Sometimes pedals are just better than plugins! In this video, we check out one of the best tricks for using guitar pedals in the studio. Featuring angelic tones from the Keeley Halo pedal, here I guide you through how to set up your favorite delay or reverb as a realtime outboard effect when tracking or mixing. A game-changing hack to level up your next recording? You decide. Let's check it out!
Keeley Halo: https://amzn.to/3Iw6UZQ
Reamp Box: https://amzn.to/42TOZ7P
Audio Interface: https://amzn.to/43ckTfm
GTRS P800: https://amzn.to/3IuXJZX
Howdy, friend! You're here in the studio with Luke from GuitarIQ.com. You’re currently looking at a small pedalboard I put together for that short intro jam you just heard. I'm running some light compression with a little bit of overdrive. But really the hero of today's video is the Halo delay pedal by Keeley Electronics. The nice folks over at Keeley recently sent this to me to check out. It’s a pedal that has been out for a while now. So there's already some fantastic reviews out there going through the sounds, settings, features, and functions that this pedal is capable of. So in today's video, I thought I would do something a little bit different. Instead of a standard pedal review, I wanted to use the Halo pedal to demonstrate one of my favorite tips for using guitar pedals in the recording studio—specifically, delays and reverbs. And that is, how you can take your favorite delay pedal (like the halo, for example) and set it up as a piece of outboard hardware when you're tracking or mixing.
Now, for a lot of us, when we're mucking around in the home studio we're just going to reach for our go-to delay or reverb plugins. But every so often a pedal comes along that offers something a little bit unique and special compared to the sounds that we might usually dial in using our favorite plug-in bundle. In my opinion, the Halo delay is a really great example of this. This is a collaboration between Keeley and the guitar royalty that is Andy Timmons. And this little box of magic essentially allows us to capture or steal his exact delay sounds and settings at the push of a button—it’s a beautiful thing.
So with all that said, what is the best way to capture a pedal like this when we're recording? Because for a lot of us, we would just set this up in the exact same way we would for a live situation. Going into the front end of a clean amp, or in the effects loop of a dirty amp, or after an amp simulator, for example—depending on our live rig. But when it comes to recording, there’s two main problems with that approach. First of all, a pedal like the Halo is really designed to be heard in stereo. So just running this into a mono guitar amplifier isn’t really capturing the full width, space, and ambience that a pedal like this provides.
Secondly, even if you have a glorious stereo guitar rig lying around your studio at home, it’s really hard to get the balance right between your guitar sound and the level of your delay. Because even if things are sounding great in the room while you're recording, and even if it sounds fantastic coming back through the studio monitors… As soon as you go to mix your project and you start adding EQ, and compression, and balancing things out, it's really easy to find that the delay is getting lost. Or worse, you realize that you've tracked with far too much delay and now there's no going back.
So apart from the various other benefits that the approach I'm about to show you has, they're the two key issues we're trying to solve. 1) Capturing a pedal like the Halo in glorious stereo. And 2) Making sure we're capturing the sound of the pedal in isolation from our main guitar signal. The solution of course, as I mentioned before, is learning how to set your favorite pedal up as a piece of outboard hardware. So if that sounds interesting or potentially useful to you, then please click on that like button to let me know and to help show the YouTube algorithm a bit of love. And with that, let's jump over to my DAW and check out how to set this up!
Okay, so here we are within Logic Pro. It’s worth noting that each DAW will have a slightly different way of setting things up. But certainly, the general principles we're going to talk about apply across the board regardless of the DAW that you're using. So before we look at the ins and outs of how to connect this up, let's just listen to a few examples so you can get a feel of why this is worth doing in the first place. You can see I have a couple of tracks here. The first of which is labeled guitar. This is just the audio from the intro jam you heard at the start of the video. With one exception. As you will hear, it’s just the dry sound of the guitar without any of the halo effect being added. And it sounds a bit like this:
Okay, so a nice low gain strat-style tone there. But it certainly is missing some of that ambient juju that you heard coming from the Halo pedal at the start of the video. Now, to remedy that problem, I rather handily have a second track here at my disposal labeled Halo. Let's engage that and see what it sounds like:
Okay, so you can see here we've done exactly what we set out to do. We’ve captured the Halo in stereo and we have it isolated on its own separate track, which is going to make life really easy when it comes time to balance things in the mix. But as I alluded to earlier, there are some real other benefits to this approach. First of all, because I have the Halo effect on its own fader now, I can use this to mix the effect more dynamically as the song builds. So, for example, I could pull the delays back in the verses. I could push them up a bit in the choruses. And I could max them out to 100% during that epic guitar solo at the end of the song. Or, I could use this as a creative effect to highlight certain parts of the song. So, for example, if I bring the playhead back a little bit… Let's pull the volume of this delay down. And I'll try and use this as a creative effect to highlight that little noodling line I do at the end of this riff. Let’s check it out:
Okay, so certainly a cool effect that you can automate within the mix. Because we have our guitar pedal on a separate track we can also EQ it slightly differently to our main guitar signal. If we want to dull the delay off a little bit or brighten it up. We could also add additional effects like reverb and tremolo. Or we could do the classic studio trick, where we offset the dry signal from the wet signal to get a really interesting stereo image. Let’s check that out. So I'll set the fader to unity. I'll offset the dry signal to one side. I'll come back and mirror the exact same settings on the wet signal. Let’s take this back to the start and see what it sounds like:
Interesting sound there. Hopefully, that’s just given you a bit of a vibe for some of the things we can do once we've set this up. And that leads to the obvious question: How do we actually do this? How do we get this up and running within our DAW? Well, you can see that I've been demonstrating this using a pre-recorded example. But the real beauty of this approach is that we can set it up in realtime. So we can hear the effect as we're recording and tracking our parts. So let me hide that Halo track now just to simplify things. And let's walk through how to set this up… Let’s put this back to the middle. The first thing we need to do is set up an effects loop. This is going to be the home base which is going to house the sound of the Halo. So to do this we're going to come to the sends. We’re going to click on the next available bus, which in this case is going to be Bus 1. And the first thing we're going to do is come down and label this “FX Loop”.
