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choosing the right fx pedals


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How to go about choosing the right guitar effect pedals?


When there are soooo many of them out there ranging in price, how do you get to the ones you want, better yet the pedal(s) you can't do without?


I had a simple hypothesis: start from scratch; start with cheap effects in order to find the actual 'effect(s)' (not brand) that is useful to my sound. After I find the effects I like then I would consider investing in a more expensive quality brand. As far as effects go in regard to electric guitar, nothing beats a clean tube sound in an environment over saturated with choruses and distortions and whatnot. BTW: I think distortion to be the most overused affect. I prefer getting the overdrive from a warm tube amp when possible. Without electricity there's no effects, except maybe natural reverb/echo. Some people seem to think that effects will make them sound better, no, no. I believe in starting with the basic acoustic environment, if what your playing doesn't sound good without the amp turned on why would it sound any better at ten times the volume? I like to enhance the electrically amplified sound of the guitar with, sparingly, effects that can be placed in the soundscape organically to the amplified sound and not be intrusive. Too many effects spoils the sound. And I'm not a big fan of all digitally produced effect sounds, personally I think music in the eighties was ruined with synth bands and hair metal. I prefer the classic effects, reverb, modulation and tremolo, overdrive, compression, and wah wah. Take some time to understand the effect you wish to apply, for example, a chorus is a modulation effect, a mix of other modulation effects, phase and flange, and is meant to approximate multiple guitars playing in 'chorus'. Do a scientific experiment: sit five guitars together in a small orchestra and have them play the same piece in time with each other, CHORUS EFFECT! So we got lazy or not all of us can afford to assemble a small orchestra of guitars to achieve a chorus effect, so we have pedals to approximate the same effect. While a pitch shift is probably not considered a classic effect, I find it essential today. I prefer to create an 'organic' sound; a loud acoustic environment with the guitar and amp, rather than clutter the sound with electronic devices.


The cheapest pedals on the market are brands like Danelectro and Behringer. For the price what's to lose? I have demoed some of the Danelectro and find them not to my liking. I also demoed an older used Digitech multifx pedal and found there was a learning curve to all of the presets and the effects were like video game quality, not organic or real sounding. I began my pedal search a couple of years ago after being solely into acoustic for a long time, and before that a starter setup in the eighties. I think the first pedals I used at home were Arion because they were the cheapest available at the music store. I had a distortion, a chorus, a broken compressor someone gave me, a Toshiba tape deck that had 1/4" mic inputs that could either record to tape or be used as a preamp and a Radio Shack basic reverb box (with faders). This is the usual beginners setup, whatever mom and dad can kick in or someone gave you.

Anyway, a couple of years ago I decided I'd like to again wade into the electric guitar market. The first pedal I tried was a Behringer GDI21, modeled after the Sans Tech 21 direct in/amp modeler. This pedal has a plastic case, which is adequate breakage wise, but I think metal does a better job of bucking excess line hum. There's also an xlr out and 1/4" in/out jack. The amp models are like Fender tweed, Marshall, and Mesa Boogie, with clean, gain, and hot, with different mic placements like single speaker, twin speaker, and off axis. The idea was to be able to keep my equipment setup lightweight and cost effective. I wanted to be able to use a hollowbody electric straight to pa, but the sound was sterile and clinical. A DI box might balance the impedance and add some clarity. The GDI21 is a DI, so tried that and you get some amp models but the gain settings are so hissy at any level it makes using the models undesirable. You get what you pay for? Also response wise you can obviously feel a grab difference between using a real amp and using a model pedal, so out the door she went bye bye GDI! It was honestly helpful to add a little bit of character at low, low volume settings with a small amp, mainly the tweed setting. It is rediculous to be touching a guitar with a Marshall stack sound coming from a wimpy little pedal! period. Behringer products on the whole will get you to a useable sound, but anything above and beyond is a crap shoot. A lot of their 'gains' tend to be really 'hissy' at even low volume. I guess you get what you pay for, but I will say that Behringer has brought affordability to the musician.

