Tech Tips – DIY – Line 6 – Line 6 M13 – Mods – May 31, 2013 – 4 Comments
Line 6 M13 Foot Switch Replacement Guide
The Line 6 M13 is a fantastic multi-fx unit with a lot going for it: tons of amazing effects, a respectable looper, stereo operation, programmable stereo fx loop and loads of routing options. With all these options at your feet, it’s almost a given that some of the foot switches are going to see their share of rock action. Well, after nearly a solid year of hard use, certain switches (thanks to specific switching combinations) began to take their toll on my beloved M13. As noted on many gear forums, most of my switches died a slow and very predictable death: failure to turn on and/or off reliably and then engaging effects without even asking.
I’m not going gripe about Line 6′s choice of inexpensive switches here. With 15 switches on-board, I’m sure this was a practical production and economical manufacturing choice on Line 6′s part that ultimately kept the M13 cheap enough for the average musician to buy. I get it. Plus, once you start poking around inside, I think you’ll have a new found respect for the engineers and designers that were involved in bringing an FX unit like the M13 to market. It’s pretty impressive work.
This tutorial will guide you, step by step, on how to replace the stock Line 6 foot switches (which are actually circuit board-mounted tactile switches) with rugged soft-touch momentary switches. This mod is not for the faint of heart or for those looking for a quick and easy fix. You’ll need to have the right tools and some solid skills with a soldering iron to pull this off. Be forewarned, there is no turning back once you start drilling holes for the new foot switches. This mod is non-reversible and there is always a chance that you will totally screw something up. Proceed with extreme caution, and please don’t come crying or complaining when you have messed something up.
Truth be told, if I had to do this all over again, I would have simply boxed my M13 up and sent it off to established and experienced Line 6 modders like John Vaughn at JHV3.Com or Jim Rodgers with R3FX.Com. From anywhere between $120-135, they will do this particular mod for you. By the time you factor in the cost of the actual switches and their labor, that’s a fantastic deal. Plus, there are a few other handy mods they can add while they have the unit open. Stuff like Tap-Tempo jacks and Dual Preset options. Well worth looking into – trust me.
But, for those of you that have obsessive need to doing something on your own, let’s get started.
First off, here’s a run down on the tools and parts you will need.
Phillips Screwdriver, Metal File (Fine), Adjustable Cresent Wrench, Allen or Hex Wrenches, Wire snips (or Wire Stripper) and Needle Nose Pliers.
Desoldering Gun (or Desoldering Braid), Soldering Iron (with medium or fine tip) and a Hot Glue Gun (not pictured).
Solder or soldering wire.
Assorted Drill Bits (For Metal).
22AWG or 28AWG Solid or Multi-Strand Wire
The switches we’ll be using to replace the stock Line 6 ones are Momentary NO SPST “Soft-Touch” (Soft-Touch Normally Open). I ordered 15 of these from the fine folks over at Small Bear Electronics. As of this post they were around $3.95 a piece. They have a nice solid feel and are really quiet compared to most of the 3PDT switches you’ll find on boutique true-bypass stomp boxes. The direct link to their ordering page can be found HERE.
Now onto the mod itself…
Remove the back panel. Pull out your handy Phillips Screwdriver and unscrew the 8 screws shown.
Next, remove the two screws on the backside of the unit. From there, the back panel will come loose by sliding to either side to free it from the main frame.
While we are working on the back of the M13, let’s pull out our adjustable Crescent Wrench and take off the nuts for all the input, output, fx loop and expression pedal jacks.
Moving to the top of the M13, gently pull off the parameter control knobs. Most of these with come off easily with your fingers but a few may need some encouragement from your needle nose pliers.
Now that the back panel is off, we can start removing the M13′s internal circuit boards and carefully set them aside. With all the holes we will be drilling, there will be ample amounts of metal shavings flying about. We don’t want any of these bits lodging into our sensitive electronics and harming them.
The upper, middle and lower foot switch circuit boards are held in place by three plastic snaps by each of the 15 individual switches. Take your time here! Slowly pull the circuit board upward while flexing the three plastic pieces away from their respective square cutouts with your fingers or a screwdriver. Work you way from one side of the board to the other until all five switches are free.
