"transparent" can mean two things (I think...?)

Jack Clayton

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Playing around with pedal stacking, I think I've come to a new understanding of what makes an overdrive "transparent". Feel free to disagree with me about this. It's just what my ears have started to tell me.

Transparent is usually used to refer to "tone" exclusively. In other words, what, if anything, is the pedal doing to your signals EQ? I've come to instead call this "tonal transparency" for the sake of clarity. Any pedal is adding either something or nothing to tone.

Separately, I've started thinking about pedals having a colorful or transparent "texture". Something that gives your amp a distinctly different kind of ragged edge.

There are definitely pedals that are both kinds of transparent. For me the two best examples are the Paul Cochrane Tim, and EQD Westwood.

But there are also some great pedals that are tonally colorful/texturally transparent (Klons are my favorite) and vice versa (EQD Speaker Cranker and the WH Red Llama)

Thinking in these terms has really helped me categorize my dirt to figure out which things play best with each other, and why some pedals that shouldn't get in each other's way seem to. My current favorite one-two punch is running the Red Llama into my J. rockett Archer. (klon) The red llama doesn't do a whole lot to your core tone, but adds a very tweedish breakup. The Archer doesn't interfere with that tweed sound, nor does the llama mess up that classic klonish mid push.

Conversely, when I combine the special Cranker with the red llama, they seem almost redundant, neither one really adding meaningfully to the other. Their textures sort of collide and seem to take more away from one another than they add.

Anybody think of stacking in these terms? Anyone think I'm wrong about this? I definitely might be.
 

Peegoo

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Speaking from my own experience...

1. "Transparent" means whatever the individual or vendor thinks it means. It has no value as a descriptor.

2. Nothing is transparent. Not even a guitar cable or a wireless. Everything affects the tone.

3. Some pedals play well with others, and some don't. Same goes for pedals and amps.

Your own mileage may vary :cool:


If a pedal adds nothing to your tone, you wasted your money!
 

uriah1

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Clean OD. no excessive transients or fuzzballs. Tad of gristle in a good way,.
 

D_Malone

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Ah, semantics.

To me, a “transparent” OD doesn’t alter the EQ, regardless of how the clipping sounds/feels.

I don’t think we can agree on what transparent clipping would sound like.

A truly transparent pedal would simply be a clean boost that sounds exactly like the base tone with more volume. If we can agree on that, then once clipping is introduced the pedal is no longer transparent, right?
 

ClashCityTele

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Then why do 'Transparent Overdrives' have a tone control?

High quality Hi-Fi amps don't have tone controls. They amplify the recording medium (record/cd/tape) exactly as the artist, producer, mixer intended it to sound. They don't want us peasants messing about with the eq. We could improve it and then where would we be? o_O
 

Swirling Snow

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Playing around with pedal stacking, I think I've come to a new understanding of what makes an overdrive "transparent". Feel free to disagree with me about this. It's just what my ears have started to tell me.

Transparent is usually used to refer to "tone" exclusively. In other words, what, if anything, is the pedal doing to your signals EQ? I've come to instead call this "tonal transparency" for the sake of clarity. Any pedal is adding either something or nothing to tone.

Separately, I've started thinking about pedals having a colorful or transparent "texture". Something that gives your amp a distinctly different kind of ragged edge.

There are definitely pedals that are both kinds of transparent. For me the two best examples are the Paul Cochrane Tim, and EQD Westwood.

But there are also some great pedals that are tonally colorful/texturally transparent (Klons are my favorite) and vice versa (EQD Speaker Cranker and the WH Red Llama)

Thinking in these terms has really helped me categorize my dirt to figure out which things play best with each other, and why some pedals that shouldn't get in each other's way seem to. My current favorite one-two punch is running the Red Llama into my J. rockett Archer. (klon) The red llama doesn't do a whole lot to your core tone, but adds a very tweedish breakup. The Archer doesn't interfere with that tweed sound, nor does the llama mess up that classic klonish mid push.

Conversely, when I combine the special Cranker with the red llama, they seem almost redundant, neither one really adding meaningfully to the other. Their textures sort of collide and seem to take more away from one another than they add.

Anybody think of stacking in these terms? Anyone think I'm wrong about this? I definitely might be.
I think it's very useful to establish a systematic nomenclature for the phenomena you observe.

Definitive quibbling aside, you have identified two "axes" of behaviour that interact and labeled them in a useful manner so you may make predictive associations.


(and I probably shouldn't post right after reading white papers all morning)
 

KC

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Well, as the late Colin Fletcher said about the phrase "water-repellant," it can mean almost anything or almost nothing. Probably not the most useful descriptor.
 

Jakedog

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Then why do 'Transparent Overdrives' have a tone control?

High quality Hi-Fi amps don't have tone controls. They amplify the recording medium (record/cd/tape) exactly as the artist, producer, mixer intended it to sound. They don't want us peasants messing about with the eq. We could improve it and then where would we be? o_O
My transparent OD does not have a tone knob. IMO, it doesn’t need one. I also don’t use it as a “lead” or “solo” pedal. I use it to give my amp a little breakup and extra nuts for some rhythm parts. I wouldn’t classify it as a boost because it does add dirt, but not much at all.

