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How to Hook Up Your M13 Using the 4 Cable Method

I receive a lot of emails talking about connecting the Line 6 M13 using the “4 Cable Method”, or in the fast-paced, always-abbreviated forum world, the “4CM”. What they’re referring to is a way to connect your guitar effects processors up using 4 cables: 1) the guitar into the processor; 2) the processor into the front end of your amplifier; 3) a cable from the FX send of your effects processor into the amplifier’s effects loop; and 4) and cable from the effects processor’s FX return into the amplifier’s effects loop return. *Please note that I use “effects” and “FX” interchangeably. They are the same thing.

If you’re not sure what an effects loop is or why you’d want one, check out an earlier post here at TheToneChef.com where I teach you The Beginner’s Guide to Effects Loops.

So the M13 is a pretty great piece of gear because you get over 100 different stompbox style effects in one big, road-rugged container. It’s a big pedalboard all in one box. Don’t confuse it with the POD series though, because there is no amp modeling and no speaker cabinet (or microphone) modeling. The M13 requires that you plug it into an amplifier. It may sound pretty raggedy going straight into a PA, mixing desk, high end microphone preamp, audio recording interface, etc. Some may argue that the M13 effects aren’t as good or realistic as the effects they’re modeling and- while I fractionally agree- there is NO WAY ON EARTH that 1) you’d be able to buy 100+ stompboxes for $500- the cost of a new M13- or 2) that pretty girl in the front row is gonna hear the difference between a vintage out-of-production BOSS VB-2 and your M13 Vibrato patch. NO. WAY. ON. EARTH. And aside from the modeling vs. “the real thing” debate, the M13 makes it crazy simple to tap a button to sync just about ALL of your effects into tempo with one another. That is beyond brilliant. By tapping the tempo button along with your drummer, you can set 1 delay to a dotted 8th note, another delay to a whole note, a vibrato patch to triplet 16th pattern, and a filtered cosmic gurgle slurper to a half note. It’s like having a stomach ache that you can dance to!

ANYWAY. I digress. FX LOOPS and the 4CM. Here’s what the back of my M13 looks like:

I have marked mine with colored tape so that it’s easy to get everything plugged in, even if I have a tech or stage hand who’s helping me get set up.

You can see that there are stereo jacks for input, output, fx send, and fx return. However it’s not quite as easy as it looks. Instead of seeing it as putting your M13 in the loop of your amplifier, you have to think of it as putting your amplifier’s preamp section in the fx loop of the M13. Having said that, you’ll connect the M13 to your amp using the key in this diagram:

If you’re familiar with the M13, then you know that you can store multiple “scenes”. The location or placement of your fx loop can be assigned PER SCENE (from the setup menu) which means that in one scene, you can run one bank of effects into the front of your amp and the remaining three banks (each with three effects selections) into the loop. Or you can place the loop between banks 2 and 3 and have two banks into the preamp and two banks into the loop. It’s basically up to you where you want the preamp section of your amplifier to fit into the flow of the M13’s effects chain. The graphic below gives a visual of what that looks like:

You can also choose to have the loop before all the banks, after all the banks, or totally off.

So that is the long and the short of it. I’ve had my M13 since the first week it came out and it still never ceases to amaze me. In the last 2 months, I’ve built a dedicated board that uses the M13 as all of the swish, swirl, shock, and awe. You can see it below.

Until next time, TonAppetit’!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • TheLastDon April 19, 2011, 8:54 pm

    I’ve never been a fan of things “digital”, “modeled”, etc… until I tried this product. I play in a couple cover bands that range from Classic Rock, Jam Band, and Top 40. I have the smaller M9, and I agree, the benefits of having all these effects at your disposal far outweigh any minor sacrifice in comparison to the original effects.

    While I agree that some of these effects may only be 90% as good as the originals, it’s worth the benefit of a purer signal chain. I had so many pedals on my board that the sound became dull when compared to straight amp to guitar chain. Also, I kept having to switch individual effects in and out depending on what type of gig I am playing that evening. This M13/M9 is great in setting up a few different folders for ROCK / POP / PSYCHEDELIC, etc… whatever type of effects you need.

