13 March 2013

Pedals: Testing stackability of most Wampler pedals


Even that I've already wrote one entry in this blog related to how to stack Wampler pedals to achieve the best results, I was pending on create some video that can demo how they sound in that order.
Maybe, it's not the best solution to your needs but, it's the solution that better works for my needs.

It took me a while to create a proper video because I am having serious problems with my Mains Power, which oscillates in so high degree that the sound of both, pedals and amps is suffering serious alterations.

The damn Mains Supply Company

Since I've moved to this house, I've noticed that the "tone" of pedals and amps is unstable.
This makes me to re tweak everything several times during the same session and, I never get the same.
As you can imagine, this drove me crazy.

Since I have a Power Conditioner unit, with a visual voltmeter, I noticed that as soon as there were variations in the input voltage, everything went wrong.
To be sure, I've read the input voltage with a quality multimeter and, I was scared having readings moving from 205 to 235 volts in less than 1 minute.

When my voltage isn't stable and, is far away the nominal 220V, I am getting bad sound. It doesn't matter what I do, the sound sucks.
Since my pedals are fed with a Voodoo Lab Power 2 Plus unit, as soon as the voltage drops, pedals sound bad. Worst than this, pedals start to go really noisy.

I guess, the issue with pedals can be solved (by now) by using just batteries, instead of rely on the mains supply. But, to completely solve the issue, I would need some Power Regulator, which can supply a constant target 220V, independently of the mains input voltage.
Unfortunately, a device like this one, particularly designed for audio (like the Furman P-1400 AR E), costs over 1000 Eur, what is a real issue.

Currently, I look to my voltmeter. If it looks like the voltage is low or it's fluctuating, I gave up playing.

For this video I had a good voltage during the first part of the session, then I had a variable situation but, not so bad as other days.

When the voltage is right, the sound is great. Hear the sound of the Euphoria, when analyzed alone, as well as the sound of the Tweed and Black pedals alone.

My comments about Wampler pedals

Some of Wampler pedals are very plug & play, while others need a carefuller approach.
As a difference to many other pedal makers, controls make a lot of difference and have a big impact in sound. To select the target sound needs to move each control just a hair and, recheck rest of controls.

As a difference to many other pedal makers, controls at noon aren't giving you the "standard" "optimal" sound. You better read the pedal's manual and try the different recommended settings to understand how the pedal works.

Some pedals can disappoint you if you don't carefully test every little combination. Forget the logic about how do you think each control should work, just rotate it left and right and move the rest to see how the sound is affected. All controls have strong relationships and contribute to the final sound in more ways than the knob label says.

Specially difficult to tweak were the Paisley (I only find a sweet spot for this pedal), the Tweed (to get the exact Tweed sound that was in my mind), the Plexi Drive (to get the early Marshall sound that was in my mind) and the Black (to achieve the blackface sound that was in my mind).

Rest of pedals have more useful range or were less limited by my own "sound specifications".

I've recently incorporated to my pedal board the new Decibel+ buffer/booster pedal and, I am really happy, because I was able to remove two pedals from the pedal board: the old Clean Buffer and, the loved Xotics EP Booster.
The sound of the Decibel+ is so good that I don't need the EP Booster anymore. This pedal was surprisingly awesome. I am running it a 18V, as I usually run clean boosters, for better dynamics.

One of the pedals that drives me crazy is the delay. It's very difficult to achieve a good delay setting that works well for clean and distortion modes and, it was a real pain to try to achieve it with such a variable mains voltage. I think, I've finally got what I wanted. This is not an issue of the Tape Echo pedal, but a personal issue; I am very turd to set up delay units.

Let go pedal by pedal.


The Decibel+ is working as a buffer to feed up the whole chain with a good signal level and impedance. The booster knob allows me to put the volume/gain in the amp to the right break-up spot, accordingly to the guitar I am using at each time.

While I've found the Clean Buffer as making the signal thinner and brighter (harsher), the Decibel+ brings back the right amount of high end and a lovely voice in the same ballpark of the Xotic EP Booster.
I honestly, didn't expected to be happy removing the EP Booster from my pedal board.

Now, with the Decibel+, I am really happy and, I don't miss the EP Booster.
Good job, Brian.

Ego Compressor

There are lot of different uses for a compressor and, the Ego compressor can cover anything in spades.
My particular approach is just a very light compression that allows me to discretely tame the attack and that discretely adds some sustain to the sound tails.

My reference to set the compressor is always the sound of the guitar in "Shine on you crazy diamonds" by Pink Floyd, specially, the beginning of the song.