Here’s a shot of one of the mount sections for one of the switches. These three square cutouts are where the plastic part of the foot switch clasps to.
And here a close-up shot the three plastic uprights that poke through these 3 square cutouts:
The main upper circuit board is secured by 8 screws. Remove these.
Slowly wiggle the Power Switch cables side to side until they come loose. Take note of the upper and lower placement of the cables. My M13 had a white cable on top and the black one on the bottom.
Here’s a close-up shot of the Power Cables removed.
Once the upper board is free, carefully fold it back to make room for access to the lower board. This is the board that contains all the potentiometers and four displays. Use your Phillips Screwdriver to remove the 6 screws and then use a Crescent Wrench to take off the two metal standoffs.
At this point, the circuit boards should be set aside. All of the boards are all held together by ribbon cables. There is no need to separate them.
Now that the circuit boards have been removed, we can start working on the actual switches. These are held in place by a single nut and hex-topped bolt. Bust out your Allen or Hex Wrench set, find the appropriate sized wrench and start unscrewing them from the top. If they seem to be spinning freely, reach around the inside with your Crescent Wrench and hold the nut in place.
Here’s the placement of the Hex Nut:
Once all 15 foot switches are removed, we’ll need to pull out the old actuators. This is accomplished by taking off a small locking clip on the back of the assembly. Use your needle nose pliers to pull these clips off.
With the lock clip removed, you will be able to pull the switch actuator through the chrome mount. The switch has two springs and small rubber pad attached to it. Here’s a shot of all the old switches. You can toss these since you won’t be needing these anymore…
The plastic LED/Mount pieces that rest in the Chrome Switch Mounts can now be selectively clipped. Clip the 3 mount pieces along with the two extra supports flush with the base of the plastic mount. Leave the two cylindrical pieces alone since I think they help carry light from the board mounted LEDs to the status part of the switches. Just a theory…
Here’s the underside of the chrome switch mount and our newly clipped plastic piece put back together.
Next step is to re-attach all of the 15 chrome mounts (with their respective plastic pieces) back onto the M13 chassis. This will make drilling the holes for the new Momentary Switches a lot easier. You can see that a few of the new holes are already drilled out in this picture.
Grab your trusty Power Drill and load up a 15/32 metal bit. Get your angle lined up and start drilling. Let the drill bit do all the work and take your time! The metal on the chrome mounts appears to be aluminum so you don’t need to apply that much pressure to drill out the hole. Once you’ve drilled out the holes test fit your Momentary Switches. If they are too tight, simply work your bit in and out of the hole with the drill at half speed.
Here’s a shot of one the newly drilled holes. The hole is drilled out, but it’s not exactly a pretty sight. There is still a bit of excess metal poking up which we will need to file off using our fine metal file.
Here is our switch mount filed flat. After blowing away all the filings, it will be ready to insert the new Momentary Switches into.
Now it’s time to install all 15 of our new Momentary Switches. These switches come with two nuts and a washer. The lower nut serves as height adjustment for the switch. Because of the limited space within the M13 – especially on the lower front row – I chose to remove the lower nut entirely and let the underside of the switch itself rest flat for mounting. This worked out well, and the switches are the perfect height once installed.
Here’s a exterior shot of the new switches installed.
And a full shot from the interior. I chose to install the switches with the solder points facing left (right when flipped upright) but it doesn’t really matter.
Now that our switches are installed, it’s time to fire up the desoldering iron to remove the stock tactile switches on the three foot switch circuit boards. If you don’t have access to a desoldering gun, use desoldering braid. Both work really well. On occasion, I use a combination of both the gun and the braid to pull solder from boards and/or parts. Each of the 15 tactile switches are mounted via four legs. Suck or draw out the solder on each of these and gently lift the old switch from the boards. If the switches prove to be a little stubborn, use a small screwdriver to pry the switches while desoldering or applying heat from a soldering iron.
Here’s a shot of the old tactile switches ready for the trash can.
Grab your wire and we’ll begin making the connections from the switches to the foot switch circuit boards. I used two different colors for my wire just to keep things things straight. Cut about 6-8 inches of wire for each connection. Strip around 3/8″ of plastic to reveal the wire. Use your needle nose pliers to form a hook on the stripped end. Attached and solder your wire to the solder mounts on the Momentary Switches. It doesn’t matter which color goes where as long as you stay consistent for each switch. I went with grey on the bottom and white on the top.
