Are Mass Market FX Getting Better, or Am I Just Getting Less Picky??

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by LSchefman, Mar 20, 2006.


  1. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    Over the past few days, and for the first time in a very long time, I brought home some mass market effects, the Boss RT20, and both the Zakk Wilde wah and the 535Q wah (the 535 may have had a defective switch).

    I like these products a lot.

    I hope I'm not a gear snob, but I have generally disliked mass market FX products since I discovered how much better stuff coming out of the low-volume shops sounded years ago. I've turned up my nose at anything you can get in the accessories department at GC.

    I dunno, maybe the big boys are starting to hear footsteps, but I think these recent products show that at least two of them are listening. The Dunlop wahs I took home had Fasel inductors (could it be that someone played them a Fulltone or a Teese? ;)), and the Boss piece is very nice in its own right.

    Then again, maybe just about anything sounds good through my TR. :)

    Wait...maybe I am just going to stop cork-sniffing! Maybe I should discover the kinds of products that show up at stores and stages all over the world! Maybe I should save coin on FX, and take a serious listen to ordinary stuff! Maybe I should cut the soles off my shoes, climb a tree, and learn to play the flute!

    Naaaah.
     
  2. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    I'd go so far as to say that mass market gear in general is improving. Value-priced guitars, amps, fx are all quite usable (or better) today where they really weren't 20 years ago.
     
  3. scottywompas

    scottywompas Member

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    I have a problem with this whole " mass market fx are better than they were" thing. If the mass market pedals that came before wern't any good, then why are we always trying to achive the Fuzz Face, Ts808, ts9 script logo Phase90,Dist+, boss chorus ensemble sounds. These were all mass marketed between 20-30 years ago, and they fetch some coin on ebay. Booteekers clone these things left and right. So what was so bad about older mass market FX? ,and, is there anyting really wrong with todays mass marketed fx? I here people say, MIJ Boss pedals sound better. Well, my brother has a DS1 that is 20+ years old and it sounds the same to me as the DS1 that you can still buy at GC for $30 or 40 bucks. Not ranting here(well maybe) but I just don't understand. And don't even get me stated on NOS.

    Scott:RoCkIn
     
  4. Moe45673

    Moe45673 Member

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    I think mass-marketed should be defined as "companies that only care about the bottom line"

    Did boss really care as much about the bottom line in 1983 as they do today?
     
  5. Jacobpaul81

    Jacobpaul81 Member

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    keep in mind, those people cloning those tones, are attempting to take the tones of those pedals and improve upon them, cleaning up the effects, and bypass/buffering them for the large pedal boards of todays musician. Guys back then were using 1, maybe 2 effects, but with gilmore May, summers, etc came big boards, effect heavy guitar playing that required a lot more tonal control that now days is extremely important to most musicians.. a fact that has left much of the big time manufactures building equipment for entry level players, while those players with some skill and knowledge don't purchase nearly as much of their equipment.
     
  6. scottywompas

    scottywompas Member

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    Moe,

    I think Roland/Boss cared as much about the bottom line 20 years ago as they do today. They are a corporation and the bottom line is always on their mind. That doesn't mean the products they put out suck, but the term mass marketing means just that. They make pedals for the masses. A pedal that will do a good job for a lot of people. A Klon may do a remarkable job for some people but EVERY guitar player I know needs or wants a distortion pedal, and Boss,DOD,Ibanez,etc.. have a lot of flavors for them. KLON has one flavor, and it's expensive.

    I make pedals for myself and I can tell you that yes, you can here differences with higher quality componants but it is a marginal differnce to me.

    My bottom line is, I think there is room for all of it. Obviously this is true or they all wouldn't be here, (KLON, TIM, COT, dod, boss, etc...)

    If it sounds good, use it, if you don't like it, don't use it.

    Another .02 (rantmeter dangerously high)

    Scott:BEER
     
  7. gitpicker

    gitpicker Silver Supporting Member

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    Don't neglect one little detail - today's guitarist is a more educated about and concerned with tone. I was listening to some Janis Joplin the other day and noticed how incredibly horrible the guitar tone was. Thing is, it worked in 1968, but today's standards are higher. Also, we have the benefit in 2006 on having heard Billy Gibbons, Angus Young, SRV, Brian May, Jimi Page, Jimi Hendricks, David Gilmore, etc. These are the guitar tones many players want to cop, and profit-minded effects companies are working hard to produce pedals that claim to achieve these classic sounds. In addition, we have heard some of the more modern tone-meisters like Steve Stevens, Alex Lifeson, etc - guys who rely heavily on effects to create new and different tones. When I started playing in bands in the mid-70's all you needed was a cry-baby, Big Muff, Fuzz Face, Small Stone, etc. Today, only the best of these effects are cloned. My point is that, just as a few guitar players have risen to the top of the "great tone" list (compared to the thousands who have albums and CD's available), so to have a few classic pedals risen also. These pedals have led to a host of clones, each claiming to achieve the "classic" tone, but with better components, TB, etc. There are really very few pedal makers, boutique or otherwise, who are taking a chance and breaking new ground. Finally, as is obvious by the level of participation on this board and others, the modern guitar player has ready access to the information, as well as the willingness to experiment endlessly (ie GAS) in order to improve his/her tone.

