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Why no tone knob on many delays?

Discussion in 'The Stomp Box' started by tpaul, Jul 10, 2013.

  1. tpaul

    tpaul Poster Extraordinaire

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    It's strange to me, given the amount of discussion about bright vs dark repeats, that most of the classic delay pedals (Boss, Ibanez, MXR, etc) don't have a simple tone control that would allow one to darken or brighten the repeats.

    I decided to do a little search online and found that someone else had already thought of this (of course) and made a list of those delays that DO have a tone control. Here's the link and the list:

    http://www.thegearpage.net/board/archive/index.php/t-1073973.html

    Units with labeled tone control:

    Blackbox QuickSilver Delay
    Boss DD-20
    Carl Martin Echotone
    Carl Martin Quattro
    Carl Martin Red Repeat
    Digitech Timebender
    DLS Echotap
    Earthquaker Devices Disaster Transport
    Earthquaker Devices Disaster Transport Jr
    Fulltone TTE
    Malekko EKKO 919
    Mojo Hand FX Recoil Delay
    Option 5 Destintion Delay
    Retro-sonic Delay
    Rockett Pedals Alien Echo
    SolidGoldFC Electroman
    TC Electronic Nova Repeater Delay
    Tech 21 Boost D.L.A.
    Wampler Faux AnalogEcho
    Way Huge Supa-Puss - Filter
    Visual Sound Dual Tap Delay
    Vox DelayLab


    Units with tone control by another name:

    Boss RE-20 - Treble and Bass
    Catalinbread Montavillian - Cut
    Danelectro Dan-Echo - Hi-Cut
    Diamond Memory Lane - EQ
    EHX Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai - Filter
    Eventide TimeFactor - Filter
    G-Lab Smooth Delay - BASS and TREBLE (separate controls)
    Korg 301dl Dynamic Echo - Hi-Fi/Lo-Fi
    Retroman KopyKat - Sweetness
    Smart People Factory I-5 - Warm
    Strymon El Capistan - Tape Age
    Strymon Timeline - Filter
    TC IB Modified Nova Delay- Color
    Wampler Faux Tape Echo - Shade


    It seems odd to me that most of the delay pedals with a tone control are what I'd consider "boutique" effects and/or higher priced models. Why don't the big guys put this feature on their basic, affordable pedals? How much more could it really cost to add one pot? The only affordable pedal in the list seems to be the Danelectro.
     
  2. soulman969

    soulman969 Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Well that a pretty damn good question and I have to admit I've seldom given it much thought. I'd think that if you were gonna design one you'd want it to be as transparent as you could make it wouldn't you. Apparently that's not the case.
     
  3. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

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    Almost all of the PT2399-based delays have it as an integral part of the design.

    Even older Boss DD-2's and such had "heavy analog processing" to include "tone shaping" or the repeats would sound horrible. The DD-2 was ahead of its time IMO with its pre-emphasis, de-emphasis, and "compander" - both a compressor and expander. Along with all of those things, you need to carefully shape the EQ.

    Think about reverb - it shapes the EQ or it would oscillate/squeal/be boomy/sound nasty.

    Getting back to the PT2399-based delays (all of the new digital delays for the most part) - they all have some sort of analog post-processing that involves messing with the EQ, especially for the repeats or to simulate tape/analog.

    The crude "hi cut mod" for the DD-2 is just a toggle with two caps on it that are wired directly to the output pot.

    The DD-2 can be modded to have the regens sound A LOT like analog delay, and it only takes changing 6 parts or less (IOW it's EASY).

    So IMO, the reason there's not a "dedicated" tone knob is because it's either superfluous, or a "last resort compensator," IMO.
     
  4. artdecade

    artdecade Poster Extraordinaire

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    Digital Delays are pretty transparent, but a lot of people like to have a knob to roll off some high EQ to make it sound more analog. Honestly, when I want to use a delay that sounds analog, I use an analog delay. :lol:
     
  5. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

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    Never been an issue with my DD-3. Love it, plus I often have an OD (at very low drive) ON anyhow, and that has a Tone control
     
  6. StormJH1

    StormJH1 Tele-Holic

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    It's an interesting question. Is it necessary? Probably not. But you could argue with any effects pedal that modifies your tone that having the option to go brighter or darker is a good thing. For example, I don't think many (most?) compressors have a tone control, but the Boss CS-3 does.
     
