Please note: This FAQ page provides general information, answers to our most frequently asked questions, as well as a statement of our official shop policies. More information regarding our terms and conditions is available here. Feel free to contact us with any questions.
Updated July, 2021
We have seen very few shipping delays recently. We have seen a few temporarily delayed First Class Mail shipments, but the USPS and UPS are shipping delivering packages as normal.
Delayed parts replenishment due to COVID related supply chain issues is an ongoing issue. We have been working hard to procure parts from a variety of sources to cover our production needs.. We may have some instances in which specific pedals may not be available. Thanks for your patience.
UK & EU shipping changes
Notice: Due to regulatory VAT changes we will not be shipping pedals through our direct site to the UK or EU. However, our pedals are still available through our Reverb and Etsy sites. Please see the shipping section below for more detailed information.
Why order from Saturnworks?
Saturnworks hand-crafts the highest quality guitar pedals possible at fair prices. Saturnworks pedals work great and look good doing it. Sure, you can buy cheap pedals made in China produced by massive corporations relying on iffy labor practices. But buying from Saturnworks ensures that your dollars are going to support a small, musician-owned business working hard every day to handcraft the best boutique gear to fit your needs and help you sound great.
Supporting Saturnworks also supports our partner parts suppliers, most of whom are also small American entrepreneurs. In fact, our main parts supplier is a small family-run electronics parts supplier in Portland, OR.
Where can I purchase Saturnworks pedals?
You can buy pedals directly from Saturnworks on saturnworkspedals.com. (If you’re reading this, you probably already know that.) Ordering direct means that we don’t have to pay commissions to third-party platforms. We pass that savings on you by offering discounted/flat rate shipping.
Another great place to buy Saturnworks pedals is reverb.com. We have been with Reverb since they started in 2013. Reverb has eclipsed sites such as eBay to become the preeminent site for guitar gear, and for good reason. They are a solid company to work with and have good customer service. Most musicians have made the switch to Reverb versus sites such as eBay. We also periodically participate in Reverb-sponsored sales, which usually occur around holidays.
Since we produce handcrafted products, we also sell on etsy.com.
We have a small selection of pedals on eBay. Most players seemed to have migrated from eBay to Reverb over the years. We have reduced our listings on eBay over the years. But if you’re a die-hard eBayer, eBay is an option for a few basic pedals.
I have a few questions…
Please send all inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Inquiries usually receive a response within 1-3 days. Posting inquiries on our social media pages may result in slow responses.
When will I receive my pedal?
Most orders ship with tracking within 2-4 business days. Business days are Monday-Friday, excluding holidays. Adding customizations and/or upgrades, such as specific requests for LED colors, graphics, switch upgrades, etc., may add an additional 2-3 business days to the turnaround time.
How do I count business days? The day you place your order would be the same business day. The day after you place your order would be the first (aka next) business day. The second day after you place your order is the second business day, and so on. For example, if you place your order on a Thursday, four business days would be the following Wednesday. If you place your order on a Monday, four business days would be the following Friday.
You will receive a tracking number when your order ships. Please wait the stated turnaround time before contacting us to inquire about the shipping status of your order. We of course love talking to customers, but as a small business, responding to lots of inquiries asking when orders will ship can slow our workflow and make pedals build/ship more slowly.
We offer expedited Priority Mail and various UPS options to US customers through the site. Please note that expedited shipping applies to the shipping speed, not the processing time. Regardless of shipping speed, we don’t guarantee that orders will be processed any faster than our regular 2-4 business days estimate. However, when possible, we do try to move orders that include expedited shipping higher on our shipping list. If you do opt for expedited shipping, once your order ships, it should arrive more quickly than it would have with regular economy shipping.
If you need your order as quickly as possible, we recommend Express Mail or 1-2 day UPS shipping.
Our 2-4 business day shipping timeframe is an estimate. It is not a guarantee or contract. If you are under a very tight deadline to receive your order, we may be able to accommodate rushed orders. Expedited work fees may apply. Contact us for details before placing your order.
Please note that a handful of pedals, including the Dark Matter Overdrive, Cosmic Wah, full size expression, parallel loopers, MP3 headphone amps, and Saturn Fuzz, are custom built to order and take approximately 2-3 weeks.
Do you ship to . . . ?
We ship to most places, with a a few exceptions…
UK and EU shipping: In 2021 the UK and EU changed their policies regarding imports. The UK and EU have put the onus of collecting their VAT on international sellers, rather than collecting it themselves on the receiving end, as they have heretofore done. We have therefore decided to stop accepting orders from the UK and EU through our direct site. However, you may still purchase Saturnworks pedals through our Reverb and Etsy sites, as they are set up to add VAT to purchases going to the UK and EU.
On the plus side, UK and EU customers can now prepay VAT charges, which means that you won’t have to worry about surprise customs fees or trips to customs offices.
Because of the recent changes, if you don’t see what you’re looking for on our third party platforms, let us know and we can try to help you out. If there is a pedal listed on our site that is not on Reverb or Etsy, we may be able to list it on one of those platforms. However, since we don’t typically do custom work through third party platforms, this means that we won’t be offering custom work shipped to the UK or EU.
A note on Germany: Over the years, the only country we’ve had a problem shipping to has been Germany. Germany seems to have very stringent customs requirements relating to electronics. As of 2019, Germany is even rejecting passive electronics. Because of these stringent import requirements, and having had several packages rejected and returned, as of spring 2020 we are no longer shipping to Germany through any of our selling platforms. We will refund any orders to Germany.
International shipping and GlobalPost
We use a courier service called GlobalPost for most international shipments. GlobalPost offers relatively fast and economical international shipping that includes insurance. We first ship your package to the GlobalPost processing center near San Francisco. GlobalPost then re-labels it with the appropriate customs information, transports the package overseas, and hands it over to the postal system (or some other courier service) of the country of destination for final delivery.
You may notice that packages sent through GlobalPost tend to have a lot of processing/scans. Packages will often have a variety of scans in California before proceeding overseas. Sometimes packages will show a ‘delivered’ scan (usually in Hayward, CA). That simply means that the package arrived their processing center, not at the final destination. So don’t be concerned if you see an early ‘delivery’ scan, or a lot of scans that seem to be going back and forth between locations in California. These are just the courier service processing the shipment.
You can track GlobalPost packages on the GlobalPost tracking page.
We’ve also found parcelsapp.com to be a useful site in tracking these types of packages, and international packages generally, as that site will have all the scans from the USPS, the courier service, and the international postal service in one place. That site will also let you know the ‘last mile’ tracking number. This is the tracking number that the package will use once it arrives in the destination country. Sometimes that number is different than the original tracking number.
Why isn’t my tracking number working?
Concerned customers sometimes reach out asking to verify that the tracking number is correct, or that the package has shipped, because the tracking hasn’t shown up in the USPS tracking system. The tracking sometimes shows as “invalid,” “not found,” “pre-shipment,” or “label created.” We send a tracking number when we create the shipping label, but it may not appear in the USPS tracking system immediately. The USPS system may initially say that the tracking number is “invalid” or “not found.” Just give it some time.
Once we create a label, we drop the shipment off with the USPS, either the same day or the following business day, but tracking information often appears on their site with a delay, particularly over weekends. If, for example, we drop shipments in a collection box after the last Saturday pickup, the mail carrier may not collect them until Monday.
