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How to use an On-Board Effects Loop (OBEL)

How to use an On-Board Effects Loop (OBEL)

What does OBEL stand for?
OBEL stands for On-Board Effects Loop. It is a wiring design inside the guitar which uses a separate 1/4" stereo jack to allows the direct output from the pickups to go to effects pedals and then back into the guitar for post-effects volume control. The purpose of the OBEL is to allow for volume adjustments on the guitar after being processed by effects. You may notice that distortion and envelope filters respond differently with volume adjustments on a standard electric guitar. Using an OBEL allows for consistent response from your effects pedals/processors at any guitar volume.

Which PHRED guitars have an On-Board Effects Loop?
Click here to see which PHRED guitars come with an OBEL.

What is required to use the OBEL?
While you can use a stereo Y-cable with an OBEL, it is recommended to use a junction box with a stereo 1/4" guitar cable to connect the guitar to a junction box. A junction box looks like a effect pedal and doesn't require power or a battery.  It has a 1/4" stereo input jack on one side, which is where the stereo guitar cable from the guitar's OBEL jack plugs into.  The other side of the junction box has 2 mono 1/4" jacks.  One of those jacks is a send to the input of your effects the other is a return from the output of your effects.  Using one mono guitar fx patch cable, connect the send from the junction box into the input of your first effect pedal, and the the return from the junction box plugs into the output of your last effects pedal in the chain.

If I have an OBEL equipped guitar, can I still play my guitar like a standard electric guitar and just use the mono guitar output?
Yes, you do not have to use the OBEL in order to plug in your guitar to your effects.  You can simply bypass the OBEL using the OBEL bypass mini-toggle switch on the guitar and use the guitar as a standard electric guitar with your effect pedals plugged in-line between your guitar and amp.

Where can I get a junction box?
PHRED instruments recommends either of the following 3 junction boxes.  The HubBub junction box has more functionality designed for guitar players who play guitars with standard mono guitar outputs and also with OBEL equipped guitars.

Junction BoxModel
American LoopersTRS to Mono Y Signal Split (Obel)
Hard TruckersSP-1 'Y' Junction Box
Godfrey DanielsThe HubBub

Where can I find a stereo guitar cable?
While there are probably many manufacturers that make stereo guitar cables, we recommend Monoprice stereo guitar cables for quality and affordability.  Their standard guitar cables are pretty good, too!

MonopricePremiere Series (TRS) cable
Tsunami CablesTsunami Cables Website

Below is an example showing the PHRED instruments Wolph guitar connected to an amp and effects chain with the OBEL.
In this example, the Wolph guitar has a mono guitar cable plugged directly into the guitar amp.  The other guitar cable is a stereo 1/4" guitar cable that plugs into a Hard Truckers Junction Box (SP-1 'Y' Junction Box), other junction boxes will work as well.  At the send of the junction box, one mono guitar patch cable plugs into the input of the first effect in the pedal chain (Mutron III).  The effects chain uses standard guitar patch cables to connect each effect.  The output of the last effects pedal connects to the return of the junction box.  The OBEL bypass mini-toggle is used to either bypass or use the effects loop.

Wolph guitar using OBEL diagram

In the video below, Brandon Coleman explains how he uses the OBEL. PRESS Play.

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6/1/2018 2:11 PM
Great video! Helped immensely.