A quick clip of the Digitech Grunge pedal

October 10, 2010

This is a quick clip I recorded of the Digitech Grunge. The much-maligned pedal actually sounds nice in my opinion! I have the gain too high here, it’s a bit over-compressed. It has a lot of treble available, maybe into a darker setup that could be useful but in this case I overcompensated and had the treble set a bit low. It gets pretty shrill if you turn it up too far, the potentiometer is quite sensitive. I’ll edge it up a touch for the next clip… Carefully.

Obviously just a quickie to try to demonstrate that, holy crap, Digitech isn’t awful?!!? It looks like I will finally have the full lineup of these guys pretty soon. Right now I’ve got plugged in, in order, the Bad Monkey, Screamin’ Blues, Hot Head, and Grunge. Death Metal is in the works. I want to note that the chain of pedals does NOT have a noticeable noise floor, either to my ear or to my DAW’s input. So despite the fact that they are all buffered pedals, the buffers are good and aren’t mucking up the sound. Also, they seem to be capable of operating at high signal levels without issue, which is good for anyone who wants to do sound design stuff with inexpensive pedals since you’ll encounter some approaching-line-level signals sometimes with synth racks and such.

To reiterate, these pedals do. not. suck. I will try to prove that with clips. They are definitely not “holy-grail-of-tone” pedals, but they are pretty substantially underrated in my opinion (even if some of them are essentially copies of another major manufacturer’s design – BOSS, basically – with a different EQ setup).

I’m back, baby! Hardware I’ve got recently, and plans for the immediate future!

September 1, 2010

Got a few things coming!

First, from the Harmony Central Effects Forum’s own resident psychedelic madman Robopimp, a MOSFET boost pedal with his “OPM” artwork on top:

The gourd was not included in the purchase. 😦

Second, a pair of Wamplers that I’ll be reviewing. I have very high expectations based on my experiences with the Plextortion, Super Plextortion, and Triple Recstortion (which was a limited run, now he has the Triple Wreck to do the same tones and also a neat high-gain fuzz thing)- I’m very interested to see if these pedals pull it off as well as those ones do.

1. The new Black ’65 Overdrive, aimed at getting classic Fender clean and overdriven tones. No COSM here

2. A Plexidrive, a pedal I get asked about pretty often because I reviewed the Plextortion and Super Plextortion and people seem to want to know how this one compares. Well, I couldn’t tell them before, but now I’ll be able to.

So what else is new? Well, I’ve got a Digitech Hot Head Distortion

Pretty cool pedal, similar but not identical to some dirts in the Ibanez Soundtank distortion family. Digitech has cool pedal designers working for them. I’ve used this pedal before, and I don’t have anything else in my collection that has a similar sound. It’s less fizzy than a DS-1, in no small part thanks to the separate High and Low EQ controls that let you dial in the tone better than a stock DS-1’s tone knob.

I parted with my old Bad Monkey on good terms, and this is another quality pedal in the series. In fact, I think the Bad Monkey, the Hot Head Distortion, and the Screamin’ Blues (all pedals in the same series, along with the less awesome Death Metal and one-trick pony Grunge) are all three good pedals. They’re not particularly high tech, they don’t have the most transparent buffers around, but their buffers aren’t bad and can handle a line level signal without clipping like crazy (unlike, for example, Danelectro’s pedals) and their sturdy construction helps to ensure that they’ll keep making noises you like for as long as you own ’em. I think all three of the above mentioned pedals have b-stock units on sale at Zzounds right now, though the Bad Monkey only has one b-stock available. It’s been my experience that Zzounds’ b-stock products are every bit as good as anything you’ll buy new. I’ve owned several b-stock pedals, processors, and even some speakers from Zzounds and I’ve never had any issues at all (and if you do, their customer service has been great in my experience).

