Why Can't I Fall In Love with a Dirt Pedal?

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by Steve Dallas, Oct 23, 2008.

  1. Steve Dallas

    Steve Dallas Supporting Member

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    I have them all. I can't talk myself into liking any of them no matter how much I want to.

    So I'm getting ready to join a band for the 1st time in 12 years. It's just a cover band--nothing to get excited about. I've been working on (re)learning the songs, and have all my OD pedals spread out on the floor trying each one out to find a formula for the set list.

    The idea was to use a cleanish 50W amp with a variety of dirt boxes for several different OD tones. That would give me plenty of headroom and a lot of tonal options in theory.

    Back in the day, when I was gigging in Austin, I used the original Line 6 amp when I played covers to cop all the different tones. It didn't sound great, but it was passable and the crowd didn't care.

    This time, I decided to take a different approach. I'm not liking the results so far.

    I have a Tube Driver built custom for me by BK Butler, a Timmy, an Eternity, an OCD rev3, a SansAmp GT2, and a Keeley TS9 all staring at me from the floor right now. And I can't get into any of them. All but the Tube Driver sound plastic to me, and the Tube Driver sounds too heavy in a fake Metal Zone sort of way.

    Am I missing something here? Or have I just been building and playing booteek amps so long I've gotten used to amp overdrive and outgrown the dirt box thing?

    Maybe I need to build myself a 4 channel switcher?!
     
  2. JimmyR

    JimmyR Member

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    I know exactly what you mean. I have grown to like how some pedals sound because I like to use delay after them. Delay into a dirty amp I don't like! The most amp-like "pedal" I have is a Bad Cat Two-tone. It really does sound a lot like an amp channel - probably because it pretty much is! The trick to not making it sound fake and overly metal is to keep all the knobs down to 9.00 to start with. Once you crank bass and treble together you lose the mids and you sound like metal.

    ODs like TS types and pretty much anything with a single tone knob sound fake to me. Good as a booster for solos, but not good as a base tone. Pedals that DO work for me - other than the Two-tone - would be the BB, the Zoom Power Drive (yes really!) and the BYOC Shredder, once you change the buffer treble cap. In a band situation they work really well, but on your own it's pretty much the Two-tone for me.

    Obviously it depends a lot on your guitar and amp also. Do you need a clean amp sound? Can you get away with slightly dirty? Then your pedals will sound a lot better.
     
  3. Prodigy

    Prodigy Senior Member

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    Not trying to be critical here, but maybe you need to brush up on your technique and touch. I know when I haven't played or practiced for awhile, no amount of boutique gear is going to make me sound good...
     
  4. ♪♪♫♫♪

    ♪♪♫♫♪ Senior Member

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    just a thought, but for me dirt pedals never sound good with the gain cranked. much better to stack a few with the gain down.
     
  5. sleejay80

    sleejay80 Member

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    If you don' like how your amp sounds - or it could even be the guitar - you'll never like how a pedal sounds.

    Unplug everything, and get your basic "loveable" tone from the amp/guitar, and start over from there.
     
  6. peridot1

    peridot1 Member

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    That's what I do. Use to search for 'the one' but lately stacking with the drive low is much better for me.
     
  7. pen15

    pen15 Member

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  8. Mr. Kite

    Mr. Kite Member

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    The Xotic stuff sounds great, give it a try. I like using proguitarshop.com because if I don't like it I can send it back within 45 days and just pay for shipping. If you can't find a tone you dig out of the RC Booster, AC Booster or the BB Preamp then maybe you're not a pedal guy. Hope you find what you're looking for.
    My .02
     
  9. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    i hate, hate dirt pedals for rhythm crunch tones. they're fine for leads, but i agree, they just sound "fake" on chords.
    headroom, schmeadroom! IMHO pedal crunch can be ok blended with amp crunch, but i guess that would mean either a smaller amp cranked (goodbye headroom), preamp crunch from a bigger master volume amp (then why would you need pedals for rhythm?) or a big amp blasting (nice until the clubowner or your bandmates kill you).

    that's so cool you could create your own dream amp!

    i think if you have a good amp with nice natural preamp distortion (that cleans up when you turn the guitar down) and a switchable master volume, all you need is one crunch pedal and some skill with the guitar volume knob to cover lots of different tones.

    i'm no amp builder, but i rigged up an old 2203 marshall with a footswitchable master volume boost, and with a nice crunch pedal (it doesn't really matter which one, i'm currently using a maxon ROD880 tube pedal) i can get all the different tones i need for my cover band except pure jc-120 clean, which i never use anyway.

    guitar up+amp at normal output=rhythm crunch
    guitar down+amp at boosted output=chime-y clean sounds
    guitar up+amp at boosted output=low gain leads

    guitar up+pedal+boosted output=full-on lead
    guitar down+pedal+normal output="metal-ish" or "fuzzish" rhythms (good for "legs" era zz top)

    who needs 4 channels?
     
  10. Lolaviola

    Lolaviola Supporting Member

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    Take heart. You won't really know till you get in the room with the band and get the air moving around.
     