Not knocking Behringer brand, I tried a few more of their pedals just to see what type of effects I wished to use in my pedal chain because of the cost factor. The last thing I want to be doing is spending hundreds of dollars on a pedal that I don't want or use, right? The Behringer Multifx pedal is again plastic and has a range of effects on one simple guitar pedal. Pitch shifter (octaves), tremolo (which is a bit hissy, but okay), delay (I use this on Floyd type guitar parts), phaser (the phaser is the weakest effect, something like what you'd find on a mixer fx), chorus (rarely use, but adequate), and flanger (don't use much but okay). You can use one of these effects at a time. I mostly like the pitch shifter to get an added low end, and with a tubescreamer, pumps out some rude Zeppy guitar. On the other end of the pitch shifter is like a high pitch midget voice ('We represent the lollipop agency!') which I can dial in a digital sounding guitar effect for The Doors Alabama Song (transpose the keyboards for guitar). The tremolo is cool with a clean tube amp. The delay can sound good with clean or crunchy, I use it on Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2. Okay, for the forty odd bucks I shelled out for the Behringer multifx, I found a few effects that I would definitely use: pitch shifter, tremolo, delay. So I would now consider a more expensive brand of these effects. The pitch shifter is good up to about a quarter level then it gets diluted, but the quater level you get is usable. I also purchased a Behringer digital reverb pedal, again in the thirty-forty dollar range. Same plastic. Spring, plate, hall, gated, room, and modulation reverb effects. I found the spring a natural for guitar, and use the plate for vocals (through the mixer effects loop). The hall isn't anything special, the gated or noise gated can work on drum sounds, where is decays quickly after the sound stops like a noise gate. The room is about the lamest and the modulation is like a chorusy type verb, I like it too. Behringer also makes a metal cased dynamics compressor, simple two knobs, like an MXR knock off. Again it's a great clean boost and the compression is okay, but when the level is turned all the way up it too gets hissy. But I found it great to use on clean tube amp sounds with a hollowbody. The LP has hotter pickups and the boost just amplifies line hum when it's used with the tubescreamer engaged. So there's my basic effects lineup: compressor, reverb, and multieffects. I couldn't justify buying a Behringer optical wah-wah, it's just too cheap, therefore I got a Dunlop Wylde wah used. I run the effects through the effects loop of an Ibanez TSA15w tube amp, that's got the tubescreamer built in so I don't need a pedal for overdrive. In order I find the best sound to be: dynamics compressor first, then wah-wah, then multieffects, and then reverb. I am able to coax some great growly Zepp guitar for songs like Good Times Bad Times, How Many More Times, Dazed and Confused, Whole Lotta Love, The Ocean and some cool clean delay for Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall and crunchy for the guitar solo. I considered trying the Behringer version Phase 90 but it's not available from distributer, even though it's only a twenty eight dollar investment CDN.

My guitars are 2006 Ibanez AG86, 2011 LP Studio. My amps are 5 watt Fender Champion 600, Ibanez TSA15 with Genelex Gold Lion 6V6/Groove Tube gold 12AX7. My cabs are Epiphone Valve with a Weber Classic Alnico 30watt and an Ibanez TSA cab with Celestion 70/80 ... used in stereo. I also am experimenting, to some affect, with a Behringer 200watt 8" powered speaker as an external amplifier to add power to the 15watts of tube amp the Ibananez delivers, so I put a dynamic on the Epiphone cab and use a condenser mic on the Ibanez cab and run it to a small Behringer passive mixer (that doesn't have fx). It's rather 'cabley' (there's a lot of wires going on there) for a live stage setup, but it's ideal for in room and recording applications. There's by trial and error weeded out the effects that I do and don't use. The modulation effects other than a good phaser; flanger, chorus, and room reverb, are things I haven't put to use or found interesting enough and therefore don't need. I am not a big fan of distortion units, but rather favour overdrive. I like the genuine tube sound compared to the solid state equivalents.

I like things to be simple. I can't handle all of these push/pull split/tap dohickey pots on a guitar and 200 presets on the multieffects unit (unless there's a second pair of hands to do it for me!) I am basically an 'on' or 'off' effects guy. Rarely do I care to fiddle with or have to stomp too many things mid song. I will change it up a bit though, for example, the pitch shifter for the riff on Whole Lotta Love, then switch to delay to get those swirling noises with string scratching and then turn it off for the guitar solo. But it could be cleaned up by ustilizing a separate effect for each, a separate pitch, separate delay, etc .... I know that's not true to the Jimmy Page equipment, but for my ears it does well, in other words, I like it.

Now having unburdened that big question 'how to choose fx pedals' can anyone recommend quality guitar stomp pedals for the following effects: dynamics compressor, pitch shifter, tremolo, delay, and reverb?

BTW: I am a big fan of the Ibanez tubescreamer pedal for overdrive tones with a tube amp! I play mostly classic rock covers but like outlaw country and the folk/blues tradition as well. My songwriting curiously enough, after getting filtered through the classic rock comes out folk/blues/country!

My conclusion is, in regard to all of these digital amp/effects modeling these days is: power still equals weight. The tube amp that provides the best genuine tone is the one that still weighs fifty pounds and up! Wouldn't we all be in heaven if the technology of the last fifty or sixty years came down to 1000 watts and two pounds! Everything you ever wanted in one magic guitar pedal! Haw, haw! Maybe Iphone, maybe ...

