Sure could use advice - pedal chain

Discussion in 'The Stomp Box' started by GratefulNed, May 30, 2013.

  1. GratefulNed

    GratefulNed TDPRI Member

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    Hi folks,
    I know the standard answer is 'whatever works for you'. Well, yeah, perhaps, but I just returned to electric after years away and will still appreciate suggestions from more experienced folks.

    Main problem is where to place my three new boxes, all aimed at tone, drive and boost.

    My amp for now is a Blackstar HT5R Head and cab, replaced tubes, sounds pretty good at least in gain channel. Clean headroom is an issue. Has effects loop which I use. This is a two channel amp with footswitch.

    I started out with a couple mod effects - TC Electronics Chorus and Delay. No brainer, those are end of loop. And my Boss tuner is first from guitar.

    Then I picked up a Fulltone OCDs, v4. OK, so that goes pre-amp, after tuner. Took me a while to figure out why turning up the "volume" was a big deal in the HT5 clean channel, but only altered gain/tone when I was already pushing the tubes in the dirty channel. Understand that now. But it left me without a "clean boost" for soloing while in the dirty channel.

    So... I picked up an Xotic EP Booster. I put it first in the effects loop. DIPed it to unity gain at default ('cuz the +3 dB was more noticeable than ya'd think) and now I have a nice adjustable clean (volume) boost. However... when used as a lead boost in the effects loop, I notice the EP Booster robs me of gain/distortion! :cry: It is not a subtle difference.

    So... I thought about switching the two effects - put the OCD in the loop as a lead boost and the EP Booster at front of chain, leave on for tone. Then I read "Thou shalt not place a gain pedal in the effects loop" in a few places. Grrrr. (So people don't put their Blues Drivers or OCDs in effects loops, after the pre-amp?)

    OK, so next idea. Buy an Xotic SP Compressor. Wasn't really to solve the above problem, heh, but sounded like a cool pedal. But where to put it? Everyone seems to say head of chain (after tuner). OK, let's try that. Hmm. Sounds good, real good, but I love that sound and wish it could be my lead boost instead of front-of-chain (so it adds volume not just compression). And I am still stuck with the distortion-swallowing EP Booster in my effects loop.

    So... I tried switching the Xotic effects. EP Booster head of chain, feeding the OCD, and the SP Compressor at start of effects loop. The SP does not swallow distortion of course, it sweetens it nicely. The SP does generate some noise but it isn't any worse in loop than it is at head of chain, far as I can tell. And the EP at head of chain - ooooooo. :D

    What I haven't tried yet is EP->SP->OCD....

    Thanks for listening so far. To sum up my questions:

    1. How can I use this setup to get a nice lead boost with same or more dirt but also more volume? Cant do that pre-amp when already pushing tubes, right?

    2. Am I nuts to think about trying the OCD in the front of effects loop for that? (I have read that some folks have two, but again I see the votes against gain pedals in the loop)

    3. Am I nuts for using the SP Compressor as lead boost in the loop (ahead of mods)? Seems to work very well tone-wise and I cant really hear a noise difference. I could get a noise gate later I guess and I keep the SP on "Lo" anyway.

    4. Is it tone overkill to think EP->SP->OCD? EP would be on always, SP a lot, and OCD when needed for crunch. Doesn't solve my volume boost problem but maybe I'll figure that out based on other responses. Thought about getting an EQ but scared of adding noise.

    I was surprised the EP Booster sucked out gain/distortion when in the loop, really hoped that was going to be the lead boost I needed.

    Thanks for any and all observations/suggestions.
     
  2. Lunchie

    Lunchie Poster Extraordinaire

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    I have an HT-5R and so far I have not found it to be very pedal friendly. I run a vibe and delay through my effects loop and thats it. It seems like boosts really do not do a whole lot and it can already go pretty insane distortion wise to where its nothing but squeeling feedback. So far, with the pedals I have anyway, it seems like less is better. I have not tried any of the larger amps to know if it changes with them.
     
  3. uriah1

    uriah1 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Dont think I ever used a boost in a loop, unless you needed to kick your effect up....
    Always pre.
    but, like OP says, (your taste may difer)
     
  4. GratefulNed

    GratefulNed TDPRI Member

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    Interesting observation - perhaps it is the dang amp. I'm getting frustrated by the way pedals are behaving in my chain (EP booster seems to suck distortion when in the effects loop, and neither the EP or the OCD boost volume at all when in front of amp), but maybe it isn't the pedals after all.

