Harmonizer pre- vs. post- distortion...

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by draelyc, Apr 30, 2016.

  1. draelyc

    draelyc Member

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    ... or "Why you must *always* NEVER run your harmonizer before your gain/distortion. :D

    Had to do a comparison vid after the question came up in another forum. I realized (at least technically, intellectually) that there will always be room for different preferences, anytime there are two different sounds to choose from. But I was honestly surprised to discover more than one person saying that running their harmonizers up front "sounded better," even with an overdriven amp using preamp gain.

    That said, however, I think this vid will make pretty clear that a harmonizer only really succeeds in its object (i.e., imitating separate guitars playing single note lines in harmony) when it is run post-distortion (meaning in the fx loop, if you're using your amp's preamp gain, as I am), and it fails in that object when run directly between the guitar and the amp's input (again, when using the amp's preamp gain, which I am).

    Disclaimer: if you hate intelligent pitch shifters, then it won't matter to you where the thing is in the signal path ~ it's gonna suck no matter what. I understand that. :)

    Okay, now, dig the evidence: First half = Brian May; second half = :freak: WTF? :lol:




    So, my opinion is pretty apparent, I suppose... What do y'all say?
     
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  2. ERGExplorer

    ERGExplorer Member

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    Well, if you were to use "accurate tracking"" as part of "sounding better," then I'd say it is better to run a harmonizer in a part of the signal chain where it can track successfully. If the post-distorted/-overdrive sound is still relatively clean, then it doesn't matter if the harmonizer runs pre- or post-dirt. If the sound is not relatively clean, then the mistracked harmony will likely not sound pleasant.

    You're stating "its object" is ""imitating separate guitars playing single note lines in harmony." That may be true for you. I'd avoid stating that to be true for everyone.

    Really though, one can get the best of both worlds: pre-dirt tracking, and post-dirt harmony voices.

    The best unit I've personally used for this is the DigiTech Harmony Man. It has a effect loop so you can apply the dirt post-tracking. In addition, it even has a side-chain input so that the chord used as a basis for harmonization can change based on what the unit is fed. The unit is really a step beyond everything else.

     
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  3. Black_Label

    Black_Label Member

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    I've pondered this question endlessly and have come to the conclusion that both work well. On my gigging board, I put my Pitch Fork pre-dirt. It seems to track better there. In my studio rack, I put the Pitchfactor in the loop. I'm not done experimenting with placement for that one, but it seems to sound better there than up front. Granted, the Pitchfactor can do waaaaay more than the Pitch Fork and I mainly use the EHX box like a Whammy pedal.

    I'm interested to hear more of what some of the experts like ERG and Splatt have to say about it.
     
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  4. ERGExplorer

    ERGExplorer Member

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    Expert? *laugh* Hardly.

    Let's just say I have experience masquerading as smarts.

    I wanted to add two more points about the Harmony Man.

    It can add two voices, as opposed to just one.

    It is the only harmonizer I have used which manages to do Hotel California without big issues, as shown towards the end of this demo vid, just after the section showing the three-part Brian May harmony.

     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2016
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  5. Laganlad

    Laganlad Supporting Member

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    Is the Pitchfactor any good at doing something like Hotel California?
     
  6. Meriphew

    Meriphew Member

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    I have a Pitchfactor (mainly used on synths now). I always preferred it before dirt/distortion.
     
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  7. draelyc

    draelyc Member

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    I think the HarmonyMan tracked pretty well in the fx loop in my demo vid -- don't you?

    Then again, I'd say it also tracked pretty well out front, before the amp's distortions ... but even so, to my ear it's way less pleasant that way. What did you think?

    Fair point. I have no idea what other folks might be using a harmonizer to do. I do have to admit that it's hard for me to imagine what other object someone might have in mind, especially for the HarmonyMan, since it appears to have been designed specifically to replicate multiple guitar leads, but that may well be just my lack of experience and/or imagination limiting me there.

    Agreed. Here's an earlier demo I did of mine, just running in the loop of my Shiva, that I think shows what you're saying:

     
  8. draelyc

    draelyc Member

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    Cool. Why? For what kinds of applications?
     