    I’ve been converted!

  • el jefe de la cucina April 19, 2011, 8:59 pm

    I agree completely! Glad your experience has been positive.

  • Randall Moon April 20, 2011, 12:42 am

    Great method! I am liking this application for the M13.

  • el jefe de la cucina April 20, 2011, 12:51 am

    Agreed. I think once you unlock the power of the M13 using 4CM, it’s like a whole new extension of your rig.

  • SCO April 20, 2011, 3:35 am

    I gather from the picture of rig setup that you are not using the Line 6 distorton put have seperate pedals for this on the input? There has been press the Line6 overdrive etc is a bit thin. Where to you place the FX loop on your M13 and what do you usually setup in each of the M13 banks.

  • el jefe de la cucina April 20, 2011, 10:53 pm

    No, I use the M13 distortions all the time. I have different favorites, depending on which amp I’m using. For my Egnater MOD50, I don’t really use much since it already has so much gain in the amp itself. The most I’ll use is an overdrive or the Tube Comp for some sparkle or midrange boost. However, if I’m using my old mid-60’s Gibson Skylark or my Silvertone 1482, I’ll use the Facial Fuzz or the Comp Boost since both sound so great into those old honky sounding amps. I’m also a big fan of the ColorDrive model.

    As for the placement of my FX loop, I almost always place it right in the center of the M13 which allows me two banks into the front and two banks into the loop. I always run compression, drive, EQ, and boost into the front. I always run delay into the loop. Tremelo and chorus goes into the loop as well. I like to have filters go into the front end and I really like the sound of Vibrato and phaser into the front too.

    I hope that helps,

  • A September 7, 2011, 12:32 am

    Wow. Best detailed and most creative way of showing how to plug in the M13 using 4cm on the interwebs! I just hope that you also explained how to setup the different “fx loop placements” on the unit.

  • el jefe de la cucina September 17, 2011, 3:55 am

    Thanks much!

  • Kluch December 30, 2011, 11:55 pm

    Just purchased an m13, was doing a bit of research and found your blog… I see you also have a phase 90 on your board. I was interested in why and how you think the m13’s phaser holds up to it. I’m big on phasers:) Thanks!

  • el jefe de la cucina December 31, 2011, 3:16 am

    I think the Phase 90 is stellar sounding and I’m a goober for all things Van Halen. I think it’s just way cool looking. ๐Ÿ™‚ Mainly the reason I had this phaser on there is because it sounded great to have it first in line before the Mirage compressor, ODR1 clone and the Fat Sandwich fuzz drive. I think the M13 phasers hold up but there is a touch more body to the EVH Phase 90, especially sitting before all the grit and grind effects.

    Congrats on purchasing your new M13!

  • Cole Jones January 16, 2012, 11:12 pm

    Hey Corey,
    It’s Cole Jones and I am plugging in my M13 using the 4 cable method and I have a couple of questions.
    1. On my Marshall JCM 2000 DSL there is a loop level button in the back next to the effects loop send and return. I’m wondering if it should be up or down.
    2. Also, I was wondering how I would plug into two amps.(the tweaker being the second) (:
    3. Finally, how do I get my other pedals into the signal chain before the Marshall distortion? (my EVH wah, Wampler Pinnacle, and Danelectro Coolcat.
    Thanks alot, your website has been a big help. Awesome EVH Phase 90 by the way. I want one so bad.(:

    Cole Jones

  • el jefe de la cucina January 17, 2012, 1:37 am

    Hi Cole,
    1. Your Marshall’s loop probably can switch between “line level” and “instrument level”. Line level can sometimes be labeled as +4db and Instrument Level can sometimes be labeled as -10db. The M13 really wants to run in the loop at Inst. Level/ -10db but I’m pretty sure it can function in both.
    2. Plugging into two amps would work fine. Plug your guitar into the M13 and then run the fx loop send and return connections in stereo to each amp’s input and fx loop sends and returns.
    3. This is easy. Just run these effects before you get to the M13. So now it goes Guitar > EVH Wah > Pinnacle/CoolCat > CoolCat/Pinnacle > M13 Input.

