It’s really hard to get excited about pedalboards. You’re paying $300+ for some plastic/wood with carpet on it. Then you’re going to velcro your pedals to it, destroying the resale value of your effects in the process 1. That velcro will lose its grab over time. It will infuriate you when you remember how much you paid for something you could build at home for $25.
Of course, if you’re real serious, you can get a custom built board where things are permanently mounted in place. That’s cool, until you buy a new boost and need an engineer to fit it in your pedal chain.
You’ve probably caught on by now, that I write this because I think I have the answer to all your pedal boarding problems. Better yet2, it comes from a Wisconsin company3. That means when I heard about the folks at Monarch Pedalboards, I was able to drive across town and actually meet them. This is what I discovered.
How cool can a pedalboard really be?
That was my question going in. I watched Monarch’s Kickstarter video and was really surprised. It looked like someone had finally solved the velcro problem. Video is below, if you’re curious.
But I still was full of a lot of doubts going in. I assumed pedals would slide out of their holders, or it would be a huge pain to swap pieces in and out. I knew for a fact that the rail system would somehow be limiting.
I don’t mean to sound too much like a salesman, but I was dead wrong on all counts. This thing is cool, and lives up to the hype.
First off, the brackets are the stars of the show. These little guys twist into the support rails and an internal spring keeps them snug. A few turns of an allen wrench keeps them locked super tight.
The rubber disc you see below pops out, possibly in case it ever gets nicked up, but also so you can have a disc on both sides and put pedals back to back.
I’m told Monarch will offer an all black version of the entire board, but I really dig the orange brackets.
Once you lock a pedal in place, these guys really hold on tight. The video below shows that gripping power. The 20″ Monarch Flatboard is similar in size to most of the basic boards out there. If I tried this with my board, you’d hear velcro ripping free.
Also, the brackets will hold just about anything. I thought I had them beat by bringing in my little Snark tuner with its odd rounded shape. Obviously two brackets can attach with ease, but I figured getting a third and fourth bracket to hold would be an issue. It wasn’t.
The two brackets at the bottom provide lateral stability, and the two at the top keep the pedal from going anywhere. It’s every bit as secure as a typical rectangular case.
Beyond the brackets, the modular system offers tons of flexibility, as you might imagine. Future production models will offer the ability to stack rails, giving a platform for pedals in the rear of your board. You can add additional rails if you need, to get just the right spacing option. There will even be fold out “feet” so you don’t even have to buy a case, and can rest the Mainframe board by itself on the floor.
One more feature, of sorts. These things are pretty tough. The video below is a little high on the cheese factor4, but it’s definitely a good way to show the durability. Also, the Monarch team absolutely did not hesitate to do this demonstration. Not a moment of worry that something might go wrong. That’s confidence.
It’s pretty cool, but how much work is involved?
My next thought coming in was that the Kickstarter video made things look way too easy. Surely it was rehearsed, edited and much more cumbersome in real life. But I watched them swap at least three or four pedals. It’s really pretty easy. A twist of an allen key and you’re off. Below is my shaky cell phone camera footage of the process, just to prove that it’s simple.
Minor note, since the guys weren’t expecting to do this, you’ll see the patch cable doesn’t reach the output of the new pedal. That’s certainly no fault of the board, just that they wired their pedalboard up like a BMW radio. Every wire is the exact length it needs to be and not a millimeter more.
Also, the underside of the board is very accessible. There’s a shelf to hold your power supply, and the rail design makes it a snap to get wires wherever they need to go.
That’s nice, but is it for me?
Fancy pedalboards of any kind are not for all players. If you’ve got one or two pedals or never leave your house, you might not need one. Who are these for? Definitely session players. The Monarch dudes were telling me how they’re making one for YouTube legend Pete Thorn right now. That makes an insane amount of sense. If you’re a hired gun for a living, you’ll need to swap pedals regularly to get tones that fit the style of music. Being able to easily do that while still having a super solid platform you can travel with is a brilliant fit.
I think these boards are great for the GAS-ridden hobbyists like myself. In fact, I’m writing so excitedly about Monarch because I plan on buying one. For me, since I play mostly at home, with friends and at the occasional in-town club – no case needed. Maybe a gig bag (which I hear they’ll be offering in the future) at most. But that means I could get the smaller mainframe or one of the Flatboards and every time I need a new pedal, I’ll be able to give it a nice secure home. I’d much rather do that than spend the same money on the competition and still deal with that whole velcro thing.
Plus, maybe I’m too reckless, but I always kick at my pedals to hurriedly turn them on. That makes them shift a bit, and often leads to damaged cables. I need a system like this to protect myself from my own clumsy behavior.
But really, a touring player who uses a lot of pedals would be the right match for this. Work comes up on short notice often enough that you can’t always send your board off somewhere to get re-arranged. Having the ability to set things up yourself is a big win. I’d imagine these guys will kill it in that market.
Other tidbits and fun facts
I wanted to leave this to the end, but mention that a bonus for me is that the Monarch Pedalboards team is pretty good humans. It’s Brian, his wife Melissa, and Erik – all good Milwaukeeans like yours truly. So while that might not matter to you, it should matter to plenty of people that it’s a small team that just wants to turn a cool invention into a career. Not some wealthy investor buying up ideas, not some big corporation spinning off a new line. So the folks who appreciate the tiny amp and pedal makers should definitely be down with that fact.
Also, these folks are very eager to launch new ideas and make their product better. See something here that you think could be improved? Go tell them on Facebook, they’ll listen.
Let’s round it up
Here’s a recap of all the important details.
- Comes in 24″ or 34″ widths. Either way, 15″ deep.
- Mounting shelf for your power supply under the main pedal area
- Sold as a standalone or with their heavy duty flight case / floor stand
- Uber-fancy wooden case coming soon
- $249 for 24″, $349 for 34″ – case not included
- The more affordable board with a smaller footprint, but same major features
- Sizes are 20″x12″ or 24″x7″
- Built in case for transport and protection
- $199 either way
Mainframe with Flight Case
- Has a heavy duty latch in the bottom that the Mainframe quickly slides into, turning the case into a stand
- For the case/Mainframe combo, prices are $399 or $499.
You can also buy additional brackets whenever you need them. Right now they’re listing a four pack for $11.99. Once these guys go completely public, you should be able to buy any part you need really, since everything can be disassembled and rearranged.
Get on board now!
Want to get your own board from Monarch Pedalboards? Go help them out on Kickstarter right away. As of posting, there’s a little over two weeks left in their campaign and they have a ways to go. You’ll want one of these boards, so be hip and get in before they’re super popular.
- Unless you’re like me and put painters tape between the velcro and the pedal – which keeps the pedal’s value, until the tape comes loose and the pedal falls on the ground during transit. ↩
- For me, mostly. You’ll see why. ↩
- Hopefully the first of several that I’ll feature here. ↩
- Not a Wisconsin pun, I swear ↩