Boosters at the end of chain?

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by Super Locrian, Feb 7, 2008.


  1. Super Locrian

    Super Locrian Member

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    I've read a few comments from people who place boosters at the end of the chain. I thought they did a better job at the beginning?

    I'm in the process of designing my pedal chain, and since I have 2 boosters and an EQ pedal, I was thinking to set it up like this:

    Clean boost > Phaser > Mid gain boost > High gain boost > Volume pedal > Chorus > Delay > EQ

    What's to gain (no pun intended :)) by changing the order above?
     
  2. pgissi

    pgissi Member

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    Its funny how much this topic is brought up.

    I recently came to some new conclusions and as usual, its less a case of "its better this way" than just different in most cases.

    Here are some of my recent discoveries and thanks to others posting their observations which caused me to experiment, I "rethunk" some things and used my ears and tested it all at gig volume, the real test.

    Boosters
    Boosters whether clean pre-amp types or those some with OD when placed at the end of the OD Pedal sub-chain, tend to act as a clean boost for whatever dirtier pedal precedes it. The difference is distinct and this tends to enhance a high gain od/dist or even fuzz pedals characters more so versus kicking it into deeper saturation with the booster before it which is something useful on its own.

    I use my Sparkle Drive at the end my my OD sub chain which is in this order- Beano, Rat, Mongoose, AC Booster, Sparkle. I typically stack the dirtier Beano/Rat/Mongoose with the Sparkle but since the AC is capable of some transparency, I have that option also.

    Of course the option to have just the Sparkle or AC is there also since all OD's preceding it are True Bypass.

    I plan to add more OD's along the lines of Fuzz and other specialty types pre- sparkle in addition to trying another clean booster at the end of the OD sub chain in the future.

    Buffering
    I recently determined the difference of having buffering first or dead last in the chain and in my example, the Boss TU-2 is the buffer. I previously had the TU-2 1st and now like it last overall.

    The TU-2 or buffering in general last in the chain renders a more natural pedal tone for whatever you have in the pedal chain preceding it, for the good or bad of it and/or whether they are buffering or true bypass.

    Meaning for me, I like my pups to see (as an option when I want) my OD's first, I find this renders the true character of most OD's, not all but most. I do use pedals pre-OD sub chain but am working on a true bypass loop setup to be able to bring them in and out and for my testing unplugged them.

    With a Buffer like the one in the TU-2 first the tone to my ears takes on a more modern flavor with some top end zing added to your signal, seems to benefit high speed picking and I like this for my aggressive side of playing with the pointy guitars and would like to have this as an option also, so in addition to my True Bypass looping pre-OD pedal sub chain, I will also have the option to buffer or not in the 1st position.

    To hear what I am describing try this and the results are dependent on the following-

    -What pedals are true bypass like the phaser and OD's so they dont color the results when bypassed

    -The character of the buffer used last or first

    One test goal would be to try no buffering pre-OD's, guitar straight in to OD's and have it only at the end of the chain and the EQ could buffer if switched on if not a Boss type which buffers when bypassed.

    Phaser>High Gain Boost>Mid Gain Boost>Clean Boost>Volume>Chorus>Delay>EQ

    The bottom line here is that clean boosters at the end of the chain-

    -provide more effective and enhancing boost versus a hotter signal to saturate pedals that follow it

    -the results of this is also colored by the buffer, whether 1st or last, with 1st having some top end zing added and last rendering uncolored pedal tones for whatever precedes the buffer last in the chain

    -lastly anything thats buffering in between 1st and last position are going to add some coloration also and affect your results

    Have fun and if you can test this with some volume, bedroom volume will not render accurate results at all
     
  3. dave s

    dave s Member

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    What happens in my chain is putting the clean boost (RC Boost) on the AMP SIDE of the chain, the boost doesn't really boost what I want it to boost, (my dist and fuzz pedals), it just turns everything to mush, overdrives things even more and sounds plain bad.

    On the OTHER side of the gain pedals, it does what was stated in the previous post, it actually CLEANS up the dirt pedals. I'm not crazy about that aspect but can LIVE with the result. The boost pedal does do what I really need--a volume boost for lead work.

    What's working best for me right now with regard to dirt and boost is:

    guitar > fuzz > comp > dist > OD > BOOST > time based ... amp.

    The boost clearly adds a good volume increase to the od, dist and fuzz pedals.

    dave
     
  4. fr8_trane

    fr8_trane Member

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    A Boost before OD pedals adds gain (by slamming the pedal with increased signal) but very little volume increase. It also buffers the cable run to THE NEXT BUFFERED PEDAL ONLY (if there is one) not the whole chain.

