Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is & Amp Overdrive Vs. Pedal Overdrive
Which is difficult, because if you’ve been on this page for a piece, it’s obvious that I have a big mouth. Lots of opinions that I prefer to call facts, simply because they came from my own head. In which case they must be true. And then that is followed by lots of gradual back-pedaling on those opinions in subsequent posts when I realize I’m wrong; and the gradual part is so that hopefully no one notices. Like, in five years, I’ll have finally gotten to the point where I can say, ‘What? I never said tubes were better than solid state!’ Which will never happen, because comparing tubes to solid state is like comparing U2 to Black-Eyed Peas. One gives you feelings of joyous tears and heartfelt, passionate longing and schoolgirl crushes (maybe that’s just me) all rolled up in a down comforter of rejoicing. And the other makes you want to put a plastic bag over your head. And if you’re not catching the reference here, this is what I’m saying: Tube tone and U2 are nature’s inherent way of rejoicing, and solid state tone and Black-Eyed Peas are nature’s inherent way of thinning the herd. And yes, before you say anything, I know that Black-Eyed Peas are opening for U2 on the west coast leg of U2′s current tour. Which means in order for me to get close enough to the stage to touch Edge (which is non-negotiable by the way…I must touch Edge), my wife and I have to stand there through the whole Black-Eyed Peas set. So, east coast, you guys get Muse with U2. Midwest, you guys score Snow patrol with U2. And me? (Which is all that matters over here on the west coast, obviously) I get ‘My Lovely Lady Lumps.’ Which is only cool if either Will Ferrell or Alanis Morissette sings it, and I have yet to see their names on the bill. So, I guess I’m just going to have to rely on my irrationally encompassing love for U2 to get me through the opening band. Which means I should be okay.
So, sorry for the incredibly long introduction–had to make sure I put some strong opinions in there to solidify my point here. hehe Because honestly, if you play solid state, no worries. There are some good tones to be had in some of those amps. But, uh…get some tubes. Anyway, the opinions that matter to this point are these: I have railed for so long on the fact that if it meant getting a better guitar or a better amp, pedals should be of absolutely no consequence. Sell ‘em all to be able to pay for a better guitar or amp. And then I actually found a better amp. And realized how much I love my pedals. Like, as I’m removing my Tim pedal from my board, I’m noticing how comforting that scrolling paint has been over the bowling ball finish, staring up at me from my board for so long, as if to say, ‘If you need some good, saturated yet transparent overdrive tones, I’m here. I’m here.’ Sick, huh. I know. But yikes, it was hard to sell all those pedals. Suddenly, my board went from this:
The idea was an experiment. The Divided by 13 has 4 inputs: 2 channels, and then a high gain and low gain input for each. And since, in theory, amp overdrive will always sound better than pedal overdrive, I decided to get all my drive tones from the amp, and sell all my drive pedals. This way, I can pay for the D13 by selling the Holland Brentwood I used for pads, and all my drive pedals; and actually get better overdrive tones anyway. And then use the Holland AC30 for the pads. Because the original plan was to sell all the ‘effects’ pedals to help pay for the new amp and then get an M13…but that proved to be impossible for my brain to accept. So goodbye Tim, Mosferatu, Fatboost, Foxey Fuzz, and Varidrive. As well as the RV3 and POG and all the superfluous effects. (No delays are being sold…delay is not superfluous. )
So, after playing out with no drive pedals a couple times, these are my findings.
How it was hooked up:
I ran an AB switch at the end of my pedalboard, and ran one side to the low gain input of channel 1, and one side to the low gain input of channel 2. This would serve as clean tone, and drive stage 2, as the second channel of the D13 amps is very, very gainy. Then I ran two other cables, one from each channel’s high gain input, to two separate on/off switches. These served as drive stages 1 and 3. So, I had the low gain input on channel 1 as clean tone, the high gain input on channel 1 as drive stage 1, the low gain input on channel 2 as drive stage 2, and the high gain input on channel 2 as drive stage 3. And then I kept the Mosferatu overdrive and the Hartman fuzz on the board to compare.