    You’re very welcome, Cole. Best of luck.

  • Cole Jones January 21, 2012, 1:11 am

    Hey Corey,
    Thank you for the help on how to get my other pedals into the loop and I tried to get the Tweaker in with the Marshall except that when I put the Tweaker on play mode, it started playing through the Marshall cab and when I turned up the volume it was playing through both and the Marshall volume was not working.
    Sorry about the trouble, I’m probably just making some stupid mistake in the loop. Have you ever had this problem?


  • John March 14, 2012, 7:09 pm

    Hi Corey,
    I was wondering about the pre and post FX options on the M13.

    I like the distortion that comes from my amp but I would like to add delays and choruses. Would I use the POSTFX1 for this if I use the 4 Cable Method?

    I would also like to add a little distortion from the M13 with the creamy stuff from the M13 as well. Would this be possible with the loop split in the board? Would I run the distortion PREFX1 and the choruses/delays, etc. POSTFX1?

    I’m a little confused as to what I need to do.
    For the FX LOOP PLACEMENT I am thinking I would only need one bank for the distortions since I like the amps own distortions. I would like to maybe thicken or layer it from time to time and use the M13’s distortions to accomplish this.
    Is just using one bank feasible for this while using the other banks for my choruses/delays/etc.

    One last thing, is there a way to program the M13 touse BOTH PRE and POST to mix the two together?
    Would it be possible to do this while creating a scene?

    Your help would be greatly appreciated!


  • Arturo Casanova March 16, 2012, 5:14 pm

    I have a mesa boogie dual rectifier 3 channel head and tried your connection but lost my pre amp. Can you do it so i can still use my amps dirty channels an still be able to use my modulation through the effects loop and the m 13 distortions in the front of the amp. Thanks

  • el jefe de la cucina April 26, 2012, 2:58 pm

    You should be able to do it and have it work. Check your connections one more time.
    Good luck, Arturo!

  • el jefe de la cucina April 26, 2012, 3:00 pm

    Hi John,
    Yeah, you can move the FX Loop position around and that changes per scene. So you could have one scene set up to have two banks into the front end and two more in the fx loop of your amp. Then you could set up another to have one bank into the front end and the remaining three in your amp’s fx loop.

    I don’t know of a way to be able to mix pre/post together. But it’s really early here in my hotel room and I have yet to have coffee. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Cliff Gausden May 18, 2012, 3:45 am

    Hi I have hooked my M13 up using the 4cm and the problem I am having is I lose my volume control on the front of my amp once I hook up like this. I am running a Peavy Valveking with Effects loop. I am confused

    Cheers Cliff

  • HK May 19, 2012, 1:04 am


    I have been having an issue with the 4cm and my mud honey II before the M13 input. The sound coming out (especially with delay) sounds like a fart gone wrong. At present I have placed between M13 FX Send and Amp Input. Is this still putting my stompbox before the preamp?

    At the moment I’m working with the theory that if it sounds good it’s gotta be right just would love further comments.


  • el jefe de la cucina May 21, 2012, 2:32 pm

    Hi Cliff,
    it sounds like you’re not getting the benefit of the preamp section at all. Once you bypass the front (preamp) you’ll most likely bypass the volume as well. Doublecheck the connections to make sure you’re getting effects into the front end and not just sending everything through the loop.

    Also, doublecheck your M13 settings so that you have the FX loop placement correct.

    Good luck, Cliff. It’s a little complicated, but once you get it dialed in, it’s pretty powerful.

  • el jefe de la cucina May 21, 2012, 2:35 pm

    Hi HK,
    In theory, you should be fine. If you have it between the preamp block of the M13 and the amp’s front end input, then you should be ok. If it sounds like a fart gone wrong, I’m wondering if your cable routing is off and you’re accidentally sending the Mudhoney to the loop.