    If that is true.... would it be normal for the OCD (and the EP) to boost volume (in addition to gain/tone) when used as boosts in front of the amp? Neither one does that, they just add to tone/dirt/crunch.

    I'm still intrigued by the idea of using all three of these boxes in front of the amp (probably SP>EP>OCD in that order), will give that a try once I buy more Velcro, lol.

    Any other thoughts on how to use these pedals - esp from other Blackstar 5HT owners if you're out there?
     
  5. Lunchie

    Lunchie Poster Extraordinaire

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    I am not all that familiar with the OCD but its not uncommon for OD's to add volume as well as gain, especially if there is a level in addition to the Gain. I don't know enough about the technical side of things to know why a boost does not work well in a loop.

    My typical setup would be if I had your pedals, Guitar > Comp > OCD > Boost... Effects Loop > Chorus > Delay.
     
  6. HarveyTBirdman

    HarveyTBirdman Tele-Meister

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    Just keep experimenting until you get it sounding how you want it to. The only real test is your ears. It looks like you are on the right track anyway.

    It took me some time to get my pedals the way I like them, after much experimentation.

    I started with a comp in front of the amp, then in the effects loop i'd put distortion, fuzz, delay, chorus, wah, volume.

    Didn't like that then the comp found it's way into the loop. Eventually changed the order, and realized it sounds better to me with everything in front of me amp.

    Now I have EHX Lil Big Muff, Joyo comp, Biyang Max, Ibanez DE7, Biyang Chorus, Cry Baby, Ernie Ball Jr 50k volume, then amp.

    Just keep an open mind, there is no wrong or right, and what others swear by might not work as well as something a little different to the general 'rules' with your particular setup.
     
  7. HarveyTBirdman

    HarveyTBirdman Tele-Meister

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    1. How can I use this setup to get a nice lead boost with same or more dirt but also more volume? Cant do that pre-amp when already pushing tubes, right?

    It shouldn't hurt your preamp tubes to push them a little harder. Most pedals are only going to put out line level, which is safe. It will sound like a baby seal giving birth to the fat lady at the opera long before you'll do any damage.

    2. Am I nuts to think about trying the OCD in the front of effects loop for that? (I have read that some folks have two, but again I see the votes against gain pedals in the loop)

    As long as you don't push it too hard. Gain and Volume below 2pm on the pedals should be safe.

    3. Am I nuts for using the SP Compressor as lead boost in the loop (ahead of mods)? Seems to work very well tone-wise and I cant really hear a noise difference. I could get a noise gate later I guess and I keep the SP on "Lo" anyway.

    Do what you like with the compressor, but I find they work best before any dirt with true bypass.

    4. Is it tone overkill to think EP->SP->OCD? EP would be on always, SP a lot, and OCD when needed for crunch. Doesn't solve my volume boost problem but maybe I'll figure that out based on other responses. Thought about getting an EQ but scared of adding noise.

    An eq won't add as much noise as distortion pedals. You can use an eq to take out noise.

    I was surprised the EP Booster sucked out gain/distortion when in the loop, really hoped that was going to be the lead boost i needed.

    The effects loop is probably buffered. It will send the signal at the same impedance as it expects it back. You can't push harder than that lets you.

    Do what i do, run everything before the amp. No ****ty loop buffer in the way then.
     
  8. russpurdy

    russpurdy Tele-Holic

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    It's tough to get a volume boost for leads when you are already pushing your tubes pretty hard in the amp. It helps to have headroom. That being said, try the boost after your dirt pedals but before the modulation pedals. This usually works for me. Any other solution might be to find a pedal like the electro harmonix line attenuator. Basically it is a volume pot in a box with a footswitch. When you engage the pedal you can control the amount of your guitar signal running through your rig. Effectively, this is like turning the volume down a bit on your guitar. Keep the pedal engaged for rhythm and then turn it off for the full signal when you want to kick it up a notch. I have seen versions of these on ebay and they are quite easy to build if you can solder. You could always just keep your guitar vole down a bit as well and roll up for a boost. Good luck!
     
  9. Agitator

    Agitator Friend of Leo's

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    tl;dr

    Just mess around until you find something that sounds good to you.
     
  10. GratefulNed

    GratefulNed TDPRI Member

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    Thanks folks.

    @Harvey and Russ - Someone at the Blackstar forum correctly reminded me that I'm not really dealing with an effective "tube" pre-amp here anyway, it is more like a pedal. That explains why I am getting so much clipping of the volume when I try to push it before the amp. My question about "pushing" the pre-amp tube isn't about blowing the tube it is about getting more volume out of my whole signal when I try to boost it (instead of just more crunch).