    A boost last in the chain slams the input of your (tube) amp and buffers the cable run to the amp but NOTHING BEFORE IT. If the amp is set clean you will get a variable volume increase based on how much boost you have dialed in. At a certain amount of boost you will actually begin to overdrive the amp itself. The closer the amp itself is to breaking up on its own, the less boost you need to get the "goods". A good goal is to set your amp to the verge of breakup so that any volume boost pushes the amp into distortion. This creates touch sensitive distortion just using picking dynamics and when you kick in the boost you get a nice increase in volume and a corresponding increase in AMP gain which IMO is preferable to pedal gain.

    If you haven't guessed I always use the boost after OD pedals so I can get a volume and gain increase from the amp.
     
  5. cameron

    cameron Member

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    That's my approach exactly. The boost is the last pedal in my "lead loop" and the whole lead loop comes after my basic dirt pedals. I have the amp dialed up clean.

    If I were using a two channel amp with effect loop, I'd probably have the whole lead loop in the amp's effect loop, again with the boost as the last item in line to give me a volume boost where needed for solos.

    I use an RC booster, and I actually adjust the volume and gain controls for different songs, depending on what kind of boost I want for the lead in that song.

    I have in the past used a boost (Compressor, actually) at the very start of the chain, but in that role the boost is always on, part of the basic sound, and not something turned on or off for a boost now and then.
     
  6. pgissi

    pgissi Member

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    The pedals in the amps fx loop is something that is a) cumbersome and b) makes no sense from a signal routing perspective and I have seen some posts stating the same.

    Its cumbersome to switch them in and out without some sophisitcated and quiet looper that is remotely switched ala the pricey CAE custom solution.

    As far as signal routing, it seems out of place since the pre-amp in any guitar amp is capable of far more gain, and by gain I dont mean overdrive but an increase in level or output aka voltage increase, than pedals in general are capable.

    For a tube amp your talking voltage of 200+VDC on the plates typically in preamp tube stages versus the supply rails in a 9volt pedal.

    The pre-amp's job takes the very weak signal from the guitar and pedals and not only shapes the tone but adds an adjustable factor of voltage gain so the power amp can then "switch it" on and off very fast using modulated wall current from the power supply.

    Putting pedals in the FXLoop will not harm the amp, it wont necessarily sound band but it has to reduce the amps dynamic response to some degree when these pedals are engaged

    Thats the theory anyway and since I never have used anything but time domain or eq in my loop, prefer my tonal shaping from pedals pre preamp, has anyone found a loss in dynamic range or total ouput from their amp when using and OD/DIST/Fuzz in the FX Koop?

    My gut just says that in the FX Loop, the pedal can be (for the dirtier variety anyway) a bottleneck
     
  7. fr8_trane

    fr8_trane Member

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    Every FX loop I have seen is post preamp and pre power amp - some of them are even labled "preamp out / poweramp in". The major problem with using pedals in the loop is that the loop usually puts out very hot line level signals which are meant to go to, and be returned by,rack gear. In general I think guitar pedals in the loop sound poor, particularly OD pedals, because of this mismatch in level and impedance. My DD-20 delay has switchable input and output settings which allow it to work properly in front of the amp or in the loop (as does my korg toneworks delay) unfortunately most pedals do not have this kind of functionality and will not work as well in the loop.
     
  8. spentron

    spentron Member

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    Another issue with boost in front is dirt pedals may not go loud enough. They CAN be interesting before a TS-type pedal because TS passes through some clean, more so if gain is down, so boost gives you some control over the blend.

    But almost no 9V effect can handle the full output of a well-designed booster without distorting, sometimes badly. If you want the maximum abilty to overdrive the amp, boost must be last, after non-dirt pedals at least as much as after dirt.

    Boost at the beginning is good for bringing a strat up to high humbucker levels, etc. .... I read Petrucci runs an level reducer that switches in on clean sounds, he thinks his pickups even distort rack gear.

    Yes but any amp I'm aware of that even has an effects loop essentially runs through the loop circuit all the time. It chops down that 200 volts or whatever to effects level, runs that to the send and the return jack's switch (for when the loop is not used), and then boosts the level back up. The level may be a bit high for pedals, but is still lower than the maximum output of a good 9V circuit. So for that argument to be valid, you have to argue to not use an amp with a loop at all.
     
  9. thedroid

    thedroid Member

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    I've gotten good results with boosts in front of OD if I run the OD at a very low drive level for just some grit, then kick on the boost for more drive. If the drive is set to normal levels, though, the boost has to go after.
     