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Multi processor pedal big things don't allow the best tone. I've tried a lot of them, they are good if you want the most out of your guitar and just want to have it all in one. But i believe that individual analog stomp pedals sound the best, also you can be more picky about certain tones. Choosing a pedal individually allows you to get the best out of your guitar. Though i still believe the best tones are simply out of an amp, though a pedal can allow you to get close to that or even add to it. Personally my favorite base guitar tones are only amps and no pedals, sure they might throw in a pedal here and there but it doesn't mean jack **** if they don't have the right amp. This matters even more in high gain situations, i tend to find that high gain amps are more sensitive to pedals, more so pedals that add more distortions such as overdrive, distortion pedals and the killer of speakers; fuzz.



So i think of it like this.

Multi pedals: Most out of guitar with some saved cash.

A bunch of individual stomp boxes: best tones, but you might have to skip lunch for a few months.


Pedals just simply allow you to express your music more, it is nothing but an extra tool. So don't spend to much time/money buying the best pedals, just play and practice on what you have and you would be surprised how a cheap little tube amp and some cheap pedals can sound great with some patience and time.


Though i don't worry about the guitars we use since most of us are Gibson players and 95% of all Gibons guitars sound amazing stock.



And thats why essay on pedals. [flapper]

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Behringer pedals and all their gear in general doesn't have a great reliability and durability reputation,most dealers in my area don't stock them any more because of this.Electro Harmonix pedals are great bang for the buck,I have 4 that are almost 40 years old and are still working trouble free even after all these years of gigging.I don't know what Danelectro pedals you tried out but I have the Vibe,Tremolo,Chorus and Transparent Overdrive II from the Cool Cat series and find them an incredible deal for the money as they sound great(to my ears)and are virtually bullet proof.I also have the Danelectro Hash Browns flanger and the French Toast octave up/distortion and both are superb little pedals.

Tech 21 and Way Huge pedals are also great pedals and are a bit pricey but you really get what you pay for.The Way Huge Green Rhino is the best boost pedal I've ever used and can do anything from long sustaining clean sounds to a really ripping hard rock raunch.The Tech 21 Roto Choir is probably the best Leslie emulator pedal to ever hit the market,it can pretty well duplicate any function that the original Leslie can even gradually ramping up speed and slowing down. I have an original Leslie so I know what the real deal sounds like and this one nails the tone spot on.Anyway that's a few of the pedals and manufacturers that I've used and have found above average.


As far as multi-effects pedals go the Vox Tonelab is pretty near the top of the heap,if not at the top.Its effects are dead ringers for the originals they are supposed to emulate and the amp models are spot on.The modulation effects have to be heard to be believed,the Leslie and Uni-Vibe functions are incredible,the wah wah function is very close to the old Vox Clyde McCoy wah wah pedal,of which an original will set you back about $1000.The price of the Tonelab is also really good,providing the quality of the effects you get as well as the reliability and durability of a tank.

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I mostly like running straight into a good quality tube amp and use the amp controls to develop the right tones for what I'm playing. But, some things can't be coaxed from an amp, such as delay, chorous or fuzz. So, whenever I'm in the market for a pedal, I go to one of my favorite music retailers and try out several to see which ones offer the tones and tweakability I want. I'll start with the ones that are typically considered the standard of the industry (i.e. TubeScreamer, Fuzzface, etc.) and compare them to several other makes/similar models and then make my decision based on tone, versatility, price, build quality, and company reputation. It's funny, but I typically end up bringing home MXR pedals, and those are the ones I tend to keep. All the Boss and other pedals I've had over the years I've typically sold or traded.

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My Digitech RP1000 sounds great for practice at home. I'd never use it live, but for practicing alone, it's perfect. It sounds better thru solid-state/acoustic amps and or a PA than a tube amp. I can get a pretty convincing Marshall 900 tone with it. That being said, I still prefer my tube jobs.


I'm just a guitar-pedalboard-amp kind of guy. I don't like overdrive pedals as my main distortion. I prefer amp distortion with an overdrive to boost it. I'm not really into going all out for boutique stuff either: I haven't found anything that does it better for me than a good Marshall 100w head and the old Japanese Boss SD-1. After all, tone comes from the hands, and my favorite era of tones were mostly created with Marshalls and run-of-the-mill effects. One of my favorite tones comes from Richie Scarlet: Marshall DSL-100, 70s Gibson Les Paul Standards (or his #1 1988 Gibson Les Paul Standard Showcase Edition in Silverburst w. EMGs), Boss pedals. And I've always loved Zakk Wylde's older tones, especially from the Pride And Glory record. This may sound really stupid, but I look at it this way: the boutique stuff is for the fancy lounge, the old-school Boss/Dunlop/Ibanez/MXR boxes and the Marshalls are for the rowdy nightclubs. Some people (EVOL) say Boss overdrives are generic; maybe they are, but the character comes from the hands, the amp, and the guitar and its pickups.


