Three Tips For Stacking Gain Pedals

Three Tips For Stacking Gain Pedals



The goal of these posts is to help you get the most out of your effect pedals. In many ways, they are equally instruments as your guitar or amp is; you have to learn how to get the most out of it. The team here at Matthews Effects wants to help you and we hope these posts increase your music knowledge and enjoyment!


There are a lot of opinions and philosophies surrounding how to stack multiple gain pedals together. How many gain stages do you need? In what order do you put them? When is the right time to stack them together? While your mileage may vary, there are three tips that might help you along your way.


Whatever pedal you put last will have the most effect on things like EQ and Volume. This can be either good or bad, and it will be up to you to leverage this to your advantage.  

One of my favorite fuzz circuits is the Big Muff Pi, but it has a decided mid-scoop that gets lost in the mix, and it’s EQ section can be muddy.  But when you stick a pedal like The Architect after it in the signal chain, it’s EQ section will bring your mids back and add overall clarity to your tone.

But this works both ways and if you’re looking to get the most out of the tone stack on a pedal like The Cartographer, you need to be aware that running another gain or EQ pedal afterward will limit or change the sound and the effectiveness of the pedal before it.


Fans of gain stacking appreciate that you can take two lower gain drives and create a mid or higher gain sound. This is true and it’s great in a pinch if you need a specific sound for one song in your set but you don’t have room for an extra gain pedal on your board.

But, while I love the sound of one boost cascading into another (note: this is a very popular setting for King of Tone users), I prefer to have the right gain for the right job, and then letting the lower gain pedal like the Pocket Drive boost the higher gain Harbinger.


One of my favorite boost pedals is the EHX Deluxe Memory Man; not what you were expecting right? But that classic delay pedal has a ton of volume boost on tap. The same is true of the Chase Bliss Gravitas or JHS VCR. Too many gain circuits can be too much of a good thing. So if I had my Whaler fuzz and Architect going at the same time, and I add a Deluxe Memory Man or Caroline Guitar Co Kilobyte to the mix, I need to remember that both add different types of gain and I need to be aware of this.

While this is just scratching the surface, I hope it gives you a few things to think about and try as you mix and match pedal combinations to greater effect.