Overdrive or dist or boost into a tube amp for smoother rounded leads?

Discussion in 'Gear & Equipment' started by JediMasterThrash, Jun 12, 2018.

  1. JediMasterThrash

    JediMasterThrash SS.org Regular

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    I made a tangential post at the end of this thread that is just buried, so I wanted to start fresh with this different question.
    http://sevenstring.org/threads/tube-amp-vs-pedals-vs-non-master-volume.330091/page-2

    Basically my goal is to have an option for cleaner high-gain lead sound. What i mean is a lead sound like cliffs eric johnson, or maze-era Vinnie Moore, where the leads are gained and have strong sustain and liquid motion and a signing high tone, but they aren't so distorted and fizzy as a typical high-gain amp channel.

    I'm under the impression that I need some kind of overdrive/boost pedal in front of my tube amp to get this type of sound. My core question is whether I should pick an overdrive/soft clipping pedal or a hard clipping/assymetric gain pedal, etc, and whether it's best to plug into the clean or lead channel of the amp. And of course pedal choices itself.

    I already have compression and strong pickups at the front end to increase sustain and EQ rolling off about 8k at the back end, and experiment with the tone knob on the guitar. But these are not enough to shape the sound the way I want.

    I'm using an engl e530, which has 4 channels, clean+lo, clean+hi, lead+lo, lead+hi (and 2 more if include the contour lo/hi mid boost switch).

    In order to get the strong sustain/liquid solos/screaming leads it has to be in the lead+hi state. But there's a lot of distortion up there. Perfectly fine for regular metal, but not so much for a smoother lead.

    Lead+lo is just like turning the volume knob down on the guitar, and ends up with all the fuzz but none of the meat. clean+hi doesn't quite have much saturation, but it's a good bluesy tone.

    The engl already has fairly tight bass and strong mids, so a Tubescreamer-type pedal typically sounds too honky and empty. So I'm looking for something that's not a direct TS-clone, or at least not with a fixed mid boost. Something like the SD 805 with separate mid control may be what I'm after.

    I used my old GNX4 as an input to the engl just to test the pre-EQ bosting and the pedal simulators (TS-9, proco rat, boss ds-1, dod 250, Big Muff Pi, Guyatone OD-2, Sparkledrive).

    Nothing really made any difference into the lead+hi channel of the amp. The plain EQ shaping made the clean+lo sound good. The DS-1 seemed to like being plugged into the clean+hi channel, sort of a hard clipping distortion into a soft-clipping clean tube gain. And the Guyatone OD-2 seemed to like being plugged into the lead+lo channel, a soft clipping into a hard clipping tube gain.

    I felt like I was definitely getting somewhere with those ODs into the lower gain channels. I felt the combination of some time of OD or dist with the gain turned down into the mid-gain channels on the amp seemed to be getting me where I wanted. But I was hoping for some more experienced suggestions here.

    None of them were able to drive a channel into the crushing palm muted heavy rhythm of the raw engl lead+hi gain channel though. But I'm not really looking to improve that, rather just looking for an alternative lower-gain lead sound that still has that singing saturation.

    Besides the SD 805, I've also been looking at the Xotic BB, since that's what Vinnie Moore uses, and the Fulltone OCD, but I'm a bit weary as it seems there's 8 versions of the OCD, and they vary dramatically in terms of mid boost and low cut. The fulldrive 3 might be a better option.

    But there might be some better boutique options. And still not sure whether I should go for more of an OD or a low-gain distortion, whether I want soft clipping or hard clipping or asymmetric gain, etc.
     
  2. LiveOVErdrive

    LiveOVErdrive CNC hack

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    To get a more "liquid" high gain tone, bump up the bass and/or lower mid frequencies on your INPUT signal.

    I'd suggest getting a graphic eq and using that to boost your amp's dirty channel. Start with it flat, bring down the highs a little bit. Bring up the mids a little bit. Then play with the lows until you get something that sings how you want.

    Too much bass will make it sound like absolute garbage though, so tread carefully.
     
  3. eightsixboy

    eightsixboy あなたのお母さんを犯さ

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    Well Eric Johnsons tone is basically a fuzz with a hint of OD. Vinnie Moore's tone is a cranked Marshall type of gain.

    I know what your trying to achieve, with the ENGL you have the closet way to achieve it would be to have the gain on the amp not super high, just a crunch, and to add on top of that with a pedal. Whether that's an OD or distortion pedal really depends on how the amp reacts to pedals and which pedal you are using.

    Honestly after buying a Katana I've given up on tube amps as I can get basically any sound "within reason" with the Katana. If I wanted a lead sound similar to what you are wanting I would just make a new patch and dial something in using any of the tons of pedals/amps available online.

    In amp land your pretty much stuck with the platform you have. Having played a few ENGL's before from memory they are somewhat harsh sounding and more metal orientated ie colder sounding, what you are chasing tone wise is almost class A type of amp tone. I actually got the best tone I've ever had from an old Class A Mesa F30 "pretty sure it was an F30" many years ago.
     