We’ve had an ongoing issue with our local USPS over the years in that they often do not scan incoming packages. Most peoples’ experience of the USPS is waiting in line to drop off a 1-2 packages. In that case, they will scan the shipments right in front of you. The process is different for businesses in that we drop off batches of 20-30 packages daily at USPS pickup locations — either our local USPS office, or sometimes at drop boxes.
The USPS is supposed to scan packages as they come in, but sometimes they do not. If the package misses the initial hand scan, it goes through an automated system (think conveyer belts and laser scanners) that should scan it later down the line–usually later that the same day at a USPS hub. Given that there aren’t any USPS delays, your shipment will still ship and arrive okay, but it may not appear in their tracking system until it gets closer to its destination.
We have seen some cases in which the first scan appears days after the package is dropped off, usually at a hub close to where the shipment is supposed to be delivered. For example, while we’re in California, sometimes the first scan may be in New York. In some (rare) occasions, shipments may only appear in the USPS system the day they are delivered.
These are examples of shipments whose first scan appeared in the USPS system the day before, or the same day, they were delivered, on the other side of the country. Although rare, given how many packages we ship, we have seen this happen many times. We don’t know why.
We know it’s frustrating if the tracking number doesn’t properly appear in the USPS system as it should. It’s frustrating for us too in that them not doing their job makes it seem as though we’re not doing our job. However, the good news is that in virtually every instance, the package is still moving through their system and will be delivered as normal. (Remember the bad old days when there was no such thing as package tracking?) It may just not be trackable until it’s close to being delivered.
An error that we seem to be seeing more frequently says that the tracking number is a “duplicate.” In our experience, the error will resolve itself when the USPS scans the package into their system.
Why didn’t my tracking number show up in the USPS system until the day after you sent it to me? When did you *really* ship it?
A USPS collection box
Packages can arrive at the USPS in one of three ways. First, you can take the package directly to a post office. Second, you can put it in your mailbox. Third, you can drop it in a USPS collection box. We don’t think it’s a good idea to leave boxes full of pedals outside; so we generally drop our shipments directly at a post office. However, at our discretion, we may sometimes drop shipments at a USPS collection box. The USPS usually collects mail from a box once a day. That can be anytime during the day, from morning until evening.
If we drop packages at a box that a mail carrier has already collected, the USPS may not collect the package until the following day. Occasionally, if we drop off packages on a Saturday, the following postal day will not be until Monday. This is also the case for postal holidays.
Shipment information may appear in the USPS system the same day you get a tracking number. However, it may take a day or two to appear in their tracking system. Our post office generally does not scan packages that are dropped off with them. That means that the shipments often do not appear in the USPS system until they hit a distribution center farther down the line.
Customers can sometimes be confused or frustrated because the USPS site doesn’t indicate acceptance until a day or two after receiving tracking. Some customers believe that this means that we didn’t *really* ship the package. The fact is that we did ship it. Once we drop it off we cannot retrieve it. (Sorry, but we don’t believe in going to jail to try and break into a collection box. As Meatloaf says, ‘We’ll do anything for customers…but we won’t do that.’) Rest assured your package is on its way, and should appear in the USPS (and later your door) shortly.
If you are in a rush to receive your pedal, we can usually accommodate you. Contact us for more information on expedited turnaround and rates.
My tracking number hasn’t moved for a few days. Is my package lost?
After ordering your gear you’re eager to get it and start playing. We definitely get it. But once your pedal has shipped, it is out of our control. While delays are rare, they do happen sometimes. Sometimes carriers misroute shipments, trucks or planes can break down, there may be a Godzilla attack, etc. This can particularly be the case with international shipments, which can be subject to lengthy customs delays.
Once we ship your order we can’t make it arrive any faster. We don’t have access to more detailed tracking information than what appears on the USPS tracking.
It can be easy to assume that if a package is stalled for a few days that it is lost. While delayed packages can be frustrating, the good news is that lost packages are extremely rare. In the vast majority of shipping delays, the carrier works out the issue and the shipment arrives just fine–often a few days later.
For example, in 2020, even with all the shipping delays and issues due to COVID, out of the approximately 6000 pedals we shipped that year, we only lost two in the mail. That’s 0.0003% of our shipments. So while delays are more common, lost mail is extremely rare.
If you need your pedal(s) in a hurry, please contact us before ordering to inquire about expedited shipping services such as USPS Priority or Express Mail, or FedEx services.
Our delayed/missing shipment policy.
Our policy on delayed/missing shipments is as follows: If a package has not moved for 14 days, we can, upon the request of the recipient, initiate a missing package investigation with the carrier (USPS, UPS, etc.). When the results of the investigation come back confirming that the package being definitively lost, we will issue a full refund.
How does shipping work?
We offer a $5 flat shipping rate for USA orders under $79. USA orders over $79 ship free! That’s our way of giving a quantity discount to larger orders. We typically ship USA orders via USPS First Class Mail or Priority Mail, depending on weight.
If you need to pedal more quickly, you can select Priority Mail, which is 2-3 day (not guaranteed) delivery to most locations within the USA.
If you’re in a rush, we offer USPS Express Mail.
We also offer a variety of UPS shipping options listed as you compared the checkout process.
International orders are also flat rate based on zones: Canada, Europe, Asia, Oceania, etc. We generally ship international orders via USPS First Class International Mail or GlobalPost. Upgrading your shipping to Priority International Mail, or other more expedited services is available by request.
You are responsible to verify that your shipping information is correct, complete, and current. If you do not provide a current, correct, or complete address, we are not responsible if your shipment is lost, mis-delivered, or returned to sender. Also be sure that your address is formatted according to USPS specs, including correct capitalization, spelling, house/building numbers, zip/postal codes, and the correct use of abbreviations and suite/apartment numbers.
My shipment was delivered in Sacramento? I don’t live in Sacramento!
For some strange USPS reason in a few rare cases we have seen shipments scanned as delivered in Sacramento, rather than at their destinations. Sacramento is our local USPS hub/sort facility. In the cases we’ve seen, the USPS (incorrectly) said that they delivered the packages to a business.
We don’t know why this error occurs, but in our experience, in the instances in which this happened, the customer received the shipment as normal a few days later.
Will you declare a lower value or declare a shipment as a gift or repair on customs forms?
We will not declare a lower customs value on international shipments or declare shipments as gifts.
Would you approach someone you don’t know and ask them if they will commit a federal crime so that you can save a bit of money? That’s what you’re doing when you ask a business to falsify customs documents.
Falsifying customs values may result in a higher declaration, based on what a customs officer thinks the shipment may be worth. Providing false information on customs documents can also result in the confiscation of the shipment. Falsifying customs information is illegal and can result in fines. We don’t want our shipments confiscated or deal with legal issues so that you can save a bit of money on your taxes.
When ordering from overseas you are not subject to the sales tax that many US customers must pay, or the sales or VAT taxes of your home country. Import taxes are one way that governments try to collect taxes on that loophole. We know they’re not fun, but you know what they say about death and taxes.
I have to pay to pick up my package? Why didn’t you pay all the (international) postage?!
Depending on your country’s laws, you may need to pay import taxes to take possession of your delivery. Your country may levy taxes at a flat rate, based on the value of the goods being imported, or both. For example, some countries levy taxes if the declared value of the goods being imported is greater than $100 (see above why we will not declare lower customs values). These taxes are not included in the price of the goods, or shipping charges. In our experience, countries that we often ship to that collect import taxes include Canada and Australia. You are responsible to pay import taxes. Import tax laws and policies are constantly changing. So it is up to you to research any applicable taxes before ordering.
