Tech Tips – May 31, 2013 – 14 Comments

Line 6 M13 Foot Switch Replacement Guide

m13_switch_featureThe 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.

m13_tools_wrench_screwdrivers

Phillips Screwdriver, Metal File (Fine), Adjustable Cresent Wrench, Allen or Hex Wrenches, Wire snips (or Wire Stripper) and Needle Nose Pliers.

m13_soldering_desoldering

Desoldering Gun (or Desoldering Braid), Soldering Iron (with medium or fine tip) and a Hot Glue Gun (not pictured).

m13_soldering_wire

Solder or soldering wire.

m13_drill

Electric Drill.

m13_drill_bits

Assorted Drill Bits (For Metal).

m13_wire_28

22AWG or 28AWG Solid or Multi-Strand Wire

m13_footswitches_new

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.

m13_disassembly_back_panel

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.

m13_disassembly_bottom_panel_back_screws

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.

m13_disassembly_back

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.

m13_disassembly_top_knobs

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.

m13_board_footswitch_removal

And here a close-up shot the three plastic uprights that poke through these 3 square cutouts:

m13_plastic_close

The main upper circuit board is secured by 8 screws. Remove these.

m13_board_upper_removal

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.

m13_power_cables

Here’s a close-up shot of the Power Cables removed.

m13_power_cables_pulled

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.

m13_board_lower

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:

m13_footswitch_hex

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.

m13_footswitch_lock_washer

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…

m13_footswitches_old

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…

m13_plastic_clipped

Here’s the underside of the chrome switch mount and our newly clipped plastic piece put back together.

m13_footswitch_plastic

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.

m13_undrilled_switch_mounts

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.

m13_footswitch_drill

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.

m13_footswitch_drilled

Here is our switch mount filed flat. After blowing away all the filings, it will be ready to insert the new Momentary Switches into.

m13_footswitch_filed

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.

m13_footswitches_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.

m13_footswitch_installed_all

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.

m13_tactile_solder_points

Here’s a shot of the old tactile switches ready for the trash can.

m13_footswitches_tactile_old

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.

m13_footswitch_wiring

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.

m13_footswitches_wiring

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.

m13_footswitch_filed_02

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.

m13_circuit_board_holes_all

Here’s the newly drilled hole in the circuit board:

m13_circuit_board_holes

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.

m13_ribbon_filed

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:

m13_board_footswitch_extreme_tape

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.

m13_circuit_boards_in_place

Before we put the bottom panel back on, now is a great time to test all your new switches!

m13_switches_installed_all

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.

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    About the Modder

    GuitarGeek

    Adam Cooper's award winning GuitarGeek rig illustrations have appeared in GuitarPlayer, Total Guitar UK, Guitarist, Alternative Press, History of Marshall Amplifiers, Roland/Boss User Guides, Ibanez Steve Vai Jemini & Paul Gilbert Airplane Flanger Instruction Manuals, Swervedriver's "Juggernaut Rides" CD as well as the longest running monthly column in Guitar World Magazine's history: Vulgar Display of Power. Before launching GuitarGeek.Com, Adam published the highly respected music zine, Whirlpool, which was distributed worldwide via major record store chains. As a guitarist and songwriter, he formed the band Alison's Halo which released two critically acclaimed records and secured coveted slots with bands like The Verve, Ultra Vivid Scene, Curve, Jimmy Eat World, Of Montreal, Butterfly Child, The Apples In Stereo, Gin Blossoms, The Boo Radleys, Stereophonics, Medicine, Lovesliescrushing, Bailter Space and many others.

    14 Comments

    1. donnievaz says:

      Just did this upgrade and everything works great except for 1-4 of the top row. The scene button works fine just the fx switches. I’ve checked the board for damaged traces, checked all the grounds, checked the switches themselves, can’t figure out what the problem could be. Anyone else run across anything like this?

    2. GuitarGeek GuitarGeek says:

      Sounds like something is hitting ground. So scenes work fine but the FX aren’t switching?

    3. donnievaz says:

      OK, figured it out. This is what worked for me, I can’t imagine mine is any different from any others but it seems odd that no one has picked up on this. I wired all the switches exactly as your article specified and 1C-4C didn’t work. What I need up doing was running a jumper between the upper and lower left hand side holes on 4C. The ground path was broken at that point. You can see that there’s no trace going to the bottom left hole (on mine) so jumping the upper and lower completed the circuit. Got it all back together and everything works like a champ. Now I see why companies charge so much to do it, it’s not a trivial task by any stretch. Thanks for the guide.

    4. GuitarGeek GuitarGeek says:

      Glad it all worked out. Yeah, a tough, time intensive mod, but well-worth it. My stock switches were shot with the first few months of moderate use – mostly from the using the looper functions.

    5. facefirst says:

      I wired it up as instructed but the top row of buttons basically act as a duplicate of the bottom row, switching on and off the bottom row of effects. Also my looper button doesn’t work. I switched the looper wires to the top left and bottom right spots and got it to work but I’m still having an issue with the top row of buttons. Any ideas? Thanks.

    6. facefirst says:

      I should not that the Scene button isn’t working either

    7. GuitarGeek GuitarGeek says:

      I’d check for shorts…

    8. Kiari Kiari says:

      Hi. Congrats and thanks for the tutorial. I’m going to try this MOD and started to search where I can order the right switches for the lowest price. Can I go for it, for instance? http://www.bitcheslovemyswitches.com/#!/~/product/category=5027572&id=10220659

    9. Kiari Kiari says:

      Cheers from Brazil.

    10. Kiari Kiari says:

      Forgot to ask…. What is the difference between SPST and NO SPST switches?

    11. Kiari Kiari says:

      So, I did the upgrade and got an issue with the bottom line. The TAP switch is working normally, but the four fx switches died. I’m going to carefully check and see what happens.

    12. GuitarGeek GuitarGeek says:

      I would check any points of contact (with the new wiring or switches) that would cause any grounding issues. That bottom line of switches is very close to chassis…

    13. Kiari Kiari says:

      Solved! Exactly the same with ‘donnievaz’, but on the “A” line (the bottom one). I just put a jumper between the left side holes and “voilá”. Everything is perfect!!! Thanks a lot GuitarGeek!!!

    14. Kiari Kiari says:

      I’d like to mention the process steps I did different:

      1) Instead of pulling out the plastic LED/Mount pieces from the boards, I cut them out, leaving only the light pillars.

      2) Instead of removing the micro switches from the board, I cut them out and cleaned the holes after.

      3) Using a puller I created a little more space for the bottom fx board by forcing the chassis to the outside.

      NOTE: Is necessary to take EXTRA care on the “removing micro switches” step. The soldering iron heat can easily destroy the boards ways, which are micro metal lines. In two points I got the micro metal line jumping out the board. Lucky I was able to reconnect the way by soldering.


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