If you’re looking for a dirt pedal, you could do a lot worse than this, and it’s on sale cheap. I’ll be doing a more thorough review of it for FrugalGuitarist very soon, possibly published as early as next Monday. I’ll also be reviewing the …

Digitech Screamin Blues!

That’s right, another cheap dirt pedal. Hey, even though I’ve got some good OD pedals that I love dearly, I don’t have any BD-2 overdrives! Interesting to me is that it is basically a clone of the Boss BD-2, except instead of a Tone knob it has a Low and High EQ knob. That changes a lot about the sound, but it still has the same fundamental character of the Boss BD-2 and that makes it a very nice sounding low-gain overdrive for a very good price. I got it for $44ish from Zzounds. A BD-2 with more powerful tone shaping for less money. You’re not guaranteed to prefer it to the BD-2, by any means, but it is an excellent option if you find yourself a fan of the sound but without the extra money for the BD-2… Or if you want to try something that’s a bit of a different take on the same flavor.

You know… I mentioned the Bad Monkey I had earlier. I sold it about a year ago, and now I miss it, because I kind of feel like it ought to be in the little family of Digitech’s inexpensive analog pedals I’m putting together here. I might have to pick one up, to fill in the gap. They make an excellent trio. They even have rudimentary, separate cabinet simulated outputs for going direct to the board. They’re not going to knock your socks off with their authenticity but it’s a pretty cool feature that even works when the pedal is bypassed. If disaster strikes at a gig, it could save the day.

I also picked up another pedal not long ago when my wife and I were visiting family in central AR from my hut down in extreme southern AR. Of course I stopped in at my favorite music stores. Mostly the idea was to pick up strings; none of my guitars have had a string change in over a year now, and while I’ve grown to quite like the sound and feel of “worn in” strings, there’s a difference between “worn in” and “worn out” that a few of them are reeeally starting to show. Since returning I’ve started the process of re-stringing them, and also reconditioning the rosewood fretboards, some of which very badly needed it. I’m lucky there aren’t cracks.

Anyway, while I was poking around, I noticed that one of the shops had an MXR Zakk Wylde signature OD. I had my buddy the shop-keeper throw it in with $60 worth of strings for a pretty steep discount, came to about $85 total. Here’s a shiny picture of a new one; mine shows stage wear but is in perfect electrical shape.

I’m not really a fan of Zakk Wylde or anything, but a well made signature pedal for less than $30 was kind of a no-brainer.

Electronically, it’s basically a modded Boss SD-1. That was Zakk Wylde’s pedal of choice and when he got an offer for a signature pedal, seems they decided to basically start there and tweak a bit then put his signature and a premium on the result. My ears (and a few glimpses of the schematic) tell me it differs primarily in the tone shaping itself, with more highs and a much lower cutoff point in its frequency curve compared to the classic TS-1 or the SD-1. I mean, there’s basically a diode’s difference between the SD-1 and the TS-1 to begin with… Anyway, it’s a really nice sounding pedal. Not complicated or difficult to work with, plays nice with any of my amps or amp sims and sounds better (to my ears) than a tubescreamer or an SD-1 through a clean channel, too. The extended frequency range does mean that upper harmonics make it through pretty well, good for the squealies that the dude has made his career with, but also perhaps more noise-prone as a result too.

Reviews generally suggest that people feel this pedal’s place is in front of an amp that’s already overdriving. Kick it in, and the amp hits eleven, or something. I don’t know, in my opinion there isn’t a dirt pedal made that won’t do that job as long as it has a gain knob and a tone knob or better. I guess if you really want to sound like Zakk Wylde you could copy his rig and with this get the exact sound he drunkenly plays live with. Well, that’s fine, not for me – I brought it back to where we’re staying and plugged my customized Japanese strat into it. With singles it is really, really responsive and lively, characteristics you can expect from any well-made TS variant (look, I’ve owned a lot of overdrives, right, there are differences that matter in some ways but at the end of the day a dirt pedal either works musically or it doesn’t, and this one is definitely based on a thoroughly proved “working” circuit). You can set it up at a little under half its gain and get a pretty good range of dirt by just playing lightly or digging in; you can crank it for a much more saturated sound. Since it lets more lows through by default, you’ll probably want to keep your tone control set no lower than the midpoint or else you run the risk of squaring out your lower notes, sounds really bad with chords. I spent a little time getting to know it and it wasn’t long before I had it figured out for use by itself or kicking the crap out of another dirt pedal or overdriving amp. It works well like that. It’s simple and reliable, much like the circuit that inspired it, but again with a cool thing of its own thanks to the wider frequency response.

