Question: I have all of your pedals, what order should I put them in on my pedalboard?
Answer from Curt (Red Panda engineer, non-musician):
This is an interesting question that is difficult to answer, unfortunately. Here is how we set up our pedalboards for trade shows:
Bitmap --> Raster --> Particle --> Context --> Tensor
In that case, the tensor is last for manipulating the whole signal (tape/turntable effects and loops). I also like putting the Tensor in front as more of a compositional tool. We tend to put the Bitmap first because it's a dirt pedal and/or envelope filter. The Raster can be used for pitch shifting, micro pitch shifting, chorus, delay, etc. If you primarily use it for pitch shifting, putting it up front will give it a cleaner signal (for cleaner pitch shifting):
Raster --> Bitmap --> Particle --> Context --> Tensor
Most guitarists put reverb after delay, which is why the Context is near the end, but delay after reverb can create interesting atmospheric textures. So for ambient soundscapes, I might start with something like this:
Tensor --> Bitmap --> Particle --> Context --> Raster
Here the Tensor can be used for setting up loops, playing in reverse, stutters, etc. Basically replacing your instrument with (instrument + Tensor). The Bitmap can add distortion, tone shaping, and modulation. The Particle takes that basic sound, pulls it apart and rearranges it. The Context adds ambience, and the Raster stretches it into a soundscape.
Part of the reason that it is tough to give one answer is that each of our pedals tries to let you build a lot of different effects using a consistent approach. The Tensor, Particle, and Raster can all do reverse, but use different techniques that give you different flavors and options.
Answer from Eric (guitar, synth):
There are no hard and fast rules, and there's always reasons to do everything differently. That said, I tend to always put the Context last in the chain because it makes everything sound better. And I'd almost always put the Bitmap in front, or close to it. Some like to put a delay before dirt so you can get a different character for each repeat. I generally want to put a clean sound into a pitch shifting pedal, so as not to confuse the pitch shifter, but some might like the confusion.
When people ask me for advice on how to get a different sound out of their pedals, I always say to hook them up in reverse order of how they usually have them. It might not always work, but I bet they find some new and unexpected sounds.
Another thing to try is cutting back on the blend of wet signal, letting more dry through. A pedal on it's own might sound great at 100% wet, but when you have several pedals in series on at once things can get a little mushy and undefined.
Answer from Randy (Red Panda pedal builder, guitar, drums):
I usually put the bitmap first since I like to use the filter via exp pedal as a wah type effect or just to control the filter in general. The filter can sound cool at the end of the chain too with other effects going through it. The Bitmap being first in my chain lets me tone shape it with overdrive and distortion pedals being after.
After my overdrive/distortion usually is modulation/delay so I throw the Raster in this place. Mostly for modulation but for delay and pitch shifting as well. Kinda late in the chain for pitch effects but sounds ok to me.
Next is Particle since i use it mainly for delay and this is the best place for that.
Next is Tensor which I use for loops and this is a good place for it for me so sounds before it can be recorded to the loop. This pedal does move around for me though for different uses. It works very well first in the chain as well for pitch shifting and loops too. This way you can add effects to a loop that come after it intermittently.
Last is the Context which usually always works well at the end of a chain for adding reverb to the rest of the chain that comes before it.