  7. JoeNeri

    JoeNeri Friend of Leo's

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    I guess I'm not a delay person, or my ears are getting old along with the rest of my body, or both.

    I've tried analog, digital, hybrid, etc. delays and they all seem to increase the highs and decrease the lows. Admittedly, analog sounds warmer/darker/etc. than digital, but just by a degree.

    Same thing with phasers and chorus pedals - engage them and your tone has more treble in it, even with a good od pedal in front.

    Just my opinion.
     
  8. p8t8r

    p8t8r Tele-Meister

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    I would add Way Huge Echo Puss to the list.
     
  9. tpaul

    tpaul Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'm sure you're right about all the integral tone shaping. But my Boss DD-3, nice as it sounds, does brighten my tone quite a bit, emphasizing the attack. I guess that's the way Boss wanted it to sound. My question is still the same, though - why not give the user an easy way to shape the tone as needed? It seems as though this would help to address all the complaints about digital delays being too bright and metallic sounding.
     
  10. Robus

    Robus TDPRI Member

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    I never really thought about it much, probably because I use delays sparingly. Recently I got the Hall of Fame reverb pedal and have been noticing how useful the tone knob is.
     
  11. tekbow

    tekbow Tele-Afflicted

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    Forgot the strymon brig.in.the list, its a secondary function of one of the knobbies
     
  12. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

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    Because it's akin to opening a Pandora's box IMO. We tend to think of tone controls in terms of sculpting, but I'd submit that their typical application is for compensation - "fixing" something that is "off a bit." IOW, the original design wasn't properly sculpted as to remove the need for it.

    You could conceivably add tone controls to everything, but again I submit that it's oftentimes a solution to no problem, if that makes sense.

    It's like you can add more tone controls to go with just a single or minimal ones, but do you always gain something? I remember a period with home or car stereo when the tone controls at the receiver were no longer sufficient - everyone had to get a graphic EQ to "shape the tone as needed." Most of them were actually wrecking the tone completely out of whack.

    Even a fairly straightforward delay will usually have 3 controls for something like speed/depth/repeats. I can see adding one for modulation, but after that it can get kind of nuts. If you go digital, I guess most folks expect tap tempo now. So the next logical step is reverse, or maybe tape sim, or who knows what.

    My point is that with analog, your original signal already gets mutated from its original form heavily with each repeat, and that's by choice. With digital, you still need to do some of that - to have a verbatim repeat that simply has attenuation is a far from complete design. And when emulating tape, you obviously are trying to ape the EQ curve that accompanies that. IMO, a tone control in pedals like these is no different than having a master artist do a painting, and then coming along and spraying a coat of cheap satin Krylon finish on top - you think you have a tool to "adjust the composition beyond its intended closest perfection," as silly as that phrase might sound.

    I don't mean it to sound negative, but I really think the term "control freak" kind of hits the nail on the head. Just how much control or adjustability beyond a well designed effect is really needed?

    But I often argue that lots of drive boxes also get the obligatory tone control when one may not always be needed. It's almost funny that we want devices that are transparent and don't destroy the guitar's signature qualities, and then we complain when we don't have lots of controls to remove it. Sort of odd that it's somewhat accepted that a boost, comp, or fuzz should not have tone controls, but other types of pedals should nearly default to them.

    I figure that my guitar has a tone control. Most of my drive boxes will have tone controls. My amps have at least a single tone control, usually two or more though. If I needed it with time/modulation/etc. type of effects, I would probably just seek out different ones that didn't require it.

    A little too bright? Won't the tone control on the guitar take care of that? Isn't it what it's for? A little too dark? Again - there's usually a treble control on the amp. It might take a little bit of effort to adjust things between combinations of effects being on and off, but the last thing that I think would do any more than compensate would be simply adding tonal adjustment to anything and everything.

