Racks 101: The Rack is Back!

Renewed Interest in Rack Gear Means Numerous Options for the Modern Guitar Player

Lots of great guitar rack gear!Many things in the music industry are cyclical, as evidenced by the resurging popularity of music influenced by Eighties artists. In rock and metal, there are more new AOR, glam, shred, and prog rock bands worldwide than we’ve seen in the past decade. And, with an interest in more technical, polished music performance comes an interest in guitar rigs that provide extreme flexibility to the discerning guitar player.

Rack gear has long been the serious shredder’s path to ultimate flexibility. Why settle for three or four amp channels when you can store a seemingly infinite number of amp tones and crazy effects (from pedals or rack gear), all accessible at the touch of a single button on a foot controller?

Although there have been many people lamenting the death of rack gear over the past ten years, we’re happy to report that they’ve been dead wrong. Rack gear may not be in the spotlight, but the list of pro players with at least some rack gear in their rigs is endless.

Today there are more new rack products for guitar players than ever before! Back in the ‘80s, most guitarists were taking signal processing gear from recording studios and putting it in their guitar rigs with varying degrees of success (and complexity) as they sought effects with better audio quality than most pedals offered, but these days, almost everything you’d like to put in your rack has been designed expressly with guitar players in mind. Plus, you can even rack your pedals and have instant access control over the whole collection with single-button simplicity.

From tube preamps and power amps to modelers to pro tuners to wireless systems to analog pedal loopers and (of course) multi-effects processors, there’s a huge assortment of rack gear designed to take your guitar inspiration (and tone) to a higher level.

Rack gear isn’t just for players who like a ton of effects. As we mentioned, virtually every touring pro has at least some rack gear in his rig — effects or not. Rack gear provides supreme flexibility for any style of guitar player looking to simplify his or her use of multiple amp tones and effects. This might include making use of specialized studio effects or it might just be a way to simplify the madness of tap dancing across a pedalboard stocked with your favorite boutique pedals.

Rack Gear is a broad category of products that can either work with your existing amp or replace it entirely, providing a wide range of options. It includes amps, effects processors, power conditioners, wireless systems, and much more.

Most guitar players only use a single amp and a few pedals, so getting started with rack gear can seem like a daunting ordeal. Where do you start if you haven’t made the leap yet? You may have been discouraged by crazy stories from friends and things you’ve read in online forums such as: the complexity of programming rack gear, tube gear in a rack doesn’t sound as good as a head, you have to learn MIDI, and more.

We’ll separate the urban myths from reality as we explore rack gear from the ground up and help you to understand the various ways in which it can either expand your current guitar rig or maybe even replace it. Plus, we'll show you photos of various racks from pros and amateurs alike.

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