24 January 2013

Pedals: Stacking my Wampler pedals - the right order

Introduction

If you have one or two Wampler's you still don't have a real headache... by now. Since they are that good, I bet you will end with several of them so... revisit this entry later, if that's the case.
Anyway, I thing there are some tips here that can be applicable to other makers, anytime that the "soul" of the pedal matches the characteristics I will remark here.

Firstly, Wampler pedals have a modern design so, they were planned to be stackable with other Wampler pedals (at least) and, to be placed in whatever place in your pedal chain but, to be honest, the order how do you stack them makes (often) a big difference in sound.
I would like to share with you my findings, after extensively test every combination.


Ilogical logic?

Overall, the standard way of stacking pedals works fine but, there are some surprises around some Wampler pedals, specially amps-in-a-box and the Leviathan Fuzz.

Traditionally, there are two ways of stacking gain pedals (if none of them has some impedance issues because, in that case, the only rule is to put it were it hurts less): from cleaner to dirtier or, from dirtier to cleaner.
First approach is the one giving the best approach to a natural amp's distortion, while the second is basically stacking gain, like in a complex modern front end of a metalhead amp.
Since Wampler pedals are very tube-like sounding, they benefite best of the clean to dirt way, in my honest opinion.

If we have just one overdrive and one distortion, no issues: overdrive before distortion and, we are done.
If we have two or more overdrives... which one goes first, if we plan to stack them together?.
If we have the Euphoria and the Paisley, my answer is: it depends on how do you have each one set up.

You know each of those two overdrives are versatile a lot and, both can sound from very open to saggy and compressed so, there is no short path. Try E -> P and P -> E. But, in my experience, the one sounding opener, with less compression should go the first. Specially, watch out the grain and fatness of distortion, when stacking both together and, get the solution that you like more.
In some point of time I liked more the Euphoria before the Paisley, because the Euphoria was set to smooth mode (dumbleish) but, with little compression, while the Paisley had a big bump in midrange and overdrive.
After cleaning up the voice of the Paisley and droping the gain, I am finding the Paisley as the first gain pedal that likes to push all the rest of gain pedals, bringing that presence in mids that cuts the mix.

Now, let add to this equation those vintage-amps-in-a-box pedals so successful in sales: Tweed '57 and Plexi Drive, by example. If you follow recommendations by Wampler, those seem to have as their natural place the end of your gain chain, using them as "tone shapers". Is that true?.
Definitivelly NOT.

I think it's better to understand it, if you think on that kind of pedals as the single channel section of a vintage amp (clean to crunch distortion). You can put some overdrive in front, to make them sing and get good harmonics and a nice tube break up but, if you wanted further gain, you should go for a gain channel.
Now, consider your distortion pedals as the gain channel for that amps, cascaded after the "normal" channel.

Since those vintage emulations have some kind of sag and compression, to emulate overdriven tubes and the ramp of a tube rectifier, when you stack before a compressed sound, they tend to sound way more compressed and the sound just "overflows" the capacity of the "vintage circuit"..
Do you have a Sovereign Distortion and a Tweed '57. Do a quick test, set both pedals individually to your taste (maintain unitary volume level for each one!) then, try to stack the Sovereign before the Tweed.
Well... not bad...Wampler pedals allow this but... just swap the order, put that Sovereign after the Tweed...
Aha!. Do you see how much the sound improved?. That sounds now like a powerfull full stack with a very organic and dynamic feel!.

And if you also had an overdrive before that Tweed, you can now run the three together to be in Heaven.
Swap the order of Tweed and Sovereign (maintaining the overdrive before the Sovereign) and, you will see how much you loose.

So, this order works awesomely:

OVERDRIVE --> VINTAGE AMP-IN-A-BOX --> DISTORTION

Even that is not usual, if you have more than one vintage amp-in-a-box, it's possible that you will want to experience how they work together, and stacked with other pedals. So, what's the right order?.
I can talk about two of them, the Plexi Drive and the Tweed '57. Without any doubt: Plexi Drive into Tweed '57, otherwise, the sound becames sort of constipated. If you stack them in that order, you can even use both stacked with other gain pedals and, the sound will be still useful.

Now the line of Modern amp-in-a-box pedals of Wampler, like the Pinnacle, the SLOstortion or the Triple Wreck. What's their position?. Then, between the Vintage amp-in-a-box and the distortion.

OVERDRIVE -> VINTAGE AMP-IN-A-BOX -> MODERN AMP-IN-A-BOX -> DISTORTION

Once again, in the group of modern amp-in-a-box pedals, you can find the order that best works for you but, the overall rule is true, get the less constipated sounding combination.
I can talk for just two of those: the Pinnacle and the SLOstortion. I clearly prefer to stack the Pinnacle into the SLOstortion.