Okay, so we'll set the send volume on the Bus to unity, which is 0dB. For those of you who aren't familiar with pro audio lingo, a bus is simply one way of sending audio from one track to another. Now, the next step is that we need to get Logic, our audio interface, and our halo pedal all to be communicating with one another. One of the fantastic things about Logic Pro is that it makes this really easy. It actually has a dedicated plugin to handle this all in one spot. So if I come over to the plugin tab, I'm going to come down to the Utility section and I'm going to select the I/O plugin. Now for the setup I have today I'm going to move to the Mono to Stereo option. Why? Because we're going to be sending a mono guitar signal out to the pedal but we want to capture the pedal in stereo. And this now brings up a handy little plug-in to set everything up.
The first thing we need to do is tell Logic how we're connecting our interface to the guitar pedal. Now, it’s worth noting at this point before we go any further that a lot of smaller, entry-level interfaces only give you a couple of outputs to run a pair of studio monitors, for example. But in order to start using hardware, outboard gear you really need an interface that's capable of running additional inputs and outputs beyond the most basic studio setup—so just something to keep in mind. So the first thing we need to do, is set the output. In a standard setup, Outputs 1 and 2 are usually going to be going to your studio monitors. So what we need to do is, connect our interface to the Halo pedal using the next available output. So assuming you have nothing else connected this is likely to be Output 3. If we come down and click on the output section this will show us all of the available outputs from our audio interface. Now, I’ve tried to set this up so I can demonstrate it in realtime. Unfortunately, because I'm recording my screen, the audio drivers from my screen-capture software are kind of superseding my usual setup. But when I'm not running screen-capture software, in a usual setup, my interface would show 8 or more outputs—depending on how I've got it configured. So, as I suggested, I'll just be selecting the next available output that I'm not using.
Now, in terms of physically connecting your audio interface to your preferred delay or reverb pedal of choice. A lot of digital pedals nowadays have a fair bit of headroom. So, theoretically at least, you might be able to run a line level through a balanced 1/4” cable from your interface directly into a pedal like the Halo—as long as the signal isn't too hot. But certainly the best practice, the method I use, and what I recommend is to get some kind of reamp box to sit in between your interface and the guitar pedal you're using. Now, all a re-amp box does is convert the line level signal coming from your audio interface down to an instrument level signal. Which is going to be closer to what your guitar pedal is expecting to see. Reminiscent of the type of output coming from your guitar or another pedal, for example. Now, re-amp boxes range from about a hundred dollars to a few hundred dollars or more depending on the one you get. But in my opinion, it's definitely a worthwhile investment if you're a guitar player who likes to dabble with a bit of recording.
So to recap, we’re connecting a balanced cable from Output 3 to the reamp box. And then we're just using a standard patch cable from the re-amp box to the input of the Halo pedal. So that's the first half of our effects loop. We’re just telling logic how we're going to be sending audio from our interface to the guitar pedal. The second half of the effects loop, obviously tells logic how we want to be capturing the sound of the guitar pedal on the way back in. And this is a little more straightforward. I'm just going to be using two standard guitar cables coming out of the left and right of the Halo pedal and into the instrument inputs on the front of my interface. Which in this case, is going to be Inputs 1 and 2. And that's all we really need to set up in terms of physical connections. I'm going to be leaving the output volume at unity and the input volume at unity. And I'll leave the mix set to 100% because we only want to be hearing the sound of the delay.
