Overdrive Pedals - the obvious truth

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by Jaketone, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. Junta

    Junta Member

    Jan 28, 2016
    Crank your Mesa Mark V:25 - I mean really crank it - to the point that it can no longer go louder, just more compressed. And start playing with the dirty channels and the EQ. There are an unlimited number of fuzz tones to be discovered there - exploding Mesa fuzz...

    I could have never discovered that without an attenuator.

    Even my Marshall JVM 1 was too loud at 1 watt - I could get the really good tones out of it with an attenuator only.

    Marshall Mini Jubilee - definitely benefits from the use of an attenuator - that's the only way I can get EL34 breakup goodness.

    I think attenuators expand better tone possibilitites more than they suck tone... With the wattage I have experience with at least: from 1 watt to 25 watts.

    100 watt amp attenuated for bedroom levels? - Yeah, probably not!
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017
    meowmers and Jaketone like this.
  2. Hulakatt

    Hulakatt Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2010
    I would say that a KoT is simply sublime into a tweed Deluxe as well :D
    Bluesful likes this.
  3. Bluesful

    Bluesful Member

    Sep 17, 2014
    It actually works into anything I have and that includes Marshall, Vox, Fender and Two Rock.
  4. John Mark Painter

    John Mark Painter Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2016
    I mostly play an 18w that I built from a kit. I set the pre gain to where it breaks up if I hit my hardest. The pedals I KEEP are the ones that interact well with that.
    But often, those volumes are too loud to practice at home without earplugs...and practicing with earplugs by yourself seems silly. I know how to get the tone I really like and then I turn down to play.

    I have a good friend that is a very successful songwriter and has a SCARY guitar and amp collection. Basically one of everything from the 50's-60's. He gets beautiful tones.
    He rarely has the amps above '3'. It's a full balanced tone (old school country-ish). He told me that never understood why Nashville guys get an AC30 and turn it up all the way :)
    Axe-maniac and Jaketone like this.
  5. kidmandude

    kidmandude Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2007
    Deerfield Beach, FL
    Overdrives my favorite pedal!

    My two coins.

    I do play live and at home at lower levels and have been for a long time.

    Why use an OD pedal at home at lower levels just play a small 1 or 5 watt amp and turn it up...

    At home playing at lower volumes will only sound good to you, so who else is listening really. :)
    I personally don't really care about how I sound at lower volumes at home. I'm not really concentrating on tone at low volumes or bedroom levels I would just go to head phones or go thru a small watt amp and just practice.

    Live playing or playing with a band in a room is 100% totally different.

    As mentioned by some people in this thread, its important to figure out what you still want to do with "overdrive".

    Soooo decision, Master Volume Amps or Not? or both? But really big difference in how you would approach overdrives.

    My Marshall JMC900 and Vox AC30 master volume 2x12 combo amps, really need no overdrive pedals ZERO, but if you were to use anything its for a solo boost or for a meatier gain stage. this is at any volume low house level or live...

    All my other amps are non master volume types from 50 watt Marshalls to Vibrolux type Fenders.... They really don't break up that much and if the start to it would be so fringing loud that those days are so over that there is no sound man around that would allow you to play that live. Unless your a headlining with a few thousand people on front of you but even still they will throw a plexi glass around your amp.

    Your amp tubes also play a significant roll on how your amp behaves with headroom. 12xa7, At7, Au7, etc...

    The crux:

    A) When i set my non master volume amps up for live use is to set my volume of amp that is appropriate for the room size regardless of pedals. I usually play my amps at 4 to 5! That's pretty LOUD!

    B) Now I then set my overdrive pedals volume to match that clean sound you just set up for clean tones.

    C) Now another OD pedal would be to use for a solo boost and that would be set up to be alot louder then A/B above..

    If you find you need to use a attenuator you are definitely just making things so much more difficult and your just using an amp that is way to large or loud for you or both, Or just use a variac! LOL!

    Overdrives the obvious truth is 90% we use them to shape our tone for amps we don't set up to break up or don't break up on there own really.

