02 April 2013

Pedals: '2013 Pedalboard - Pedal settings


I am having some requests to show the pedal settings I am using in my pedal board so, I am sharing them with you all in this entry. I hope they can be of help for your own sound but, take into account that the right is a complete system and, any setting must be fine tuned to get the best from your particular rig.

'2013 Pedal Board Order and Pedal settings

Since my current pedalboard is loading mainly Wampler pedals, after lot of testings stacking each pedal in several positions, while checking the impact in the whole sound chain, I've decided the following order, as the one that best works for my needs (not necessarily yours!).

This blocks diagram show the current pedal order (click for full size):

Even that the TC Electronics Polytune says that it's a True Bypass pedal, I have my doubts, since as soon as you plug your guitar jack, the tuner circuitry seems to start up, flashing and then, it goes to "bypass" status. I've also noticed that it tends to thin a bit the signal so, I suspect some kind of buffered bypass behavior there.

For this reason, the Decibel+ buffer is located after the tuner and before any other pedal in my chain. The boost knob is being set up very discretely, just to beef a bit the signal (in the case of single coils) but, while maintaining a very clear "Clean Sound". To force tubes to their break-up spot, I am using overdrives, instead. This pedal was the only one that allowed me to remove my loved Xotic EP Booster from my pedalboard with total success. In fact, it substituted two pedals: Wampler Clean Buffer and Xotic EP Booster.

Compressor is being placed after the buffer and before any other gain pedal, to avoid increasing the floor noise level. Settings are for a very gentle attack compression and slight sustain increase. Blend is more or less, 60% wet / 40% dry.

Then, it comes the Wah, that needs to be early in the chain to get the purest guitar signal. Still not decided about which wah to use. The RMC4 is the one that sounds best to my ears but, it's incredible noisy so, I've decided to retire it from my pedalboard for a while. The Vision Wah is complex, to get the right wah sound and feeling takes a while and, I am not so convinced with the sweep range. The Vox 386 handwired reissue is surprisingly as quiet as the Vision Wah and better sounding than I've imagined so, probably, I will substitute Roger Mayer's unit with the Vox.

After the Wah, I've got my loved vibe pedal. This is my most recent pedal and, finally, the vibe pedal I was always dreaming to load in my pedalboard. Pure Univibe sound, without the vintage drawbacks and, taking the room of an MXR pedal. Awesome!.
Usually, I prefer Vibes (and, most of times, Phasers) before my gain pedals and, it works good in this case, also.

After the vibe, I am starting my gain stages, with a couple of useful overdrive pedals. Each one has its own use.

The Euphoria is the workhorse of overdrives. It's the best to maintain unaltered the sound of your guitar and amp and just to push the tubes to the sweet spot. I don't like very much the Clean (or Transparent setting) but, I love instead the Smooth setting (Dumbleish) but, maintaining very low the basses, to not fatten the grain of distortion and make bass lines boomy and muddy. When I've set up this pedal, I was constantly checking the EQ switched on and off, to match the EQ of the amp (just more cooked sound, same EQ).

But sometimes, the clean voice of the Euphoria doesn't helps to cut the mix. Then, the TubeScreamer-like voice of the Paisley comes in help. The Paisley was a hard pedal to tweak. To be honest, I've found just a single setting that I liked, with the Voice switch down and the Presence switch active. Otherwise, the voice tends to go very muddy, dark and fat, what makes very confused bass lines. In this particular setting, the voice is full bodied, with nice presence in the guitar natural harmonics range and, perfectly combines its work with the Euphoria. When stacking both together, you get a very dynamic, full bodied, sparkling and deep sound, that is simply awesome. Paisley works pushing other gain pedals, when I feel that the Euphoria is being missed in the mix.

After my overdrives, I am stacking my Vintage-Amp-in-a-Box units. I've found that I can get a more natural sound if these are stacked between my overdrives and distortions. Overdrives seem to push these pedals in the same way that they would do in a real amp, while distortions seem as an additional gain stage added inside the "virtual amp". When I feel that the natural voice of my amp isn't cutting enough, I am trying any of the three pedals, choosing the one that better suits the job.