And the final thing that Logic allows us to do within this plugin, which is really handy, is allow us to calculate and then compensate for any latency that's occurring in the effects loop that we've just set up. Because, keep in mind, there are a number of conversions that are happening. Our interface needs to convert the digital information from within Logic to an analog signal that it can then send out to the pedal. And it needs to do the opposite on the way back in, take the analog signal coming from the pedal and convert it back to a digital signal. But this is really simple to set up. All we need to do is, firstly make sure the delay is switched to bypass so the sound of the delay isn't confusing Logic. Then, we click on this ping button which is going to send a little audible click through the effects loop that we've just set up to compensate for any latency that's happening. Now, unfortunately because, as I mentioned, the screen capture software I'm using is kind of preventing me from showcasing this in realtime. If I click on this it won't do anything but I will show you a quick screenshot of what this looks like for me when I set it up in, you know, a normal situation and I'm not trying to record my screen at the same time.
Okay, so on the Logic side of things, that's all we need to do. Everything is housed within that one plugin. The only other thing we need to keep in mind is, making sure whatever pedal we're using is set to a Kill Dry mode. All this does is make sure that whatever audio we're hearing from the pedal is just the sound of the effect itself and not the dry sound coming from our guitar. Because, remember, the whole point of this setup is being able to isolate the dry signal from the wet signal. So to do this on the Halo, it’s really straightforward. We just unplug the power from the pedal. We hold down Footswitch A and the Feedback knob in the middle of the pedal, at the same time. And then we just reconnect the power again—and voila the Halo is now in Kill Dry mode. So the level knob now on the pedal instead of setting the mix of the delay is now setting the overall output volume of the effect.
Okay, so with all that explained, if we've connected this up properly we should now have a fully functioning effects loop up and running within our DAW. This means we can hear the sound of the delay coming back at us in realtime as we're tracking, just like we would if we were running the delay into the front end of our guitar amp. It also means we can make any adjustments to the pedal on the fly and, again, hear them reflected back to us in realtime as we're playing. And it also means we can do as many takes as we need to to get the guitar part right, without having to commit the sound of the delay to Logic each time we record a take. The final stage in the process of course is, once we have our guitar part exactly how we want it, we can then record the sound of the Halo pedal back into Logic on its own separate track. And this is the exact setup you saw me running when I was demonstrating the audio examples before. Now, the reason we'd want to do this is it just saves us having to have the physical delay or reverb pedal connected up to our audio interface in order to hear that effect every time we open our logic session.
So to record the sound of the effect back into Logic, it's really simple. It's the exact same process we use for recording anything. Remember, the output from the Halo is coming into Inputs 1 and 2. So we just select a new track, press create, we label this “Halo” and arm the track for recording. I'd also make sure this track is muted because, remember, you're going to be hearing the sound of the Halo coming through the effects loop. So you don't need to be hearing it twice. Then you simply set the playhead to the start of the song or a few beats before the particular guitar part you're trying to capture. And you press record as usual. Again, it’s the exact same process as if you were recording another musician. But in this case we're just capturing the sound of a little digital Andy Timmons that lives within the Halo pedal.
Okay, so that's pretty much everything I wanted to cover in this video. I know there's been a lot of explaining and if you've never set anything like this up before those steps can seem a little bit daunting. But feel free to watch this video as many times as you need to. And, trust me, once you've done this once or twice it will all feel a lot more straightforward than it might seem right now. Now, as a final thought I haven't even mentioned perhaps one of the best benefits of setting something like this up within your DAW. And that is, once we have the effects Loop in place we can then use that on absolutely anything. We don't just have to use that on our guitar parts. We can run vocals, or synths, or strings, or Loops, or whatever we want through our favorite delay or reverb pedals. And capture the sound of that ambience back into Logic—it’s a beautiful thing. So there’s an awful lot of mileage to be had from setting this up. Anyway, I hope you found that useful. Try it out. Experiment. Have some fun with it. And see what you come up with! That was me in the studio with the Halo pedal by Keeley Electronics.
Well, thank you for sticking it out to the end of the video. I really hope that you found that useful. I’d love to hear any thoughts, feedback, comments, or questions you have in the comments section below. As always for full disclosure, as I mentioned at the start of the video, this pedal was sent to me to check out and to feature in some video content by Keeley. But this wasn't a commissioned video, or a paid advertisement, or anything like that. All thoughts and opinions are my own, as always. If you did like this video and you're interested in more content like this, then please consider subscribing to the channel to be notified of future uploads. And finally, I’d love you to take a minute to check out the website GuitarIQ.com. To take a look at some of the books and other learning resources we have waiting for you over there. Covering topics from fretboard memorization, to chord theory, to warm-ups and workouts, and a whole bunch more—that is GuitarIQ.com. And with that, thanks for watching and I'll see you in the next video!