  10. Flyin' Brian

    Flyin' Brian Member

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    I use an RC booster into a Barber Launch Pad at the end of my chain.
    The RC is to add volume for solos. I usually leave the gain turned down so I get a boost only that I can color with the EQ controls to adjust for room acoustics. I have used the Launch Pad in the past as a perfectly clean boost, but these days I leave it on all of the time to act as a gain staging device. It gives me a lot more clean headroom and fills the sound out significantly.
     
  11. thedroid

    thedroid Member

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    I've found that the RC enhances the character, as someone said, of most OD's you put before it, but I just got a Tonefactor/Mojohand Mule, and I can't say the RC after did much for it. The Mule seems to have plenty of character already. But then it's not a TS style OD; it's a Red Llama clone.
     
  12. pgissi

    pgissi Member

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    Yes indeed, I just confirmed what I suspected and your points above just a few minutes ago, a/b'ing OD's in the loop versus out front. Although it works and maybe useful for something special, OD's in the loop generally squashed the tone with xtra compression and a loss of low end especially, the amp sounded strangled if you can imagine.

    I am sure results would vary though amp to amp and pedal to pedal, it could be worked out with some compromises like, no clean up with the guitar vol pot

    There may be specialty sounds in there though, my Roger Mayer Mongoose especially was more goosed than ever and got some Billy Gibbons ala the last few albums like Rythymeen, XXX and Mescalero where he may have used Expandoras in series and this pedal in particular preserved more bottom than the rest. I could see having this as an switched option for just that to wreak sonic havoc.


    Yes the loop in most amps is part of the signal path all of the time. The 200volts plus reference is actually just whats on the pre-amp tubes plates going up to 270 in some amps as I remember, its way high to represent the actual signal level which is significantly lower. In refering to that high voltage I am just pointing out that a tube pre-amp stage running at that high voltage has more headroom than a pedal at 9volts and its more of an indication of dynamic range which translates into a tube requiring a hotter signal before saturation versus a pedal which is overdriven by less signal by nature of design (and reaching saturation where its at max output sooner) since its designed to work with the higher impedance and weaker guitar pickups output and secondly determined by its power supply voltage.

    Your right, the level in a loop is high (line level and is typically +4dbu) for some pedals but not all and this is what can make it confusing since there are other pedals that run 9, 12 or 18 volts and are fine coupling tube stages running 200 plus. The loop is sandwiched between tube stages and this coupling is more sensitive to impedance mismatch and linear or non linear operation.

    My Boss GE-7 EQ and 2 Boss Delays are fine in the loop as are other pedals of this type and run 9v and 12v since they are designed to stay linear in their output and not clip, passing the full signal and doing a reasonable job despite the low voltage supply.

    I am pointing this out since I read here all of the time where others are using boosts which border on being od pedals in the loop meaning these pedals may clip their output.

    Other than for that over the top uber distored thing, I cant see using anything other than the cleanest pedal in the loop, no clipping and max headroom highest dynamic rangeand output before clipping.

    The whole thing is a lesson in signal transfer where impedance/tube or opamp operating characteristic/supply voltage etc. have a relationship.
     
  13. radcliff

    radcliff Member

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    No one reading the forum is going to like this old answer, but I have had the most success with just swapping pedals around in my chain to see what works for me.

    The rules have always been light guidelines. A pedal has a spot in your chain, you just have to find it, and even if it's the same type of pedal, it may not work there in the same way.

    My Zendrive likes to be last, the RC booster likes to be in the middle somewhere, I'm still experimenting with the Sexdrive, and the COT likes to be first but doesnt like to play with the Sexdrive.
     
  14. spentron

    spentron Member

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    Headroom is a misunderstood term, properly defined it's a thing you can't detect, dynamic range you can't reach except by temporarily altering your settings to test it. Many things that are said to improve dynamics rely on an increase of subtle distortion.

    The problem of distortion in the loop doesn't really relate to that, the loop puts distortion at the wrong place compared to the amp's tone controls. Compression possibly (or differently) as well. OTOH using an external preamp, the loop return may be the proper amp input, for related reasons.

    Clean devices such as verb in the loop are made cleaner, because the dynamic range of the loop is limited by the distortion of the preamp, and the sound is also usually brighter.
     
  15. pgissi

    pgissi Member

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    This is incorrect, dynamics are typically expressed by the amount of headroom (dynamic range) and is simply the ratio of the lowest to highest (quietest to loudest) portion of a signal while remaining linear in its output meaning, no distortion.

    If your talking about db, your talking about SPL, acoustical sound pressure levels

    If your talking about dbm, thats the decibel scale referencing millivolts, a measure of AC signal level.