    I’m with you that if it sounds good, then it’s right. Double check your connections and make sure it’s all routed correctly. Also doublecheck to see if there’s any positive effect when running the Mudhoney before the M13 (guitar > mudhoney > M13…). I don’t know how the Mudhoney gets its gain staging, but there may be something in there that doesn’t like the buffers on the M13 and it wants to see something more passive like a guitar.

    Keep me posted,

  • Mark Rowen June 1, 2012, 4:40 am

    Hello Corey, and greetings from the UK. Congrats on this site which has been incredibly useful to me. A question if I may.
    My amp is the Egnater Tweaker 88 which, despite being a fantastic amp, has no reverb.
    With the M13 in the effects loop, I run compression and some drive in column 1 of the M13, the all modulation/delays etc (post FX1) in columns 2, 3 and 4. I’m not overly keen on the M13’s reverb, so would like to add an external Boss RV5 reverb pedal. Would I therefore place the RV5 pedal in between the M13 effects SEND and the amp, so it is effectively coming ‘last in the chain’? Many thanks, Mark.

  • el jefe de la cucina June 1, 2012, 2:25 pm

    Hi Mark,
    I think you could place your reverb pedal after the last 3 blocks in the M13, so the reverb pedal would affect the whole delayed and modulated mix (as if were playing your rig in a cathedral). Or you could place the reverb pedal before those last three blocks so that you were applying a master chorus and master delay to an already reverberated tone.

    In short, there’s no rule. I would try both ways to see if there’s more spaciousness or clarity in one version over the other.

    Good luck, Mark!

  • Mark Rowen June 3, 2012, 2:53 pm

    Thank you Corey

  • Cliff Gausden July 10, 2012, 10:29 am

    Thanks el jefe de la cucina, My M13 is working great now with the 4cm. Another question while I am here, How do I hook my Wah Wah pedal to the M13. Is there a special way of doing it.

    Cheers Cliff

  • el jefe de la cucina July 11, 2012, 12:22 am

    Hi Cliff,
    when it comes to wah, they normally like to be first in the signal chain. But I’ve found that they can create unique sounds when placed elsewhere. In the case of using the M13 in 4-cable method, I’d probably put it between my guitar and the M13’s input. That way, you are applying all of the effects to the wah’d guitar sound.

    Best of luck, Cliff.

  • Joshua July 22, 2012, 10:40 pm

    Hi Corey!
    I just bought my M13, so I just have this question for you:
    My gear is: Jhs little black buffer, Suhr Koko boost, Ac booster, Suhr Riot, Earnie Vp Jr, M13, Strymon Timeline, NT Wet Reverb… My amp is a Egnater Rebel 30… I’m planning to use the M13 with the 4CM just for mods, delays, filters and maybe some reverb, so please can you tell me what is the correct way to hook up all my stuff???
    I think on this: Guitar – Buffer – Koko – AC Booster – Riot – VP Jr – (in front of amp) M13 – Strymon Timeline – Wet Reverb (in Fx Loop) – Amp

    Am I wrong???

  • Joshua July 22, 2012, 10:48 pm

    By the way Corey I’ll use all my gear to play in my church here in Costa Rica!!! God bless you my bro!!

  • el jefe de la cucina July 25, 2012, 10:48 pm

    Hi Joshua,
    Yes, your signal chain is correct. I would put delays, modulations, and verb in the loop because you want distortion to come before that stuff. The only suggestion I have is that you might want to try to load your filters (in the M13) BEFORE the distortion. I have found that some of the filters really like a clean signal so that they can do their magic without the boosted and distorted signal.

    Everything else looks great, Joshua. And your church is lucky to have a guitar player who cares so much about his guitar tone! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Dustin M August 27, 2012, 12:24 am

    I’m thinking of buying this soon; 2 quick questions though. If I am using a Screamer effect on Row 1, Bank A. Do I have to put the Boost Comp on Rows 2 (or 3,4, any bank) or Can I put it on Row 1, Bank B? And how will this sound through a solid state amp? I use a Fender Mustang IV.

