Outboard gear

Outboard gear

Musical "outboard equipment" or "gear" alter how an musical instrument sounds. Outboard, (external effects units) can be used either during a live performance or in the recording studio. These are separate from the effects that may be applied by using a mixing console or a digital audio workstation. Some outboard effects units and digital signal processing (DSP) boxes commonly found in a studio are:

  • microphone preamplifiers ("microphone preamp", "mic preamps" or "preamps")



Most 'analog' effects gear is considered 'outboard equipment' when integrating the sound of the instrument with digital recording methods. Typical early units such as the "Wah-wah pedal" were used to produce phasing of flanging effects on stage with the electric guitar. The "Leslie speaker" was another early effect unit for use with an electronic organ, this introduced a doppler effect into the sound distribution within the room.[3] Mechanical devices are also available, such as the "finger glide" used on a Hawaiian guitar used to produce pitch changes. Another device is the "mute", for use with wind instruments such as the clarinet of trumpet. This device removes the resonance from the produced notes and makes them sound "short" or longer as the end of the instrument is uncovered.[4]

Vocal effects

Most units either introduce a reverberation (echo) effect, or some kind of pitch transformation or "colouration" of the singers voice. Digital units have been designed that can compress or expand the duration of sound, these alter the speed of length of the original sound.

Digital units

The invention of the midi interfaced electronic keyboard has seen a leap forward in the way that the sound of musical instruments is produced on stage or in the recording studio. The modern keyboard produces digital signals when the keys are depressed, these signals are processed by external effects units to reproduce original sampled instrument sounds, such as a classical piano or string and wind instrument. This allows the user of such a device to reproduce the sound of virually any instrument.[5]


  1. ^ "Digital Products". Musikhaus Thomann 2010. http://www.thomann.de/gb/onlineexpert_137_9.html. Retrieved 15 February 2011. 
  2. ^ "The classics". Musikhaus Thomann 2010. http://www.thomann.de/gb/onlineexpert_137_2.html. Retrieved 15 February 2011. 
  3. ^ "UNEARTHING THE MYSTERIES OF THE LESLIE CABINET". Recording Engineer/Producer magazine April 1981. http://theatreorgans.com/hammond/faq/mystery/mystery.html. Retrieved 15 February 2011. 
  4. ^ "What is a Wah-Wah?". Musikhaus Thomann 2010. http://www.thomann.de/gb/onlineexpert_137_1.html. Retrieved 15 February 2011. 
  5. ^ "The Art of Electronic Music". Tweakheads Lab 2010. http://www.tweakheadz.com/how_to_articles.html. Retrieved 15 February 2011.