• What a Buffer is and How to Tell if You Need One

    0 comments / Posted by Bruce Ohms

    What a Buffer is and How to Tell if You Need One

    In recent years, true bypass pedals have become a go-to solution for musicians looking to preserve their tone. True bypass pedals directly connect input to output when the pedal is switched off, thereby ensuring that the pedal’s  circuitry does not interfere with the guitar’s original tone when it is not in use. In short, with a true bypass pedal, if it's not on, it's as if the pedal is not there at all. Sounds ideal, right?

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  • Losing Low End with Bass Overdrive? Here are Some Tips You Can Try

    14 comments / Posted by Bruce Ohms

    Losing Low End with Bass Overdrive

    One of the biggest obstacles bassists face when trying to make a dirty or overdriven bass tone sit in a full band mix is preventing the loss of low end in their sound. Sure, a dirty bass tone can really liven up your band’s mix and fatten up the overall sound, especially in a power trio setting or for heavier styles of music, but the last thing you want to do as a bassist is compromise on holding down the low end. Many overdrive pedals, even those intended for bass, have varying degrees of low end loss which may serve as a deterrent to many players considering an overdriven bass sound. Fortunately, there are ways to beef up your bass tone with overdrive while still keeping the low-end fundamental intact.

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  • Powering Your Pedalboard: A Quick Guide

    10 comments / Posted by Bruce Ohms

    Guitar Player

    So, you’ve finally assembled the pedalboard of your dreams. Your tone and settings are dialed in, and you’re ready to take it onstage. However, before you do, you need to find the best way to power everything up. Fortunately, in this day and age, there are suitable pedal powering options for nearly every budget and pedalboard configuration. This article will explore the main choices and help you find which solution is best for your setup.

    If you only have a few pedals and aren’t gigging too heavily, a simple...

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  • Amps vs. Pedals for Overdrive Tones

    8 comments / Posted by Bruce Ohms

    Guitar shredder

    The quest for tone can take you to many places, and when it comes to overdrive, the ideal tone may reside in a specific pedal, amp, or a combination of both. Experimentation is key, as is knowing the limitations of your equipment.

    Many guitarists set their amp for a clean tone and use a pedal of choice to send the clean channel into overdrive. This simple, practical setup lets you kick on the grit of your choice when the song calls for it. This method lets you use your amp as a clean palette to sculpt your overdrive tone. While straightforward, this setup is not without its setbacks. Your clean channel and overdrive will share the same EQ settings, which may not be a big deal if your pedal has its own EQ controls. However, many popular overdrive pedals do not feature the same EQ versatility as amps (for instance, they may have only gain, volume, and tone controls) so the overall tweak ability between clean and dirty is somewhat limited. If you like the baked-in tone of the pedal a lot, then this setup may work well for you.  In many multiple channel amplifiers the clean channel and the lead or dirty channel have very different gain stages, internal tone shaping and even EQ control circuits to produce the intended clean or dirty tone.  Instead of driving your clean channel with your pedals, try using your dirty channel with the gain set a little lower.  This will give you the better tone shaping and EQ controls for dirty sounds and a little more headroom to handle your pedal for more dynamics.  Often pedals are tried with the same settings you would use to get the same level of dirty tone without the pedal and adding the unit creates mud, so you switch to the clean channel.  Turn down your gain a little and try it again.  Then you still have a clean channel to use and EQ for clean playing. The added bonus is a third slightly lower distortion with your dirty channel only.

    Another popular way to achieve a rich, gritty overdrive is to crank the overdrive channel of a tube amp. This really gets your tubes working, which results in what many consider to be a more organic, dynamic distortion than what pedals can provide. However, many tube amps, especially high wattage amps, require more volume to reach the desired level of saturation than is practical. For this reason, many amps, like the Carvin Audio V3, have switchable wattage, so you can get a crunchy tone at a much lower volume.

    Most modern dense distortion sounds are pre master preamp gain distortions.  With pedals, these overdrives are not as smooth as an amp that is designed to be a hi-gain amp. This smoothness is usually from the high voltages and signal swing of the amplifiers as opposed to the pedal creating more dynamic and tone in the signal.  Here you just have to try different combinations. Again lowering the input gain on the amp a little and using the pedal for the solo sustain edge can create more dynamics.  The Carvin Audio V3, V3m and Legacy have two lead channels that are identical, so you can create a rhythm tone and a high gain and sustaining lead tone to switch between.

    Carvin Audio Legacy 100W Tube Head

    Legacy 3 100W 3 Channel All Tube Head 

    Side note:  Remember when playing in the band you are just one of the instruments putting out sound. If you tweak your tone at home alone, you maybe unknowingly also filling for the rest of the band.  A good solid tone needs to cut through the band, but it also needs to let the other sounds of the band be heard. With loads of distortion you will be a small non-distinctive buzz in the overall sound of the band, and with really fat low and high tone you will sonically fight with the rest of the band.

    In many cases, it may be the exclusive use of a particular tube amp or pedal that will get you the perfect overdriven guitar sound that’s in your head. Killer tone can be the result of combining an amplifier’s natural tube breakup with a hot signal from an overdrive or distortion pedal, which can also act as a preamp or clean boost to further push and shape the overall tone. There are many shades in between clean and dirt to be explored. Feel free to take your time and experiment with all the different options available. If it sounds good to you, it is good!

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  • Buffered vs. True Bypass Pedals: Different Tools for Your Tone

    2 comments / Posted by Bruce Ohms

    Guitar Fingerboard

    There are thousands of effects pedals on the market today to choose from to sculpt your tone, and within that myriad of choices lies another one: buffered vs. true bypass. Ask a group of guitarists what their preference is, and you’ll likely get a bunch of responses favoring either one. This article will introduce the basic science behind buffered and true bypass pedals.

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