Back to basics- or- you and your amp playing with effects

Okay, quick note here to let you all know I am okay! I made it through finals and survived quite nicely. Now I am relaxing and enjoying the break. So far I have scored a Wii (thanks to the wife, and early too!) with a few healthy doses of man-testosterone games. So I decided to take a break from blowing up zombies to mention what I have learned this weekend (face it- I haven’t exactly had a ‘learning/listening’ ear due to my classes and finals!). To keep this a bit organized; look for the numbers- those are the points, the lessons learned. The rest is explanation how I got there.

I have a rule. Well, a tradition…. that is… or an obsessive component I cater to. Yeah, that’s more like it. I hear other guitarists going through a similar process, but I think I’m pretty unique in the way I work it out (as do most other guitarists ๐Ÿ™‚ ). About every 3 to 6 months I rearrange my effects, change some out, place different ones in the chain or switch my stacked overdrives so they stack into something else. I know a lot of guitar guys who do this. However, I start by doing this with each effect SOLO into the amp.
Guitar-wah-amp. Test. Like it, move on.
Guitar-TS9-amp. Test. Like it, next. Guitar-TS9-DS1-amp. Test. Great, next—- Guitar- DS1-TS9- amp. Not bad, like it, but can’t use that sound now. Revert back to TS9-DS1.

Its Killer

Its Killer

Something like that. I go through EVERY effect like this until I settle on my chain again, then back on the board they go. So to the point–

I switched my tubes out from Electro Harmonix tubes to Tung Sol’s. Made my clean sound sparkle. I have been content with my overdrive pedals into the clean channel of the amp. My dirt boxes have basically been stacked as so: Zendrive- TS9- DS1- Mosferatu or Muff.ย  With the new tubes, I also have been playing with my amp’s overdrive channel which I have never really been happy with. The new tubes have done wonders!
#1. I took the Mosferatu off my board in lieu of using my amp’s overdrive. I found my own amp has outshown the Mosferatu, and sounds spectacular with the Zendrive cascading into the dirty channel. Thus it creates a Mos-type sound (it is a high gain version of the Zen, so by adding gain to the Zen it sounds like… you know…) so more pedal board space for me. All this works out as I have bought a new tap-tremolo and need board space for it. Long story, it didn’t work and I had to send it back to proguitarshop for a replacement. When it arrives in working condition, then my board will be perfect yet again! (for another month, then I get my Hermida Distortion, then in Feb my Tim should be ready. But I’ll worry about that later.)

Basically, I have no use for the Mosferatu. Bidders?

Another word on my amp- it has “digital amp models” for several really cool channels. Like 18 of them. I found 10 that sound really good! So I have my normal clean channel, then the 2nd channel is either overdriven, or a tube-based amp model either overdriven or clean. There is clean tweed setting, a clean and distorted Blackface setting, a super crisp Jazz setting, and an acoustic amp setting which gives a nice, deep, thumpy reverb that ‘hints’ you are playing an acoustic.
#2. I actually have had people from my service ask how my electric sounded like an acoustic. So— goes to show that the laymen do not hear the same we hear. That could be something to think about. Worry about your tone to a point. The rest will not matter in the long run.

My amp has some digital effects in it. They suck. They do! I won’t deny that. The chorus sound is okay for my use, because it sounds bad in a chorus sense. It sounds more like a sparkle. So I use it from time to time to add a bit of movement to sustained for a second or two notes. The delay wasn’t great either, until the new tubes were put in. The sound is now really dark, and it sounds less digital, more analog. Still, its not wonderful, but it has its uses.
#3. Thanks to Karl I had a revelation, and put a slightly long delay on the amp. My DD20 is set for a long delay with modulation. I run the DD20 into a Verbzilla, into the amp and its dark delay sound. Do a volume swell—- WHOA!! A orchestra of ambiance! I used this for 3 services in a slow, slow version of “Here I Am to Worship.” Wow. Nice. Great fills. And the same guys who asked about the acoustic sound were telling me they couldn’t hear me during that song. They saw my hands moving,ย  but didn’t know what I was doing. MMMm, good, good ambiance!

#4. As I stated previously, I did not like my amp’s overdrive channel. Until the new tubes. I never felt like the channel was reliable- the volume was never quite right, either way loud, or way too low. Now it compresses more and is more controlled. I also discovered that this channel is not harsh now- very smoothly overdriven. With a jazz III pick, the pick attack was barely audible. Made some great sounds. I was very impressed. I used a compressor into this channel for more controlled notes. Then I tried it being pushed by a clean boost, then by the Zen, then by the DS1. Each had its own characteristics, each sounded fantastic.

#5. The TS9 sounds phenomenal, just absolutely amazing into the Zen. I haven’t figured out how to work this into my setup just now, but it needs to be used. More word on this as I play with it.

Basically I am recommending a heart to heart with your gear. Re-experience each piece to its fullest. Play each dirt box you have and test the distortion and tone range. Try it in a different position in your chain. See if your amp settings can be tweaked. Strive for the best overall usage of your current setup. Some effects can do drastically different things. You are probably like me and only use that box for that one sound when there are 12 others it can do, and 3 of those you can actually use. Test it.

So…. thoughts, experiences, or similar OCD on your gear?


6 Responses

  1. Nice! I’ve heard good things about Tung Sol. I’m meaning to give them a try…

  2. That’s a great idea! But no, unfortunately I’ve never needed a ‘plan’ or ‘schedule’ to change out gear. I just continuously change it out. And by continuously, I mean…..I cannot remember a time when something wasn’t for sale and something else wasn’t coming the in the mail.

    Very sad.


  3. Yo… How much for the mosferatu?

  4. Is Tung Sol the name of the tubes? like el 84 tubes?
    or is that the name of the place where you got them?

    Awesome site btw

  5. sorry mate, just read your other post about tubes blowing up:

    do you have any sound clips/video of the amp? I’m curious to know what it sounds like. I’m looking at buying an amp soon. apologies if you already have a posting on this subject. I’t’s my first time at your site, and i’m still exploring, and I’m loving it!!

  6. Yeah, Tung Sol is the brand name of the Tubes and the amp is a 6v6 base.
    I’ve been asked by a couple of guys to post a review of the amp. I’ll try to a vid soon. Here is one by a fellow blogger, stock form (original Electro Harmonix tubes) shootout with a Vox:

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