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Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

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Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby Arpangel » Sun Oct 13, 2019 9:08 am

Just wondering what folks experiences here are, I tend to favour plugging my synths direct into my pedals, as it seems they respond better, and you get a richer fuller tone for some reason.
However, I've rewired everything now through my sends and mixer channels, as it gives me more routing options, but for some reason it gives me a thinner sound.
But what I'm finding is that the straight signal from my synth is better preserved this way, through the pedals on bypass the frequency response is always a bit squashed.
Any preferences?
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby Martin Walker » Sun Oct 13, 2019 12:00 pm

Hi Tony,

I'd go along with your findings, suspecting that since many pedals are originally designed for guitar use, the output level from many synths may well overdrive them a little bit, giving them a slightly 'richer' sound with greater harmonic content.

Routing synths via your mixer would I think generally provide a more faithful rendition, but as you've found it might sound a little thinner (faithful) by comparison.

As for the straight signal from your synth also sounding cleaner via the mixer, this makes sense too, although you ought to get an identical result when bypassing the pedal - IF THE PEDAL FEATURES TRUE BYPASS.


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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby ManFromGlass » Sun Oct 13, 2019 12:41 pm

I’ve wondered about True Bypass. Does it mean if you send a signal that is really hot through the pedal with bypass on that the pedal will pass it through unattenuated? Even though with bypass off that same signal would overload the pedal? Or get the sound Mr. Arpangel mentions?
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby Martin Walker » Sun Oct 13, 2019 12:46 pm

ManFromGlass wrote:I’ve wondered about True Bypass. Does it mean if you send a signal that is really hot through the pedal with bypass on that the pedal will pass it through unattenuated?

Yes, true bypass uses a hardware switch so that all of the effect circuitry gets disconnected from the audio path. So, it's possible that the bypassed signal could get significantly louder when it's not being clipped/rounded etc.

ManFromGlass wrote:Even though with bypass off that same signal would overload the pedal? Or get the sound Mr. Arpangel mentions?

Yes again - this is why I mentioned true bypass, as it means that even if you are 'abusing' the input levels of your effect pedal to achieve a certain desired sound, when you switch it out the pedal becomes sonically invisible.


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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Oct 13, 2019 2:34 pm

Martin Walker wrote:... since many pedals are originally designed for guitar use, the output level from many synths may well overdrive them a little bit, giving them a slightly 'richer' sound with greater harmonic content.

Routing synths via your mixer would I think generally provide a more faithful rendition, but as you've found it might sound a little thinner (faithful) by comparison.

It shouldn't be a levels issue. The aux sends from most mixers should be capable of driving even higher levels into the FX pedals than most keyboard outputs, so still capable of pushing or overdriving FX pedals.

In contrast, insert points may be less able, depending on the mixer, as many mixers work with depressed-levels at the insert points -- although most are only 6dB or so below the nominal main output level (ie, -2dBu). And in most cases you can drive the insert point harder by raising the input gain and either pulling the fader down a bit, or turning down the pedal output (if available).
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby Arpangel » Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:23 am

Thanks for all the advice folks, I rewired everything into the mixer aux sends yesterday, and it payed off. I ended up recording a piece that will be going on my next CD, which was a result in these musically depressed times!
The increased routing flexibility I was talking about was great, being able to apply the same effect to more than one source. Got some great overdrive effects from my EHX16, a really sinister shimmer over the top of the delays. Also, I was able to still use the effects in my Behringer mixer while sending out of aux 3, that was a bonus!
Had a dodgy moment with leads though, some pedals don't like TRS jack leads at all, they made my Boss pedals freak out, lots of hum, and lights flashing, so I'm sticking to TS leads only from now on.
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby Wonks » Tue Oct 15, 2019 9:00 am

Most guitar pedals with a battery capability use the input jack to switch the battery on, so always need a TS jack. Not surprised you got some strange results!
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby Arpangel » Tue Oct 15, 2019 9:23 am

Wonks wrote:Most guitar pedals with a battery capability use the input jack to switch the battery on, so always need a TS jack. Not surprised you got some strange results!

Yeah, my EHX pedal was OK, but it was the Boss ones that freaked out.
But as you say, it was the battery switch over that was causing the problem.
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby The Elf » Tue Oct 15, 2019 7:02 pm

Yeah, pedals are an exception to my 'always use a balanced cable' mantra. If you're using pedals a lot I would strongly suggest an ART Cleanbox - it makes life with pedals a great deal easier.
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby Arpangel » Wed Oct 16, 2019 10:11 am

The Elf wrote:Yeah, pedals are an exception to my 'always use a balanced cable' mantra. If you're using pedals a lot I would strongly suggest an ART Cleanbox - it makes life with pedals a great deal easier.

