Delay before Distortion undesireable?

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by Guyote, Mar 1, 2006.

  1. Guyote

    Guyote Member

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    Since getting back into guitar I've absorbed (or tried to) a huge amount of info over the past few months, and a great deal of it came from right here.

    My soon-to-be-acquired Swart AST has just gorgeous tone, and I love that. When I suggested I'd like to use an analog delay pedal with it, one of the things told to me (not here) was:

    "One thing to note regarding delay before distortion is that the repeats will get cleaner as they fade out. This can sound a bit unnatural. If your amp has an effects loop, you will get the preamp distortion in the repeats."

    Well, there's no effects loop on the AST, so the question I now have is will using only a delay and an AST create an unnatural sound? Is it necessary to have a distortion effect in the chain before the delay to sound "natural"?

    I've searched as well as I could but couldn't nail down the answer to this. I sure would appreciate an informed opinion, I really would.

    Thanks

    G
     
  2. Madsman

    Madsman Member

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    No, I think that what you got here is someone's opinion, and it doesn't get down to the real issue, frankly.

    He's not WRONG, it is possible that the delay repeats could sound "cleaner" than the original note, since it would inevitably become quieter. But I don't think that's something you'd notice as a significant issue. What you WILL, however, notice is that delay before distortion is NOT going to sound clear.

    Normally (with no effects) when you do a unison bend (play one note, and another a whole step below, simultaneously... then bend the lower one into unison with the first) you get the sound of the two notes clashing quickly, sort of like when you tune. The "beating" changes very quickly as you bend, and when you're doing this with distortion on, it creates a sort of howling/ripping/wailing sound. You know the sound.

    When you play with distortion after delay, you're going to hear that exact same phenomenon a lot. I usually describe it as "chewy" but I guess that's pretty meaningless to most people. Anytime you bend a note, you'll hear that sound. Much of the time if you just play one note followed by another, you're going to hear that sound... it's NOT what most people think of when they think "delay." Many people think "Edge" or "Gilmour" or "Vai" or "Eric Johnson." For the most part, that's not what you're going to get in this situation.

    There are workarounds. Some people leave the amp very close to clean, or all the way clean and get their gain from pedals. This is sub-optimal for me, because I love my amps' gain. But I know people who have a distortion pedal and drive pedal both in front of the amp and in front of the delay, just for this reason.

    I happen to LOVE that "chewy" sound. It's become a huge part of the way I play in one of my bands. It allows you to get some weird, nasty sounds... sort of like lo-fi tremolo strings... all kinds of cool stuff. Think "Radiohead," "Tool," "Dredg" etc.

    But if you don't like it, and you're gigging a lot, here's what I do to use a clean rackmount delay with my rig when I need it (it's similar to running wet/dry/wet with a seperate amp). I run my pedalboard as normal, and mic the amp. I run the mic into my rack, into an inexpensive mic pre. A cheap mixer, like a Mackie or Behringer will work here too, and perhaps more easily. Anyway, I run the mic pre out to a line mixer, and out into my Lexicon MPX. From there I run back out into the line mixer, and then out via XLR to the front of house. It sounds great. If you did this with a Mackie or Behringer, you would simply put your delay in an aux bus or effects loop. It gives you realtime control over your wet/dry mix and also (the insidious part) realtime control over your volume at FOH. I should note that you would only hear your delay through the monitors and mains, not through your amp, obviously. We use IEMs live, so it's not even an issue for me, and the W cabs in a W/D/W rig are just a waste of cargo, as a result.

    If you're just playing at home, your options become more limited. You can run w/d/w lite by doing something similar to above, and running out via your home studio monitors if you have some. You can run full w/d/w by running a line level signal from your amp (attenuators like the Hot Plate work here... so does the Behringer UltraG) into an additional poweramp and cabs, or a PA. There are a number of ways to do it...

    ... or you can bite the bullet and get a effects loop modded into your amp. Not my bag. Effects loops don't all sound half bad, but rarely do they sound better to me than applying the effects AFTER THE SPEAKER. That's how you'd do it in the studio, and it's pretty easy to do live.

    More info than you could have wanted... sorry. :)
     
  3. Antero

    Antero Member

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    It's only "undesireable" if you don't think it sounds cool. Running a flanger before a fuzz means you dont' get jet noises, it just sounds like the amp is breaking.

    Guess which I prefer.
     
  4. drolling

    drolling Member

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    Welcome to TGP Guyote! I don't know how much distortion your Swart AST produces, but I use analog delay in front of all my amps & it sounds great to me. Analog delay's can be kinda lo-fi, anyway, and can often sound even BETTER going straight in.

    None of my funky old amps have FX loops and I've rarely encoutered a pedal that HAD TO be in one. It's been my experience that some pedals can be a bit noisy if they're not in a loop, but I've always found a work-around by using another brand that'll provide the same effect without the noise.

    And it's fun to defy conventional wisdom and break a few *rules* from time to time. One cool trick, for example, is putting your wah after, rather than before, your delay pedal to 'shape' each repeat a little differently, so you get this 'whhee-wha-whoo-whhoy' trailing off into space...
     
  5. StompBoxBlues

    StompBoxBlues Member

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    I wrote something similar to what you quoted. That the as the notes get softer the gain (and TONE) change. This is simply what happens when you lower your volume.


    Couple other points though in the whole thing. This depends HIGHLY on HOW you use a delay (or if you are in fact using delay which usually doesn't add coloration...more bass, to the repeats, or echo which often does). I mean, if you have a delay set to long time, with delay level high and repeats very high...you are going to notice it. If it is being featured like the vocals in Pink Floyds "Us and Them" where you very clearly hear the repeats and they are featured, AND if you are doing this with a heavy OD guitar I think it will sound weird. Maybe okay, but it won't sound like an echo of the original notes.

