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Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby garrettendi » Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:11 am

I have a steadily growing collection of software amplifiers, along with my Peavey Envoy 110 as a "real" amp, all of which sound absolutely amazing for everything I play from blues to punk! I also dabble in the occasional (awful) "shredding".

I've always been a firm believer that the best overdrive/distortion you can get would be from the amp itself, but in a lot of examples I see on the Internet, people are placing Tubescreamers, RATs, and even full-on distortion pedals in front of their already heavy amps (this I've seen in all-software examples as well as real examples).

How would you guys recommend with regards to this? I know sound is a fully subjective thing, and I've always firmly believed that the best gain comes from the amp (especially valve amps). Am I missing something here? Is a Tubescreamer driving the amp a little harder to get more saturation or something (for example)?

Opinions are welcome! I have an OCD clone, Fuzz Face clone, and a Metal End King (basically an amp sim in pedal form), along with software versions of the TS808 and RAT.

I'm not after rules to follow as it's all subjective. But please give opinions!
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby The Korff » Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:17 am

Image
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby Wonks » Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:21 am

The Korff wrote:Image
See, that's just wrong. That Mini Polytune pedal is (IMO) a terrible pedal. The tuning indications in individual and poly mode are different and mine kept slipping into poly mode when I was tuning a single string. Try a Korg Pitchblack Mini instead.
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby garrettendi » Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:22 am

Get rid of the tuner and replace it with another Metal Zone, I say
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby Wonks » Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:25 am

Whatever gets you the sound you want. And if you've got a single channel amp, then you'll need pedals to allow you to change from clean to drive or boosted sounds.
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby garrettendi » Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:27 am

Wonks wrote:Whatever gets you the sound you want. And if you've got a single channel amp, then you'll need pedals to allow you to change from clean to drive or boosted sounds.

That's the thing... I'm not sure what the sound I want is. I'll be experimenting as much as I can, but I've simply never seen the point in say putting a TS808 into a heavy gain amp. I'm wondering if there is something extra I'm missing?
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby Wonks » Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:40 am

Well, you get yet more gain and a thicker sound. But if it's a really high-gain amp being driven hard to start with, then it is a bit pointless. Though it can be used to reduce the volume for rhythm work without the sound getting too clean, leaving the channels full volume and gain for lead work when the pedal is off. I used my TS-808 like that when I first got it back in 81.

But a TS-808 is normally considered at its best boosting the signal and the mids into an overdriven Fender blackface-style amp, which is normally considered mid-light - certainly compared to a typical Marshall.

And cascading gain pedals can often get a better result than just using one with the gain turned all the way up on its own, as the input of the second (or third etc.) gets hit with a hotter signal, resulting in a different sound.
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby garrettendi » Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:43 am

A lot of that makes sense.

I was trying to get a Peavey 5150 sound out of my transistor Peavey Envoy but while the gain is there it was missing some of the saturation. Someone suggested placing an overdrive before it to push it harder. What are your thoughts on that? I assume it'd give me more gain but not necessarily a valve-y tone.

EDIT: I know I need to actually experiment for myself. I'm just one of those guys that likes to learn the theory before trying things out for real
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby Wonks » Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:50 am

How it sounds is going to be down to each circuit design, be it the amp or the pedal. A transistor amp isn't going to respond the same way as a valve amp will to being driven harder, though if you keep the pedal volume level down, but up its gain, then you will hear the solo voice of the pedal more, rather than the sound of the two interacting. So you've got two basic ways to use a pedal, plus all the in-between options juggling the pedal's gain and volume settings.
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby garrettendi » Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:51 am

Great explanation, thanks Wonks :thumbup:
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby The Elf » Wed Jun 06, 2018 10:32 am

I never met an amp of any persuasion that couldn't be improved by adding an MXR Distortion+ in front of it - not even needing to add much of the distortion control, but enough to drive the input.

Just because you have something that sounds good as it is, it doesn't stop us from trying to improve it - and then you end up with a pedalboard like the one above.... or a Line 6 Helix! ;) :D
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby garrettendi » Wed Jun 06, 2018 10:34 am

I already have far too many pedals... But I'm always wanting one more ;)
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby ManFromGlass » Wed Jun 06, 2018 11:44 am

I don't have an amp.
I have pedal disease!
I'm very discriminating but I still have pedal disease and I love it.

I'm about to order this cellphone case but if somebody has found one better please let me know.

https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/6076638 ... _active_12


:thumbup:
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby CS70 » Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:18 pm

garrettendi wrote:
Wonks wrote:Whatever gets you the sound you want. And if you've got a single channel amp, then you'll need pedals to allow you to change from clean to drive or boosted sounds.