New for spring 2020: Rather than making an extra trip to pay expensive import fees, Canadian customers can now prepay a lower flat tax of $8, rather than combined taxes and fees. If you’re interested in this service, simply add prepaid customs to your order here and we’ll take care of the rest.
If your shipment is returned to us, for whatever reason, you can opt to either pay to have it shipped again, or get a refund, minus shipping. Our promotional free or flat rate shipping only applies to the initial shipment. If you opt to have the package reshipped, you will be responsible for the full shipping amount.
Can you accept forms of payment other than PayPal?
We use PayPal to process transactions, but you don’t need to pay with PayPal or even have a PayPal account to place an order on our site. If you would like to use a credit card, please select the “debit or credit card” option as you complete the checkout process.
Can I get a discount?
We believe that, within the context of the boutique USA pedal market, our pedals are competitively priced. We individually hand make each pedal in California, USA. They are not produced en masse in Chinese factories. Under certain circumstances we may offer discounts. For example, we often participate in Reverb sponsored (usually seasonal) promos though our Reverb shop.
We also offer discounted/flat rate shipping as our way of giving a discount to anyone who deals with us directly. At our discretion, we may offer other discounts–for example, if you buy a large quantity of pedals (we usually consider orders of $300 or more large quantity). There may be cultural considerations (cultures in which haggling is the norm), but we consider asking for large discounts, particularly on handcrafted goods such as ours, impolite. Don’t be ‘that guy’ who asks if we will sell a $100 pedal for $40.
We’ve also noticed over the years that people who ask for big discounts tend to be the most demanding when it comes to shipping time et al. Why is that? Be cool, people.
How do I add a note to my order?
You can add a note to your order to request specific graphics or LED colors. The “order notes” field is below your address as you check out. If you would like to add upgrades to your pedal, out our upgrades page, where you can find upgrades such as soft click latching switches, powder coated enclosures, and Switchcraft jacks.
Can you customize your designs?
Yes, we can generally customize many aspects of our pedals — enclosure size, layout, knobs, graphics, LED colors, etc. Please contact us before placing an order to inquire about customizations. You can include a note with your order to request a specific graphic, but please don’t place an order with a note requesting custom layouts, or other more involved customizations. We can certainly do custom orders, but we process them differently than standard off-the-shelf pedals.
Can I request a different graphic for my pedal?
Saturnworks takes pride in not only providing top quality pedals, but in an artistic aesthetic as well. Who wants a plain metal box when you can have something cool on your pedalboard? We are continually rolling out new graphics and sometimes retiring old ones. The images on the Saturnworks site are stock photos and the pedal you receive may or may not have the graphic pictured. If you really like the specific graphic you see on the site, please include a note with your order or email us after placing your order to request that graphic. Check out our graphics gallery to see our current graphics.
If you see a specific graphic that you like on a different pedal of the same size/orientation, we can usually accommodate your request to apply it to a different pedal or pedals. We also do custom graphics for a small surcharge. Please contact us before completing your order if you are interested in custom graphics.
Hey, isn’t that graphic just a sticker? You, sir, have offended every fiber of my being.
Our graphics are high quality vinyl labels. This graphic application method allows us to provide a lot of graphic options while keeping our prices competitive. It also allows us to offer custom graphics at a very reasonable rate. Once in a while we have customers who seem surprised that our graphics are “just a sticker.” We’re not sure what was expected based on the clear photos of our pedals provided on all our selling outlets. Either silk screening or hand painting would be significantly more expensive and/or severely limit our graphic options. We have never had complaints about the durability of our vinyl labels.
Can you do painted enclosures? How about different knobs?
We can do a variety of customizations including powder coated enclosures, various knobs, and different colored LEDs. Please contact us for details.
How about custom builds?
Depending on feasibility and time availability we do take on custom jobs. Please contact us for details. If you’re looking for a totally custom layout, it’s always helpful to have a sketch ready. It doesn’t have to be fancy – just draw something and take a picture with your phone! Check out our Custom Work page to see examples!
Are your loopers the type that repeat a phrase indefinitely?
Saturnworks loopers are “true bypass loopers” or “true bypass loop switches,” meaning they take a section (loop) of signal in and out of your signal path. It can be confusing because both types of pedals are called ‘loopers.’ Please inquire if you have questions about the functionality of any Saturnworks pedal.
Why don’t your stereo true bypass loopers have LEDs?
The switches used for true bypass loopers have multiple channels, aka ‘poles.’ A true bypass looper needs two poles to work. To add an LED, the switch needs to be a 3-pole switch. A stereo looper requires four poles, two per channel. Unfortunately, the largest capacity switch available on the market is a 4-pole switch. Stereo looper switching uses all four poles, which doesn’t leave an extra pole for an LED.
What’s the difference between a parallel looper and a blender looper?
A serial vs parallel signal path.
Parallel and blender loopers are similar in that they actually both utilize parallel circuits. They both split a signal, modify the split signals, and recombine (aka sum) them. The Saturnworks blender looper uses a very simple parallel circuit that splits one signal into two, using an active splitter. One of the split signals goes to a loop (where you add whatever you’d like to the signal), which becomes the ‘wet’ signal. The other signal passes straight through as the ‘dry’ signal. With the Saturnworks blender loopers, a single knob passively sums the two signals and controls the wet/dry ratio.
Parallel loopers are similar conceptually, but feature more control over how the parallel signal interact with each other, plus more parallel channels. Parallel loopers feature volume controls and/or on/off switches on each of the parallel channels. They also feature an upgraded active mixing circuit, which has zero crosstalk and allows you to boost the channels’ levels relative to each other. So the same parallel concept, but with enhanced control over what’s happening, more channels, and with some upgraded summing circuitry.
So if you’re looking for something straightforward and compact for a simple wet/dry blend, a blender looper is a good option. We’ve sold many hundreds of blenders to satisfied players everywhere. But if you would like more extensive controls to really craft your parallel sounds, you may want to reach for a more full-featured parallel looper.
Why didn’t my pedal come in a fancy box? Is this pedal even new?
Yes, your pedal is new. We don’t sell used pedals. Most of our products do not come in commercial packaging. As primarily a direct-to-customer business, we mostly focus on our products, rather than elaborate retail packaging.
Our philosophy is to concentrate on the stuff that we think matters, such as high quality components and solid construction, and not as much on things that we think don’t matter as much, such as fancy boxes, silver foil, gold strings, velvet pillows, etc. When you get a product with elaborate packaging, that isn’t free. You paid extra for that “unboxing experience,” not to mention the extra resources it took to make, sell, and eventually dispose of the extra materials.
Instead of focusing on elaborate packages that will likely just go into the trash within a few minutes, we keep our quality high and prices low by streamlining things and just selling quality pedals.
If opening a box gets you excited, head over to YouTube for endless “unboxing videos.” If quality pedals get you excited, you’re in the right place.
Why don’t your pedals have 9v battery clips?
Batteries are expensive and toxic for the environment. For the price of a few batteries that might last a few days, you can buy a power supply (like the one we sell here for $14) that will power multiple pedals indefinitely. Also, we try to make our designs as compact as possible, so a 9v battery won’t physically fit into many of our pedals. However, if you really want to use a 9v battery, we can install a 9v clip upon request, for a modest surcharge. Please contact us for details.
Are your pedals gluten free?
Yes, we are proud to offer pedals that are gluten free, sugar free, GMO free, and have no carbs. Please do not ingest Saturnworks pedals.
Can I add a 9v battery to a pedal in a 1590A enclosure?
With a 9v battery installed in a 1590A enclosure we can also install a switch and…oops, out of space.