    Thanks in advanced! I love the youtube videos by the way!

  • el jefe de la cucina August 29, 2012, 2:30 pm

    Thanks, Dustin! Regarding the M13, you can put any effect anywhere you want, but keep in mind, you can only use one effect per row at a time. I think using a solid state amp won’t sound quite as good as a good tube amp, but I’ve done video demos of your amp for the Musicians Friend site and it’s no slouch. I’m a fan of the Mustang series.

  • Dustin M August 31, 2012, 6:46 am

    Thanks for the info! Yes I agree that it probably wont sound as good as a tube, but I mainly want this thing for the Dl4 delays and the looper. In the next few months I plan on buying a nice little Fender tube amp; such as the Blues Jr. Hopefully it’ll sound as good as it can.


  • Billy Pumphrey September 17, 2012, 4:39 pm

    Hey man, thank you for the articles. I am currently fighting with my G system with the 4CM method, getting tons of “tone suck”. My distorted channel sounds like a clean channel. Argh.

    I have own a couple of these and sold them, but never thought about using the 4CM with it. Do you get any “tone suck” using the 4CM with this unit?

  • el jefe de la cucina October 9, 2012, 4:04 pm

    Not at all, Billy. And the cool thing is that you can set it to true bypass or buffered bypass. They don’t sound terribly different but digital bypass allows for the delays to spillover after you’ve disengaged them.

  • Sergio December 11, 2012, 7:04 pm

    I used this method to connect the m13 to my Egnater Rebel 30, but noticed it is noisy. It gets a lot of hum. is there anyway to prevent this or this the type of effects loop that my amp has that is kinda not compatible with this configuration?


  • el jefe de la cucina January 4, 2013, 5:49 pm

    Hi Sergio,
    I remember having this same issue with my Rebel 30 when I first got it. You might try plugging the amp and M13 into different wall power outlets and you also may want to try moving the M13 and power supply away from the amp itself.

    Best of luck,

  • Paul January 12, 2013, 2:30 pm

    Hi Corey

    First off cheers for saving my brain I was fighting with the whole 4CM thing for ages ๐Ÿ™‚ just a question or two if you don’t mind.

    1. Sorry if you answered this before, but untill I got an m13 all my pedals went into the front of the amp I never used the loop. Anyway am I right in saying that if I want to add my wampler pedals and use their overdrives/distortion, I just run a cable from my guitar into the Wamplers and from them into the m13 input?

    2. When it comes to boosting for a solo etc. did you find the m13 was more then capable of doing that or should I throw in my separate boost pedal into the setup, and if so where would be the best place to put it in the chain?

    3. Finally I found that when I had the m13 in the loop everything sounds cool except when I hit the analog chorus it pushes up the volume a bit, I can’t see anywhere on the chorus screen to turn down the level, again I just got the m13 so is this something that just happens with them and that effect or am I missing where I can control the output level of that effect?

    Once again dude that’s for all the help you are giving everyone, I’m sure you are saving loads of people days/weeks of frustration ๐Ÿ™‚

    All the best.

  • Matt S January 23, 2013, 7:11 pm


    I believe I have what you showed us all, down. But I have a question in regards to my own rig. Like shown in your picture, I have extra pedals aside from the M13 unit. I do not like/prefer to use the M13 distortions so I have my own pedals, along the same line, I have wah pedals a phaser, and a volume pedal, that I would like to use all on the same rig. In your professional opinion, how would you throw these effects into 1 pedal board.
    Pedals: Boss: Mega Distortion, Super OD (x2), Behringer PH9, Dunlop Crybaby (x2) and Ernie Ball Vol (passive). If it makes things easier, I also have and electro harmonix “switch blade” (Y-A,B Channel selector) if it is necessary in your opinion.