    I have a Marshall 50 watt non=master from 1970 it does not break up, it just gets alot louder as you turn it up. But any overdrive in front of it turns it into a complete beast!!!
  6. Jaketone

    Jaketone Member

    Feb 27, 2016
    Everyone raises great points here.

    I guess my point was more directed to some of the classic OD circuits that require a bit of volume to get the interaction happening.

    I totally accept and agree that there are plenty of amazing tones to be had at low volumes with the right gear.

    As always it's the wonderful learning journey with gear that enables us all to grow as musicians.. The right gear for the right application is the catalyst for great inspiration.
  7. Alchemist XP

    Alchemist XP Member

    Jun 11, 2016
    A lot of it comes down to the simple question of whether you like amp overdrive or not? Personally, I find tube overdrive to sound better and more dynamic than pedal (analog or digital) overdrive ... as such, pedal overdrive into an already overdriven amp just sounds and feels better. Of course, I've found amps that sound great overdriven at loud AND more moderate gain levels. There are so many amps today with great master volumes that thankfully, at least for me, the need for a complex setup with attenuators and such simply isn't necessary.

    Squeaky clean amp pedal platforms at lower volumes, at least to me, nearly always sound kind of restrained or choked because they typically don't have the same volume dynamics of a really cooking amp.
  8. Fu Schnickens

    Fu Schnickens Member

    Jan 19, 2013
    Los Angeles
    For me, bedroom volume means whatever volume. I can't evaluate a pedal at home. I reserve judgement until I'm able to test it out at rehearsal, which is held at stage volume, amp cookin'. I've been surprised by some pedals that sounded meh at home volume.

    Home volume is lesson/learning volume, where tone doesn't really matter. It's just practice. The rehearsal studio is where the judgement happens. In other words, you gotta turn it up.
    The Lo Lands likes this.
  9. The Lo Lands

    The Lo Lands Member

    May 29, 2015
    The Low Lands
    I've got two options for playing at home. I can use my Mesa LSC at the 10 watt setting and using my 1x12 ported cab, but for the best experience i setup my amp at the 100 watt setting with live volume settings and use the Suhr Reactive Load going straight into my UA tube preamp and RME AD/DA convertor to play with IR software and my Mac Pro over my Adam studio monitors. This is imo the best option to play at any volume without losing to much of the feel and tone and a great way to setup my OD pedals and even my live settings. I'm a recording guitar player so i've really invested over the years in pro audio equipment for recording and playing at home. I've walked the road with attenuators and re-ampers but it was never satisfying enough and certainly not good enough to make decent judgements about new OD (or other) pedals at low volume levels. Also every OD pedal or amp has a sweet spot.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2017
  10. FlyingVBlues

    FlyingVBlues Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2002
    Virginia & Cortona Italia
  11. Cgkindler

    Cgkindler Member

    Apr 17, 2013
    Now Wetumpka AL
    MY PTD RotoPlex is so, great, at any volume...

    The louder the amp, the better it can get, for sure! BUT - at lower volumes, simply roll the volume or tone knob back a bit on the guitar, and BAM - instant awesomeness!!

    I would encourage folks to also try this approach with their pedals and amp situations, be it at home or otherwise, to allow your ears and fingers to work together with the knobs on your guitar to get certain flavors or moods, with your drive pedals...if you start down that road, I promise that things become even more rewarding than they are now! :)

    Happy Rockin' y'all!
  12. LeicaBossNJ

    LeicaBossNJ Silver Supporting Member

    Dec 1, 2015
    New Jersey
    I recently discovered the joy of a post- phase inverter master volume. Specifically a cross-line type.

    Compared to an attenuator, I feel that far more of the character of your sound is preserved at lower volumes. It also convinced me that actual power tube distortion isn't really as great as the hype suggests.

    Depending on your amp, this really cheap mod can be a game changer.