  9. MattLeFevers

    MattLeFevers Member

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    I discovered the same thing with my Boss PS-6. I've always run my Micro POG ahead of dirt, which sounds awesome and helps with the tracking of course, but when I went to do the same thing with the Boss it sounded glitchy and awful. I honestly thought I got a bad unit or something. I was on the verge of taking it back when (for some reason) I tried running it at the end of my chain and it sounds amazing and exactly like two guitars playing in tandem.

    So my experience has been: octavers at the beginning of the chain, harmonizers at the end.
     
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  10. Meriphew

    Meriphew Member

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    When I have a synth running through the Pitchfactor, it just opens up a whole new category of sounds. I find it very inspiring when writing songs.
     
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  11. ThinPaperWings

    ThinPaperWings Member

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    I would assume that pre-dirt would be preferable because you're asking the pitch-shifter to shift less harmonic information. The ('unintelligent') distortion is then free to clip the signal and add harmonics. Doing it the other way round asks the pitch shifter to handle those harmonics. But the real test is just trying stuff and finding the sound you prefer.

    I'm planning on running my Digitech Ricochet into dirt for the time being though.
     
  12. hippieboy

    hippieboy Member

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    I have a boss ps-5 and in the manual tells you that it's prefered to be used post od/dist, i guess the ps-6 tells you the same! that's what i love about reading manuals hehe.
     
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  13. draelyc

    draelyc Member

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    What did you think of the pre-dirt vs. post-dirt comparison video in the first post of this thread?
     
  14. ThinPaperWings

    ThinPaperWings Member

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    I thought gain>harmonizer was better for the clip you played, if I understood it correctly (Brian May). Didn't necessarily hate the second sound though.

    I'm not after that kind of harmony lead sound myself, more of the sci-fi octave sweep a la Tom Morello and/or the Edge ('747' sound from Mofo and Gone on the Pop album). I actually don't know how they run theirs, to be honest.
     
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  15. draelyc

    draelyc Member

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    That's cool, mang. If I were just doing an octave thing, I'd keep everything out front for simplicity. But for the ways I'm using the HarmonyMan, I do think the loop works way better than out front. Like, by an almost incalculable margin, lol. :D

    Thanks for checking the vid and for your thoughts as well! :aok
     
  16. Skreddy

    Skreddy Supporting Member

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    @draelyc I would have thought before watching your demo that the opposite would be true. Because distortion adds extra harmonics, etc., to the signal which would potentially "confuse" the harmonizer and would need to be "bent" by the harmonizer along with the fundamental notes. I had assumed this might be a bad thing. But you showed me that while the tracking might suffer just a bit as a result of sending a distorted signal into the harmonizer, the end result is vastly superior.

    The problem, of course, with sending a harmonized signal into distortion is that the harmonies are all summed pre-distortion and then the resulting distorted harmonics definitely tend to be dissonant.

    Edit: Brian May does use several AC30's to keep his delayed signals from crashing into each other pre-distortion for the same reason.
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2016
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  17. hippieboy

    hippieboy Member

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    I never use the dirt from the amps so to me it always sounds better guit -> OD/Dist -> Pitch Shifter. But Brian May uses it different if i'm correct. cause he uses the drive from his ac30 which doesn't have fx loops.
     
  18. Squatch57

    Squatch57 Member

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    I don't have a harmonizer at the moment, but I had a Digitech ISP33B in the 90's (I'd like a Pitchfactor now)
    I'm wondering if any of the harmonisers send the harmony only from the other stereo out, or can be set for wet only out (in a parallel rig)
    Then you could run the direct and harmony through separate dirt to avoid the intermodulation
    It could be the beginning of the stereo chain or summed back to mono
     
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  19. Help!I'maRock!

    Help!I'maRock! Member

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    I run mine first in my chain. IMO, it tracks best there.
     
  20. zekmoe

    zekmoe Member

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    I've always like it better post pedal distortions but the last one I had will probably be my last (pitchfactor). They all sound like chipmunk fakeness. None give me the right sound of two guitars.
     

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