That's the thing... I'm not sure what the sound I want is. I'll be experimenting as much as I can, but I've simply never seen the point in say putting a TS808 into a heavy gain amp. I'm wondering if there is something extra I'm missing?

A lot depends on your setup.

The common wisdom is that you use an overdrive to drive a clean-ish amp, and a distortion to boost an already cranked one. It follows that you can use a distortion followed by an overdrive into the clean amp. That's my most used setup - I need a super clean amp for certain songs and get a liquid tone for next song in the set (or even the solo bit) so it's both a necessity and a preference. I need the distortion for the guitar to come alive and respond, so I can use bits and pieces of feedback and change the sound just moving my hand around the pickup cover - theremin-like. It allows you to create a monstrous amount of detailed change simply controlling your attack, force of picking, position of the hand and how you fret the strings with your left hand.

However if you play a (real or emulated) amp where you can really crank the power tubes, you have a quite different setup. The amp will bark no matter what, and then you may either not need any pedal at all (you just use the volume knob to clean up things) and it will make no sense to further overdrive things, but a distortion can add a flavor, depending on the amplifier and the playing style.
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby DC-Choppah » Wed Jun 06, 2018 10:22 pm

For me, it's the way the pedal effects how you play that is the key, not just the sound.

If you have never tried one of these you should: http://www.barberelectronics.com/gainchanger.html

When you put this in front of any amp it makes the guitar seem responsive, active, dynamic, crunchy, sweet, to play, and it doesn't add any noise.

You can get great sounds and feel from this for low-distortion, bit of crunch kind of setting that an amp just can't do by itself unless it is cranked way up.
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby Funkyflash5 » Thu Jun 07, 2018 1:05 am

And then there's the use of a clean boost to push any or all of the aforementioned gain devices further. And the flip side of using the volume on the guitar to change how the various stages break up. And the use of eq or tone either before or after gain to change the response and how it sits in the mix. The possibilities are endless, and only you can decide which is the "right" choice for what you're playing.
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby blinddrew » Thu Jun 07, 2018 12:06 pm

Funkyflash5 wrote:The possibilities are endless, and only you can decide which is the "right" choice for what you're playing.
But there's an internet full of people who will be happy to tell you that what you're doing is wrong! :mrgreen:
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby Wonks » Thu Jun 07, 2018 12:12 pm

blinddrew wrote:
Funkyflash5 wrote:The possibilities are endless, and only you can decide which is the "right" choice for what you're playing.
But there's an internet full of people who will be happy to tell you that what you're doing is wrong! :mrgreen:

You're wrong! ;)
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby adrian_k » Thu Jun 07, 2018 5:30 pm

I’m wrong, and so’s my wife.

Just to keep it slightly on topic, I’m a Boss eq for shaped boost into a Marshall overdrive thing into the amp man meself. Combinations of that plus guitar volume knob seems to allow me to fool most of the people...
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Re: Recommended use of overdrive/distortion pedals

Postby ef37a » Tue Jun 12, 2018 5:34 pm

There is very little science in this and as almost everyone said, very subjective but there is a situation with a valve front end that is a bit special and not always understood.

The hottest humbucker will rarely put out more than 4 volts peak to peak even under severe thrashing.
By far THE most common input valve, the ECC83 (if biased correctly, usually are) will barely get into distortion for such a voltage. Such a stage will however amplify by up to 60X 35dB, so inputs well below 4V pk-pk, as they normally are, will get that second stage distorting.

Even if you just used a "boost" pedal which did not distort, with a 9V supply you could be getting 7-8V pk-pk quite easily from even a wimpy Strat and just start the first valve into distortion. Cascading distorted sound into another stage which then distorts produces different effects especially since the two distorted waveforms are inverted as they go from one stage to the other (this is important)

Of course, most "drive" pedals produce distortion of their own and whether you like it or not or if it suits the " genre" is in the lap of the gods!

"Distortion pedals into big amps". Discussion about this entitled "do we still need big amplifiers?" over at thefretboard.com LOT of very opinionated and passionate people there going on ENDLESSLY about amps, pedals, speakers!!!!

If you want more technical (but simple maths) information about valves and distortion I commend you to "Tube pre amplifiers for guitar and bass" by Merlin Blencowe. Beware other books about guitar amps. Many are partisan and full of subjective and technical bllx!

Dave.
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