    Actually, if you want that much control over your delay, why stop at a crude tone knob? Lexicon and others have made rack units for years that have bright/dark/warm/deep/bold/etc. sounding delays, the "near and far reflections" can also be bright/dark, the "room emulation" can be small/medium/large/hall/canyon, you can have ping pong, stereo effects, ducking, detuning decay, and really limitless tweaking. I imagine there could be algorithms with a dark or ducked first delay and then brighter subsequent ones. You could probably have a step filter delay. With stereo, you could have "rotary delay." Some would say that some of these effects are actually reverb, and they wouldn't be that far off the mark. What is natural reverb? It's the reflected repeat of a sound. If the repeats are spaced closely enough together, you can get a reverberation type of effect.

    While there's no harm in something like a tone control with a delay, I'd still argue that it's more of a niche/sub-group preference thing than what would constitute being a fundamentally necessary control. IMO, it simply falls in the subjectively appealing category.
     
  13. Bongocaster

    Bongocaster Friend of Leo's

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    OMG I remember that. People with their stereo speakers about a foot and a half apart with the eq set to something awful. :p
     
  14. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

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    I knew THREE people who "used EQ's properly" for this purpose. In all cases, the EQ's themselves were stupidly expensive. Most people don't realize the amount of QC that actually went into assuring that each slider was centered on its intended frequency.

    Not only that, but the equipment necessary to "tune the EQ to the room" (and this was almost always impossible to do in a car) was very proprietary and equally as expensive. It typically required special mics with sonic "analysis" equipment, the mics had to be precisely placed in the room, and a "pink noise generator" was played thru the stereo.

    ...Beyond the EQ itself, the tone circuits in the head unit/preamp/power amp had to be set as flat/neutral as possible so as not to skew things, and "monitor-type" speakers with "neutral coloration" (whatever that means) also had to be chosen, and yes - properly placed within the room. The room itself was actually part of the overall equation as well - speakers need to be placed appropriately away from walls and corners so as not to over-emphasize some frequencies, and certain room dimensions are necessary to eliminate the possibility of "standing waves" and such.

    ONLY after all of this was done could the pink noise generator be used, the sound captured from the mics and output in some sort of useful visual representation, and then each and every slider on the EQ properly adjusted to achieve the most neutral/flat response from the entire setup.

    And the best part? The "listening area" was also in a very precise location, or all was for naught.

    I only elaborate on this because the whole control freak thing can be manifested in almost every way possible with tone controls. And if there are redundant tone controls, you have no unskewed frame of reference. But again - they are not as intended for sculpting/shaping as they are for compensating. The very definition of "to equalize" basically says that. The problem is that a lot of folks tend to emphasize more some frequencies rather than attenuate the strong ones. And unless you want a 30 band unit, how do you decide on the target frequencies? Better just to hardwire a specific yet good characteristic sound to some of these devices. The intent with guitar gear is rarely (if ever) to achieve a neutral/flat EQ response anyway.

    Horn or piano players have no idea how lucky they are that there is no obsession with things like this. They must find it funny or sad on some occasions.
     
  15. Robus

    Robus TDPRI Member

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    I thought the idea was to match the the tone of the repeats to the dry signal, or contrast them if that's what you want. Sounds useful to me.
     
  16. GigsbyBoyUK

    GigsbyBoyUK Friend of Leo's

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    I have two delay pedals - one darkens the tone and one adds top end, so a tone control on both would be very useful and certainly used, by me at least.
     
  17. tpaul

    tpaul Poster Extraordinaire

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    Thanks again, 11 Gauge, for contributing to this conversation. I do appreciate your experience and viewpoint.

    And yes, I can use the tone knob on the guitar, or the amp, or even put an equalizer pedal into the chain.

    However, all those solutions affect all the tone. What I want to affect is the tone of the repeats... not the original signal, just the repeats. A tone control on the delay pedal itself would be the only way to do that.