Do your pedals come with power supplies?
The majority of guitar pedals on the market do not come with power supplies. It simply doesn’t make sense, unless the pedal requires non-standard power. If you have ten pedals on your board, would you want to pay $15-$20 extra per pedal for ten separate power supplies, which you would have plug into multiple crowded power strips? Probably not. Instead, you can power multiple pedals using a single high-mA power supply. We carry a power supply similar to the One-Spot here. If you want to get fancier and use an isolated multi-power supply, you can get a Voodoo Lab power supply for around $100.
What type of power supply do I need to power your pedals?
All Saturnworks pedals that require power, either to function or make LEDs light up, use standard (for guitar pedals) 9v DC center-negative power. Our pedals use standard 2.1mm (sometimes referred to as ‘Boss style’) DC power jacks.
The symbol on the power supply should look like this:
Using any other type of power may damage the pedal and voids the warranty. It is best to use audio-grade power supplies specifically designed for use with guitar pedals. We have one for sale here. Standard power supplies (the kind you buy at Radio Shack) are usually low quality and very noisy. You must use power supplies that are AC/DC – not AC or AC/AC! Using AC power is very likely to damage your pedal.
Is this pedal true bypass?
The concept of true bypass applies to pedals with effects that can be bypassed. This applies to effects pedals — distortion, overdrive, fuzz, wah, chorus, phase, delay, or most other pedals you can think of. The true bypass concept would not apply to pedals such as mixers, A/B pedals, splitters, kill switches, tap tempo pedals, or expression pedals.
We use true bypass switches wherever they are applicable.
When players asks ‘Is this true bypass?’ regarding a pedal for which true bypass doesn’t apply, it’s likely that they have heard of true bypass, or seen it marketed, and while they may not know what true bypass is or how it works, they know is that it’s good. What this question usually means is, ‘Will this pedal negatively affect my sound?’ The answer to that question is no.
Without diving into the ‘true bypass vs. buffered bypass’ discussion (check Google or YouTube for that), we design our circuits to be tonally transparent and to not negatively alter your tone.
Why do your A/B pedals only have one LED?
We generally use bi-colored LEDs for A/B applications. A bi-colored LES is a single LED that switches between two colors.
What is a ‘reversed’ A/B pedal?
Both standard and ‘reversed’ A/B pedals use the same A/B circuit, and since they are passive, can be used in either direction. You can use a regular A/B in reversed applications, and vice versa. But whereas a standard has an input jacks on the right and two output jacks on the left, the reversed version simply has two input jacks on the right and one output jack on the left. This reversed jack configuration facilitates placement on a standard pedalboard with right-to-left signal flow.
Which way does the signal flow in this pedal?
Like the vast majority of guitar pedals, Saturnworks pedals are set up for the signal to flow from right to left.
How to I connect a true bypass looper?
What is the difference between a latching and a momentary switch?
Latching switches toggle a circuit on and off. Think of a light switch: when you flick it on the light comes on; when you flick it off the light turns off. That’s how latching switches work. Most effects pedals with an on/off footswitch use latching switches.
Momentary switches are spring loaded switches that have a normal state (either ‘open’ or ‘closed’). They enter into the opposite state when held down and return to the normal state when released. Buttons on an old-school arcade game are momentary switches. Imagine that when you hit an arcade switch, your video game character fires a laser. That’s basically how a momentary switch works. Pressing the momentary switch generally triggers something to happen with the device it’s connected to.
The simplest iteration of this is a tap tempo switch. When you set a beat with an external tap switch, a delay pedal takes those alternating states of being open and closed and sets the delays to that pulse.
Momentary switches are either normally open or normally closed. Normally closed means that the switch is normally grounded and becomes ungrounded (open) when the switch is held down. Normally open switches are the opposite. They are normally open (not grounded) and are grounded when held down. Most devices that use momentary switches use normally open switches. The exception is Boss/Roland. Boss/Roland devices and amps that use momentary switches use normally closed switches.
Why isn’t my momentary switch working properly?
If your tap tempo or other momentary switch isn’t working properly, it may be due to a couple of common reasons aside from the with itself. It may be the incorrect type of switch, i.e. normally open vs normally closed, or there could be shorts in your cable(s).
If you’re looking to connect an external momentary switch to control a compatible Boss or Roland device, then you need a normally closed momentary switch. With virtually all other brands, you’ll need a normally open switch. There are a couple of brands that use non-standard normally open switches such as Strymon and TC Electronics — both of which use normally open switches but with special TRS configurations. But for other brands including EHX, MXR, Dunlop, Line 6, and most boutique brands, if your device calls for a momentary switch, then it should be normally open.
The other problem can be small shorts in your cable(s). Momentary switching works by the device sensing ground pulses. With the circuit/switch being normally open, the device waits for ground pulses (in other words the circuit being momentarily connected to ground) when you press the switch, you send ground purples. The device then translates those ground pulses into tap tempo beats, scrolling through menus, or other momentary switching applications. If your cable has small shorts, the device may receive extra ground pulses, which can cause switching when you don’t want switching.
A cable may seem okay. It can pass audio signals and if you connect your guitar to an amp with it you may be able to not hear any problems. But it may have issues that you’re not aware of.
To see if your cables may have shorts, get a multimeter and set it to its resistance testing mode (usually indicated by an omega symbol). Then hold one probe on the tip of your cable and the other on the sleeve. If it registers any resistance or continuity, then your cable has shorts and needs to be repaired or replaced.
How can I test a switch or cable? Or how do I know if my momentary switch is normally open closed?
Circuit testing is best done with a multimeter. Multimeters are useful tools for any guitarist and can be purchased for less than $15 on Amazon. With a multimeter you can test cables, switches, and (with some multimeters) batteries. A multimeter can help you pinpoint issues and figure out if an issue you’re having may be due to a bad switch or cable.
Testing with a multimeter
You can use a multimeter for basic continuity testing. When put in continuity testing mode, if you connect the probes, the multimeter should display zeros. This means that there is continuity between the problems (in other words, they’re touching with no resistance).
Continuity, i.e. a closed circuit
If the probes are not touching at all, the multimeter will show 0.L, which means that there is no connection.
No continuity, i.e. an open circuit
This is a good way to test switches. If you’re dealing with a normally closed momentary switch, when touching the probes to lugs that are wired to the jacks the multimeter will normally be closed (zeros) and when you hold down the switch the multimeter should be open (0.L). The reverse is the case for normally open momentary switches. Normally open switches normally display 0.L and display zeros when the switches are held down. Latching switches should toggle back and forth between open and closed (zero and 0.L).
If your multimeter has an audio continuity testing mode, that can be used as well. In audio mode, the multimeter will beep when the circuit is closed and not beep when the circuit is open.
You can also use a multimeter to test cables. If you connect one probe to the tip on one end of the cable and the other probe to the tip on the other end of the cable, there should be continuity (zeros). If not, then something is broken. You can repeat the same test for the sleeve and the ring, if you’re dealing with a TRS cable. You can also test a cable for any resistance between the tip and sleeve. To do that, you will need to set your multimeter to resistance testing mode.
Some multimeters automatically detect the resistance range, while others need to be set to a specific resistance range. When set to resistance testing mode, touch one probe to the tip and the other to the sleeve of one of the cable plugs. It should show 0.L (no connection). If the multimeter registers any numbers (i.e. resistance), then the cable should be repaired or replaced.
Can you install a soft-touch switch in my pedal, rather than a latching switch?