Compressor was a highly used tool by Ritchie Blackmore, to give some body and sustain to his guitars.
Compressors are often used just to give some body to single-coiled guitars, even that I prefer to have full control over my picking attack.

Euphoria Overdrive

This is a real versatile overdrive unit that can give you very different overdrive behaviours.
In my case, I prefer the Smooth mode, that corresponds to a "Dumbleish" sound but, set up very transparent. It's just as open as the Clean mode but with a silkier touch, without going so compressed as the Zendrive sound and, therefore, fully respecting my attack.

If you take your time to make it really transparent, it will push your tubes to that micro-explosions that bring to you sound the nice tube harmonics. I love this pedal just to enhance the natural sound of the guitar and amp.

Paisley Overdrive

This is an overdrive in the ballpark of TubeScreamers. It provides a bump in the mid-bass region that gives a lot of presence to the guitar sound, making it to better cut the mix, specially in solos.

In my honest opinion, this pedal is really hard to tweak, until you get an useful TS tone without the bad things of the TS.
In most of settings, this pedal sounds highly "constipated" to my willings and, my personal sweet spot is very narrow. But, once you achieve your target sound, it's awesome, indeed.

I like it to give some mids to other pedals that lack them, as the Black '65, by example, or to reinforce the mids in other pedals. It likes to push any other gain pedal and, instantaneously modifies that voice, giving you a lot of playing ground.

Plexi Drive

Who didn't dreamed with the sound of the earlier Marshalls?. Those JTM-45, JTM-50 or the 1959 Super-Lead. This pedal instantaneously Marshallizes your current sound.

The borders between nice trebles and harsh trebles is very easy to cross so, you need to carefully move gain and treble controls until you achieve your target sound.

I love to switch it on as soon as I want a foundational-Marshall-sound.

Tweed '57

The big issue of this pedal is just its big virtue.
Not based in any particular Tweed amp but covering all them, if you aren't clear about which kind of tweed tone you are after you can go nuts with this pedal, as I was in the beginning.

I cannot ensure you that my current settings are nailing any particular Tweed model. I just moved the controls until I've achieved the sound I wanted to get from this pedal. Nailing a real amp sound or not, I love
the tone of this pedal to dead.

Awesome tool for blues and silky and warm jobs.

Black '65

Being more a Marshall-guy than a Fender-guy, I'm not very familiar with Fender amps (except for the Princeton Reverb reissue I own), and very specially with that '65 blackfaces.

This pedal was hard to work until I tried some of the different set ups recommended by Wampler. I found one of them as a good basis. Removed some gain and achieved the exact sound I was looking for.

As in the case of the Tweed, I have no idea if I was nailing the sound of any particular Blackface amp but, I love to dead the tone I can get from this pedal. I've started to think that I would love a Blackface '65 amp in my collection!.

This pedal cleans up any others and brings some percussive bottom end and crystalline clear trebles.


The Sovereign is the only distortion pedal from Wampler don't trying to nail the tone of any particular amp so, it's a distortion  workhorse, with versatility enough to let you to exact define which kind of distortion is your signature one.

Since I love this pedal stacked with rest of amp-in-a-box pedals and, particularly with the two overdrives, I am running it with the boost switch off and the gain around 3 o'clock. This gives a very natural tube-like distortion and a low floor noise. The boost on setting increases the floor noise really high (as experienced with all Wampler pedals, by the way).

Not equally sounding as the ProCo Rat Whiteface, in their respective sweet spots, both are very tube-like distortions but, the Rat has a thicker and darker body, maybe. The Sovereign allows you to better define the presence of the pedal and better helps to cut the mix in the right spot.

Since I've got the Triple Wreck for high gain stuff, I leaved the Sovereign with a softer and more tube-like distortion type and, just the right amount of gain to leave rest of gain pedals to be stacked before this one.

The Video

The video has unstructured and no-sense riffs while I walked across the several combinations of pedals mentioned above.

I've choosed the Vox Night Train amp just because I've got three amp-in-a-box pedals that I wanted to test. It makes no sense to marshallize (plexi drive) a Marshall or to fenderize a Fender (tweed, black) so, the Vox Night Train seemed to me a good testing platform to evaluate how each amp-in-a-box pedal overwrites the Nigh Train's voice.

This is a long video (around 45 mins) so, please, watch it when you have time enough.
I would like to highlight the awesome voices of the Tweed '57 and Black '65 pedals. Even that every Wampler pedal is awesome, I think those two are just stellar.

Enjoy it.

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