I kind of don’t like comparing pedals to amps unless they were specifically made to emulate this or that from the get-go, but if I were asked to, I’d say that if the stock Boss SD-1 sounds kind of like an old Marshall running into a 4×12 cab, restricting the frequency response somewhat and giving it a tighter low end, then the Zakk Wylde signature OD sounds more like a Bassman in a big open-backed combo. More frequencies present, for better or worse, and a different take on what is otherwise the same sound.

Anyway – I dig it, cool pedal, looks alright too. I like the bullseye motif a lot more on a little box than I do on a big guitar. I wouldn’t recommend it at new prices since it really isn’t all that different from the more affordable SD-1, but if you can pick up a used one for a good price, as far as I can tell the construction is great – the stage wear evident on mine along with its perfect electrical condition attest to that – and it has some cool mojo with its sound thanks to the extended frequency range.

I also got an ISP Decimator G-String noise reduction pedal. Strictly a utility purchase, it does the job exceptionally well. I can run ludicrous amounts of gain without any noise – and then click it all off, and still have perfect sustain. Really remarkable trick, though at $230 it is pricey for a noise management tool.

Tomorrow, some words on SOFTWARE!

That’s right, I’m bringing this blog off life support and kicking it in to full gear. I’ve got some cool stuff to post about, so stay tuned, and thanks as always to my readers for keeping the traffic going even during the long, silent stretches where I lack the inspiration or means to write.

Wampler Triple Recstortion and Amplitube X-Gear

July 29, 2009

This is one of my go-to patches for demoing gear, using components from Amplitube 2 and Amplitube Fender. Since it’s in the spirit of the series of posts I figured I’d remark a bit on it here. I’m using Amplitube 2’s Deluxe Memory Man model, and Amplitube Fender’s Twin RI and its matching cabinet, though I’ve adjusted the cabinet sim portion to run in parallel with two different microphones to capture the sound more “fully.” Not a big deal for cleans, but for distortion very important, especially for higher gain distortion; the sound at one mic position is very low-bandwidth otherwise, and usually too focused for my tastes. I’ll post the patch up tomorrow if anyone’s interested. I first made it for demoing the Marshall-in-a-Box pedals, and I figure why fix what isn’t broken! The premise is the same: if a pedal can make a Fender sound like a Marshall, it’s doing something cool. Here, if a pedal can make a Fender sound like a Mesa, it’s doing something cool.

This is a picture of the prototype. I’ll post a picture of my actual unit tomorrow; my wife and I couldn’t find our camera, it’s out in the car but it’s too dark to see so I’ll get it in the morning. The layout is identical but the color is not.

Wampler Triple Recstortion

I happened to get one in for an upcoming FrugalGuitarist feature I’ve got planned, a Mesa-in-a-Box roundup. This limited edition of 100 actually already sold out in the few days that it’s been available, but Brian replaced the order dialog on the web site with a comment box and the following statement:


No longer Available
Unfortunately, we have reached the limit of the temporary offer. If there is enough interest I may choose to make it part of the permanent pedal line.
Let us know your thoughts!

So if you like these clips, I suggest you go tell them that you would buy one if it were still available. I am definitely glad that I have mine, it’s got a great sound. I’ll be giving it a full review for Frugal in the coming weeks, but if you have any questions about it let me know and I’ll answer them as best I can.