Wampler has the nice Leviathan Fuzz. What do we do with this one?.
Traditionally, fuzzes are run at the very beginning of your pedal board, as the very first pedal or following the Wah (if the wah is fuzz-friendly) and that's how I placed my Leviathan... until today!!!.
The Leviathan fuzz is not a clon of any vintage fuzz. It was made from scratch and, has no impedance issues. It doesn't need to be the first pedal in your chain. In fact, the best place is the end of your gain chain.
If you stacked it as the first gain pedal or before any other gain pedal, it's highly compressed signal and thick sound will ruin all your dynamics and you will get a muddy wall of gain.
At the end of the gain chain, it benefites of the lighter compression of previous pedals, sounding way more focused and organic.
Try one overdrive and/or a vintage-amp-in-a-box and/or the Sovereign stacked before the Leviathan. Masive high gain sound but, very tube-like and organic.

Shorting amp-in-a-box as AIAB, the chain is now:

OVERDRIVE -> VINTAGE AIAB -> MODERN AIAB -> DISTORTION -> FUZZ

We have just one type of gain pedal missing in this list: the compressor. Wampler has the amazing EGO Compressor and, this time, its natural order is the right one, that is, at the beginning of the chain.
Main reason is to maintain quieter the chain if you use compression. Stacking gain pedals raises the floor noise and, one of the pedals that raises more that floor noise is just the compressor.
You know the rule, garbage in gargabe out. Compressors expand the quieter parts to leave them closer to the average loudness level so, if you increase the floor noise at its input, expect a big ball of noise at its output. Each gain pedal increases the floor noise so... better to have the compressor at the beginning, in the quietest place as possible.

So, we have now:

COMPRESSOR -> OVERDRIVE -> VINTAGE AIAB -> MODERN AIAB -> DISTORTION -> FUZZ

And this was the tricky part, because rest of pedals follow the rules. After the fuzz you can stack the Nirvana Chorus, the Delay and then, the Reverb.
Before compressor, a tuner and a Wah, by example.
A volume pedal?. Just before your Delay and Reverb (to don't cut tails of sound).
A clean booster?. At the end, if you wanted it to get +3dB during solos. Or after the Compressor, if you wanted it to be switched on with single coils, to make your settings compatible when swapping the guitar.


Reordering my pedalboard

That happens everytime I am including a new pedal or swapping some. I've removed all non-Wampler pedals, except the Wah. I'm finding that I don't need anymore the Xotic EP Booster or the Lovepedal Pickle Vibe (at least, permanently in my pedal board).
I've currently sent the Euphoria for repairing. Once the Euphoria is back, I will determine if i like it more after or before the Paisley, in the meanwhile, this is the order of my current pedalboard, right now.

  • TC Electronics Polytune
  • Roger Mayer Vision Wah
  • EGO Compressor (in reparation)
  • Paisley Overdrive
  • Euphoria Overdrive (in reparation)
  • Plexi Drive amp-in-a-box
  • Tweed '57 amp-in-a-box
  • Pinnacle (in reparation) amp-in-a-box
  • SLOstortion amp-in-a-box
  • Sovereign Distortion
  • Leviathan Fuzz
  • Nirvana  Chorus
  • Faux Tape Echo Delay

Looking forward

I saw the new pedal that Wampler is going to offer, the Dual Fusion. Oh my God!, that was my dream!.
To have an Euphoria and a Paisley in the same box, with the possibility to stack  A in B or B in A is just awesome. If you still don't have any of those two outstanding overdrives, stop your purchase until the Dual Fusion comes!.
I am thinking on get some of those, because I will save some room and, that possibility of run each alone or stacked in both ways is just awesome. This, together the statement that Brian removed unuseful range of tones from both pedals and took special care into make both totally stackable with only useful tones.

Thinking on the Hot Wired V2 pedal, I think it couldn't be inserted in the best spot in my pedalboard, since it combines an overdrive and a distortion and, I should be able to stack in between those two, those amp-in-a-box pedals (to get the best sound, as experienced).

Let see what cames after that Dual Fusion. I am quite sure something really interesting is in the Kitchen, right now.


Overall tips when stacking pedals

When going to stack several gain pedals, dial each pedal to your taste but, don't overdo the gain, dial just the minimum amount to make the pedal to work by itself alone but, leave some room for the rest of gain pedals.
Tweak your sound with the volume higher than normal then, move down the volume to Unitary volume level in each pedal (so, you wouldn't notice a volume rising or drop when switching on/off the pedal).
Don't be lazy, try A into B and then B into A and get the order that you liked more. They are your pedals, get the best from them and, the best is what will help you to achieve your wanted sounds.

2 comments:

  1. What is in the first dual fusion?
    Jim
    PS- I could not figure out what it was.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dual Fusion is a new pedal (now in Prototype state), presented by Wampler at Namm 2013 that combines two of their overdrives in a single pedal.
      It has two of the three voices of the Euphoria and two of the three voices of the Paisley.
      The pedal was optimized, with guitarist Tom Quayle, to have only usable tones. Both sides are stackable A into B or B into A or, can be run alone.
      It even has separated inputs and otuputs, if you want each side to be part of a different loop of pedals.

      I bet that the Euphoria side will have the smooth (dumbleish) and clean (transparent) voices, while the Paisley side will have the two mids settings less constipated.

      To make it simpler: think on the Euphoria side as if you had a Zendrive (smooth voice) or Timmy (clean) and, in the Paisley as if you had a TS without the things you don't like in a TS.

      Both sound really nice alone but, combined, they are da bomb!

      Delete

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