Many customers imagine that a soft-touch switch is an easy drop-in replacement for a latching switch. Unfortunatly, it’s not so simple. In order for a soft-touch switch to work like a latching switch in applications such as true bypass loopers or AB pedals, the soft touch switch is installed in conjunction with an active relay circuit. The soft touch switch and the relay work together to make the soft touch switch function like a latching switch.
Relay switching has a couple of benefits. Relay setups can be quieter than the click of a latching switch. Also, relay switch setups don’t have moving parts that can wear out as latching switches can. On the other hand, they require power, are more expensive, and often require a larger enclosure to accomodate the extra circuitboard. Replacing a latching switch with a relay setup usually costs around $40 per switch. So while it’s possible to install relay switching systems into many applications that call for latching switches, there are generally extra costs, power requirements, and enclosure size considerations.
*New starting 2018: Saturnworks now stocks super premium ‘soft click’ switches. These fantastic Japanese latching switches are only available in limited quantities. They are the highest quality switches money can buy. Soft click latching switches are extremely quiet compared to regular latching switches and are a great alternative to soft touch/relay setups. At $20 per switch, soft clicks are half the cost to upgrade, don’t require power, and don’t require using a larger enclosure. Click here for a demo of a soft touch switch in action.
Why does my momentary switch click? Did you install a latching switch by mistake?
Some customers confuse ‘momentary’ with ‘soft touch.’ While all soft touch switches are momentary, not all momentary switches are soft touch. The momentary switches we use for our ‘pro’ tap models, as well as dual and polarity momentary switch applications, use momentary switches that have a light click.
Why use clicking ‘pro’ switches in momentary applications that can utilize soft touch switches? Some people like crunchy peanut butter, while others prefer smooth. Likewise, some players like a light click with their tap tempo switches, while others prefer no click. Pedals with a light click are often useful for amp or menu switching, while pedals with no click are popular for tap tempos. Also, some momentary applications, such as dual taps, triple taps, some Strymon taps, and momentary feedback loopers, are not compatible with soft click momentary switches.
Click here for a video comparison of the various types of momentary switches we use.
My soft touch switch tilts slightly. Is it defective or was it damaged during shipping?
Some of the soft touch switches we have used tilt inward slightly. That is how they’re manufactured. That does not mean that they are broken or defective.
Can I get a dual or polarity tap tempo with a soft touch switch?
Unfortunately, soft touch switches only come in a single pole/single throw configuration. That means that they are not compatible with dual or triple tap, or switchable polarity setups.
Dual and polarity taps require double throw switches, meaning that can switch between two different states. Soft touch switches only come in single throw, meaning that they are only on/off.
Can I use a splitter to split one tap tempo or expression pedal between 2-3 devices?
The notion of ‘splitting’ a tap switch between multiple devices is backward in imagining how a tap tempo switch works. Tap tempo works by switching a lead current on and off. The tap tempo switch does the switching and the device translates those pulses into delay time, or whatever else the device does. The lead current comes from the device, not the tap switch itself. So if you’re hooking one tap switch up to 2-3 devices with a splitter, you’re not splitting a tap tempo current. Rather, you’re connecting the lead currents from multiple devices. This will likely cause them to not work properly.
If you want to sync multiple devices with the same tap tempo switch, we offer dual and triple taps that have multiple tap circuits on the same switch. We can install multiple/separate taps on the same switch. The only downside with these setups is that they are not compatible with soft touch momentary switches. Soft touch momentary switches can only be used with single tap applications. The switches used for dual or triple taps click (see info above).
The same concept applies to expression pedals. You can’t really ‘split’ an expression pedal between multiple devices, because the expression pedal itself is receiving current from the devices themselves. So, if anything, you would be combining multiple lead currents, which will likely cause the devices to malfunction.
True bypass and popping sounds
You may experience a popping sound while using true bypass loopers. True bypass pop can be caused by a few different things. The most common cause is a significant difference in the current of the pedal in the loop versus the bypass signal. When the problem signals are switched, a discharge occurs, sort of like a static shock when you touch a doorknob. This discharge can make a pop sound. The true bypass looper isn’t necessarily causing the current difference, but it makes the difference apparent.
Popping because of varying currents can be the result of switching between a buffered and non-buffered signal, or by defective capacitors in your setup that are leaking current and causing the difference. Leaky caps may be present in either effects pedals, or your amp itself. If you’re experiencing popping, try to use a process of elimination to figure out which pedal in your setup may be the culprit. Persistent popping that is present in your setup with all types of pedals is likely caused by a problem with your amp leaking DC current backward into your rig.
Depending on the cause of the popping, it may only pop once per session, and clicking the switch multiple times can discharge the current difference and get rid of the problem. Clicking the pedal multiple times is what EHX recommends to counter true bypass popping, for example.
Some popping problems can be helped by installing pull-down resistors, while some cannot, depending on what may be causing the issue. Contact us if you would like pull-down resistors installed in your switch.
We test all pedals before shipping to ensure they don’t cause any unwanted noises.
I have a pedal that makes a loud popping sound when I turn it on. Will putting it in the loop of a true bypass looper solve my problem?
Probably not. As outlined above, it’s typically not the switch itself that is the issue with true bypass popping. Rather, it’s often a bad part in the device that is the source of the popping. Putting the problem pedal in a true bypass looper simply relocates the problem to a different switch.
Splitters, AB pedals, and ground loop hum
Depending on your setup, sometimes connecting two amps to the same ground through a splitter or AB pedal can cause ground loop hum. The switch itself isn’t the source of the hum. Rather, it serves as the connecting link between the two amps whose grounds don’t play well together.
The best way to deal with ground loop hum is to isolate the devices’ grounds from each other using a device such as the Radial Stage Bug SB-6. Before investing more money in noise remediation devices, however, you may want to consult your amp manufacturer, or another amp expert, to see what they may recommend to address the issue.
Our experience is that most players don’t have problems with ground loop hum. So for most players, buying pricey transformer ground-isolating switches is overkill and a waste of money. However, IF you have a problem with ground hum, getting a standard (non ground isolating switch) plus something like the SB-6 is usually still cheaper than a ground-isolating switch.
Why would I use ground-isolated patch pedals?
Ground-isolated patch pedals use plastic jacks to isolate the signals’ grounds from the pedal’s metal enclosure and thereby from each other.
If you are taking specific measures to keep the grounds of your signals separate, such as ground-isolating transformers in splitters, then the isolated patch pedals will maintain the grounds’ isolation from each other. Isolated patch pedals won’t separate your grounds. You’ll need something with ground isolating transformers (the Radial Stage Bug SB-6, for example) to actually isolate your grounds. However, if your grounds are already isolated, isolated patch pedals will maintain their isolation.
If you’re not doing anything to keep grounds separate, then your grounds are likely already all connected. If that’s the case, then you can likely use the metal jacks in patch pedals without issues. In some cases, using isolated patch pedals without having properly isolated grounds can even cause noise issues by not connecting your grounds properly.
My feedback looper doesn’t do anything. Am I missing something? Is this thing defective?
Feedback loopers are tricky beasts with variable results. Feedback loopers by themselves don’t create feedback sounds. If you simply connect a patch cable in the loop you get nothing. Rather, a feedback looper’s job is to feed the signal of whatever is in the loop back on itself. In that sense, it is the pedal (or pedals) in the loop that are ‘doing the work.’ The feedback looper is essentially just a switch and a level control to control the amount of signal being fed back on itself. Some pedals make crazy sounds when their own signal is feed back to them, while some pedals literally do nothing.
