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Power Amp Overdrive and Effect Pedals??

Discussion in 'Glowing Bottle Tube Amp Forum' started by Lancer X, Dec 1, 2020.

  1. Lancer X

    Lancer X TDPRI Member

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    Hi all!

    Firstly, please bear with me - I am fairly new to tube amps.

    I have a Fender PRRI. I love how it sounds when it starts to break up, but my family and neighbors would (understandably) never put up with that. (I measured 106 dB when it was sounding really sweet the other day.)

    I have ordered a 50W MiniMASS attenuator from Weber in order to be able to run it at edge of breakup as the Gods of Rock and Blues intended.

    However, the PR does not have an effects loop. I am concerned that some of my modulation- and time-based effects might sound weird due to the overdrive?? Can you offer any guidance - do I need to be concerned? At the moment, this is just a practice amp run at reasonable indoor volumes.

    Bonus question: am I wasting my time and money with this attenuator? Should I just run a nice overdrive pedal (I have a Tumnus Deluxe which is quite tasty) and live with preamp overdrive only like a normal person??
     
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  2. Mexitele Blues

    Mexitele Blues Tele-Afflicted

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    I wouldn't worry. The Gods of Rock and Blues have been running delays into dirty amps for as long as I've been alive. if you find that the sound is not your thing, there are attenuators with built-in fx loops.
     
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  3. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

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    I use a bunch of different commercial and boutique time based effects with my tube amps (analog delays, phasers, Leslie emulators, Fender tube reverb units and so on) - everything from a Champ to a '60 Showman, and most are blonde, brown, tweeds plus a few boutique amps and a '72 Princeton Reverb.

    None have an effects loop. And I often run the amps nearly dimed with the ability to use guitar controls to slide them into saturation, and/or a pile of distortion devices of varying degrees.

    Almost all of the players I have worked with over the last 50 years have not used effects loops, even when available.

    And in 50+ years of playing - live, in studios, at home, jam sessions, whatever - I have *never* used an effects loop on a tube amp, even on a few amps that have had them. Guitar tone has never sounded "right" to me unless everything is plugged into the front of the guitar amp.

    Th only time I have used one is 2-3 situations where I had to use a fixed backline amp that was solid-state.

    Honestly, I have been known more for having tone that fit the situation, particular songs, specific styles etc than for flashy licks, which is why I've used the same tag line for about 30 years!

    This is all more information than you or anybody else probably needs, but I just want to assure you that it is NO problem running everything into the front end of your PR.

    ALL of this assumes that your PR is in good shape, with quality tubes and the power tube bias set to optimize YOUR sound. The amp must sound good clean at mid to high output with no effects first and foremost - and if it's an older one, make sure when it hits roughly the 15 year old mark that you replace all the power filter capacitors and bias cap.

    They have a service life of 15 years, and no matter how the amp sounds or the caps look they MUST be replaced at roughly that point - they can blow without warning and seriously damage the amp. It's part of the normal life of a tube amp owner - like replacing worn tires on a car!

    Tonally the most important thing running everything into the amp's input is effects sequence:

    Attack-based device go first (auto-wah/envelope filters, octave generators limiters and compressors - and I strongly suggest NOT using a compressor except for electric 12 string, or a limiter at all);

    Then distortion devices - "overdrives" (a misused term, but meaning low-gain distortion), distortion and fuzz pedals;

    Then time-based devices, generally with swirly stuff first, followed by delay/echo, and finally reverb (some reverse reverb and delay).

    Most players put clean boost pedals (Klon and its copies, MXR Micro Amp, ZVex Super Hard On and 2-in-1 etc) right after the attack stuff, but some put them last. If you use them much (My real Klon Centaur is always on for tonal purposes only - but I may also run a Bad Horse or ZVex 2-in-1 to "goose" the signal) they can be a serious part of defining a signature tone.

    I prefer a wah pedal immediately after attack-based devices; some put them immediately AFTER distortion gadgets; and some place them last. The placement really depends on your preferred tone, how much pedal distortion you generate, and the specific wah pedal you use. They aren't used much, but when you do the placement really fine-tunes your tone.

    And I do NOT use combo amp reverb in most amps. I don't like the way it's voiced except in my Holland amps, which use the Fender tube reverb unit circuit as part of the preamp design). I normally use one of my vintage Fender tube reverb units last in the chain or a Van Amps Sole Mate solid-state spring unit in that spot if space is tight.

    A last thing to think about - if a PR always has enough output for the venues you play, great - but always have a backup amp on hand! And if you ever play larger venues unmiked and find your signal buried you'll need a second amp with JUST enough output to be turned up just short of the clean headroom limit.

    Players here who work varied gigs have 4-6 amps with varying eoutput to cover all the bases. I've had that type of setup since the mid-70's.

    Well, that turned into an encyclopedia! Hope it helps -
     
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  4. Cali Dude

    Cali Dude Tele-Holic

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    I think attenuators are fantastic, and can be very useful when gigging or playing at home. Your wife and neighbors will thank you. You will have a great time getting the sound that you are after.
     
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  5. mexicanyella

    mexicanyella Friend of Leo's

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    Sometimes Andy Summers and the Edge got a little dirty, and their time-based effects still sounded good. Try that attenuator out without worrying about the effects. If it gets you the tonal texture you want, you’ll be able to get the effects to sound good.

