Cusack Music Pedal Cracker

  • By David A. Evans @tonereport
  • March 03, 2017

There are many vocalists who have access to guitar or bass effects that are not designed to connect with microphone cables. Cusack Music has solved this problem (and several others) by offering the Pedal Cracker.

The Pedal Cracker is a well-designed device for vocalists, horns or drums. On the right side of the pedal are XLR input and output jacks, as well as a ground lift switch. The Pedal Cracker has on-board phantom power, but you must be certain that any microphone you plug into the Pedal Cracker can withstand phantom power, even if it does not require 48 volts.

On the back side are two 1/4” jacks for the input and output for instrument effects pedals (the “loop”). The top of the pedal has two stomp switches labeled “Momentary On/Off,” and “Bypass.” Bypass essentially turns the pedal on or off, but pressing the momentary switch will engage the effects loop. Then you must release the momentary switch to return to the unaffected dry signal. If the pedal is engaged, then the momentary switch will disengage the effects loop until you release the switch.

Also on the top are knobs for Gain, Wet and Dry controls, as well as a three way mini-toggle switch for controlling how the effects loop is switched in and out. The center position is neutral and signal only enters the loop when the Pedal Cracker is engaged. The top position is the trail position. This allows the effects to trail off when the pedal is disengaged, as opposed to stopping suddenly. The Presend position allows signal to enter the chain when the pedal is disengaged, so that when the pedal is engaged you will hear the effected signal of what you did just prior to turning the pedal on.

I plugged a dynamic microphone into the Pedal Cracker, and ran that signal to my mixer. I then plugged a multi-effects unit into the loop. Once I got the gain settings on the mixer and the Pedal Cracker balanced appropriately, I played with the Wet and Dry controls. All of these level controls are smooth and offer fine adjustment of the signal. These options really offer a great variety of functionality for this piece of gear.

I decided to see what else the Pedal Cracker is capable of doing. I unplugged the microphone, and used the pedal as a front-loaded DI—I was quite pleased with the sounds. It is a challenge to get good direct sounds for guitar, but with a bit of tailoring on the effects themselves, I was able to get something that sounded more like a microphone in front of an amp. Doing this eliminates the control set from the signal path, but it produced a nice result.

I then got to thinking about how the Pedal Cracker could be useful in today's recording environment, and two opportunities came to mind. First, let's say that you have a particular series of effects that you use on your voice or miked instrument in a live performance situation. You have now recorded the material using a dry, unprocessed signal, and you have problems recreating your live sound. This is where you reach into your bag o' tricks and grab the Pedal Cracker and your floor effects. You can play the prerecorded track into the Pedal Cracker's XLR input, engage the pedal sending the signal through the loop to your effects chain, and run the signal back out of the Pedal Cracker to a new track and record your prior performance with your effects set up the way you have them live.

A second option, is the case in which you have recorded a direct guitar, bass, or other electric instrument. Perhaps it was a scratch track, but you performed particularly well, and you would like to use it, but you would prefer to use your effects and an amp. Much like in the first case, run a line out with your pre-recorded signal into the Pedal Cracker. You could take the Send of the Pedal Cracker into your effects chain and then to the front of your amplifier, placing a microphone in front of the amp. Alternatively, after running the signal through your effects, plug the signal into the return of the Pedal Cracker, and use the XLR output to go into an open track for recording.

The idea behind the Cusack Music Pedal Cracker is a very practical one: make use of floor-based effects with a professional microphone. The Pedal Cracker is not just an interface, it is a well-crafted tool that allows you to make the most of your ability to combine these resources for live performances or recording.