If you put multiple pedals in the feedback pedal’s loop, some pedals can even cancel out the feedback effect for other pedals. For example, in our experience, having a buffer in front of the feedback looper can sometimes cancel out the feedback effect. So for example, if you connect a feedback looper after your Boss tuner, it may cancel out the feedback effect.
Every setup is different and there are many variables in play. It is therefore impossible to say how any given setup will react with a feedback looper. With a feedback looper, it’s not simply a matter of plugging something in, hitting a button and making a sound, like most effects pedals.
The first time I ever made a feedback looper I tested it with a distortion pedal and it did absolutely nothing. It didn’t sound like videos I had seen of feedback pedals, and it do anything remotely like I imagined it would. It didn’t do anything. I thought that I had either made it incorrectly, or it was a piece of junk. So I shelved it. Months later it dawned on me that I should try it with other pedals. Trying other pedals I got instant results and I kept experimenting from there.
We have had consistent results using feedback loopers with delay pedals; so we recommend starting with a single delay pedal, with nothing else in the loop, or before it, and going from there. We test every feedback looper with a delay (a Boss DD-7) to verify that it’s sending the signal back on itself and creating feedback. Unless it has an extremely rare parts problem, your feedback looper is doing what it’s supposed to do. Whether it’s doing what you imagined it might do, or you like what sending your pedal’s signal back onto itself sounds like, can be another matter.
Customers regularly contact us wondering why their feedback looper doesn’t really seem to do anything and assuming it is defective. But in every case it has just been a matter of experimenting and trying other configurations. The feedback looper is an experimental tool. Keep experimenting!
My favorite switch isn’t working! Help!
The most common reason why your Saturnworks favorite switch may not be working with your Strymon device is that you’re not connecting it with the proper cable. You must connect the favorite switch with a stereo (TRS) patch cable. Without a stereo cable the favorite will not work. If you need a stereo patch cable, we have them here.
The next most common reason why your favorite switch may not working is that it’s not set up properly with your Strymon device. The favorite is not a plug-and-play switch. Strymon provides setup instructions for each of its devices that are compatible with the favorite switch. This setup usually includes ‘rebooting’ the device after you connect the favorite switch, often with toggles in a certain configuration. The setup instructions are not the same for every Strymon device. You will need to find and use the instructions specific to your device. These instructions can be found on Strymon’s site, or in your device’s owners manual.
A third reason may be a faulty part. However, this is extremely rare. We test each switch before shipping to ensure it works properly. They are simple on/off switches that very rarely have problems. Customers sometimes contact us believing that their switch is defective. But virtually all of the problems we have seen with Saturnworks favorite switches are due to one of the aforementioned causes.
You can test a favorite switch yourself with a multimeter. Using the continuity testing function on the multimeter, you can verify that the favorite switches the tip of the TRS jack between the ring and sleeve.
My footswitch isn’t working with my HX Stomp. Help!
Line 6 recommends normally open momentary switches as external controllers for the HX Stomp. Normally closed switches, the type of switches Boss devices use, will not work properly.
If you want to connect one of our double footswitch with a TRS jack to work with the HX Stomp, you will need to connect it with a TRS (stereo) patch cable. If you are connecting it with a regular patch cable, one switch will not work. We have TRS cables here, if you need one.
By default, the HX Stomp’s external jack works with an expression pedal. So first you need to set it to work with footswitches, rather than an expression pedal. Note that you need to assign both the tip and the ring to footswitch functionality. Information on how to do this can be found on page 41 of the manual, which can be found here.
Once you tell the HX Stomp that you want to use a footswitch rather than an expression pedal, you need to assign both tip and ring functionality. Instructions for this procedure can be found on page 42 of the manual.
Below are screen shots from pages 41 and 42 of the HX Stomp’s manual, providing information on how to configure it to work with an external footswitch.
(images of the HX Stomp manual from line6.com).
My momentary kill switch is making a popping sound.
Occasionally we get concerns about our soft-touch momentary switches making popping or scratching sounds when actuated. Quickly cutting off a sound wave can cause an audible sound. The popping sound can be especially noticeable with clean (not distorted) tones. With distorted sound waves, the waves are already clipped into square waveforms, so the popping usually isn’t noticeable. So if you experience light popping sounds when using a momentary kill switch with a clean tone, there’s nothing wrong with the switch or the pedal’s wiring. It’s just the physics of sound waves.
Where should I put my kill switch in my pedal chain?
Since a kill switch’s job is to just turn off the signal, it doesn’t really matter too much where in your signal chain it goes. A couple of considerations, though. You may want to put a kill switch before a delay pedal, if you want to preserve the delay’s trail/tails effect. Also, kill switches send the signal to ground. Depending on your setup, switching between a buffered signal and ground may cause clicks in the signal path. If that is the case, you may want to put a kill switch before any buffer or buffered bypass signals. Aside from those considerations, you can put your kill switch wherever you would like.
Where should I put a buffer in my signal chain?
Most players put a buffer either as the first or last pedal in their signal chain. It doesn’t really matter too much where you put a buffer. If, for example, you have multiple Boss pedals on your board, you already have multiple buffers at various points in your signal path.
The only exception would be certain fuzz pedals, such as the Fuzz Face (and its many variants) that don’t like a buffered signal. These pedals tend to sound thinner with a buffered input. If you have fuzz pedals that don’t like a buffered signal, you will want to put a standalone buffer, or any buffered bypass pedals, after the fuzzes.
What’s the difference between a transistor and an IC buffer?
Transistors and ICs are both ‘retro’ analog technology. The transistor was invented in the late 1940s, while the IC came along in the late 1950s as a next generation technological advancement. IC simply means ‘integrated circuit,’ which means that multiple electrical circuits are made into one component.
As far as their application in guitar buffers, both types work well. The job of a buffer is to lower the signal impedance. Basically, you make the signal ‘stronger’ (lower impedance) without making it louder. In that sense, the IC buffer technically does a better job in that IC buffers’ output tend to be lower impedance. IC output impedance is generally in the tens of ohms, rather than hundreds of ohms. However, some players feel that IC buffers produce a sound that is more ‘sterile’ or ‘brittle.’ But since ‘tone’ is so subjective, one person’s ‘brittle’ can be another person’s ‘clear’ or ‘crisp.’ Also, since buffers are designed to not sound like anything, these differences are very subtle.
The vast majority of buffers we sell are IC buffers and complaints about the ‘sound’ of the buffers are extremely rare. Nevertheless, if you want a transistor buffer, we have them available as well. We have both flavors available here.
Do I need phase inversion switches?
Many customers contact us worried about potential phase problems. Sound waves being out of phase is definitely a thing. Sounds waves being in and out of phase is the basis of active noise cancelling technology and balanced signals. However, there seems to be a tendency for customers to believe that nearly every pedal application needs some kind of phase inversion switch. We get inquiries about adding phase inversion switches on tap tempo pedals, expression pedals, and amp switches. Phase doesn’t apply to these types of applicaitons since they’re not dealing with audio signals.
There are lots of videos and other resources to explain how phase works from a physics perspective, this video is helpful, for example. This article is also helpful to understand why you may want phase switches in your setup. Out-of-phase problems may occur when you are splitting or combining (summing/mixing) signals, resulting in thinner quieter sound. Adding certain devices to your signal path(s) can alter the phase, resulting in signals being out of phase.