    What the gods of rock and blues actually said, verbatim, was a good deal more colorful. They were kind of lipping off, to be honest. I’m paraphrasing here.
     
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  6. tubelectron

    tubelectron Tele-Afflicted

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    Well yes, experiment with a power attenuator if you can prior to buy it, but I doubt that you would really retrieve the tone of your amp pushed, directly connected to the speaker, with all the loudness it implies...

    If it is for home use at low loudness, I would stick with an overdrive pedal - there's plenty at all prices - moreover if you plan to use modulation pedals.

    If it is at the natural high loudness of the amp, I would not use an attenuator anyway : the natural overdrive of the amp directly through its speaker at the sweet spot is the best.

    In one word : for me, no power attenuator.

    But it's me, OK ? :D

    -tbln.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2020
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  7. MuddyWolf

    MuddyWolf Tele-Meister

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    Attenuators suck. And running delay into the front of a distorted tube amp ain't great. But like everybody, you wont believe me till you try it for yourself. See you back here in 6 months for your "I told you so".
     
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  8. BB

    BB Poster Extraordinaire

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    Great info Silverface!
     
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  9. Lancer X

    Lancer X TDPRI Member

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    Thanks everyone, especially @Silverface for all the great responses.

    I’ve done my homework re effects order, so I think I’m in pretty good shape there. My PR is only a few months old (one of the '65 reissues), but I'll keep those maintenance items in mind - thanks! I'm also not gigging, so this is just for home play ATM.

    Like @Silverface, I'm also using a Klon (Klone) - a Wampler Tumnus Deluxe. Just picked it up, and am really impressed. It warms up the very-scooped PRRI, and I love the controllability (this one has EQs) - especially since the PR doesn't have a mid control. Sold my Blues Driver on Reverb after my first session with the Tumnus. Tube Screamers are just too mid heavy for me, even on a Blackface - that one's also on the Reverb block.

    This Weber attenuator wasn’t very expensive (on the order of a good pedal), so I'm not too concerned about the experiment. One of the cheaper (but well reviewed) reactive models, but with more control than something like a Torpedo Captor. I can always sell it if it doesn't work out, and just get a clean overdrive to stack with the Tumnus.
     
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  10. mexicanyella

    mexicanyella Friend of Leo's

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    Years ago I ran pedal-less into an old Univox tube bass head (see avatar pic), everything “dimed” except the bass knob. And the two channels jumpered.

    I used a Scholz Power Brake attenuator into a Fender 4x12 or a Peavey 2x10, or both. With the band, I’d only dial the attenuator back a few notches from wide open, and it sounded good to me and seemed like a reasonable loud-band kind of level.

    Just sitting around at home, I would run it on one of the first few knob clicks, most or all of the way choked down, and I still liked it. It didn’t have the WHAM of cranking through a big cab, but the basic texture and character of the distorting tube amp was still there, and I could still access the clean-to-dirty spectrum with my picking dynamics, which was a lot of why I liked that amp in the first place.

    I’ve seen a lot of posts describing attenuators as sounding bad when clamped way down, but that was not my experience. What made me move on from that setup was not dissatisfaction with the sound; I just got tired of getting the amp back and forth to the shop and making do with a series of backups while it was laid up, all of which sounded and acted different than what I’d grown used to.

    For whatever reason, when the amp was working, I preferred the cranked tubes sound, even attenuated way back, to what I was getting via pedals into a cleaner amp.
     
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  11. Fiesta Red

    Fiesta Red Poster Extraordinaire

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    I use a Dr. Z’s Brake Lite in my 63RIVV...it has not negatively affected my use of a Leslie Simulator, Phase Shifter, Tremolo/Vibrato/Whatever, Wah, Fuzz, Boost, Overdrive or Delay in any way. Sounds great.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2020
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  12. Lancer X

    Lancer X TDPRI Member

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    Yeah, man - that's exactly what I'm going for. Clean, edge of breakup, and access to clean or grit through picking dynamics. From the research I've done into bedroom volume sound, the tones of an overdriven and attenuated amp beat an overdrive pedal and preamp-only breakup, hands down. One episode of That Pedal Show in particular really impressed the difference on me, and those guys are crazy tone hounds.

    It seems like attenuators are a really polarizing topic. I get why people say they aren't the same - nothing can simulate SPL and speaker dynamics. But 100 dB just isn't an option for me at the house. I'm excited to try it out (waiting on my 2 week lead time from Weber).
     
  13. beninma

    beninma Friend of Leo's

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    I'm of the opinion it should be fine for sounds a PRRI is good at.

    If you're trying to play Van Halen or Heavy Metal it's not going to make it an appropriate amp for that, but you're not out a lot of money.

    I 100% agree with you it's a good goal to go for tube drive if you can.

    Amps that have great tube drive at reasonable volumes get a reputation for being hard to use an OD with. In my opinion half of that is that the ODs sound bad compared to the amps drive because the amp's drive is really accessible. If people were cranking their Fender amps up to the point of natural breakup they would probably be less enamored with overdrive pedals too.
     
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  14. mexicanyella

    mexicanyella Friend of Leo's

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    Once you get it and have a chance to play with it, I hope we’re in for a report on how it works for you!
     
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  15. Lancer X

    Lancer X TDPRI Member

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    Very happy to - appreciate everyone's advice and encouragement!
     
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