    We all learn from the past, successes and failures. Mass production pedal manufacturers are no exception to this rule. It is why Boss, Ibanez, MXR, etc. have been in business for so long. They produce a (sometimes) quality product with a small price tag. Just like anything else, if you want top quality, you have to pay - this is where the boutique guys come in.
     
  8. StompBoxBlues

    StompBoxBlues Member

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    I agree...as I've written here lately, I noticed by accident just an amazing sound out of a Digitech OD TOne Driver...really nice, and their Bad Monkey also is getting notice from REAL cork-sniffers as one helluva deal.

    Boss...I think the indicator is when they finally do something about their Graphic EQ 7-band EQ....when they upgrade the design to get rid of the noise, then I'll start thinking maybe they care about more than just the bottom line.

    I don't think that will ever happen (they have stockholders, corporations have to, by law, make the most profit they can. Think of corporations as entities, sharklike, or more accurately pitbull like...people come and go but the org remains, and it's goal is to make money...AND it outlives people. think about it) but if the bottom line gets affected, in that people stop buying their EQ maybe they will. Thing is, we're all buying, then modding it. The free market ought to have given us more choices...
     
  9. teddy boy

    teddy boy Member

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    I just thought about the same thing yesterday when I was checking out choruses. I found I really liked the twin pedal Boss chorus, CE-20. It was awesome and on par with all the boutique stuff IMO.
     
  10. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    IMO the mass-produced pedals are generally getting worse. Maybe there are a few isolated examples of the opposite, but the ones I like are almost all older... especially Boss. It's not so much the MIJ/MIT difference (which I can hear, although it's relatively minor) it's that whenever they replace one model with an updated one, the new version always does more (features) but sounds worse.

    DD2 > DD3 > DD5 > (didn't even try the DD6)
    RV2 > RV3 > RV5
    PH1R > PH2 > PH3
    BF2 > BF3
    CE2 > CE5
    OC2 > OC3

    etc...

    Even DOD, at least with the one model I'm using, the FX25 Envelope Filter - I have the older 2-knob version, so when I saw there was an 'improved' 3-knob version with a blend control to tame the (occasionally almost too strong) effect, I bought one. But the extra knob doesn't just add more control, it (or something, anyway) takes away all the power of the original sound and what made it cool :(.

    I also prefer the older Dunlop 535 to the newer 535Q.

    All original MXRs to all reissues that I've tried.

    etc etc.

    I don't think it is purely a matter of cheapening things - although they are, the relative prices in real terms are far lower than they were in the past, and some of the components are definitely lower-quality - just that possibly the designers have different sonic goals in mind as well... more features, lower noise. This is probably what sells pedals in the first place, and the actual tone is something you tend to notice more after a while and your ears become used to the new sound.

    I admit to falling victim to this myself... I had a Line6 DL-4. Cool feature set, and although I didn't think it sounded 'great', it wasn't until I played a gig without it that I noticed just how much it had been ruining the tone. I actually think these changes are far more noticeable in a high-volume band situation too, which I know is the exact opposite of what most people say.

    Yes, I also think my ears have become more refined - but that's not the reason I think newer mass-produced pedals are sounding worse... because the old mass-produced ones still sound pretty good to me.
     
  11. JBarlow

    JBarlow Member

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    Doesn't this just go back to how relative tone is to the individual?

    I could never make my TS-808 sound good, so I started experimenting with other distortion pedals. I've ended up with all boutique distortion pedals, but I'm using a Boss DD-20 and a new Phase 90 right now. Then again, my pedal board changes monthly...

    Point being, no you probably aren't getting less picky. You just have as much GAS as anyone else here, but realized that the end-all wasn't boutique pedals.
     
  12. StompBoxBlues

    StompBoxBlues Member

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    You make some good points there. I think I agree on that also about the changes being far more noticeable at higher volumes, in real band situations. I wonder if there is a logical reason for that.

    This is where the "free market" sometimes fails us, at least the folks that have more experience in music and equipment. In theory, there ought to be a market for us as well as the les experienced, but in practice...
    I wonder if their marketing research showed that 1) most consumers are not seasoned musicians, and not all that experienced, 2) less experienced people like bells and whistles and are easily distracted and 3) most of the less experienced folk try out the pedals alone, in a music store, at bedroom or slightly higher levels.

    I know it sure seems that way when you try out an ME pedal in a store. The factory preset patches are almost ALWAYS set to sound great alone, but when you play them in a band situation they get buried, they sound worse, they don't sound good. Some pedals you can create your own patches that will sound better in high-volume band situations...
    I try to factor (but it is still guessing...) that in when evaluating any pedal, but it is not always easy. I liked reading several folks accounts of their experience with their Zendrive "the voicing must be just spot on, because when I first got it, I liked it well enough, but wasn't bowled over...but then when I played using it with my band, it cut through the mix like I never have before!"