Not all splitting or summing situations need phase inversion, and in our experience it may be an unnecessary expenditure for most players. Customers usually approach us asking about adding phase switching to their application, not because they’re experiencing an out-of-phase problem, but rather they’ve read on a gear forum that they *need* phase switching. One problem with altering phase is that there can be degrees of being out-of-phase and simply flipping the phase 180 degrees, as phase inverting switches do, may not solve the issue. Nevertheless, if you would like phase inversion capability in a splitter or summer, just in case, we’ve got you covered.
What makes a pedal bass specific?
Active pedals use capacitors that essentially act as a filter to only allow a certain frequency range to enter the circuit. The logic is that the filtering excludes frequencies beyond the instrument’s range, in order to cut down on noise. Bass specific pedals use modified caps to open the pedal’s low-end frequency range. A bass setup doesn’t cut highs; it just opens up the lows. Saturnworks pedals set up for bass are perfectly fine to use with a guitar. So if you want a pedal to use with both bass and guitar, we recommend using the bass version. The bass version can also be a good idea if you’re using the pedal with instruments with lower ranges than the guitar, such as keyboards or synths.
Passive pedals, pedals that don’t have active circuitry that require power, are not bass or guitar specific.
Can you make a pedal that sounds like X?
Designing a pedal from the ground up is usually a lot more expensive than customers realize. We work with (i.e. pay) a circuit designer to help us design a circuit.
By the time you have a custom circuit board designed, a single board built, and the pedal itself produced, you would likely be pushing $500, at least. Not many customers are ready to pay $500 for a pedal that is only slightly different from something you can buy for $100 or less.
If you are looking for something new, or to summon unique sounds from pedals you already own, or are likely to own in the future, we would point you to our parallel loopers. They allow you to create unique combinations of sounds from your gear that you wouldn’t be able to produce using them in a normal (serial) configuration.
Why should I pay you to build a switch, rather than building it myself?
This commonly comes up on music/guitar forums. If someone asks any question regarding a relatively simple switch, inevitably someone will chime in and say something like: ‘Don’t be a chump and buy one. Build one yourself for $5 worth of parts!’ What’s wrong with that? Nothing, if you already happen to own all the tools necessary to build your own pedals and are a DIY-inclined person. By that logic, why buy bread? Make your own! It’s just flour, water, yeast, sugar, and salt, right? Why buy clothes? They’re just pieces of cotton and polyester stitched together…easy! Why not build your own house? It’s just wood metal, cement, drywall, paint, shingles, electrical wiring, plumbing, carpet, tile and glass…right?
A handful of people may decide to bake their own bread, sew their own clothes, construct their own homes, or build their own guitar pedals. However, with everything people have going on in their lives, not everything has to be a DIY project.
Let’s take a basic tap tempo as an example. A tap tempo switch costs around $19 from Saturnworks. If you follow ‘forum guy’s’ advice and head down to your local RadioShack, you will walk away with a plastic enclosure, a low quality jack, and a low quality switch. In the end, you will spend a fair amount of money and build yourself the lowest quality switch possible. That’s assuming that you already have the proper tools.
If you decide to upgrade and go through an electronics parts supplier, the parts will cost you around $15 including shipping, which is already about what a Saturnworks tap tempo costs. If you don’t have any of your own tools then you’ll be spending $20-25 for a cheap soldering iron, around $10-20 each for the necessary drill bits (which are larger and more expensive than the bits most commonly found in bit sets), and at least $30 or so for a low-end drill (the drilling itself can be a difficult/dangerous job without a drill press). You’ll also need to find solder and wire.
As you can see, the materials add up. Assuming you’re sourcing things locally, you’ll also need to factor in the time and fuel costs of you running around trying to source the materials. Or, if you’re ordering online, you’ll need to add the additional costs of shipping.
By the time you factor in the parts and time, building your own pedal is almost never a cost savings. My first true bypass looper, the type I sell for around $30, ended up costing me well over $100 in materials by the time I tracked down all the parts and tools – not to mention time involved. If you’re a total do-it-yourselfer then you probably like the challenge, and in that case, awesome! However, if you’re like most people and don’t have the time, inclination, or desire to spend the time and extra money to build things like guitar pedals yourself, then you can save the time and hassle and buy one from Saturnworks.
That’s what we’re here for. We source the best parts and produce solid pedals, often cheaper than building them yourself.
What’s the difference between a summer and a mixer?
Combining multiple signals into one is called ‘summing.’ The symbol for summing on electrical schematics is a plus sign. Think ‘adding’ (or summing) the signals together. If you add level controls to a summing circuit, the circuit becomes a mixer. So a mixer is a summer plus level controls.
Saturnworks active summers and mixers use the same circuit to combine the signals. The mixer simply adds level controls to the inputs in order to control the mix. If you’ve already got level controls on the inputs that you would prefer to use, then you can go with a summer.
What’s the difference between passive and active summers/mixers?
Passive and active mixers or summers both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Passive mixers are inexpensive, often quite compact, are simple with little to go wrong, and don’t require power to function. However, depending on your setup and what you’re trying to do, they can have their downsides.
If you just wire two signals together (like a y-cable), they essentially become the same circuit. Being simply hooked together, whatever you do to one side you do to the other. With nothing to prevent interaction between the two channels, if you turn one side down the other will get softer as well. This is crosstalk. Passive mixers are a step up from a y-cable in that they use summing resistors to combine the signals. This reduces (but does not eliminate) crosstalk.
Depending on the types of signals being mixed, with a passive mixer, if you turn one side down completely the other side gets about 15% softer. While you can minimize crosstalk with a passive mixer, you cannot eliminate it altogether.
Passive mixers can have problems when trying to mix signals with different impedance. If you’re trying to mix a standard high-impedance guitar signal with a low-impedance signal from a keyboard or MP3 player, for example, the stronger low-impedance signal can cancel out the guitar signal altogether. So while inexpensive and simple, passive mixers work best when you’re okay with some degree of crosstalk, and you’re combining signals that have more or less the same impedance.
Active mixers/summers are often a bit larger, more expensive, and require power to function. However, they do offer some key performance advantages. Active mixers and summers eliminate crosstalk between channels. This means that you can turn one channel down without the other channel(s) being affected at all. Active mixers/summers also balance mismatched impedance so that you can combine a wider range of signal types.
Which type of mixer/summer will be best for your depends on your setup, and the types of signals you’d like to combine. Passive mixing/summing works well in a lot of cases, and Saturnworks has provided passive mixers/summers to thousands of happy customers. But all things considered, from a technical perspective, active summing/mixing is the best way to combine two signals.
What’s the difference between a passive and active splitter?
Saturnworks active splitters feature buffers that are designed to maintain your tone and prevent level loss, whereas passive splitters are cheaper, often smaller, and don’t require power. Passive splitting can work in some instances, but when dealing with high impedance (not buffered) instrument-level signals, active splitting generally works better.
Depending on your setup, passive splitters can work, but they usually have to be used in conjunction with buffers; otherwise, passive can negatively affect your level/tone. Regular (high impedance) guitar signals are quite weak. Remember that we’re talking about a tiny current produced by strings vibrating above passive magnetic pickups. So if you split something that is already weak, it just gets weaker. Passive splitters are, therefore, best used after a buffer, or, preferably, with buffers (or buffered bypass pedals) placed on each of the outputs.
If, for example, you used a passive splitter followed by Boss (or other buffered bypass) pedals on each output, that setup would avoid level loss. Saturnworks active splitters use separate buffers on each output to maintain your level and tone. So if you’re using a Saturnworks active splitter, adding extra buffers is not necessary.
