15 September 2014

Pedals: Carl Martin Octaswitch MKII


Note: this is an entry previously posted in my old Spanish version of this blog, around December 2012. Pedals loaded in my pedalboard had changed a lot but, the illustration of some uses of the Carl Martin Octaswitch MKII are still valid.

In a previous entry, I've already described the Carl Martin Octaswitch MKII and its multiple (but limited) possibilities. After several re-configurations of my pedalboard, looking for the best utility, I've reached some compromise solution, which I would like to share with you all.

The Octaswitch allows you to combine up to 8 simultaneous effects in series and, send them up to two amps (two mono outputs) or, an stereo amp and, even to change the channel of up to two amps (or two channels of a single amp), when you select one of the 8 available banks.

The issue is that you have just 8 banks, or combinations. If we think on clean, clean with chorus, clean with vibe, clean with compressor, clean with vibe and compressor, blues, classic distortion, hi gain distortion, fuzz, fuzz with vibe, distortion with compressor, etc., we can see that the number of combinations we can need for a cover band can be a lot more than the 8 available in the Octaswitch.
So, there is no other way than to find a compromise solution that can be of real help.

After a lot of thinking, I've considered that the best approach was to leave inside the Octaswitch the different gain pedals, selecting different gain textures for each bank, from clean to extreme distortion and, keeping out the Octaswitch all those pedals that I consider as sound modifiers: filters, modulations, time effects, compressor, booster, etc.

Therefore, I could define the following banks:

  1. Clean
  2. Blues Overdrive
  3. Clean Overdrive
  4. Classic Distortion
  5. Modern Distortion
  6. Fuzz
  7. Extreme Fuzz
  8. Total Chaos

Assigning different combinations of gain pedals inside the Octaswitch.

Before the Octaswitch I would place the Tuner, the Wah, the Phaser, the Booster and Compressor and, after the Octaswitch, the Modulation and Time effects, by example.

Pedals connexion scheme

Please, click on the picture for a full size image.


All these pedals are True Bypass and, none was identified as a Tone-sucker.

The OCD presents some impendance issues, depending on which pedal goes before or after but, in this particular case creates no conflict with any pedal.

The Wah, even that base in an old design (Picture Wah) is "fuzz-friendly".

Mad Professor Red Fire Fuzz corresponds to a modern design and, therefore, I can freely place it in any position of the chain but, I've found it working better at the end of the chain pedals.

Even that the booster (Xotic EP Booster) and the Compressor (Mad Professor Forest Green Compressor) can be considered as gain pedals, I am leaving those out of the loops because of the considerations I will describe when talking about each pedal in detail.

If we follow the flow from the guitar's input, we can see that the first pedal in the chain is the tuner (TC Electronics Polytune). This pedal is True Bypas and, as soon as you switch it on, it shut ups the whole chain, allowing you to just tune your guitar. Being True Bypass and not a tune-sucker, you could put it at any place in the chain but, it makes more sense to me to leave it at the very beginning, to completely shut up the rig (it works as a master switch).
In any case, the pedals type signal-followers (that requiere a clean signal to work their best), as the tuner, filters or whammy, are best placed at the beginning of the chain.

The output of the tuner goes to the Guitar In input of the noise gate (ISP Decimator G-String).
The noise game gets its input signal as a reference to correct the noise that will come (increased by gain pedals) back thru its Dec In input.

The guitar's input is directly linked to the Guit Out output, which we can see that goes to the input of the first pedal that we want to protect with the noise gate: the Wah.

The output of the Octaswitch (combination of one or more gain pedals, depending on the bank) is linked to the Dec In input of the noise gate, which closes the loop of the set of pedals protected by the noise gate.
The input in Dec In is being analyzed and contrasted against the input Guit In, to remove the noise, taking into account the original signal.
Once the noise was filtered in Dec In, the signal goes out the noise gate thru the output Dec Out, which in this case was connected to the input of the Delay effect (which is out of the protection of the noise gate, to don't cut echoes' tails).

Following the natural signal flow. We go from the tuner to the noise gate and, from the noise gate to the Booster (Xotic EP Booster). Since the booster is a gain pedal, it generates (well, just increases) the floor noise and, therefore, it makes sense that it remains under the protection of the noise gate.
I'm using here the EP booster just to feed the current intensity to make the stratocaster to sound a tad beefer. The boost knob never goes beyond 9:00.