Position the circuit board into place to figure out how much wire you will need to reach the old tactile holes. You need to leave enough room for to move these into place. Cut your wires extra long on the first switches and figure out the length that works for you.
Note the wiring hookup/layout: White wire to the upper right circuit board hole, grey to the lower left hole. Repeat this for all 15 switches.
The lower row of foot switches and circuit board require some extra attention due to the space constraints. We’ll need to make as much room as possible for everything to fit properly. First step is to clip our foot switch wires and file down the solder joints on the underside of the board. Take your time while filing and make sure to kept your file nice and level to avoid ruining any leads on the board.
Next step is to drill out 3 holes in the circuit board that interfere with the bottom panel holes. Line up the lower board using the 3 old plastic switch holes as a guide to place the lower board over the new switches. Mark the holes with a thin sharpie marker. pull the board back out and then drill out the new holes on the circuit board. Eye the board to make sure you aren’t drilling through any circuit leads. There is actually a decent amount of distance between the new holes and any circuitry but double check anyway. Choose a drill bit that is slight bigger than the existing chassis hole. Remember, we are only drilling out the circuit board holes, NOT the holes in the main chassis. We are just making room for the chassis screws to pass through so they can secure the back panel.
Here’s the newly drilled hole in the circuit board:
Next step is to place some electrical tape over the lower row of foot switch solder joints. I doubt there are any points of contact that could short them out but I played it safe anyway.
This lower foot switch circuit board has one more item soldered to it that has a some clearance issues: the Ribbon Cable Mount. In order to minimize stress on the circuit board once the back panel is in place, we’ll need to file a decent amount of plastic off of it to give us ample room. In the process of taking off so much of the plastic material, the side snaps that hold the ribbon in place may become loose or fall off entirely. Use your hot glue gun and apply a few dabs of melted glue to the edges to prevent any connection problems. Here’s a shot of my filed ribbon snap before adding the hot glue.
Since the all three foot switch circuit boards were originally held in place by the clear plastic switch foot switch standoffs that we snipped and drilled through, we now need a way to secure these. I had originally thought of using velcro tabs, but stumbled upon a 3M product called Extreme Mounting Tape while browsing the aisles of my local hardware store. This stuff claims to be able to hold up 20 pounds of weight – a full mailbox in the example. It’s not exactly cheap at almost 10 bucks but I decided to give it a shot.
Without question, this stuff works as advertised. Not only is it two-sided, ultra sticky and thinner than velcro tabs, it’s also very easy to cut into small rectangles which perfect for the backs of our new Momentary Switches. Once you have the tape on the Momentary Switches carefully line up the circuit boards with the switch and rest them in place. The Extreme Mounting Tape is super sticky so make sure you take the time to align things properly. I used the three square cutouts in the circuit board to eyeball my position – relative to the switch below. Take extra care in lining up the lower board and don’t forget about the circuit board holes we drilled earlier. Those need to be lined up as well. Here’s a shot of the Extreme Tape along with the placement of said tape on a few of the switches:
Now it’s time to put the lower display board and main board back into place with their respective screws and metal standoffs. I also added some small zip ties to all the foot switch wires to get them nice and tidy.
Before we put the bottom panel back on, now is a great time to test all your new switches!
Hopefully all your switches work! After testing all your foot switch-related functions, it’s time to put the rest of the M13 back together! Refer to the earlier disassembly steps and photos and reverse the process.
Without question, the new switches are huge improvement over the stock versions. Not only in terms of overall quality and feel, but also in the all important category of reliability. I’ll admit this isn’t the easiest mod in the world, but it’s definitely one of the most rewarding I’ve ever tackled.
As always, if you have anything to add to this tutorial, please feel free to post something in the comment section. I’d like to fine tune this M13 Mod Tutorial since it is so extensive and somewhat involved. Hopefully, I haven’t skipped a major step along the way that leaves you hanging. That said, we can’t offer tech support on this. You are more than welcome to post your troubles, just don’t expect a quick response. As with most things in life, you are on your own.