A question of design philosophy for pedal builders and modders...

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by KBN, Jun 20, 2008.

  1. KBN

    KBN Member

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    A little background to the question... So I have just recently started playing around with modding pedals, specifically my DS-1 (due in large part to Brian Wampler's article in premier guitar this last winter). So I have it sounding pretty damn good with my Reeves 50, but it sounds horrible through a Korg era AC30, and bad through a 1966 Dual Showman. So this brings me to a question of design philosophy for all you builders/designers and for modders as well. When designing a pedal or working on a mod for a pedal, how do you approach it? Do you focus on making pedals that work well with a certain style of amp (marshall vs. vox vs. fender....)? Or do you try to create something that works well with just about everything? If so, what are the comprimises that you have to deal with to get something to work fairly well with many kinds of amps? These questions are purely out of curiosity and ignorance. I am just interested in a "behind the scenes" if you will. Thanks.
     
  2. Montez

    Montez Member

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    I do all my proof-of-concept testing with a very clean tube amp with tons of clean headroom. this takes the amp dirt out of the tone equation. Then I start testing the dirty amps to analyze the interaction of the pedal vs amp harmonics. I find that if a pedal sounds good standing on its own into clean amp then very few tweaks are needed to work well with the broader amp market.
     
  3. KBN

    KBN Member

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    Thanks Montez. Do you find that you tweak similar aspects of pedals after the initial proof-of-concept testing or is it different every time? Tone shaping vs. gain staging? Or is it something completely different?
     
  4. Montez

    Montez Member

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    The things that usually require attention with dirtier amps are Harmonic phase alignment, Impedance interaction, and gain stage harmonic structure. With experience I get pretty close initially so only minor tweaks are needed. ( or the design gets scraped because I really fubar'ed the concept:()

    I generally don't do EQs on my pedals. I don't like the color they impose in the harmonic structure. I prefer the customer use an EQ pedal if they need EQ adjustments. This reduces the limitations to pedal stacking due to internal EQ artifacts.( this is my own personal design philosophy)
     
  5. tonefreak

    tonefreak Member

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    I have 3 amps I test and design with... individually they generate the Marshall cranked, Fender clean, and VOX chime tones. I put my pedals in front of all 3 to hear how it reacts with these different amps.

    There are some pedals that work well with different amps and there are ones that do not. ODs and distortions are the culprits generally... delays, compressors, modulators, etc. are less so.

    I also consider different guitars and pups. In general, I use a Strat Type and a Single cut type. Humbuckers and single coil testing is involved as well.

    In the end, generally speaking of course, you usually end up with some sort of happy medium, fully knowing that the pedal does favor a certain style of amp. My personal preferences are to get a pedal to sound great with a Marshall and Fender... the VOX is not so much a consideration, but I still want to hear what the effect does.
     
  6. yeahyeahyeah

    yeahyeahyeah Supporting Member

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    Overdrives:

    The majority of problems arise from the EQ of the pedal and its interaction with the EQ of the amp.

    My solution: make the EQ as versatile as possible but keep it simple to use by putting the most important controls outside the pedal and put the "set and forget" stuff inside the pedal via trimpots.

    The only other problems that arise with overdrive pedals is the texture and dynamic response of the clipping sound. Think does it sound smooth or crunchy? Does it clean up well? Is it overly compressed or too open? Is it too gritty? Does it fizzle out on the sustain?

    This is generally a matter of taste more than anything but it can change from amp to amp as well.

    My solution: I find that if it sounds really good through a very clean amp then it will only sound more natural through any amp that is being driven. The tube compression from a driven amp will only further round out the sound. Of course this only applies to low gain overdrives and not distortions.

    -Nick
     
  7. KBN

    KBN Member

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    Very cool. Could you take a moment to elaborate on distortions and how your process differs from when you are working on overdrives?
     
  8. spentron

    spentron Member

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    I don't think the idea of a pedal that makes one amp sound like another makes any sense, at least regarding EQ type voicing. There may be a property that is evocative of some amp. If you use a amp-sound pedal with the same amp, too much, otherwise no way of predicting what would need to be done. All "guitar amps" have some voicing of their own, and it varies.

    There is very little room in a guitar system for something that doesn't play well with others, and wants to be the center of attention. Incremental changes is where it's at. While situations vary, in some contexts radical changes in the tone are completely useless.

    I aim for what-you-see-is what-you-get. In most cases any tonal control will have the neutral point marked on the pedal. Failing that, it will be described in the documentation. There are exceptions, for example a subtle tweak that only affects things only when much more strong effect is dialed in. An amp wouldn't be expected to be so neutral, but portions should be able to be.... I've hooked up signal generator and oscilloscope to some maker's boxes just to answer questions that should have been answered by looking at the front panel. For example, I used a Peavey TB Raxx for a short time. It has pre-dist AND post-dist bass, mid & treble. All are center=0 except the pre-dist bass, which is cut only and should be marked 0 at its max. (This also explains a lot about some other Peavey bass amps.)

    So far I've been making pedals with a lot of controllability and radical sounds, which does take some pressure off testing (especially comparisons to other pedals, which are obvious), and also helps greatly with overdriven amps. I can see that if I make more progress on my overdrive design, it's going to require a different level of evaluation. I don't own any normal guitar amps, either. I do think testing with lesser amps is as important as with highly regarded amps. So far I have, at different times, tested pedals with my custom amp, power amp and EQ, Fender Frontman 15R (harsh), Fender Lead 85 (SS), Fender G-DEC (tiny modelling amp/practicing system), Marshall Silver Jubilee, Guitar Research (w/ the 4x8), battery mini-amps, Ampeg portaflex w/ 4x10 with the horn turned off, Silvertones, Line 6. As long as the pedal performs as well as can be expected, or better ...
     

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