If I had an ART Clean Box for every interface issue I've ever had Id run out of space on my desk! I just keep my aux send levels turned down, it does the job. I've also got an MXR Isobrick to cut down on PSU's, pedals are a nightmare really, they should bring out a sort of modular pedal system, a bit like Eurorack, with one mains power supply and an internal power bus.
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby The Elf » Wed Oct 16, 2019 10:43 am

Arpangel wrote:they should bring out a sort of modular pedal system, a bit like Eurorack, with one mains power supply and an internal power bus.
I gave up most of my pedals now for a couple of integrated pedalboards. I use a couple of Digitech boards (RP500/1000) and Line 6 Helix. It's close enough like having all those old pedals, but without the hassle.
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby Arpangel » Wed Oct 16, 2019 11:38 am

The Elf wrote:
Arpangel wrote:they should bring out a sort of modular pedal system, a bit like Eurorack, with one mains power supply and an internal power bus.
I gave up most of my pedals now for a couple of integrated pedalboards. I use a couple of Digitech boards (RP500/1000) and Line 6 Helix. It's close enough like having all those old pedals, but without the hassle.

Trouble is, it would be difficult, almost impossible to replace the Big Sky, also my DD7, as it's got that really long delay, also my EHX Chorus is another unique thing, if I could replicate that lot in one box I would.
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby blinddrew » Wed Oct 16, 2019 12:50 pm

Arpangel wrote:they should bring out a sort of modular pedal system, a bit like Eurorack, with one mains power supply and an internal power bus.
There was a chap at SynthFest who'd gone the other way. Created a synth in stomp boxes. :)
When I get a decent connection i'll lob a picture up.
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby Arpangel » Wed Oct 16, 2019 4:08 pm

blinddrew wrote:
Arpangel wrote:they should bring out a sort of modular pedal system, a bit like Eurorack, with one mains power supply and an internal power bus.
There was a chap at SynthFest who'd gone the other way. Created a synth in stomp boxes. :)
When I get a decent connection i'll lob a picture up.

Ha Ha! I've always said, everything has its place, and when we start to condense things it all goes a bit wrong. All of our systems and studios are still very different, and there is a tendency to more and more "homogenise" things, until the natural end to that would be just a box with software variations, the computer in fact! :roll:
I like to walk into places where you see all sorts of unlikely things and combinations of things, that's what makes our music ours.
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby Ben Asaro » Wed Oct 16, 2019 7:54 pm

Kinda late to the party, but --

I've definitely noticed a sonic difference between plugging into a pedal directly vs through an aux send, but part of that is the Mixer-In-Question; I have two mixers, and one has a noticeably better aux send/return architecture than the other.

All that being said, these days I use a strymon AA.1 to get the levels sorted and it works great going between synths and pedals and back again.
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby Arpangel » Thu Oct 17, 2019 9:30 am

Ben Asaro wrote:Kinda late to the party, but --

I've definitely noticed a sonic difference between plugging into a pedal directly vs through an aux send, but part of that is the Mixer-In-Question; I have two mixers, and one has a noticeably better aux send/return architecture than the other.

All that being said, these days I use a strymon AA.1 to get the levels sorted and it works great going between synths and pedals and back again.

The AA.1 is great, if you're into Euro!
I must admit, I'm not having any issues now, with my mixer, I'm keeping an eye on levels.
It all sounds very full and more than fine, trouble is I'm running out of aux sends! Or should I say, I've run out!
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby Ben Asaro » Thu Oct 17, 2019 1:03 pm

Can you use direct out and feed the effected signal into another channel?
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby Arpangel » Fri Oct 18, 2019 9:22 am

Ben Asaro wrote:Can you use direct out and feed the effected signal into another channel?

Good idea, I did think of doing that though, but again, it limits the effect to one instrument only on that channel.
I've completely run out of aux sends now though, so if I get any more pedals I'm going to have to make them instrument specific, and use the direct outputs.
I've got a small Mackie mixer, I may have to bring that in as a dedicated effects sub-mixer, which I'm loath to do, more stuff, wiring etc. :(
It would be good to have a dedicated pedal patch bay, but again, more wiring.
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby Ben Asaro » Fri Oct 18, 2019 1:02 pm

Yup. Ultimately it comes down to how intrinsic are the effects to a particular sound and can you track without if need be and reamp with effects later, or add them in the DAW? I prefer to record with all effects in place as well...
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Re: Pedals, straight, or with a mixer?

Postby Arpangel » Sat Oct 19, 2019 8:37 am

Ben Asaro wrote:Yup. Ultimately it comes down to how intrinsic are the effects to a particular sound and can you track without if need be and reamp with effects later, or add them in the DAW? I prefer to record with all effects in place as well...

I like to record with effects too, the pedal is part of the synth. It's a bit like asking a guitarist to track without distortion, and ad it later! It's not going to happen.
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