What is the Four Cable Method?

by Jim Button
Four Cable Method Guitar Pedals | Boost Guitar Pedals

The four-cable method refers to the use of four cables in your guitar rig when using pedals both in front of your amp as well as in the effects loop.

This method should be considered if you are using your amp to provide some of - or all of - the gain, as time and modulation effects will sound much cleaner and faithful to the intended result when setup in the effects loop of the amplifier, while overdrive, wah and other similar effects will work best when setup between the guitar and the input of the amplifier.

If you are running the amplifier clean, you might get away with your time and modulation pedals connected up to your drive pedals in front of the amp, but if you are getting some dirt from the amp then utilising the effects loop is definitely preferable.

How do I setup the four-cable method?

Typically wah, fuzz, overdrive and distortion pedals feed into the amp's input and therefore come before the amp's preamp section.

Time and modulation pedals, however, sound the most pristine and accurate when connected to the amp's effects loop, which bypasses the preamp section and avoids any colouration by that particular gain stage.

To achieve this setup, the four-cable method is put together as follows:

  • The first cable is the guitar cable connecting the guitar to the first pedal in the wah / fuzz / overdrive / distortion chain.
  • The second cable connects the final pedal in this chain to the amplifier's input.
  • The third cable connects the amplifier's effects send to the first pedal in the reverb / delay / modulation chain.
  • The fourth cable connects the final pedal in this chain to the amplifier's effects return.

The result is one chain of pedals located pre-amplifier for your dirt and wah effects, then a second chain of pedals for time and modulation effects that sits in the amplifier's effects loop.

Guitar Cable Tone

Read: All About Guitar Cable Tone

Preamp pedals

One benefit of using four cables is that you can use a preamp pedal in the effects loop to provide an alternative voicing to your amp. Say you have a Vox AC30C2 Custom Combo but for some songs in your set you require a Marshall tone. Stick a preamp pedal voiced on a Marshall in the effects loop and you can then switch between Vox and Marshall sounds with the simple click of the preamp's footswitch.

Multi-fx pedals

Multi-fx pedals are pretty complicated these days, providing the ability to reorder multiple patches and use an internal effects loop. One perk of the four-cable method when used with multi-fx pedals is that - as with the preamp pedal example above - you can switch between the multi-fx pedal's amplifier patches and your real amplifier tone.

Additionally, you can set up your effects patches to appear before the amp or in the amplifier's effects loop.. It's clear that if you want to use a multi-fx pedal to its fullest potential, the four-cable method will allow you to do so. Here's how to set it up:

  • The first cable connects the guitar to the multi-fx pedal's input.
  • The second cable connects the multi-fx pedal's effects send to the input of the amplifier.
  • The third cable connects the amplifier's effects send to the multi-fx pedal's effects return.
  • The fourth cable connects the multi-fx pedal's output to the amplifier's effects return.

So there you have it. If you're looking for a solution to enable you to run both drive- and time-type pedals together in a rig, give the four-cable method a go. Chances are you won't go back!

NE-ELECTRONIX Patch Cable White - Boost Guitar Pedals
NE-ELECTRONIX Patch Cable White - Boost Guitar Pedals
NE_ELECTRONIX Patch Cable - Boost Guitar Pedals
NE-ELECTRONIX Patch Cable,White 2 - Boost Guitar Pedals
NE-ELECTRONIX Patch Cable Grey - Boost Guitar Pedals

NE-ELECTRONIX Patch Cable

£8.99

Available in two colours - white and grey - these NE-Electronix patch cables are the perfect length for linking up your pedals.

They are handmade in northeast England from high quality Van Damme Pro Grade Classic XKE silver-core cable and right angle jacks. The cable has enough flex to cope with bends and features a noise rejecting construction, while the dual-conductor core provides a balanced frequency response.

Good pedals need good cables, and these patch cables look great and sound superb!

Features:

  • 23.5cm length (just over 9 inches)
  • Right angled jacks
  • 57% ultra-pure OFC & 43% silver-plated copper conductors
  • Dual screens of conductive thermoplastic and close-lapped copper for excellent noise rejection
  • Flexible PVC/Neoprene composite jacket
  • Core to screen capacitance: 90 pF/m
PRACTICAL PATCH Instrument Cable 15ft Oxblood Red - Boost Guitar Pedals
PRACTICAL PATCH Instrument Cable 15ft Oxblood Red - Boost Guitar Pedals
PRACTICAL PATCH Instrument Cable 15ft Arisaig Blue - Boost Guitar Pedals
PRACTICAL PATCH Instrument Cable 15ft Sand - Boost Guitar Pedals
PRACTICAL PATCH Instrument Cable 15ft Oxblood Context - Boost Guitar Pedals
PRACTICAL PATCH Instrument Cable 15ft Arisaig Blue Context - Boost Guitar Pedals
PRACTICAL PATCH Instrument Cable 15ft Sand Context - Boost Guitar Pedals

PRACTICAL PATCH Instrument Cable 15ft

£36.00

These Practical Patch instrument cables are handmade in the UK and are designed to preserve your tone and stand up to the rigours of gigging and touring. Van Damme XKE Pro Grade cable, genuine Techflex braid & Neutrik plugs all ensure the highest quality is attained.

The Neutrik plugs are incredibly well made and make plugging in a real pleasure. Each cable is terminated with a straight plug at one end and a right-angle plug at the other end.

The Van Damme XKE Pro Grade cable is a premium quality cable designed to preserve your tone over longer runs thanks to its low capacitance. It is dual-screened for excellent noise rejection.

The genuine Techflex braiding not only brings additional colour to your cable, it also protects it from scuffs, cuts and general wear and tear, ensuring it has a long life ahead of it.

Colours:

Oxblood Red - Carbon Techflex Braid over Red Van Damme XKE Pro Grade Instrument Cable

Arisaig Blue - Neon Blue Techflex Braid over Brown Van Damme XKE Pro Grade Instrument Cable

Sand - Beige Techflex Braid over Black Van Damme XKE Pro Grade Instrument Cable

Features:

  • 15ft (4.5m) unbalanced instrument cable for guitar, bass or other unbalanced output devices
  • Low capacitance
  • Excellent noise rejection
  • Neutrik plugs: straight to right-angle (NP2X-B & NP2RX-B)
  • Genuine Techflex braiding protects the cable
  • Velcro tie to hold coiled cable together

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The four-cable method refers to the use of four cables in your guitar rig when using pedals both in front of your amp as well as in the effects loop...

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