1. Amp overdrive sounds really, really good. It’s the real thing.
2. However, when your amp is set to be just on the verge of breakup, and you use transparent pedals to push it into its own overdrive, the sound is pretty close to the channel switching on the amp itself. The Mosferatu and the fuzz both still sounded very good. Maybe just slightly less saturated. Because channel switching is more the tubes in the amp getting pushed harder with the amp’s circuitry, and pedals are moreso (when done properly) pushing the tubes by hitting them harder on the input. Now, my switching between the low gain and high gain inputs on the same channels, is pretty much for all practical purposes the same as a pedal…just a little cleaner and more natural, as there’s less circuitry.
3. Effects like the drive behind them, not in front of them. I forgot about this part. On the highest gain on the amp (drive stage 3), the amp just sounded spectacular. However, the effects were now too dirty. The Timelines surprisingly held their own and gave off a unique sound that was still pretty cool. But the Memory Lane sounded terrible, as did most of the other effects. And the Timelines of course sounded way better when the gain was from the pedals before them in the chain. In that way, the pedals are able to control the signal more, making for a cleaner and more pronounced effect sound. When running them into gain (like on the amp), the pedals now have no control on the signal. So your dry guitar signal into the amp just sounds amazing! So saturated. But then the effected signal hits that same saturated, gainy amp…and the effect sounds terrible. This is where effects loops come in. However, the D13 does not have one, and I tend to not like what those do to the sound of the amp; so I’m probably not going to get one put in. All in all, I really didn’t think about the effects part.
4. I didn’t have as much control as I would have liked, especially over the input switching. It is what it is, and you can’t turn up or down the gain. The D13 does a great job of having both inputs sound close together, but I guess I’m just used to how much control you have with all the pedal knobs. This was the least of my worries, though, and something I could have gotten used to.
5. And lastly, the thing I really didn’t think about. Smoothness. I play a lot of textures, and smooth switching is crucial. For instance, I’ll let a high, overdriven, bent note trail off with delay, while I switch off drive and start playing a clean rhythmic passage underneath the decay. Which works great when the delay is delaying the drive pedal before it in the chain. However, when it’s all amp drive, and you turn off the gain, it takes your entire level down right away; the delay cannot keep the driven note hanging on, because the driven note is not running through the delay to be hanging on. And this was especially bad when looping. Now the amp’s overdrive is bringing my looped phrase up and down, rather than having the overdrive recorded with it.
6. This is totally off the subject, but those Boss FS5L on/off switches are annoying! They don’t disengage until your foot comes off the pedal…so that’s awkward. I only got them because Loop-Master’s won’t come in for another couple months because he’s so backed up. So that’s going to take some getting used to for a while.
So overall, I would have to say that the slight edge in sound that the amp overdrive had over the pedal overdrive, was negated by what it took away from me in the sound of my effects and in smoothness when playing multiple passages. So I guess it’s back to overdrive pedals! hehe But I think I’ll keep the amp switching capabilities, for when a song calls for just that huge amp overdrive and no effects. And it’s nice in the studio as well. I suppose I could run wet/dry rig, but I’d definitely want to get another RSA23 for that, and that is completely out of the financial question right now. So it looks like I’ll be selling the Holland AC30, too, and getting a cheaper amp for loops…or selling the Melancon strat…to be able to buy back the overdrives I just sold. So hello again, Tim, Mosferatu, Fatboost, Foxey Fuzz, and Varidrive. lol Ah, guitarists.
Someone did mention to me the other day that maybe I should’ve just saved up for the new amp, and then I wouldn’t have had to sell everything and then buy it back. I did not understand the question.
- For Worship
- Live Ambient Looping, Studio Recording Tips, & Tone Walkthrough (Wexford Carol)
- Christmas Album, Charity, & a New Addition
- Baring My Soul in Music
- Twelve Things I Believe about Worship Music
- The Future of Christian Music is That Band I Listened to in Junior High While Playing Wolfenstein
- Worship Leading Choose Your Own Ending (Part 8)
- When God Says…Something Else
- A Guitarist’s Answers to Life’s Questions