My solo or lead boost OD would never be anything transparent. That would totally defeat the purpose for me. I like the hump. It gives the solo a kick out front, without a dramatic volume increase. That’s what I’m after.

If I need a real volume boost, that’s what the clean boost is for. I also have a comp that gives a light compression, and a very little volume boost.

My gain staging goes comp, 808, Emerson EM Drive (transparent), clean boost. And they all stack exceptionally well with each other. I can mix and match for almost endless applications.
 

schmee

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I never really bought into using "transparent" regarding OD's. Although with the gain turned near off... the term makes sense I suppose. But essentially you are not using the "overdrive", but gaining tone enhancement. ie: An OD will enhance the sound with no apparent grit with the Gain near 0 on some.
But using the term when talking about using an OD at overdrive settings it makes no sense to me.
 

D_Malone

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Then why do 'Transparent Overdrives' have a tone control?

High quality Hi-Fi amps don't have tone controls. They amplify the recording medium (record/cd/tape) exactly as the artist, producer, mixer intended it to sound. They don't want us peasants messing about with the eq. We could improve it and then where would we be? o_O

Sorry to veer off-topic, but I really appreciate the cynicism behind your reply. My dad fancies himself an audiophile, and we used to argue about this. The lengths he’s gone to just to know that he’s hearing the source material exactly as it was recorded, my gawd. Does it really enhance the listening experience that much? Maybe I’d like to tweak my system a little bit to my liking. Is that spitting in the faces of the producer and artists?

Ok, sorry to derail. Carry on. :)
 

Killing Floor

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Transparent is one of those words like Resonant or Dynamic or Classic that basically means you like it.

Every component of every device in your signal change has an impact on your tone including stuff that is “bypassed”. Every one of the turns in your pickup, every resistor, diode, cable, jack, the plating on the outside of plugs that has totally different conductivity and resistance than the actual plug and wire. Pedals are not truly transparent. BUT if I like the pedal a lot I will sometimes say it’s transparent.
Beats saying everything is cool. Mix it up a little.
 

Lies&Distortion

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I hear you some on texture, but to me texture is ultimately perceived by the EQ, just at different frequencies than the other "tone areas"....
 

codamedia

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High quality Hi-Fi amps don't have tone controls. They amplify the recording medium (record/cd/tape) exactly as the artist, producer, mixer intended it to sound.

Put an analyzer on that marketing and you'll find there is nothing flat about the response. It's just a pleasant "fixed" EQ curve they don't want you to alter.
 
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Cosmic Cowboy

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Someone should start a thread of guitar industry buzzwords and phrases to see how many we can come up with.

Transparent overdrive, vintage pickups, heavy relic etc.
 

Phrygian77

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A Timmy is literally as transparent as it gets. This is because the bass control, which is a cut control, comes before the overdrive circuit, and the treble is also a cut control that comes after the overdrive circuit.

Bass and treble harmonics get added during clipping, so a Timmy gives you ultimate control over the overdrive tone.
 

ClashCityTele

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Put an analyzer on that marketing and you'll find there is nothing flat about the response. It's just a pleasant "fixed" EQ curve they don't want you to alter.
Yes, that's very true. Vox & Orange do the same with some of their amps.
When I had a 'real' hi-fi setup, the amp had a button to bypass the eq. It just seemed to cut the volume. Left it a bit lifeless.
I always added a little eq.
 

tubedude

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Well, as the late Colin Fletcher said about the phrase "water-repellant," it can mean almost anything or almost nothing. Probably not the most useful descriptor.
Because marketing scum use the term water repellent to lie about a products water resistance.
 

Jack Clayton

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Sorry to veer off-topic, but I really appreciate the cynicism behind your reply. My dad fancies himself an audiophile, and we used to argue about this. The lengths he’s gone to just to know that he’s hearing the source material exactly as it was recorded, my gawd. Does it really enhance the listening experience that much? Maybe I’d like to tweak my system a little bit to my liking. Is that spitting in the faces of the producer and artists?

Ok, sorry to derail. Carry on. :)
Yeah, the issue with this is that no two ears experience anything in objectively the same way. If I'm listening to Kid A on vinyl through a million dollar sound system, I still don't know that I'm hearing the music exactly the way the artists heard it, or wanted it heard. All I can do is play with knobs till it sounds good TO ME and hope that's close. The same goes for my guitar tone. When I'm recording I know nobody who hears it will ever hear it through my monitors or with my ears. You get a sound you like and hope somebody else will like it too. Then you cross your fingers.
 

Jack Clayton

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A Timmy is literally as transparent as it gets. This is because the bass control, which is a cut control, comes before the overdrive circuit, and the treble is also a cut control that comes after the overdrive circuit.

Bass and treble harmonics get added during clipping, so a Timmy gives you ultimate control over the overdrive tone.
I'd agree. The Timmy as well as the Tim are the most unobtrusive drives, in terms of both tone and texture, to my ears. Personally, I prefer the EQD Westwood to both, because I find the tone controls a little more empowering for my rig. But yeah, the Timmy is everything they say it is.
 




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