Anyway, clips:

Signal path:

Schecter C-1 Classic -> Wampler Triple Recstortion -> EHX Deluxe Memory Man -> Fender Twin

Two clips. First a setting that was to my tastes and some tasteless wanking. The settings for this clip were Level to unity (by the way, there’s plenty of volume on this pedal, you won’t have trouble adjusting the output), Gain at 3 o’clock, Treble at slightly before noon, Midrange between 10 and 11 o’clock, Low Contour at 2 o’clock, “Modern” mode.

Second, adjusting the pedal through a bunch of different settings on the fly, including different EQ adjustments. I start on the Vint. mode and switch it to the Modern mode later in the clip. At the start the Gain is at its lowest setting.

A couple quickie AT:Fender clips (comprehensive pedals showcase in the works still!)

April 6, 2009

I just recorded two more clips today, of a Catalinbread Hyperpak Dirty Channel I just got in the mail into the Amplitube Fender Bassman RI. No post-processing at all, this is just Guitar->Pedal->DI->Virtual Amp with a few Amplitube effects thrown in for character.

Two clips, one of this strat’s bridge JB jr. humbucker, and one of its Lace Blue neck pup. It’s a two knob pedal, and the settings on it remain the same for both clips throughout: Volume at noon, Drive at 3/4. I change the guitar’s volume throughout the clips, should be obvious when I do it. Basically a lot of noodling trying to show how it reacts to different volume output from the guitar and picking dynamics with two pickups in my strat, nothing too exciting but hopefully it gets the point across.

Ask yourself – does that sound like a pedal into a real amp?

If I hadn’t told you, could you have reliably guessed?

I think those are the really important questions when it comes to modelers. If it does the trick and can’t be distinguished from that which it is modeling if you don’t know what you’re hearing, I think it has to be considered successful.

That concluded, I’m moving forward with the next update, which will be a showcase (not a shootout) of the different overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals from the various programs, all run into one quality freeware clean amp and cabinet to make the comparison as fair as possible. I think it’ll be a really fun article, going to have a LOT of clips in it for sure! I’ll try to keep the individual clips to a minute or less so that it isn’t painful and time-consuming to my readers beyond what’s necessary to demonstrate the sound of the pedal models.

I know I said it’d be update day today, but…

April 1, 2009

My thesis oral defense is tomorrow, and I’ve got a lot of preparing to do! So it’ll be more like Friday, to be quite honest, as my next priority is getting reviews to Will at Frugal for publication. He’s an understanding guy but I’m surely pushing it 🙂

In the meantime, here’s a demo I did for Tom at http://www.fuzzhugger.com, showing off his new Great Wall fuzz (with a brief appearance from his AB-Synth too). Amps used were all from Amplitube Fender. TBP-1 for the bass amp, on its “Vintage” (Twin-inspired) mode, and the ’59 Bassman RI model for the guitar track. The drums were done with Toontrack EZdrummer, with grooves from GrooveMonkee’s incredible libraries. Such a time saver for me. Mastering was done with T-Racks 3 Deluxe on the master buss, as well as a few free plugins as inserts here and there (notably Pocket Limiter by TBT on the drum track).

Settings on the pedal are indicated.

Full demo track (guitar and bass)

The audio track got mangled by Youtube’s compression, so I’ve remastered it in the hopes that this version will make it through less molested. The video has not been updated yet, I will edit when it has, but here is the correct audio track for the demo.

not so great sounding video here, but it tells you all the settings used

Bass & drums track only – hear the full bass fuzz here!

Back In Action! A Tri-Fold Update

March 23, 2009

Three items of interest to my readers!

