By Scott Auld
Three Unique Pedal Boards from The Custom District
When we received a message from Elon over at The Custom Direct, saying they wanted to send a few pedal boards for us to check out, I figured, great, more of the same old welded rails system. I guess that will teach me not to assume … The Custom Direct is taking a totally different approach and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Based on what I saw on their website, The Custom District (Based in Capitol Heights, MD) already had experience in creating metal-worked home & business decor items, like lovely deck rails, window guards, balcony railings, wrought iron/welded lighting fixtures, etc. So they already are quite experienced in working in metal. This isn’t just some guy throwing these together in his garage, they are an established metal shop.
What they’re building now for guitarists are rugged, lightweight, attractive hand-welded aluminum pedal boards that are as functionally innovative as they are strong. They are pre-wired for most power supplies and are infinitely configurable thanks to the clever mounting plate system.
The Custom District sent us:
1) a Deluxe Board, an inclined board with 2 handles, has a front edge (the part that faces you) about 3/4” high and a rear edge (the part that faces your audience) about 3” high and has deck dimensions of either 24” x 18” or 32” x 18”. The Deluxe includes a Marine-grade power inlet and three Redco™ ¼“ shielded jacks.
2) a Pro QC Board (QC stands for Quick Change .. see below) which is ¾“ high and comes in 19″ x 10.5″, 19.75″ x 14.75″, 21″ x 16″, 24” x 18” and 27.5″ x 17″ sizes. This is the item being given away in the TGP contest.
3) a Pro board (their lightest board, a very slim ½” high, and available in the same size options as the Pro QC.
All of the boards themselves consist of a large, sturdy sheet of aluminum perforated with many holes in it, with strong aluminum side panels. The logo is attached in a subtle, aesthetic way and is not obnoxious. There is a piece of reinforcing aluminum welded underneath the sheet, right where you would put the most force if you stepped on the board, so it cannot flex. In fact, I stood my whole 200 pound self on the boards and none of them flexed whatsoever. The strength-to-weight ratio on this thing was shocking until I remembered that that’s why they make airliners out of this stuff.
The perforations in the face of the board don’t just make the board lighter, they are designed for use with their Quick Change (QC) system, which I’ll get to in a moment. The perforations also allow easy routing of Lava™ and similar audio patch cables through the surface of the pedal board right down through the surface of the board. If you use L-connectors on your audio patch cables, the cables seem to just disappear down into the board.
Like most guitar players, I am constantly rearranging my pedal layout, adding new pedals, removing old ones, and generally just futzing around with my pedal chain. The Custom District seems to know that about us, as they seem to have approached the problem of quick, easy rearrangement from the outset of the design.
The Deluxe and the Pro QC boards include 16 small “Quick Change” mounting plates, which are slightly smaller than the average pedal. You mount your pedals to the QC plates using the included Velcro. The mounting plates have a threaded bolt welded to the bottom of them, which you push down into one of the holes on the face of the pedal board, and then screw on one of the mounting plate knobs from below. The knobs have a nice handle on the bottom so you can just hand-tighten them. This system allows for a modular system and you can easily & quickly move pedals around and rearrange your pedal layout without having to remove any Velcro, and without having strips of Velcro all over the face of your pedalboard (which attracts lint and is hard to get liquids out of). Also coming soon for the Pro QC is a modular riser deck that will enable pedals to be mounted above a power supply.
Note: the smallest board, the Pro, is only ½” high, which is super tiny, but that does mean there’s no room to accept the Quick Change mounting plates … however you can attach pedals to the deck with zip ties, or using the old velcro-on-the-board method.
See the photos to better understand how this unusual and innovative approach works; it’s actually something I find harder to describe in text than just showing in a photograph.
The largest board that The Custom District sent us, the Deluxe, really doesn’t hold back on features. It’s pre-wired with a Marine-grade power inlet on the side that connects with an IEC power cable to the most popular pedal power supplies – my Voodoo Labs ™ Pedal Power 2 fit easily underneath, and I also had no problem chaining a Fuel Tank Jr. ™ from T-Rex on to the Voodoo power output, and they all fit happily together under there. The power cables from the power supply to the pedals was easily routed through the same holes in the face of the pedal board that the audio patch cables went through (Because only the straight barrel ends of the power cords fit through the holes, if I wanted to use the L-shaped end of the power connector on the pedal I had to go in from above, instead of threading up from below. This is not a problem, just something to know.)
The Deluxe board also comes with an optional rear deck riser, which raises the rear row of pedals an inch higher. If you’re looking at getting a The Custom District board and you play live gigs, I strongly recommend the Deluxe with the rear deck riser, it really makes for the most practical layout & reach for your pedals for live use.
Also on the Deluxe, three Redco™ FeedThru ¼” audio jacks – female on both sides – make it easy to just plug your guitar amp cable into one side, the guitar cable to another, and just start playing. I used the third jack because the output of my delay pedal is stereo. Thank goodness they thought of one in, two out.
Sometimes at gigs I’ll mount a drink holder to a mic stand, but that’s really a dangerous proposition … it raises the center of gravity for the mic stand (increasing the possibility of tipping) and if it gets knocked hard the drink can spill down right on the pedal board below. The Custom District offers an optional drink holder down on the pedal board, where it can’t get tipped over as easily. It’s basically an aluminum cylinder with the QC attachment on the bottom, the perfect size for an aluminum can or a beer bottle. They are also offering a nifty pick holder that goes on the pedal board, it’s the ubiquitous Altoids tin with the QC attachment hardware on the bottom. Clever accessories! But that’s not all, The Custom District is regularly adding modular accessories of all types (next up is a slide holder) … and they actively seek ideas from users. They also offer large and small blank mounting plates for folks to mount whatever they dream up.
Elon and his folks at The Custom District have a really solid, practical, lightweight product here that deserves a look from any serious gigging musician. Check them out online at www.customdistrictpedalboards.com where you can see great photos and order items directly from them. Also be sure to go “like” them on Facebook now: