New way to evaluate pedals, new breed of pedals

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by StompBoxBlues, Dec 23, 2005.


  1. StompBoxBlues

    StompBoxBlues Member

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    Lately, I have been noticing a recurrance of a point that I think is an excellent trend in guitarists way of thinking.

    I think of them as a new breed of pedals, recent threads on specifically MI Audio pedals, Zen pedals, and Xotic...

    The recurring comment is "you might not get blown away just playing with it at home, but with your band or along with a CD...you cut through and it is responsive and transparent" (I know some are tired of that last phrase, but...)

    I think this is a good trend, and smart. Most of us know about the ME pedal syndrome. You try a multi-effect, some even with dynamite factory presets, and are blown away by the sound. You play and play with them, getting godlike sounds. You take it to band practice or a gig, and....what the??? Where is my wonderful tones? My lush delay, my prefect OD?

    Buried in the mix.

    I've worked a lot with this. Won't relate the whole story, but once heard a thing I had done, perfect guitar sound for the song...I had adjusted and EQ'ed it only playing along with the mix...months later I solo'ed it and it sounded TERRIBLE. Brought up the mix and it dovetailed in and sounded fantastic.

    Now, this wouldn't do live. I mean, there are times when you do an intro, or where there's only guitar, light bass, light drums, and this sound alone was so terrible people in the audience would be making faces. It ONLY sounded good middle of the mix.

    But some medium point is needed. My Visual Sound (silver) J & H amazes me, but I have a Zendrive and MI Blues Pro on order and expect good things because of those comments here.


    But just a suggestion, I intend to do, next time you do play in a band setting and you hear that that is where say...the Zendrive or BP shine, stick around after practice when the band has gone home, don't touch the settings, and try playing a little then. I'm going to make an effort to do that to try and get my ears and mind trained as to what it is that makes it cut through so well...get used to what it sounds like alone.

    There must be a happy medium point, or with switching some pedals on/off...for example, if I don't use the Zendrive ALL the time, maybe I can hone in on those freq's with my EQ pedal as well, so when I am totally clean I can also cut through but not be ice-picky or shrill.
     
  2. guitarhurricane

    guitarhurricane Member

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    It depends so much on your band and the way they set there levels and eq's too. I used to play with a keyboard player that was always hammering away on the higher register with the right hand and playing in the middle register with the left and man I couldn't seem to cut through anywhere.

    I have also played with keyboard players that would leave you plenty of sonic territory to get great sounds. Overall, I think it is a balance of a lot of different things and all bandmembers working together to achieve the best sound.

    Some pedals work great and can deliver in real situations, some sound just great alone, but can't seem to cut it un-ideal situations.
     
  3. TomK

    TomK Member

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    You are correct. This not only applies to pedals but DM devices like POD, etc. This is also exactly the reason why I don't pay one bit of attention to any of the opinions expressed here or anywhere regarding the "sound" of pedals. In fact, about the only reason I still hang here is for the exchange of technical info (voltage, impedances, and other techie things) which honestly is VERY thin anymore.
     
  4. co-intelpro

    co-intelpro Member

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    This is sooo true, with pedals and amps. I own a number of amps, and not only does the EQ'ing matter, but the placement of speakers in your space. There has got to be some sort of recommended floor plan for jam space or stage space. I am sure there are EQ'ing techniques. Anyone have any?

    The problems I have had are that I can't hear my guitar over the bass and keyboards. I think it is because the keys are too loud and the bass is competeing with my frequencies.

    Pedal wise, all my boss OD/distortion pedals sound good in the bedroom, but sound like crap at loud volumes. The Shredmaster sounds good all the time.

    I find it frustrating, but also a challenge. I have found that keeping the guitar amp above floor level lets it cut through moreso, no matter what the pedal.
     
  5. Don Rusk

    Don Rusk Gold Supporting Member

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    Playing Solo and Ensemble are two different things obviously...

    Solo you have the entire freq range to yourself, and you even have to fill up some range that is detrimental to a group sound, like bass....

    If you are playing with a bassist then stay out of his range and ask the same of him/her.....

    also playing live and studio work are two other things - the competition and end results are very different...

    different is not good or bad ~~~~ just diffferent.:AOK
     
  6. cvansickle

    cvansickle Member

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    One thing I have noticed with the newer, boutique pedals is that they have a more subtle quality to them. When I used to use Danelectro, Ibanez pedals and the like, there was always a definite difference witht he pedal on immediatley. Even with the levels down, these pedals just took over.

    The handmade stuff is much more refined. When I try something by HomeBrew Electronics, for example, I may not notice a drastic difference in the sound with the pedal on, but turn it off and THEN you miss it!

    The thing is, players reach a point where they like their own sound just fine. All they need is something that gives them a touch more "oomph" and not something that completely changes their sound.
     
  7. Moe45673

    Moe45673 Member

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    After I got my eq pedal, I wanted to learn the best possible way to set it up and then experiment from there.

    I typed "EQ Primer" into google and came up with a multitude of great resources. I went through them all and found them utterly fascinating. Needless to say, since then I have never had to turn up my amp ever again at practise after setting initial volume levels. I sound good solo as well.

    For the record, I play in a band with drums, bass, keyboardist, sax, and me on guitars, so it's a lot of instruments to compete with. We don't compete, though, just complement each other. I love my EQ-20 :)
     
  8. rewog

    rewog Member

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    StompBoxBlues - you raise a very good point.
    Even more importantly - keep in mind that in all honesty, there are more people playing at home than in bands. There are some who will act condescendingly towards players who aren't in a band, but keep in mind that many of these people have played in bands when they were younger, and choose not to now. There are also players who have never played in a band, but are better than many of those who are in a band.
    No need to look down on these people at all - they have simply made a different choice about when and where they want to play.
    Knowing what works in a band situation, and what will shine on it's own or in the recording studio is what matters.
     
  9. tocs100

    tocs100 Member

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    This is really apparent with guitar echo: by yourself, full-range echo sounds beefy and ominous; with even one other instrument/track though, things step all over each other.That's why I get concerned about my fellow forumites when I see them pay $400-$600+ for an echo, when any $100 echo, plus a good eq for echo-bass-cut would do SO much more for their sound. To get more techie, as TomK requested above, an eq is just the starting point for tone, as all eqs cause problems thru phase shift. What's really needed is a crossover/eq tuned for guitar, and nothing like that exists right now. (2 pedals come close, but not close enough. :FM ) Stay tuned as I try to address this problem in early 2006. :dude :dude :dude
     
  10. Don Rusk

    Don Rusk Gold Supporting Member

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    Right ~ phase corrected , properly centered and shaped eq bands is why the Sea Blue EQ sounds so good, you can really hear the difference and it becomes more apparant as you add other effects and switch pickups.....
     
  11. blueprint

    blueprint Member

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    StompBoxBlues, I totally agreee with you.
    I'm a player, but I was a sound engineer too and in this situation you have to deal with such problems constantly.
    I would say that some pedals tends to make the sound disapear in a mix or in a band.
    Almost all the modeling tools have the same problem.
    And some amps too:
    The Trace Eliot bass amps are a good example: perfect tone alone, add drums and it's a nightmare. Plug in an SVT: while it could certainly be better alone, it's simply magic with drums.
     
  12. Moe45673

    Moe45673 Member

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    what I would recommend:

    Buy a tonejam sniper eq and put it near the end of your signal. Boost and cut frequencies (not in that order!) that you think will let you shine through and won't compete with other band members.

    When you play solo, shut the thing off. When you play in a band, stomp on that baby to cut through. There ya go, great solo and mix sound!

    This is something I noticed years ago when I was a teenager and knew nothing about eq-ing in a band mix. I'd listen to songs on the radio, and I'll be damned if the guitar didn't sound different in the intro (when it played alone) then when the rest of the band came in.

    A lot of the time, interestingly, a guitarist will play a certain rhythmic pattern for the intro, then when the band comes in, he'll switch it up to something more sparse and simpler. The latter rhythmic pattern sounds like crap alone, but if he used the intro pattern in the mix, he'd be stepping all over everyone else. Same idea.....
     
  13. tfire

    tfire Member

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    I don't remember where I learned this, but there's no doubt that it was a good lesson for me in learning how to manipulate frequency bands to get the right EQ settings to fit in with other instruments:

    "One cut is worth a thousand boosts"

    Hope this helps someone as much as it has me.
     
  14. gitpicker

    gitpicker Member

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    Good thread SBB -

    I spent most of my 30 or so years plahying in 4-piece rock/blues bands (2 gits - bass - drums). The other guitar player always used a ton of effects, so I wouldn't use any (nothing more horrid than two guitars both using heavy chorus and delay!). Funny thing, I always cut right through the mix, while the other guitar players would struggle to be heard. This lead to a few accusations about tampering with the mix, but I was innocent! Point is, I played with a loud, gritty tone, which always cut through. Nowadays, I look for effects pedals that enhance that type tone, not ones that replace it with some full-range junk that no one will hear anyway.

    Here are my "Rules of Tone" for playing live:
    > Never use delay except when soloing or where the song specifically calls for it (ie Pat Green's "Wave on Wave" or "I Ran" by Flock of Seagulls)
    > Use chorus or other modulation sparingly, or when appropriate to the song - avoid using chorus on leads, it will trash all of your subtlety (plus you end up sounding like everyone else, which defeats the purpose of spending the big bucks on choice gear)
    > Keep the frequency range of OD's and Dist's tight - the bass player is probably using a 5 billion watt amp through a mini PA, so he will drown out your low end anyway.
    > Avoid leaving a pedal on all night (except of course if you own a COT 50!) Compressors and EQ's can be great tools, but they tend to force your tone in a single direction. Be creative, give your ears, the ears of your bandmates, and the ears of your audience a little variety.

    > Finally, and most important, change things up on a regular basis - try effects in different combos - or just leave them all off for a set. This will keep your playing fresh and inspired. After all, the greatest guitar tone in the world played with boredom sucks - but a crappy tone played with enthusiasm can Rock!

    Please feel free to disagree with any or all of my "Rules" - all I really know is that they work for me!

    Peace
     
  15. Moe45673

    Moe45673 Member

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    It's funny you say that, gitpicker:

    I leave my comp on all night (a diamond comp). It really cleans up my tone (especially hard strummed rhythm parts) and is a very subtle effect. I leave it at about 9:00, and I love it. It's equal to studio compression, IMO

    I also leave my eq-20 on all night. I generally use it with certain bands cut and boosted. The ones I choose are meant to either help me cut through or stop my tone from clashing with the sound of other players/vocals in the band, and it works beautifully.

    I believe you were referring to both these effects to be used as active effects, not passive, am I right? I use them passively
     
  16. brian marshall

    brian marshall Member

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    stomp box blues::: As a guy who makes pedals, and a guy who knows a few guys who make pedal, i can tell you that most of us (the guys i am friends with anyways) take this in to account... especially with overdrive. I get emails occasionally from people asking for a pedal that will make their amp sound cranked at bedroom volume... I tell them the same thing. All of my dirt boxes are geared towards playing loud, and playing with a band, and that subdecay pedals probably will not be the best choice. Pod's, Vstacks, and attneuators sound great at low volumes, and im happy to recomend that stuff.

    I also have a suspicion that most boss dirt boxes are designed to cut through store noise. I remember about 10 years ago getting a metal zone... it sounded pretty good surrounded by the noise of the store and other kids playing eruption and enter sandman.

    The minute i got it home it sounded horrible... i took it to a few jams, and ended up using it more as an overdrive... gain down, mids up, and lows cut a little.

    Take a tube screamer.... I think they sound pretty lifeless by themselves.... but through a cranked amp they make a pretty solid addition to your tone.... but they arent the tone themselves. I'm not sure if that is what maxon/ibanez had in mind when they designed it, and im not sure that "in store marketing" was as advanced back then as it is now.

    Anyways, my point is that this is something most builders take in to account.... but not all.
     
  17. StompBoxBlues

    StompBoxBlues Member

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    A lot of good points here. I know that a lot of guitarists don't take this into considerations, and it took me years to even consider this as a very important question re: new equipment (especially pedals).

    I know what you mean too. A vibe is a good example. At bedroom levels, I don't think they sound nearly as good as they do at high levels, whether extreme intensity or just mild.

    I haven't had enough butique OD pedals to be a "cork sniffer", but have had a few, along with OD built into my tube amps, and though I can't still name which frequencies (it is more complicated than just "the mids") are helping...I suspect it is many but that it is the recipe of the relations...I mean a pinch of some low, a dash of mids, and a smidgen of highs, but not sure of exactly which ones, that make the best OD. In my case for blues, which would be very different from metal Ods.

    But anyway, I have had a TS, several other OD's, but about a year ago I stumbled on to the Jekyll & Hyde, I have both a red (newer) and a silver (original) and like the silver just a smidgen better. They give on both OD and Dist some fantastic sounds, that cut pretty good through the mix.

    I just received a MI Audio Blues Pro and though my band is taking a xmas break so I haven't been able to play with it in that setting, I think I'm hearing a sound from it that I believe (I'll find out soon) is exactly that mix of freq.s that both sound good by themselves (great actaully) AND I think I'm hearing that it will cut through well. I also have a Zendrive on order and from all comments, I expect it will too.

    That thing I mentioned with the "experiment" after accidentally soloing my guitar track that I had only tweaked "in the mix" when recording was a REAL ear opener for me. I swear to god, it was like a magic trick or something. Bring the rest of the mix down and it was a kind of "thhbbbt", farting sounding guitar....as I raise the mix around it, it sounds better and better until levels are right, and it sounds creamy, rings out like a bell, and just sounds exactly what I wanted. I played with that, taking it up and down, for about a half hour just getting amazed. But, as I pointed out, though perfect in the mix, it wouldn't have done to have it as a live sound, because in intros, and when the rest of the band is low, you'd hear the farting guitar again.

    But so far both the MI Audio, and the J & H sound great both singly AND in the mix. They sound different but similar to each other too.

    And I have a lot of sympathy for you pedal makers...the dedicated ones spend hours on hours fine tuning, trying for "that" sound, knowledgeable, and then when almost perfected (I doubt any good pedal maker would say any pedal is "perfect" cause they keep trying to improve it) start selling...and I am absolutely not knocking "bedroom players" but there is a huge difference playing alone at low levels, than playing in a band with loud levels....and I would guess the majority of a pedal makers customers ARE in fact bedroom players. So they get critical naturally, because they are not hearing the pedal when put through its paces. Be like having a racecar you just drove to the store and back.

    For the record, I've been a bedroom, home recording guy for years...was in bands for many years, but spent a few also just at home doing this..and though I am in a band that practices once a week, we are only doing light gigging, so I am no pro. I'm not looking down on anyone, but it isn't deragatory to state that there is a world of difference playing into a home studio, or in the bedroom, at those levels than playing with a full band, at those levels. Especially tube amps and OD pedals as well as vibes and some others, shine when driving speakers that are really pushing some air.

    It can't be easy. But as I wrote in the subject line, I am seeing more and more folks categorizing pedals as "sound great alone, but you won't believe how it sounds when you play out with it" which I think is a great trend and am thankful that I read those and payed more attention to it.

    I have been fooled also by the ME syndrome.
     
  18. brian marshall

    brian marshall Member

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    i understand where you are coming from... I dont play out anymore and have a tough time making it to jams all that often. I do however have a few people who help me out quite a bit.

    Most pedal builders i know have been in bands, and some still are. most have a small network of people they trust to fine tune circuits.

    At the same time, i also own a small studio and used to record locals for cheap, and still to this day that is my primary background, and how a lot of my tastes and philosophies formed. The main thing i always noticed about guitarists... they always set their stuff up with too much gain, and too much bass... at least for recording. They are also the ones who like to have their gear touched the least.

    One of the first pedals i ever built was an mxr distortion plus clone. it sounded overly bright and nasty to me... i still have it somewhere... after building it, it quickly got burried under a stack of other stompboxes. Then one night i took it to band practice a couple years later. just to show the band some of my handy work (which back then was pretty ugly)

    I was actually really surprised using that pedal at rehearsal at how good it sounded. I also ended up using it on a vocal track on that bands album (not that its relivent)

    I certainly dont consider my self a cork sniffer. I swear by some stuff that many would scoff at like my boss DD3, and i even like the way my boss GX700 sounds through a power amp. Usually when i buy expensive stuff its stuff that is unique and wierd, or is something made by someone i consdider a friend. I could see my self buying something like a infinitphase or seekwah someday, but i could never see my self buying a klon or SHO. It's not so much that i think there are cheper alternatives, but with boosters and overdrives i find its easier to build something for my self that is matched well for the amp im going to use it with. I dont want to take anything away from those pedals, as i have never tried the klon and the only sho i tried was in a shop for about 2 minutes. For that kind of money i could get some really wierd unique stuff that i would love.

    Then again, i am also one of those kind of guys that wont even turn his amp on unless i can turn it up to at least two... otherwise ill play my acoustic.
     
  19. Rid

    Rid Senior Member

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    Most effects needs that "ugly" thing...if it gets too nice smooth, lush, warm blah blah you know it is just going to get buried.
    It needs sizzle, sparks, abit of a bark, and it needs to be good a very very loud volumes as well, a good amp that works well in bands is no bad thing either;)
     

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