Item One: I’ve been working with Overloud TH1 1.1 lately, gearing up for the review of the software I’ll be doing for Frugal in the next issue. It’s very, very interesting. Some of the coolest and most intuitive routing I’ve ever used. I had the chance to do a quickie “collaboration” with Harmony Central forum user Zygoat, who got an AxeFX unit not too long ago and has been posting clips. I asked him if I could jam over one and he said sure, so I fired up TH1 and recorded some lead to the great sounding clip he had up. He did the bass and all rhythm guitar, and the drums too. I just recorded the lead track. A synthesis of AxeFX and software, haha. Don’t tell Cliff, he’s remarked on occasion that everything that isn’t AxeFX is just a toy (I think you can imagine my response to that gem!).

The fact that I had to make the guitar fit in an already mixed track posed some interesting challenges. I broke out a few plugins to make everything fit together. I wanted to place the guitar in a certain way in the mix, both in terms of its “sound” and also in the stereo field. I’ll write a run-through of the process here, explaining what I did and why.

To get the amp tone, I used Overloud TH1’s “SLR” amp mod slider function which lets you adjust continuously between two amplifiers’ properties, not just a fader but it actually alters the internals to make a hybrid of the two amps. This is a hybrid of the “Overloud Custom” on PlexiBright channel, and their Soldano SLO amp model, about 55/45 in favor of the Overloud Custom PlexiBright. I’m not using a whole lot of gain, because I wanted my playing to come through… Read the rest of this entry »

A Totally Free Signal Chain:

March 15, 2009

Well, first off this is a PC-only signal path, so my apologies to my readers who prefer Macs. I’ll try to hunt down some quality freeware for Macs, but it does seem like the PC enjoys a real advantage here. Sorry guys, I love Macs too but I’ve been a PC user for so long I didn’t feel like changing when I built my latest computer! (Plus, you can’t really build  Mac, at least not totally legally as I understand it).

Anyway, that said, I wanted to put together a total amp modeling and effects signal chain that would give you professional-quality results without spending any money (which might be helpful for you folks who bought Amplitube Fender recently, I know everyone around here is feeling this economic pinch…) For this clip I used:

1. GVST Effects Gtune, Ggate, Gduckdly for my tuner, noise gate, and ducking delay. Love their effects, killer stuff.

2. Aradaz’ fantastic OUR Cabinet Sim, blending Alu’s Mesa 4×12 and Noa’s Soldano 4×12

3. Bootsy’s awesome Epicverb, the best free reverb plugin I’ve ever used. I like it better than many IR-based reverbs because of its tweakability and versatile algorithms, easy to dial in the perfect reverb for a track.

4. LePou’s Soldano amp modeler, covered in a recent post!

Here’s a screenshot, you can see my signal path and all of the settings I used in this clip. It’s too big to fit on the blog, so click the thumbnail to view it (you might have to click the image again when it loads up so that you can see it full-size).

A note about my settings: while the delay, reverb, and cab sim should all be what I’ve used if you want this tone, I recommend that if you lower the threshold of the GGate noise gate and turn the Overdrive on the Soldano amp simulator up, and adjust the Treble to be higher as well on the amp sim. I am using a physical BBE Orange Squash and BBE Freq Boost in front of my DI which gives a nice boost but raises the noise floor going in. HOWEVER, I tested this plugin without any such external hardware to be sure that a similarly good tone could be had without them before posting it – it can! Just up the gain and treble to compensate for the lack of physical pedals. Another good option would be to use the freeware BTE Audio TubeScreamerSecret plugin in front of the amplifier, which simulates an analog TubeScreamer pedal extremely accurately and would probably let you use the same settings that I’ve used here (with the GGate threshold lowered, of course).

Here’s the clip. As usual, try not to focus too much on my sloppy playing, instead listen to how the stuff sounds 😉

This is, in my experience, similar to the quality you can get from the best professional amp sims. Which means a job very well done by LePou, Aradaz (and those who contributed IRs, Alu, Dimi, Noa for contributing my favorites!), and Bootsy, as well as Graham Yeadon who does the GVST plugins (grab the whole pack for a comprehensive free effects setup). Tone that’s easy on the wallet!