    I'm just guessing. I know one of the problems is like what I call the "Mc Donalds syndrome"...you know where you go into a Mac and order a cheeseburger and a coke and the person behind the counter says "you want fries with that?". We probably all have either been, or at least seen someone in that situation get testy "NO...if I had wanted fries I would have ORDERED them!" but I'm sure marketing has shown Mc Donalds that though it irritates their own customers, it doesn't irritate them enough to stop them from coming to McDonalds, and there is a percentage that DO say "um...yeah..okay" and the extra fries sales is worth it to them since they only win.

    There is no solution, I'm not suggesting we get into communist pedals :) but I think the crux of the situation is they are there to make money and the masses are never on the cutting edge of things. THOUGH...I do say there are exceptions, like the Bad Monkey for example that are simple, sound great, and are well designed.

    Generally, simple (and that means they get the BASICS right, the SOUND itself) is best. Lotsa bells & whistles ought to make us more suspicious.
     
  13. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

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    One thing that occurs to me is that it's now cheaper/easier to make good-sounding stuff. Much as some people rag on digital FX, I think that they are a big reason why it's easier for the big guys to make more useful FX.
     
  14. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    >>If the mass market pedals that came before wern't any good, then why are we always trying to achive the Fuzz Face, Ts808, ts9 script logo Phase90,Dist+, boss chorus ensemble sounds. These were all mass marketed between 20-30 years ago<<

    The problem is that you had to go back 20-30 years to GET good sounding mass market stuff for a long time. That's the whole point of cloned gear; you couldn't get new stuff as good as the older stuff, so the 'boutiquers' (I still hate that word!) started cloning it.
    Anyway, good points, all around. This is becoming an interesting thread.

    >>One thing that occurs to me is that it's now cheaper/easier to make good-sounding stuff. Much as some people rag on digital FX, I think that they are a big reason why it's easier for the big guys to make more useful FX<<

    Easier to make the metal and plastic bits, probably a lot more involved in designing the software. If you've worked with modeling synths, you know that there are ten zillion parameters, lots of measurements of what's being modeled, probably a larger design team involved than an analog box. In fact, modeling synths are so complex that you can't even get at all the parameters; the designers only let you have at certain bits and bytes (unless you're using modeling software on a more complex modern computer, where some interfaces really let you have at it, but I suspect you need the computer horsepower to make it happen, and a $200 pedal isn't gonna have that-yet). The early ones had very few tweakable parameters compared with standard digital synths of the day like, say, a Yamaha SY-99, and WAY fewer than something like a Kurzweil 2600, which basically lets you get at everything.

    The RT-20 I just got is a good example; it could let you get at lots more parameters, but it isn't the hardware that's the problem; it's the complexity of the model, and the issues associated with creating a model that allows more changes.

    But some future Mike Fuller is no doubt sitting at his computer designing boutique digital effects even as we write this! ;)
     
  15. ericb

    ericb Silver Supporting Member

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    I bought a 535Q a few years ago .. IT's a nice wah for sure. I have 6-7 wahs. The switch broke instantly.. BUT the switches on my handmade boutque pedals of which I own a lot, have broken MORE OFTEN than my mass-produced pedals... bummer huh..

    Anyway , I have a Wylie modded Crybaby , a 535Q, a 70's Thomas Organs CryBaby , a Bad Horsie, a Mark Tremonti, a Budda and have had 2 Teese wahs.. .None are better than the other.. They're all different..

    I own Ensoniq Dp2's , Dp4+ and Dp-Pros...ARe they worse then LExicons or Eventides? NO , not to me. They're all comparable.. They're different

    I own 25.00 pedals that are NO LESS QUALITY than 200.00 pedals..... AND COMPLETELY VICE VERSA...

    I think the new mass-produced stuff I've owned is quieter (i.e. Danelectros) than the 70's ElectroHarmonics stuff and MXR stuff I owned . Their cheap as hell too.. . Being a musician AND gearhound collector/user/abuser I own loads and loads of toyz and tools, and tend to never prejudge things anymore. I really have to see and hear for myself and then if the cheaper thing does the trick I'd much rather buy the cheaper thing , as long as I see they're durable... Then why do I have so many expensive toyz????? BECAUSE I like them too!

    ERIC
     
  16. somedude

    somedude Member

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    I've gone both ways.

    Like others in this thread I've owned mass market stuff that the boutique stuff blows away, and I've owned boutique stuff that I felt was blown away by cheap stuff.

    I've also owned boutique stuff that I thought just didn't sound right. As probably everyone on this forum does I play guitar, and the guitar/amp symbiotic relationship is essentially very Lo-Fi. There's been a few pedals I've uses that were just way too Hi-Fi for their own good. I don't know about others, but after listening to thousands of recordings stuff like clock noise and background hiss have become apart of the sound for me, and when someone designs this stuff out of an effect my pre-conditioned mind feels there is something missing.
     

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