“Pro-level board control in a user-friendly package”: Fender’s Switchboard Effects Operator brings RJM’s sought-after switching magic to the masses

Fender Switchboard Effects Operator
(Image credit: Fender)

They say old habits die hard and, while Fender might not be at NAMM 2024, that has not stopped the world’s biggest guitar firm from unleashing an avalanche of new gear announcements as we close out January 2024.

One of the biggest surprises for us is a new pedal-switching unit, the Switchboard Effects Operator, which has been developed in collaboration with MIDI controller maestro Ron Menelli – the man behind RJM Music’s Mastermind switchers.

It’s a bit of a David and Goliath pairing, but it makes sense for all involved and it’s nice to see the two unexpected partners working together to bring the sort of switching tech that’s usually the preserve of professional players to a mass audience. As Fender summarises it: “pro-level board control in a user-friendly package.”

The color display

(Image credit: Fender)

The unit looks like it takes RJM’s Mastermind PBC/6X switcher as its starting point, offering five relay true-bypass effects loops (with the fifth loop stereo compatible), plus control for amp switching and MIDI compatible pedals.

It’s all controlled by a processor, but the signal path remains completely analog, meaning you can maintain the signal integrity but easily call up multiple pedals, or rearrange your loops and effects orders via the unit.

Fender’s trademark, simple functionality and desire to prioritize ease-of-use – as so ably evidenced on the recent Tone Master Pro – appears to baked-in here, too. There’s a full color screen, an oversized encoder knob and clear GUI to guide you in your selections. The indicator LEDs also change color, depending on the mode. 

Other handy features include a built-in tuner, 500 presets, USB and MIDI connectivity, an expression pedal input, footswitch output and switchable high fidelity input and output buffers. 

And, finally, because these things count with guitarists more than any other musician: aesthetically it’s all packaged up in a sleeker enclosure than RJM’s usual none-more-black designs. Meaning you can display it next to your boutique boxes without people mistaking it for a powerbank.

The Switchboard Effects Operator retails for $449.99, which compares pretty favorably to the usual $799 tag of the RJM Mastermind PBC/6X, or the $1,000+ cost of something like the GigRig Atom G3, though they both offer six loops... 

For more information on the Switchboard Effects Operator, head to Fender.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.