    But mostly people don't use them like that. If you are using it like in "Red House" or something, it probably won't be noticeable.

    Keep in mind too...I don't think any echo/delays sound exactly "natural", it is an unnatural sound we are creating.

    But the main thing is, when mention that about OD and levels, it is not to say don't do it, just be aware that the phenomonen will happen, and try it yourself and see what happens! Do you like it?

    Another point, you can always throw an OD pedal (MI Blues Pro, Zendrive, Tim, Timmy) that is going to sound great, in front of the delay. That way you are not stuck with whatever it sounds like with delay before distortion.

    Up til now I like my delays in the effects loop, but am seriously considering a Fender Bassman (one-channel, no effect loop) and I don't imagine it is going to be a problem. When I use delay it is "Red House" at max, slapback, or doubling.
     
  6. drolling

    drolling Member

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    Naah, the only problem you're going to have is trying to stop playing long enough to eat, sleep, etc..

    A guy w/a handle like yours should have at least one single channel nonmaster fender, as they are incredibly pedal-friendly. The tube screamer & all its progeny were created to nestle between a strat/tele & bassman or similar circuit. Some kind of attenuator (HotPlate?) may be required if you're going to be availing yourself of all the juicy, harmonic-heavy powertube goodness that will be right beneath your fingertips. But, really, they sound incredible at any volume...

    Are you thinking of the new LTD version? The old heads are cool, too..
     
  7. phoenix 7

    phoenix 7 Silver Supporting Member

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    I think what was probably meant about the repeats getting cleaner if you run delay before distortion is that the lower-level repeats are not going to get overdriven by the pedal in the same way the louder original note WILL get overdriven. Therefore the repeats will sound "cleaner" than the original note. I actually DO find this undesireable. I lke the repeats to sound like the original note. This is a problem I have when I run a delay on my board going into the crunch channel on my Shiva. The original note sounds nice and dirty, but the delayed repeats sound clean. I hate this. This is why I lately prefer running my HoneyBee and FD2 BEFORE my delay going into a Victoria amp (Fender Bandmaster clone). Just my experience.
     
  8. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    IMO it makes a HUGE difference what you mean by 'distortion'.

    If you mean high-gain pedal or preamp-based amp distortion (single or multi-channel), I don't like delay before it at all... it sounds confused and it's difficult to get the repeats to sit correctly - either they do become cleaner, if you have the delay feedback and level very low (much lower than you would on a clean sound), or they simply become amplified up to about the same level as the first note, which sounds uncontrolled and like you've set the delay wrong; it also amplifies the odd artifacts from analog delays, which I like when they're quiet but not when brought up to the same level as the 'real' signal. If you're trying to use the same pedal on a clean sound as well you can't get the delay to work right with both almost no matter what you do.

    On the other hand I love delay before light power-stage distortion and compression. It sounds much more organic and interactive, and you get a natural 'ducking' effect when you play over the top of the repeats. This is why I much prefer to put my delay either in front of the amp if it's clean(ish), or in an FX loop if it's using preamp distortion... not after the amp (where to me it sounds sterile and separated from the guitar sound). It's also exactly where The Edge uses his, in front of an AC30 or Tweed Deluxe driven lightly.
     
  9. The Whiz

    The Whiz Member

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    I'm with this guy!
     
  10. rawkguitarist

    rawkguitarist Member

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    Quick answer...

    Any distortion more than a little bit of hair in the power amp, and I mean a little bit, IMO when delay occurs before it, it all sounds like butt.

    If you're getting distortion from the amp (in the preamp) IMO it sounds best to put the delay in the a FX loop. If you playing through a clean amp, put the OD/distortion before your time based effects (delay).
     
  11. Guyote

    Guyote Member

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    I'd really like to thank everybody for coming to my rescue here. I just didn't want to screw up right at the very first new pedal I get. But I think I'll be all right just using the delay and my amp. I'm eyeballing both the Diamond Memory Lane and Maxon AD999 right now, but man, it is sooooo hard to decide. I've read I don't know how many "delay" threads here, but it's been a bunch, and it's still a tough call.

    Seriously, I got home from work today and looked at this thread and was blown away by all the advice you all gave me. Can't thank ya enough!!

    :AOK

    G
     
  12. Cary Chilton

    Cary Chilton Senior Member

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    I totally agree. I love my Maxon Ad-999 before my bassman, plexi 67, and my new stage hog!! Totally Killer! However, my ad-999 or even an echoplex before a multi stage pre amp dist type amp , 5150, etc- sounds horrible but less horrible on the crunch or lower gain settings.
     
  13. funkycam

    funkycam Member

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    Distortion after delay has a very particular sound & feel.
    It reminds me most of The Edge.
    It doesn't sound like a distorted tone echoing. When you play it you'll get what the other guys said about "chewey"
    It's a cool effect but it's not a very good substitute for a distorted tone with an echo after it if you are using a lot of distortion.
     
  14. Madsman

    Madsman Member

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    It depends on how much gain you use. I play a lot of rock stuff that's pretty high gain... think plexi hot rod amp tone with an OD or boost in front. That gets pretty nasty with delay in front... but that's something I like,

    BTW, I have had my Memory Lane for a few days only, and I can't believe I didn't get this thing last summer. It has probably knocked my AD9 off of my board... at the very least, it's joined it.
     

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