The Plexi Drive is able to Marshallize any amp, giving that early Marshall sound and, therefore, helps a lot to achieve cutting solos, with lot of presence and that flavor that you heard in mythical Hard Rock groups, as Led Zeppelin. I've set up it to achieve an early cranked sound, without going hard in distortion.
Works really good stacked with overdrives or distortion or compressor or, everything together.

The Tweed '57 has a broad range of sounds and, there are so many "Tweed" sounds as people. I've tweaked this pedal to the specific "tweed" sound I've got in mind (and not necessarily yours). I like to maintain the bass knob very low, to avoid the excessive grain and muddiness that the bass knob gives to this pedal; this makes it easier to stack with the rest of pedals. I've tweaked this pedal to achieve a sweet spot sound, in the boundary of clean and break-up, depending on picking dynamics. I love it combined with any overdrive for Blues works. It can sound really sweet.

The last Vintage-Amp-in-a-box pedal I'm using is the Black '65. I am every day more impressed by this pedal. It can be of great help when rest of equalizations doesn't work. It seems very useful for Jazz, Fusion and Funky stuff but, it has a nice voice for clean work also and, pushed by an overdrive can stand with attitude some other works. It always depend on the mix behind, sometimes is the right pedal (or EQ) to use, sometimes, it can be lost in the mix. When it fits the mix, is plainly a sound form other world.

After the Vintage-in-a-box section, starts my Modern-in-a-box-section. I've removed the SLOstortion and the Pinnacle, since I can have that job done with the Sovereign combined with my overdrives or amp-in-a-box pedals. I am just preserving my Triple Wreck here, for "hard core" stuff. Probably the pedal I am using the less but, is there ready for when I need those deep basses and liquid hi-gain lines.

After the amp-in-a-box section, I have my distortion. Just a single pedal, to help to push the rest, when needed. The Sovereign is an all-purpose distortion unit, not modelled thinking in any particular amp or pedal and, allowing you to choose your own distortion flavor. I've found that the boost switch in this pedal (among other hi-gain Wampler pedals) raises a lot the floor noise so, I've preferred to switch it to normal position, using the gain control to achieve the right amount of gain to make it liquid but, without overdoing the effect, to allow it to be stackable with rest of gain pedals. I'm often switching it off as a second (or third) "amp channel", to raise a bit the gain, body and sustain of my already overdrived sound.
When I've tweaked this pedal, I was comparing the pedal on and off, against the amp clean sound, to maintain same EQ.

After the distortion, comes the Leviathan. A modern fuzz design that allows you to put the fuzz effect where you like in your pedalboard. Classic vintage designs are a real headache for your pedalboard and, are highly compromising the sound of the rest of your chain. My tests showed that this pedal seems to work best at the end of the gain pedals. In this way, the sound can be dynamized by using the compressor before or the Euphoria (or both together). Stacking the Sovereign into the Leviathan, you achieve a Big Muff sound but, full of dynamics, with a dense while liquid sound. I've always preferred the rawness of Germanium to the synthetic but accurate sound of Silicium.

After the gain pedals, it comes the modulation effects zone. There, just the Nirvana Chorus is ready for when I need it (not very often, to be honest). I find it very interesting for very particular songs.

The pedal that closes the pedalboard is the Tape Echo Delay, set up for a very general delay type, the one that sounded best to me and, that didn't made the drived sounds to sound excessively washed. It's always on and, I never change delay settings.

Foundational tone

My foundational tone is always: Decibel+ and Tape Echo. Goal is to achieve a clean tone but, with body.
Any other pedal is being stacked between those two.
If the amp voice itself doesn't seem to suit the mix, I try then all vintage-amp-in-a-box pedals, to set a different foundational tone.

Then, If  I want to push tubes to their sweet spot, I usually go for the Euphoria.
If it doesn't works for the mix, I try the Paisley.
If I need to push the gain beyond the sweet pot, I usually switch on the Sovereign.

Sometimes, the equation works better with the Black '65 stacked into the Leviathan, depending on the character of the song. Anyway, high stackability and very variated voices to choose.

The Video

I did a video with some of the already commented stacking examples. Not my best playing day but, forget me and focus in the sounds. I love some of the sounds that I was able to extract to my little Princeton Reverb reissue amp.

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