The output of the Booster goes to the input of the Wah (Real McCoy RMC4 Picture Wah).
Theoretically, the Wah should be the first pedal in the chain but, I've already mentioned that this Wah has very few impedance problems so, I prefer to boost a bit the signal with the booster before and, to provide electrons enough to the rest of the chain.
Anyway, the Wah is usually switched off and, I only use it together with gain for certain parts.
It makes no sense to include it in Octaswitch loops since, I want to be free of activate it with any of the different gain textures (clean, overdrive, distortion, fuzz...).

The output of the Wah is connected to the input of the Phaser (Mad Professor Tiny Orange Phaser).
Even that a phaser is a modulation pedal and, its theoretical natural position would be after gain pedals and before delay, I find it sounding better before gain pedals.
Additionally, phaser creates some swatch white noise that can be only be eliminated if it is under the protection of the noise gate.

After the Phaser, we have the compressor (Mad Professor Forest Green Compressor). We are still out of the Octaswitch but, inside the protection of the noise gate.
Compressors have two natural positions, at the beginning of the chain (to compress the natural dnamics and add some sustain); or at the end of the chain, to compress the already processed sound.
I prefer it at the beginning of the chain in a pedalboard and, at the end with studio gear.
Compressor significatively raise the floor noise of the signal and therefore, it makes sense to put them under the protection of the noise gate.
Before filtering pedals (Wah...) and modulations (phaser...), it increases a lot the signal, giving a great strenght to the effect.
Placed after filters and modulations, it helps to better control the dramatic peaks of effects with a great range of frequencies, as the Phaser, Wah or Flanger, delivering a more consistent signal to the pedals after it.

With compressor, I am ending the chain of pedals before the input of the Octaswitch.
The output of the compressor goes to the input of the Octaswitch.

In the loop of the Octaswitch I've place 4 gain pedals, to achieve different gain textures.
In the first loop, I've got a classic bluesy overdrive (Mad Professor Little Green Wonder), similar to a TS808.

In the second loop, a more modern Overdrive, more general (Fulltone OCD V3).
In previous tests, I've realized that the Little Green Wonder likes more to drive other pedals than to be driven by other pedals. If it gets a strong input from other pedal, it saturates too much, compressing the sound.
The OCD handles better this kind of previous saturation.

In the third loop, a classic distortion pedal: the ProCo RAT Whiteface (reissue).

In the fourth loop, a modern fuzz, the Mad Professor Fire Red Fuzz.

Those 4 pedals allow several combinations:




* Fuzz

* LGW -> OCD

* LGW -> RAT

* LGW -> Fuzz

* OCD -> RAT

* OCD -> Fuzz

* LGW -> OCD -> RAT

* LGW -> OCD -> Fuzz

* OCD -> RAT -> Fuzz

* LGW -> OCD -> RAT -> Fuzz

Evidently, there are more available combinations that switches (banks) in the Octaswitch so, there isn't more option than to choose just 8 from those.
But, once the 8 gain textures were selected, we can open the sonic palette by adding any of the other sound modifiers that are out of the Octaswitch:

* Wah

* Phaser

* Compresor

* Wah -> Phaser

* Wah -> Compresor

* Phaser -> Compresor

* Wah -> Phaser -> Compresor

Sure, this obliges you to some feet dance (if you need more than one modifier at once) but, since those are often used for certain "accents" or "details", they effectively multiply the possibilities of the 8 gain textures already chosen.

Remember that the Octaswitch has one more additional switch called Bypass that, will link its input with its output, bypassing all the loops and, therefore, you can consider that Bypass as your "clean channel", having 8 gain textures additionally to your clean channel.

From the Octaswitch, we exit by one of the two mono exits to the input Dec In of the G-String, therefore closing the loop of pedals under the protection of the noise gate. Therefore, we will have protected (when active) the following pedals: booster, wah, phaser, compressor, overdrives, distortions and fuzz.

Finally, from the G-String we go to the input of the delay (Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay) and, we reach the amp thru the exit of such a delay.
The delay stays out of the protection of the noise gate, to avoid to cut the echoes' tails.

Thanks to the excellent behaviour of the G-String, this is enough to set the Threshold while in clean (no active pedal), up to your floor noise disappears. It doesn't matter which pedal will be active after this setting, the G-string will magically get rid off any noise.

Of course, there are infinite ways to use the Octaswitch but, you will always have to decide about just 8 possibilities. In my case, this solution is "the best" for my needs but, your imagination and needs can lead you to a very different set of solutions (that you could share!).

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