    2 distinct ways to classify dynamics

    Increasing distortion, decreases dynamics, not the other way around since distortion is an departure from linear operation, the signal becomes non-linear via overdrive or signal clip at its input or not, it simply may have gobs of gain or its own clip circuit and then clips the signal itself at its own output, this chops off the tops of the waveform and adds compression also.

    Saturation, the point at which a audio circuit reaches full output with clipping and can provide no more output, is reached sooner in any device with reduced dynamic range/headroom.

    An impedance mismatch along with power supply voltage and specific design (EQ pedal versus a Booster/OD etc) determines a devices dynamic range/headroom/lineararity

    This is how multi tube pre-amp stages work, cascading stages which are overdriven themselves then overdrive the stages that follow.

    If you ever have played an amp like this, you will fnd this reduced dynamic range to translate into an amp that does not clean up and has more than normal compression where the ratio of the lowest to loudest is reduced and more than normal overdrive.

    This is what happened with my OD's in the loop test, the signal was squashed, its freq response was reduced at the bottom and top, and it was overly distorted for most of the dynamic range.


    The loop typically is desgined to operate in linear fashion and not distort/clip etc. but there are some amps that use the loop for extra overdrive ala Mesa Tremoverb etc. but this is not the case with all amps loops, especially loops that are simple where there are no send and return level controls, they are sometimes difficult to balance. When the loop does clip with a device thats not specificaly designed to overdrive or clip the pedal patched in the loop, its typically due to impedance mismatch and/or power supply voltage and design intent which translates into lower headroom/dynamic range or operation meaning, it clips sooner for a given signal.

    Simplisticaly, big tone versus a small tone and what I am really saying is Boosters and OD, less Clean Boosters though, are more of a bottleneck than not.

    My point was this, most pedals are designed to play nice with Line level loops and other line level fx and despite this, some by nature of their design as OD's/Dist/Fuzz boxes do not play well..generally. They are designed to be driven with a lower amount of signal than present in the loop and intentionaly clip your signal, reducing headroom when placed in the loop meaning, your amps ratio of lowest to highest output while in linear operation, has been reduced. Translation, the ability to coax a clean tone is diminished and the tone is overly or always distorted.

    Whether good or bad is subjective of course

    With some pedals that fall into the Pre-Amp, Booster, OD, Dist, Fuzz category its worse than others and is dependent on the specific design. Using a pedal that operates at 18volts woudl be an improvement over any 9 or 12volt pedals..simplisiticaly without considering specific design limitations and for the purpose of this example simply because their supply voltage is higher, they can process a larger voltage swing and this mean increased headroom.

    The difference between a tube stage running 200+vdc and a pedal is noticeable and thats why its hit or miss with pedals in the loop



    This is partly untrue. Your correct in stating that the dynamic range of the loop is limited by distortion in the pre-amp, yes indeed but the result is not a cleaner signal for any pedal in the loop because of this, its actualy overdriven more meaning reduced headroom and to what degree is dependent on the amount of distortion coming from the pre-amp which is determine by the pre-amp settings of course.


    The increase in brigthness is the buffer in most pedals, especially time domain pedals, they add some top end zing. The buffer is necessary and couples the loops fx send impedance to the pedal. Rack devices also use buffers and if are digital, usa AD conversion also.

    This is a complex topic with much left unsaid but the bottom line is to A/B pedals in your loop despite the hype or hoopla you may hear or read and realize it may work for some because their needs are different since they are working in a wedding band versus playing in a loud smoking room with an obnoxious rock band.
     
  16. Scott Auld

    Scott Auld Staff Member

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    Glad you bolded this exception to your post, I think it's important :)
     
  17. pgissi

    pgissi Member

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    With this I mean to suggest that the best results will be found, in most cases, with a device thats designed to be not only line level compatible but more so, loop signal level compatible with adequate headroom and linearity.

    Are the rules made to be broken, sure but there is usually a compromise that goes with that
     
  18. Scott Auld

    Scott Auld Staff Member

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    Thanks for explaining, pgissi :)
     
  19. ford

    ford Member

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    I run my Greer Royal Fromage before my od's and my MI Audio BoostNBuff at the end of the chain. I use the BNB pretty sparingly, mainly it's a great buffer.... when I use it as a boost it is more like a treble booster as I run it around 2-3. This system works great for me.

    rock

    bford
     
  20. Super Locrian

    Super Locrian Member

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    So how about this, then?

    Phaser > Mid gain boost > High gain boost > Volume pedal > Chorus > Delay > Clean boost

    The phaser is a PH-350, which has a buffer, I believe. Is that a good thing at the start of the chain?
     

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