feel free to comment below!

One thought on “Effects Loop Vs Direct Input – What Is Best For You?

  1. Great article overall.
    I have an hybrid pedalboard. All marshall analog pedals along with an Digitech RP360SX. Also have a Crate Power block. All cables to connect direct or loop.
    The question is… What will be the best configuration I can use with these elements?
    Please feel free to comment to my email. Thank you.

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