    So part of my solution here I think is to get a better amp. The HT5 is nice and everything - it gets reasonable tone by itself - but it doesn't seem to play nice with pedals, and all three of these pedals I've mentioned make a huge diff in tone.

    For now I think Ima gonna put the Compressor back to start (after tuner) and maybe try out one of the lil' MXR 6-band EQs to use in the loop as a boost. Any other thoughts welcomed.

    And @Lunchie - the boost does work in the loop but the EP booster I tried pulls back enough distortion to make a noticeable difference. Kinda 'cleans up' the signal as it adds tone (very nice tone at that) and volume.

    Have a feeling I am going to be joining the legions of folks with loop-less Fender tube amps. :D
     
  11. russpurdy

    russpurdy Tele-Holic

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    If your just playing at home or looking for a low wattage head I would like to suggest finding a used Blackheart Killer Ant or Little Giant. They play great with pedals and can get pretty loud for at home. Might be able to gig with a really quiet drummer.

    For the record, I use a Traynor amp with an effects loop and just pretend it's not there! haha. Works just fine.
     
  12. Lunchie

    Lunchie Poster Extraordinaire

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    Everyone needs at least one (or 12) Fender amp(s). Champ 600/Gretsch 5222 are great bang for the buck 5 watters, plus they are fun as hell to modify.
     
  13. GratefulNed

    GratefulNed TDPRI Member

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    I was starting to look at the Blackheart Devil, the one that does either 15 or 7 watts, or an Egnater 15 or 20 watt. The newer VoxAC15's sound like the cat's pajamas but folks point out that ya need to get pretty loud for tube heaven. Blues Junior same problem?

    Anyways, back to pedals - today I moved things around, put the SP Compressor back in front of the OCD and the amp, that works well, and I actually just turned up the OCD a bit more and used that for my crunch songs instead of the gain channel on the HT5. Not surprisingly the pedals play better with the clean side of the amp. All I need now maybe is a small EQ in the loop (thinking MXR 109, no room for the 108 lol) and I might be good for a while, until I toss this HT5 aside in favor of something with a tube-only pre-amp and a bit more oooomph.

    Interestingly I had a VibroChamp as my first amp back in about 1978, seemed like almost a toy back then.
     
  14. smoss469

    smoss469 Tele-Afflicted

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    That's odd, I think mine takes pedals extremely well. Not as well as my Blackstar Little Giant but it's close.
     
  15. 1300 E Valencia

    1300 E Valencia Friend of Leo's

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    Question #1: OK, first, I don't have a Blackstar, so grains of salt, etc. It does look like a lot of features for a small amp, though.
    If you're running the Clean Volume above 4 or 5 or thereabouts, you're probably at the limit of your clean headroom, so it's difficult to get any more loudness without also getting more dirt. Hey, it's five watts, still loud, but the clean tends to run out sooner rather than later.

    Question #2: There's no hard and fast rule about gain pedals in the loop, but the quality of sound may vary because some loops don't have the same impedances and gain levels as a guitar into a pedal scenario. If you've ever plugged a low impedance mic into a guitar amp and wondered why the sound was so weak, this is what I mean. There's guitar (or "Instrument") level, microphone level, and line level, and they don't always match up. Some amps put the reverb before the loop, so any pedal that makes stuff louder is going to boost the reverb as well, and it can be not so pretty.

    Question #3: Compressor in the loop should be very similar to compressor after OCD or other gain stages. Boost before gain will get you more gain. Boost after gain gets same amount of gain, but louder.
    Compressor after anything will smooth out whatever is in front. Wahs are not as quacky, tremolo peaks and valleys get evened out.

    Question #4: Ya just gotta experiment. Less is usually more, because too much gain can result in unintelligible mush. And the aforementioned squeal.
     
  16. Ed Boyd

    Ed Boyd Tele-Afflicted

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    I gig with a HT-5R sometimes. At the house or rehearsal I will use the overdrive but never on a gig. The overdrive is too noisy.

    I use the clean channel only. It is a 5 watt amp and you are not going to have much clean headroom. You are limited in what you can do with a boost. I don't use the loop at all.

    I depend on our sound guy. The blackstar is micd and aimed at my face. It is my personal guitar monitor.

    If I wanted a boost I would try to turn up the clean channel as loud as it could go and be clean enough. Then run a eq and set it to cut 4-6 db across the board and use that as normal. Then for a boost disenage the the EQ. That may work.
     
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