  4. JediMasterThrash

    JediMasterThrash SS.org Regular

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  5. NorCal_Val

    NorCal_Val SS.org Regular

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    A Rockett “Holdsworth” OD is worth taking a look at.
     
  6. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    You're after maximum harmonic complexity from minimum gain to get those EJ sounds - try stacking multiple ODs, each one only doing a little bit, either into a dead clean channel or a slightly dirty one.
     
  7. lurè

    lurè SS.org Regular

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    I think you'd better go for a distortion pedal into your clean channel, not a huge amount of distortion, something like a Plexi should do the trick.

     
  8. JediMasterThrash

    JediMasterThrash SS.org Regular

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    Thanks for suggestions.

    After finding the Xotic Soul Driven, I started looking at the Way Huge Green Rhino again, primarily because most reviews said the xotic pedals sound better with single-coil pups, while the Green Rhino is better if you have humbuckers. I think any of these TS-clones that include the separate 100hz and mid-boost knobs from the tone knob would probably do what I want, or at least give enough control to shape the tone for my amp/etc.

    That would probably be the OD into lead+lo route. But still thinking if I actually want the distortion into clean+hi route. For instance your suggestion that this might generate better the tone I'm after. Maybe I just need to go for it and try one of each.

    I was very curious about whether I'd want symmetric clipping (which is described as softer/smoother, but also simultaneously as harsher due to the even harmonics) or asymmetric (which is more tube like odd-harmonics which is described as more pleasing, but also harsher at the same time). It seems that only the Boss SD-1 and OCD v4 have asymmetric clipping. But some pedals have selectable mosfet vs. diode options that might give both.

    The stacking thing is something I've been seeing over and over again as well. I'm definitely having trouble grasping how to craft or understand a stacked system. At some point doesn't too many pedals between your guitar and amp start to negatively affect the tone?

    I find it amusing that after being told for so long I need a real tube amp, as amp modelling (short of a spendy AXE II or Kemper) will never be as good, now I'm getting lots of advice to go back to pedals and amp sims! Haha.
     
  9. silverabyss

    silverabyss

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    Has me wondering if the smooth leads in some Fallujah (Hallucination) tracks are all Recto or something else
     
  10. TheWarAgainstTime

    TheWarAgainstTime "TWAT" for short

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    I've been using an 805 in my rig as my main solo drive for a few years. It's already a smoother drive than a normal tubescreamer pedal IME, so it won't get as heavy/brutal as a boost as something like an 808X, but it sings really well for solos.

    I run the 805 at 18v for extra headroom, then the drive and volume at noon, treble all the way down, mids at 3:00, and bass at noon. I may get flamed for it, but I learned to dump all the top end on a TS for solos from Mark Tremonti, who learned it from Michael Angelo Batio :D this works especially well with the 805 because boosting the mids can help make up for any mush and lost articulation.

    Outside of the normal "green" overdrive family, I would also check out some cheaper Klone pedals like the EHX Soul Food, MXR Sugar Drive, and Wampler Tumnus. I have a JHS modded Soul Food that I enjoy using in the same application as the 805. I find I can push the drive a little higher with similar clarity since the drive itself has a strong midrange voicing and is gradually blended in with the dry signal as you raise the level.
     
  11. tedtan

    tedtan SS.org Regular

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    This is one of the key points here: neither player the OP mentioned has a lot of high end or low end in their lead tone. Roll off the highs more than you think you need to and then roll off the lows until low notes aren't flubby.
     
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  12. JediMasterThrash

    JediMasterThrash SS.org Regular

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    I think that's where the mids boost comes in. Normally just rolling down the tone knob is rolling down upper mids along with the highs. So in order to allow cutting the highs pre-gain, you need to boost the mids to not muffle all the tone.

    I've done similar things to my regular high-gain sound. The treble control on the e530 really cranks the high fizz if turned up, but drops the upper mids when turned down. I have to crank it in order to cut through a metal mix, but then I follow it with two stages of -12dB EQ one to roll off above 8k and a second stage to further roll off above 12k, so there's -24db up above the 10k level, in order to tame those ice piercing highs.

    I also, when EQ'ing everything in a live mix, proved to myself that half of "boosting the mids" was actualy achieved by just cutting the lows until the mids stood out better.
     
  13. TonyFlyingSquirrel

    TonyFlyingSquirrel Cherokee Warrior

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    You would be surprised just how useful the EMG PA-2 booster is, even on passive pickups.
    You can even use them on installs to apply to just the neck pickup if you are looking to raise the volume of the neck pickup to match with the bridge pickup more closely, just place it between the pickup and the selector. It's more of a buffer/booster, reasonably transparent with most pickups.
     
  14. laxu

    laxu SS.org Regular

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    Stop worrying about symmetric vs asymmetric clipping and try some pedals with your amp. They will all interact differently with whatever amp you use. Some won't be a good fit and others will sound great. I love my Keeley D&M Drive, which is essentially a Klon and OCD style circuit in one box. The Klon side works well with just about anything but the OCD side is more picky about guitars and amps.

    To me the Eric Johnson sound is more about delay and/or reverb smoothing it out. Also consider that your amp might not be the best fit for that kind of sound.
     

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