    Why is this relevant? I found that the more you like your amp, the less important pedals become. A simple boost pedal is currently my best OD. A mid boost on the amp is now my Tube Screamer. I'm valuing pedals more on their ability to get out of the way. Feels good.
  13. DaveKS

    DaveKS Member

    Feb 26, 2013
    Yes, there is big difference when you crank amps pre and power tubes so their breathing heavy and adding a bit of their tube compression vs rolling down amp vol to where it's just a clean amplification stage that happens to have a more narrow range guitar speaker hooked to it. Even the speaker behaves differently.

    Sounds and behaves completely different, even takes resetting your pedals EQ/levels to dial it in to where it sounds just right.
  14. PB+J

    PB+J Silver Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2007
    arlington, va
    You're in your bedroom. You aren't on a stage. You've got neighbors. They don't really wanna hear your stuff.

    Why try to pretend?

    My own solution to this is to play at stage volume when I'm on stage and play at bedroom volume when I'm in a bedroom. There's good music to be made in both settings. But not the same music.

    practice the things that make music good--timing, feel, expressiveness, articulation, emotion, and you can be 100% sure that when you get on the stage they will transfer 100%.

    If you want to sound like Angus Young in front of a marshall stack while sitting in your bedroom, you can get incredibly close with modeling software. But not exactly the same. Because you aren't on a stage in front of a marshall stack.
  15. BluesCaster

    BluesCaster Member

    Jun 14, 2006
    Tampa, FL
    Yes indeed, I was having a hard time dialing in my SD9, when I read something that said try it into an amp that's on its sweet spot. So I pulled it out of storage and tried it with my bravo at with drummer volume and wow! Did a lil rearranging and found that running the sd9 into the Direct Drive gets me a similar sound at low volumes.
  16. LeicaBossNJ

    LeicaBossNJ Silver Supporting Member

    Dec 1, 2015
    New Jersey
    You are correct!
  17. dpgreek

    dpgreek Supporting Member

    Jan 31, 2013
    I had this experience last week. I had a great MIAB pedal going into my amp set crystal clean. My amp on 3-4 is very loud! I turned it to 2 and the pedal was sounding more gritty and bright. Part of the prob is my amp has a built in bright cap on clean. I turned it to 4 and backed up 20 feet and the pedal sounded amazing through the amp. The brightness faded away by mixed ng better with the eq of pedal and the compression was a little more so it got the crunchier feel that sounded great.
  18. leftygeetar

    leftygeetar Member

    Apr 20, 2017
    An inconvenient truth --sounds better through a bass amp.
    Jaketone, JB_SC and Dr Bonkers like this.
  19. doghouseman

    doghouseman Member

    Nov 23, 2011
    I wish pedal manufacturers would recommend an amp to play their pedals with. I know they would never do this because this would limit their sales. But I am sure that pedals are tested in a certain way, or through certain amps, with certain settings and they tend to sound best with those variables.

    I have a ZVEX Distortron that I thought sounded like crap for some reason, but that was before I tested it into the right amp with the right settings. SO the right amp with the right settings it sounds great. It is just finding those optimum settings.
  20. ballynally

    ballynally Member

    Mar 10, 2011
    With a cathode biased and /or master volume amp you don't really need an overdrive.fixed bias non mv do need that sometimes even when you crank them up to edge of breakup.to level the signal some use an od or distortion pedal but one might instead opt for either a compressor or a boost pedal to get grit but not total dirt.
    The aim in most cases is to level the signal.with bf fender amps this is almost a pre condition.It helps to have enough controls on the pedal to dial in the exact parameters.i use a Lexi that has a great blend option for my black and brownface fixed bias fenders.at home nothing matters imo..
    With any valve amp there is a sweet spot.that's your reference/departure point, then add pedals for your needs.the disadvantage is that you need the right amp for the gig if it's a non mv one.
    I used to have something against mv amps but i've changed my mind.as i said, i only use od w my old non mv fenders..
    Nothing beats a cathode biased cranked sound imo.no pedal anyway.it's the dynamics that most pedals can't do.but then again a lot of soloists don't want that anyway.they need a steady stream for the arpeggios..
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2017

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