What is a Guitar Amp FX LOOP and why should I use it
If you’ve been playing electric guitar for a while and using guitar pedals, then you are probably getting pretty up to speed with how each pedal interacts with each other and how to get the “best pedal order” to keep your tone sounding good. First of all, there is no right or wrong order and there is no right way or wrong way, so this is just a basic guide and an overview of what a guitar effect loop is and what it does to your pedal & guitar amp tone.
Where is the FX LOOP?
You might have seen it on the back of your amp, read on forums, or maybe heard a YouTuber influencer mention an FX LOOP, but not sure where to find it. If you take a look at our JOYO bantamp heads you will see that the fx loop sits on the back of it. Most FX loop inputs are on the back.
I found my FX LOOP!
Great, you will see a couple of extra jacks labelled ‘Send’ and ‘Return’ above/underneath the ‘FX Loop’. It is called an fx loop, as this is used to make a loop of effect pedals. They go out and then they come back in.
Send is going to your fx loop pedals, return is them coming back to the amp.
Why do I want to use an FX loop anyway?
Some people love using fx loops, they swear that it is the correct way, any other way, Is the wrong way. Whilst others never use it, maybe a bit scared of it, don’t quite understand how it could make a difference to their tone, this is regardless of how many pedals they have.
Like I said there just is no right or wrong, playing your guitar, what effects you use and the tone you make is all subjective, so basically one might be the best for your sound and one might not.
So what is an effects loop?
it is simple, an effects loop is an extra input/output that allows you to place guitar effects after the distortion of the amp, rather than putting them all before.
When should I use an FX loop with my guitar effects?
First, you need to ask yourself are you using your amp for the gain or getting it from the pedals? I would say an fx loop is used best, or more noticeable when you’re using the gain channel of the amp or you push your amp into distortion territory and you want to preserve the amp sound before applying any modulation, or delay.
Whatever you do, using the fx loop gives you the option to get the most from your amp and your pedals.
What pedals should I use in my FX loop?
When you run modulation, delay or reverb straight into the front of your amplifier, this could change the tone a bit, some guitarists sense that this sometimes makes them sound muddy. If you think of putting all of your modulation pedals before the distortion you would be distorting the chorus, or distorting the phase, you distort the flanger, it is going to mess with how rich the effect is. Here you distort your chorus, you overdrive your phase, you obliterate your flanger.
So in the FX loop, you might find guitar effects like :
EQ, Chorus, Tremolo, Flanger, Phaser, Delay, Reverb.
So if you think of your guitar tone as a paint colour (overdrive/distortion) think of the modulation as the varnish to your paintwork. The result will look better and the colour will pop if you apply your varnish after the colour!
What are you going on about?
Hey, this is nothing, you should hear me in real life and see what my hands do when I talk. Alright so if you didn't like my varnish on paint, how about this analogy. Say you were playing distorted riffs on a guitar in a church, shredding away with your amp cranked to eleven, no effects at all. The sound you hear will be your distorted amp first, then a church load of echo and reverb bouncing right back at you. It is a natural progression of effects to the sounds you make.. Shout > ECHO.. >>>...Echo. >> ...echo.>>..
why would I need an effects loop?
Well, first of all, you don’t actually ‘need’ an effects loop on your amp as plenty of guitarists don’t bother using them, especially if you’re only using distortion, fuzz or boost pedals and no modulation/delay/reverb. So it is more, do you want to?
I would like to use an effect loop, why would I? and how do I?
If you want to start using your fx loop, you will get far greater clarity from modulation when using effects like modulation, phaser, chorus, flanger, delay and reverb, the effects loop might be something you’ll appreciate with more clarity of your modulation effects when applied to gain from your amp.
If your amp is generally on clean and you rely on the drive of your pedals, you would not hear much difference using an FX LOOP.
Even Wah pedals will sound different, before or after, there are no rules.
Do I need to use an FX loop?
No, I just said that. But if you use gain in your amp and modulation then you might notice the difference from it.
But is it right or wrong to use one.?
The fact is up to the late ’70s, tube or solid-state amplifiers did not even have an effects loop as you got more gain by turning a tube amplifier up, so where would modulation effects go then? The answer would be before, so it cannot be wrong if you want to put everything before.
Okay, I'm starting to understand the FX LOOP now.
Good, Fx loops only starting getting used fully, since the invention of the gain channel appeared on amps, most people cannot turn an amp up to eleven in a church, so to get that clearer sound, placing your modulation and special effects after the gain resulted in a purer layering effect, so maybe that is a clearer sound.
It makes more sense, but it is not necessarily right.
So why do people say putting all my pedals before my amp could make me sound muddy?
Well, when you place the effect before the pre-amp and want to use the gain on your amp, you will distort what your pedals have done before the amp.
Placing the effect after the pre-amp (so in the fx loop) you will get all the modulation that the pedals apply, rather than the gain destroying everything.
So that muddy sound is the main channel destroying your tone, it is putting dirt on your lovely colour. it is making it muddy.
What does an effects loop do to my delay pedal.?
If you’re using a delay, you might find that effect ends up becoming less effective and the tone changes towards the end of the repeats. An effects loop keeps the overdrive of the amp intact and the repeats applied after.
I don’t use the gain channel, so should I use the fx loop?
If you are only using your amp as a clean signal and getting all of your crunch from distortion pedals, you’ll probably not need to use the effects loop, and you’ll get a really good sound just by placing everything in front of the amp.
This is purely my recommended way of setting guitar effect pedals up in an fx loop, but you might find that a different method works better for you.
Take the wah, volume pedal, or octave pedal for example. if you place it before the amp, the wah pedal will only drive the pre-amp, but place it in the effects loop before it hits the power amp and it will apply the wah filter effect to the whole signal making the overall wah noticeable crisper.
An fx loop is there to give you the option.
Yes, it will make your tone less muddy.
Yes, it makes sonic sense,
but then again sonic sense is not always the law, a little mud & nonsense never hurt anyone.