In some setups, you may experience levels issues across channels while passively splitting. Let’s say you have a 2-way passive split followed by a volume pedal on one of the outputs. Turning the volume all the way down on one channel can make the other channel slightly softer. This scenario could be avoided by placing buffers, buffered bypass, or always-on pedals on either side of the split. That setup protects the signals against cross-channel levels interference. This problem can also be avoided by using one of our active splitters.
From a technical perspective, active splitters are a better way to split a guitar signal. However, passive splitters do offer the advantages of being cheaper, simpler, not requiring power, and are often smaller.
What’s the difference between a stereo signal and a balanced signal?
Stereo signals and balanced signals use the same type of 2-channel connectors/cables — usually TRS 1/4″ or XLR. So players sometimes assume that they’re the same thing. Not so. Stereo signals have two different audio signals–a left channel and a right channel. Balanced signals have two copies of the same audio signal. The ‘negative’ signal is the same signal but with its phase reversed. This setup helps to reduce noise. This site gives a more in-depth explanation of balanced versus unbalanced audio signals. Although balanced signals use the same type of connectors as stereo signals, they are not the same and are used in different applications.
If you would like to convert a balanced line level signal into an unbalanced instrument level signal (the type of signal that guitar pedals like), check out our reamp pedals.
Which volume pot should I get? 250k, 100k, 25k, etc.
The volume pot you choose should be based on the type of signal you plan to use it with. Guitar/bass signals coming from passive pickups, also called “instrument level” signals, are very weak (i.e. high impedance). High impedance signals need a higher value pot; otherwise, they will lose high end and sound quiet and muddy. So if you have a regular guitar or bass with passive pickups, and you don’t have an always-on buffer, then you should go with a standard 250k pot. That’s the same pot you will find in most commercial volume pedals, such as Ernie Ball volume pedals.
If you have a buffered signal, in other words, if you’re using active pickups or if you’ve got an always-on buffer in your chain, then you can use a 100k pot. An always-on buffer may be a standalone buffer pedal, or any Boss pedal. So if you have any Boss pedal in your chain, whether it’s on or off, you’ve got a buffered signal. If you have a buffer that puts out a very low impedance signal (such as an IC buffer), then you can also go with a 25k pot. That will provide more usable sweep than a regular 250k pot. A 250k will work, but it will go from max volume to zero pretty quickly.
If you have a line-level signal, such as the output of an MP3 player or phone, then you should go with a 10k or lower pot. You can use a higher resistance pot, but the usable sweep might be very short.
The basic rule of thumb is that the stronger (lower impedance) your signal, the smaller the pot value, and vice versa. So with a weaker instrument-level signal you should go with a larger pot value. With a stronger buffered or line level signal you should go with a smaller pot value.
Why does my blender’s volume seem to dip in the middle?
Our standard blender pedals use a single pot to linearly criss-cross the wet and dry signals. Imagine an X. That’s what the two signals are doing levels-wise. As one gets softer the other gets louder and vice versa, crossing in the middle. Imagining the wet and dry signals like an X, there may be a dip in the overall volume around the 50/50 mark, depending on the relative levels of your wet and dry signals.
Some configurations will have some dip, while many will not. If, for example, you’re using the blender with a distortion pedal that has its own gain control, the distortion’s gain control can make up gain around the midpoint.
In order to compensate for any volume dip at the 50/50 mark, we can install a clean boost. A clean boost can make up gain when you engage the loop. Another option is to install a special blender pot along with an active mixer circuit. This setup would maintain both the wet and dry levels at full at the 50/50 point, and taper them linearly from there:
If you’re interested in either of these blender configurations, please contact us for details.
A more versatile option, if you’re looking to blend sounds, is our parallel loopers. Parallel loopers have more extensive control over how channels are blended.
Which footswitch controller do I need for my device?
Mechanical footswitches come in two types: latching and momentary. Sometimes momentary switches are also called “unlatching.” To figure out what type of footswitch you need, you first need to figure out if your device needs a latching or momentary switch (or switches). If, for example, your device calls for the Boss FS-5L switch, then you need a latching switch (“L” is for latching). If your device is compatible with the FS-5U (“U” is for unlatching or momentary), when you need a momentary switch.
When devices call for momentary (aka unlatching) footswitches, the other thing you need to know is whether your device uses normally open (NO) or normally closed (NC) switches. Normally closed switches are normally grounded (closed) and are not grounded when the switch is held down. Normally open switches are normally not grounded (open) and are grounded when the switch is held down. Boss/Roland uses normally closed, while most other brands use normally open.
Some devices, like the Boss FS-5U, and some Saturnworks control switches, have polarity toggles so that you can set the switch to normally open or normally closed.
Saturnworks pedals use two different types of momentary switches: pro and soft touch. Both are momentary. The soft touch switch is clickless, while the pro has a light click.
While that covers most control switches, some devices, such as Strymon, use non-standard TRS setups, and need a special configuration. So be sure to confirm what type of switch you need before ordering.
To confirm what type of footswitch your device needs, first check the manual for any information. You can also get more information by contacting the manufacturer of your device.
Question…What kind of bear is best?
There are two schools of thought.
Help! My pedal has a problem!
Combining great components with careful workmanship means that our pedals very rarely have issues. However, being handmade and given that entropy exists and mechanical parts can sometimes not work properly, an occasional problem may pop up here or there. In our experience, of the very few pedals sent back to us with problems, most work flawlessly. So be sure you fully understand how to set up and use the pedal, and that there aren’t other issues in your setup before contacting us for warranty work.
We have demo videos on our YouTube channel.
Guitar rigs can be complex ecosystems with a lot of components. If you’re experiencing problems, be sure to check cables, other pedals, your amp, guitar, etc. and try to eliminate other variables. If you feel that your pedal has an issue, feel free to contact us. We work quickly to fix or replace any bad parts and get the pedal back to you. We take care of most repairs within 1-2 business days of receipt of the pedal.
Saturnworks Pedals have a one-year warranty from the date of purchase against manufacturing defects and parts failure. This warranty does not cover abuse or misuse. Any modifications to the pedal void the warranty. We can repair out of warranty pedals for a fee, based on the repairs required. If you believe your pedal to be defective, contact us to arrange warranty work.
Saturnworks has a two-week return policy. We accept returns of non-custom pedals in like-new condition within two weeks of the date of delivery. While custom pedals are included in the 1-year warranty, there are no returns, cancelations, or exchanges on custom work. We do not refund shipping costs. Also, the buyer is responsible for return shipping costs on returns. The buyer is also responsible for any damage to the pedal during use, or incurred in return shipping. We will evaluate any damage to the pedal(s) and deduct any refund accordingly.
Please note: returns are subject to a 10% restocking fee.
If your purchase falls within our two-week return period, you may contact us to arrange a return.
Can I leave a comment or review on your site?
We do not have an open comment or review section on our site. We curate our testimonials page. If you would like to send a testimonial, please send it to the contact info on our contact page. If you purchased your pedal through Reverb, or another third-party site you are, of course, free to leave feedback there.
What about that guy on that forum who said you’re bad?
Like the old saying goes, you can’t please everyone. Over the last decade we have worked with tens of thousands of musicians all over the world. As anyone who has worked in any service capacity can attest, despite your best efforts, you can’t make everyone happy.
So while there may be a disgruntled young man or two out there (what YouTube video doesn’t have a handful of dislikes?), we would encourage you to check out our 8,000+ 5-star reviews on Reverb.com. Reverb is a third-party platform where you can read honest evaluations of our products and service from thousands of happy customers.