    Thank you in advance,

  • Raymond F January 26, 2013, 1:01 am

    I just got an M13 and patched it in through my Mesa Boogie Single Rectifier. I used your guide here and it was extremely helpful. I now have it set up that the FX loop is post the 1st channel, so I can push the effects through the effects loop and the distortion through the front. Love it.’


  • carlo January 28, 2013, 1:39 am

    i have a problem with my m 13 i using 4 cable method in my marshall jcm 2000 tsl 100 and i have a button in the send return
    when i use the m13 in the send return my sound is much lower

    how do I use that button????
    i have a 2 send return one for trhee channel and the second for crunch/lead channel

  • Barry Faulkner February 11, 2013, 7:16 pm

    I arrived here from googling four cable method and love how clear and concise this article is. One problem, though, and I think this might be contributing to some of the problems your readers have been having, is that in the intro paragraph you describe the hook-up differently from your diagram. In my estimation, the diagram is correct and the intro paragraph is incorrect. You might want to edit the article to match the great diagram you made. Otherwise, thanks for the good read and very helpful article!

  • el jefe de la cucina February 15, 2013, 6:55 pm

    Hi Matt,
    I think you could either put those pedals before the first input of the M13, or you could put them between the M13 and the amp’s input on the front panel. Wah normally wants to be before distortion and a volume pedal in the beginning of your chain will clean up your tone as you lean more on the heel. A wah at the end of your chain will act more like a master volume, allowing the gain to come through at whatever volume you choose between the heel and toe. But as always, mix and match and see what your ears like!


  • el jefe de la cucina February 15, 2013, 7:01 pm

    1. Yes, that is correct. Think of the M13 just like a conventional pedalboard where you can chain pedals before it, after it, or wherever you set the FX Loop.
    2. I liked the Boost Comp patch for boosting and I would put it after any drives, since they would normally not make the drives louder, just squishier if the boost is boosting before it goes into the drive effect.
    3. Yeah, it’s crazy, it gooses the signal just a pinch. I think Vibrato will do that as well.

    Play On!

  • el jefe de la cucina February 15, 2013, 7:02 pm

    Hi Carlo, I’m guessing that button is a pad depending on what kind of gear is in the loop, line level or otherwise.

  • el jefe de la cucina February 15, 2013, 7:02 pm

    THANK YOU, Barry! I’m checking it out now and will fix it. I appreciate the eagle eyes.

  • Joshua February 19, 2013, 4:34 am

    Hi Corey, God Bless!
    If I have and OD pedal and want to use the Boost Comp on the M13 to boost ir for SOLOS, how can I place the Boost Comp before the OD?
    Wich config is the best:
    1. Guitar – OD – M13 input (M13 into the fx loop and 1 scene with Boost Pre FX)
    2. Guitar – M13 Input right (into loop) – M13 input Left – OD … :-s
    Thanks for the help

  • Joshua February 19, 2013, 6:59 am

    Sorry to bother you so much ha ha!!!

    Iร‚ยดm planning to get a TC Nova Drive and use it with my M13. What is the best configuration for using with this 4CM.

    I think: Guitar – M13 input – M13 send – ND in – ND out – Amp input – M13 Return – Amp Fx Send – Amp Fx Return – M13 Out. Am I correct??? This way I will use the First Scene before my ND to use the Boost Comp for SOLOS.

    Thanks for the help !

  • Paul March 23, 2013, 10:43 pm

    Hi Corey

    First off I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my previous question, I have one more that I really hope you can help me with. When I use the 4cm on my m13 with my main amp it works perfect but when I use the same setup with my backup amp (m13 going through its effects loop with 4cm) I can hear a high pitched type sound even when I click all the pedals on the m13 to bypass. As soon as I take the cables out of the effects loop at the back of the amp the sound disappears even when I plug the m13 into the front of the amp. Sorry if this sounds like a stupid question but is the 4 cable method a standard set up like you shown us above or do the cables have to be adjusted for different amps. When the m13 is going through the loop of my backup amp I can still hear all the effects and everything perfect, it’s just that high pitched sound is annoying and I’m worried its harming my amp. Thanks for any help you can give with this.

    All the best