All Amps Are Pedal Friendly: Part 1

All Amps Are Pedal Friendly: Part 1

July 19, 2019 6 Comments

Who doesn’t love effects pedals? From the simple to the complex, to every shade of overdrive and modulation... they’re so much fun and can be endlessly inspiring. But not everyone feels the same way. Many guitarists are asked why they don’t enjoy them and the answer is almost always the same: I can’t get them to sound good with my amp.

We’ll let you in on a little secret: EVERY AMP IS PEDAL FRIENDLY.

Any amp can take just about any pedal you throw at it. But it does take some deep knowledge of your gear in order to get the best tones out of your pedals. Over the course of the next few blogs, we’ll take a look at popular amp types and how you can make just about any pedal sound great through them. Fair warning: there will be some exceptions...but we won’t hide them and we’ll offer some explanation as to why they might not work. Let’s start by looking at the amp most considered to be “pedal friendly”: the “American” style amp.

Although there are many variations, players often consider the “Blackface” or “Silverface” to be the pinnacle of the “American” amp tone. Chances are that you know the sound: loud and clean with big bass, glassy highs and a scoop in the midrange. As a matter of fact, the X1 preamp pedal captures this tone beautifully! These amps tend to make great “pedal platforms” because of the midrange scoop. Why? The bulk of the guitar’s midrange rests somewhere between 800 Hz to 4.5 kHz and it’s these frequencies that distort most easily. One strategy you can use to combat this is by applying EQ or filtering to those frequencies. This decreases the “level” of those frequencies and prevents them from overloading and thereby distorting. Having that absence of midrange helps keep your tone clean and provides for an excellent canvas for playing with. So what sounds best into these amps? Pretty much anything!

Overdrives like the Screamer (with its mid bump and low end roll off) sound great! Centaur-style drives add a warmth to the tone that these amps often lack. Overdrives and distortions emulating British amps are awesome and the high end of these amps helps the detail of modulations, echoes, and reverbs come out. But have you ever plugged a Muff-style fuzz into one of these amps? Yeah, it’s not great.

The Muff-style fuzz is known for its scooped midrange. If you put scooped midrange into scooped midrange you’re left with a guitar tone that’s fit for the void! To counteract this try running your Muff into a Screamer-style overdrive. You’ll get back some midrange and even tighten your low end. You can achieve similar results by using an EQ or preamp pedal coupled with the Muff. If you use these amps and want a good fuzz pedal stick to options that have a good midrange presence in their sound...Fuzz Face-style pedals are a good starting point.

The American-style circuit is possibly the most flexible “pedal friendly” amp but it doesn’t sit in a class by itself. Next time, we’ll take look at the popular British amps and how they are just as usable with your pedals.

Until next time my friends...wishing you all great tone!



6 Responses

Jeff Fowler
Jeff Fowler

March 23, 2020

I normally keep the pedals to a minimum as I have used the Carvin X-100B for most of my younger career. But I have been using your SX 300 for years now and the Solid State amp has most of what I need in the amp. It is much lighter and easier to haul than the big tube amps. But a Boss CE-2, an Ibanez Delay and a BBE Sonic Stomp have always worked well for me be it a Fender Twin or my Carvins. I pitched my Big Muff years ago.

Bruce22
Bruce22

March 23, 2020

I’m an old guy. Right now I’m playing an AE 185 thru a Carvin AG100D. My acoustic goes into ch 1 of my amp. The magic is the Tech 21 pre amp that sends my mag pups to ch. 3. Amazing sound. Fender clean to as much crunch as you could want.

Scott
Scott

August 14, 2019

I have a 1959 supro bantam amp with a Jensen speaker. This amp produces about 6 to 8 watts on it’s best day. This amp was ment to be a practice amp in its day, but it also has a wonderful tone all controlled by it’s one knob, on/off/ volume. Mic it up turn the volume to about 2 o’clock and you get a great sound from a 35z5 rectifier, 50L50 power tube and an 12ax7a pre amp tube. The 1 major drawback to this little killer amp is… if you try and place time based pedals into your signal chain you get absolutely no sound out of the speaker. No delays, echo, vibro pedals, trem pedals, you get the idea. This little amp works just fine with tube screamers, blues drivers, and my old red compressor/sustainer pedal. So this is my one amp that is the exception to the rule that ALL apps are pedal friendly.

Rob Rogers
Rob Rogers

July 24, 2019

Great article!

Steven V Brown
Steven V Brown

July 24, 2019

Thank-you. This is all new to me . I have a couple of do too much lower wattage amps I bought for practice and a 200 watt Carvin 3 channel acoustic amp. Pedals do not work with little line 6 very well and a 10 watt fender with about different amp types but none sound real to me but what tone they have is drained out when I use my canyon and comparable EH reverb. But my huge old Boss multi pedal sounds ok with the little amps.
Playing through my 3 channel 100 watt Carvin acoustic amp w/ effects seems to be a non issue even w/ bass and bass effects, so far. I look forward to reading more before I need to purchase a performance amp comparable w/ jazz tones, county, metal and hard metal electric reasonator(&clean). Thinking of Used 50 watt Carvin V3 but am clueless. I am only familiar w old 100 watt Carvin tubes & 100 watt Carvins electronic amps. Since they for some evil reason or another are no longer made , I wonder what you might suggest?

Roger McCrary
Roger McCrary

July 24, 2019

Appreciate the information

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