Here's a glimpse of the Richie Scarlet tone...



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How to choose the right pedals? It's simple.. Pick up what works for you and use it.


yeah, I really have to see and hear someone using a pedal before I say 'I like it, where can I get it?'

Or spend precious moments convincing the staff in the music store to set you up to demo some of their stock (even though you may have no intention of buying). Do I want to be the guy that has to have the latest technology? no.

Having said that, I am interested in the new Vox StompLab 1G. It is reviewed in the Holiday 2012 Guitar Player. What does it do? More specifically what effects does it have? I like the price point ($69) and the size. The specs say it has 103 'things' and 8 pedal effects, 44 amp models, and 12 cabinets + onboard tuner.

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What kind of effects are you looking for?


Can you explain some of the features that I see attached to guitar pedals like 'germanium' and 'analog' and 'fiesel inductor'? What benefits do these things offer over modern transistor and digital effects?

I am interested in the 'original' effects that guitar heros used in the beginning of pedal effects, like the Dallas Arbiter fuzz, the fuzz face, the Maestro fuzz ... basically all that was available was FUZZ! hahaha How about a RangeMaster treble booster? There are so many boutique effects in Guitar Player magazine that I do not know what to compare them to? The standard to compare to in pedal effects is what, Boss?

What I'd like to see in pedals is a power source that cleans up the multiple 9v leads. And I don't care about 'true bypass' at this point.


Are there any specific pedals I should look at? I suppose I could have a look on youtube to see a demo.

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Germanium transistors were used before silicon transistors were invented. Compared to silicon transistors they are less stable, usually much lower gain, usually have different power supply requirements, and usually produce a more softly clipped waveform.


The gain of a germanium transistor will vary depending on the temperature which can be inconvinient because it will change the sound of the fuzz. Most germanium transistors are PNP which means you can't power them on a daisy chain but batteries will usually last a long time in fuzz circuits.


The sound of germanium transistors is no better than the sound of silicon transistors really. Some circuits just sound better with one or the other, mainly because of the different gain levels. The design of the rest of the circuit is much more important to the sound than the transistor itself.


Maestro made a lot of fuzzes. You're probably referring to the FZ-1A. An original or decent copy of this circuit will cost you. If you want a pretty inexpensive alternative with a similar sound check out the Devi Ever Torns Peaker. The Torns Peaker isn't really a "clone" of the FZ-1A but it has a similar sound.


Just about every modern fuzz is a Fuzz Face clone or modified Fuzz Face.. It's ridiculous. Some cool clones are the Ghost Effects Mind Rocker and Earthquaker Devices Dream Crusher. Everyone makes Fuzz Face clones though. Personally I think the Tone Bender family is more interesting. The Fuzz Face is basically a modified Vox Tone Bender but the Vox Tone Bender is better IMO. The Fuzz Face is so woolly and muddy that it gets lost in a band easily. The Tone Benders are more focused on the midrange which is much better in a band.


What do you want to know about the Rangemaster?


And analog vs digital.. Analog will basically just have a more lofi and flawed sound. This results in some artifacts that a lot of people (including myself) find more interesting sounding. Digital effects have less limitations but usually a much cleaner sound that can be perceived as "sterile". And of course for distortion analog is pretty much the only way to go.


This is a ridiculously long post, man. You gotta have mercy on me with the questions because I can't help but go into detail lol

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In my opinion you can't go wrong with Boss FX pedals... That being said you have single pedals and multi pedal boards to chose from. What are the essentials one should have? IMHO they are reverb, delay and chorus. Having those three FX you can come up with just about any sound effect you may want by combining those three FX.


My first board was a Boss ME 50, very cool multi FX board that has three foot switches and several banks to store you personal configurations. You program an effect you like and store it to one of the three foot switches. My first bank has, on foot switch 1 distortion/fuzz tone, foot switch 2 long phasing effect with big reverb, foot switch 3 chorus with a little verb.


1. foot switch 1 distortion/fuzz tone for rocking out, chunky rhythms and leads...


2. foot switch 2 long phasingeffect with big reverb for dreamy etherical type songs


3. foot switch 3 chorus with a little verb for clean acoustic type sound


The Boss ME 50 lets you use any one or combination of the three foot switches together. This gives you a very versatile palette to work from. I think to get you started this is a very good option. I have since added a couple singular FX pedals that I put in front of the ME 50 to help further define "MY" sound..


BTW, the Boss ME 50 has been replaced by the ME 70 witch is very similar but also has looping. Both the ME 50 and 70 also have a foot pedal that can be used as a wah wah, volume and various other dynamic FXs...


Hope this helps

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