  11. E Baxter Put

    E Baxter Put Member

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    If you like your amp OD, maybe you should start checking out boosters rather than overdrives. Or maybe even some fuzz that cleans up well... Fuzz Face?
     
  12. Shiny McShine

    Shiny McShine Member

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    The ones that get really raved about around here are:

    Klon
    CJOD
    BJFE (Honey Bee probably for what you're talking about)
    Tim/Timmy
    Zen 2
     
  13. nibus

    nibus Supporting Member

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    :agree


    I had the exact same experience with pedals until I ran into BJFE. You can run a totally clean amp and put a Dyna Red in front and it's like an extension to your amp.

    Is it 100% as good as power amp distortion? No, but it's the closest I've found.

    Multiple gain stages is also a good trick, whether it's more than one OD, or whether you goose an OD with a boost pedal.
     
  14. Sid

    Sid Member

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    you need to try a honey bee
     
  15. Passenger84

    Passenger84 Member

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    My theory on overdrive pedals is that your amp's overdrive is what you're after...the pedals are just added flavor. My suggestion is to set your amp right on the verge of breakup, then eq your Timmy to let your clean tone through, and set the Timmy to 'push' your amp into its own overdrive.

    And if by any chance you don't like your amp's natural overdrive, no pedal is ever going to help.
     
  16. Rumblefish

    Rumblefish Silver Supporting Member

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    Maybe I missed something here but did you mention what amp you're currently using? That has a lot to do with it.I am blessed to have a '68 plexi
    in great shape.Sounds amazing.Every boost or od/distortion I've tried has been one of the great ones,but they just get in the way of my amps amazing tone.I do have an inexpensive clean boost for a little more sustain when I'm not using one of my many fuzzes.Maybe that's what you should try.A good fuzz will just add a bit of hair and sustain to your amp's tone.
     
  17. dotlikeimpact

    dotlikeimpact Supporting Member

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    i've also tried many, many od pedals, both boutique and production and hated them all. then i met the blackstar ht dual. doesn't just sound like an amp, it sounds like a great amp being recorded by an amazing engineer in an incredible studio. really. it's ridiculous. try it into a cleanish, 50 watter. you'll be surprised.
     
  18. wildschwein

    wildschwein Member

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    Here's my take. Dirt boxes just about always sound better pushing the front end of an already cranked amp. Pretty much like an extra gain stage to a breaking up sound. I personally don't think many dirt boxes that I've played through (and there's been quite a few from varying price points) seem to sound very good on top of a clean amp sound. There are exceptions with different pedals and amp set-ups, but in the main this has been my experience.

    With a slightly dirty amp tone the natural compression helps to smooth out and fatten up a dirt box sound - which in most cases are just clipping or overloading solid state circuits - if you amplify that cleanly that's exactly what you'll hear. A nasty transistorized sort of sound.

    Tubescreamers in particular seem to sound really bad unless used to boost a dirty sound for leads or gritty rhythms. Even the Tube Driver is a couple of solid state op-amps driving a tube and they sound best in front of a dirty amp too. It may not be the path you want to take, depending on your amp's features, but it's worth considering. Like others here have said, go for a foundational tone with the amp and the guitar first and then use the pedals to enhance and or modify that sound.
     
  19. Steve Dallas

    Steve Dallas Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the advice guys. When I write songs and just play for myself or record, I have over 20 amps to choose from. I normally go guitar -> cord -> amp and use the guitar's volume control to taste.

    What I'm faced with now is trying to get passable tones for 40 different songs that do everything from crystal clean to bone crushing distortion using only one amp and a handful of pedals (and I don't even like pedals anyway). That was easy when I was playing the Flextone 12 years ago. It sounded like ass, but I wasn't an amp snob back then.

    I agree that some of these OD pedals sound pretty good as a boost in front of an amp that is already slightly overdriven. Actually, any one of them will do in that respect if I'm just trying to get some convincing lead tones. That begs the question, "Why do I have all these expensive OD pedals when a Bad Monkey will suffice?" I digress.

    So I guess what I really need to be doing is figure out how to get 4 or 5 good sounds and just enjoy myself.

    I was planning on using a 50W clean machine I built for myself and use pedals to get the OD. Now I'm thinking of using my Wreck clone instead.

    It's either that or dust off the PODxt and suffer through.
     
  20. Jahn

    Jahn Listens to Johnny Marr, plays like John Denver Supporting Member

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    I'm never happy with OD that is generated solely by a pedal - in fact, right now my pedalboard has none on it. If I need OD, I crank my amp. If I need it quieter, I'll use my attenuator to get there. In your case, on stage it would be using an amp that is just on the edge of some killer OD, then playing clean - and stomping on a clean boost to get to the amp's OD. That's two killer tones right there. For a third tone, use a fuzz, or in my case a Big Muff OD/Fuzz pedal. That's just there for the insanity moments. There really isn't much more you need unless you really need that Brown Sound, in which case I'd say keep a 2nd amp for that stuff - a clean or tweed-type amp with a Rat is not going to get you there live.
     

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