    I don't think I'm a control freak... I nearly never adjust the tone on my home stereo or in my car (unless it's way off for some reason)... and I'm new to the use of the delay pedal, so maybe there's something I'm just not getting... but given all the discussion on the internets about which pedals have darker or brighter repeats, and the number of boutique builders who are putting tone knobs on their delay pedals, I just wondered why the big boys hadn't twigged to this yet.
     
  18. painless-parker

    painless-parker Banned

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    Would it be hard to add a tone control or even a volume control from the foot switch. Anyone want to put up an easy readable diagram or short YouTube clip on how to add either of these things.. I'll get my soldering iron ready as I have some old vintage pedals that really need a tone and volume control in some instances... Life it just can't get any better
     
  19. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    More and more I'm coming to this. It's a very personal thing, I know. But my amp tone knobs are almost always "noon" these days on my single tone amps and noon for treble and about 9 o'clock for bass on my blackface fender. I just feel like the early designers got it right for how guitar pickups operate in combination with speakers, cabinents, circuits etc. And I increasingly feel the same about pedals. The early circuits are often classics for a reason - because they sit in a mix very well and interact very well with the complex ecosystem that is the elecric guitar. One that even in a very reductive sense combines the pickups, strings, amp circuit and speakers into a single organism. Add in cables, room, pedals, not to mention drums, bass, vox, maybe another guitar and other instruments like keys, horns, etc., and the room acoustics, and it gets very difficult in my experience for the guitar player to hear the mix accurately and tweak accordingly. MAYBE someone with a wireless and a thorough sound check? But even then the house typically isn't full during soundcheck and I feel like more bodies v. largely empty changes the equation too.

    I also have the sneaking suspicion that the "improved" classic circuits are aimed more at home playing/recording only than at live playing. And this is not a slam at home players so please don't take it that way. In fact, I have two pedal boards, one for each band. And I've started using a different main drive pedal on each for playing at home and rehearsing (we rehearse in a member's basement so quieter than shows) vs playing at shows. Precisely becuase each of the home/rehearsal ones just plain sounds better in a vaccuum or at quiet volumes than at gig volumes in a noisy bar.

    I'll grant this may be going a big far afield but I do think it's pertinent to the question. I suspect if you could do a poll, most of the delays that have tone controls for the repeats get played most often at home. Again, not a criticism of those builders or players by any means. But the repeats in my DM-3 and my Ibanez ADL just sit so nicely in a mix that I would probably only have the potential to ruin things with a tone knob. And because there were a lot fewer delays when those were released, I bet they were tuned carefully for live use and probably have a higher proportion of use in gigs than the exploded field of delays available now. Just my opinion on why some have an some don't, and of course no real way to verify.
     
  20. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

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    Okay - NOW I think I understand you. Sorry for me being obtuse.

    There's at least one pedal on your list that I can confirm (IIRC) does exactly what you say - just twiddles with the repeats.

    And there is a more slick mod for the DD-2/DD-3 that affects the repeats beyond just killing some highs - it also rolls off the lows so that the regens have an "analog lo-fi" vibe to them. Very nice actually, but lots of the new generation PT2399-based delays don't have the analog pre and post processing sophistication of those old Boss digital delays. And - the "low res nature" of the DD's also sort of works hand-in-hand to achieve that. IOW, to "knock down the digital perfection" of the repeats with the newer stuff requires heavier processing.

    The PT2399 chip also seems to be more prone to greater background noise, so it requires sorting to avoid that. The bigger companies probably don't have a way to do this. As a result, they probably are inherently "over-filtered" to mask the noise (hiss). So that could be a reason in itself that you don't see those controls. I honestly have not studied in detail the post-processing of most PT2399-based delays.

    ...To me, the processor itself is kind of "cut and dried" in its capabilities, so PT2399-based delays all tend to sound similar to me, except for their own individual little recipe variations. But I have to admit that I am NOT a "delay power user."

    But that is the best answer I can think of as to why you don't see more "traditionally represented" tone controls for delay pedals WRT the repeats only.
     
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